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Forensic Interviewing of Children

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  1. Forensic Interviewing of Children Susan Kreston Fulbright Professor & Research Fellow Centre for Psychology and the Law - UFS 076.543.7211 (cell) susankreston@hotmail.com

  2. FORENSIC INTERVIEW FORENSIC – Pertaining to, connected with, or used in courts of law INTERVIEW – A formal meeting in which a person or persons question, consult, or evaluate another individual FORENSIC INTERVIEW – When information obtained from the interview is to be applied or used for questions of law, especially in court proceedings

  3. Therapeutic – The Child 1. Assumes child is telling the truth 2. Interviewer is an advocate 3. Subjective reality is accepted 4. Accepting of general descriptions of abuse 5. Info can be obtained using multiple techniques: ex: “what ifs,” play-therapy, etc Forensic – The Case 1. Fact finding 2. Interviewer is neutral 3. Alternatives are explored 4. Details are imperative 5. Interviewer follows set guidelines: ex: RATAC Therapeutic vs. Forensic

  4. “Fantastic” Statements • Bizarre and Fantastic Elements: A Forensic Interviewer’s Response (Parts I, II and III), by Anne Lukas Miller • Update 2008 (available on-line) • Empowerment statements • Mastery fantasy

  5. “Fantastic” Statements • Developmental issues • Vocabulary, cognitive skills, life experiences • Distortion of reality • Drugs & alcohol • Perpetrator intentionally “bizarres up” the abuse (checking for alien devices example) • Exaggeration • Sympathy, approval, attention • Contamination • Multiple victims • Accurate description of reality

  6. RAPPORT BUILDING • Making the child comfortable • Rapport & explaining “the rules” • Don’t shift to abuse enquiry too quickly • Interview child alone • Know child’s attention span • Generally, 3-5minutes per year old • Ex: 4 yr old = 12-20 minutes • The child is NOT legally trained • This is not Judge Judy or L&O • The child is NOT going to jail

  7. Interviewer introduces self to child • Ask child what name s/he prefers to be called • Explanation of interviewer’s job • Explanation of videotaping process • Interview observation explained • The Rules

  8. The rules that apply herein this room, today – The Big 5 of Interviewing • Asking for clarification because s/he did not understand what was said • Saying that s/he does not know/remember the answer (if s/he doesn’t) • Correcting the other speaker is OK • Never guessing!!! • Asking the question twice does NOT mean the child got it “wrong” the first time • Why this is CRUCIAL!!!!!

  9. Topics for Rapport Building • Family constellation, pets, friends, etc… • Assess child’s expressive and receptive language skills • Trial consequences • Use many open-ended questions

  10. Types of Questions to Ask Children • Open-ended • Does not assume an event or experience • “Tell me about it” • Focused • Focuses on a particular topic, place, or person, but refrains from providing information • “wh”, multiple choice, and yes/no questions • “Or anything else” • Leading • Clearly indicates the answer desired • Always pair a leading question with an open-ended question

  11. R.A.T.A.C. Protocol Phases • A – Anatomy • What do you call this? • From this point forward, we use the child’s word • What if the child doesn’t to name “it” • BE AWARE – younger kids can point to a part of the body, but not necessarily give it a name • Possible use of an anatomical diagram • Some body parts come sooner (ex: face, eyes, mouth, nose, ears) • Others (ex: lips, ankles, elbows, wrists) after 6

  12. R.A.T.A.C. Protocol Phases • T – Touch Inquiry • Has anyone ever touched you in a way you didn’t like; made you feel bad/sad/mad; embarrassed? • A – Abuse Inquiry • Tell me about that • BE AWARE – bare bones statement may be all that’s given spontaneously, since younger kids think you (interviewer & all adults) know what happened

  13. R.A.T.A.C. Protocol Phases • A – Abuse Inquiry • DO NOT INTERRUPT A NARRATIVE! • Go back to questions later • Disrupts child’s statement flow • Hinders the recall process • Interferes with accuracy

  14. Quick Word on Child Development • Kids cognitively unable to expand their reasoning to incorporate the more general meaning of a word. • Younger children will often interpret a question or command in the most narrow and literal sense. • Draw the drapes when the sun comes in (Amelia Bedelia) • Why lawyers are good with kids • CONCRETE THINKERS

  15. Quick Word on Child Development • “Where do you live?” = “in an apartment” • Vs listing a specific city/town or street • this is literally where that child lives • If then asked “When you were at home, did anything bad happen? • May respond “no” to the entire question, because not at “home” • Cannot expand her understanding to include “home” as a general term for residence • Every prosecutor’s nightmare • Do you see the man who hurt you in the courtroom?

