Though Hollywood portrayals of private investigators often involve fedora-wearing sleuths and bombshell secretaries, the modern reality is completely different. Working as a private investigator is a difficult task, and often involves unseemly or unsightly results that the general public would balk at. Despite this, however, the job is a rewarding way to give back to underrepresented communities. When information is not readily available or easily accessible, victims often suffer in silence, or innocent people are misrepresented. This is especially true when it comes to crimes against children. Though these crimes can be particularly heinous, overall, the challenges in these cases are not just in the subject matter, but in finding and presenting evidence.
The nature of crimes against children cannot be glossed over. As a society, and as a species, we instinctively want to protect and cherish the youngest in our pack. Though humans have developed far beyond instinct, the desire to defend children is still inherent in our DNA.
When investigating crimes against children, it can be difficult to digest the fact that there are adults who do not share this instinctive need but instead have a deviant desire to harm or exploit children.
No matter how many times investigations result in a brighter future for the young victims, it is hard to digest the fact that some people wish to harm them in the first place.
The main component of investigating crimes against children is navigating strict privacy laws that are in place to protect those who are underage. While there are sensitive documents that are hard to access when investigating adults, this challenge is more widespread when it comes to children. As we mentioned, most people want to protect children. For this reason, their private information is even more fiercely guarded. For a private investigator, this presents unique challenges. Medical records often give a more complete picture when it comes to abuse and maltreatment, and it can be particularly difficult to access this information. In some cases, vital documents are missing because of the abuse as well.
Perhaps the biggest challenge in investigating crimes against children is speaking to the victims to corroborate evidence. Adult victims can generally give details or information that will corroborate a story and give us more information. This information is vital to developing the story and ensuring that the correct individuals are punished.
Unfortunately, children often cannot express themselves in a way that is helpful to a case. Teenagers and adolescents are sometimes scared to speak, and of course, we cannot make them do so. Sometimes they are embarrassed or shameful about what they have experienced and don’t want to tell anyone about it. In other cases, they are scared of what their abusers might do if they tell their story, even if they are guaranteed safety and protection.
Young children don’t always understand that something is wrong. It is heartbreaking, but if a child has been abused or neglected their entire life, it is difficult for them to see that something is wrong. If abuse is all you know, you don’t know what to speak up about.
For very young children, tykes, and toddlers, the process is especially difficult. Not only do they rarely understand that a situation is not okay, but theymay also lack the language development to express it. Children ages 2-4 often talk in short sentences or single words, especially to strangers. These kids are shy, and specific language must be used to speak with them. They do not understand many questions, and they certainly can’t expand on feelings or events that they do express.
Speaking with young children can be difficult for an investigation or a case because their story is sometimes the key evidence needed for a case. If they cannot provide reliable testimony, the entire case may be in jeopardy. In many cases, the child as the victim was the only individual who saw the crime or abuse occur. If they can only use simple language or expressions to tell their story, there is very little for the court to go off of in a case. In some situations, the small amount of testimony is not enough evidence, and an abuser walks free as a result. Though this is certainly no fault of the child’s, it is heartbreaking, nonetheless.
It is also worth noting that many children have alternate names for things that most adults do not follow. For example, a child may say they have an “owie” instead of a cut or refer to their private parts as a “cookie.” Obviously, these are not universal uses of these terms, so it can be difficult to create a common language to begin a reliable investigation.
Crimes against children get even more complicated considering the inherent loyalty that children have to parents, guardians, and loved ones. Many children continue to adore their parents, even if the parent has committed a crime against them. Because the child does not know any better, they can be easily swayed by an adult who tells them what to say or do. In this way, testimonies become even more complicated. Not only do children lack the ability to produce original testimony and reliable evidence, but they can also be swayed by adults who wish to manipulate them.
Though there is certainly no easy solution to this conundrum, there are ways in which children’s testimony and evidence can be used more reliably. Organizations such as Child Protective Services and ChildFirst have developed methods that allow us to interview children fairly, while still gleaning a fair amount of information. By using diagrams, simple questions, and approachable language, it is often possible for children to tell their stories, whatever the details may be. The trick is to investigate these crimes from a neutral standpoint. If it appears that the child has been coerced or swayed in any direction, the entire case is in jeopardy.
Though it is difficult to investigate crimes against children, here at Amatrix Investigations, we go the extra mile to obtain your evidence and help you win your case. For more information, or to book our services, contact us via our website.