Sexual assault victims frequently experience trauma which impacts their ability to recall events. Understanding the neurobiology of trauma and learning how to interview through a trauma-informed lens is paramount to a successful case.
Navigating the landscape of sexual assault investigations is complex.
Less than 50% of all sexual assault victims ever make a report to police. It is critical that investigators and prosecutors understand the complex psychological, cultural and social challenges that sexual assault victims face. Victims who speak about their assault can be misunderstood and met with a wide range of negative reactions, including: disbelief, shame, disgust, and blame. These reactions not only cause further damage to victims but hinder successful investigations and prosecutions.
Getting an accurate interview from the victim is critical.
Trauma has unique effects on the brain and, in particular, the areas of the brain responsible for processing information and remembering facts. Many sexual assault victims experience some degree of memory loss. Victims may be able to remember, in great detail, parts of the assault, but, when asked about other aspects, their memories may be fragmented or incomplete. Some officers will make the mistake of discrediting a victim’s statement if elements of the narrative are imprecise or if a victim cannot recount an event in a clear chronological fashion.
By understanding the neurobiology of trauma and using a trauma-informed approach to interviewing, you will yield better investigatory outcomes.