future holds many challenges for those fighting Internet crimes against
young people. Cases involving Internet crimes against children are complex
and labor intensive for both the police and prosecutors. The time between
victimization and arrest can be lengthy. These cases are usually multijurisdictional,
which presents challenges in the investigation and prosecution of a case
and can present problems for the criminal justice system, the child victim,
and the family in terms of resources, travel, and court appearances.
Child victimization on the Internet is a
complex matter. The full impact of such victimization on children is not
completely understood. Family dynamics often play a significant role in
childrens denial of a crime and their willingness to participate
in the investigation and prosecution. A childs ability to acknowledge
and accept the crime can be linked to family values, peer pressure, and
feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment. Denial and recantation can
be common among children who unwittingly participated in the crime. Because
of these issues, the greatest challenges facing law enforcement and victim
service professionals are to identify the victims, protect their privacy,
and serve them without further victimization.
Until more knowledge is gathered about Internet
crime and its effects on victims, law enforcement and victim service professionals
will continue working on Internet child exploitation using the tactics
and standard approaches that have proved effective for working with other
types of child victims. These tactics and approaches are discussed below.
- Ensure that the interview is conducted
with developmentally appropriate language. A childs ability to
relate to concepts and receive messages varies depending on his or her
stage of development. The interviewer must assess the childs developmental
level and adapt the interview accordingly.
- Ensure that the interview is conducted
in a culturally sensitive manner with culturally appropriate language.
Determine which words the child is comfortable with. Is an interpreter
needed? If so, use a professional interpreter and not a family member.
Family members inadvertently may interject their interpretations into
the translation and may prejudice the childs account.
- Be patient with victims. At first, many
victims will deny their involvement. However, with continued support
and encouragement, the child victim usually will divulge and discuss
- Avoid duplicative interviews when possible.
Multiple interviewers and interviews tend to confuse and intimidate
children, especially younger ones, and may revictimize the child and
produce inconsistent victim statements. Joint or taped interviews minimize
the number of interviews required and maintain consistent phrasing of
- If the victim is from another jurisdiction,
work with victim witness staff in that community to ensure that victim
services are provided.
- Do not show surprise or shock. Remember,
the youth is probably already feeling guilt, shame, or embarrassment
about what occurred.
- Be honest with the child about what he
or she can expect from the investigation and prosecution of the case
and about any future contact he or she may have with the perpetrator.
- Talk to the child victim about a victim
impact statement and restitution if the case will be prosecuted and
if it is developmentally appropriate. Regardless of the childs
age, find ways to give him or her a sense of control
over the situationprovide choices, no matter how small, and help
him or her prepare for the court process. Consider requesting a guardian
ad litem to represent and support the child throughout the legal process.
Make the child familiar with the courtroom environment. A properly prepared
child may find active involvement in the case empowering.
- Internet crimes against children impact
the entire family. Family members may feel guilty for not protecting
their child more effectively. They also may feel anger or shame about
their childs involvement in the crime. Family members are secondary
victims and need to be offered support and information to help them
understand the nature of these crimes and know how to better handle
their often conflicting feelings.
- Assist families victimized by Internet
crime who require travel and lodging arrangements related to the legal
proceedings, such as depositions
- Prepare the family for media and press
coverage. Be sensitive to the privacy needs of the victim and family.
Will the victims name appear in any public documents? If so, can
these documents be sealed if the family so desires?
- Help the family understand what their
child is experiencing so they can help the child and feel some sense
of control over the situation.7
| Internet Crimes Against