The Truth About Interviewing Victims of Child Abuse (Part 2)

Victims of child abuse must be handled very carefully and protocols must be followed!


Welcome back. In the first article of this series, we talked a little about what exactly a forensic interviewer is, and what they do. Yet in looking at this particular subject, there are many questions about how effective their techniques are. We also wondered what some of the problems might be when interviewing a potentially traumatized child.  To answer these questions, we’re going to look at how information and data can be jeopardized during the interrogation process.


The setting is very important!

According to a study published by the Institute for Psychological Therapies, one of the problems is often the setting. For example, a police station is entirely the wrong place to interview a potentially traumatized child. An interview being conducted by an officer in uniform, who’s wearing a badge, gun and handcuffs on their belt, is too intimidating! It can send the wrong message to a child. The preferred method is to do the interview in a neutral location with a neutral person that is not in a uniform.


Recording with visible cameras can be an issue.

Another issue that comes up regularly is the issue of recording the session. Many officers place a video camera in the interview room and then feel the need to explain its presence to the child. They often say to the child “we are making a movie” in an effort to make the child more comfortable.


However, this can complicate a situation by adding a “make believe” element to the proceedings After all, movies are stories made by people who are acting, and most children know this. This could lead a child to believe that they are in some way required to act or to pretend. It may result in unintentionally falsified information.


Thankfully, Michigan law enforcement is getting better about addressing these two issues. Most child interviews are now conducted by a CASA worker, a social worker from CPS, or some other adult who is not in uniform. (This can, however, present it’s own set of problems if the person involved is not properly trained to interview the child in question, but more about that later…)


Also, more and more interviews are now taking place in more informal and child-friendly settings, which helps to make the session less intimidating. Plus, with advancements in technology available to most precincts, it is now less common to find a video camera in the room with the child during the interview.


Michigan law doesn’t require that interviews be recorded.

This is unfortunate, as it would increase the safety of the child and also prove that the information was obtained legally using proper protocols. However, if recordings are going to be made, they should be done using hidden cameras. This also helps to remove one more potential distraction from the room.


In the next section we’re going to discuss the issue of confirmatory bias (which means looking for evidence to support what you already believe) and leading questions. These are other pair of problems plaguing the forensic interviewer today.


Until then, if you or a loved one have been accused of abusing or neglecting a child, or CPS has shown up at your house, call The Kronzek Firm immediately at 866 766 5245. Our highly skilled CPS defense attorneys have decades of experience helping parents in Michigan fight for their parenting rights. We can help you too! But don’t wait – this must be handled quickly! The longer you wait, the harder it is to construct a strong defense.


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