A child victim should not be repeatedly asked to retell his or her story of abuse. Some
repetition may inevitably occur, but the prosecutor should strive to have only the minimum
number of interviews necessary. When possible, prosecutors should be involved at the forensic
interview77 so that they can suggest questions, which will ultimately help reduce the number of
subsequent interviews.78 If there is no forensic interview, or if the prosecutor is unable to attend,
the prosecutor should attempt to collaborate with those present at the initial interview.
It is problematic for numerous reasons to have a child repeatedly retell his or her story.79
Multiple interviews can cause children to experience further traumatization, children may recant
because of the stress and may make inconsistent statements.80 Multiple interviews also increase
the chances that the defendant will argue a child’s testimony has been the product of suggestion
as opposed to independent recollection.81
A prosecutor should meet with a victim outside of formal interviews. Formal interviews
can be scary and taxing on a child, and it is unlikely that there will be opportunities during these
types of interviews for the prosecutor and the child to get to know each other.82 To reduce a
child’s anxiety in a formal interview, prosecutors could meet with the child before and after the
interview. They can meet before the interview to inform the child of what will happen and to
make sure that the child has a support person. The meeting after the interview should debrief the
child, as the interview may have brought up traumatizing events and stressful emotions.83 Simply
talking about trauma can itself be traumatizing. Anytime a child has to talk about trauma, the
prosecutor needs to be aware of aftereffects. If the child appears highly stressed afterward, the
prosecutor should suggest that the child be taken to a counselor.
One way for a prosecutor to establish trust and rapport with a child is for the prosecutor
and the child to have informal meetings. In the early stages of pre-trial preparation, the prosecutor
should not try to elicit details about the child’s abuse.84 Instead, the prosecutor needs to take these
opportunities to get to know the child’s world. For example, the prosecutor can talk with the child
77 Sometimes the forensic interviews are conducted at Child Advocacy Centers. The goal of these interviews is to have a collaborative
team of interdisciplinary professionals at the interview, in order to minimize the number of interviews in an abuse investigation.
Theodore P. Cross et al., Child Forensic Interviewing in Children’s Advocacy Centers: Empirical Data on a Practice Model, 31
CHILD ABUSE & NEGLECT 1031, 1034 (2007), available at http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/cv108.pdf; see also Lucy S. McGough, Good
Enough for Government Work: The Constitutional Duty to Preserve Forensic Interviews of Child Victims, 65 LAW & CONTEMP.
PROBS. 179, 181 (2002), available at http://www.jstor.org/stable/1192370?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents (discussing the importance
of preserving forensic interviews for purposes of trial).
78 Major Bradley M. Cowan, Children in the Courtroom: Essential Strategies for Effective Testimony by Child Victims of Sexual
Abuse, 2013 FEB. ARMY LAW. 4–5 (2013).
79 Cross et al., supra note 77, at 1033.
80 Id. at 1034; Simona Ghetti et al., Legal Involvement in Child Sexual Abuse Cases Consequences and Interventions, 25 INT’L. J. L. &
PSYCHIATRY 235, 238 (2002), available at http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0160252702001048/1-s2.0-S0160252702001048-
81 Colin H. Murray, Child Witness Examination, 31 NO. 3 LITIG. 16, 17 (2005).
82 See generally Ghetti et al., supra note 80 (discussing negative emotional effects on children as a result of legal involvement). Based
on my experiences as a student prosecutor and based on my conversations with other prosecutors, there is no opportunity for
prosecutors to spend time with the children outside of the interview. During a pre-trial interview, a defense attorney will question the
child. The interview is usually scheduled for a block of time. The child may arrive just a few minutes before the interview. The
prosecutor may have time to talk to the child beforehand, or he or she may not. It also may be that there is no time after the interview
for the prosecutor to speak with the child. It also may be that the child is stressed out after the interview, so talking afterward would
not be beneficial to either the child or the prosecutor.
83 Although the model of Critical Incident Stress Debriefing is beyond the scope of this Article, the idea is something that a prosecutor
should consider. A child should not just be sent home after a pre-trial interview. The prosecutor may be able to help ground the child,
or at the very least make sure the child has support when he or she gets home. See Jeffery T. Mitchell, Critical Incident Stress
Debriefing, TRAUMA, http://www.info-trauma.org/flash/media-e/mitchellCriticalIncidentStressDebriefing.pdf (last visited Apr. 10,
2015) (explaining debriefing in general).