A forensic assessment model for the sexually abused child in the South African context
Currently no guidelines exist for South African professionals that work with sexually abused children. Professionals in this field are in desperate need of such guidelines. Section A refers to the problem statement, research objectives, research procedures and research methodology. The keywords as well as the limitations of the research are investigated. The research was conducted in two phases. In phase one the researcher compared international forensic assessment models and protocols and compared it with what is relevant in South Africa and in phase two the development, implementation, and evaluation of the forensic assessment model took place. The problem statement in section A is based on the following: Currently no guidelines exist for professionals in South Africa that work with children that have been sexually abused. There is a misconception, even among social workers, that all social workers are equipped to work with sexually abused children. Often the child and the offender are the only witnesses to the crime and therefore it is crucial that the investigation must be conducted effectively. If untrained professionals conduct such an investigation it can lead to a child that is at risk of being sexually abused not being protected because it seems that no abuse had taken place, or it can lead to an innocent person being wrongfully accused of sexual abuse. It is important for professionals to use scientific and legally defensible models and protocols when conducting forensic investigation. As previously mentioned, no such guidelines exist for South Africa. At this stage, any professional can conduct such an investigation. This problem statement resulted in the following research goal, namely to develop and evaluate a forensic assessment model for the assessment of the sexually abused child in South Africa. It further resulted in the four research objectives indicated below: * To investigate by means of a literature study the specialised knowledge a forensic investigator must possess before interviewing a sexually abused child (Article 1). * To identify by means of a literature study as well as an empirical investigation, international forensic models and protocols and to evaluate their use in the South African context (Article 2). * To identify by means of a literature study as well as the information gathered from experts in the field of forensic investigations during the previous phase, the content of a South African forensic assessment model for children in middle childhood (Article 3). * To evaluate the developed forensic assessment model by means of an empirical study with professional role players in cases of child sexual abuse (Article 4). The Design and Development model (D & D) was implemented. The model comprises six phases, which all have been used during this study. Qualitative as well as quantitative data were utilized. The literature studies focused on important child developmental aspects forensic investigators should be knowledgeable about before they can conduct forensic investigations as well as the process that needs to be followed during forensic investigations. Section B consists of the four articles in which the research goals and research outcomes are reported. Each article is dealt with as a self-contained unit focusing on specific research objectives achieved via specific research methods. These methods were employed to collect the necessary data for designing and evaluating the forensic assessment model. Article 1 - The objective of this article was to identify and discuss, by means of a literature study, the most important developmental aspects that have an influence on the investigation of child sexual abuse of children in middle childhood. An investigation into the existing literature on important developmental aspects of children in middle childhood was carried out, which could possibly influence the outcome of a forensic investigation. The results of this research indicated cognitive, sexual and language development as being important developmental aspects that forensic investigators must be knowledgeable about, as this can influence the outcome of a forensic investigation. Interviewing protocols were also reviewed. Article 2 - There are mainly four scientific forensic models that form the basis of a forensic investigation. A second important aspect is the forensic interviewing protocol forensic investigators employ during their investigations. It was important to establish what model and protocol would be the most suitable in the South African context, since currently, no such model or protocol exists for the South African context. The objective of this article was to compare and evaluate by means of a literature study as well as an empirical investigation, effective international forensic models and protocols and to evaluate it in the South African context. In this article the researcher presented, analysed and interpreted research findings based on responses provided by 18 (N=18) experts from the country in the field of forensic investigations into child sexual abuse. The research questions focused on how they conduct forensic investigations as well as what models and protocols they employ during their forensic investigations. The purpose was to determine what protocols and models will be suitable for the South African context. In this research, Exponential Non-Discriminative Snowball Sampling was applied in order to identify participants. The results of this research indicated that the comprehensive assessment model, as well as the NICHD forensic protocol, will be the best to employ in the South African context. Article 3 - The research goal of this article was to develop a forensic assessment model for the South African context. This assessment model consists of different phases and will guide forensic investigators from the moment they receive a referral, until the cases is closed. The model was developed from the results obtained during the previous article, as well as in-depth literature study. Article 4 - The purpose of this article was to evaluate the developed forensic assessment model. This was done by a panel of respondents that consisted of four (N=4) state prosecutors, seven (N=7) forensic experts, as well as 12 (N=12) postgraduate students doing their Master‟s degree in Forensic Practice. This was done by means of semi-structured interviews, as well as self-structured questionnaires. The state prosecutors were selected by means of the Exponential Non-Discriminative Snowball Sampling method and the forensic experts were selected by means of judgemental sampling. The total population of the postgraduate students was involved and therefore no sampling method was employed. The results of this research indicated that this developed forensic assessment model is effective for investigating cases of child sexual abuse. It correlates with the expectations of state prosecutors, it is in line with what literature recommends and how experts in the field are currently conducting forensic investigations and it equipped post-graduate students with the necessary skills, knowledge and expertise in order to conduct forensic investigations. In Section C is a summary of the findings and conclusions of the research report are drawn and some recommendations are made. Section D consists of various addenda such as questionnaires that were used. Section E contained an integrated bibliography.
- Humanities