When there are suspicions of physical or sexual abuse involving a child, a forensic interview becomes crucial for gathering evidence and determining whether protective measures are necessary for the child’s physical safety and emotional well-being. In cases of alleged child sexual abuse, the forensic interview often stands as a pivotal piece of evidence. Given its significance, it is imperative that child forensic interviews adhere to best practice guidelines to maximize the reliability and accuracy of the information elicited. Our Ph.D. forensic interview expert will analyze these elements carefully.

Forensic interviewing of children is an impartial process aimed at uncovering facts that inform decisions in criminal, family, and juvenile law cases. This structured conversation is designed to extract information from a child about an event they have experienced, using questions that allow the child to articulate events in their own words.

The process of forensic interviewing of children involves several steps, including pre-interview data gathering, setting up the interview room, establishing rapport with the child, explaining ground rules, conducting a practice narrative, introducing the substantive topic, eliciting a free narrative, asking follow-up questions, and concluding the interview.

Allegations of child physical or sexual abuse demand a thorough and systematic investigation. The complexity of these charges is often compounded by a lack of physical evidence or a delay between the alleged abuse and its disclosure. During trials, decisions about witness credibility are made by judges or jurors who may lack familiarity with issues related to children’s memory and suggestibility. Addressing misconceptions about the accuracy and credibility of a child’s memory through knowledgeable expert testimony can play a crucial role in ensuring a fair administration of justice.

In addition to challenges related to children’s memory and suggestibility, allegations of physical or sexual abuse can involve intricate problems arising from repeated questions or interviews. These dilemmas may be further complicated by delayed disclosure or recantation of the allegation. Forensic interviewers, attorneys, judges, and jurors must grapple with these challenges to assess the reliability and trustworthiness of children’s abuse allegations. Understanding why some children delay disclosure or recant allegations is essential for holding perpetrators accountable and accurately identifying and protecting sexually abused children.

Anatomically correct dolls are occasionally utilized in child forensic interviews as part of the investigation into sexual abuse allegations. It is believed that these dolls aid in disclosure by allowing children to demonstrate acts that may be challenging to verbalize or by promoting memory retrieval. Despite assumed benefits, the use of anatomically correct dolls lacks standardization, and research indicates that their use can be associated with an increase in false information. Given these considerations and the absence of scientific consensus, caution is warranted when interpreting information obtained through this method.