Modus Operandi in CSA

Categories: Crime


All crime scenes tend to tell a story. Just like in most stories, crime scenes often have a plot, characters, a beginning, middle, and hopefully an end. However, unlike how authors can lead readers to a predetermined ending, the final disposition of a crime scene will depend on the investigators, and their ability to analyze the crime scene to determine the who, what, how, and why. For investigators to ensure a satisfactory ending, the apprehension and prosecution of the violent offender, they must realize that the outcome will depend on the ability of their insight into the dynamics of human behavior of a perpetrators modus operandi (MO).

Child sexual abuse is a significant public health and social justice concern affecting the lives of millions of individuals in the United States (Zimmerman & Mercy, 2010). Child sexual abuse has crossed many different boundaries that have led to impaired neurological, physiological, and psychosocial functioning. Due to the numerous negative effects of child sexual abuse, it is imperative that the way in which those who commit these serious crimes operate is studied to best prepare the prevention efforts.

Defining Child Abuse

Child sexual abuse is defined as the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared and cannot give consent, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society. Child sexual abuse is evidenced by this activity between a child and an adult or another child who by age or development is in a relationship of responsibility, trust or power, the activity is intended to gratify or satisfy the needs of the other person.

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Majority of child sexual abuse crimes are often committed by someone the victim knows.

With the difference in age, the victims are often in a vulnerable stage and under the authority of the offender; this type of situation would help influence the interaction that could take place. Sexual abuse towards a child is not always in the form of physical abuse, Some forms of abuse are: Exposure, fondling, intercourse, masturbation in presence of minor or forcing minor to masturbate, obscene phone calls and or text messages, sex of any kind with a minor, sex trafficking, and any other sexual conduct that is harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare.

The Scope of the Issue

Majority of our known knowledge on CSA has been gathered from a collection of studies. These studies have used data coming from two defined sources: agency tabulations and self-report surveys (Finkelhor, D., Turner, H., Hamby, S., & Ormrod, R. (2011)). In 2015, data provided by the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) indicated that the state and local Child Protective Services (CPS) agencies had investigated just under 58,000 children for CSA. However, findings from a fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect indicated that the CPS may only investigate about one-third of the actual number of child sexual abuse cases.

The National Survey of Children’s exposure to Violence has reported that approximately 28 percent of 14 to 17-year old’s report lifetime sexual violence victimization (Finkelhor, D., Turner, H., Shattuck, A., & Hamby, S.L. (2013)). When trying to gather a close estimate of the scope of child sexual abuse it can be quite difficult for several different reasons. A few different reasons are a range of different definitions of CSA in addition to variations in respondents and sources of information, sample selection, screening approaches, and survey methods. One of the most visible challenges is that CSA is complex and operational definitions of each word in term have various clinical, legal, and research contexts.

Agency tabulations can typically fall into two different categories. First one being, crimes reported to the police. The second category being, abuse reported to the CPS agencies. According to the statistics analyzed from the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), indicates that a widely used source of crime statistics shows the significance of child violence victimization. However, this system is only limited to a precise definition of victimization. Upon reports given to CPS agencies they are typically based on more of an inclusive definition of CSA, than are crimes categized by the police. In reports to CPS agencies, the definition of CSA includes the completion and attempt of the act, also adding contact and non-contact offenses.

Impact on victim

o (). People tend to often experience serious injuries that can have a major long-term effect on their lives. Mental health issues such as depression are an extremely important risk factor for suicide, defined as thoughts, consideration of, or actual plans for suicide. When reading about the impact that CSA can have on children makes me very upset. When talking about the effects or consequences of a victim they can be classified under two categories. Those two categories are short-term and long-term consequences, these consequences can be both psychological and physical. Victims of these heinous acts can be physically harmed due to the aggressiveness of their perpetrator.

When it comes to psychological effects it can leave victims with feelings of low self-esteem or self-worth, shame guilt, anger, and grief are very common. Majority of children that have suffered from this abuse tend to feel that it’s all their fault that the situation had happened, making it essential for law enforcement, medical professionals, family and friends to ensure the victim that it was not their fault. A few other short-term consequences for children who are victims from this type of abuse are, victims may be dependent upon their perpetrator. Victims may also experience trouble with future relationships, especially if the perpetrator was someone that the victim trusted.

Next up is the long-term consequences of CSA. These types of consequences tend to follow the victims well into their adulthood, taking away their entire childhood. CSA victims can struggle with authority and have poor academic performance, victims may also tend to have a difficult time developing relationship, they are also tending to have intimacy issues within a few relationships that they may have. A victim of CSA may also experience some emotional consequences including but not limited to, helplessness, confusion, fear, and difficulty with emotion regulation.

