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Vol 38  No 11
March 16, 2006


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Working together to investigate child sexual abuse

By Sharon Gray

Standing from left: Const. Sharon Warren, RNC, Crimes against Persons; Dr. Shelly Birnie-Lefcovitch, director of the School of Social Work; Lisa Crewe, administrative project support, School of Social Work. Sitting from left: Susan Walsh, Health and Community Services; and Paula Rodgers, project co-ordinator, School of Social Work. (Photo by Chris Hammond)

Eighteen social workers and police officers from around the province had the opportunity Jan. 20 to view a new training video, the Stepwise Interview Approach, on the investigation of child sexual abuse. The video was launched in St. John’s as part of ongoing training under the Child Sexual Abuse Investigation Training Program (CAITP). The investigators were in St. John’s to be trained in the use of a newly-revised manual on the Collaborative Approach to the Investigation of Child Sexual Abuse.

“This project started in 1993 in response to several recommendations of the Hughes Inquiry,” said Dr. Shelly Birnie-Lefcovitch, director of the School of Social Work and project director. “In particular it responds to Recommendation 23, which supports the need to treat as basic and joint the training of social workers and police officers in the field of child abuse ­ including sexual, physical and emotional abuse.”

The project is jointly funded by the four regional integrated health authorities, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It is co-ordinated by Paula Rodgers, School of Social Work, with administrative support from Lisa Crewe, also of the School of Social Work.

Ms. Rodgers explained that the project has concentrated on developing practical exercises in the techniques of investigative interviewing of children and youth. Training locations are in St. John’s, Corner Brook, Harbour Grace, Labrador, Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor. “We have already offered 34 courses throughout the province and trained 759 police officers and social workers.”

As part of the CAITP, the first two in a series of manuals have been written by Ms. Rodgers. The first one offers a basic level of training in conducting investigative interviews in the area of child sexual abuse. The second manual focuses on investigating sexual abuse in very young children, between the ages of two and five years. The committee is also exploring development of a new curriculum on the collaborative approach to the investigation of family violence.

The videos used local actors and investigators from the RNC, RCMP and Child, Youth and Family Services.

“We have five more courses planned for 2006 between March and May,” said Ms. Rodgers. “We are very pleased with the success of the program to date and this new video will help to improve our training. Conducting joint investigative interviews is the preferred practice in this province. It reduces trauma for the child by preventing multiple interviews and lowers the risk of contaminating an investigation.”

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