POLICING IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE: Comparing Firsthand Knowledge with Experience from the West,
© 1996 College of Police and Security Studies, Slovenia


Karyl McBride

A training manual was written on child sexual abuse investigations. The manual was used in training law enforcement officers to study the effectiveness of the training and the manual. A scholarly essay was written to report the results of the training. The theoretical framework of the training was combining the expertise of law enforcement and mental health professionals in a joint interview process. Ten law enforcement officers were trained in the investigation process and tested for recall, recognition, and application. Evaluation of the training was done based on the officers' perceptions of the effectiveness of the training. The results of the evaluation showed that content on dynamics of child sexual abuse could be taught and retained using an eight hour training period. The applicability of the training to investigative interviews could not be taught in the eight hour period. Implications for future training include longer and more intensive training periods which involve practice time, observation, and working as a secondary officer with a trained investigator before the trainee becomes a primary officer for the investigation. Key issues for training include child sexual abuse dynamics, children and suggestibility, the sexual abuse disclosure process, child development issues, the use of non-leading questions, the use of interview aids, fact vs. fantasy, rapport building with children, discussion of private parts, and setting the stage for a spontaneous disclosure. The training was rated by the officers. The format, presentation, manual, and investigative protocol were viewed as most positive. The negative focused on a need for more time in training. The officers rated the training in an overall rating score of 90.7%.


The paper presented for the International Conference, Policing in Central and Eastern Europe: Comparing Firsthand Knowledge with Experience from the West, is taken in part from the writer's doctoral dissertation. The dissertation included writing a training manual for police officers and detectives who conduct child sexual abuse investigations, conducting research on the effectiveness of the training manual, and writing a scholarly essay which included extensive literature review. The training manual is published in a separate document and will be available at the conference for viewing or purchasing. The manual is intended for use in training seminars to teach the "how to's" of the child investigative interview with alleged child sexual abuse victims. It provides a step-by-step procedure for investigations. The theoretical basis for the manual is a focus on the need for a multi-disciplinary approach to child sexual abuse investigations. The importance of specialized training for investigators is the centerpiece for the engagement of learning, research and commitment to this project.

The desire and passion of this writer in pursuing doctoral work in the area of sexual abuse investigations was to produce an end product with an outcome of not only social relevance and significance, but an outcome that had potential for immediate practical application to the social problem. The intent of the research was to use the manual in a training session with law enforcement officers and to evaluate the effectiveness of both the training and the manual. The result of the evaluation is being used for program development for future training programs in child sexual abuse investigations and revision of the proposed program.

The problem is identified as a need for specialized training for those professionals who are doing investigative interviews with alleged child sexual abuse victims. The population of potential trainees includes but is not limited to law enforcement personnel, social services intake workers, mental health providers, attorneys, judges, victim advocates, and medical doctors. The need for specialized training is identified because interviewing young children in the scope of an investigation is a skill that requires knowledge of child development, an understanding of the psychological impact sexual abuse has on children, and an understanding of police investigative procedures. A multidisciplinary approach to investigations is imperative due to the fact that the various professionals involved in sexual abuse cases are normally not thoroughly trained in each of the important areas deemed necessary to conduct a thorough and valid investigation.

A child sexual abuse investigation requires coordination of several professionals and their various duties. When a child sexual abuse allegation is reported, the child will come in contact with social workers, law enforcement detectives, medical examiners, victim advocates, therapists, district attorneys, defense attorneys, judges, and juries. Not only is there a need for coordination of services, but there clearly is a need for standardized approaches to the investigative procedures used by these various professionals.


Prevalence and Problem

It is difficult to imagine an area of inquiry that is more complex, more emotionally-laden, and more controversial than is the area of child sexual abuse. Society's awareness of the existence and prevalence of child sexual abuse has been a relatively recent development. Studies relating to children's forensically-relevant competencies and the risks and benefits of various investigative methods in cases of alleged child sexual abuse were virtually non-existent until the last decade or two. With so much at stake (i.e., the protection of children on one hand and the protection of those who are falsely accused on the other), errors in judgement can and do have devastating consequences. (Reed, 1994)

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.

