Career Story: Child Abuse Investigator

Child Abuse Investigator

Job Title: Clinical Child Interview Specialist

Type of Company: I work in a children's advocacy center. We serve children and their families who have made allegations of sexual or physical abuse.

Education: BS, Social Work, Bridgewater State College •• MSW, University of Connecticut

Previous Experience: I have worked with at-risk children for 11 years.

Job Tasks: I conduct forensic interviews, which are also known as "diagnostic interviews". When a child has made an allegation of sexual abuse, the police will contact our center and schedule an interview. I meet with the child in a two-room suite. The child and I sit in one room and in the other, behind a two-way mirror, are the Police and DCF acting as observers. I use a nationally-recognized protocol known as RATAC to talk with these kids about abuse. All the interviews are videotaped to reduce the need for repetition. My interviews are non-leading and neutral. My job is to ensure safe, clear communication with the child, to gather facts, details, etc. For many of the children I talk with, this is the one time that they are talking in detail about their abuse. I have had many children leave the interview feeling "so much better" and they are able to start the healing process. The children that I talk to are between the ages of 3-17. They are the most incredible people I have ever met. They are endured so much yet they are the courage to speak up and tell. Many of these children indirectly stop abuse happening to others.

While the police watch the interview, they are getting information together to allow them to write up a warrant. It feels good to know that I am a part of a process of tracking down criminals and preventing them from doing further harm. Many people have asked me how I can do such a job, hearing all the information that I do. The answer is simple. There is an innocence to the children that allows me to wake up every day and do what I do. I do it also in honor of all the people who have been abused but who do not have a voice, or who weren't believed. 90% of sexual abuse incidents are committed by someone both the child and family trust. Many people fear strangers, but the reality is we need to educate the community about the people we KNOW.

Once I finish my interview, I write a written report and recommend therapy and a medical exam. My report is then sent out to police and DCF and other providers as applicable. My report and taped interview can be subpoena'd to court. I have a very unique job and I feel blessed that I have the skills which allow me to do the work that I do.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is that I help keep children safe. I provide a safe place for children to talk. It feels good when I build rapport with a child and I know that they are starting the healing process.

The worst part of my job is that I have a job...meaning that there are kids out there who need our services. It is also frustrating when I am working with a family which doesn't believe and give support to their child.

Job Tips: I would say that my job is not for everyone. I hear and see a lot of things that the average person would not be able to stomach. I would say that if someone wanted to work with kids and work towards stopping child abuse, I would recommend that they volunteer somewhere. Become a mentor. Shadow someone in the human service field. Do an internship. It is important to be exposed to all sorts of different dynamics.

Additional Thoughts: It took 11 years to get me to this point. I always said that the one population I could not work with would be sexual abuse. However, this is what I do now and it's the most fulfilling job I have had. Everyday is different. I never know what I will be walking into when I go to work. I rely on myself, my instincts. It is important to be confident, to know your boundaries, to know your limitations and weaknesses.

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