A forensic interview is an interview conducted by a trained professional with a child or adolescent that has alleged abuse, sexual assault, witnessed a violent crime, or where abuse is suspected. Developmentally disabled adults or adults who have experienced extreme trauma may also receive this form of interview. The purpose of a forensic interview is to gather a child’s statement about the allegation in a neutral, non-leading, non-suggestive manner while also considering the child’s emotional needs, developmental level, and safety. A forensic interview allows for the investigative agencies (law enforcement, child protective services, District Attorney’s Office) to assess for safety issues, service needs, and possible criminal acts. All forensic interviews conducted at The Treehouse are audio and video recorded and can be used as evidence in court cases, or for medical and mental health treatment purposes.
In some cases, an expanded forensic interview may be needed. The expanded forensic interview was developed in order for a trained professional to gather further information or clarification after an initial forensic interview. Children may be referred for this type of interview by law enforcement, child protective services, or the District Attorney’s Office after an initial forensic interview has been completed. An expanded forensic interview is similar to a forensic interview, but can allow for multiple sessions. There can be many circumstances in which a child, adolescent, or developmentally disabled adult may need an expanded session. Some circumstances include, but are not limited to anxiety, fear, limited verbal or cognitive skills, or if there is an increased amount of information to discuss. All expanded forensic interviews conducted at The Treehouse are audio and video recorded.
A forensic medical exam is sometimes referred to as a sexual assault exam. These examinations are conducted by medical professionals trained in evidence collection, documentation, and preservation. The forensic medical examiner, or SANE Nurse, assesses for injury and other physical evidence through a thorough exam. Any sign of injury is photographed, documented, and the patient may be referred for treatment. Any other forms of physical evidence are photographed, documented, collected, and released to law enforcement. Testing for sexually transmitted diseases is also provided. Forensic Medical Exams are conducted at The Treehouse in a private, comfortable setting suitable for children and adults. If a patient has other significant medical issues or concerns, an exam may be performed at an alternate medical facility.
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 for (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:
typically stems from the after-effects of the primary trauma
presents greatest risk of re-traumatization during the investigative process and treatment of the victim
is frequently caused accidentally in the course of talking to or interacting with the victim
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.