Studies of the number of victims and people involved in the sexual exploitation of children in America provide confusing and misleading information. One study suggests that 25% of the women in this country will have been molested before they reach puberty or age 13. This translates to 25 million women. Another study suggests that 19.2% of all girls and 8.6% of boys are victimized as children. This calculates to 28 million boys and girls molested in this country. (Goldstein, 1984)

The American Humane Association estimates that some 200,000 to 300,000 molestations of females alone occur every year. Pedophiles themselves claim two to twenty million men in this country are attracted to boys alone (Goldstein, 1984).

Dr. Gene Abel, Director of the Sexual Behavior Clinic in the New York State Psychiatric Institute, suggests that child molestation is a more serious and frequent crime than rape. Abel found that the child molesters he studied were responsible for molesting an average of 68.3 victims, more than three times the number of women assaulted by each rapist (Goldstein, 1984).

Goldstein (1984) found that there is a conspiracy in America which bonds child molesters together and is not well understood by law enforcement. It appears that the magnitude of the numbers involved in this country in the sexual exploitation of children is not only misunderstood but under-investigated. Goldstein reveals that a police investigation in 1982 in Los Angeles, related to the Catherine Wilson case for commercial distribution of child pornography, found a mailing list of 30,000 customers. In 1972, officers of the Los Angeles, California Police Department arrested a child pornographer who had produced a travel guide for the child molester which listed 378 places in 54 cities and 34 states where a child could be found. Records found by the investigators revealed the publication entitled Where the Young Ones Are sold over 70,000 copies at $5.00 each in a 13 month period. Goldstein (1984) reports that interviews conducted with pedophiles also reveal startling information. A 52-year old man told an investigator of 5,000 boys he had molested in his lifetime; a 42-year old man admitted to molesting more than 1,000 boys; a 62-year old man, an oil executive with an $11,000-a- month trust fund, stated he molested a boy a day for 30 years.

The pedophile underground caters to the perverse desires of pedophiles by satisfying sexual fantasies through the medium of pictures. Representative of the type of publications available are Child Discipline, a primer on how to derive sexual satisfaction from beating children, and Lust for Children, which comes with instructions on how to avoid prosecution. The sale of child pornography has been estimated to be as high as $500 million annually (Goldstein, 1984).

Goldstein (1984) concludes:

Sexual assault and child abuse are types of crimes which require the skills and understanding of specialists who recognize the symptoms, who are sensitive to the psychological needs of the victims, who are specially trained to understand the motive of those who commit the offenses, and who know the unique characteristics of the offenses.

With the advent of the latest computer technology, including on-line services, child molesters perhaps are communicating with greater ease and with greater technical advancements that most local law enforcement agencies, thus making it even more difficult for the law to stop the sex rings and underground conspiracy.

The Queens Bench Foundation found that changes in training of police officers, victim sensitivity, and support provided by police were necessary (Goldstein, 1976).

In a study conducted under the joint sponsorship of the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Swedish Allmanna Barnhuset Foundation, and the Socialvetenskapliga Forsknings Radet (Swedish Social Science Research Council), a group of experts studied the child sexual abuse problem on an international level. The countries represented were Finland, Germany, Israel, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. All of the countries represented have witnessed substantial increases in the number of reported incidents of child sexual maltreatment. The United States, unfortunately, came in first with the highest number of reported cases. Approximately 0.7% of the children in the U.S.A. were reported as victims of sexual abuse in 1992. The United Kingdom showed substantiated cases to be .037% in 1992. Oslo, Norway reported victims at an incidence rate of .22%. Israel reported annual increases of 10% over a period of seven years. The study concluded that there was a great frequency of cases that could not be substantiated. The study underscored the importance of developing reliable and valid means of investigating reports of child sexual maltreatment (Lamb, 1994).

Law Enforcement Perspective

In Lamb's synopsis of the above mentioned international study, an emphasis was placed on the difficulty in interviewing young children. He states that the use of dolls and other props were useful, but must be carefully used by skilled interviewers and are open to interpretation. He suggests that the re-enactments of sexual abuse with props imposes a burden of interpretation on adult interpreters and "thus should be attempted only by skillful and well- trained investigators who avoid non-verbal suggestions" (Lamb, 1994).

