Investigating the crimes connected with sexual assault

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This paper looks at various approaches of investigating crimes connected with sexual assaults. Criminal investigations unit in the United States and all other parts of the world have been involved in the investigations of sexual assault cases which are currently on the rise. The methods that should be used to carry out the investigations have also been looked into in this paper so as to achieve effective proof and be able to preserve data on such cases. This is mainly because such cases are complex and difficult to deal with. However, there are procedures and processes which an investigator should be keen on and ways of conducting this investigation.


Sexual assault is on the increase and this is a worrying trend for investigators across the worlds who handle these cases on daily basis. Sexual assault refers to the application of violence to make another individual engage in sexual activity. Rape or sexual assault is legally defined as the crime of a person's having sexual relations with another person under the following conditions: 1. against persons consent. 2. While the person is unconscious 3. While the person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 4. If the person is feeble minded, or insane. 5. If said person is child under the age of consent as fixed by statute. (Savino & Turvey, 2005) In most cases, the assault is perpetrated by a man to a woman without prior consent, but there is no such thing as a "typical rape". Rape victims are not discriminated against by age, race, or gender. In a recent study it is found that almost as many males fall victim to rape as females. In most cases the victim knows the one responsible for the assault. Sexual assaults depends on jurisdiction and may include rape, anal or oral penetration, forced vaginal, inappropriate touching, child sexual abuse, torture of a victim in a sexual way, forced sexual intercourse and forced kissing. The complex nature and the sensitivity of cases involving sexual assault have necessitated effective investigations. There are a number of unreported cases due to general fear of exposure of the victims. They feel that they will be exposed to the public and hence they prefer to prevent the occurrence of trauma with hassle of harsh investigators and harassment in the courtroom. The task of sexual assault investigation mainly lies with the police who have the expertise in data collection and analysis. Other groups that take part in the exercise include medical practitioners, counselors, and even advocates.

Investigating Sexual Assault Cases

Investigating a rape case is not like investigating a robbery case or theft, or even murder case. The complexity of a rape case is prompted by its private nature. Even harder to a case is the fact that there are so many different types of rape cases to investigate. A date rape occurs by a person sexually assaulting another without consent, and the offender being someone that the victim knows. Investigators at times have trouble with these cases because of different drugs being involved such as royphnol, which are easily hidden in drinks and unnoticed because of no taste or odor. These drugs cause the victims to lose consciousness many times and forget what happened in its entirety or have many lapses in the memory of the event. There are a number of tests which have to be carried out to ensure that the violator is brought to justice. Evidence is especially important in the event of death, when the victim is a minor and cannot verbalize the events, and also when the victims were in situations that would make it hard to identify or verbalize facts because of drugs or trauma. According to Dutelle (2010), there are a number of ways which are paramount even before investigation. For example, for useful DNA evidence, the victims are not supposed to change the clothes they had on when the crime occurred. Showering or washing any part of their body could also destroy a lot of evidence. Detectives rely on clothing to find traces of evidences like semen or blood, and on materials such as bed sheets can also prove essential in obtaining identification markers. Other evidences like saliva can be found on areas of the body where a victim was bitten or licked by the assailant. These collection methods form part of the areas to be investigated by the detectives and doctors that enable them to test DNA and apprehend the guilty party.

Savino & Turvery (2005) gives a number of measures to be taken when investigating rape/sexual assault cases. Once an officer responds to the scene, a general exam of victim should be done to determine if emergency medical treatment is necessary. If there are no life threatening injuries or first aid that needs to be done, then the victim can remain at scene for initial investigation. General information should be gathered from the victim such as name and address. If the victim is still wearing the clothing that they wore during attack, they should be instructed to take off over a clean sheet or paper mat and every item should be collected and contained separately. Once the victim has changed clothes, investigators can begin searching for other clues and evidence in the area to collect for DNA testing. Photographs of entire scene should be made. Once the initial evidence has been obtained, the victim should then be transported to a local hospital to have a rape exam completed and to also be photographed. Most hospitals have specially trained nurses and doctors to oversee rape examinations and or sexual assaults. Victims must sign a consent form to have exam performed and hospital staff should be advised of the chain of command with all evidence collected from the victim. When victims are examined, swabs from mouth, vagina, and anal region are gathered for DNA testing and comparison. A vaginal pap smear and exam will be done. Blood samples will also be drawn from victim, as well as hair samples being collected. At this point a trained nurse or police officer will take photos of the victim. It is suggested that a female investigator be in the room with victim to note exam results, however if a female nurse or doctor is in the room the lead investigator should be overseeing the entire process. This is often a rough time for the victim due to pain from actual exam, as well as the embarrassment of having so many people witness to the trauma he/she has endured. Many victims feel discomfort due to being naked in front of investigators and police, but most importantly, the pictures that are required for investigation are pictures of very private areas of the body.

