"I categorically deny these charges and intend to vigorously defend
myself against these allegations. I am confident that I will be
completely exonerated when these allegations are addressed in a
Although this sounds 'strong' to the ear, it is a carefully constructed statement to avoid saying the most simple of things that an innocent will say...
"I didn't do it."
When investigating an allegation of sexual misconduct, from sexual assault to harassment, including abuse of children, the subject will readily guide the investigator, with no need for prompting.
Sexual abuse is common in our society, which researchers say is not simply due to more reporting, but a 'hyper-sexualized' society in which children have access to pornography in an unprecedented manner. Acting out, therefore, on what may be an influence during developmental years, has left police officers, social workers, human resource investigators, and others investigating claims involving the element of sexual activity more than ever.
Preparation is not a luxury.
The psychology behind the words is of no surprise to school teachers.
Children who are victims of sexual abuse sometimes find an association with water: one may suddenly wash his hands 6 times per day, while another, usually clean, will not allow anyone to bathe her.
"Water" enters the language just as it enters the mind and life.
"Lights" are often indicative of sexual energy; an energy in life closely associated with sex. I do not recall any samples where "lights" were related to energy outside of sex.
"Doors" also make sense as those molested in childhood sometimes use "doors" unnecessarily as they remember the opening of their bedroom door leading to sexual abuse.
"I opened the door, turned on the light, and there she was."
It is of no surprise that a recent interview would not include the indictment of "death by child abuse" handed down by the Grand Jury to John and Patsy Ramsey.
Here are some red flags:
1. "I am a normal person."
If this statement is heard while the subject is freely speaking, and you, the interviewer, has not used the word "normal", it is a red flag that says: The subject has considered himself not normal, or the subject has been told by someone else that he is not normal. It is very closely associated with guilt. It should not be considered exact, but should raise suspicion.
"I am a normal man" is not a necessary response to an allegation, for example, of child molestation. For one to say this, they are offering a reason why they 'would not' molest a child.
Those who did not molest the child say so, without equivocation.
"I did not touch her!" is not something that the interviewer will need to wait to hear if the allegation is clearly known.
2. "I am a happily married man",
This is stated as if being in a happy marriage precludes someone from sexual assault of another. This, too, is to avoid issuing a denial, and attempt to build a reason why he should not have committed the act. This, too, is closely related to guilt and sans a reliable denial, is of concern. If someone has given a reliable denial and still uses this, they are signaling internal thought: perhaps they might do something like this if they were unhappy in marriage. This is often not a consideration for those who did not do it.
3. "She's always saying this stuff."
Degrading the Victim
In many sexual abuse cases, the victim will be blamed by the perpetrator, including subtle, small ways. It is not just the perverted, "look how she walks!" while pointing to a child. It is generally much less bold.
"She's, you know, going through puberty" which is to avoid saying, "I didn't touch her; she is lying" instead an attempt to attack the credibility of the victim without a denial.
"She's done this before you know. "
"She has done what?"
"She's said that everybody has touched her. You can ask anyone. She's, you know, like that. She likes to see people get in trouble."
"She's not, you know, the most moral girl..." and so on.
This, when void of a Reliable Denial, is another indicator of guilt that piles up over the course of the interview. Yes, there are some who will, for whatever reason, make false claims and those with mental health issues may make serial false claims but although this is part of the overall investigation, it must follow the Reliable Denial and not supplant it.
The Reliable Denial stands on its own strength, with a "wall of protection" that shows a confidence: The investigation will never show guilt; it is impossible; I did not do it. This is sometimes not only a sense of strength, but a fearlessness.
Question: Should this fearlessness move into an actual challenge?
Innocent people are still nervous because they may not trust the intellect of the investigator, or in worst case scenarios, may not trust the integrity of the investigation.
The verbal challenge is something that Marion Jones issued which made some journalists react as if they were highly impressed with her. I prefer quiet confidence, with one suspicious eye upon me, not knowing if I am smart enough to discern. Some challenge? Perhaps, but once the challenge to look deeper is issued, like the word "no", I will begin to count how many words are added to the challenge and this will cause me to pause to wonder, 'how deep is the need to persuade me?'
Over the years, I have experienced the following many times:
Analysis of a statement indicates guilty knowledge.
The investigator conducts a lengthy interview and concludes, "He didn't do it!"
I ask, "Did he issue a reliable denial?"
The answer is generally: "Yes, over and over!"
I then obtain the recording for transcription and carefully review them with the investigator who is then able to see for himself or herself:
Not once did the subject every issue the reliable denial and the strategy is set for the follow up interview, specifically employing the subject's own language, at the point of deception or lack of Reliable Denial, for the purpose of obtaining the admission.
In sexual assault cases, admission is far more likely than confession and it is all we need for prosecution. We do not need for them to say that they did it, and that it is morally wrong; most do not go into the morality, but acknowledge sexual contact itself.
As we go through rather lengthy transcripts, we note:
1. There is no Reliable Denial Issued. There are plenty of unreliable denials, but the length of the interview afforded the person many opportunities to deny the allegation.
2. There are phrases that are commonly found in sexual assault or abuse cases, including "water", "doors" and "lights."
3. There is within the interview a subtle insult, or subtle shifting of responsibility away from the perpetrator, towards the victim.
There is a need within the guilty mind to portray the victim in some form of negative portrait.
4. There is a justification for the 'denial', such as "normal male" or "happy in my marriage", while avoiding the denial.
The list of "unreliable denials" is lengthy, and if the interaction is short, "I would never" is not reliable, but we cannot conclude deception on it, by itself
If the interview is lengthy and the allegation clear, with ample opportunity to issue the reliable denial, not only do we have someone unwilling or incapable of saying "I did not do it", but we then are able to look at other portions of speech which affirm to us the reason why the accused was incapable of simply telling us he did not do it: