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Tools of the Trade: Diagrams and Dolls

A Q&A with Forensic Interviewer Taylor Edmunds and Bilingual Lead Forensic Interviewer Wendy Diaz

 

CAC’s Forensic Interviewer Taylor Edmunds recently completed advanced training in using dolls and diagrams in forensic interviews. This Q&A with Taylor and CAC’s Bilingual Lead Forensic Interviewer Wendy Diaz helps explain how and why these tools are used with children in the interview.


In Illinois, all children under the age of 18 are legally entitled to a forensic interview if they have been a victim of sexual abuse. Forensic interviews are also conducted in cases of physical abuse or if the child has been a witness to violence in the home or out in the community.


CAC works through a community-based, collaborative model that utilizes a Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) comprised of law enforcement, child protective services, the State’s Attorney’s Office, medical personnel and other key agency staff. The MDT observes the forensic interview via a real-time live feed and uses it to determine next steps in the legal process. The goal is to limit additional trauma to the child by having them tell their story once in a safe, trauma-focused setting.


Q: What exactly is a forensic interview?

A: (Wendy) A forensic interview of a child gathers details in a neutral and age-appropriate manner. We interview children ages 3-17 that are alleged victims of or witnesses to a crime.


Q: How would dolls and diagrams help a child explain what happened to him/her?

A: (Taylor) As an interviewer, there are purposes for utilizing dolls and diagrams in an interview, and the need to use them must be clear. The four purposes for using dolls in an interview include: use for clarification, consistency, distancing and communication. Typically, the dolls are used in situations when a child is describing an act that took place on their body, and the interviewer does not understand the child’s description of how the act took place.


The purpose of the diagrams is to arrive at a common language for body parts with kids under the age of 10 and/or for clarification purposes after the child has already disclosed (physical or sexual abuse). For example, if a child discloses that they felt pain on their “cookie,” the diagrams can be used to clarify which body part that child is referring to.  


Note: Both the dolls and the diagrams represent different races/ethnicities, and interviewers use the doll and/or diagram that matches the child.


Q: Can you give an example of how you used dolls and/or diagrams in an interview?

A: (Wendy) An 8-year-old came to our center for allegations of sexual abuse. The child disclosed being touched in the part where she pees by the part that he (alleged offender) pees. Diagrams (anatomical drawings) were used to further clarify the body parts that they were talking about. Further in the interview, the child was providing details about body position and what was happening. As the interviewer, there was some confusion in the body position, and dolls were brought out after the disclosure was made. The child used the dolls as a tool to show what was happening to her body and how her body was positioned. Both diagrams were provided to the Multidisciplinary Team (MDT).


A: (Taylor) A 6-year-old child came to the CAC due to an allegation of sexual abuse. In the interview, I asked the child to identify and label body parts using the language they use every day. After identifying and labeling body parts, I discussed touches the child gets on their body that are OK and not OK with them to receive. The child also identified the parts no one should “see or touch” and denied anything happened to those body parts. The child said if this were to happen, they could safely tell their caregiver. After the interview, I then placed evidence stickers on the diagrams and provided them to the detective assigned to the case, as these diagrams are considered police evidence.


For more information on forensic, advocacy and mental health services available at CAC, contact Director of Forensic and Advocacy Services Jessica Montgomery at jmontgomery@cachelps.org.

 

 

 

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