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)

Ewing's message clearly states that we need to spend more time listening to what children have to say and report this information as fully and accurately as possible, unburdened by the manipulation of interviewers, particularly those who ask repeated, highly leading, or suggestive questions which are most likely to promote distortion and contaminate subsequent accounts. (Ewing, 1994)

Stone, Tyler, and Mead (1984) present a training model for law enforcement officers. Their contention is that the police officer is frequently the first person to respond to a report of child sexual abuse and therefore bears a heavy responsibility. The training model presented by these authors include the officer's personal reactions, his/her awareness of the dynamics of extrafamilial and intrafamilial sexual abuse of children, and the importance of objectives and sensitive interviewing techniques.

The training model set forth by these authors uses a desensitization method of presenting explicit slides to the officers that contain descriptions of sexually victimized children. They pair the exposure of the slides with relaxation exercises for the officer. The hypothesis is that the hierarchical arrangement of stimuli is a necessary component of desensitizing the officers to their shock reactions.

Understanding his own reactions and how they affect his judgement of the incident and his interactions with those being interviewed, leads to a more empathic and supportive interactions with the victim and the family. (Stone, Tyler, & Mead, 1984)

A study of police officer's attitudes toward child sexual abuse was conducted by Edward J. Saunders and reported in the Journal of Police Science and Administration Journal (1987). The study was conducted to determine whether the beliefs held by police officers were congruent with their responsibilities in child sexual abuse investigations--responsibilities that include both administering to the victim and pursuing the offender. In a sample of 49 officers, the author found that the majority of the officers reacted to the child victims with sensitivity and believed in the child's credibility. In examination of the range of mean scale scores on both the victim credibility and victim culpability measures, one can find, however, that several officers did hold negative, perhaps damaging, beliefs about victims. The author's suggestion in this study is, "officers who are found by their comments or actions to engage in victim-blaming should be transferred to other units which demand less sensitivity" (Saunders, 1987).

Vincent Fontana (1984) reports "the lack of coordination and cooperation between and among responsible agencies is the source of the trouble when systems fail the victim of child sexual abuse." Shultz points out "that most police and prosecutors have no training in non- damaging ways to interview children, lack understanding of the child's psychosexual stage of development, and tend to use adversary approaches appropriate for adults" (1973).

Sgroi notes that this is unfortunately equally true of child protective agencies--the workers who investigate sexual abuse cases usually lack the specialized skills, experience, and supervision required to deal with delicate, volatile, and highly demanding child protective problems yet to be identified. (Fontana, 1978)

Law enforcement and the legal system are prepared to deal with the complexities of adult interviews and adult testimony. Law enforcement training contains a significant amount of focus on interrogation and pursuance of the criminal. The adult focus permeates the legal system from the report of a crime to the actual court hearing. Children who are unfortunate victims of crime are not only unprepared themselves to cope with the adult world of the legal system, but the legal system itself is unprepared to deal with the children. Although some changes in the past ten years have evolved, the legal system is slow to change and a myriad of problems for child victims remain.

Vincent DeFrancis, an early proponent of child victims and child witnesses stated part of the problem as early as 1969. Unfortunately, the same problems are with us today.

The situation is compounded by the very real and urgent objective of criminal law--the immediate prosecution of the adult offender. Law enforcement personnel--police and prosecutor--are under pressure, and sometimes under fire, of public concern and public opinion to make an air-tight case against "degenerates" who prey on children. The natural consequence is that what happens to children in the process seems of lesser importance, or is lost sight of, in the desire and rush to meet the clamor of public demands for retribution. Little thought is given by the community to the problems of the child victim and his/her parents whose needs and rights are often trampled in the pursuit of sanctions against the offender. The initial shock of the crime is heightened as tensions are increased and compounded under questioning by police in their search for evidence. A sensitive child may be subjected to an excruciating experience during efforts to elicit the sordid facts of the crime. Emphasis on the minutest details of the offense serves to magnify the act out of proportion and add to the child's sense of guilt and shame. (DeFrancis, 1969)

As seen by many clinicians who specialize in treatment of child sexual abuse, the child often must repeat the details of the offense to several professionals, and if the case goes to trial, undergo direct and cross-examination in open court. Many times the child also is required to testify in preliminary hearings and grand jury before a trial is held.

