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Minimal Facts Interview
Transcript of Minimal Facts Interview
First Responder Contact in a Child Abuse Investigation
Your primary responsibility when responding to an initial call of rape or sexual abuse is to clarify the allegations.
In some cases, children disclose accidentally or intentionally to one or more adults, or someone may have witnessed sexual abuse activity. Your job upon arriving at the scene is to:
Identify the informants
Separate the informants
Interview each informant privately
Interview one informant or witness at a time
Pick a place where you will not be overheard by other witnesses and victims
*Child Victims should not be present while you are obtaining information from the adults.
Adult Informants Can Tell You:
If the child is physically injured
If the child is a danger to himself or others
About the victim's emotional state
If the alleged abuse occurred one time or more than once
If the alleged abuse occurred more or less than 72 hours ago
*Note the mental and physical status of the child victim.
All initial interviews should be short and minimal and obtain essential information:
What are the allegations?
What are the names and ages of the victims?
Who is the alleged perpetrator?
Where is the alleged actor? Will the actor have access to the child during the investigation?
Where did the alleged events occur?
Oftentimes, events happen in someone else's home (grandparents or other relatives who love in different jurisdictions)
It is important to know this at the beginning, because you may be handing over this initial information to other investigators
Remember . . .
Children frequently do not disclose sexual abuse until months, or even years after it occurred
Children disclose when they feel safe and out of the vicinity of the perpetrator
Example: If the perpetrator is mom's boyfriend, the child might not disclose until mom and boyfriend break up.
After clarifying the allegations, assess for medical needs.
Assessing the Need for Emergency Medical Attention
Determine whether the child needs taken to an emergency room for medical evaluation and/or for an emergency forensic interview.
Why Emergency Services?
The child has disclosed sexual abuse that occurred less than 72 hours ago
The child has noticeable injuries such as bruises and burns
The child disclosed sexual abuse that took place more than 72 hours ago, but the child is complaining of physical symptoms such as genital bleeding or burning on urination
The child might need an emergency forensic interview if the child disclosed that the child or other children are at risk for abuse without immediate intervention
Where to get Emergency Services?
Seek out a hospital with an interdisciplinary team trained in evaluating allegations or child abuse, or
Use a local emergency room or community clinic to provide emergency medical treatment, then schedule a follow-up evaluation with a specially trained forensic interviewer
Interviewing the Child
It is important to separate the child victim from all adults; however, not all children will separate from their parents, especially in a traumatic situation
Some children might be fearful of police or be afraid that they are in trouble and will refuse to talk to you
Some children have been threatened by the perpetrator that the child might go to jail, or that someone they love will be hurt if they tell
Remember . . .
On all calls, make sure you personally see the child and say hello
On all calls where there is a clear allegation of abuse, perform a 5-10 minute interview of the child
Separate the child from all family members and other children, and interview the child in a safe place
If two or more children are victims, interview each child separately
Child Minimal Facts Interviews
Get at an eye level position with the child and introduce yourself
Put the child at ease and get the child talking
Ask the child his/her name and where (s)he lives
Ask his/her grade in school
Show interest in something about the child such as a toy, what they do for fun, holiday, etc.
Ask the child if (s)he knows why you came to the house
Ask the child if (s)he has any problems in which they need help
Do not ask further questions
Carefully document what the child has told you
Thank the child for talking with you, and tell him/her that you will arrange for him/her to talk with someone later
Does Not Disclose
Thank the child for talking with you and conclude the interview
Do not feel pressured to obtain a disclosure from the child
Avoid forcing, pressuring, or cajoling the child in to telling you what might have happened
Do not bribe the child or promise him/her anything
Do not ask leading questions
If the child . . .
Emergency Respondents Should Not Interview Child in Detail
A responder can inadvertently contaminate a child's disclosure
Research has shown that children may incorporate suggestions made in early interviews into later interviews
There is a huge status differential between a child and a police officer
The child may agree with anything you say, even if it is false, because you are the authority
Whether or not a child has disclosed to you . . .
Or if there is a clear allegation of abuse but no need for emergency intervention . . .
arrange for a scheduled evaluation at a child advocacy center.
What Not to Do
ask the child to make a written statement
polygraph the child or threaten to do so
offer the child a reward for disclosing to you
"I'll take you for ice cream if you tell me what happened."
ask the child to pretend or imagine what might have happened
touch or hold the child in any way
take the child on your lap-- even to comfort a distressed youngster
promise the child something over which you have no control
Techniques to Avoid
occurs when the interviewer introduces new information about topic of concern
"Did he touch your bottom?"
"All the kids in your class told me. How come you can't?"
Eliciting obedience to authority
"I think some bad things happened to you. Now why don't you just tell me about them."
Describe the alleged perpetrator in negative terms
"Mr. Jones is already in jail for doing bad stuff to other kids. If you just tell me what he did to you, he'll stay in jail longer."
Removal from direct experience
Do not ask a child to pretend or imagine what might have happened
offering the child a tangible, promised or implied reward or punishment in order to shape behavior
Do not offer stickers, food, etc.
Do not praise a child for telling
Do not criticize the child's statements and suggest they are false, inaccurate or not good enough
Do not call the child a liar
Do not limit the child's mobility
Do not berate, harass, or interrogate the child
This presentation was brought to you by . . .
Sue Ascione, CAC Executive Director
Jan Wilson, CAC Forensic Interviewer