The Pioneer Post

The Pioneer Post is a resource for online students that provides tips and information about distance education.


Monday, April 21, 2008

By Amy Nemmetz, Coordinator, Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Program

Despite your spell checker not recognizing revictimization as an official word, it is an important concept. Although this may be a hard situation to consider, please read the following fictitious scenario:
You're walking in your neighborhood when you see a little girl crying. You approach the little girl and learn that the little girl’s name is Sasha and she is 7-years old. Sasha immediately asks if you can help her. Before you can answer, Sasha pushes aside several tears and proceeds to tell you that she was just sexually assaulted by a friend of the family.
Although, you may initially be thinking, "Why is this girl telling a complete stranger about this horrific incident?" hopefully you're also thinking WHAT should/can you do to get this little girl the help she needs? Your next step would entail a phone call to the police.

Here are some questions that may not come to mind after reading the scenario:
  1. How many times will Sasha be asked to share the details of the event?
  2. How many different people will question/interview Sasha about the sexual assault?
  3. Will Sasha’s caretaker(s) believe her?
  4. Will Sasha feel guilty, embarrassed, or ashamed about the incident?
  5. Will Sasha be able to see a mental health professional in a timely fashion to work through any flashbacks, nightmares, or other trauma she may experience as a result of this incident?
  6. Will Sasha be forced to sit across from the defendant to provide testimony?
In the criminal justice system, there are steps we can take to make the "process" more comfortable for Sasha to reduce "secondary" system revictimization. More specifically, it would be in Sasha’s best interest if the criminal justice professionals:
  1. Limit the number of times Sara is interviewed.
  2. Utilize a multi-disciplinary team approach (get the appropriate criminal justice professionals together from the beginning of the investigation to offer input).
  3. Enlist the help of a Child Advocacy Center.
If we pick up on Sasha's scenario above, the following steps would reduce system revictimization:
  1. Conduct a detailed interview at a Child Advocacy Center. These centers allow a multi-disciplinary team (i.e. the District Attorney, Victim Witness worker, Human Service Social Workers, Detectives) to gather to discuss the case and proceed with a video-taped interview.
  2. Have ONE interviewer meet with Sasha to conduct the interview while other multi-disciplinary team members watch from an observation room (Child Advocacy Centers are typically set up to accommodate this).
  3. Use a non-leading child friendly interview protocol such as the forensic Cognitive Graphic Interview or Stepwise (several protocols have been supported by research).
  4. Use an interviewer who has been TRAINED to conduct a research-based interview protocol.
  5. In compliance with state statute, use the video tape at the preliminary hearing in lieu of having Sasha appear to provide face-to-face testimony.



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