The Interviewer – Are Those Being Interviewed Telling The Truth Or Are They Lying? Part V

By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

The journey of a child being sexually abused by an adult has become the spring board for many new laws and the benching of specific individuals receiving life sentences. The majority of the human race would like to make the sexual offender’s life difficult at best. Moreover, society wants to be able to monitor specifically where the sexual offenders are, at specific dates and times.

Prior to the new laws, such as Megan’s Law and Jessica’s Law, pedophiles could roam from one jurisdiction to another. There is no doubt that the sexual offenders of today are utilizing new strategies to avoid prosecution, apprehension and confinement. It is difficult to understand how these sexual offenders can escape law enforcements presence in their lives.

Children continue to be sexually assaulted and the main question has to be “how”? Where are their parents, family, peers, friends and etc.? The knowledge of the average child, young adult and adult should know what body touches are appropriate and what touches are inappropriate.  The statistics are scary when they demonstrate that the child sexual victim was sexually assaulted by someone they knew; 90-95% of the time, according to the 2010 statistics.

So the child sexual assault journey continues and children continue to be victimized by sexual offenders who should be incarcerated for the rest of their lives. The best bet then is for law enforcement officials to find the tools, methods and techniques which will assist in bringing sexual offenders to trial and then eventually to incarceration.

It is important to understand just because there are allegations that a child was sexually abused doesn’t mean that the child was sexually abused.  False allegations are a major problem nationally and internationally. In one of my future series I will address false allegations and just how much time law enforcement officials expend on them.

The cognitive interview model specifically is a forensic child sexual abuse interview technique which deals exclusively with the retrieval of information from memory.  As I have discussed over the past week, the cognitive interview model came into effect in 1984 and has been revamped many times to make the model more effective. It has been thoroughly researched by the child sexual abuse scientists who make their living by conducting research on specific interview models.
The cognitive interview model is all about investigative interviewing. Law enforcement officials are concerned about many aspects of the potential crime, but mainly are focused on two concepts i.e. what occurred during the incident and who may be responsible for the incident. Law enforcement officials have to be careful with these two concepts because the first concept, what occurred during the incident makes the assumption that something did occur, which probably happens 90-95% of the time. It is the 10% of the time where nothing occurred that should concern the law enforcement officials. If nothing happened it is imperative that a neutral, non-bias, non-prejudicial and fact-finding process take place.

So for this article we will use the premise that an incident occurred and the cognitive interview model is being used by law enforcement officials. In order to pursue that the crime was committed; law enforcement officials need to obtain information about what happened. Therefore, witnesses need to be interviewed and information needs to be obtained from them in order to conduct the investigation.

The direction of the investigation comes from the potential witnesses to the incident. In child sexual abuse cases, there are little to no witnesses who can support the child victim’s statement about being inappropriately sexually assaulted. The specific reason is child sexual abuse occurs in private for the most part and witnesses are not a part of the sexual offender’s scheme of things. However, a witness can provide testimony about where the alleged child victim and sexual offender were i.e. they were seen going into the alleged sexual offender’s home on Tuesday evening, at 6:00 pm.

The testimony the witness has to offer will be about circumstantial issues. These circumstances may support what the alleged child victim told the non-abusing adult and eventually the police. The alleged child victim must be interviewed by the police and using the cognitive interview model is an intelligent and competent step in the right direction in attempting to identify the truth.

When the child sexual abuse case comes in front of a judge and/or jury, the alleged child victim and witnesses can be compelling as long as the prosecutor has met with the witnesses and discussed their testimony with them prior to trial. Law enforcement officials would have met with the witnesses at the beginning of the investigation to obtain at least a general understanding of what transpired.

The need to create a timeline would also need to be established by utilizing the facts that are initially and later obtained by law enforcement officials.

The criminal justice system surrounds itself with witnesses who can provide information which is relevant and material to the case in chief. If you attend a trial you will hear the prosecution and defense attorneys utilize the two words relevance and material to object to a witness’s testimony. This allows the two attorneys to streamline the facts about the case, so information which has nothing to do with the case is allowed to be heard in an already complex case.

The use of the cognitive interview model is to make sure that the information obtained by the law enforcement officials is not incomplete and inaccurate. It is of the utmost importance that the law enforcement official obtains complete, accurate and truthful information. Remember, the initial information sets the direction and pace of the fact-finding mission.

Tomorrow, I will continue to discuss the cognitive interview model and to try and understand its significance in the law enforcement investigative field. It is a very important tool that law enforcement officers should consider using and to understand its usefulness. Law enforcement officials, who do not use the cognitive interview model, need to take the time to understand the benefits, nuances, and subtleties model.

Forensic Child Sexual Abuse Investigations Part 1 
   By: Lawrence W. Daly                                                             
  Webinar Time- September 22, 2011 1:00 pm -2:00pm
   Registration Fee - $99.00

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