Forensic Interviews

 

Describing abuse you’ve experienced is a challenge for anyone, but it can be especially difficult and traumatizing for a child. Additionally, if the process isn’t conducted properly, the evidence collected from the child may not be substantial enough for conviction of the abuser or it may be deemed inadmissible because of mistakes made during the processes. That is why trained forensic interviewers are normally utilized when dealing with children under the age of seven or ones with developmental delays. The process is designed to both reduce the trauma to the child, and increase the likelihood of conviction at trial.

All the referrals for forensic interviews come solely from the police departments. The forensic interviewers receive a copy of the reports for each case they will be conducting an interview for, and then they meet with the parents or guardians as well as the detective assigned to the case to complete a comprehensive description of the child/family background. This includes social history, information regarding the incident in question, custody issues, behavioral or developmental concerns of child, domestic violence/drug use the child may have witnessed etc.

After becoming more familiarized with the case the interviewer meets with the child in an interview room. This room is equipped with a camera and microphone for monitoring and recording purposes. The detective and possibly the case worker or any other staff or professionals involved with the case can watch in a monitoring room across the hall. This reduces the amount of times the child has to retell the story and creates a controlled and nonthreatening environment.

During the interview various techniques are used to obtain valid information from the child without coercing or leading specific responses. These interviews can be used as evidence for the prosecution, therefore following interview protocol is important so that information disclosed in the interview is not discounted in court. Forensic interviewers use techniques such as, open-ended questions and definitional clarifications. The wording used when asking questions is important - "Tell me about what he was wearing" rather than asking "What was he wearing."

There are three phases of the interview. The first is rapport building. Next is inquiring about the topic of concern. Lastly the interviewer closes with the child by redirecting the conversation to a lighter topic such as what the child will do when he or she leaves Childhelp.

The child normally returns to the playroom while the interviewer meets again with the detective, parents or guardians. They discuss things that may have come up during the interview and whether or not a medical exam is needed. If they feel a medical exam is needed they will then discuss it with one of the pediatricians on site and most likely schedule the exam for the same day.

After all this is complete the interviewer will then re-watch the interview and write a report regarding what was said.

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