Forensic Interviews of Children
When looking at how and when forensic interviews of alleged child victims occur, there are several issues that should be considered in your client’s defense case. Here are a few elements that maximize the reliability of the interview.
Setting: a child-friendly setting with a minimal distraction that is comfortable, private, and physically and psychologically safe for children
Well-trained interviewer: a professional who has ongoing forensic interview training, who is nonreactive in the interview, and mindful that the interviewer’s demeanor will have a significant impact on the reliability of the information received during the interview.
Age-appropriate interactions: Because a child’s age may be the most important determinant of a child’s memory capability the interviewer needs to be able to adapt the interviewing process for the situation.
Consider alternative hypotheses: Presenting contextually appropriate questions need to be used to explore other viable hypotheses for a child’s statements or behavior. Apparently, contradictory information must be explored.
Objectivity: Interviewer bias is a critical area. The forensic interviewer needs to be able to gain the confidence of the child and yet not be such an advocate for the child that they aren’t objective. Influencing a child with an outsider’s view of the reported crime or input as to negative views of the suspect. Forensic interviewers can be affected with symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder themselves as a result of past personal trauma, work dissatisfaction huge caseloads, long work hours, or lack of support.
Avoidance of multiple interviews: sometimes necessary but must be considerate of the potential contamination of details.
Recorded interviews are considered the most complete and accurate way to document forensic interviews. This captures the exact wording and context of what was said and what was presented to the child. Making sure that all interviews are video recorded insures that complete disclosures are provided to all parties and that triers of fact can objectively judge the reliability of the information.
Common models for child interviews include RATAC Protocol, Standard NICHD Protocol, NICHD Revised Protocol (RM) 2013, and a blended approach using more than one model.