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Coping Strategies

Computer forensics discussion. Please ensure that your post is not better suited to one of the forums below (if it is, please post it there instead!)
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Senior Member

Re: Psychological Effect of CF

Post Posted: Jul 03, 07 02:59

Excellent post Steve. I fully agree with everything you said.

I tend to find that when viewing the CP I am looking at it as a Crime Scene: Is it illegal, is it good evidence, is there anything in the image that will allow me to identify anyone etc etc. I dont actually think I look at the content of the picture if you see what I mean.

As to welfare. in our force there are only two of us do the job so we are quite easy for them to look after. We have a chat and a cuppa every 12 months or so with a counsellor to make sure we are not crazy. The other policies are we can have a weeks stress break once a year at one of the Police convalesence homes (Auchterader in Scotland is my favourite). If at any stage through the day we decide we have had enough then we can just get up and go home. All in all we are looked after well, at least in psychological effect s side of things

Senior Member

Re: Psychological Effect of CF

Post Posted: Jul 10, 07 14:04

Just as a reference, the latest version of the APCO Guidelines includes a section on this, not in any great detail, just a page worth starting on page 29 "Welfare in the Workplace" and advises such :

- APCO Guidelines
Individuals who are exposed to images of sexual abuse
on a regular basis should attend a psychological support
scheme. A minimum of one session per year should be
considered and group or individual sessions may be
appropriate or a combination of both of these.

Consider, too, a protocol for 24-hour access
to occupational health and restrict access to the
environment where these images are being viewed.

So minimum of 1 session a year, and 24 hour access to psyc support.

Senior Member

Re: Psychological Effect of CF

Post Posted: Jul 11, 07 18:12

I've been thinking about this a bit and there are two things that have come to mind ...

Has anyone had _preparatory_ psyc support because of advance knowledge that the job they were going to do that was going to be unpleasant ? If so, do you think that it was of any benefit ? And/Or those who haven't, do you think that you might have been better prepared beforehand ?

And secondly :

I assume that LE have access to good occupational health departments, how do commercials deal with this issue ? Are there specialists ? Is it a Yellow Pages matter ? And can anyone recommend a good specialist/s ?




Re: Psychological Effect of CF

Post Posted: Jul 23, 07 15:32

On the subject of preparatory support, I'm not sure how much help this would be. I think the best thing to do for someone new to this area would be to spend a few hours with an experienced child abuse investigator who can tell them what to expect and where to find it.

The psych people typically can't help very much in this regard - they are simply looking for the early signs of stress resulting from continued exposure to this material. Things like mood swings and sleeplesness for example. I find our sessions to be quite theraputic but I think on a day to day basis you're much better off having another analyst in the lab with you that you can discuss things with. The gradual and often release of stress rather than a single explosive event once a year.

Kind regards,
Your system must be restarted for these changes to take effect. 


Coping Strategies

Post Posted: Mar 07, 08 13:30

Hi all,

Just wondered what "coping strategies" people have in order to stop the stresses from dealing with kinds of depraved material often encountered in CF (e.g. CP) from spilling over into your personal lives and affecting you emotionally.

For example, for one LEA I worked for I had a uniform and I was able to compartmentalise things such that when I took the uniform off all the stressful stuff I had worked on went with it.

Thoughts anyone?


Senior Member

Re: Coping Strategies

Post Posted: Mar 07, 08 13:46

This is a really important area of CF but often brushed over. Personally, sometimes I thought it wasn't negatively affecting me then out of the blue I'd be hit by a certain movie clip or picture - it didn't necessarily have to be 'worse' or more extreme than the others which was the strange thing. Perhaps you're in the position to ask that your next job wont involve IIOC.

It happened seldomly but if it did I think you have to step back from that job and take a break. Talking to colleagues is probably the best as they are most likely to understand and give you good advice. This would certainly be preferable to keeping it inside and not discussing it.

On another point, since becoming a parent for the first time last August, I think I'd find it difficult to go back and view/grade IIOC.  

Senior Member

Re: Coping Strategies

Post Posted: Mar 07, 08 15:41


Just to throw my 2p into the cauldron.

Jonathan and I both came into CF at the same time and we worked for the same employer back then. His suggestions are all spot on but I'd like to expand on things a little (as I tend to do).

I think part of coping (with anything) is down to a number of things, need to cope, determination to cope etc. We can of course begin dealing with CP with a determination to cope with it.

One of the things I found was that almost all of the images and video clips I have seen in my first 4 or 5 years I had seen in my first 6 months. To some extent having seen the images and video clips before helps, firstly because I can just categorise them without looking too hard and secondly because I know what you are going to see.

CP cases can be some of the most technically involved. I just gave evidence in a rape case and my report and my testimony was only about 5% of the evidence in the case. With all the CP cases I have worked on that went to court, 95% of the evidence tendered was mine. That's a massive responsibility and when you factor in a possible (or many) victim(s) of hands-on abuse, by that suspect, you realise the influence you hold over people's lives, including your suspect.

Considering the technical details you need to analyse, i.e. how did it get there? did the suspect seek out this sort of material? when did it first appear on the exhibits? what actions has the suspect taken since they appeared on the exhibits? can I link exhibits together? are there other possible users of the exhibits that are responsible? etc, etc, etc ,etc etc..........you tend to focus more on the technical aspects rather than the images. I can level images very quickly, having done it so often. In the UK images and video files are categorised into levels based on their severity. Having found the images and done that, usually there is no reason to go back to them.

One of the considerations when dealing with images and videos is whether the suspect created them. Once you've seen a lot of CP you start to notice ones you haven't seen before. You flag these up to the investigating officer and this may lead to a victim being identified. A chance to save a life! perhaps literally.

Is there intelligence of use on the exhibits that might identify other offenders or other victims? On several occasions further arrests have come from one examination I did, in two occasions victims, previously unknown to us were identified and rescued. How worth it is that?

It's also nice to be told about the success stories from time to time. I recently spoke to a victim identification officer in the UK and he told me about a girl who had recently been identified in the US. The girl had appeared in quite a large number of some of the worst images and videos I've ever seen but knowing there will never be any more of her maybe gives her hope, and maybe us too.

I do think the way in which your work is organised is important too. Sanitised working conditions means setting up the office physically and socially in the right way. If at any time you see something that upsets you just stop looking at images, take a 5 minutes break and start something else if you can. Sometimes because of time constraints you will have to go back to where you left off but there will be plenty of occasions when you could do some imaging, or study the internet history or something like that for the remainder of the day.

I think if you need to cope, want to cope etc you will find a way to cope. Perhaps you need to be an optimist at least to have that attitude.

Jonathan mentions not wanting to go back to having to do CP jobs now he is a father. I wouldn't say it is harder necessarily being a parent and doing this job. I have 3 young kids and have had the entire time I've worked in this field. Perhaps it's more a case of not wanting to know how depraved some people in the world are as you raise a family to be optimists themselves. I suspect Police Officers dealing with murder, rape etc suffer from that same challenge.

It is a fair point of discussion this topic. There are a lot of people who want to get into CF it seems. CF isn't necessarily a financial gravy train by any means and it's likely that at some point in your career you are going to deal with CP work. So you want to consider this issue very carefully before you commit to a CF degree, or any other training which is designed to get you into this career.

I think CP jobs offer a real challenge to me, often technically but also as an individual. I think CP jobs also offer the greater rewards because you can literally save lives. Because most of the evidence in CP cases will be down to you as the analyst, the cases stand or fall on the quality of your work.

Forensic Computer Examiner, London, UK 

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