PHOENIX -- About five children in the United States die each day because of abuse. Cases are more widely reported and children’s input more accepted, but it is still rare for a child to make that first call.
That is why a call from a 13-year-old girl during Christmas break this past year surprised many who work with abused kids. They say her 911 call showed incredible bravery because most won’t report parents, even if they are angry.
“What's going on there?” asked the dispatcher.
“My mom tried to stab me with a knife and my little brother,” said the 13-year-old girl.
The girl called police from her Phoenix house on Christmas Day, saying her mother was threatening her with a knife and saying, "I'm going to kill you," according to police reports.
“What kind of knife was it?” asked the dispatcher.
“It was like a butcher knife,” the girl responded and then to someone else, “Stop trying to talk! I tell you no! She tried to tell… didn't get a knife…”
On the call you can hear the girl crying and she says some words that are hard to understand through her sobs. Then she said, “She tried to stab me with it.”
The girl said her mother, Jutrina Tillman, is drunk and angry, and told her and her 5-year-old brother to stop "playing the video game he received for Christmas." When they didn't, Tillman allegedly grabbed the boy and "had her fingers wrapped around [the boy's] neck." He later told police, "his mom tried to make him go to sleep."
“All of these charges, they're not true,” said Tillman at her initial appearance two days later. "They're not true and they didn't happen. My daughter is very manipulative. She got caught having sex and got in trouble for it and she called police.”
Robert Bell from Childhelp couldn't speak about this case, but said that scenario doesn't add up. Children don’t generally lie about abuse or other violent acts against them.
“They don't and they are not going to involve other agencies in a lie if they are feeling vindictive,” Bell said.
Bell said children rarely make the call to report a parent. It is usually a neighbor, relative or someone outside the immediate family. He said it is important children understand their voice carries as much weight as that of an adult.
“We want all children, anybody to know,” Bell said. “If you call for help, if you call CPS, if you call the police department, they are going to evaluate everything on its own merit. The bottom line is they want to make sure you are safe at the end of the day.”
Tillman has a trial date set for August, but on July 23, she has a change of plea hearing where she may plead to other charges.
Her attorney did not return our call.
The children were released to their father.