Although once a case goes to trial, there are some aspects we cannot prevent for the child, we can provide a thorough and sensitive investigation and attempt to ensure that the child's rights are being attended to in an ethical manner. Too many times this writer has observed law enforcement officers interviewing children with adult interrogation techniques and without an understanding of child language or child development. Fontana (1984) states:

Law enforcement officials have an obligation to define and create safeguards to protect children from techniques which have been developed to deal with adults, but which result in serious damage when applied to a child. This is not an easy task because it confronts established methods that reflect standard practices which have evolved from dealing with adult defendants and witnesses.

There are several components to a child sexual abuse investigation. The child interview is one part of the total procedure that is undertaken by the investigators. Craig Truman, defense attorney from Denver, Colorado, states that in preparing for trial proceedings, he will assess the child interview done by law enforcement. He finds the interviews to be either a "Beauty or a Beast." They are either wonderful or terrible and the lack of training o the officer is obvious in the interviews that are not done well. When asked how important the child interview is in the trial proceedings, Truman states, "without medical evidence, it is the MOST important." Given the fact that in child sexual abuse cases medical evidence is rare, the importance of this feedback from defense attorneys cannot be overlooked because it emphasizes the focus of the defense in the court room. If a good child interview is not conducted, it will be used against the child and the investigator in court (C. Truman, Personal Communication, April 26, 1995).

The current backlash created by The False Memory Syndrome Foundation and the media attention placed on alleged false allegations should cause law enforcement agencies to be even more aware of their procedures and need for proper and thorough training. Although false allegations of child sexual abuse continue to be a very small percentage of cases, we owe the accused a fair and thorough investigation. The allegation of sexual abuse can destroy or significantly damage a person's life if made in error or made by over-zealous investigators.

Goldstein (1984) writes:

In virtually every state in the country, law enforcement has a legal mandate to be involved in child abuse and neglect investigations. The issues are not over whether they will be involved, but rather how and to what degree. What is expected of the law enforcement agency is that they report, investigate, and provide emergency services to suspected cases of abuse or exploitation. Two law enforcement agencies in California are now faced with multimillion dollar lawsuits for not properly following these provisions. Similar lawsuits could be the possible result of any agency's mishandling of an abuse case of this nature. Law enforcement must recognize that pornography and prostitution are only symptoms of the greater problem of pedophilia and that all three aspects are a serious and grave threat to our communities. Ethically, law enforcement has the sworn duty and obligation to uphold the law and the responsibility of the welfare of the citizens it serves. Those same ethics will not permit law enforcement to ignore the abused or endangered child. As early as 1977, experts have been crying for law enforcement to do more than it does to eradicate the problem. The experts have exposed the problem, baring its true magnitude and threat. To ignore it any longer would be unethical and a denial of all that law enforcement is sworn to carry out.

Sgt. Toby Tyler from the Sheriff's Department of San Bernardino County, California, addresses the need for specialized training for child sexual abuse crimes. The absence of specialized training means child sexual abuse cases will be handled like every other case where just the facts are gathered. You cannot talk to children about "just the facts." Another aspect that differentiates child sexual abuse investigations from other kinds of law enforcement investigations is that the officer is talking about sex. When discussing sex, especially with children, the investigation requires a level of sensitivity that comes from experience and special training.

Sgt. Tyler also speaks to the "attitude" in law enforcement administration regarding child sexual abuse investigations. In general, Tyler feels that many administrators do not understand the need for specialized training in the area of child sexual abuse. In the past, social services were responsible for conducting these investigations. It was not until the late 1970s and early 1980s that police departments began to live up to their responsibilities in these cases.

