Recording Victim Interviews
January 2, 2013 at 4:06 pm #1380
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January 2, 2013 at 6:21 pm #1383
The advantages of taping in this training bulletin are presented from a law enforcement perspective. No disadvantages are presented. Would the victim’s informed consent be sought? What are the potential impacts on the victim? What training should be required for the investigator?
Some of the impacts could be more fully understood if a qualified professional would interview a significant sample of victims. The interviewer, perhaps a sociologist, should not be associated in any way with law enforcement so that the results of the study would be unprejudiced.
According to Susan Herman, former Exec. Director of the National Center for Victims of Crime, “Too often, when victims are interviewed by a police officer or a prosecutor, the veracity of the victim’s statements is immediately questioned. The officer thinks– and may act as though– the victim is making up his or her story, is distorting the truth, or concealing evidence. The prosecutor may think the victim is covering up his or her complicity in the crime. This is one of the most damaging realities for victims because this attitude undermines a victim’s faith in government, and in the legitimacy of the rule of law itself.”
There is a propensity among victim service people to gather like-minded together and come up with “best practises.” They present their views as the victims’ views without consulting the victims. When asked why victims are not consulted, some victim service people reply “They are too emotional” or “We don’t want to remind them of the trauma.”
Victims deserve to be heard. Their point of view must be included when trainings are proposed and developed. “Best practises” developed without the victims perspective may turn out to be bad practises.
January 4, 2013 at 10:03 pm #1400
Howard raises some great points about the importance of ensuring policies and practices remain victim-centered.
This particular bulletin was created by a national organization whose staff is pretty multidisciplinary which hopefully means that all points were considered before forming the opinion. The reason it most likely is presented from a law enforcement perspective is because it relates to a law enforcement practice and the bulletin was meant for law enforcement officers.Generally speaking, to gain buy-in for policies, stakeholders need to understand why— from their role—the policy would be helpful in doing their job, thus it would make sense that it presents the benefits of a recorded interview to a law enforcement investigation.
That being said, we all have to strive to ensure that our policies are victim-centered which is sometimes a balancing act—as we also have to strive to ensure that we are staying within our respective roles, following state and federal laws, and completing our respective duties (in this case—for example–law enforcement has a duty to investigate, help build a case and hopefully apprehend a suspect if possible). Of course, these duties are very different from those of a victim advocate, a medical provider and a prosecutor—which in itself is another balancing act.
I do agree that there are some questions left unanswered which perhaps is the drawback of training bulletins in general—they are short and direct. (although I will say that on the surface I see some advantages to a recorded interview for victims—one being the ability for LE officers to watch the videos and learn from their successes and mistakes to help improve interview techniques and make victims more comfortable in these interviews, but I am not an expert on this topic).
The victim’s voice definitely needs to be a part of the conversation when developing best practices, and since the original training bulletin specifically addresses sexual assault victims, this seems like the perfect opportunity to mention that the Denver Sexual Assault Interagency Council is hoping to gain that valuable insight from victims through an National Institute for Justice research project in partnership with the University of Denver Traumatic Stress Studies Group. Without getting too technical, part of the project will include interviews of sexual assault survivors by 3rdparty, trauma-informed researchers about their experiences with sexual assault response agencies in the city and county of Denver. This 3-year project just began January 1, but we are excited about the potential outcomes and how that may help us shape future best practices.
And, you don’t have to have a ton of financial resources to gain victim insight in your agencies: to name a few examples, the Crime Victim Advisory Council through VSN, Survivor Task Force through CCASA, or the WINGS Foundation Speaker’s Bureau are all examples of victims of crime who are willing to offer their perspective to us as service providers.
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