1.22.2012

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

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By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

“Under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison”

Henry David Thoreau 



The struggles which law enforcement official’s face on a daily basis create a conflict between which is academic and experience. Either way as a law enforcement official, do not let anything stand in their way as a law enforcement official does not allow the walls to stop them from moving forward, no, they climb the walls and find the right solution to crimes which burden those who lives they try to help and positively change.

The investigative language used in mental approaches presented prior to, during, and after the investigation have been performed, is it not the role and responsibility of the law enforcement official to consider every possibility which leads the investigator towards the truth. Even if the truth can’t be found the investigator should be able to pursue the lead(s) which may make a difference. The difference may decide if an individual is labeled a sex offender and imprisoned for a crime they may have committed or did not commit.

Still, someone has to be responsible for finding the truth. The freedom of individuals depend upon someone i.e. law enforcement investigators to get off their office chair and go into the field and find what information people have to offer reference the alleged crime. The child victim and sexual offender deserve the best from their law enforcement officials. They deserve to have a neutral and objective investigator systematically process the alleged crime.

It isn’t enough for the law enforcement investigator to pick up the telephone and make a few investigative telephone calls. The enough comes from the efforts of the law enforcement officials performing their jobs at the highest level possible. The expectations by the child victim, witnesses and sexual offender need to be one of professional conduct on the part of the official. The investigator must act professional and accordingly from the time they are assigned the case until the completion of the investigation. Too often law enforcement officials try to find short-cuts so they can make their 5:00 dinner date.

The mental approach has to be somewhat obsessive in that every detail can and will have some significance. The investigative decisions aren’t easy and learning how to prioritize each investigative mental approach creates a realistic resolution for all of the parties who have faith in the criminal justice system.

The law enforcement investigator has the lead role in how the investigation is performed and completed. Rarely does an investigation resolve itself. Sometimes a sexual offender will take their own life instead of dealing with the humiliation of being accused of molesting a child. In other cases the child will come forward and tell others that they made up the sexual assault allegations and the reason they made up the sexual assault allegations was they were upset with the alleged sexual offender and knew these allegations would create a storm.

The problem with recantations is studies have demonstrated that a high percentage of the recantations were performed for several reasons. These reasons are:

1.      The implications of the research are that inconsistencies and recantations in children’s reports may be due to reluctance rather than a false allegation (Lyons and Ahern, 2011).
2.      The high rates of reluctance and recantation was based on dubious claims of abuse (London et al., 2005)
3.      Specifically, London writes, "parentally abused children with low levels of family support" will exhibit lower disclosure rates and higher recantation rates than other abuse victims (London et al., 2008, p. 38; see Elliott & Briere, 1994; Lawson & Chaffin, 1992; Lippert, Cross, Jones, & Walsh, 2009; Malloy, Lyon, & Quas, 2007).
4.      With respect to recantation, a study examining over 250 substantiated cases of sexual abuse in dependency court found that about a fourth of the children recanted at some point and that recantations were more likely if the child was abused by a member of his or her household, if the non-perpetrator parent expressed disbelief or was otherwise unsupportive of the allegation, and if the child was under 10 years of age (Mallory et al., 2007)
5.      The take-home point is that one cannot assume that denial of abuse, inconsistencies in an abuse report, or a recantation is compelling evidence that abuse did not occur. Substantiated cases contain few denials or recantations because denials or recantations reduce the likelihood of substantiation (Lyons and Ahern, 2011).

The above information reference recantations were taken from an article authored by T.D. Lyon and E.C. Ahern, “Disclosure of child sexual abuse” in the APSAC handbook on child maltreatment (3d.ed.). The main reason I give Lyon and Ahern and his professional associates recognition is for years these same people didn’t believe children who recanted. The tried to find reasons not to believe the recantation, stating the child was not lying to protect the alleged sexual offender and many other reasons. It is this attitude which convinced others in the child sexual abuse industry to put many individuals into prison for crimes they may have not committed. Having this type of responsibility comes with a major confirmation which is at time seems baseless.

The logical and reasonable assumptions that the advocates have about child sexual assaults needs a thorough and complete re-evaluation on what other opinions may be in question in the child sexual abuse industry. The past three decades has created research which at times was helpful but at times concerning for those who thought things didn’t seem to add up.

It is this author’s hope and prayers that these child advocates will take a step back and perform studies which ring the ‘true’ bell. It is time for all who work in the field of child sexual abuse to reach down deep and contemplate their positions on interviewing children and witnesses, conducting investigations and discerning potential motives. Motives in child sexual assault investigations needs to be given a higher recognition so law enforcement learns how to apply them in their investigations and what they tell the investigator about the child sexual assault allegations.  Too often the motive behind an allegation speaks highly of the merits reference the individuals involved in the case.

Tomorrow, as the series begins to come to a close, the balancing act continues to demonstrate that law enforcement as a whole needs to understand how mental approaches can be of a benefit to them in child sexual assault cases. At the end of the day, the desire to find the truth is very important. It is too often overlooked in the name of political correctness. If you have not had the opportunity to review this series take the time to look back and understand the value of what the systematic methods of mental approaches bring to the investigative table. It is my belief these mental approaches would make a world of difference not only for the investigators, but for those individuals involved in the child sexual abuse allegations.

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