12.15.2011

The Many Roles Of The Private Investigator In Investigating Child Sexual Abuse Allegations - Part XV

the private investigator
Image by clownbastard via Flickr


By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”
Henry David Thoreau

One of the major responsibilities a private investigator has when retained to conduct an investigation of what transpired between an alleged child sexual victim and sexual offender is to conduct a multitude of interviews. When the client retains the investigator to perform the investigation a Case Action Plan should be developed and the investigator and client will come to an understanding that part of the plan will be to interview the most important witnesses.

The cost of interviewing witnesses can be expense depending on the location of the investigator’s business and the witness’s location. In the field of investigation generally the time and expense the investigator is able to charge the client is when the investigator leaves their office the clock begins ticking, until the investigator returns back to their office. Each interview may cost the client three hours of the investigator’s time. When there are twenty to thirty interviews involved in the investigation, this may add up between 50 to 60 hours. This is without preparing any reports about what transpired before, during and after the interviews.
The investigator needs to prepare for each and every interview. Each witness will have specific information which the investigator wants to obtain. In order to obtain this information the investigator needs to understand how the mind works. The information the investigator is seeking from the witness according to author David C. Rubin (1986) is:

A knowledge of basic memory processes in the individual as well as of the influences of the society in which the individual lives; a knowledge of memory processes in the individual at one age and time as well as of the effects of changes in development and environment over a lifetime; a knowledge of the intact as well as the impaired individual; a knowledge of cognition as well as of affect.

Basically what Rubin was defining is a process called autobiographical memory. When individuals think back over a period of time, there will be specific aspects of the memory which will be stronger than other aspects. An individual may remember that they were at the Holiday Inn when they were younger; they can remember the swimming pool; the people who were there; but they are incapable of putting a date and time on the alleged incidence(s). This individual may be able to remember some of the conversation of what was said, but they can’t be specific.

The investigator needs to have a complete understanding of how the mind works and how the autobiographical aspects of the mind work. The investigator should form an opinion of what they believe each witness will be able to tell them. This opinion should be based on the information from what other investigators have gathered to date. If the investigator is interviewing a witness who has not been interview previously, than the investigator will need to ask open-ended, neutral and general questions. After the general questions are asked, the investigator can then move to specific and clarification type questions.

It is likely and not that unusual to find that the prior investigators may have asked the wrong questions, therefore the information the previous investigator’s received was only a portion of the knowledge the witness possessed. In interviewing a witness about a specific incident the memory of the incident may trigger an emotional response from the witness. The investigator needs to be prepared that the witness will remember every detail of the incident which may indicate that the emotional aspects of the memory will be attached to that specific incidence(s).

If the witness is having difficulty in answering the questions the investigator needs to apply interview methods and techniques which allow the witness the opportunity to answer the questions. In using interview strategies which elicit information the investigator will find great success during the interview.

In dealing with children as victims and witnesses there are astronomical volumes of research on how a child’s memory works. The interview strategies which provide the interviewer with the most information depend upon the age of the child and the ability of the child to answer open-ended questions.

Child amnesia was a major controversy when Sigmund Freud discovered it in and around 1916. The theory was it is a unique form of forgetting. Freud explained that children between the ages of 6 to 8 and younger had few memories if any at all. Further Freud argued that memory has gaps and distortions and children may suffer from this as well. Many researchers in the field of memory do not agree that child amnesia exists. The problem with all of the research is the participants have been adults and their memories across the broad spectrum of time can’t be evaluated by a one-time research project.

Isn’t it common sense that people have long been interested in understanding what they remember about their past and why they remember it. Unfortunately, scientists and researchers are still trying to figure out how to study autobiographical memory. The “episodic memory” is one of the most important aspects of the memory process. Francis Galton, 1883, used word association to find memories he stated, “…that memories makes us feel that the roadways of our minds are worn into very deep ruts.”

As a private investigator the perceptions, thoughts and memories can be complex, a bag of mixed tools where drawing out a specific memory can be very difficult. If the investigator has limited education and training in how the mind works and how the investigator’s questioning may cause mixed results, then the goal of obtaining information from that witness may be frustrating to the witness and investigator.

Tomorrow, the need to dig deeper into the many roles and responsibilities a private investigator plays will survey the way an investigator puts together the pieces. Putting the pieces together deal with many problem areas, detours and reevaluating and rethinking the direction of the investigation. Understanding all of these nuances and subtleties make for an interesting article(s). Therefore, stand by for more on what the private investigator does, can do, and will do in an investigation.





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1 comment:

  1. One of the prime requirements of an investigation team is to have local contacts to have easily accessible information. It also needs to maintain a high degree of confidentiality in all the activities that it is carrying out. In today world, just to have a piece of mind as well people go to investigating agencies for cheating spouse investigation and confirm whether their spouse are having an external affair or not To carry out these investigations one must be able to handle complex cases very efficiently.
    Private investigator Florida has many of these investigating agencies. However one has to be smart enough to select the best one among them. Similarly California private investigator, private investigator San Diego, private investigator Los Angeles are also there where there are huge demands. So one may be staying anywhere but should keep in mind a couple of important points before going to any agency. One should make sure that the information he shares with the agency are kept completely confidential as any miscommunication in this regard can completely spoil anyone life. He should also make sure about their ability to investigate complicated cases speedily and efficiently as well. Mayaandmayainc.com has a good reputation and has huge local contacts in this industry for quite a long time now. It is thus considered to be the most trusted website to provide investigation services.

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