Following are the basic steps to an investigation of child sexual abuse.
1. Someone reports suspicion of abuse to authorities, either law enforcement or the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS).
2. Interview(s) with the child are conducted, usually at the CAC. A trained forensic interviewer conducts the interview.
3. Medical exams are conducted if necessary.
4. The child is referred for further evaluation at the CAC if necessary. A Victim Advocate (VA) may be assigned to the case.
5. Law Enforcement and/or DFCS will continue the investigation, which will include an interview with the alleged offender, if possible.
6. A team of professionals will meet to discuss the case and decide how to manage it. The team consists of medical professionals, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, social workers, and mental health professionals.
7. The case may be referred to criminal or district court, or some other plan may be made for managing the case.
The Interview Process
Once a report of child abuse has been made to law enforcement and/or DFCS, your child may be interviewed at the CAC. You will be asked to wait while your child is being interviewed. Being left out of some of the proceedings can make you feel as if you are not very important to the process or to your child. Please be assured that you are very important. In fact, you may be the key to understanding what has happened. However, caregivers are not present during the interview to make sure that the child’s testimony is unbiased and will stand up in court.
Interviewers will take the time to make sure your child is comfortable without you. This means letting your child see you with the interviewer and making sure that your child knows where you will be during the interview. It should be made clear to the child that you are available if necessary.
At the end of the interview, the DFCS investigator and law enforcement will inform you about what will happen next. In some instances, a medical examination will be recommended. If a forensic medical exam is recommended, the Medical Director will contact the non-offending parent/caregiver to schedule the appointment and answer questions at that time. Unless told otherwise, you and your child are free to leave after talking with the investigators. The team will meet to develop a plan, and an advocate or the DFCS investigator will contact you at a later date with more detailed information.
All of the CAC’s interviewers are trained in the ChildFirst model and in extended forensic interviews.
Child Abuse Statistics
According to the U.S. Administration for Children & Families, an estimated 1,670 children died from abuse and neglect in the United States in 2015. That same year, Children’s Advocacy Centers around the country served more than 311,000 victims of child abuse, providing victim advocacy and support to these children and their families.