Hank Baskett of Clovis explains the purpose of the Oasis Children’s Advocate Center, recognized by the 9th District Attorney’s Office for its work. (Staff photo: Tony Bullocks)
By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
Hank Baskett, Oasis Children’s Advocacy Center director, believes God directed him down a path he could never have envisioned. He conducts forensic interviews with children who have witnessed or been victims of abuse and violent crimes.
When Baskett retired from the military in the early 1990s, he had plans to go to school and play golf. Instead he listens to some of the most horrific stories ever told, yet he says he loves it.
It is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Bringing together victims and the agencies that work to help them is what the week is about, according to 9th Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler.
“We have to come together to help rebuild the lives that have been shattered through violent crime,” Chandler said.
Oasis was chosen for recognition this week by the District Attorney’s office because, Chandler said, the organization is an extremely important tool for law enforcement and a safe haven for children, helping prevent them from being traumatized by the interview and investigation process.
Oasis was presented Tuesday with a check for almost $500, the proceeds from a breakfast held to start the victim-centered week, according to Chandler.
Recent budget cuts have Oasis teetering on the edge, according to Chandler, who said on numerous occasions, Baskett has voluntarily forfeited his paycheck to keep the doors open.
A statewide push for new and innovative programs has limited the funding for existing programs, Baskett said.
“What’s wrong with the programs that are working?” he wondered. “They always want you to come up with something new.”
While the interviews he conducts are essential to law enforcement, he also believes giving children a place where they can unload the trauma they have been burdened with is critical to their healing.
Molestation is a major portion of his case load, Baskett said. “We are only touching the tip of the iceberg as far as the actual molestation that’s being committed.”
An average of 13 children are interviewed monthly at Oasis, whose staff consists of Baskett and an assistant. While the number may seem small, to Baskett one child is one too many.
Community awareness is also a large part of the mission of Oasis. By going to the schools and teaching kids about abuse and empowering them to talk to someone, Baskett works to curb abuse.
“I love what I do, and people think I’m sick because of what I hear from those children,” he said. “(But) I challenge (the kids) to leave the abuse with me.”
The only payment he requires from the children is a smile. “They know I collect them,” Baskett said.
“I’ve learned to love. I even love the perpetrators. I don’t love what they do but I pray for them because I’m not without sin. But the children, they’re special,” he said.
Baskett is not willing to let Oasis flounder. He has vowed to fight as long as he must to keep it alive. Looking for grants and conducting fundraisers are some of the ways he plans to make up the gaps.
“We are going to survive. We have a lot of concerned people in this town. They won’t let this program die. I won’t let it die. The money’s going to come from somewhere.”