After going through a trauma such as CSA victims often try to do anything, they possibly can to help them avoid any reminders of their abuse. Which leads a lot of victims down the road of being drugs and or alcohol dependent. A major consequence that can stem from CSA are mental disorders, types of mental issues that can be caused by CSA are: depression, bipolar, sleep disorders, PTSD, panic disorder, alcohol and drug dependence, and psychiatric disorders. Children who have experienced such a heinous crime are five times more likely to be diagnosed with a personality disorder. Female victims are usually more likely to disclose their sexually abusive experiences and more likely to seek treatment than male victims.

Modus Operandi in Child Sexual Abuse

Over the last couple of decades, there has been an increase in public interest of criminal investigations. Largely due to the growing quality of police dramas seen on tv and therefore the channels such as CSI, which focuses on violent crime investigations. Which in result is causing people now a day’s to be much more aware than ever on the processes concerned in an investigation. Unfortunately, with more people concerned and away of the processes involved in a crime there have been many misconceptions have arisen out of the need to exaggerate television. Leaving terms such as modus operandi thrown around inaccurately, which in return is leaving the general public, and often law enforcement with the wrong impression of what these terms mean in respect to a criminal investigation. Modus operandi (MO), Latin for “method of operation,” is the way a criminal commits a crime.

In 1989 the first Modus Operandi Questionnaire (MOQ) was created by Keith Kaufman. The questionnaire was designed to be a way to measure specific behaviors related to child sexual abuse (Kaufman, K. L. 1989). The MOQ consists of over two hundred items and is divided into two different sections. The first initial section is the demographic information and contains items that were related to the participants victimization history. Next up is the larger section of the two, and it is more concerned with the offenders modus operandi. Often Kaufman would use the MOQ method to assess the behavior of the offender according to these six dimensions: targeting and selection of child; methods obtaining the victims trust; details of the sexual abuse; use of bribes and enticements; use of threats and coercion, and methods of keeping the victim from disclosing the abuse (Kaufman, K. L. 1989). According the Kaufman while the participants filled out the questionnaire, they would rate each item on a seven-point scale ranging from zero (never) to six (always) according to the frequency in which they engaged in the specific behavior (Kaufman, K. L. 1989). With that being said, the MOQ has demonstrated that it can provide a huge amount of unique information than a regular face to face interview, whether it was the incarcerated or the community-based sexual offenders.

For extrafamilial offenders, defined as someone who is outside of the family. The most common locations for extrafamilial offender to find children with whom they had a sexual contact with was at a friend’s house (36.5%), also through some form of organized activities (18.9%). For extrafamilial offenders, the most common means were watching television with the child (32.2%), letting the child sleep in the same bed (30.5%) and going for car rides with the child (30.5%). The most common strategies that were used by extrafamilial offenders was directed to the parents and or caretaker of the victim (44.4%), and spending time with child while their parents and or caretaker was around (44.4%). With extrafamilial offenders the most common ways they had built trust with the victim was spending a large amount of time with them (55.9%), touching them in a non-sexual way (64.4%), showing the victim a lot of attention (59.3%), and doing things that the victim enjoyed doing (55.9%).

When it comes to mixed-type offenders the most common locations for these offenders to commit CSA is also at a friend’s house (47.8%), from the neighborhood (30.4%), and while babysitting (30.4%). For mixed-type offenders, the most common means were watching television with the child (73.3%), sneaking into the child’s bedroom at night (63.3%) and letting the child sleep in his bed (60.0%). When it comes to mixed-type offenders the most common locations for these offenders to commit CSA is also at a friend’s house (47.8%), from the neighborhood (30.4%), and while babysitting (30.4%). When it comes to mixed-type offenders and their most common strategies are, spending time with child while parent and or caretaker was around (50%), becoming friends with the parent and or caretaker of the victim (45.8%), and or just helping the victim’s parents around the house (45.8%). For mixed-type offenders to build trust with the victim they often spent time playing with them (83.3%), or just spending a lot of time with them in general (82.8%), and by giving them attention (79.3%).

Next up is intrafamilial offenders, defined as occurring within a family. With these offenders the most common strategy they use to organize alone time with the victim were; being home alone with the victim with the knowledge of said wife or girlfriend (57.7%) and watching TV with the victim (36.6%). The most common ways for these offenders to develop the trust of the victim before sexual contact were spending a great amount of time with them (70.9%), touching the victim non-sexually (67.1%), and by giving the victim great amount of attention (64.6%).

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Modus Operandi in CSA. (2021, Apr 09). Retrieved from

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