Friday, June 29, 2012

SVU, Polisse, and Child Protective Services

I'm going to change gears just a little bit in today's blog, because like most YA lovers, I have other interests :-)

I have always loved procedural thrillers, psychological thrillers,and shocking cases. That is, until I saw these cases in real life-- seeing the real thing took away from the lurid fascination of shows like SVU (Special Victims Unit). Little did I know that there is an actual medical profession (Child Protection Program) in which one can specialize.

I have seen a lot of horrible cases in my three years of residency, but nothing compares to focusing on only those horrible cases of child abuse every morning for the Child Protection morning rounds. Oddly, during the two weeks I was on this service, I was invited to a movie by a friend, a French movie called Polisse, which was compared to shows like SVU.

Rotten Tomatoes Description: Winner of the Jury Prize at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and nominated for 13 César Awards, Polisse follows the daily lives of a tight-knit team of men and women working in the Child Protection Unit of the Parisian police. Basing her richly textured script on real child investigation cases, writer-director actor Maïwenn has gathered an accomplished ensemble cast of French actors who convey the emotional strain of the unit's work with gritty realism. They not only deal with the stress of their jobs but the inevitable fall-out in their personal lives-breakdowns, divorce and adulterous relations within the force. In between, there are frequent flashes of humor as the team attempts to diffuse daily realities. As the cases,confessions and interrogations pile up, the squad members have only each other as support as they face an uphill battle against both criminals and bureaucracy.

So this sounds interesting, right? Unfortunately, I was interested in how the movie was incorrect rather than getting caught up in the emotion.

Let's start with just the basics. Here we have a good basis for a movie-- but there are so many characters and so many plot lines that it is hard to feel sympathy or empathy for any of them. Horrible, awful things happen in the film, and we as theater-goers are gasping in horror when we see things like parents dropping their babies, slapping them around, abusing them in multiple ways.  But I was most horrified by how the police were portrayed in investigating these allegations. The movie showed multiple police officers yelling at "perpetrators" who weren't even convicted of anything. They showed interviews where children were asked "yes" and "no" questions and very leading questions (both of which are total no-no's when interviewing children), and these kids were always interviewed in the presence of their perpetrators. They showed police officers laughing at a juvenile booked for giving a blow job in order to get her cell phone back. I know some of this was for shock value, but not once did I see them doing anything right. I would have rated this movie 3 out of 5 stars if it were a book because while there were moments of strong emotional impact, the dangling plot lines and inaccuracies were just too much for me.

In real life, there are occasional happy endings for some of these kids, thank goodness. We had a kid in the hospital, a beautiful girl with golden curls, who had a subdural hematoma and retinal hemorrhages (evidence of "shaken baby" syndrome), who was initially in the intensive care unit, but pulled through, became the darling of the floor, and was sent home with a wonderful foster family. We all have high hopes for her.

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