• October 2009
  • Vol. 10, No. 8

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Documenting Investigative Child Abuse Interviews

A recent article in the newsletter of the National Child Protection Training Center reviews research on the reliability and admissibility in court of electronically recorded interviews with child abuse victims. The article also examines reliability and admissibility of other forms of interview documentation, as well as States' legislative and judicial history, including relevant State court and U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

Best practice guidelines recommend that documentation of a forensic interview with an alleged child abuse victim includes the child's exact verbal statements and emotional or behavioral displays, as well as the interviewer's questions and interactions with the child. However, research demonstrates that interviewer recall deteriorates over time, with interviewers forgetting more than one-third of the details provided by the child during an interview and more than 80 percent of the questions they asked the child. Electronic recordings greatly reduce the need to rely on the interviewer's memory and ensure more accurate and complete documentation. Other benefits of electronic recordings of interviews include:

  • Reduction in the number of court appearances by a child
  • Preservation of statements during lengthy court cases (which helps refresh the victim's memory)
  • Improvement of interviewer skills through postinterview evaluation and training
  • Contributions to therapy sessions with the child and the nonoffending parent

"Electronic Recordings of Investigative Child Abuse Interviews," written by Amy Russell, was published in the July 2009 issue of Center Piece. It is available on the National Child Protection Training Center website:

www.ncptc.org/vertical/Sites/%7B8634A6E1-FAD2-4381-9C0D-5DC7E93C9410%7D/uploads/%7B0B9329AD-C748-4012-8954-C3E8587A9865%7D.PDF (676 KB)


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