How two female NYPD Special Victims Division detectives work to empower sexual assault survivors

NYPD Special Victims Detectives in front of bureau logo
NYPD Special Victims Unit Detectives Christina Flores (left) and Carolyn Tully are striving each day to take the power out of the hands of perpetrators and back into the hands sexual assault victims.
Photo by Dean Moses

For Detectives Carolyn Tully and Christina Flores, their work in the real-life NYPD’s Special Victims Division is far more than what people see on television.

Much like Olivia Benson on the classic TV drama “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” Tully and Flores work every day to do more than just protect women and children and lock up the city’s most heinous sexual predators. They also work to empower the victims of sexual abuse and help them overcome the ordeals that they have endured. 

Special victims detectives like Tully and Flores are important to helping the victims of the kind of sick sexual assaults the city has witnessed in recent weeks — including the brutal rape of a woman in the Belmont area of the Bronx, to the heinous sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl in the middle of a wooded Queens park.

These assaults sent shockwaves throughout the city, but Tully and Flores are well-versed in investigating these kinds of deplorable acts daily. Such cases can take a mental toll on the detectives investigating them, but the two detectives find strength in their colleagues to keep going — and from knowing how important their work is to the victims and their families.

“I find that if you work with a good crew of people, which we’ve been fortunate enough to do, you kind of lean on each other,” Tully said of the cases both women face. “I know I’m where I’m supposed to be and we’re doing the work that not many people want to hear about.”

“I know I’m where I’m supposed to be and we’re doing the work that not many people want to hear about,” Tully said.Photo by Dean Moses

“We’re giving back their power to them by going after these people that do these things to them, getting them the services, getting them therapy,” Flores added. “Restoring their power back gives us the power back.”

Recounting memorable cases

Speaking with amNewYork Metro, both detectives outlined their mission when dealing with victims of sexually-based offenses: To remind them of their humanity, realize that the crimes which they suffered was not their fault, and remember how important it is to speak out and hold those responsible accountable for their actions.

In one memorable case,Flores told amNewYork Metro how she helped bring the abusers of an autistic 12-year-old girl to justice. According to Flores, the victim was sexually abused by her mother and her mother’s boyfriend.

Flores delved deep into the case, garnering a detailed description from the victim of everything that transpired before, during and after the attack — from the boyfriend ordering McDonald’s to the scene, to her mother putting her in the shower following the heinous act.

In one memorable case Flores told amNewYork Metro that she helped bring the abusers of an Autistic 12-year-old girl to justice.Photo by Dean Moses

“We get the video. The video shows mom picking up the delivery from McDonald’s with wet hair,” Flores recalled. “Mom gets arrested, boyfriend gets arrested, and I collar her grandma for unsupervised visitation.”

In another disturbing case, Tully was instrumental in bringing a creep to justice who scaled fire escapes in the Bronx.

Tully said the incident occurred about a year and a half prior and saw an 18-year-old man waking up to find himself being fondled by an unknown man who entered the apartment via a window. The suspect fled and then, within the same hour, attempted to enter another home via a fire escape.

“There was a young mother with her infant who noticed there was someone on the fire escape, and she didn’t pay any mind to it because some people get locked out from their apartment and they come in through the fire escape,” Tully explained. “But there was something particular about him that she closed the window. And she was very thankful that she did because then he started to beat on the window, and he had his genitals exposed.”

Frustrated that he could not gain entry, the man retreated — but the chaos did not end there.

The brute gained access to another home, this time belonging to a senior, whom he attacked. The senior managed to arm herself with a hammer and strike the perpetrator in the head, sending him running.

Incredibly, the creep went to a third apartment and found a homeless woman squatting in the vestibule — and sexually assaulted her. Finally, he reached through the bathroom window of another woman showering on the first floor where he touched her underwear.

“There were five survivors in total,” Tully said. “We had a palm print that came back to an individual about 24-hours after the initial report. And so he was identified and maybe about 12 hours later, he was arrested by the Warrant squad. It was just a really great group effort between Special Victims, the precinct, and Crime Scene [unit].”

For both detectives, these two cases showcase the power they as women can have on behalf of other women and children.

“They [Tully and Flores] amaze me every day. They bring that little bit back to survivors,” Deputy Chief Carlos Ortiz, Commanding Officer of the Special Victims Unit, said. Photo by Dean Moses

Deputy Chief Carlos Ortiz, commanding officer of the Special Victims Division, reiterated that while his detectives pursue some of the city’s most vile criminals, the job is not just about cuffing perpetrators but also bringing peace to victims.

“A lot of it is bringing a piece of humanity back to someone that just got taken from them,” Ortiz said. “They [Tully and Flores] amaze me every day. They bring that little bit back to survivors.”