|Abstract:||Children who have experienced trauma, have contact with child protective services, and/or who have experienced sexual abuse could have potentially impairments in their ability to articulate clear details about any sexual abuse they endured. Forensic interviewers who collect information from these children are in unique situations, balancing the need to elicit accurate and sufficient testimony to protect sexually abused children while not suggestively coercing a statement. The purpose of this dissertation is to explore how forensic interviewers use interviewing protocols, training on protocol implementation, and multidisciplinary teams when interviewing non-/partial disclosure in children who are suspected of experiencing sexual abuse.
Thirty-six, face-to-face, semi structured interviews were conducted with forensic interviewers who were employed by Children’s Advocacy Centers across the state of Illinois. Qualitative description data analysis was applied to the 36 transcripts, and field notes and memos were used to triangulate findings. The ecological theory was used to situate micro, mezzo, and macro factors affecting dynamics and decision-making processes in cases of non-/partial disclosure in alleged cases of child sexual abuse.
This study yielded three major findings. First, forensic interviewers were sincere in their attempts to conduct a neutral forensic interview, while advocating for the child; second, role conflict within dual role forensic interviewers potentially resulted in unbiased interviewing techniques; and third, any dynamic, positive or negative, that influenced the forensic interviewer, naturally affected the quality of the interview. This study is instrumental in protecting children from further abuse by providing forensic interviewers with refined insight, as well as improved training and MDT approaches regarding extracting sufficient details to prevent reunification, reabuse, and recidivism.