The real investigation processes of sexual abuse cases mainly start by interviewing the victim. This is the most sensitive part of the investigation as both the interviewee and the interviewer encounter problems during the process. The interviewer may fear of hurting the victim and could develop feelings of embarrassment by asking such private questions. When crucial evidence is lacking such as saliva, semen, or hair fibers, it is important that the interviewer establish trust and open up communication with the victim so that they may get the best possible information on the suspect for identification. Sometimes simple information can lead to a break in a case early on due to experienced investigators and their knowledge of prior offenders and the Modus Operandi. During the interview the victims are usually traumatized and this makes the interview difficult to conduct especially when the victim is reluctant to give out information in fear of another attack. The interview in itself can be traumatizing to the victim when it seems as if they have to repeat the event over and over to complete strangers. Based on these facts, it is important to be gentle with the victim and show compassion. Investigators should also be cautious with wording so that they do not lead the victim to feel as though they are being faulted for the assault or judged by it. Swanson, (2009) describes the interview process as the beginning of the "second rape", in reference to the entire judicial process after making the initial report.

Investigating child molestation and sexual abuse in children

Child sexual abuse is a major social problem and is not going to go away. The true magnitude of the sexual exploitation of children has yet to be clearly defined. Definitive statistics are difficult, if not impossible, to find because child sexual abuse is a crime that is believed to be grossly under-reported. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 1992 data collection found 2.9 million reported cases of child abuse and neglect. Of these reported cases, 17% or approximately 500,000 children were reported as sexually abused. In 1992, there were 918,263 confirmed child abuse cases and 14% of the confirmed cases were sexual abuse on a child (Report: Child Maltreatment, 1992). Experts in the field continue to state that one out of three or four young children may experience some form of sexual abuse during childhood.

In defining sexual abuse in children, it is considered that any activity with a child, before the age of legal consent, that is for the sexual gratification of an adult or a significantly older child. Sexual abuse includes oral-genital, genital-genital, genital-rectal, hand-genital, hand-rectal, or hand breast contact; exposure of sexual anatomy; forced view of sexual anatomy; and showing pornography or using a child in the production of pornography. Sexual intercourse includes vaginal, oral, or rectal penetration. Penetration is entry into an orifice with or without tissue injury.

Sachsenmaire, (1998) outlines a number of things that detectives of sexual abuse with children should consider important. Sexual assault and child abuse are types of crimes which require the skills and understanding of specialists who recognize the symptoms, who are sympathetic to the psychological needs of the victims, who are specifically trained to understand the motive of those who commit the offenses, and who know the unique characteristics of the offenses. The investigator should carefully examine the emotions in the child and the possible preconceptions regarding the child sex abuse. Then he or she should be ardent on accuracy during the investigation, this is especially important in eliciting the information from the parents as well as the child. The investigator should record the interview with the child while observing and noting behavioral cues shown by the child. There should be some measures to determine the truth in the child so as to distinguish facts from falsehood which could possibly be peddled by the child. Charles Patrick Ewing, J.D., Ph.D., an attorney and forensic psychologist, speaks to the current controversy concerning the value, validity, and reliability of children's evidence in their sexual abuse disclosures. He states, as do many experts in the field, that children can provide reliable and accurate accounts of events they have witnessed or experienced. Ewing states that the legal system, however, gives only lip service to this notion and too often relies on the testimony of professionals to bolster the child's statements. Pertinent to this study, Ewing supports that the problem begins with the investigation and that by the time the child is in court, the victim may have been interviewed repeatedly, often by untrained or poorly trained investigators, whose interview practices create doubts about the children's accounts of what they have actually experienced. (Ewing, 1994) the use of dolls and props are helpful, but should only be used by trained individuals who are skilled and open to interpretation. (Lamb, 1994)

Forbes (2008) writes on how to carry out thorough investigation of the victim and if there is any suspect falling under the recorded evidence, he or she should be interrogated thoroughly so as to get crucial links towards getting the right person who is involved in the act. The investigators as well should be keen on learning the individual cues and responses as well as behaviors which could lead to crucial linking of the person to the real act. According to Forbes (2008), investigators should be conversant with various responses and behavioral cues which go with investigations of such magnitude on the possible culprits. In case there is lost clue, the investigator should turn to the DNA tests done to establish whether there are possible links to the people he or she suspected initially as possible culprits.

