Overview of Investigating Sex Crimes for Private Investigators
This article provides an overview of sex crime investigations. Sexual assault is an assault of a sexual nature on another person. Although these assaults are committed most frequently by a man on a woman, they may also be by a man on a man, a woman on a man, or a woman on a woman. However, it is much more common for crimes to be committed against women.
Fact: Approximately one in six American women will be victims of a sexual assault crime in her lifetime. Also, approximately ten percent of all rapes are suffered by males due to child rape and prison rape.
While these types of physical assaults are often associated with rape, this crime may cover any physical harm that would not necessarily be considered rape.
What constitutes a sexual assault is determined by the laws of the jurisdiction where the physical activity takes place, which vary considerably and can be influenced by local social and cultural attitudes. Such crimes may include rape, forced vaginal, anal, or oral penetration, forced intercourse, inappropriate touching, forced kissing, child molestation, and the torture of the victim in a sexual manner.
Punishment for Sexual Assault Crimes
The punishment associated with such crimes varies depending on the acts involved, the severity of the acts, the age of the victim, and the jurisdiction in which they occur. However, the courts punish them harshly, and prison sentences are doled out accordingly. Abusers can count on serving a healthy jail sentence and spending the rest of their lives labeled as predators.
Sex Crime Investigations
The Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) Act of 2013 recommended developing best practices and protocols for collecting and processing DNA evidence in sexual assault cases. A working group was formed with experts from the National Institute of Justice, law enforcement agencies, forensic laboratories, medical examiners, and many more. Over two years, the SAFER Working Group developed a best practices document. The 150-page book is available on the National Institute of Justice website.
The Investigation Process
Investigating sex crimes is a complex and sensitive process that involves thorough and careful procedures to gather evidence and ensure a fair and accurate investigation. While specific procedures may vary depending on jurisdiction and the nature of the crime, here are some general steps that investigators often follow:
- Report and Initial Response – Law enforcement is typically notified through a report filed by the victim, a witness, or another party. Officers respond promptly to secure the scene and ensure the victim’s safety.
- Interviewing the Victim – Investigators conduct interviews with the victim to gather detailed information about the incident. Sensitivity and empathy are crucial during this process.
- Preserving Evidence – Collection and preservation of physical evidence, such as clothing, DNA samples, and any relevant items from the crime scene, are critical. This may involve a forensic examination.
- Medical Examination – Victims may undergo a medical examination to document injuries, collect evidence, and address immediate medical needs. This examination can also help establish a timeline of events.
- Forensic Analysis – Forensic experts analyze collected evidence, including DNA, to link the suspect to the crime or confirm the presence of sexual contact.
- Witness Interviews – Investigators interview potential witnesses to the crime and individuals who may have information about the suspect or the circumstances surrounding the incident.
- Suspect Identification – If the victim can identify the suspect, law enforcement may use various methods, such as photo or in-person lineups, to confirm the identification.
- Interrogation of the Suspect – Investigators may question them to obtain their side of the story and gather additional information if a suspect is identified.
- Documentation and Reports – Investigators document all findings, interviews, and actions taken during the investigation in comprehensive reports. These reports may be used in court proceedings.
- Collaboration with Other Agencies – In some cases, investigators may collaborate with other agencies, such as child protective services or victim advocacy groups, to ensure comprehensive support for the victim.
- Legal Proceedings – If sufficient evidence exists, the case may proceed to legal proceedings, including arrest, charges, and court hearings.
- Victim Support – Throughout the investigation, victims are provided with support services, including counseling and information about available resources.
It’s important to note that the process can vary depending on the type of sex crime, local laws, and the specific circumstances of each case. Additionally, investigators are trained to handle these cases with sensitivity and to respect the rights and well-being of the victims.
If you’d like to learn more about this sensitive type of investigation, I recommend the following book:
|Investigating Sexual Assault Cases (Jones & Bartlett Learning Guides to Law Enforcement…||$69.61||Buy on Amazon|
This book was written specifically for criminal investigation courses. It covers the entire investigative process from start to finish. It explains the primary responsibilities of first responders and covers the unique demands of investigators in these types of cases.
In addition, it touches on relevant topics such as interviewing, reporting, working with prosecutors, and advice for getting further information.
How do Private Investigators get involved?
Parents or employers may retain private investigators to investigate sexual abuse or harassment claims. In some situations, private investigators may be able to uncover information and evidence not found by law enforcement officers and thus help solve the case. Due to the sensitive nature of this type of investigation, it is wise to have some training or knowledge of the subject.
Conducting a sex crime investigation may be slow and frustrating, as getting the victim to discuss the crime or reveal details is often difficult. Always remain sensitive to the severity of the acts and the physical and emotional damage they may cause. A private investigator must demonstrate understanding and empathy to help break through the walls of protection put up by most victims.
Questions and Comments
If you have any questions about sex crime investigations, please comment below. For more legal definitions, visit our Glossary of Legal and Investigation Terms.