McGraw-Hill OnlineMcGraw-Hill Higher EducationLearning Center
Student Center | Instructor Center | Information Center | Home
Career Opportunities
PowerPoint Presentations
Spotlight on Terrorism
Chapter Overview
Chapter Outline
Chapter Objectives
Multiple Choice Quiz
Internet Exercises
Interactive Exercise
Help Center

Swanson, Criminal Investigation 8/e
Criminal Investigation, 8/e
Charles R. Swanson, University of Georgia
Neil C. Chamelin, Assistant State Attorney, Second Judicial Circuit
Leonard Territo, University of South Florida- Tampa

Crimes against Children

Chapter Outline


A. The most common cause of children’s death is physical abuse, often by their own parents. The clinical term commonly used to describe physically abused children is the battered-child syndrome.

B. Abuse of children takes various forms, from minor assaults to flagrant physical torture.

1. Although abusers use a wide variety of instruments, the two most common are the belt and electric cord.

II. BURN INJURIES AND CHILD ABUSE (See Slides 11-3, 11-4, and 11-5)

A. Typologies of Burns

Children may incur various types of burn injuries. A burn may be classified by how severe or "deep" it is, or by how the injury occurred.

B. Medical Classification of Burn Severity

Physicians primarily categorize burns as having either "partial thickness" or "full thickness."

C. Causes of Burn Injuries

The severity of a burn is also directly influenced by the circumstances which caused the burn.

1. Scald burns occur when the child comes into contact with hot liquid.

2. Contact burns occur when the child encounters a hot solid object or flame.


A. Mechanism of Injury

Shaken-baby syndrome (SBS) is the severe intentional application of violent force (shaking), in one or more episodes, that results in intracranial injuries to the child. The mechanism of injury in SBS is thought to result from a combination of physical factors, including the proportionately large cranial size of infants, the laxity of their neck muscles, and the vulnerability of their intracranial bridging veins.

B. Indicators and Symptoms

Crying has come under increasing scrutiny as a stimulus for abusive activity. Because shaking is generally a response to crying, a previous illness causing irritability may increase the likelihood that the infant will be shaken.

C. The Role of the Physician in Child-Abuse Cases

In injuries or deaths of young children, investigators find radiologists, physicians who specialize in the interpretation of X-rays, especially helpful.


A. Munchausen syndrome is a psychological disorder in which the patient fabricates the symptoms of disease or injury in order to undergo medical tests, hospitalization, or even medical or surgical treatment.

B. In cases of Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP), a parent or caretaker suffering from Munchausen syndrome attempts to bring medical attention to himself or herself by injuring or inducing illness in a child.

C. Investigative Guidelines

A partial list of investigative guidelines include:

1. Consult with all experts possible, including psychologists.

2. Exhaust every possible explanation of the cause of the child’s illness or death.

3. Find out who had exclusive control over the child when the symptoms of the illness began or at the time of the child’s death.


A. Situational Child Molesters (see Slide 11- 8)

The situational child molester does not have a true sexual preference for children but engages in sex with children for varied and sometimes complex reasons.

1. Regressed. Such an offender usually has low self-esteem and poor coping skills; he turns to children as a sexual substitute for the preferred peer sex partner.

2. Morally indiscriminate. For this individual, the sexual abuse of children is simply part of a general pattern of abuse in his life.

3. Sexually indiscriminate. Although the previously described morally indiscriminate offender often is a sexual experimenter, this individual differs in that he appears to be discriminating in his behavior except when it comes to sex.

4. Inadequate. This pattern of behavior includes those suffering from psychoses, eccentric personality disorders, mental retardation, and senility.

B. Preferential Child Molesters (see Slide11-9)

The preferential child molesters have a definite sexual preference for children.

1. Seduction. This pattern characterizes the offender who engages children in sexual activity by "seducing" them—courting them with attention, affection, and gifts.

2. Introverted. This pattern of behavior characterizes the offender who has a preference for children but lacks the interpersonal skills necessary to seduce them.

