Listed below are several questions that we get asked. If you have questions not answered here, please contact us for further assistance.

Forensic is a term that refers to the art and science of evidence collection and rhetoric in an investigative process, typically legal and/or judicial in nature. Forensic evidence can be physical (like a piece of hair or fingerprint), or intellectual (remembering what an attacker said or did during a crime). The Treehouse CAC conducts forensic processes in a way that best puts a child at ease given the circumstances. This results in forensic collection that is child-centered and ideally less stressful.
A forensic interview is a child-centered, age appropriate fact-finding conversation between an alleged child victim and the Forensic Interviewer. This conversation is designed to meet the investigative needs of law enforcement and child protective agencies while simultaneously minimizing secondary trauma (repeat or added stress to the child after an abusive event). The forensic interview is digitally recorded so that a child is not required to over-repeat the details shared within the interview. The recorded interview may later be used as evidence in a criminal investigation and/or trial, and is only seen by those directly involved in protecting the child’s safety. The Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) of law enforcement agencies, child protective agencies, and child advocacy agencies work together on behalf of the child. The child’s best interest is prioritized alongside retrieving accurate information about the allegation. During the forensic interview, information the FI may seek can include:
  • Assessing the safety of the child’s home and routine environment(s)
  • Discovering whether or not an abusive event of any kind has occurred
  • Obtaining information that may be useful in a criminal investigation
  • Revealing corroborative data or refuting information about an alleged event
  • Determining the need for medical examination, counseling, or follow-up care
Forensic interviewing may also be utilized when allegations of abuse or sexual assault occur with a developmentally delayed/impaired adult, or an adult who has other special needs meriting this approach to fact-finding.
A Forensic Interviewer (FI) is a trained, credentialed professional who has a comprehensive understanding of child abuse and how to appropriately speak with alleged child victims and witnesses in a specialized way that can reduce secondary trauma. The FI is highly skilled at gathering critical facts about a child’s experience, whether an abusive event has occurred or not. The FI utilizes extensive knowledge in:
  • Child development and age-based norms and milestones
  • Sexual, physical, and emotional/psychological forms of child abuse
  • Objective fact-finding (versus leading or coloring a child’s perspective)
  • Secondary trauma reduction techniques in interviewing children
  • Behavioral, emotional, and non-verbal signs of abuse in children
A forensic medical examination is a highly specialized procedure performed by a medical professional trained in evidence collection, documentation, and preservation within a child-centered context. Any signs of injury are photographed and the patient may be referred for treatment. The forensic medical exam (sometimes called a sexual assault exam) may be conducted:
  • To address the safety, health, and/or well-being of a child
  • To diagnose, document, and address any medical needs resulting from abuse
  • To differentiate medical findings resulting from abuse vs. other preexisting medical issues and/or accidental injuries
  • To test for the presence of sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s)
  • To gather and document abuse-related evidence for law enforcement and/or child protective agencies

No. Only professionals directly involved with your child’s case will view the forensic interview, and/or judicial personnel should a trial take place later. This maintains a truly child-safe element of privacy in the interviewing room, often resulting in less stress or strain on the child. Additionally, parental/guardian presence can sometimes influence the way a child does or does not disclose about an event. Having the child interview conducted privately with the FI is standard, research-based protocol. Besides the CAC staff, only law enforcement and child protection professionals may view the interview on DVD later or live in progress via our observation room. The Treehouse CAC’s forensic interviews are always recorded to reduce the number of times your child may be asked to talk about what happened. The digitally recorded interview is considered evidence in a potential criminal case. The DVD evidence is tightly protected by law, and strict chain-of-custody policies prevent recorded interviews from being shared with anyone not professionally involved in the case.

If your child comes to The Treehouse, it can be helpful to give them a sense of what to expect. A balance of child-friendly information can reduce potential nerves and anxieties. We recommend something informative and simple, like:

If your child has a scheduled Forensic Interview:
“Tomorrow we will visit The Treehouse. It’s a place just for kids, where really nice people work to keep kids safe and healthy. You will get to hang out in a playroom with toys, then talk to a special grown up.”

If your child also has a scheduled Medical Exam:
“After your talk is finished, a kid’s nurse will help check your body to make sure everything’s okay, and then we will be all done.”

If your child is especially inquisitive or interested, here are several more child-friendly points to share freely with her/him:

  • "The grown-ups at The Treehouse are very kid-friendly and really like helping kids and teens every single day"
  • "Hundreds and hundreds of kids and teens have already come to The Treehouse to talk to the friendly, safe grown-ups and kid’s nurses"
  • "The Treehouse is a very safe place for kids to talk about anything, even talking about secrets is okay here"
  • "Fun snacks and drinks will be offered while you wait (unless otherwise restricted)"
  • "There are toys, games, books, crayons, markers, cars, dolls, coloring pages and more kids are allowed to play with"
  • "Every child who comes to The Treehouse may receive a stuffed animal at the end of the visit"

Secondary trauma is any new, additional traumatization developed during the process of responding to—or anytime after—an existing traumatic event.

Secondary trauma differs from the initial trauma event in that it:

  1. typically stems from the after-effects of the primary trauma
  2. presents greatest risk of re-traumatization during the investigative process and treatment of the victim
  3. is frequently caused accidentally in the course of talking to or interacting with the victim
  4. can be eliminated and/or reduced greatly by employing evidence-based best-practices in child abuse investigations.

Who experiences secondary trauma?

Anyone professionally or voluntarily working in the field of trauma/crisis response may experience secondary trauma, as well as direct victims and/or those socially/emotionally connected to the victim.