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Forensic and Clinical/Psychological Interviews in Child Sexual Abuse Cases Raquel E. Cohen, M.D., Director Children’s & Special Needs Center Office of.

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Presentation on theme: "Forensic and Clinical/Psychological Interviews in Child Sexual Abuse Cases Raquel E. Cohen, M.D., Director Children’s & Special Needs Center Office of."— Presentation transcript:

1 Forensic and Clinical/Psychological Interviews in Child Sexual Abuse Cases Raquel E. Cohen, M.D., Director Children’s & Special Needs Center Office of the Dade County State Attorney Miami, Florida

2 Forensic vs. Clinical/ Psychological Interviews in Child Sexual Abuse Cases - Objectives F To identify the characteristics of each type of interview F To differentiate and contrast each interview F To appreciate the legal constraints of obtaining data to support an alleged incident of child sexual abuse

3 Presentation F Individual Roles: –Child: Stages of development, gender, age, socio-cultural, handicaps –Victim: Alleged sexual act –Witness: Credibility of child, competency of child, hearsay statements F Definitions: Forensic vs. Clinical interviews F Differentiating Variables: Forensic vs. Clinical F Forensic Interview Procedures

4 Rationale for Forensic Interviews How do I elicit complete data using forensic interviewing techniques that cannot be manipulated or dismissed, and that validate the facts reported by the child beyond a reasonable doubt when the case is presented to a jury?

5 CHILD ABUSE LEGISLATION (Definitions) “ABUSED OR NEGLECTED CHILD” means a child whose physical or mental health or welfare is harmed, or threatened with harm, by the acts or omissions of the parent or other person responsible for the child’s welfare. “CHILD” means any person under the age of 18 yearsContinued

6 CHILD ABUSE LEGISLATION (Definitions - Con’t.) “CHILD ABUSE OR NEGLECT” means harm or threatened harm to a child’s physical or mental health welfare by the acts or omissions of the parent or other person responsible for the child’s welfare. “PHYSICAL INJURY” means death, permanent or temporary disfigurement, or impairment of any bodily part. “SEXUAL ABUSE OF A CHILD” means an action where an individual makes contact or puts something in a “PRIVATE” body part.

7 CURRENT LAW AND PRACTICE Florida Statute requires mandatory reporting of all cases of child abuse. This statute applies to suspected or confirmed reports against any person, regardless of occupation, who is alleged to be involved or any person who is alleged to have committed any act of child abuse. School personnel are not exempted from mandatory reporting of child abuse even when a fellow employee is suspected or confirmed as the abuser.

8 RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INFANTILE AND INVESTIGATIVE/ASSESSMENT FOCUS CHILD - Characteristics according to age and sex * Developmental phases * Psycho-dynamic issues * Diagnosis and treatment VICTIM - Role behavior response to traumatic event * Protective planning by agency * Trauma syndrome * Consequences / Sequelae WITNESS - Role responsibility (credibility; veracity) to provide specific data to support evidence of the event. Knowledge of truth and lie. * Criminal charging planning - ASA

9 CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE Expert opinion that an event has occurred is based on the following conclusions: F Logical F Consistent F Explainable F Objective F Defensible

10 FORENSICCLINICAL Reporting Referral Investigation Data Collection Assessment Decision of Police Diagnosis and Assistant State Treatment Attorneys Psycho- Social Issue Arrest No Arrest PATHWAY OF REFERRALS/SERVICES FOR A CHILD-VICTIM FORENSIC AND CLINICAL SYSTEMS

11 INTERVIEW CATEGORIES IN CHILD ABUSE

12 Investigation of Child Sexual Abuse Investigation of an alleged child (under 12) sexual abuse report is supported by legislation, budget, procedures, trained man power, organized social structures and the judicial system.

13 LEGAL OBJECTIVES OF CHILD ABUSE INVESTIGATION F Has to establish credibility - elicit the questions that produces data that is plausible and reliable F Has to establish trustworthiness - the data obtained has to reliable, consistent, logical and realistic F Establishes the competency of the child’s description of the event shows the child can deal with memory and description of an event involving the touching of their body in in a way that it can be defined as child abuse.

14 COMPETENCY ¶ The minimum standards of creditability that allow a reasonable person to put credence in a witness’ testimony.  MRE 601- “Every person is competent to be a witness except as otherwise provided in these rules.”

15 THE TEST OF A CHILD’S COMPETENCY Derives from the supreme court decision in Wheeler V. U.S., 159 U.S. 523 (1895) in which the question of a child’s competency was found to: l Depend on the capacity and intelligence of the child l His/Her appreciation of the difference between truth and falsehood l His/Her duty to tell the truth

16 Assessment of Child’s Credibility ¶ Accuracy of children’s memory Suggestibility · Objectivity What are the motives of the individuals? ¸ Character of the witness Adolescent behavior SincerityContinued

17 Assessment of Child’s Credibility ¹ Consistency of testimony- Children are inconsistent related to age º Corroboration- Physical evidence Testimony of other witness

18 HEARSAY STATEMENTS OF A CHILD VICTIM In State v. Townsend 635 So. 2d 949 (Fla. 1994) the Supreme Court of Florida stated that for hearsay statements to be admitted under this section, the statement must meet two specific reliability requirements: 1) The source of the information through which the statement was reported must indicate trustworthiness; and 2) The time, content, and circumstances of the statement must reflect that the statement provides sufficient safeguards of reliability.Continued

19 HEARSAY STATEMENTS OF A CHILD VICTIM In determining the trustworthiness and reliability of a hearsay statement the court must look to the time, content, and circumstances of the statement. in addition to considering the criteria set forth in the statute.