3. Sadistic. This pattern of behavior characterizes the offender who has a sexual preference for children but who, in order to be aroused or gratified, must inflect psychological or physical pain or suffering on the child victim.

C. Interviewing Molested Children (see Slide 11-10)

Common sense and formal research agree that children are not merely miniature adults. We know, for example, the children develop in stages during which they acquire capacities for new functions and understanding.

1. Development issues. Waterman has identified three types of developmental issues that are important when allegations of sexual abuse arise.

a. First the child’s developmental level relative to other children in his or her age group.

b. Second is the child’s development level with regard to sexuality.

c. Third is the child’s ability to respond adequately to interviews and to testify in court.

2. Anatomically detailed dolls (see Slide 11-11). When anatomically detailed dolls (male and female dolls with all body parts, including genitals, were first introduced in the late 1970s they were widely hailed and almost universally adopted by child-serving professionals as an important advance in techniques for communicating with troubled children.

3. Drawing interviews. One alternative that is being used by some police agencies either in connection with or instead of an anatomically detailed doll is to have the child draw his or her own picture.

4. Asking leading questions. As with the anatomical dolls, leading questions are widely used as a courtroom technique to assist child witnesses.

D. Children’s Reactions to Victimization

There are few in our society who would argue that child sexual abuse does not cause serious problems for its victims.

1. Sexually abused child syndrome. Early attempts to describe a "sexually abuse child syndrome" were quickly discarded as lacking a foundation in empirical research. Today, however some the leading researchers and clinicians in this field are moving toward consensus on behavioral indicators of child sexual abuse.

E. The Risk of False Allegations

A recent spate of highly publicized sexual-abuse allegations has caused the public to recoil and question the limits of credulity.

F. Emotional Reaction to the Pedophile

Because many investigators themselves are parents, they react strongly to the pedophile. However, for legal and pragmatic reasons, such feelings must never be translated into physical or verbal abuse.


A. Commercial Child Pornography

Commercial child pornography is that which is produced and intended for commercial sale.

B. Homemade Child Pornography

Contrary to what its name implies, the quality of homemade child pornography can be as good if not better than the quality of any commercial pornography.

C. Use of Collection

Although the reasons why pedophiles collect child pornography and erotica are conjecture, we can be more certain as to how this material is used.

1. Child pornography and child erotica are used for the sexual arousal and gratification of pedophiles.

2. A second use of child pornography and erotica is to lower children’s inhibitions.

3. A third major use of child pornography collections is blackmail.

4. A fourth use of child pornography and erotica is a medium of exchange.

5. A fifth use of the collected material is profit.

D. Use of the Computer and the Internet in Child Pornography

The ubiquity of the computer, and by extension the Internet, is an unfortunate asset to the child pornographer.

1. Many child pornographers are compulsive record keepers, and for them the computer as a cataloging tool is electronic gold.

2. Child pornographers can acquire additional material through instant contact with other pedophiles.

3. In addition, the home computer provides tools that make it easy to store and retrieve names and addresses of accessible victims.

4. Also, the pedophile may use the computer to directly establish a rapport with children.

VII. INCEST (See Slides 11-13, 11-14, and 11-15)

A. The Definitions of Incest

In this chapter we define incest broadly, to include any sexual abuse of a minor child by an adult perceived by the child to be a family member.

B. Some Characteristics of Incestuous Families

1. The incestuous family is often reclusive.

2. Overt incest is an example of tension-reducing acting out in a dysfunctional family.

3. Serious disorganization in family roles often occurs before the beginning of the incestuous relationship.

4. It is no uncommon for more than one child to be sexually exploited in the same family.

C. Profile of Incestuous Fathers

David Finkelhor and Linda Meyer Williams, sociologists at the Family Research Laboratory of the University of New Hampshire, have recently completed the most thorough study to date of men who have sexually abused their daughters.

D. The Mother’s Role

The role of the mother in incestuous families has been a controversial subject.

E. The Police Officer’s Role

A police officer and protective service worker may interview a child jointly.

