As I listened to yet another taped confession the other day, I was struck by how skilled the detectives can be in creating that safe space into which the offender can finally confess. I believe in my heart that almost everyone would like to confess, in the faint hope that if they are punished, they may be forgiven. But to confess at the start is very hard. Especially if they have done something horrible. And it is not just the fear of punishment. Their shame holds them back. I think good detectives are very aware of this and work with it to extract the confession like an infected tooth.
On this particular tape, the offender had already said many times that he had not committed the crime. No way he could do that! No! He’s not like that. Then the detective gave him this speech in a gentle, inviting voice:
“I know. I understand. You’re not the kind of person who would do that. I know. But in my line of work. I see a lotta people, a lot, who aren’t bad people. They’re good people! Family fathers, working men. But things happen. They can make mistakes. They don’t mean to hurt anyone. They are surprised themselves. It’s just a good person, making a mistake. I understand. I understand how that can happen. Good people make mistakes. It happens a lot. I see it all the time. Is that how it was for you? You didn’t mean to hurt anyone. You’re a good man. Did you just make a mistake? ”
There was a space of silence. And into that space came the single word that will hopefully free a child victim from having to testify: