By: Sergeant Rich Mankewich, Major Case/Sex Crimes, Orange County Sheriff’s Office
For years, law enforcement officers have never been fully trained to recognize and address the psychological and emotional trauma associated with a sexual assault. During initial interviews, victims often are inconsistent, not showing emotion and unable to provide detailed information when describing the sexual assault they have suffered. Investigators often mistake these inconsistencies and lack of emotions as either lies or attempts to cover up what has really occurred. Learning how trauma affects the brain during a sexual assault is the first step for an investigator. As investigators, we must be able to recognize that certain behaviors and actions are directly related to trauma caused by the sexual assault. Once we learn how to recognize trauma, we then must then learn how to ask questions in such a manner as to gain the most detailed memories from the victim and, more importantly, not cause any more harm.
Trauma informed investigations using the Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview (FETI) was developed to uncover what victims are able to remember using questions that trigger recollections related to sensory memories recorded during the assault. The Statewide SART (Sexual Assault Response Team), took on the project this year to develop a day long training to teach investigators this new interview technique. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office was one of three agencies selected to be a pilot site to train and implement the FETI trauma informed investigation model. As the new style of interviewing begins, we look forward to successful intervention, investigations and prosecution of sexual assault cases.