VIII. SUDDEN INFANT DEATH SYNDROME (See Slides 11-16, 11-17, and 11-18)

A. What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?

Simply defined, SIDS is the sudden and unexpected death of an apparently health infant that remains unexplained after the performance of a complete autopsy.

1. Characteristics of SIDS victims.

a. Appearance

• Usually normal state of nutrition and hydration.

• Blood-tinged, frothy fluids around mouth and nostrils, indicative of pulmonary edema.

• Vomitus on the face.

• Diaper wet and full of stool.

• Bruise like marks on the head or body limbs (postmortem pooling or settling of blood in dependant body parts).

b. Autopsy Findings

• Some congestion and edema of the lungs.

• Petechial hemorrhages in thymus, heart, and lungs

• Minor evidence of respiratory tract inflammation.

B. Misconceptions About SIDS

1. Aspiration, choking

2. Unsuspected illness

3. Freezing

4. Accidental injury, neglect or abuse

C. SIDS Research

Currently, the most widely recognized theory about the mechanism of SIDS is spontaneous, protracted apnea, or cessation of breathing.

D. The Police Officer’s Role

The law enforcement officer serves a key role in the SIDS case and is often the first person to encounter the shock, grief, and guild experienced by the parents.

E. Criminal Homicide as a Possibility

Nevertheless, in spite of the findings just discussed, the police must be sensitive to the possibility of an intentional suffocation.

IX. INFANT ABDUCTION (See Slides 11-19 and 11-24)

A. Profile of the Abductor

The data from these cases bring to light certain offender characteristics.

1. Motivation. Although little research exists on the topic of infant abductors’ motivation, the cases outlined in the chapter illustrate that the need to present their partners with a baby often drives the female offender.

2. Planning. Some abductors spent a great deal of time planning their crimes: others apparently acted on impulse.

B. The Scene of the Crime

1. Location. Traditionally, the hospital setting has been the primary target for infant abductions.

2. Time of day. In the majority of these cases the abductors chose to act during normal business hours.

3. Month. Abductions occurred more frequently between May and October and less frequently between November and April with the exception of December.

4. Method. Whether they steal babies from a hospital or from another location, abductors usually gain access through a con or ruse.

C. Investigative Strategies

Successful resolution of any case depends on several factors, including the efforts of law enforcement.

1. One of the primary investigative strategies in infant abduction cases has been using the media to activate community awareness.


A. The Sony Corporation of America and QMA Corporation of Reston, Virginia, recently collaborated with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to assist in searching for missing and unidentified youth.

1. They system was built using the expertise and techniques of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and experience police artists, and this technology will help to breathe new life into cases of abducted children who have remained missing for long periods of time.

2. NCMEC’s Video Imaging Laboratory represents a potentially dramatic breakthrough in law enforcement technology, speeding the process by which these pictures are enhanced.


A. The Parental Interview

The need to interview parents separately from other family members and reporting parties remains critical.

B. Victimology

To understand if the child’s absence in consistent with established patterns of behavior, officers first must understand the child’s normal actions prior to the disappearance.

C. Resources

To successfully sustain a voluntary long-term absence, the runaway child must have access to resources that will satisfy basic needs, such as food, shelter, and transportation.

1. Money

2. Transportation

3. Clothing/toiletries

D. Scene Assessment

A search of the missing child’s residence can provide useful information to investigators.

E. Time Factors

Statistics indicate that the majority of runaway children cannot sustain an absence for more than two weeks.


A. As we have discussed in this chapter, there are several types of assaults against children.

1. Most of these assaults are conducted against children by their own parents or guardians.

2. It is critically important to remember that logic and thoroughness of an investigation often takes time to unfold and that the purpose of the detective is to investigate crime based on fact.


A. The Laws

In 1994, Congress passed the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexuality Violent Offender Registration Act (The Jacob Wetterling Act). The act required that states create sex offender registries within three years or lose 10 percent of their funding under the Edward Byrne Memorial Program.

1. The Pam Lychner Sexual Offender Tracking and Identification Act of 1996 amended the Jacob Wetterling Act by establishing a national sex offender database, which the FBI maintains.

