Presentation on theme: "Children and Court Tips in the event your child receives a subpoena…"— Presentation transcript:
Children and Court Tips in the event your child receives a subpoena…
Preparing Your Child to Testify Both children and adults may have many concerns as a court date approaches. It is important to remember that the child may be the only witness to what an offender has done. Therefore, it is also important to make sure the child victim/witness is prepared to testify in court. There are many steps that can be taken to prepare for court as well as to reduce some of the stress the young witness may be feeling. Avoid repeated discussions. Do not prompt the child to discuss the offense repeatedly and do not go over the child's testimony before a courtroom appearance. Children often disclose details of an incident over time in their own time; prompting may cause trauma. Also, some topics are sensitive in nature and children, like adults, may be embarrassed to talk about them. Finally, a defense attorney may represent frequent discussion of the facts as “witness coaching”.. Preparation. Your child's anxiety or fearfulness about court may be lessened by knowing what to expect. That is why it is always important to speak with the prosecutor before court and arrange for a courtroom tour.. Practice relaxation techniques, if needed. If it is an issue, your child can be taught strategies to reduce anxiety before and while testifying. Therapy can also be beneficial. Your local Victim-Witness Assistance Program should be able to provide an list of community resources that include local therapists. Always tell the truth. Advise your child that telling the truth about what happened is the most important thing to do in court and right action to take. Victims of sexual abuse or exploitation may be especially sensitive about telling their story in court. Emphasize that he or she made the right choice in disclosing the abuse and that you believe him or her. Let the child know you are proud of them for taking such a big step and that regardless of what happens your feelings for him or her will not change. It’s ok to ask that a question be repeated. Tell your child that it is okay to say he or she is confused or does not know the answer. No one expects him or her to remember every detail or know the answer to every question. Adults set the mood. Remember that children often look to adults to assess a situation and to see how to react. Parents/caregivers should try to remember to control their own emotions in front of the young victim. Many individuals find support through family, friends, or counselors.
The Day of Court – A child’s court experience begins even before he or she steps into the courtroom. On the day of the hearing parents/caregivers should: Make sure your child is dressed neatly and comfortably. Ensure child has a good breakfast and is relaxed as possible. Keep a positive outlook and give children supportive messages such as "You look very nice," "Everyone is nervous when they testify, even police officers," and "I know you'll do a great job." Be aware that there may be long delays while awaiting the case to be called, so bring items with you that may help pass the time such as crayons and books, activity sheets, dolls, and snack food. Remember that the young witness should not discuss the case with anyone, including parents or other supportive adults. Do not go over the child's testimony before the courtroom appearance. However, you can tell the child to tell the truth and to think carefully about the details of the testimony he or she plans to give. Emphasize that it is okay to say "I don't know" or "I can't remember" to any question if the child cannot recall, or don't understand if the question is unclear.
The Court Hearing The Process: When the case is called, all witnesses must come into the courtroom, including child witnesses. Everyone will be sworn in. This means that everyone will take an oath to tell the truth. If there is to be a closed hearing, all unnecessary parties will be asked to leave the courtroom. When the child takes the stand, he or she may be asked a series of questions to "qualify" him or her as a witness. These questions are designed to determine if the child knows the difference between the truth and a lie, and to test the child's ability to observe and remember. This is usually very brief and most children qualify with very little difficulty. Once qualified, the testimony can begin. While testimony is on-going, caregivers/parents and other support persons must remember to remain quiet and not make any motions or expressions to prompt the child. Such actions may upset the child, or even cause controversy about the testimony, and the court could have the person removed. Just knowing you are there will be a comfort to the child. It should comfort most parents and caregivers to know that most children who testify say that testifying was not as bad as they expected.
After Court After the testimony be supportive. Tell your child he or she did a good job and that you are proud. If you or the child are uncertain of the outcome of the hearing or have questions, contact your local Victim-Witness Assistance Program for more information. Stay Positive. Even if the outcome is not in your favor, tell the child that s/he took the proper action by testifying and that you believe him or her. Most children bounce back from their courtroom experiences with few negative feelings and many stories to tell about what it was like to talk to the judge. Be Aware. It is important to recognize that individual experiences vary. As a parent/caregiver, you should recognize that your child may have some stress-related worries or feelings of insecurity for a few days after court. Sleep-related problems are not uncommon. If these problems persist or are severe, you may desire to consider short-term or long-term counseling to help the child deal with the trauma of victimization, as well as any persisting anxiety that may have been caused by the judicial process. Your local Victim-Witness Assistance Program can help you locate services in your area. With loving families and the proper care and support, most children are very resilient and quickly bounce back to their regular selves.
Resources Available National Children's Advocacy Center National Children's Advocacy Center National Children's Advocacy Center National Children's Advocacy Center Center for Child and Family Services Center for Child and Family Services Center for Child and Family Services Center for Child and Family Services The Center for Sexual Assault Survivors The Center for Sexual Assault Survivors The Center for Sexual Assault Survivors The Center for Sexual Assault Survivors Transitions Family Violence Services Transitions Family Violence Services Transitions Family Violence Services Transitions Family Violence Services