Legal Outcomes as Effectiveness Research of Forensic Interviewing at the Child Advocacy Center of East Alabama (CACEA)
Type of DegreeThesis
Human Development and Family Studies
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Sexual abuse is a devastating reality with tragic effects on the victims. It affects approximately one in four children before the age of eighteen. Legislation and prosecution of sex abuse crimes are intended to deter perpetration of sexual abuse; however, obtaining the needed information from children in order to successfully pursue criminal charges is difficult. Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) have been established to aid in the forensic interviewing process. Forensic interviewing is intended to gain accurate accounts of alleged abuse from children to aid in the pursuit of criminal charges. This study tested the effectiveness of forensic interviewing at the CAC in East Alabama (CACEA) in terms of legal outcome. Seven hundred seventeen Department of Human Resources (DHR) indicated child sexual abuse cases were divided into two groups: 1) CACEA, where trained forensic interviewers were employed and 2) DHR, where traditional social workers or law enforcement officers were the interviewers. These two groups were compared in terms of criminal legal action outcomes. Results revealed that criminal indictments occurred twice as often with CACEA forensic interviewed cases than with DHR, traditionally interviewed cases. Additionally, convictions among charged cases occurred three times more often with CACEA interviewed cases than DHR interviewed cases. Other statistically non-significant trends were found, suggesting the need for future studies to control for confounding factors. While the results of this evaluation suggest superior results for forensic interviewing, large-scale, comparative studies can aid in further validating forensic interviewing, contributing to the goal of more effectively holding perpetrators accountable for their crimes against children.