Crimes against children are diverse in their approach,method, and long-term implications.
Child abuse is dynamic, where the abuse maybe physical, emotional, or various forms that disturb the child in a complexway. The literature demonstrates the implications of child abuse and how thoseimpacted are going to be disturbed moving forward in their lives, transitioningfrom childhood to adolescence and in to adulthood. Crimes against children isdeserving of heightened attention, where the literature suggests outcomes forthose who are not treated in their youth. Collaboration and awareness on thisissue demonstrate advocacy, where the children will eventually become adults.Untreated, an adult who was abused as a child will face an uphill battle inlife, where the consequences for society are evident as supported by theliterature. Crimes AgainstChildren: Long-Term Implications of AbuseThe issue of crimes that are committed against children isone of the most difficult that criminal justice professionals and others thatare involved in the investigative process can encounter.
Not only is there theobvious issue of child welfare, but there is also a range of different factorsthat must be given due consideration when an investigation into crimes againstchildren is taking place. The legislation that is in place which regulates theinvestigative process is intended not only for the purpose of protectingchildren from being victimized by criminal offenders, but also to protect theprivacy, safety, and health of these children. The investigative process that is associated with theexamination of crimes against children is one that is often exceedinglydifficult. One of the most difficult factors involves the fact that thecooperation of the children who have been victimized is essential to theinvestigation. However, the actual involvement of the child victims in theinvestigative process raises many difficult questions of its own. Often thecontextual circumstances in which victimization takes place is essential to thedecision that is made concerning what kind of investigative methodology is tobe utilized.Crimes AgainstChildren The crimes that are committed against children vary in nature. Among the mostcommon are crimes involving abuse of a physical nature, or mere neglect.
Often,cases of these kinds are first noticed by various caregivers in a child’s life,whether other relatives, neighbors, teachers, coaches, and social workers. Mostoften the perpetrator of routine acts of abuse or neglect will be the child’sparent or stepparent. Public agencies such as the local Child ProtectiveServices will be largely responsible for the initial phase of an investigationof cases of these kinds. However, there are also other crimes that arecommitted against children that are of an even more serious nature.
Among theseare child abduction, child murder, child rape, and child sexual molestation.Crimes of these kinds may be perpetrated by strangers, or they may beperpetrated by individuals with whom the child victim was previouslyacquainted. Collaboration Efforts Child protective services (CPS) arerequired to work alongside law enforcement officials, in most states. Newman,Dannenfelser & Pendleton (2005) argue that the majority of states requireCPS and law enforcement investigators to work together “when investigatingcriminal cases of child abuse” (p. 165). Thus, organizations throughout theUnited States such as Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) have been developed inorder to bring on a collective approach. The connection between lawenforcement, as a wide body, and the specific organizations that are dedicatedto minimizing abuse toward children is necessary in order to deliver acomprehensive approach (Newman, Dannenfelser & Pendleton, 2005). Whereasinvestigation may be the role of law enforcement, an issue of this magnitudedemands multiple individuals and organizations working toward a solution, bothfor the individual cases as well as the wider scope of abuse in the UnitedStates.
There are multiple reasons thatthese collaborative centers are utilized. Legal or administrative issues,mandate and protocol, environmental support for children (aligned withchild-driven goals), medical treatment and centers for expertise are some ofthe reasons that these collaborative centers have become so popular (Newman,Dannenfelser & Pendleton, 2005). The centers have the potential to become evenmore progressive. However, it must be recognized that these centers are workingalongside law enforcement to bring a new approach to child abuse, one that doesnot only investigate the crime but identify solutions for these children movingforward. Barriers With a collaborative response tosuch a sensitive issue comes barriers to progress. Newman & Dannenfelser(2005) argue that there is often confusion as to who should have thedecision-making power when both law enforcement and child advocacy agencies areinvolved. Whereas law enforcement is dynamic in its goals, they may still notalign with what a child advocacy organization is looking to accomplish. Whilecollaboration is progressive in this environment, there is, at times, a lack ofclarity as to which organization is making the decision and delivering thehighest level of value for the children, who must remain the focus (Newman& Dannenfelser, 2005).
Heightened Abuse: Pedophiles andChild Molesters Pedophiles and child molesters sharecommon characteristics. Murray (2000) finds that most child abusers are males,where they can be heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. The reason they choosechildren as their victims is that the children are often vulnerable, available,and physically weaker (Murray, 2000). Thus, one is taking advantage of asituation, where the sexual abuse perpetrated may be a one-time incident thatconsists only of fondling, but can still have catastrophic implications for achild who is still developing (Murray, 2000). When recognizing child abuse inthis regard, investigation is critical and demands diligence.
Law enforcementagencies working with child advocates becomes crucial in determining whetherappropriate action will be taken, and whether the proper treatment will beincorporated so this burden is not catastrophic to the development of the childmoving forward, which is possible in cases of abuse (Murray, 2000). Initiatives Parents have a crucial role inkeeping their children safe. Peachman (2017) finds that there are steps parentscan take in order to advocate for child safety.
Even so, there are times wherethe parent (or child) cannot be blamed, as those looking to abuse children,such as the aforementioned molesters and pedophiles, often use tactics that goagainst the safeguards implemented by parents, law enforcement officials,teachers, and the children themselves (Peachman, 2017). Still, the parents havea duty to inform their children and recognize awareness strategies that willenhance safety levels moving forward, and protect the children when possible(Peachman, 2017). The victimology of a child who has faced abuse, as will bediscussed further, generally has a connection with the parents or the familyenvironment (Peachman, 2017). Thus, there is urgency in a household where abuseis taking place, even if the immediate abuse is not toward the child.
Victimology Children are distinct in theirvictimology. The Editorial Board (2018) states, “If the #MeToo movement of thelast few months has taught us anything, it’s that it is extremely painful andrisky for victims of sexual harassment…to speak out against their abusers”(para 1). Thus, there is a need for heightened advocacy in terms ofcommunication. Enhancing the victimology of children who have been abused iscrucial. Otherwise, they may not speak out, and will remain burdened by theabuse without proper treatment methods moving forward. Victims are diverse inthis environment, and abuse does not discriminate.
While there are demographicsthat are more prone to abuse, the victimology for children suggests problematichousehold environments that will disturb the long-term ability of theindividual to develop. Moving Forward Collaboration between law enforcementand child protection agencies becomes necessary. While there are barriers thatemerge when these organizations align with one another, the benefits overwhelmthe risk. Therefore, child agencies are going to have a major role movingforward, where law enforcement remains in its investigative role to ensure thatthose responsible for the abuse are given the proper consequences. Child abusein its many forms becomes a necessary focus of law enforcement, but the publicalso has a responsibility to advocate for children and their distinctvictimology.