Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Reporting Allegations to Law Enforcement

Allegations?

This is a far more complex area to deal with than reporting suspicions. An allegation is when a child comes to you and tells you about something uncomfortable that happened to them. Maybe they were approached for sex on the internet. Maybe a trusted friend or family member exploited them for sexual purposes. Maybe they were molested. Maybe an older child has been showing them things they are uncomfortable with. Maybe you saw an adult with a nude picture of a child and it struck you as strange. Regardless, your world just shattered into a million pieces and you have no idea what to do. Should you call the police? Should you really trust this child's statement, or what you saw? What if they are making it up? This could ruin the person's life. Those are some of the things that will be going through your mind, and then some.

Each allegation is unique, and each situation is different. There will be some cases where you are not inclined to talk to the police... and there will be some cases where that is your first go-to. But far more likely, your reaction is shock. How could this person that you trusted do something like that? You thought sex offenders were dirty men on the street, or that there was a registry for those kinds of people. You thought it could never happen, because you know the registered offenders in your area. If it involves molestation, you likely trust this person, you like them, and you care about them.

Regardless of what the allegation is, you need expert counsel and advice (click "get immediate help"). There are many child advocacy organizations you can talk with about your issue before you take the allegation to a law enforcement professional. Stop It Now is an organization that specializes in the prevention of child sexual abuse, and they know exactly what they are talking about and who they can direct you to.

Before you contact law enforcement...

You may need to understand in your own words what happened. You want to know what to say to police. However, you have to know that any questions you ask the child can affect not only the potential legal case against the accused, but also your child. You have to refrain from asking leading questions. Stick to open-ended questions, and let the child tell you what happened. Ask questions like, "What happened then? When did this happen? Who was involved?" Avoid questions that insult or belittle the accused. It is very likely that your child knows and trusts whomever abused them. Insulting them, or letting your child think that they might have done something wrong, even if they did, can lead your child to changing their story.

Asking the right questions can be incredibly difficult, and not leading your child into answering a certain way can also be incredibly difficult. You love your child, and you want to protect them. You may want an expert to be asking the questions, and in many cases that is a great idea. Not only can you avoid tainting what the child has to say, or provoking them into changing their story or clamming up, you can give yourself the peace of mind to know that your child is in the best possible care.

There are organizations that specialize in these areas called child advocacy centers. They can offer interviews, and serve as your advocate and guide. One resource in the state of Minnesota is Cornerstone. Another are individual state's CASA programs, CASA standing for the Coalition against Sexual Assault (click here, and input your state, or search "child advocacy center" and your area). Another way to find those resources is by calling your police non-emergency number and asking if they have any sexual assault resources, and if they have a partner program that does forensic interviews for them. In some cases, the police themselves can set you up with resources to help you through the process.

The need for accountability

I molested a child. It was not a decision I woke up one day and made, it was a long series of individual choices that corroded my thinking until I harmed a child. I am glad that I was arrested, charged, convicted, and sentenced. While I think some parts of my consequences, like having to register as a sex offender, are overly harsh, I would not go back in time and change it if I had the opportunity. I would like to explain why that is.

It is difficult to explain to someone who has never been inside of a courtroom exactly how it feels. But suffice it to say, the crime dramas do not do it justice. There is the fear of what the outcome will be, there is the tremendous respect for the judge and prosecutor who hold part of your life in their hands, and there is the inability to control anything that is happening. Many people would see that as a negative thing. I see it as a positive, because it helped me come to terms with the gravity of what I had done. It was the first time that I looked at the seriousness of my actions.

Sexual offenses thrive on secrecy. I have touched on this in several previous posts. I did not tell anyone about what was happening, and I never even talked about my attraction to children. All of that was in my head, bouncing around. The week I spent in a mental hospital was, in a way, a relief from all of that because my secret was out. I could talk about what had been going on, and what I chose to do. I could talk about the attractions and how hellish it was to deal with them. Having that out in the open after trying to work with it myself was helpful for me.

So let me bring this back to you and make several strong statements for why you should get law enforcement involved- but carefully. First, you have no idea why this person committed these acts. You have no idea if your child is the first, or one of several. While it is a myth that most child molesters have multiple victims, there is no way for you or anyone else to know the truth unless they are forced to face it. Second, you have no idea how your child was affected. Getting experts involved to help them can aid your child in moving forward and staying a healthy person. Those are the biggest reasons to get the police involved.

Experts and their importance

While the police are generally there to protect and serve, there are bad cops out there. There are also law enforcement organizations that have no idea how to handle sexual trauma, how to properly question victims, how to properly question the accused, or they have strong bias towards sexual crimes and sexual trauma. It is quite possible that some law enforcement agencies can make the trauma that has already been done to your child worse by asking the wrong questions, pressuring your child into saying certain things, or making your child feel responsible for getting their abuser into trouble. The organizations I mentioned can put you in touch with the right people who will ask the right questions. They can help you through all of this.

Final word

Contacting law enforcement to report sexual assault can be a daunting process. But you have to keep in mind what is best for you, best for your child, and best for the community as a whole. Communities are not helped when these secrets are kept. There are many recent examples of men who went on to molest dozens of children because they were not stopped, and their communities were rocked because of it. The Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church have also had their share of scandals with not reporting sexual abuse. While you might care about the person who is being accused, the best thing that can help them is them facing their actions and getting the treatment they need.
Another resource you can use to report is this:

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