Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Actors Help Train Investigators To Interview Child Victims

Too often I blog about discouraging behavior, but on Christmas eve, I wanted to highlight good behavior which focuses on protecting children.

From the Rochester Post-Bulletin:

WINONA -- Brenton is 9 years old and scared. Brenton has been beaten and sexually abused by an older brother who just got out of juvenile detention, but he downplays the abuse to an investigator.

"It doesn't matter though," he keeps saying.

Brenton is an illusion, a character played by Dana Munson, a 35-year-old Twin Cities actor whose portrayal wiil help train investigators.

But he is real enough that Todd Mahaney, an investigator from Potosi, Mo., wants to console him when the child begins cry to after finally telling about the abuse.

Muson is one of a handful of actors who have been trained to act like children to train those who need to interview children.

This important and first week-long training event happened at the new National Child Protection Training Center at Winona State University which I blogged about earlier this year.

There is also a related article published on the same day.

[Dana Munson and the other actors] are part of the process in equipping those trainees so they interview children so it does stand up in court," he said. If done improperly, interviews can be thrown out. [...]

Those doing interviews try to be one step ahead of the child to be ready for the next question, but it's also important to stay with what the child's saying, [instructor Mindy] Mitnick said. And don't say "I want to hear your story" because children interpret that to mean "your story is fantasy," she said.

I can't stress how important this type of training is for investigators and especially for victims.

With the number of people who claim that many children have been schooled to lie as a part of a nasty custody dispute, a botched interview where the interviewer didn't realize his or her errors might be used as so-called proof that the original allegation was fraudulent.

Whatever tax money is used in the project is money well spent.

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