  16. Quick Word on Child Development • Will have great difficulty explaining their own thinking or feelings • Ex: Why are you sad? • Ex: Why didn’t you run? • Ex: Why didn’t you tell? • Asking “Why” before 8-10 is usually useless • Kids are “pre-logical” till then • Hypotheticals will yield “I don’t know” until @ 12 yoa • Words like If & then, would and could

  17. The Truth About Kids & Lies • Prior to @ age 7 kids cannot create elaborate fabrications. • To do this they would have to be aware of the listener’s perspective. • They still cannot understand that the listener has a different perspective than they do.

  18. Quick Word on Child Development • Kids under 10 are syncretic • Fuse separate incidents into one event • Many incidents may be described as if they are one • “What happened” • “All the men worked the back and the women worked the front”

  19. Quick Word on Child Development • Kids under 10 experience centration • Child focuses on one aspect of a situation to the exclusion of all others • May give amazing detail about something trivial (ex: what the car looked like, what was on TV, etc…), but be unable to describe in detail the abuse

  20. Quick Word on Literal Interpretation • Did you put your mouth on his penis? • NO • Did he put his penis in your mouth? • YES • IT’S NOT THE SAME QUESTION!!!

  21. Quick Word on Trauma • Know the Dynamics of Trauma • Type of abuse; • ID of abuser (closer=worse); • Duration (ex: incest in SA usually occurs for 3 years before disclosure); • Extent (penetration usually worst); • Age at which child was abused.

  22. Trauma • Know the dynamics of Trauma • First reactions of other • UKZN 2007 study • Family; community; institutions, BAIL!!! • Secrecy (makes it worse) • Personality structure of the particular child (robustness) • Elsie from Eastern Cape

  23. Choose Your Words Carefully

  24. Touch • Touch is with hands • Child may deny being touched when s/he was penetrated

  25. Particular Words • “Know” • To know someone is to be their friend • Child may deny “knowing” the perpetrator, even if he’s a friend of the family • Mom/Dad “knows” the perp

  26. “Clothes” Clothes are outer wear vs. panties, which are underwear “He took off my clothes” Later “moved my panties to the side” NOT INCONSISTENT “Clothes” Did he take off his clothes? No Did he take off his pants? Yes Clothes may be, literally, all his clothes, not only article of clothing “Underextension” – give a word only part of its adult meaning NOT INCONSISTENT Clothes

  27. More Word Choices • Naked • Children may describe someone as naked if their genitals are exposed, even if they have all their clothes on • Sex/rape • Children use these words to describe any sexual interaction, not necessarily only a penetrative act • EX: the 4 year old who comes home and says “I had sex today”

  28. More Word Choices • Be naughty/do naughty things • When used to refer to abusive acts (“Did he do naughty things to you?”), naughty may be interpreted as referring to the child’s behaviour (from the child’s perspective) • Play with • When the child is asked “did he play with you?,” while adult is referring to abuse, child is interpreting this literally, as playing games

  29. And finally… • The dread preposition • In vs. on vs. against • In may mean penetration, or it may mean between the legs • Young children may not conceptualize their inner anatomy • “You know you have holes in your body…”

  30. A Brief Word on Suggestibility • By 10, no more suggestible than adults • You must know the research to defend against these allegations • EX: what was the age of the children in the study vs. the child in this case? • And all studies deal with kids denying something happened vs. asserting something happened

  31. LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX

  32. Stimulation & Masturbation • Kids may not understand meaning or significance of what happened, but may be able to describe it • direction hand moved • May use other words • He bounced his willy

  33. Ejaculation • Children may not have knowledge of what this is • May use “over-extension” • Don’t have the word ejaculate, so use the word “wee” • Can they describe its colour or taste? • Does it matter?

