Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Understanding the Psychology of Child Molesters: A Key to Getting Confessions

Police Chief Magazine  [...] Offender Interview Is Essential
When investigating a case involving a suspected child molester, the stakes are high and a full confession is critical. But the ability to interview and relate to this type of offender is something that doesn't come naturally for most police officers. Many officers find the subject matter, as well as the offender, repulsive. They cannot have an amiable conversation with a person who they believe has molested a child. They are not able to mask their feelings, and they allow contempt, disgust, and hatred to surface during the interview, greatly reducing the likelihood that the offender will open up and share his deepest secrets.

Deep down, most child molesters want to talk. Some are sexually attracted to children and have known it for many years. They may be married, have a family, have a successful business or career, and be active in their religious institution, yet they have a secret that they have never shared with anyone. Most of them have struggled with their desires. They wish that they could change, but they are not able to do it by themselves. They all know that child molesters are hated and despised by society and they believe that no one could really understand their situation. Many know they need help but don't have the courage to seek it.

Although many molesters would really like to talk to someone, they also know there are many reasons to not talk about their feelings and actions. They believe they have everything to lose if they confess. They risk losing their marriage, their children, their home, their friends, their job, and their freedom. They fear embarrassment and humiliation. They are afraid of how the interviewer is going to react to them if and when they make that first admission of guilt. And child molesters fear going to prison. They have heard and read stories about what happens to child molesters in prison. 

When interviewing a child molester, an investigator faces two competing forces: the molesters' deep desire to talk and his fear of consequences. The investigator must exploit the first force while helping the molester to overcome the second. [...]

Understand the Thinking Process: One of the critical keys to interviewing child molesters is understanding how they think. There are several different types of child molester; and each child molester has a particular way to meet his or her needs and justify his or her behavior. Molesters use distorted thinking to rationalize and justify their crimes, to make their own needs most important and to minimize their behavior. Many offenders convince themselves that the relationship they had with their victim was different; that it was a mutual, loving, caring relationship; that the sexual acts were consensual; or that the child somehow benefited from the relationship. The more an investigator understands the way a sexual offender thinks, the more prepared he will be to elicit a confession.

There is no magic interviewing formula that works for all child molesters. An investigator must understand the psychology of this type of offender and then be able to apply that understanding to the interview process. An investigator should understand the differences between a situational and a preferential child molester, because there are different interviewing approaches and themes for each type of offender. If an investigator is going to interview a suspected pedophile, he really should understand the term pedophilia-a sexual attraction to prepubescent children-and should know exactly what that entails. He should understand sex offender terminology that includes distorted thinking, thinking errors, sexual addiction, and the addiction cycle. 

By having a better understanding of sexual deviance, an investigator will be better able to recognize the importance of certain disclosures. For example, many pedophiles were themselves victims of childhood sexual abuse. In this research study, 78 percent of the pedophile offenders stated that they were themselves victims. During the investigative interview, a suspect might disclose his own history of childhood sexual abuse, trying to use it as a defense for his behavior. For example, the suspect might say, "It happened to me; therefore, I would never do that to someone else." In fact, rather than signaling a flat denial, a revelation like that should open the door for an investigator to explore how that sexual abuse might have affected the suspect's own sexual development. Many offenders will admit that their own victimization resulted in confusion and sexual experimentation during their teenage years. This line of questioning will sometimes help the offender to open up and admit to the offense he has committed. [...]

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