Sexual abuse of children is a crime that has a lifetime negative impact, and therefore has tremendous impact. Tyler states that administrators of law enforcement do not have an appreciation for the number of cases or the time needed to properly investigate child sexual abuse cases. He states that in his department the officers estimate 27 hours per case. Of 1500 officers in San Bernardino County, there are five investigators assigned to child abuse crimes. In comparison, there are 100 officers assigned to the drug intervention force. Tyler comments that the explanation is priority not budget (Sgt. Toby Tyler, Personal Communication, April 18, 1995).

Kenneth Lanning of the FBI Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia, states that child sexual abuse investigation requires specialized training because the officer is dealing with human sexual behavior, understanding deviant sexual criminal behavior, and dealing with highly traumatized children. The officers cannot make mistakes and must understand the child. He states that administrators in law enforcement may not view child sex abuse crimes as a high status area. They may give lip service to the importance, but it generally is not a high priority. He feels this is due to a basic denial factor about child sexual abuse, even in law enforcement, which ultimately affects budget and training priorities. Lanning believes in the multidisciplinary approach to child sexual abuse investigations, but believes that law enforcement should be in charge of the investigation (Kenneth Lanning, FBI, Personal Communication, April 19, 1995).

The attitude a law enforcement agency has toward the commission of sexual offenses is reflected in its selection of individuals to investigate such crimes. It is generally accepted that, among law enforcement departments, the elite investigative group is homicide. Sheriffs and police chiefs invariably mention with pride the number of homicides solved. Rarely is the same amount of pride exhibited in discussion of those who investigate sexual crimes. One has to wonder why the solution ratio of homicides is almost always greater than the solution ratio for sexual crimes. In a homicide case, the victim is deceased and can provide no verbal information for the investigator, but the rape victim often survives to help the investigator.

Is homicide simpler to investigate because the crime is generally committed by a relative, neighbor, or associate? If it is simpler to investigate, then should the best detectives be assigned to the case? If the reason for the higher solution ratio is because the better investigators are assigned to homicides, then wouldn't the department and the public be better served by the assignment of a higher caliber of individual to crimes of a sexual nature? In addition, if children are our most valuable resource, is not the investigation of child sexual abuse or child pornography more important than the investigation of robbery or white collar crime? The investigation of sexual crimes is emotionally and psychologically demanding. No department should assign investigators to such work without providing them with support and recognition as well as monitoring their situation. If this is a dirty job that someone has to do, then that someone needs adequate office space, secure facilities for pornographic evidence, private interview rooms for victims, and funds for basic and advanced training. The department must not only ensure that individuals are qualified for such assignments, but must do everything in its power to enhance or sharpen the skills of the officer in sexual assault investigation. Ideally, some training should take place prior to the time the officer assumes investigative duties. (Lanning & Hazelwood, 1988)

Canadian psychologist, John Yuille, Ph.D., confirms the need for specialized training for anyone involved in child sexual abuse investigations. It is a skill that requires knowledge and practice. Children can supply excellent information if asked in the correct manner from a skilled interviewer. Yuille comments on the expense of initial training and on-going training because of staff turn-over, but states that the cost of abused children not receiving help, and abusers not being detected is a greater cost to society. Yuille and colleagues conducted research on child sexual abuse investigations training and found that the training was effective and was used by the trainees. The trainees felt their interviewing skills were improved. The training resulted in more charges being brought, which resulted in more convictions. The training model, The Systematic Interviewing Project, was a four-day training which involved a practice interview with a child. The trainees observed each other's interviews. The trainees reported that the most helpful part of the training was the practical application to their work (John Yuille, Personal Communication, April 19, 1995).

In the area of child investigations, some significant progress has been made through the advent of the child advocacy centers which focus on the multi-disciplinary approach to the investigation. The writer has had first-hand experience with the success of the joint investigative approach and the positive outcome for the victim, family, and system. The child advocacy center concept allows or the victim to be present at one location where professionals come together in the best interest of the child. As described in the training manual, a child- friendly environment allows for a more comfortable interview space than a stark room in a police department. The most important component of the child advocacy center model, however, is the combining of expertise, with law enforcement officials joining with child specialists and mental health providers to conduct the interviews. This method has a greater potential of protecting the child and the accused because more thorough and accurate interviews are conducted. When a team has been established between agencies, an on-going training process continues so that the professionals are protected from burnout and staff turnover and are kept updated on the most recent techniques and advanced in the field.

