Interviewing Techniques

Victims & Suspects are not the
Victim’s Interview:
Crucial Evidence
The Investigation of a Sexual Assault is unlike any other
type of Criminal Investigation due to the uniquely
intimate and invasive nature of the crime.
Your victim is your crime scene. Therefore the victim
interview is one of the most important pieces of
evidence that you will have in your case
Mishandling the interview can irreparably damage your
What is Typical Victim Behavior?
There is NO TYPICAL Victim Behavior
Delayed Reporting
Contact with Suspect AFTER Offense
Previous Claims of Victimization
Lies About Behavior
Reports to Someone other than Law Enforcement
Indifferent to Injuries or Pain
Victim Behavior
 Flat
 Crying
 Laughing
 ALL are behaviors LE has seen and ACCEPTED before
at traumatic accident and death scenes…………………….
Interview vs Interrogation
 Interview is:
 Non – Accusatory
 Investigator is Neutral and Objective
 Goal is to Gather Information that is Relevant to the
 Investigator Endeavors to Reassure and Gain the Trust
of the Victim
 Open-ended questions, free flowing format
Interrogation is:
 Accusatory
 Goal is to learn the truth, gain confession
 Tightly structured, active persuasion on the part of the
 repetitious Dialogue
 Investigator Dominated
 “Mind Game”
Why Interview?
 “The role of the rape advocate is to believe a victim’s
story, whereas the role of a police officer is to prove it”
Detective Scott Keenan
Chicago Police Dept.
By corroborating as many facts as possible, no matter how
insignificant they may seem, you can better help establish
the validity of the victim’s story and improve her credibility
even when there are other problems with the investigation.
Police Placed Obstacles to
Interviewing Sexual Assault Victims
Asking for “JUST THE FACTS”
The Police Personality
The Tough – Guy Façade
The Police Career Path
“Just the Facts”
 Who, What, When, Where, Why, & How: Not
 By Asking Basic Questions, You only get Basic Facts
 Close ended question, get close ended answers
 Thoughtful, Open-ended Questions, get the small
details so important to this type of Investigation
The Police Personality
 Very Action Oriented
 Get to the Point!
 Solve the Problem
 Move On to the next Problem
 Good on the Street, Not in the
interview Room!!
Tough-Guy Facade
 Sexual Assault Cases are Emotional in
Nature for EVERYONE!
 We Distance ourselves to Survive
 Helps to Maintain Control of Ourselves
 This becomes a Huge Barrier between
Investigator and Victim
Police Career Path
 Many Officer’s Interview Skills learned
on Patrol “In the Trenches”
 New Investigators not trained in
Interview Techniques
 They are Trained in Interrogation
Effective Interviewing
 Golden Rule:
 First, Do No Harm………
 All possible efforts should always be made to minimize
potential further trauma to the victim
Setting the Interview Stage
1. Select an appropriate location
 Safe and Comfortable
 Private and Distraction Free
 Maintain an Equal or Inferior Position to the
 Allow her to have some Control over her
Setting the Stage
2. Ask the victim if she would like anyone to be present
during the interview
 Should be determined Privately with
the Victim
 Potential Witnesses must be Excluded
 Always include a Support Person when
Setting the Stage
3. Explain the purpose of the interview
 Purpose is to gather evidence and information,
 There will be questions that the victim does not
have the answers to.
 The victim DOES NOT have to make any
immediate decisions about whether to prosecute
or not
Setting the Stage
4. Present yourself in an accepting and
compassionate manner.
 Acknowledge the Trauma and Seriousness of what she
has been through:
“I am sorry that this happened to you.”
Allow her to vent, even if it is at YOU
Demonstrate empathy.
Help the Victim to regain some control.
NEVER SAY, “I know how you feel” because you don’t.
Calm and reassuring vocal tones
Techniques: Creating and Maintaining an Open
 1. Explaining the Questions:
 Explaining questions dealing with sensitive issues helps
your victim’s fears at ease.
 Use the law to explain why you need specific, detailed
information about what happened.
 Reassure her that your asking about high risk behavior
does not mean that you doubt her story.
Techniques: Creating and
Maintaining an Open Interview
 Physical Techniques
 Eye Contact
 Use Inviting Body Language
 Avoid Touching the Victim
Techniques: Creating and
Maintaining an Open Interview
 3. Use of Sexual Language.
 Avoid using Police Terminology.
 Clarify any slang terms that the victim
uses to ensure that you understand what
they mean.
 Mimic terms used by the victim without
acting shocked or embarrassed by them.
Techniques: Creating and Maintaining an Open
 4. Engage in Active Listening.
 Without interrupting the flow of the narrative, try to
interject comments that let her know that you are
 Encourage the Victim to continue talking while knowing
that she is being heard.
The Victim’s Narrative
The victim’s narrative is the most vital part of the
 Begin by asking the victim to tell you in her own words
and at her own pace, what happened. You can
facilitate the interview while allowing the victim to tell
her own story by:
Using open-ended prompts.
2. Allowing the victim to control the pace.
3. Avoiding leading questions.
After the Initial Narrative
 Go back and clarify specific points.
 Open ended follow-up questions.
 Explore small details, such as the color of the interior
of the car, or the color of the carpet in the room.
 Again, continue to move at her pace, using soft,
soothing voice tones.
 Remember, small details will help corroborate her
story when he says it didn’t happen the way she said.
Information Gained during the Interview
 Essential Elements to be Collected during the
 Description of the victim’s behavior and relationship
with the defendant
Description of the suspect’s behavior.
Documentation of the specific acts committed and
whether any acts were repeated .
Description of the suspect’s sexual behavior.
Establishing force or threat of force.
Concluding the Interview
 Ask the victim of she has any additional information
that she wants to report.
Ask the victim if she has any questions of you
concerning what is happening or what is going to
Reassure you are on her side and will do everything
possible to help her.
Explain to her the next step of the investigation.
Provide her with good contact information for you.
THANK HER for her patience and cooperation.
Departmental Responsibility in Sexual
Assault Response
 Selection of Best Personnel for Sexual Assault
 Written Policy and Procedure for Sexual Assault
 Provide the Best Possible Training for Newly Assigned
 Provide On-going Training for Veteran Personnel.
 Realize that prosecution is NOT always the ultimate
 Recognize the needs of the victim
 Her Strengths,
 Her Weaknesses,
 Listen to her input and wishes
 And what is BEST for her
 What does success look like in this case?
SART and Your Community
 Educate your community
 Dispel the “Myths” of Sexual Assault
 Therefore; you educate your Jury Pool
 Lead by Example
 Loose the tough cop attitude
 No more, “Is this a real rape or another waste of my
 BELIEVE first…………….
 Set the tone and culture of your agency and community
Contact Information
Michael L. Milnor
Senior Supervisory Investigator/Polygraph Examiner
Campbell County Sheriff’s Office
Office # 434 332-9707
Cell# 434 665-1843
Email: [email protected]
Acknowledgements and Sources
 Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault
 Interview or Interrogation?: A Comment on Kassin et
al. J.P. Blair

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