I felt motivated to write this piece after watching the first episode of Unbelievable on Netflix. For those who have never herd of this show, it’s about a series of rape cases and how this one girl was not believed. I felt angered at some parts of the first episode because I was once a victim and did not like how the cops handled this characters case. There was then another rape case with a differnt girl. Another cop handled her case in a totally different manner, that made me respect her character.
As being a previous victim in an assault case, the reason why I got upset is that the interview is the most sensitive time to a victim. Right after an assault you are hyper sensitive, any wrong word said could potentially hurt the case and the victims trust in the person questioning them. You can never make the victim have the best interview of their life given what happen to them, but you can definitely make it the worst. Being in law enforcement and dealing with victims, it’s very important to make the victim feel as comfortable as possible. In doing this, you will make such a difference in this person’s life and in the case.
Anyone experiencing a trauma is going to be going through a lot in their head. Whether they scream and are out of control or are silent and acting fine; they are going to be analyzing if you are a threat. Approaching the victim in a calm and understanding manner is the best way to start the interview process. You need to gain their trust, so that they know you can help them instead of disregarding what happened to them. Here are some helpful steps to gain a victims trust…
- If dealing with a female victim who may have been assaulted by a man, always bring a female to interview the victim. When your a woman assaulted by a man talking to male can sometimes be hard to do especially right after the attack.
- Be non- judgemental. If they feel like they are being judged they will withhold information from their story.
- Be sensitive to the victim. Try to understand your victims needs. Each victim is going to be hypersensitive so it’s important you don’t say anything harsh to trigger them.
- Try to gain the victims trust. You should tell them something relatable, a compliment on them being a survivor, and that your going to work together in bringing this guy to justice.
- Ask them if they would like to go to a more private location. Some great locations might be your car or a walk. If you have to interview in the hospital, ask everyone else to leave. (Also bring water to them at the hospital, no ones probably asked them in a minute)
- Ask the easy questions before the hard ones. Easing into the questions of the trauma is essential for gaining trust. It will also show that your generally interested in the victim and make it slightly easier for them to talk to you.
- Reassure the victim that every detail matters before asking them to tell you what happened. They should also be reassured that they are brave and you are here for them.
- Be patient when they tell their story. It will probably take awhile to gather all the information from the victim.
- Word choice is everything when asking questions to the victim. “Would you mind sharing…” is a good start. Saying the wrong thing could trigger and be a conversation ender.
- After talking about what happened, reassure them that they did the right thing in sharing their story and that your going to do everything you can to get the guy. You need to reassure them at least twice because a victim can never be reassured enough.
- One of the final steps you should do before leaving them is ask if they have any questions. They might never ask their questions unless you ask them, so it’s important to do so.
- Give the victim as much information as you can. Tell them the next steps in the investigation. Share any resources or information to help the healing process and always leave your card to let them know you can be contacted at anytime.
- The follow up… Always give a follow up call. It shows you care and they might have remembered more information for the case. The call should be 2 to 3 days after the incident.
Being there for these victims is life changing to them. Being in law enforcement you may think that people are unappreciative and won’t remember you. From being a previous victim, I can tell you there are things they said to me that hurt me. They made me irritated and I didn’t feel respected when being interrogated. That happened to me but it doest have to happen to another victim.