What is the investigative approach for sexual offences?

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“Choose any line of investigation (Sexual Offenses) and research the investigative approach that is expected for that specific investigation”.

“A Criminal Investigation is the process of discovering, collecting, preparing, identifying and presenting evidence to determine what happened and who is responsible” (Bennett and Hess, 2001). Crime has become a major concern in the lives of many people. When people become a victim of a crime, they are forced to change their lifestyles, especially after sexual offences (Brown,2001; Pg. ix). Criminal investigators are there in order to make the streets safer through techniques which aid in the prosecution of offenders and therefore contribute to making the streets safer (Brown, 2001). Different techniques are used by investigations according to the type of crime and also to their knowledge and experience (Brown,2001). The ultimate goal of the criminal investigation is to determine, as much as possible, the truth with regards to how the crime occured (Brown,2001). Investigators must possess certain intellectual, psychological and physical characteristics in order to make investigations more efficient (Bennett and Hess,2001).

“Crime is an intentional act or omission in violation of criminal law...committed without defense or justification, and sanctioned by the state as a felony or misdemeanor (Tappen,1960; Pg.10); as cited in Brown,2001;Pg.4). According to O’Hara, (as cited in Brown,2001;Pg.4), a criminal investigation is based on three I’s: Information, Instrumentation and Interviewing. Criminal investigators tend to make several assumptions with regards to sexual assault, but it is important to keep in mind the following facts: most rapes are planned, the attack anticipates conversation and the goal of a rape is not sex; but to express power, dominance and control over the victim, since rape is essentially a crime of violence (Bennett and Hess, 2001; Pg.271).

Sexual Offences range from acts such as rape to less aggraveted offences which include indecent exposure (Brown,2001). Sexual offences can be divided in three types: serious sex offences; high priority offences such as rape, nuisance sex offences; acts such as exhibitionism in which no personal danger is done to anyone, and mutual consent; which includes adultery and prostitution which is deemed illegal by some local laws (Swanson, Chamelin & Territo,2003). These type of offences may be amongst the most complex crimes a police can investigate since physical evidence is often lacking or has been destroyed. There may also be a lack of witnesses to support the case and therefore the case will literally be based on the words of the victim against those of the accused (Brown,2001).

One of the main sexual offences which I shall be focusing on is rape which by the law is defined as “carnal knowledge with violence”, and consists of the following universal elements: rape is an act of sexual intercourse with a female, which is committed with the use of force without the consent, or will, of the victim (Bennett and Hess,2001). There can also be incidents of drug-induced sexual assault; with the most popular date-rape drug used being Rohypnol (roofies), which makes the investigation more complex since victims tend to be unaware of the unravelling of the incident and are therefore unable to help with the investigation. (Swanson, Chamelin & Territo, 2003).

Rape can also result in a murder which, according to Keppel and Walter (cited in: Swanson,Chamelin & Territo, 2003;Pg.341-342), rape is planned in each case but the murder is classified as: Power assertive; unplanned murder which is done to take control of the victim, Power reassurance; unplanned murder done to seek reassurance from the victim in his fantasy, Anger retaliatory; murder is planned to seek revenge towards another person, and Anger excitation; murder is also planned through prolonged torture to energize his fantasy life. In these cases, the investigator isn’t able to interview the victim and must therefore rely on his initial impression of the crime scene; such as the victim’s clothing, the position of the deceased body, items found surrounding the body, together with injuries related to sexual activity (Swanson, Chamelin & Territo, 2003). In cases of murder, the criminal investigator is obliged to work with a medical examiner in order to, establish the cause of death and also to obtain samples of hairs, clothing, fibers, blood or body fluids from the victim’s body, which shall later be sent to the crime laboratory for examination (Bennett and Hess,2001).

