The Hidden Dangers of Being a Sex Crimes Detective

By Safe Call Now’s Dr. Laura Brodie Ph.D.

Working sex crimes is a necessity to protect the innocent and vulnerable. The sexual crimes of human trafficking, child pornography, prostitution and child molestation are crimes that devastate victim’s lives and destroy trust. Individuals working these crimes do so in order to attempt to stop the devastation. However, there has been little attention given to the psychological damage that can be created by performing these investigations.

The human brain was not designed to undergo the trauma of a sexual crime. Looking at images, listening to victims and interrogating perpetrators of these offenses leave marks on the psyche that are somewhat subtle at first, but can develop into psychological difficulties that are more profound. There Is a phenomena of secondary trauma that can occur where the investigator develops symptoms similar to the victim. A development of the feelings that the world is not safe creates fear, which may manifest itself in anxiety, depression, isolation or numbness as a reaction to the atrocities the officer has to endure in the course of an investigation.

We as humans are relational beings and intimacy is part of our psychological make up. When someone is exposed to the perversion of intimacy it can result in changes in their own relationships, anywhere from repulsion of intimacy itself to believing everyone is sexually disturbed and it’s just a matter of time before it occurs. The violation of something so private as feelings regarding relationships is tragic. Wanting to help others and save victims turns the helper into another victim of the perversion.

Few if any departments recognize the toll sex crimes plays on the ones doing the investigations. There is little if any down time between cases and debriefing is not a thought. The accumulation of numerous accounts of these types of crimes can result in a build–up of trauma and numbness to others develops as a self-protection mechanism. The problem with this numbing is that it is not under conscious control and not only happens on the job but carries over to personal relationships. There is rarely a discussion how the job affects the home life of law enforcers in general, let alone what sex crime work does to the private lives of the investigators.

Investigators need to protect what they have at home because that is who will be there at the end of the day.

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