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Questions & Answers

How long will this take?

Most of our patients are interviewed one time with the average evaluation session lasting approximately 2.5 hours. The length of the interview can vary according to factors such as the child’s age, the complexity of the case and cooperation of all parties.

The completed evaluation includes:

  • a brief meeting between the clinician and CYF caseworkers/police investigators
  • an interview with the child’s caretaker
  • the child interview
  • a brief feedback session when the team and caretaker(s) meet briefly to discuss what occurred in the interview and make recommendations to address the child’s medical, psychological and safety concerns.

Can I watch the interview?

The only people permitted to watch the interview are those conducting an official investigation, which includes Children, Youth and Families caseworkers, police officers/detectives and district attorneys. Before an interview begins, the child is introduced to all observers and told that they will be watching and listening to the interview from behind a two way mirror.

Often when a child discloses to a parent, (s)he may not reveal the full extent of the abuse. Because a parent tends to react emotionally to any graphic statements that may be made during the interview, the child may be less likely to disclose the full extent of the abuse in an effort not to upset their parent(s). Also, if parents watch the interview, their responses could disrupt the interview and cause the child to withhold information.

Will this traumatize my child?

The interviews are conducted in a calm, sensitive manner by clinicians skilled in talking with children about traumatic issues. Many children experience a sense of relief in finally disclosing the abuse and in bringing an end to experiences which they have neither sought nor understood.

Is my child going to “get over” this?

Recovery is a process for the caretakers as well as the children. When children are believed and parents take action to protect them and ensure their safety, this brings a sense of relief to the child, since the child often had been threatened that either (s)he or a loved one will experience harm if (s)he discloses abuse.

Disclosure of sexual abuse can cause chaos and conflicts in families which can interfere with a child’s successful recovery. While every child is different, factors likely to maximize the child’s recovery include steps taken by the caretakers to believe, protect, nurture and support the child.

Continued exposure to the alleged perpetrator following a child’s disclosure of abuse may have a detrimental effect emotionally and continue to jeopardize the child’s safety.

Can I get a copy of the report?

After the interview is completed, the parent(s) are told what the child said during the feedback session. (S)he has the option of receiving a copy of the report detailing what the child said during the interview.

What are the interviewer’s qualifications?

All interviewers have a minimum of a Master’s Degree in the fields of child development, social work and psychology, and several interviewers have Ph.D’s. All clinicians obtain continuous clinical supervision and participate in continuing education regarding advances in the field of child abuse.

All interviewers have interviewed a minimum of several hundred children.

Is the interviewer going to “cross examine” my child or suggest things to him/her?

A child is not “cross examined” or confronted in his/her responses but is talked to in a respectful manner that allows him/her to describe his/her experiences. The interview is structured so that all information about the abuse is provided by the child, rather than suggested to the child by the interviewer.

Forensic interviewers are trained to talk with a child in a neutral manner, using language and concepts that are appropriate to the child’s developmental level.

Whose side is the interviewer on?

The interviewers do not undertake the interview with the objective of getting a disclosure. Rather, his/her objective is to impartially talk to a child to assess whether or not anything may have occurred, and to assess a child’s safety.

We do not have findings of abuse on every child we see. We acknowledge that “sides are drawn” in many of our cases. However, we maintain impartiality and neutrality in the interviews, and the welfare of the child is our primary concern.

Will I get an answer today as to what happened to my child?

After the child interview occurs, the team and caretaker(s) meet to briefly discuss what occurred in the interview and make recommendations to address the medical, psychological and safety concerns of the child.

What will happen after the interview?

A brief feedback session will occur with the caretaker and the team immediately after the child’s interview to briefly discuss what occurred. In many cases there are two separate, simultaneous, ongoing investigations:

  • Children Youth and Families (CYF)
  • Criminal

Victim advocates are utilized to help the family deal with issues that may arise during a very confusing time. Advocates generally meet the family at the time of the interview and will provide ongoing 24 hour support, consultation, treatment, court accompaniment, and other services to meet the family’s needs during this crisis.

Will our case be on TV or in the newspaper?

The vast majority of our cases never receive any media attention. In the rare instances when this occurs, the family’s name is not revealed.

A recommendation is given to all families, that if contacted:

  • do not give interviews
  • do not allow a child to be interviewed or photographed.

Families should report the attempted contact to their Victim Advocate for screening.

What can I do to help my child?

The best outcome for children usually occurs when the child lives in a supportive, nurturing environment, and when the caretaker(s) promptly follow up with treatment recommendations.

Most importantly, family members should not make the child’s abuse a topic of dinner table conversation.

If my child discloses during an interview, what do I do?

After a child discloses, (s)he is referred for treatment with appropriate professionals. A physical exam with our physician is also recommended. If the potential exists that allegations may lead to criminal charges and court testimony, a referral to the Center for Victims of Violence and Crime is made to the caretaker(s).

We advise caretakers not to continuously address the incident with a child, but rather allow a child to talk about the incident if (s)he spontaneously brings it up.

Should I talk to my child about what happened?

The child should not be questioned, but if the child spontaneously discusses this with a caretaker/parent, (s)he should listen, stay calm and support the child.

Contact the Victim Advocate for non-offending parent support if a caretaker/parent feels overwhelmed at any time.

What type of exam does the MD do and will it hurt?

Typical Colposcope
Typical Colposcope

An exam is often recommended for both boys and girls. The exam is generally a visual genital exam, and an expert, female, pediatrician performs all exams. The exam is not painful. An external magnification instrument, called a colposcope, is used. In some cases, children may have cultures for sexually transmitted disease.

The mother can be in the room during the exam if so desired. This is not a gynecological exam on prepubertal children and the exam takes a very short time. Most children will not be examined unless an interview is performed first.

Will the physical exam reveal definitive abuse or not?

Only rarely are there physical findings in cases of child sexual abuse. There are three main reasons to conduct a physical exam and obtaining physical evidence is the least compelling of the three.

Primarily a child needs to be reassured that (s)he is normal and is not “damaged goods”. Secondly, the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases can only be determined by cultures obtained during a physical exam. Lastly, the exam is conducted for evidentiary reasons.

Will the exam be traumatic to the child?

The exam and interview are not designed to further traumatize a child.

The pediatrician and nurse are skilled in relaxation techniques, and considerable time is spent building rapport with a child. The exam is conducted in a room decorated with a jungle mural, and a child is encouraged to play a “Can you Find?” game, which greatly relaxes a child and puts him/her at ease during the exam.

My child does not seem to be scared around the alleged perpetrator. Does that mean it must not be true?

A child is often not scared of the alleged perpetrator because often the abuse is not done in a traumatic way and the grooming process is often stimulating and pleasant for the child, who sometimes feels “special”. The realization that the abuse is wrong and/or harmful is often confusing and chaotic for a child.

Of course, if the perpetrator is a parent, the child may still love the parent and feel a great deal of conflict about disclosing any abuse.

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