Voordele van die pre–forensiese evaluering as deel van die forensiese ondersoekproses rakende seksuele misbruik van 'n kind
MetadataShow full item record
The sexual abuse of children presents as an ever-increasing social concern in South-Africa and the rest of the world. A daily newspaper reports that 104 913 serious crimes against children were reported to the South African Police Service (SAPS) since 2010. Another 49 550 serious crimes against children were reported during 2012/2013 at the SAPS (Meiring, 2013:7). The concept of child sexual abuse only became publically known in the seventies. Since then intense research has been done in an effort to gain a better understanding regarding the concept, causes and effects of child sexual abuse (Herbert, 2000:16). However, not only was knowledge gained regarding the extent of child sexual abuse, but there has also been an increase of knowledge involving the theoretical base of the methods of investigation with regard to child sexual abuse. Through this specific research project the researcher will endeavor to contribute to the existing theoretical knowledge base by researching and describing the benefits of implementing pre-forensic evaluation when investigating the presumed sexual abuse of a child. A summary of The Criminal Law (Sexual offences and related matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007’s (South-Africa 2007:25-27) definition of child sexual abuse is as follow: “A sexual offence occurs when any person engages a child (a person under the age of 18) with or without the consent of the child, in a sexual act. Sexual act is defined as an act of sexual penetration or an act of sexual violation. Sexual penetration can be seen as any sexual form of penetration to any extent whatsoever by die genital organ, any body part and/or object by one person into, or beyond, the genital organs, anus or mouth of another person”. In order to combat the incidence and increase of child sexual abuse it is imperative that every accusation regarding the possibility of such abuse should be investigated thoroughly. Due to the fact that some children will only disclose sexual abuse when the are in a safe environment, the whole process could be delayed if the child does not feel safe. Johnson (2004:465) postulates that this delay could jeopardize the whole process because when physical healing had occurred the physical evidence could be destroyed. The absence of physical evidence stresses the importance of the implementation of the forensic investigation process. Social workers are regularly required to evaluate children when sexual abuse is suspected. This process often starts with a pre-forensic evaluation in order to ascertain the probability of sexual abuse. If the pre-forensic investigation confirms the possibility of such abuse, the next step is to conduct a formal forensic investigation. Clark (2007:70) explains that this investigation is used to gather relevant factual information required for police investigation and for use in a court of law. Due to the seriousness and sensitivity regarding allegations of child sexual abuse, it is imperative that the social worker should remain neutral and objective at all times. When investigating such allegations Aucamp (2012a:2) advocate three approaches. These approaches are: A blind, history-free, uninformed approach; An informed approach or an allegation-blind approach. It is generally accepted that through the use of the uninformed approach the objectivity of the social worker is enhanced. This is due to the fact that in this approach restricted information is passed on to the social worker, i.e. she has no prior knowledge regarding the perpetrator or the allegations, but only knows the name, gender and age of the specific child (Aucamp, 2012a:5). Faller (2007:41-43) declares that in order to ensure objectivity the postulation of alternative hypotheses form part and parcel of the task of the social worker. The social worker is enabled to formulate these varied hypotheses when as much information as possible relevant to the specific situation is collected. The collection of this data ensures that important information does not get lost and that no alternative explanation can be given for the allegations. Hewitt (1999:214) points out that many factors can add to the child’s inability to cooperate during a formal forensic investigation. Du Plessis (2012:1) therefore recommends a socioemotional evaluation which will enable the investigator to understand the child’s cognitive, social, emotional, speech and language development as well as the scope of his attention span and level of cooperation. The gathering of all this information is made possible because of the structured nature of the pre-forensic evaluation process. Within the scope of the forensic field the term and concept ‘pre-forensic evaluation’ is relatively new. This process is regarded as a mechanism to sift through data in order to evaluate the child’s level of development as well as the social and behavior issues within the focus of the extended forensic investigation process (Carnes, Nelson-Gardell, Wilson & Orgasa, 2001:238). The objective of this research project was to establish the benefits of the pre-forensic evaluation as the starting point for investigating child sexual abuse in order to make recommendations. In this research the researcher used a qualitative approach which implies a broad approach to the study of social phenomena by implementing a variety of research methods. As this field of forensics is relatively new in South- Africa, the researcher is of the opinion that this research will add to the theoretical and empirical base of knowledge regarding the benefits of the pre-forensic evaluation as part of the extended forensic investigation process. The following participants were involved and methods utilized to reach the objective of this explorative study: • 8 registered social workers , resident in Gauteng; • 10 client files projecting the use of the pre-forensic investigation process in the lives of children between ages 3 and 6 and where possible sexual abuse was suspected. The methods of data collection involved semi-structured interviews as well as document analysis. Data was processed by means of transcriptions, which elicited various themes and sub-themes which in turn led the researcher to come to specific conclusions in order to make certain recommendations. • All 8 participating registered social workers have applied the pre-forensic evaluation as starting point of the investigation into allegations of sexual abuse; • All 8 participating registered social workers preferred to follow the uninformed approach and agreed on the benefits of this process; All respondents agreed on the following benefits of the pre-forensic evaluation process: • It provides a holistic view on the child’s socio-emotional functioning; • It improves and enhances objectivity and neutrality on the part of the investigator and the investigation; • It enables the researcher to complete a competency evaluation of the child within a non-threatening environment; • It provides ample opportunity for the social worker to build rapport with the child; • It provides guidelines to be followed during the formal forensic investigation process. The researcher also found that none of the participants relayed specific disadvantages regarding the use of the pre-forensic evaluation process. Another theme which crystallized when data was analyzed was that the pre-forensic evaluation structure is sufficient to serve as a screening instrument. The following practical recommendations came to the fore in the process of data analysis: • To divide the pre-forensic evaluation process into two or more sessions; • To allow only trained professional workers to implement the pre-forensic evaluation process; • To standardize the pre-forensic evaluation process for investigating presumed sexual offences; • That pre-forensic evaluation be utilized in the case of all children in need of care and not only when sexual abuse is suspected; In conclusion, with regard to future research themes the researcher would like to propose the following: • The evaluation of valid evaluation techniques which could be included in the preforensic evaluation structure; • The evaluators’ experience and perception regarding the pre-forensic evaluation structure; • The effectiveness of using the pre-forensic evaluation structure as a screening instrument; • The reactions and perceptions shown by members of the SAPS and Social Welfare Services with regard to using information that was gathered and passed on to them by means of pre-forensic reports. The researcher believes that this research successfully showed the benefits of the preforensic evaluation process when investigating suspected cases of child sexual abuse. She also believes that if the recommendations of this study would be followed, the whole processed could be streamlined and if the suggested themes were explored, the base of knowledge regarding the pre-forensic evaluation structure would be broadened to benefit all parties involved in this process.
- Humanities