Myths Regarding Institutional Abuse

Although there has been considerable effort to eradicate the myth of "stranger danger" (i.e., sex offenders choosing stranger victims), it is still difficult for many people to accept that a sex offender could be someone who is in a trusted position, such as a teacher, daycare provider, or clergy member. Many organizations are ill-equipped to respond to sexual-assault allegations. Future research should identify obstacles in responding appropriately to sexual-assault allegations.

Myths Regarding Investigating Abuse

A critical component of controlling sex crimes is the arrest of known sex offenders. Law enforcement officials, however, are subject to the same biases everyone else has. That means they are subject to the same moral panic that persists in the U.S. To guard against biases, whether they are in response to the moral panic regarding sex offenders or the many myths regarding the number, characteristics, and recidivism rates of sex crimes and sex offenders, law enforcement officials must conduct investigations in a thorough manner. Although much has been learned about improved strategies for investigating sex crimes, there is considerable room for improvement. Techniques have been developed, such as distinguishing between an organized offender and a disorganized offender (based on crime-scene characteristics), which allow for narrowing potential suspects. This process can also exclude potential suspects, but does not decisively indicate who the offender is. Similarly, geographical mapping and geographical profiling can narrow the scope of an investigation, but it will not indicate that "John Smith" committed the sex crime.

Much of what we know about investigating sex crimes is based on known errors that have occurred during past investigations. For example, it was found that strict guidelines must be in place when interviewing vulnerable victims, as they are highly suggestible (Bull, 2010). Children, for example, must be allowed to provide as much information about the sex crime as possible prior to asking forced-choice questions (e.g., Was the rapist Black or White?). Research is needed that clearly assesses best practices for interviewing victims, witnesses, and suspects.

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