(Kelvin Cowans takes readers inside the lives of Memphis and Shelby County law enforcement officers. Just as a neighborhood should not be judged by the actions of a few bad apples, neither should law enforcement agencies. This week’s focus is on Memphis Police Department Patrolman Kasandra Smith.)
Memphis Police Department Patrolman Kasandra Smith is a 14-year-veteran who serves her community with pride and heart. She has a Master’s in Business Administration Degree and a Bachelor’s Degree in Organization Management from Bethel University. With a son and a daughter both in college (Pine Bluff and M.T.S.U.), and a progressive career in law enforcement, it would be easy for many to say that her plate is full. But not Smith, who helps teach at the Kids Church at the Life Church Collierville location and who also is a public speaker against domestic violence.
Kelvin Cowans: What got you interested in wanting to be a police officer.
Kasandra Smith: When I was 16, I was sexually assaulted and the way the policeman that handled the case treated me and my mother angered me so until I wanted to grow up and become an officer.
KC: What way was that?
KS: The way he talked to me and my mother was that he flat out told me I was lying about the rape. That I was a whore that didn’t want my parents to know that I was sexually active.
KC: Where did this happen?
KS: This was in West Memphis, Ark. back in the 1980s.
KC: Go ahead.
KS: He spoke to me separately from my mother, which I was a minor and that was illegal, but my mom didn’t know the law back then, that she had the right to be present. So this authority figure, which intimidated me at the time, came up with his own judgment and when we came out of his office he told my mom that they were not going to prosecute the man that did this to me. That day was the last time we ever heard anything about that case.
KC: Being able to survive something of that nature (can) often push alot of people into helping their community. It’s bad energy but definitely good fuel to give back, if one is willing.
KS: Absolutely! I am currently the vice president of the Memphis and Shelby County Domestic Abuse Board. What we do for the community is that we shine the light on domestic abuse. October is Domestic Abuse Month and April is Sexual Violence Month and our presence is felt throughout those months as we try to reach and educate as many people as we can.
We have victims that hold up photos of themselves and we place on those photos what the offender had said to do before and during the rapes. I participate in that as well. My offender was 21 and I was 16 and he lied about his age to me and my family. We had no idea. So when I’m out I educate the young ladies about being more attentive to whom they are dealing with, to research them if necessary. Once you’re a victim it’s too late to research and also that’s when shame kicks in or the embarassment of being a victim. said
KC: How heavy is the burden of the silent victim?
KS: It is very heavy. There are so many things that build up inside. It grows over the years. I never went through counseling and 25 years later the old me came back and said, “What about me? You out here trying to help everybody else but what about me?”
Truth was I still remember when I initially called the Rape Crisis center and spoke with a lady named Sharon and told her that I wanted to be a volunteer and a motivational speaker to help out and speak with victims. Sharon said no, that I could not do it until I got help myself. It’s like she heard my pain through the phone. She said get down here and let’s deal with it now.
She then said that after my sessions I could then be a speaker, but under one condition. The condition was that I go through my counseling with a man. This was the hard part because my abuser was a man. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life, but it surely worked.
I had to release my anger that was built up toward not only my offender but also that police officer that disrespected my mother and me. I had to think about the male officers that I have worked with that have always had my back out there in those streets. They are nothing like that officer. They are my brothers. I had to deal with the pain I had kept inside for 25 years and cry and relate and be educated on what happened to me so that I can be better and make other women that I come in contact with to be better.
KC: Are you better?
KS:Yes, I am great. I can handle whatever life throws at me, and other victims can to, if they just seek help. I’m involved with a national organization called R.A.I.N. and that stands for people against Rape Abuse Incest Network. And together, not only have we gotten stronger, we are helping a nation get stronger. We have a 24-hour help line as well.
You know … thinking back I remember my counselor Derek and the three things he told me that I needed to look in a mirror and repeat to myself everyday, and that was “I’m beautiful, I’m intelligent, I’m Valuable.”
KC: Can you say it one more time for the silent victims?
KS:Yes! You are beautiful, you are intelligent and you are valuable.
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