UNH receives federal grant to help police whose work requires review of child sexual abuse images

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Crimes Against Children Research Center at UNH has been awarded a three-year grant from the National Institute of Justice to support the police and forensic examiners whose job it is to review child sexual abuse images as part of criminal investigations.

Because of an online surge in these images and new high-tech police techniques to intercept them, a growing number of investigators are being hired and assigned to review this criminal material in preparation for arrests and prosecutions. The continuous viewing of these images can have toxic effects on a person’s mental health and family relationships. The new research will help better understand who is impacted and what types of practices are most effective to mitigate harm and promote resilience among this workforce.

The study involves conducting interviews with police investigators and forensic examiners across the United States. It will identify best practices for workload, task shifting, education, counseling and debriefing. It will also use study findings to develop a screening instrument to help agencies assess the suitability of candidates for this kind of work.

The National Institute of Justice is the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. Kimberly Mitchell, research associate professor of psychology, will head up the research team in partnership with the National Criminal Justice Training Center, the main training and technical assistance provider for the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces.

The Crimes Against Children Research Center conducts research to help policy makers, practitioners and the public improve the response to crimes against children from sexual abuse to kidnapping to bullying.