Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What is a Forensic Interviewer in a CAC setting?

To start off I am going to introduce myself. I have a degree in Criminology and plan to obtain a Masters in Forensic Psychology. When I graduated college, I had no idea where my career path was going to lead me. I heard about a job with Child Protective Services and thought I would give it a shot…. Seven years later I am still serving and advocating for children and families who have been through some of the most horrific events of their lives- child abuse; including sexual, physical, emotional and even medical and physical neglect. Advocating for children and families has become a part of who I am today. I am currently a Forensic Interviewer for Harmony Home Children’s Advocacy Center.

You may be asking yourself what is a Forensic Interviewer? Basically I talk to children from ages 3-17 years old and interview them. The interviews are only scheduled through Law Enforcement (LE) and/or Child Protective Services (CPS). I interview a child on all sorts of allegations ranging from sexual abuse, physical abuse, child witness to crimes/violence and risk of sexual abuse.

Forensic Interviewers are specially trained to talk to children who have been sexually or physically abused or neglected, and who have witnessed a violent crime. Each interview is conducted using a semi- structured narrative, non-leading approach in a neutral environment where children feel at ease. The process is recorded and made accessible to investigating officials directly involved in the case, which eliminates the need for the child to repeat his or her story multiple times.

The interview break down is this. I meet with LE and or CPS prior to talking with a child. I obtain basic information regarding the child’s name, age, gender, ethnicity and the same information of everyone involved in the case if it is known. I then meet the child and show them the room where we will talk and tell them a little about the room. Once basic information is complete I turn on my recording equipment and the child and I go into the room and begin talking. The interview is observed by LE and or CPS through closed circuit TV in an observation room.

During the interview I start with a rapport session with the child where I get to know the child some and hopefully will ease any nerves the child may be experiencing by just talking about neutral topics. I will also establish some guidelines about talking in the room, established truth and lie concept, etc. At some point I will ask the child why we are here today. Sometimes the child knows and will begin talking about the ‘event’ that brought them to the Advocacy Center. Sometimes I use triggers (information provided by the child) to obtain a flowing narrative from the child about the ‘event’. Questions that I ask in the interview room are completed in what is known as a Semi-Structure Narrative process. The questions asked are primarily open-ended and non-leading questions. A good practice rule for interviews is that the child does not leave the room more knowledgeable about sex or drugs and alcohol, etc.

I hope you have a better insight to what it is I do and the reasons I do it. Through out this blog I hope to bring more light on child sexual abuse and child abuse. I hope to create more community awareness and turn this ‘taboo’ topic into a topic that people will be open and willing to talk about and help to stop the cycle of abuse. Knowledge is POWER!

I am One with Courage... Are you?

Rebecca O'Rear
Forensic Interviewer 
Harmony Home Children's Advocacy Center

1 comment:

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