Forensic Interviewing Tribal Communities
Hollie Strand  -  2009/4/29
If there were no limit on available resources, what would your ideal staff look like for a CAC primarily serving Tribal Communities? Do Preventive Services fit into that vision? If so, how?
1.  Hollie Strand
 If there were an unlimited budget, prevention would be the primary focus. Although prosecution is extremely important, it is how we respond to identified victims which can truly effect generations to come. My experience with offenders has taught me that few offenders have only one victim. We seldom identify all an offenders victims so we need to make sure we are doing everything we can to intervene with the victims we identify. With an unlimited amount of resources we could do our best to ensure victims are given all the tools and opportunities to overcome the negative impact of abuse. This would help reduce the occurrence of these children using drugs and alcohol as teenagers and engaging in other high risk behaviors which have the potential to lead them as well as their children to abuse-prone environments. I feel a prevention based CAC could reduce the generational impact we see in children who have been abused. So many times I see families leave the CAC and go on to the pretend normal state in which everyone in the family pretends as though everything is okay. Eventually the child acts out whether it is through sexualized behaviors with other children or through self destructive behaviors which increase the chance of further victimization. Unfortunately it is not until this occurs that families realize their need for counseling and intervention. If we had the opportunity to help families while they were in crisis we could avoid losing our victims to drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, victimizing other children, and other destructive behaviors. I also see the role of proper teaching of body safety talks at school as a key component in prevention. As much as we testify in court to the reason children do not disclose promptly we need to help our schools teach children to disclose early in the abuse rather than after several years. Offenders use the same body safety information against children to invade their boundaries. I could go on and on but I hope this gives a snapshot of what my ideas are concerning prevention.
How do your work into your schedule, the time necessary to stay updated on most recent research and case law which may affect your protocol, procedures, and/or courtroom testimony?
1.  Hollie Strand
 Lately I have been reading The Quarterly Update which helps me identify new research in the field. It also helps me identify credible research without having to wade through a ton of research only to find out the research methods used were not reliable or valid. I also use this to identify studies which are used as references in the current research. I tend to read over some of the more solid studies presented as arguments from both the prosecution and the defensive, primarily focused on suggestibility and memory in children. APSAC Journal has some incredible information and gives us the opportunity to provide peer review to researchers attempting to answer questions pertaining to our field.
Can you suggest any publications on cultural and social norms to follow when talking with tribal based victims? Who should be addressed first in the family etc.?
1.  Hollie Strand
 Eidell Wasserman, Ph.D. is an excellent resource for addressing cultural issues relating to working with victims and their families. She is a great author to begin with and her work will lead to other great resources.
Our dept used to have a multidisciplinary team to respond to sexual assault years ago, but has really died down. Our cases have increased, but cases that actually make it to court seemed to have decreased. How important is it it to have them, did they really work? In addition, our tribe (Navajo Nation) has decriminalized our only child molestation statute, I have tried to express my concerns to our legislative and executive branch for the past two years, nothing. I am with law enforcement and we are only allowed to do so much, any suggestions?
1.  Hollie Strand
 The MDT is one of the most influential components in our CAC. We address problems associated with individual cases, problems with investigative practices, changes in reporting trends, review of statistics, and continually seek to improve our services as an MDT. Without this component, I do not believe we would have the successful prosecution rate as we have in this region. We have been able to identify problems quickly rather than recognizing them 9 months to a year when the case ultimately makes it to the court system. We meet monthly with Law Enforcement, Child Protection Services, States Attorneys office, Victims Assistance, and other agencies invested in our services. I have to say it is a MUST have and also other helps with relationships outside the realm of child abusive investigations such as securing funding and collaborative work efforts. I would love to visit with you about the change in the statute but I need some more details. Send me an email ( and let me know what was there previously and well do some brainstorming. I am willing to do anything I can to help.
2.  LLL
 In San Juan County our MDT is very usefull. MDT approach to investigation not only focusing on the investigation but also pay a lot of attention to providing victim support. This would be very important expecially since many on the victimsuviviors that live on the Navajo Reservation had very few resources. Victim Support is would be benefical expecially since the statue are limited in prosectuion.
1. What's the timeframe to conduct the forensic interview? 2. Is the forensic interview only for the victims with penetration sexual assault vs. overclothing touching? 3. Why are the Tribal Police not referring the SA cases quicker to the CI to conduct the forensic interview. 4. I've attempted to push the cases for children that have advanced communication skills for forensic interview before starting play therapy. 5. Why are the BIE school not taking firm actions on child perpetrators and allowing the victims to withdraw from school? 6. Are there any difference in children with disability that are SA as far as forensic interviewing?
