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Criminal Investigation of Suspected Child Abuse (From APSAC Handbook on Child Maltreatment, P 246-270, 1996, John Briere, Lucy Berliner, et al, eds. - See NCJ-172299)

NCJ Number
K V Lanning; B Walsh
Date Published
Law enforcement's role in the investigation of suspected child abuse is reviewed, with emphasis on the criminal investigation of child sexual abuse and child physical abuse and neglect, including fatalities.
Law enforcement personnel should listen to victims, assess and evaluate relevant information, and conduct a thorough investigation. Corroborative evidence exists more often than many investigators realize, and investigators should remember not all childhood trauma involves abuse. Law enforcement personnel involved in child sexual abuse cases should focus on reason versus emotion, know how to cope with the stigma attached to sex crimes and child abuse investigations, recognize types and characteristics of child sexual abuse, conduct detailed and effective interviews with children, use videotaping with child victims when appropriate, and conduct investigative interviews with an open mind. Law enforcement personnel should also be skilled in assessment and evaluation, document behavioral symptoms of child sexual abuse, identify adult witnesses and suspects, collect medical and physical evidence, consider the influence of child pornography in child sexual abuse cases, evaluate the validity of subject confessions, and establish communication with parents. Strategies and techniques involved in the investigation of physical child abuse and neglect are described, and challenges to investigations of physical child abuse and neglect cases are noted. The focus is on when child maltreatment is criminal, the child as a crime victim, witnesses and accomplices, the involvement of child protective services, the investigative process (interviews, offender interrogation, search warrants, and crime scene considerations), and fatal child maltreatment. 11 references