Project Safe Talk is the multidisciplinary approach to forensic interviewing of child victims and/or witnesses of sexual and physical abuse. Before LifeHouse Child Advocacy Center, a child abuse victim was interviewed by 7 to 10 different entities (i.e., the sheriff’s department or police department, county court services, the district attorney’s office, SRS, advocates, mental health services and medical services) often by individuals not specially trained to work with children for this type of crime. Those interviews took place in separate, sometimes scary places that even adults would find intimidating. And for a 5-year-old, every time they retold the story, they relived every emotion associated with the abuse.
Now, victims in Shawnee and surrounding counties are questioned in a single interview by a single trained interviewer in a child-friendly environment with stuffed animals and family room furniture. Other agency representatives, in an adjoining room, utilize communications technology to have their questions answered. This Safe Talk interview captures the emotion of the first telling on videotape and results in less trauma to the victim, greater communication between involved agencies and increased numbers of prosecutions
LifeHouse Child Advocacy Center's Safe Talk Team consists of law enforcement, SRS, victim advocates, mental health, prosecution, medical and court services. The coordinated joint investigative process is successful in avoiding duplication of interviews and increasing the effectiveness of intervention. LifeHouse Child Advocacy Center also offers additional resources to child victims and their families and are able to coordinate services with other existing agencies.
The procedures utilized were developed to offer the children and their families a crisis assessment and appropriate referrals. Children and their accompanying family members can be referred for a medical checkup, receive counseling referrals, get assistance with Crime Victims Compensation, and even receive a list of helpful reading materials for themselves and their child, as well as check out materials from the Women of Steel Resource Library.
Law enforcement agencies from surrounding counties without a “child friendly” interview center utilize LifeHouse Child Advocacy Center and are encouraged to continue to do so in the future.