The second of a two-part webinar series, Victoria Reichers is back on Justice Clearinghouse. The first part discussed what happens internally to sexual assault victims by unpacking the neurobiology of trauma and its manifestations in the different facets of the victim’s life. On this installment, Victoria shines the spotlight on the external processes involved in sexual assault cases.
Victoria Riechers is the Sexual Violence Response Coordinator for the Arizona Coalition. She provides training and technical assistance to sexual assault responders and helps communities to develop effective sexual assault response teams.
Points Victoria highlighted in this course are:
- The unfortunate state of the criminal justice system as a field that isn’t fully implementing trauma-informed approach and how the victims are impacted by this reality.
- The critical feature of trauma-informed sexual assault response that considers the different circumstances, knowledge and characteristics of each victim.
- The qualities of positive response that conveys belief and non-judgment extended to sexual assault victims through listening, tone of voice and preparedness.
- Guidelines and verbatim examples on:
- Building rapport and trust with the victim.
- Providing appropriate response.
- Using mirror language to communicate understanding.
- Keeping responsibility with the perpetrator.
- What Sexual Assault Response Teams (SART) are, its components, and how it is able to improve response and victim outcomes.
- The survivors’ healing process and the types of advocates that s/he may deal with during this period.
- Best practices for advocates comprised of:
- Trauma-informed sample questions for advocates to ask the victims.
- Specific concerns and strategies that address the psychological, physical and social impact of the incident.
- Barriers that makes it challenging for victims to decide on reporting about the incident to law enforcement.
- Best practices for law enforcement response that includes:
- Dispatch response checklist that establishes the victim’s safety, needs, suspect information and evidence preservation.
- Initial law enforcement response that confirms victim safety and the crime, securing evidence and witnesses, assessing the need for medical forensic exams, and establishes suspect identity.
- The characteristics and components of the first responder initial interview.
- Educating the victim on the purpose, inclusion and benefits of conducting medical forensic exams.
- When and how to best conduct a detailed law enforcement interview.
- Incorporating the Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview (FETI) in law enforcement response and investigation.
- Additional consideration related to evidence collection and management.
- Awareness In spotting discrepancies and other common defense tactics when conducting suspect interviews.
- Best practices for prosecution which involves:
- Sexual assault training and upholding victims’ rights.
- Developing rapport and allowing the victim to feel comfortable with the courtroom and testifying.
- Considering filing separate charges for separate acts other than sexual assault.
- Awareness during jury selection.
- Using expert witnesses to better inform the jury.
- Keeping transparency with the victim.
- The webinar participants’ inquiries were about:
- Using body-worn cameras in the medical forensic room and other confidentiality concerns.
- Preventing victim retraumatization.
- Screening for strangulation.
- Getting judges to be trauma-informed.
- Additional consideration for individuals with disability.
- Biggest mistakes committed by law enforcement dealing with sexual assault victims and cases.
Resources Mentioned During the Webinar:
- “As a new advocate, I walked away today with practical tools I can use when providing direct service in the hospital setting. I have so many notes and tips! Thank you so much.” –Ginia
- “Best practices for advocates. I am presenting about to undergo training to become an advocate and I feel validated in the work I have been doing with survivors of campus sexual assault thus far.” –Rolicia
- “Gave specific responses for different situations and looked at the whole person in terms of impact when meeting and talking with victims.” –Vicki
- “How the speaker talked about being trauma-informed from different career perspectives. I love the specific examples of how to say things. Great speaker.” –Kaylee
- “I think the examples of different things you could say that would help the survivor stay calm were very important to know. Mirroring language, for example, is something that is important to remember.” –Priscilla
- “I liked the feedback on proper responses to give when Victim is providing info. It’s very helpful to hear these suggestions instead of just saying what not to say. It was good to hear info about allowing the V to provide info 1-2 days later, as they often can reflect back and remember more later when their mind has been able to settle a bit.” –Melinda
- “The percentage of false reporting. I believe that the community believes false reporting is common and happens in most cases. The Webinar was very informative and a great reminder to always be conscious of your own beliefs and opinions as well as word choices in speaking with victims.” –Tracy