In reviewing the literature regarding child sexual abuse investigations, the writer continues to find that although many authors address the need for sensitive interviews and knowledge of child development, there is very little found that supports the concept of combining the expertise of mental health and law enforcement in the investigation. Perhaps this stems from the stereotypes and mistrust between the two professions. It is the experience of this writer that when the barriers between professions can be broken down, and the communication and expertise of both can be shared, that the victim and the accused are greatly serviced. There appears to be a fear from law enforcement that therapists will be too clinical in investigations. This is certainly a possibility if the therapists are not trained in police investigations. The importance of cross-training, as discussed in the training manual, cannot be over-emphasized. Some of the most successful techniques of interviewing young children have been established by the therapeutic community. Used by clinicians, these techniques assist the child in expressing what has happened with minimal additional trauma (Goldstein, 1987). Combining the clinicians' experience in those techniques with investigation training greatly enhances the interview process.

Methods of interviewing children are as varied as the personalities of the people who interview. In reviewing the literature, little has been done to standardize the interview protocol, to train interviewers, or to evaluate results. Research confirms the danger of certain techniques, the suggestibility of props, the potential trauma caused by multiple interviews (by different interviewers), the inability of children to distinguish between truth and lies, and so forth (Hoorwitz, 1992; MacFarlane & Waterman, 1986; Selkin, 1991; Sgroi, 1982; Smith, 1985). The literature speaks to the police procedures and the clinical procedures but does little to combine the expertise of both in one protocol.

The writer's interviewing techniques and protocols have been influenced by work with the Arvada, Colorado Police Department, the Huntsville, Alabama National Children's Advocacy Center's approach to investigations, and by Diane Schetky (Schetky & Green, 1988), Jan Hindman (1987), and John Yuille (1990). All of these resources are using the joint investigative techniques and are advocating further training in the joint investigative procedure.

From years of experience working in the field of child sexual abuse, it is the writer's contention that training is a key issue and one that demands further research and implementation. The training needs to be specific and involve thorough step-by-step procedures because professionals in this field are overwhelmed with their work and do not have much time to incorporate information from several sources to integrate into their own procedures.


The research project included writing and developing the training manual, conducting a training session with law enforcement using the training manual, and evaluating the effectiveness of the training. The training was evaluated on three levels: recall and recognition of content learned, applicability of content learned, and evaluation of training.

After the training manual was written, a sample of ten trainees were selected. The trainees were detectives and officers from a law enforcement agency. According to the chief of police and the training coordinator, the trainees had little experience or training in child sexual abuse investigations but were expected to perform this duty on a regular basis. The police agency was cooperative in coordinating schedules and times for the research to take place.

To evaluate the effectiveness of the training, the officers were asked to videotape an investigative interview before and after the training and to take a written test on the content of the training. Both procedures would evaluate the recall and recognition of material learned, the ability to cognitively integrate the training material, and the ability to apply the material in a practical setting.

Ethical issues were immediately raised in asking the officers to videotape live interviews. It was decided to use a child actress for both the pre-training interviews and the post-training interviews. The use of child actresses enabled practical application of the material without the likelihood of traumatizing child victims or damaging prosecutable cases.

The age of the actresses became another important ethical issue because of the risk of the actresses being traumatized by the sexually explicit material used in the performance. A decision was made to use 14-year old females to act as sexual abuse victims who were younger. Both parent and actress permissions were obtained and explicit information and instruction was given to the actresses. The actresses were instructed to give feedback immediately if the material being acted became difficult or traumatizing in any way for them. The actresses were monitored at all times, either by the researcher, parents and relatives, or by the police training coordinator.

To conduct the pre-training mock investigative interviews, the officers were given a 15 minute briefing on a child sexual abuse case with information that had been reported and required investigation. All ten officers were given the same case to investigate. The cases used for the mock interviews were actual police cases which were confidentially preserved by omitting names and addresses.

