Investigative Psychology – What Does It Mean And How Can It Help Law Enforcement Investigations? An Examination Of Sexual Abuse Issues Part V

By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

Investigative Psychology (IP) has been around for the past three centuries. The usefulness of IP has been slowly being utilized by law enforcement over the past four decades. The value of IP has multiple uses for the law enforcement officials who are attempting to investigate, locate, apprehend, convict and incarcerate individuals who committed varies criminal acts.

The major crime will be viewed in this article is about child sexual abuse. The statistics should be of concern if you have children and if you don’t have children maybe you have relatives who have children. The latest national statistics state that:
  • About 1 in 4 female children are sexually assaulted or harassed before the age of 18.
  • About 1 in 7 male children are sexually abused before the age of 18.
  • 1 in 5 children under the age of 18 have been sexually solicited via the internet.
  • Roughly 60-70% of all reported cases of sexual abuse involve victims under 18.
The reports and statistics continue to come in and now there is a study which states that currently there are over 30 million current citizens of the United States whom have been subjected to some form of sexual abuse in the recent past.
Where things get convoluted is trying to understand what specifically the definitions of sexual abuse are. Child Protection Caseworkers define sexual abuse as exposing youngsters to sexual stimuli that are developmentally inappropriate. Further their definition includes younger children being exposed to witnessing their parents having sex, touching their parent’s genitals, watching R-rated movies.
The symptoms which are commonly displayed by sexually abused children include:
          ·   Mimicking adult sexual behavior
          ·   Possessing sexual knowledge and vocabulary beyond what is normal for the child’s age
          ·   Engaging in persistent sexual play (commonly with dolls, other children, pets, or themselves
          ·  Having abrasions, pain, bleeding, or swelling of the mouth, genitals, or anus
          ·  Having an obsession with touching or poking objects into the genitals, or anus
          ·  Incurring unexplained urinary or vaginal infections
          ·  Suffering from sexual transmitted disease
          · Making direct or indirect comments about having been molested
          ·  Displaying a sudden, exaggerated upset over being touched when having a diaper changed, being bathed    
              or helped to the potty, or during physical examinations
          ·  Suddenly manifesting phobias or exaggerated fearfulness around particular people or in specific locations
          ·  Experiencing frequent nightmares
All of these statistics, characteristics, traits and suggestions which identify who is being abused, the residual effects of sexual abuse, and so forth, is important to understanding how this information can assist the IP Detective in his/her child sexual abuse investigation.
The sciences which the IP system utilizes can use this data during the child sexual abuse investigation to obtain information from the child victim, witnesses and the sexual offender. In the IP system, these issues need to be examined and understood by the IP Detective.
Sexual abuse can destroy a child’s life. As the above points out, if a child is abused, there can be long term consequences. The child is unlikely to trust another adult; the sexual abuse limits the child’s self-esteem. The child goes through a cycle of guilt, embarrassment, shame, anxiety, depression, suicide ideations and other behavioral issues.
The reporting of child sexual abuse is another major issue, which the IP Detective needs to analyze and understand.  Using the IP system, the IP Detective will learn details about all of the parties involved and will be able to apply the information when conducting the investigation.
In the IP, methodological approach the IP Detective is capable of taking the patterns of co-occurrence across different sexual offenses, placing the information into identifying groups of variables that tend to happen in the same sexual offense, but not in other sexual offenses.  In these groups of variables, the sexual offending styles can be identified.  This will create a sexual offender profile that the IP Detective can broadcasts to other law enforcement officials as well as a profile he/she can follow.
The IP Detective with the sexual abuse profile in the IP system can begin educating other law enforcement officials about who they should be looking for and what the characteristics are of the sexual offender.  The sexual abuse profile will create positive results and provide leads for all of the law enforcement officials involved.
Tomorrow, I will address one of the major aspects of the investigation of child sexual abuse allegations, and that is whether an allegation, which has been made, is genuine or false.  The IP system is complex, but there are characteristics and traits, which will distinguish the two and provide the IP Detective with some insights on what to do when the allegation proves to be false.

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