B. Registration Requirements

Although sex offender registration requirements vary according to state laws, some common features exist in registries across the country. For example, a state agency (i.e., state police) maintain the registry for the state.

C. Notification Features

The most basic form of notification, sometimes referred to as "passive notification," allows inquiring citizens to access registry information at their local law enforcement agencies.

1. In addition to these forms of passive notification, a number of states allow government agencies to disseminate information about registered sex offenders to vulnerable individuals and organizations.

2. Using this process of "active notification," officials may choose to notify prior victims, landlords, neighbors, public and private schools, childcare facilities, religious and youth organizations, and other relevant individuals or agencies.

XIV. CRIME IN SCHOOLS (See Slides 11-25, 11-26, and 11-27)

A. In an effort to develop a systematic procedure for threat assessment and intervention in school violence cases the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) included an in-depth review of 18 school shootings.

B. As a result the threat assessment intervention model was developed.

C. Threat Assessment

Threat assessment rests on two critical principles:

1. First, that all threats and all threateners are not equal.

2. Second, that most threateners are unlikely to carry out their threat.

D. Motivation

A threat may be a warning signal, a reaction to fear of punishment or some other anxiety, or a demand for attention.

E. Signposts

The path toward violence is an evolutionary one, with signposts along the way.

F. Types of Threats

1. A direct threat identifies a specific act against a specific target and is delivered in a straightforward, clear, and explicit manner.

2. An indirect threat tends to be vague, unclear, and ambiguous.

3. A veiled threat is one that strongly implies but does not explicitly threaten violence.

4. A conditional threat is the type of threat often seen in extortion cases.

G. Factors in Threat Assessment

1. Specific, plausible details are a critical factor in evaluating a threat.

2. The emotional content of a threat can be an important clue to the threatener’s mental state.

3. Precipitating stressors are incidents, circumstances, reactions, or situations which can trigger a threat.

4. Pre-disposing factors. Underlying personality traits, characteristics, and temperament that predispose an adolescent to fantasize about violence or act violently.

H. Levels of Risk

1. Low level of threat. A threat which poses a minimal risk to the victim and public safety.

2. Medium level of threat. A threat which could be carried out, although it may not appear entirely realistic.

3. High level of threat. A threat that appears to pose an imminent and serious danger to the safety of others.

I. Personality Traits and Behavior

1. Leakage

2. Low tolerance for frustration

3. Poor coping skills

4. Lack of resiliency

5. Failed love relationship

6. Injustice collector

7. Signs of depression

8. Narcissism

9. Alienation

10. Dehumanizes others

11. Lack of empathy

12. Exaggerated sense of entitlement

13. Attitude of superiority

14. Exaggerated or pathological need for attention

15. Externalizes blame

16. Masks low self-esteem

17. Anger management problems

18. Intolerance

19. Inappropriate humor

20. Seeks to manipulate others

21. Lack of trust

22. Closed social group

23. Change of behavior

24. Rigid and opinionated

25. Unusual interest in sensational violence

26. Fascination with violence-filled entertainment

27. Negative role models

28. Behavior appears relevant to carrying out a threat

J. The Role of Law Enforcement

In the vast majority of cases, the decision on whether to involve law enforcement will hinge on the seriousness of the threat: low, medium, or high.

1. Low levels. A threat that has been evaluated as low level poses little threat to public safety and in most cases would not necessitate law enforcement investigation for a possible criminal offense.

2. Medium level. When a threat is rated as medium level, the response should in most cases include contacting law enforcement agencies, as well as other sources, to obtain additional information.

3. High level. Almost always, if a threat is evaluated as high level, the school should immediately inform the appropriate law enforcement agency.

K. Investigating School Violence

1. When investigating threats of violence in schools, it is important to listen carefully to witnesses in order to correctly identify the level of the threat and subsequently take appropriate action.

a. Who made the threat?

b. To whom was the threat made?

c. Under what circumstances was the threat made?

d. Exactly what words were said?

e. How often were threats made?