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

By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

Photo of Black Elk, his wife and daughter
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“Also, as I lay there thinking of my vision, I could see it all again and feel the meaning with a part of me like a strange power glowing in my body; but when the part of me that talks would try to make words for the meaning, it would be like fog and get away from me”
Black Elk

It isn’t everyday that a law enforcement official has a vision about the mental approach to utilize and come to the conclusion that this would be the most intelligent and competent approach to apply in any given situation when child sexual abuse has been alleged. When the investigative decision has been made of which direction the official should follow, then there is a power behind it which can’t be fixed. It should concern the official that the mental approach selected may have enough energy and thrust to get down the block and around the corner. These blocks should be long as the need for endurance has never been so wanted and necessary.

When properly presented with the facts, the law enforcement official should take the necessary investigative steps which need only be reconsidered if the mental approach initially thought to be of value might take care of the investigative situation. If the official doesn’t take the time to put forth the effort to analyze the correlation between the allegation and the supporting outside issues. This may find the official off-guard when the investigative analysis is revealed.

Investigations which are properly managed and organized will eventually demonstrate the investigator has the correct and proper mental approach to handle the role and responsibilities of the many tasks they were assigned. Sometimes it is difficult to manage 30 investigations at one time, especially when you need to have individual mental approaches for each one. The complaint by investigators is when they have to manage 30 cases and then are responsible to wear this hat on this investigation and then wear this hat on this investigation and so forth creates confusion, stress, disorder and so forth. Sometimes this chaos can be unrealistic for the investigator to deal with, but at some point the investigator will slow the investigative process down and everything will turn out positive and successful.

The complaint by investigators doesn’t go unnoticed by those who believe that an investigation has its own set of circumstances and the needs of the case are not only individual, but different. However, when managing investigations the investigator should understand that there are specialized categories in which an investigation can be placed in. These categories are as follows:

Familial Investigations: These types of investigations need the mental approach that the child victim and sexual offender may live together and therefore the investigation needs to be considered an imminent matter. The mental approach should deal with the safety of the child victim, how the safety of the child victim can be assured, what to do with the sexual offender, what witnesses need immediate contact and interviewed. The mental approach may be complex therefore the alternative hypothesis must be initially broad but as the emergent need of the case is developed the hypothesis will narrow until a final hypothesis can be considered and proven.

Further, the mental approach must consider the motive which could be playing a major factor behind the scene. The investigator can deal with this during the initial interviews, understanding that the motive needs to be thoroughly and completely addressed prior to requesting criminal charges be filed by the prosecutor. The investigator has a due diligence to investigate every aspect of the case and sometimes when the investigation comes together in a manner which just seems too coincidental then the investigator should take a second look at the information, facts and evidence. No matter how much time is assigned to the case; seeking the truth is paramount to anything else.

Third Party Investigations: These types of investigations need the mental approach of the child victim and the sexual offender generally do not live together and the safety of the child is not an issue. Of course each case has its own set of circumstances, but generally speaking the third party investigations safety is not an issue. The third party investigations are generally not of an emergent nature. The investigation does not have to be rushed and the investigator can take their time in investigating the sexual assault allegations. Of course society’s mentality is as soon as there is an investigation the alleged sexual offender should be incarcerated.

Fortunately, for the most part a criminal investigation should be conducted thoroughly and completely using intelligence and competent methods and techniques. In these types of investigations there is time to set up an interview of the child when it is convenient for the child victim and the investigator. The investigator can interview the witnesses during the time frame of the present to the date and time of the child interview. The alleged sexual offender can be interrogated after all of the interviews have been conducted, if there is evidence, it should be evaluated, and backgrounds on all of the parties can be conducted. The mental approach should be one of caution as the investigator has the time to be thorough and complete in the way they approach their case. Too often the investigator will rush to judgment and the facts of the case will become convoluted and questions about the child victim and witnesses may become an issue.

In-Custody Investigations: The mental approach of these types of investigations is one where the investigator is assigned the case and has 48-72 hours to complete the majority of the investigation. Like the Familial Investigations the In-Custody Investigations surrounds the protection of the child victim. Separating the child victim from the sexual offender is of the utmost importance.  The investigator doesn’t have the time to sit around and contemplate all of the alternative hypothesis at the time of the case assignment, however, the investigator needs to review all of the initial reports and come to an initial conclusion about which direction the investigation should begin and pursued.

The mental approach should be one where the investigator has the ability to ‘see’ the investigation in their mind; taking the investigation step by step. This mental approach is constructive and allows the investigator to put the investigation into a Case Action Plan which will generally be successful. Since time is of the essence the investigator may need to enlist the assistance of the investigators in his/her unit. Too often the investigator will have the mental approach that they can do everything themselves and can create many miracles. Unfortunately, this approach is a catastrophe looking for a place to happen. Moreover, it diminishes the investigative aspects of the case and later may cause the case to be regarded as weak and not prosecutable.

The Familial, Third Party and In-Custody Investigations have their own distinct mental approaches. In fact in each investigative category there can be one to twenty mental approaches which need to be considered. In the end the investigators need to find a balance in order to complete the investigation in a positive and successful manner.

If the investigator has multiple investigations which fall under these investigative categories the investigator can develop a method and technique which allows them to prioritize the multiple investigations into these specific categories. This allows for streamlining and the ability to accomplish many tasks quickly and efficiently.

Tomorrow, this series has posed many interesting questions and suggestions that an investigator can utilize when investigating child sexual abuse investigations. The mental approaches in a given case can range from one to twenty depending on the complexity and urgency of the investigation. The need for further research and understanding of why using a mental approach is the intelligent method to utilize in an investigation will continue to be reviewed.

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