In the majority of sexual assault cases, most victims know their assailants, and most attacks occur in one’s living room or bedroom, other than in dark alleys (Bennett and Hess, 2001). The investigator must always take into consideration the fact that any person affected by a sexual assualt is a victim. Many victims of sexual assaults, in particular rape victims tend to experience “rape trauma syndrome” (Brown,2001;Pg.210). Victims who suffer from this syndrome pass through four stages of shock, denial, anger and finally acceptance (Brown,2001;Pg.210). The police officer must conduct the interview tactfully and compassionately to avoid re-victimising the victim and aid the investigation through the victim’s cooperation (Swanson, Chamelin & Territo, 2003).

Investigators must use the cognitive interviewing technique when interviewing the victim in order to aid them in the recreation of events. These investigators must be trained to specifically deal with sexual assualt victims, in order to encourage them to go to a hospital for examination to recover any physical evidence vital for the investigation, together with being honest on what the investigation shall entail, for the victim not to experience any more unpleasant surprises (Brown,2001). Sometimes blind reporting is chosen in order to allow the victim more confidentiality and anonymity to share more information with law enforcement (Bennett and Hess, 2001).

Interviewing must also be done with the suspect, where the interviewer must be familiar with all the evidence gathered and must ensure to avoid allowing personal feelings to intervene in the session (Brown,2001;Pg2015). Questions asked to the suspect should include: Where were you during the time period in which the incident happened? Can anyone confirm your alibi? What where you doing in that particular place?. This shows that the W6H should always be remembered during an interview in order to bring out as much information as possible from the suspect or even the victim (Pepper,2005). The interviewer must also question the victim with regards to the type and sequence of sexual events to determine the motivation behind the rape; whether acting out of fantasy, experimenting or to punish and degrade the victim (Swanson, Chamelin & Territo, 2003).

In order for the interviewer to gain better insight into the offender’s incentive and personality, it is necessary for the victim to reveal any verbal activity by the rapist together with the tone and attitude with which it was said (Swanson,Chamelin & Territo, 2003). Also, if the assailant forces the victim to say anything; most probably to instigate him, this will be useful for the police officer to be aware of what gratifies and motivates the rapist. Another useful tool which could aid the investigator is whether the victim recalls any sudden changes by the rapist during the incident which could be used against the accused during the interrogation in the future (Swanson,Chamelin & Territo, 2003). Therefore, when investigating, it is important to determine the method of operation, Modus Operandi, of the assailant through determining the type of offence,words spoken, use of a weapon, method by which the victim was attacked, time of day, type of location together with the age of the victim (Bennett and Hess,2001).

Theft during the rape must also be noted and categorised as: evidentiary; items which the assailant might have touched or left DNA traces on which indicate prior rape of an ex-inmate, valuables; may indicate that the suspect is unemployed or earns a low income and personal items. Therefore the victim should be asked to make a list of inventory items which may help the investigation (Swanson, Chamelin & Territo, 2003). In many cases, the victim may be frightened and confused and therefore delays to report the incident to the police, possibly out of shame. This may cause problems to the investigation as much of the evidence would have already been lost and the possibility of apprehending the suspect is reduced (Swanson,Chamelin & Territo, 2003; Pg.351).

Rape, in cases of a minor, is known as Statutory rape, where the assailant has intercourse with a minor (Bennett and Hess,2001). Child sexual abuse or child pornography may be the one of the most complex investigations as the interviewer must have essential skills in order to gain truthful information from the victim (Brown,2001). Also, child witnesses tend to be an issue to the court as their level of reliability is somewhat low and the competency of the child is questioned. In cases of interviews, the interviewer may wish to use a videotape or audiotape to be revised in the future (Brown,2001;Pg217). Crimes against children may be prevented through education about hidden dangers through continuous communication with children (Bennett and Hess,2001).

In cases in which an investigator is dealing with more than one victim of sexual assualt, several questions are asked to the victims in order to try to find the modus operandi of the aggressor (Brown,2001). Such questions include: the location of the attack, items solicited or offered, actions of the suspect, force used, any particular physical characteristics together with the state of the complainant. Even in the cases of false sexual assault reports, the police must continue the investigations until evidence shows that there was no substance to the charge (Brown,2001; Pg.214). In investigations of rape, the police officers have obligations both towards to victims of rape and to men who are falsely accused of rape, therefore investigators must always be alert of the possibility of false rape allegations (Swanson, Chamelin & Territo, 2003).