20 HEARSAY STATEMENTS OF A CHILD VICTIM The law (90.803(23), F.S.) provides that: Unless the source of information or the method of circumstances by which the statement is reported indicates a lack of trustworthiness, an out- of-court statement made by a child victim with a physical, mental, emotional, or developmental age of 11 or less describing any act of child abuse or neglect, sexual abuse, or any other offense involving an unlawful sexual act, contact, intrusion, or penetration performed in the presence of, with, by, or on the declarant child, not otherwise admissible, is admissible in evidence in any civil or criminal proceeding if:Continued

21 HEARSAY STATEMENTS OF A CHILD VICTIM 1) The court finds in a hearing conducted outside the presence of the jury that the time, content, and circumstances of the statement provides sufficient safeguards of reliability. In making its determination, the court may consider the mental and physical age and maturity of the child, the nature and duration of the abuse or offense, the reliability of the assertion, the reliability of the child victim, and any other factor deemed appropriate; 2) the child [testifies]

22 HEARSAY STATEMENTS OF A CHILD VICTIM List of Criteria n The statement’s spontaneity n Whether the statement was made at the first available opportunity following the alleged incident. n Whether the statement was elicited in response to questions from adults. n The mental state of the child when the abuse was reported.Continued

23 HEARSAY STATEMENTS OF A CHILD VICTIM n Whether the child used terminology unexpected of a child similar age. n The motive or lack thereof to fabricate the statement. n The ability of the child to distinguish between reality and fantasy. n The vagueness of the accusations. n The possibility of any improper influence on the child by the participants involved in a domestic dispute. n Contradiction in the accusation.

24 FORENSIC vs. CLINICAL INTERVIEWING OF ALLEGED SEXUALLY ABUSED CHILDREN DEFINITION: Forensic- Is defined as an interview between a forensic interviewer and a child for the sole purpose of eliciting non-contaminated data supporting or not the alleged event, who is the perpetrator of the abuse, the place and the time.

25 FORENSIC vs. CLINICAL INTERVIEWING OF ALLEGED SEXUALLY ABUSED CHILDREN DEFINITION: Clinical - is defined as an interview between a trained clinician and a child for a variety of purposes including diagnosing developmental, cognitive and/or emotional disorders. One of the purposes can include assessing the possibility that the child has been sexually abused. There are a variety of techniques that are used to elicit clinical data.

26 THERAPEUTIC AND FORENSIC INTERVIEWING: HOW THEY DIFFER F THERAPEUTIC F Assumes the child is telling the truth F The interviewer is an advocate F Subjective reality is accepted by David C. Raskin, Ph.D., and Phillip W. Esplin, 1991 continued F FORENSIC F Fact-finding procedure F The interviewer is neutral F Alternative explanations are explored

27 THERAPEUTIC AND FORENSIC INTERVIEWING: HOW THEY DIFFER F THERAPEUTIC F The general idea of abuse is enough F The way information is obtained is not very important by David C. Riskin, Ph.D., and Phillip W. Esplin, 1991 F FORENSIC F Details are imperative F The way information is obtained is strictly governed

28 FORENSIC ASSESSMENT VS. CHILD PSYCHIATRY ASSESSMENT INTERVIEW: SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES

29 Guidelines for Interviews

30 SYSTEMATIC DECISION PATHWAY FOR CHILD’S CREDIBILITY F Child Alleges Sexual Abuse: 1) Unreliable AccountFurther Investigation 2) Misinterpretation of IncidentClarify Event 3) Child is DeludedDiagnosis for Mental Symptom 4) Child is Confabulating (Alone/Prompted)Investigate Parent Conflict 5) Child is Truthful and Credible Document the following: External Consistency Internal Consistency Internal Details Appropriate affect while remembering event Rule-out effect of suggestibility Check out the child’s reaction to challenge in regard to confabulation, fabrication, external influences

31 FOUR DIMENSIONS HAVE EVOLVED THAT ARE USED IN QUALIFYING F Present an understanding of the difference between truth and falsity and an appreciation of the obligation or responsibility to speak the truth F Mental capacity at the time of the occurrence in question, to observe or receive accurate impressions of the occurrence F Memory sufficient to retain an independent recollection of the observations, and capacity truly to communicate or translate into words the memory of such observation and the capacity to understand simple questions about the occurrence.

32 TYPES OF QUESTIONS TO AVOID IN FORENSIC INTERVIEWS 1 ) Leading Question- A question that suggest it’s own answer or is calculated to obtain a particular response. A) Yes/No Questions- Ask for affirmative or negative response. 2) Suggestive Question- Methods or material that, directly or indirectly, are said to influence or imply something to a child. B) Verbal- Refers to statements implying that something occurred or particular persons were involved, or statements appearing to ask for confirmation of something.Continued

33 TYPES OF QUESTIONS TO AVOID IN FORENSIC INTERVIEWS B) Suggestive Coercion- Term applied to techniques, statements or actions that may prompt, coerce or bribe a child to address a particular topic or make a particular statement. 3) Reinforcement Questions- Any type of behavior that encourages disclosure showing emotional support or approval of child’s statements; empathetic body gestures, assuring children that they are not at fault. Continued

34 TYPES OF QUESTIONS TO AVOID IN FORENSIC INTERVIEWS 4) Contamination Questions- Term that refers to the introduction in an interview of information, ideas, or details about a case by someone other than the child being interviewed. EXAMPLE: Interviewer tells child something that a mother, or witness has said or refers to some form of evidence that has not previously been volunteered by the child. Frequent sources of “potential contamination”: A) Information transfer between parents, therapist B) Joint interviews C) Social contact among victims D) Media contamination E) Therapeutic interventions


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