  34. Erection • One of the more difficult aspects to establish in child’s account • Child may not UNDERSTAND THE QUESTION • Hard vs. soft? • Straight vs. floppy? • Long vs. circle? • Perspective is everything

  35. Condoms • May be used with abuse • “Blame” CSI • Kids may not have a word for this or understand its significance • So, over-generalize and choose another item that is similar – EX: • Another penis • Sweet wrapper • Balloons • Plastic bags

  36. R.A.T.A.C. Protocol Phases • A – Abuse Inquiry • May have to prompt (non-leading) • Tell me more about that • What did you do then? • What happened next

  37. R.A.T.A.C. Protocol Phases • C – Closure • Anything I haven’t asked about that you want to tell me or think is important • What would you do if someone tried to do/did this again • Do YOU have any questions? • Try to return to rapport building at this point

  38. Language • Exploitation/abuse has its own language • To change the child’s vocabulary could result in: • the perception that the interviewer is judging the victim • the victim may feel that what s/he is saying is “wrong”

  39. Language • Avoid use of legal terms, e.g. defendant, accused • Avoid use of technical terms, e.g. ejaculation • Avoid use of multisyllabic/big words, e.g. preceding, accompany, incident • Avoid use of words with more than one meaning e.g. play • Avoid abstract terms e.g. justice, truth • Particularly with the under 10s

  40. Do not assume that because a child uses a word, she knows what it means • “They’re sexy” • Do not assume that both of you mean the same thing • “He tickled me”

  41. Avoid the use of relationship words. Use names (Johan) instead of “your uncle”, etc. • What if child calls someone Uncle, like the bus driver and doesn’t know a name • Avoid pronouns – he, she, they, etc… • Until 10 kids have difficulty linking pronouns to reference noun • Avoid negative constructions like, “Mom wasn’t home, was she?”

  42. Avoid “some” “all” “more” “less” with under 7s • Avoid the use of quantifiers, e.g. “a couple,” “several,” “few” • “Once or more than once” • “A million times”

  43. Avoid DUR (do you remember) questions • Under 9 “remember” may mean at one time you’d forgotten • Not “Do you remember telling the police?” • Just ask “Did you tell the police?” • Avoid shifting back and forth between topics without signaling to the child • Avoid shifting back and forth in time without signaling to the child • Try to link events to something important to the child • Prior to 9 usually poor with time concepts

  44. Avoid asking for units of measurements – e.g. size, distance • Big vs. small, child uses self as the measure • Avoid asking for estimates of elapsed time • Avoid ending with a question – “He told you not to tell, didn’t he?” • Avoid negative stereotypes

  45. Think age/development when asking questions • Ask one question at a time • Allow the child time to formulate an answer before rephrasing question • Silence is not the enemy

  46. Age-Inappropriate Language Long, Complex Sentences: When you were with your Uncle in the bedroom of the blue house your Mom took you to, what did he do to you? Developmentally Sensitive Language Several Short Sentences: Where did your Mom take you that day? Who was there? What room were you in? What happened? Talking to Kids

  47. Talking To Children Age-Inappropriate Language Developmentally Sensitive Language Passive Voice: Active Voice: Were you touched by him? Did Anton touch you? Did you put your mouth Did Anton put his on his penis? penis in your mouth? Confusing Pronouns: Clear Use Of Names: What did he do with them? What did Jaco do with Marie and Stephan?

  48. Double Negative Didn’t your Mom tell you not to go there? Multi-syllable Word Identify… Complex Verbs Might it have been... Hypothetical If you need a break, then let me know. Single Negatives Did your Mom tell you not to go there? Short Words Point to… Simple Verbs Was it… Direct Are you tired? Do you need a break? Talking to Kids

  49. Example from the Field - 20088 SA Transcripts AnalyzedAverage of 219 age or developmentally inappropriate questions posed to kids at trial