A neutral, child-friendly method to learn what may have occurred
Forensic interviews are provided in a safe, child-friendly environment by specially trained professionals. A forensic interview is a neutral, fact-finding interview utilized when there is a concern for abuse. A forensic interview provides a comfortable, unbiased, child-friendly setting and uses non-suggestive, non-leading interview techniques. This allows a child to tell their story in a safe, child friendly facility by someone who is trained in developmentally appropriate questioning, as well as forensics, so the interview will be admissible in court. Through coordination of services with our community partner agencies, we are able to minimize the number of interviews a child receives and optimize the child’s comfort level. All investigative parties participate in the interview via closed circuit television so that the child only has to tell their story of abuse one time.
Tell your child that they will be meeting with someone who talks to children about very difficult things and even though they’ve told things to you (or to someone else), it’s important that they speak to the interviewer as well.
Give your child enough notice so that they do not feel it is a surprise to them, but also do not give them too long a time period to worry about what they may have to do. Usually, a day or two is enough time for them to feel comfortable with this appointment.
Tell them that you honestly do not know exactly what will be asked, but all they have to do is be honest. Reassure your child that the person they are talking to is very friendly, and wants them to feel comfortable. If at any point your child wants to stop the interview, they just have to say so. It is important to give your child permission to talk about what they have disclosed. Do not tell your child what to say.
Tell your child that you might not know what questions to ask and how to ask them. And also tell them that because you love them so much, sometimes parents ask the kinds of questions that are about feelings instead of about the facts, which is why this special interviewer needs to do the asking. Assure them that they are not in any trouble and remind them how brave they are for letting someone know that someone else has done something wrong.
Be honest with your child; let them know that they will be in the interview room only with the interviewer who works with children and teens. You can let your child know that while they are talking, you are going to be meeting with someone who works at The Children’s Advocacy Center to get information on helping to keep them safe.
Tell your child that you understand their feelings of frustration, especially since it is a difficult thing to talk about. But also tell them how brave they were for telling in the first place and how proud you are of their honesty and bravery. Remind them since they were so brave, they are going to be helping keep other children safe by telling the adults who are in charge of keeping all children safe.
How to Help Your Child
Abuse can be overwhelming to children. Most children are taught to trust adults. An overwhelming majority of abuse occurs by someone known and trusted by the child and family. They tend to believe what adults tell them is true rather than rely on their own feelings.
If the offender tells them that what is being done is okay, they may doubt their own feelings that it is not. If the non-offending caregiver’s initial reaction when they hear the child’s abuse report is “This can’t be true,” the child may wonder if his or her own feelings are mistaken. Children rarely lie about being abused. More often they fear that telling will make people angry with them. It is extremely difficult for children to report abuse.
It is important to provide your child with safety, love and support. Let him or her know it is okay to cry or be angry. It is important for your child to know that the abuse was not their fault. Some children are concerned about how the disclosure will affect their family and loved ones, so it is important to be supportive.
Disclosure can be overwhelming and scary for children, so it is best not to ask a lot of questions. Let your child know that if they need to talk, that you will be there to listen and answer any of their questions.
The chances of recovery for your child are much greater if you do all you can to support them. If you feel torn between loyalty to your child and loyalty to the offender, find a professional to help you sort out those feelings.
Adapted from: When Your Child Has Been Molested by Kathryn B. Hagan
What to Say and Do
Wondering how to talk to your child about the interview, here are some recommendations:
|Tell the child about their appointment. A caregiver may say, “People who talk to a lot of children will be visiting with you about …”||Discuss the investigation in the child’s presence.|
|Tell the child to speak the truth.||Tell children they are coming to play.|
|Avoid asking questions about the abuse allegations.||Lie to the child in any way about the allegations or scare them.|
|Reassure the child that you will be there to help no matter what happens and that they are not in trouble.||Offer the child a bribe for telling about what happened.|