A link. A name. A cause to fight for: eradicating child abuse. Photo courtesy of Valentine.
By Quincey Taylor
Assistant professor Dr. Julie Valentine champions causes that defend the defenseless. She is a forensic nurse that has been a leader in advocating for Utah sex assault victims for years. You’d think that nothing could surprise her after all these years of experience, but that’s where you’d be wrong.
What Are the Odds?
A shocking surprise, and a strange coincidence, presented itself to Valentine in 2011. Because of her extensive public research in her field, Valentine had Google alerts set up surrounding her name in case her research was referenced by an organization without her permission or knowledge. One day, Google alerted her to a news story surrounding the opening of ‘The Julie Valentine Center.’
It was a center in South Carolina devoted to ending domestic violence and child abuse. At first, Valentine was shocked and confused by the name of the center. Not only was it her name, one that is not common by any means, but they were also involved in the same cause.
The Same Name? How?
After more research, Dr. Valentine understood the connection. ‘Julie Valentine’ was the name given to an abandoned baby that had been found in a field in Greenville, South Carolina in 1990. She was found dead in a cardboard Sears box for a vacuum cleaner, wrapped in newspapers and a floral bedsheet.
The child was named ‘Julie,’ after one of the wives of the detectives that found her, and ‘Valentine’ because she was found the day before Valentine’s Day. No one knew who her parents could be, and after detectives searched records for mothers that had given birth recently, they couldn’t find anyone.
The case soon went cold, and the child became a symbol to the small community of eradicating domestic violence and child abuse. The community came together and paid for her funeral, coffin, and all other expenses. They made a headstone with the name ‘Julie Valentine’ that is still there today.
Years later in 2011, the Greenville Rape Crisis and Child Abuse Center changed its name to the Julie Valentine Center (JVC) in honor of that helpless little baby that came to mean so much more to the community. They embody her story in the inspirational logo that adorns their facility: an open heart.
One day, Shannon Hansen, JVC’s chair, received a call from a reporter asking for an interview with Julie Valentine. Hansen was confused and explained that Julie Valentine was an infant that had been killed. The reporter was also confused, and told her that, no, Julie Valentine was a professor that studies sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse at Brigham Young University. That was the first clue of the connection that would bring these two people and organizations together.
Hansen and Dr. Valentine started exchanging emails and made a connection. They were amazed to discover their similarities, not only the name but also their passions and beliefs. This fostered a warm friendship that has continued throughout the years.
Hansen invited Valentine to come out to present last year, this time on sexual assault kits, an annual tradition they hoped to continue. The conference was covered by local news stations. Hansen and Valentine hoped that the media attention would help in passing some legislative changes on the topic.
Valentine was inspired to enter this field of work because of a very similar story. She says, “It was many years ago when I was working in a pediatric ICU. I got a patient from a helicopter, a two month old little girl. She had been abused, and ended up dying. When I was taking care of this little girl, I thought, ‘I need to do something in my life to try to prevent this from happening.’ As you know, nursing careers can take you down lots of different paths. But I always felt a strong affinity towards working to try to reduce violence. All of that really started with that little girl that I cared for that was murdered.”
She elaborates about the JVC, “It’s not only our names that we share. Many of the reasons that I went into the work that I do was because of another little infant that was killed by her parents.”
Justice for Julie Valentine
Two weeks before Valentine arrived to present at the conference this year, baby Julie Valentine’s parents were identified through a genealogy DNA database. They linked her to the biological father, who had no idea she had been born, and subsequently to the biological mother. She was soon arrested for the first degree murder of this little girl. This story was quickly linked to the story of another child, a little boy, who had been abandoned in a field in 1989 in a different town, one year before Julie. This mother of both children, Brook Graham, is currently serving her life sentence in jail for the murder of these two children.
Detectives were glad to finally bring justice to these children, as well as support the cause of the JVC as well as assistant professor Dr. Julie Valentine.
Julie Lives On
Valentine reflects, “It was really humbling and somewhat eerie to have a shared name with this baby girl that was murdered. But now, [those at the center and I] have this connection together. We’re very good friends and we stay in close contact.”
Valentine had the privilege to present there this April following Graham’s arrest. She is proud to fight for the cause of that little baby girl, with the hope that her story will never repeat itself. Her name lives on in our very own professor, a champion for the voiceless.