After the officers were given their first case, a schedule for the mock interviews was designed and the pre-training interviews were conducted over a period of two days. The same actress took part in all of the pre-training mock interviews. The officers were given no guidelines for the investigative interview. The purpose was to obtain the level of knowledge about child sexual abuse investigations and to evaluate the effectiveness of the applicability of training. The interviews took place in the training room of the police department. Each interview had a time limit of one and one-half hours. In the pre-training interviews, the actress was acting the age of nine years old. The officers were given the same case, the same information, and interviewed the same actress in the same location with the same time limits. Each interview was videotaped and the videotapes were given to the researcher at the conclusion of the two day period.

The training session was conducted in an eight hour training day at the police agency with the ten trainees. The trainers included the researcher (mental health professional) and a law enforcement detective who specializes in child sexual abuse investigations. The intent of the co-trainers was to model the joint investigative approach to child sexual abuse interviews using the expertise of both mental health and law enforcement professionals. The training manual was used in the training.

Prior to the beginning of the training session, the trainees were given research consent forms and a pre-test based on the content of the training.

At the conclusion of the training day, the trainees were given a post-test on the content of the training material and a post-evaluation form to complete.

The next step in evaluating the effectiveness of the training was a second briefing for the officers. This briefing consisted of information on a different child sexual abuse case for investigation. A schedule for post-training mock interviews was created. The child actress was briefed on the case and given extensive information on conducting the mock interview. The actress acted the case as a seven-year-old. A two-day period of videotaped post-training mock interviews was conducted by the trainees. At the conclusion of the mock interviews, the videotapes were given to the researcher for analysis.

At the conclusion of the research project, the police chief, training coordinator, and the trainees were given a feedback session. The general atmosphere of the police agency cooperating in this project was one of enthusiasm and eagerness to learn more effective ways to interview alleged child abuse victims. The officers exhibited some anticipated anxiety about being videotaped and tested but were cooperative and interested in the project.

The researcher felt some anticipated wariness from the trainees regarding training by a mental health professional. There was a slow progression of warm up to the researcher which ultimately resulted in a positive rapport with the officers asking questions about not only their performance in the project but about current case problems they were experiencing.


It appears from the data that dynamics of child sexual abuse was not well understood by the trainees. Training is needed in this area if officers are doing child sexual abuse investigation. The officers in general did better on the post-tests, indicating that the content could be taught in an eight hour training session. The data suggests that the sample of officers had little understanding of interviewing children, child development, the sexual abuse disclosure process of children or the normal lack of medical evidence in child sexual abuse cases.

The issue of secondary post traumatic stress disorder for investigators of child abuse was not understood in pre-training and not heard or perhaps misunderstood in the post-training.

There is a generalized myth that children are always highly suggestible. This issue was addressed in the training, but the officers did not appear to understand the difference in children's suggestibility with key aspects of events vs. peripheral details of events.

The most important conclusion to the content tests is that specialized training is needed for police officers who are investigating child sexual abuse or interviewing children who are victims of crime.

This research procedure indicates that content can be learned in an eight hour training day but the implementation of the content most likely requires a longer, more intensive practical training period for effectiveness. While the officers did show some limited improvement, the overall ratings of the mock interviews show that the training was not effective in applicability of the content.

The information obtained in this procedure has significant application for future training in the child sexual abuse investigation interview.


The information learned from the research procedure is undoubtedly most helpful in gaining insight into future training applications. Many salient and key points were acquired in the research procedure and analysis of data. Much of the training would remain the same with special emphasis placed on certain aspects of the material.

The clearest and perhaps most important future application learned was that the training needs to be presented in a longer time period. The training should be increased to a minimum two day training session but ideally extend to four days. Practice time for applying the interview protocol would be incorporated into the training days, allowing the trainees to immediately apply the material learned and be critiqued by trainers and peers. This process would slow down the pace, which was a criticism from some of the trainees. In the post- training evaluation forms, the trainees reported a need for extended training periods, but not necessarily extended practice time. Given the results of the applied learning in the pilot project, the writer has to disagree and maintain that practice is the key to success for the interviewing process.

