Child Protective Services involved in related abuse case prior to toddler’s death

Local resources are available to adults and children who are experiencing abuse.
Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 8:12 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Child Protective Services was involved in a related abuse case four days prior to the death of a 20-month-old baby girl, according to Madison Police.

MPD took 23-year-old Marshawn D. Giles into custody Monday on a child abuse charge after a domestic violence situation ended in the death of a toddler and serious injury to her mother. Police were aware of Giles’ violent history prior to the arrest, however.

On Thursday the week before, police responded to the same apartment for reports of a separate child abuse allegedly involving Giles and one of the late toddler’s siblings. MPD said the sibling is under the age of 10 years old and was not seriously injured. Giles was no longer at the apartment when officers arrived, but officers determined there was probable cause to arrest him on a child abuse count and Department of Corrections hold.

An MPD spokesperson explained officers recommended the children stay with family, but without a formal order they could not require it. Two of the siblings did go to stay with other family members, but the toddler remained with her mother. Investigators remained in communication with Child Protective Services and discussed the case “several times last week,” the spokesperson added.

MPD’s specialty units, including the Gang and Neighborhood Crime Abatement Team and Special Victims Unit, began developing a plan to take Giles into custody. Officers did not have contact with him again until four days later when they responded to reports that the toddler was seriously injured.

Experts say it can be dangerous and even life-threatening when victims of abuse try to stand up for themselves or leave their abuser. But when victims do feel prepared to take that step, there are organizations ready to help.

Domestic Abuse Intervention Services, or DAiS, aims to empower people of any age who are affected by domestic violence through free, confidential services.

“It’s really about providing that immediate safety and helping them figure out their plan for their midterm and long-term safety,” said Shannon Barry, Executive Director.

Abuse is a pervasive issue. According to Barry, a quarter of women and one-in-seven men will experience physical or sexual assault by an intimate partner at some point in their life. In Dane County alone, that’s 63,000 women and girls.

But not all abuse cases meet the criteria needed for victims to be legally separated from their abusers, Barry explained, making community-based services critical. DAiS receives between eight and 10 thousand calls a year, and the homicide-prevention shelter is always at full capacity, Barry said.

“I think one of the biggest barriers when we talk about, ‘why don’t they leave,’ there a myriad of reasons,” Barry said. “Access to safe and affordable housing is one of the top reasons.”

Resources at DAiS are available to people regardless of whether there is an open abuse investigation or not. But when child abuse has been reported and the situation will likely result in Juvenile or Criminal Court proceedings, agencies like Safe Harbor intervene.

At Safe Harbor, Social workers or police officers conduct interviews that are recorded and used as evidence. According to the Dane Co. Human Services website, “Safe Harbor interviews bring about fewer trials (as maltreaters will more frequently plead to charges), more successful prosecutions in instances when court proceedings do take place, and fewer (or no) court appearances for children when proceedings take place.”

“Safe Harbor is a place where children are deeply listened to and I think it’s that sense of sort of unconditional support and caring and interest,” said Executive Director Jennifer Ginsburg. “It’s a place where they know they’re not going to get in trouble.”

Ginsburg says their experts intervene early and do their best to minimize additional trauma to children by asking them to share their experience once.

Neither Safe Harbor nor DAiS could confirm whether they had been in contact with the late toddler’s family.

“I think the important take home message from the situation on the west side is it’s important for everyone to realize that there’s a significant co-occurrent current of intimate partner violence and child abuse,” said Ginsburg.

If you need help or have questions about resources you can call the DAiS confidential helpline at (608) 251-4445.

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