Bluefield College Alumna Polly Franks Has a Passion for Justice
Article by freelance writer Crystal Kieloch Imagine the scene at the local hospital emergency room where a five-year-old girl is frightened and silently crying as the forensic nurse examiner enters the room.
January 19, 2010
The little girl has been brought in because she has been sexually molested. To help ease the child's fears and to assist in the examination, the nurse brings with her a "comfort kit." The kit is a pillowcase with Barbie, Sponge Bob or Superman printed on it. The case contains a stuffed animal so that the child can point to where she has been harmed and a drawing pad and crayons so that she can draw pictures in order to help explain what has transpired.
Funding for these kits comes from donations made to "Project: Operation Fuzzy," organized by the Franks Foundation, founded by Bluefield College alumna Polly Franks, who has a passion for justice.
On an October night in 1995, Polly's two daughters, ages eight and nine at the time, were having a sleepover with one of their neighborhood playmates. The playmate's parents were trusted friends that Polly and her husband had known since moving into the neighborhood a few years earlier. The children also attended the local elementary school together, which was only one block away from the Franks neighborhood.
The night ended tragically with an assault on the children, which is where Polly's fight for justice began. Much to her horror, Polly learned that her neighbor, "who wouldn't have crushed a bug," was a convicted serial predator from Texas known as San Antonio's Ski Mask Rapist, who in the 1980s committed more than 200 sexual assaults on women and little girls.
"Instead of going to prison for these crimes," Polly said, "he was allowed probation and ordered to undergo treatment in the form of chemical castration' and allowed to monitor himself."
During the time that the Franks and their neighbors were enjoying friendship, their community in Richmond, Virginia, was experiencing a rash of similar crimes by a predator, identified by police as the "Bandanna Bandit," who was linked to at least 86 more innocent victims, mostly children, in the Richmond area.
Polly's fight for justice was further fueled by the fact that her neighbor was indeed the "Bandanna Bandit," and he was released following the attack on her children and, yet again, allowed to monitor himself.
"I was enraged with the lack of justice for my children's case," Polly said, "and I decided to do something about it. I became a licensed private investigator for the sole purpose of bringing this animal to justice."
Polly said she felt as if she were fighting a "two-pronged battle" with both the predator and the justice system. "I wanted to protect my family and bring this man down!"
After a three-year battle, which included national media exposure through television shows like Dateline and 20/20, the Bandanna Bandit was sentenced to prison for life without parole for his crimes. When Polly's middle daughter asked when he was getting out, her mother could thankfully say, "never!"
But, justice for her daughters and "the luxury of not worrying that he could hurt them again" was not enough for Polly. She wanted more; so she began an advocacy program and has since testified before the House Judiciary Committee, been interviewed on numerous television shows, including "Nancy Grace," "Fox News Live," "ABC World News Tonight," and the "Montel Williams Show."
In addition, her story and stories about her cause have been published in Parents, Family Circle, Good Housekeeping, and Cosmo Girl. The Montreal Gazette, the Houston Chronicle, and the Christian Science Monitor have also printed stories about Polly's crusade against child molesters. She's thankful, she said, for the opportunity to take "this little story from hell and make some good come of it."
"I went through a time of questioning why God would allow something like this to happen," Polly said, "I would have never chosen to go through something like this. I was sharing with a friend at church and was wondering aloud about why God would allow this. She said, 'because God knew you'd do something about it once you stopped feeling sorry for yourself.'"
And that she has as Operation Fuzzy's comfort kits have been available to hundreds of abused children, including 400 removed from the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) Eldorado, Texas Compound.
"There were two little girls brought into the ER in Rocky Mount (VA) on Christmas Eve when the mother had fled an abusive home," Polly said. "Our comfort kits were there, and the nurse explained that Santa had known where to find them even when things were bad."
Polly doesn't deny that her faith has been tested, but she considers her story as one with a happy ending. She's talked to many parents of murdered children, and she knows never to take family and friends for granted. "My daughters are grown and happy," she said.
Looking back, Polly, who earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Bluefield College in 1979, recalls how her father, a minister, encouraged her to find her calling while a student at BC. Chuckling, she says, "I finally found my calling in my 40s when all this began taking place. My advocacy work helps me to stay focused on what's important in life."
To join Polly in her passion for justice, visit the franksfoundation.org.