Law Enforcement’s Mental Approach To Child Sexual Abuse Investigations – Part III

By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency.
Natalie Goldberg, Wild Mind

Everyone believes they should have received their reward yesterday. When that reward doesn’t appear as predicted by the individual it is a sign of impatience or unrealistic expectations. Law enforcement officials are no different than the average Joe who has this expectation that the prediction of an alleged crime will be resolved. Unfortunately, the reward doesn’t appear and the expectations are lessened when one views the reality of their dream.

Law enforcement officials are individuals who are trained that time is of the essence. The investigation must be completed today and an arrest must be made. This mental approach to some extent has validity, but for the most part it is unrealistic. The reasons are law enforcement officials have more than one case they are investigating; how to prioritize which case assignment is as important as the other; how many investigators are available to assist the assigned investigator with the investigation; will the administration allow for the over-time which is needed; and at what price will the investigator have to give in order to resolve the case and make an immediate arrest?
California Coalition Against Sexual Assault
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Each mental approach an investigator takes will have an impact psychologically and physically on them and their cohorts. Stress is the name of the game when it comes to tracking down a sexual offender. Especially a serial sexual offender and one the media has casted to the public as a violent individual who is hiding behind every rock. Not to make light of the responses by the media or the public should be taken serious. The stranger serial sexual offenders are responsible for 6% of the children which are sexually assaulted and are a real threat to children. The more the criminal justice system identifies additional sexual offenders the percentage should decrease.

Statistics have demonstrated the child victim and sexual offender knew each other in at least 90% of the sexual assault cases. The mental approach of the law enforcement official should examine and evaluate each sexual assault allegation and try and identify known characteristics which are found in ‘true’ child sexual abuse allegations.

Law enforcements mental approach will decide if an alleged child victim will be believed. There are certain criteria which are commonly found in ‘true’ allegations. They are as follows:

1.      The child is capable of having a conversation or dialogue with the forensic interviewer, detailing the sexual assault details and information.
2.      The child is capable of detailing content and context about how and when the incidence(s) took place.
3.      The child is capable of detailing what the alleged sexual offender said before, during and after the alleged sexual assaults. Historical data has demonstrated that when an alleged child victim is incapable of detailing a dialogue between the alleged child victim and sexual offender, this should be a warning sign that something may be wrong with the allegation. Children should be capable of a dialogue between the forensic interviewer and themselves. What a sexual offender says prior to, during and after the sexual assault is in reality 50% of the sexual assault. True sexual offenders groom their child victims so they can sexually assault them. Part of the grooming process is talking to the child victim in order to receive compliance. Law enforcement officials do not put enough emphasis on the dialogue between the alleged child victim and sexual offender. The mental approach has to be one of non-bias, objective, neutral with a fact-finding attitude.
4.      The child is of the age where they should not have sexual knowledge which they are in possession of. The problem with this mental approach by law enforcement is the Internet exploded over a decade ago and children who would not have been ‘sexualized’ are now being exposed to sexual themes at early ages 4 and 5 specifically because parents do not monitor their child’s behavior. When law enforcement officials asks the parent if the child has access the Internet how is the parent to respond, “Yes, I let my 4 year old play on the Internet.” If the law enforcement official is naïve and ignorant they will accept this response by the parent. The mental approach by law enforcement needs to be they will drive to the alleged child victim’s residence and identify where the computers are and if they are accessible to the alleged child victim. Moreover, what type of cable i.e. Internet would the child have access to.
5.      The mental approach by law enforcement officials when dealing with the sexual offender will find a multitude of reasons the alleged sexual offender committed the alleged sexual assaults. The problem with law enforcement is that approximately 5-10% of child sexual assault cases are false. If the law enforcement official approaches each case in the same investigative mind-set, than those sexual offenders who are guilty may walk free and those who didn’t commit the sexual assaults may go to prison.

So how do law enforcement officials shake the cob-webs out of their minds when dealing with a child sexual assault allegation and have the correct frame of mind i.e. having the proper and reliable mental approach? How many times will the law enforcement official get it wrong, fail to protect and serve alleged child victims, and set-free those alleged sexual offenders who did not commit the alleged sexual assault?

Tomorrow, the question of what type of mental approach the law enforcement official should utilize when investigating sexual assault allegations will be further researched. It is becoming apparent that whatever the mental approach of the law enforcement official are, this approach may have an effect on the outcome of the investigation.

The ‘true’ attributes that demonstrate that a child victim was sexually assaulted which I listed above where just a few of the characteristics which a law enforcement official needs to consider. There is no perfect check list, no perfect criteria, no perfect solution, no perfect analysis, but there is a proper and correct law enforcement official mental approach which brings about positive and successful results. These criteria’s I will continue to discuss and provide the avenues which law enforcement should use to have an investigation which is solid and integras.

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