An example of an area which is prone to sexual abuses is in schools, especially the institutions of higher education. This area can be used to form the basis of learning how to find and investigate a crime which is related to sexual assaults. In the institutions, the campus staff and the administrative officers may take the matter by themselves to conduct their own investigation or cooperate with the relevant authorities (Karjane, 2002). There are a number of indicators showing that a real sexual abuse has been committed which is worth investigation. According to Hess & Orthmann (2010), some of those indicators include the physical body as the primary evidence, the behavioral indicators such as unwillingness to change the clothes, diseases contacted, the parental indicators which include jealousy and over protectiveness of the child, difficulty in urinating and some other irritations. There are also the emotional abuse indicators such as speech disorders, lags in physical development while some physical abuse indicators may include some bruises on the body parts of the victim.

Forensically speaking when gathering evidence with a sexual assault on a child, the basics remain the same as if it were an adult. The manner in which a child is examined in the hospital is a bit different however. The focus is to gain as much evidence as possible without rendering anymore physical or emotional pain if possible. The analysis of child sexual abuse often can be made based on a child's history. Physical examination alone is uncommonly diagnostic without the history and/or some definite laboratory findings. The responsibility of the doctor is to deduce trauma, collect specimens, treat injury and above all, help and support the susceptible patient. It is not part of a medical practitioner's remit to levy guilt, comment on anyone's candor or state a crime has in fact been committed; all of these are in the realm of the court. Injuries often speak for themselves and are usually more persuasive for being allowed to do so.

Other forms of assaults

There are other forms of sexual assaults which may not be as commonly reported as the others previously discussed. Prison rape is a very common in everyday life. Many times the rapes turn into homicides because of the brutality of the ordeal. Objects and weapons are often inserted into the victims causing major internal damage into the rectum in male assaults and in the entire genital region with females. Male prostitutes engaging in homosexual behavior fall victim to assaults many times as well.


Instances of sexual assault occur under events exclusive to the victim, scene where the crime took place, and the suspect. The effectiveness of an investigation highly depends on the availability of information for the investigator, which enables him or her to carry out a thorough and most effective analysis of the crime. Information from many sources provides gripping evidence that most rapes are committed by perpetrators who are known precisely by their victims. This has overwhelming implications for how rape cases should be investigated and prosecuted. If most victims know the identity of their perpetrators, then the major investigative issue is not collecting evidence to ascertain the perpetrator. Instead, most cases will likely require evidence counteracting claims by the suspected perpetrator that the sexual activity was consensual. Acknowledged perpetrators are unlikely to claim they were erroneously identified as a defense because forensic examinations can irrefutably link the perpetrator to the assault. While physical evidence is clearly something that seems to be important for prosecution, the fact is that most victims will not exhibit overt physical injuries, causing many people to conclude the victim consented. It is said however, that in sexual assault cases, the victim's body is considered the crime scene. In regular exams genital trauma is not noted as much as an colonoscopy exam which may be something that should be included in future protocol in the investigative process. The importance of the investigation guides in the collection and preservation of information. Appropriate identification of evidence, gathering it, proper packaging, and correct storage of such will raise the probability of a successful prosecution of the person responsible for the crime. Investigators must have the proper training and experience to know all of the policies and procedures that are involved in investigating a crime scene correctly.

Another important factor is the ability for investigators to be able to communicate efficiently with victims, witnesses, and forensic examiners in all stages of the investigation process. One of the main reasons people do not come forth and report assault cases is due to the fact that from the first discussion with investigators to the courtroom interrogation they are traumatized over and over again. This being said it is of upmost importance for investigators to be able to relate and sympathize. Follow through treatment should be offered for victims and families. Education to the public of reporting assaults and the importance of getting offenders off the street should also be something on the agenda for our communities.