Investigation Process in Child Abuse Case


This week we had the opportunity to sit down with a detective who works hand-in-hand with one of the Childhelp Advocacy centers.  Each day, his cases focus on investigating crimes against children and gathering enough evidence to uncover and prosecute offenders.  Wondering how he accomplishes all that, we asked him to tell us about his day to day work.

The detective explained that at the start of his day, as he comes into the office, he takes a look through the violence reports assigned to him.  These could include emergency calls as well as reports in which a victim disclosed information about a previous incident but there is so immediate risk of harm.

Each report requires individual attention and careful examination.  Whether an emergency report or a previous incident, the detective makes every effort to schedule an interview with the victim and/or the family.

This process can be somewhat complicated because only certain testimonies are valid as evidence.  It is the detective’s job to obtain details from the right people.  For example, the detective can only take information from the witness if they saw the offense, were a direct victim, or the child told them directly about the offense. 

Unfortunately, information that a detective receives from someone who only “suspects” that abuse occurred cannot be used as evidence in a court of law.

As the detective sorts through the facts gathered in the initial interview, he determines whether a chargeable offense was committed.  If he thinks the case can be pursued further, witnesses and possible suspects are contacted.

Compiling evidence is one of this detective’s most vital tasks.  Because each offender is innocent until proven guilty, the detective will often work for weeks or even months to help provide accurate and credible evidence so that violent offenders are prosecuted accordingly.

When the detective feels as though he has compiled enough evidence and has probable cause for an arrest he contacts the suspect in hopes of questioning him or her voluntarily.  However, sometimes suspects are uncooperative and the detective is forced to take him or her into police custody.

Unfortunately, the time it takes to pursue a conviction can be indefinite.  This is when his job gets especially difficult.  If there is not enough evidence, the DA will often choose not to prosecute, and the detective can only wait for new information to be disclosed.  Some cases may remain open for years.

However, thanks to the tireless work of detectives like the one we spoke with, this does not always happen.  If it were not for their efforts alongside the Childhelp Children’s Centers, many victims’ voices would not be heard.

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