Forensic Interviews of Child Sex Crime Victims in HoustonPublished: Aug 26, 2020 in Sex Crimes Involving Children
If you have been accused of a sex crime in Houston, you have a long road ahead of you—especially if the allegations involve children. In many cases, a child’s claims are considered true before they’re proven. But the long-standing misbelief that children don’t lie about sexual abuse continues to be disproved.
If you find yourself accused of a child sex crime in Houston, it is crucial to take it seriously and work with an experienced defense lawyer. At some point during the process, the alleged victim will likely undergo one or multiple forensic interviews. An attorney can protect your rights during this time and ensure the interview is conducted properly.
Find out how the Law Offices of Ned Barnett can help by calling (713) 222-6767 for a free and confidential consultation.
When These Interviews Occur
Forensic interviews in Houston are part of a much larger investigation. Since the child’s own experiences are an important part of the case, these interviews usually start early in the process.
Depending on the circumstances and the interviewer, there may be one interview or multiple. One interview is typically recommended if the child opens up and talks about their experiences, but some need more time to communicate comfortably with the interviewer.
Who Conducts These Interviews?
Qualifications vary across different interviewing models. Some of the most well-known agencies that oversee interviews of alleged child sex crime victims include the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, CornerHouse, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and National Children’s Advocacy Center.
Generally, interviews have at least a bachelor’s degree and perhaps a master’s degree. They have professional experience working with children in traumatic situations and have usually undergone specialized training regarding sexual abuse interviews.
Interviews may also be conducted by Houston CPS professionals. However, this is not always the case. sometimes, police departments simply have a police officer with some forensic interviewing training question children.
In these cases, if they have not been specifically trained on how to talk to children, it is possible that they will “lead” the child or plant false memories.
What Alleged Victims Are Asked
Normally, interviewers try to gather as much as possible via the child’s own free recall. That means getting information without asking pointed, specific questions.
They may ask general questions and give the child time to expound on their answers. To create an environment where this can occur, they build rapport with the child first.
General questions may be structured like:
- “You said x, can you tell me more about it?”
- “What happened after that?”
- “Tell me about daycare/soccer practice/etc.”
If these questions do not yield useful information, they may turn to focused questions, like “Which part of your body did (name) touch?” or “Where were you when x happened?”
In some cases, they use anatomical dolls or models to help children answer.
Issues with Interviews of Alleged Sex Crime Victims
There are problems with forensic interviews. Focused questions should not include information not provided by the child. For example, if the child has not said that an individual touched them, asking “Where did (name) touch you?” would be a leading question.
Furthermore, children are extremely suggestible. If they feel that they aren’t giving the “right” answers to questions, they may answer differently to make the interviewer happy. An interviewer who pushes a line of questioning that isn’t producing viable answers risks having a children make up answers.
Additionally, children may be “coached” before interviews if a parent/guardian has a predetermined idea of what occurred—even if it produces false testimony. A child who repeats rote statements and does not ever comment on those issues in their own words may have been coached by a caregiver.
Why You Need an Attorney
Sex crime allegations involving children are extremely serious. Not only does a conviction mean prison time and financial penalties, it often means broken friendships, families, and careers. It is crucial to protect your rights at every stage throughout this process.
By working with an attorney early in the process, your representative can push for a qualified and appropriate interview. In addition, they can scrutinize the process and identify flaws, leading questions, or signs that the child was coached. This can limit inappropriate evidence from being used against you or result in a dismissal.
Contact the Law Offices of Ned Barnett Today
At the Law Offices of Ned Barnett, we know how much is at stake with sex crime allegations. We are here to help you during this challenging time and with our background fighting for the rights of the accused, we know how to handle forensic interviews and what it takes to resolve cases in your favor.
Set up a free and confidential consult by calling (713) 222-6767.