The ultimate future training procedure, which has been used by this trainer to train therapists in investigative interview techniques, is the following series of training steps:

  1. Training on content and protocol
  2. Practice or mock interview
  3. Several observations, behind a one-way mirror, of a skilled interviewer doing real investigations
  4. Trainee conducting several investigations as the secondary officer with a trained interviewer
  5. Trainee conducting interviews as the primary interviewer.

Ideally, this process should take place over a period of several months, giving the trainee plenty of time to integrate the content and the applicability of the skills learned. The practicality of this method of training depends on the resources and attitude of the police administration and would vary across municipalities, counties, and states. The child advocacy center model allows for this ideal situation for training investigators. The on-going process of working with law enforcement as they work real cases allows the training to be directly applied to their cases and therefore becomes significantly important to them, both personally and professionally. As the interviews are videotaped, the investigators can then view their own videotapes and learn from their mistakes and successes first hand. Having trainers and colleagues with them in the process allows for immediate feedback.

Child sexual abuse dynamics are especially important to teach interviewers. Many myths need to be dispelled that can directly affect the interview and how it is handled by the investigator. The issue of suggestibility of children was misunderstood by the trainees and needs to be emphasized in future training. It is important that the investigator understand that children are more suggestible in peripheral detail of events but less suggestible in key aspects of events. It is also important that the investigator understand that more confidence can be placed in a child's description than in the child's understanding of the event. Of key importance to the investigator is the disclosure process for child victims. This is an area that should be emphasized in future training so that the investigator clearly understands that disclosure is a process, not an event, and that the child may give limited information in the first interview. This does not mean the event did not happen.

Child development and child language issues need more emphasis and should be focused on when presenting the protocol. The investigator needs to understand more clearly how developmental issues relate to the overall picture of the investigation and the credibility of the child's statement.

Interview aids can be frightening to investigators with no experience in using them in interviews. They should be used in the training with practice, allowing each trainee to use them and get feedback on the proper use and interpretation of information gained when using aids such as dolls, pictures, or other toys. This is not to suggest that clinical interpretation should be implemented in the investigation. Interview aids are used to help children talk about events difficult to discuss.

Leading questions deserve more focus. Investigators are clear what leading questions are and that they are not to use them; but in actual practice, it is difficult not to use them with children. Experience and training in how to ask a question another way if the first question is not answered would be helpful. It is true that sometimes leading questions have to be utilized with very young children. It is important to know how and when to do this and how to follow a leading question with questions that check credibility and suggestibility. This part of the training was not done in the research project because of an assumption on the part of the researcher/trainer that the officers would know this information and would be insulted by the information. Given the number of leading questions used in the mock interviews, the researcher now understands the importance of this part of the training and more focus will be applied in future training.

Rapport building with children needs more focus and understanding. Fact vs. fantasy is another area that was taught, but not well understood by the trainees.

The issue of discussing private parts, talking about sexuality and sexual parts requires sensitivity for the trainees. It is advised that in future training a significant amount of time be spent on this issue. For future training program development, the researcher would focus on specific parts of genitalia and use teaching slides to show parts of female genitalia. It is now better understood by this researcher that most men and many women do not know the specific parts of genitalia. Talking with children about their names for sex parts is difficult for the inexperienced investigator. This area needs to be explored much more in future training.

Because a spontaneous disclosure is the best possible scenario in an investigation with children, future training would focus more on setting the stage for the spontaneous disclosure.

Using sensitive interview techniques vs. interrogation or threatening techniques is important to emphasize in future training. It appears that interrogation techniques are more comfortable for law enforcement, perhaps because they are trained to interview adults. Obviously, traumatized children are a different population and require a very different technique.

Other areas needing more focus for future training include how to acquire information regarding clothing worn by victim and perpetrator and how to check for exposure to nudity and pornography.

A challenge for future training is to present victimology in a way that makes the trainee care and want to do the best job possible. Performing successful interviews requires practice and significant training. Assisting the investigators in understanding the importance of their job and how it affects society at large and the victim should have greater focus in future training. A significant error made by this researcher was to assume the trainees knew more than they did. The fear of insulting their intelligence was a barrier to placing more emphasis on certain parts of the training.

Table of Contents | Odourology Serves Law and Order Bodies

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