Investigators must ensure the preservation of evidence in order for it to be presented in court and this therefore includes addressing the victim on how to safegaurd her clothing items together with not bathing until examined, in order not to wash away any necessary evidence to convict the suspect (Brown,2001). From the moment in which the crime is reported, the police officer must ensure the preservation of evidence since the victim is a walking crime scene (Swanson, Chamelin & Territo, 2003). The victim is also examined by a medical doctor who must take photographs of any injuries which the victim might have sustained together with any foreign material, not belonging to the victim (Brown,2001).

The initial role of the investigator is to secure the scene of crime ensuring that photographs of the scene are taken to be kept for further analysis. Photographs must be taken of everything found at the crime scene, such as any broken items which may indicate that a struggle has occured (Bennett and Hess,2001). Photography, the first investigative technique to be used at a crime scene in order to immediately preserve evidence, is essential, together with videotapes, in order to reproduce the scene of crime in court (Bennett and Hess,2001). Evidence must be collected from both the crime scene and the body of the victim (Swanson,Chamelin & Territo, 2003).

With victims of sexual assualts, investigators should have a sexual assault kit in order to collect evidence appropriately in the assigned bags or envelopes and labelled accordingly, to avoid misplacing evidence (Pepper,2005). This kit should include a comb; to collect any foreign pubic hairs found on the victim, pubic hairs must also be pulled from the victim, fingernail scrappings from the victim with the use of toothpicks; specifying on the bag whether of right or left hand, a tube of blood must also be taken by the purple-top vial provided and stained on a piece of white fabric; which is then placed in an evidence bag, a saliva sample from the victim on a round filter paper, vaginal smears are also taken using the dry cottom swabs provided; which are then transferred to a slide by smearing; if necessary, a rectal smear is also taken, lastely the clothes of the victim are also placed in a bag as evidence (Brown,2001;Pg.212-213). If a suspect has been apprehended, it is also necessary to photograph any injuries on the body, and samples of blood and hair must also be taken (Bennet and Hess,2001).

Physical evidence also includes semen which contains traces of sperm, together with hair with the root attached from which DNA can be traced to the particular individual (Swanson, Chamelin & Territo, 2003;Pg356). One important physical evidence in cases of rape is condoms which can prove “corpus deliti”; the fact that a crime has occured, can prove evidence of penetration and the traces found on the condom can be linked to other traces possibly found on the victim (Swanson,Chamelin & Territo,2003;Pg.360).

The process of collection of evidence at a crime scene is a very sensitive one and therefore utmost precuations must be taken. Investigations must wear protective gear to avoid the contamination of the crime scene, which should also be examined by the forensic laboratory to ensure that no traces were left behind by, for example,the gloves (Swanson, Chamelin & Territo, 2003).

A considerable amount of rape incidents form part of the dark figure of crime as studies have shown that many women are reluctant to report rape due to may reasons including embarrassment and lack of belief in the ability of police officers (Swanson, Chamelin & Territo, 2003). Criminal Investigators must use their techniques wisely in order to reach their ultimate goal, the truth. The criminal investigator is responsible to gather evidence of the commission of a crime as well as evidence to show that the suspect had the mens rea, the intention, to commit a crime (Brown,2001). The police officer must ensure that the data collected is accurate beyond reasonable doubt in order for it to then be valuable in a court of law (White,2004).

It is clear that any individual involved in the examination of a crime scene must not only take into acount the obvious evidence, but must look beyond and observe what relevance does that evidence have to the particular case. By joining their personal experiences, knowledge and skill with others, they are making crime scene investigations more efficient , through the adoption of a hollistic approach to the interpretation of a scene of crime (White, 2004). It is essential for criminal investigators to possess the following characteristics: creativity, patience, persistency and imagination, in order for the investigation to have a positive outcome (Bennett and Hess, 2001). At the termination of the investigation, the police officer should aid the victim by making them aware of crime prevention methods and safety precautions which one could take to prevent being a victim of another crime (Bennett and Hess,2001).


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