Highland County Sheriff’s Detective Jennifer Schinkal said her office is full of drawings and cards from “my kids” – not her biological children, but the dozens of victims of physical and sexual assault that she’s worked with over the past two and a half years she’s been assigned to Highland County Job and Family Services.
Schinkal recently received the Ohio Attorney General’s Special Courage Award after being nominated for the honor by Highland County Prosecutor Anneka Collins’ office.
Schinkal said she never aspired to be in law enforcement. In fact, she had already wrapped up a few semesters of nursing school before deciding to become a corrections officer.
“I never had a dream or an ambition to be in law enforcement, ever,” she said. “I guess God led me to it.”
After becoming a detective, Schinkal said she conducted plenty of criminal investigations, including benefit fraud and illicit drugs.
But an assignment to JFS, she said, is a whole different ball game. Schinkal frequently works with JFS caseworkers and staff from the prosecutor’s office and Highland County Victim Witness Office to investigate abuse and neglect cases, often encountering evidence and testimony that Schinkal said many law enforcement officers don’t want to see.
“It’s very emotionally draining at times,” she said.
Schinkal said one of the most difficult parts of her job is separating her emotions from the case at hand. With children of her own, she said, it can be difficult not to imagine her kids being put through the same trauma as the victims she interviews.
Another challenge, she said, is discerning whether or not people are telling the truth, although it’s often obvious if a child has been through a traumatic experience.
“You can see the hurt in the kid’s eyes,” she said.
Schinkal said she was deeply honored by the award, but her real reward is seeing those victims begin the healing process.
“They’re my kids,” she said. “I haven’t burned out yet… The way I see it, I’m doing my job.”
And, according to Collins, she does it well. Several people have been found guilty of sex crimes and sentenced to life in prison because of Schinkal’s investigations, as well as many other related convictions, said Collins.
Collins told The Times-Gazette she and her staff are “super proud” of Schinkal.
“If anyone deserves this, Jen does,” she said.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.
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