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Forensic interviewer helps abused kids tell their stories

Christan M. Thomas • Nov 13, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Her job is to help children tell their stories.

At least that’s how forensic interviewer Amy Whitt-Bachman with the Children’s Advocacy Center of Sullivan County sees her new position.

“When a jury is able to hear a child’s story — what’s happened to them — it’s very compelling,” Whitt-Bachman said.

CAC public relations manager Chelsea Shoun said the forensic interviewer position was made possible by a grant from the Department of Children’s Services. Shoun said the state recommends that CACs have a forensic interviewer on staff.

According to the National Child Advocacy Center’s Web site, forensic interviewing is used when questioning children suspected to be victims of sexual or physical abuse, and those who have witnessed violence.

In forensic interviewing, Whitt-Bachman said children are questioned in a “non-leading” way. In Sullivan County, the children are interviewed in a room at the CAC while law enforcement observe through a two-way window.

“It’s just easier for a child if they’re in a more child-friendly atmosphere ... for them to be able to disclose (information) and feel comfortable talking about what’s happened to them,” said Whitt-Bachman.

To become a forensic interviewer, Whitt-Bachman became certified in a certain interviewing technique. She’s also got nearly 15 years of child welfare experience under her belt, as well as a degree in psychology and sociology. Before coming to the CAC, Whitt-Bachman spent several years with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

That’s experience she hopes will translate into giving children in Sullivan County a voice.

“A lot of people think you can coach a child to get them to say what you want them to say,” Whitt-Bachman said. “With this technique it lets them be able to tell their story without putting words in their mouth.”

For more information on the CAC of Sullivan County visit http://childrensadvocacycenter.com.

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