The FAC coordinates a multi-disciplinary team (MDT) approach in response to allegations of severe child abuse in Navajo County. We facilitate a comprehensive, coordinated approach to these cases that not only results in more successful investigation and prosecution outcomes, but also provides a better and less traumatic response to the child victims and their families. The MDT consists a team of Law Enforcement, Department of Child Safety, prosecutors, Medical and Mental Health professionals, Victim Advocates, and Forensic Interviewers.
After a child is referred to the FAC by law enforcement or Department of Child Safety (DCS), a forensic interviewer listens to the child’s story by asking non-leading, developmentally-appropriate questions as the child talks about the trauma he/she has experienced. Law enforcement and DCS professionals observe from a separate room. The forensic interview reduces trauma for the child and provides a stronger foundation if the case goes to court.
The goal of a forensic interview is to gather pertinent information from children in a neutral, non-leading, developmentally sensitive, and legally defensible manner.
Successful prosecution of child abuse cases begins with a thorough investigation. At the core of that investigation, the ability to ensure the safety and protection of children often starts with the initial forensic interview conducted by a trained professional.
Forensic interviewers provide children with a safe place to share their story in their own words to experts who will listen to them, protect them and help them heal.
Forensic interviewers are specially trained to ask child victims a series of unbiased, non-leading questions to elicit information about the abuse in an age- and developmentally-appropriate manner. During the interview, the child and the interviewer meet one-on-one. Our partners observe the interview through a video feed to the viewing room. An electronic copy of the interview is provided to Law Enforcement and the investigation team.
The forensic interview process allows partner agencies to observe the interview as it is being conducted, allowing for a collaborative team approach to taking a child’s statement and therefore protecting the integrity of the information gathered. This approach allows investigative parties to thoroughly assess child safety issues and possible criminal offenses that may have been committed. The forensic interview is often a critical part of not only the initial investigation but also the criminal prosecution at trial. Forensic Interviewers may be called upon to provide both fact and expert witness testimony to aid in successful prosecution of offenders.
Before centers like the Navajo County Family Advocacy Center, children relived the trauma of abuse repeatedly by having to detail the abuse to police, medical professionals, child protection specialists and others separately. Now, our forensic interviews minimize trauma by ensuring that the child is able to provide the account in their own words and only has to detail the abuse to one adult. Interviews are recorded to preserve evidence for prosecution.
Medical exams are provided to children at our Show Low FAC through a partnership with Summit Healthcare Regional Medical Center.
The purpose of the medical exam is to determine the health and well-being of the victim and collect samples needed for analysis diagnosis and treatment. The exam is conducted with crime victims who have experienced some form of assault, be it physical, sexual or both. These exams are performed by specially trained forensic medical examiners, which include pediatricians, nurse practitioners, and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners.
The visit includes documenting medical signs of abuse, collecting physical samples as indicated, testing and treating for sexually transmitted infections and other conditions related to sexual abuse, and addressing any underlying medical, developmental or psychological concerns.
Trauma can affect anyone at any age. The effects can be mild or severe, creating extreme psychological issues. Any symptoms of trauma should be taken seriously. In some cases, however, the effects of trauma can manifest months and even years after the event, so in actuality, it can be difficult to recognize the symptoms. Often people feel they are weak for needing help, especially when they compare themselves to others who may have endured the same traumatic experience. But it is important to remember that everyone reacts differently to trauma and there is no guideline as to how and what someone should feel. What we do know is that the sooner you deal with the symptoms of trauma, the better chance you have for a full recovery and to be free of the effects of these events. If left unresolved, emotional trauma can affect your daily choices and functioning and ultimately, it can manifest into serious psychological disorders with lasting effects. Just as we need help to heal the physical effects of trauma, we also need help to heal the emotional wounds. Counseling offers a safe and supportive environment to work through these issues.
Does every child who is sexually abused need treatment?
At the very least, sexual abuse is very confusing for a child. Often there’s an investigation that requires the child to speak to a police officer or other professional. It’s helpful for parent and child to have support from a mental health professional and assistance in understanding the abuse and reactions to it. In many cases, a child may not need lengthy, intensive counseling, but it’s helpful for the child and parent to sit down with a trained professional and talk through what has happened, to make sure the child understands and feels safe talking about his or her feelings. Children may blame themselves or hold other unrealistic ideas or beliefs about the abuse that needs to be corrected. Parents may also benefit from talking to a professional who can assist them in overcoming the distress naturally associated with discovering that their child has been sexually abused.
Children who have been victimized and participate in counseling are less likely to:
- Abuse drugs or alcohol
- Grow up to become victims of domestic violence
- Become involved in some sort of criminal activity
- Suffer from depression, anxiety disorders, or post-traumatic stress disorder
- Develop suicidal ideation and self-harm
The Family Advocacy Center is able to provide counseling at no charge to the victim and family.
Two times each month a sexual assault survivors support group meets at the Family Advocacy Center. This group is facilitated by a licensed clinical social worker. Contact the FAC for more information.
2020 Support Group Dates. 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month.
|January 15||May 6 and 20|