1.  Hollie Strand
 1. The timeframe we have is pretty open. We can interview the victim shortly after the assault/abuse or many years later. 2. The interview is not limited to cases with specific disclosures such as penetration. In many cases we are unaware of the full scope of the abuse until the child discloses the details of the abuse in the interview. Some children initially disclose over-the-clothes touching and then disclose penetration in the interview. 4. I am unsure the policies and procedures for your jurisdiction. Out here we have the local Tribal Police, BIA, and FBI who all work cases. Sometimes the process of identifying the right agency appropriate for the case or which agencies will be working together on a case can creates time lapse in when a child discloses and when a child is interviewed. 4. We interview children starting at 36 months. Some children are able to be interviewed at that time, some even before 36 months. However some children at not able to be interviewed at 36 months dues to lack of the level of expressive and receptive language skills needed to comprehend and answer questions. In those cases we recommend play therapy and try to interview approximately 3-6 months later. 5. I am not the reason for this. It might be a good topic to introduce at a school board meeting. 6. As an interviewer I try to keep my questions at the developmental age of the child. So if I am interviewing a 13 year old with the developmental age of a 6 year old, I would ask questions structured for a 6 year old. I try to do everything I can to make the interview environment and questions consistent with the childs level of development.
I am a forensic interviewer in Wyoming. Due to the FBI and the reservation already having forensic interviewers I have not had many interviews with native children. Do you have any recommendations for me as an interviewer that could assist me in the future when interviewing native children? Or any cultural issues I should be aware of or take into consideration beforehand or during the interview?
1.  Hollie Strand
 I believe the most significant thing is to have an understanding of what is considered most important to that specific culture, such as ceremonies, family, religion, and other attributes. I would suggest visiting with the Tribe and ask to be invited to trainings pertaining to working with Native children. I have found many agencies that I work with on the Reservation are extremely open and willing to help me understand so I can be more effective. It is also important to understand the ceremonial practices which may be requested prior to an interview such as the use a sage. My work with Native families has given me a deeper level of respect and admiration for the strength of the family in Native communities. As an interviewer I see many members of the extended families attended the interview and taking in children when they are temporarily displaced due to the investigation. I am able to help use this strength of the family to their advantage when working with Native children.
What are the differences if any in interviewing Native vs. non-Native children? What is the research on ethnic match (interviewer/child) in forensic interviews and the resultant implications for practice? Given the low numbers of cases that are prosecuted (particularly in tribal communities) and the critical issue of safety for Native children wouldn't our resources be better spent providing more direct services to abused children and families?
1.  Hollie Strand
 I think the most noticeable difference is non-verbal behaviors and the soft-spoken nature of many Native children. Of course we see different traits and behaviors in all children, Native children tend to speak more softly and may answer in more non-verbal gestures. I find the rapport building I do with Native children is less animated however the content remains basically the same. I am unsure what research has been done regarding the matching of the interviewer and the child. I am sure there are some advantages as well as potential disadvantages. In our region we have a high rate of prosecution however I still think we need to focus our efforts on direct services. On the Reservation we need more services available to children and their families. I think prosecution needs to occur but at the same time we need to help our victims and work towards PREVENTION. Direct services would help with prevention but there needs to be additional resources to help make the kind of generational impact we would love to see.
Are there any policies or regulations regarding the comfort and/or safety of children during forensic interviews?
1.  Hollie Strand
 The protocol we adhere to promotes a child friendly environment. We do everything we can to ensure the child feels safe while they are at the advocacy center. We also follow the policy that alleged offenders are not permitted on the grounds of the clinic. This is done to ensure the child is given the best opportunity to disclose if there is a disclosure to be made. We also look at whether a child has eaten or slept since the assault/abuse/disclosure. We try to set the interview time to be conducive to the childs needs at that time.
Are there different models used for conducting forensic interviews? If so, what factors should be considered when determining which is most appropriate to use?
1.  Hollie Strand
 There are different models of interviewing however they seem to be more similar than different. The most important thing is to have a protocol that is followed. I have found the use of dolls, anatomical drawings, and other tools to be more controversial than the specific model or protocol that is used. I would visit with your prosecutors to see where they stand and what input they get from other prosecutors in your region. It is best to use a method that is comfortable for your team and is also accepted by your prosecutor.
How do you best address Young Native Americans that identify with another culture rather than their Native American background. Such as identifying themselves as Hispanic rather than Native?
1.  Hollie Strand
 I have not had an experience in which a child has communicated their association or connection with another culture directly to me. I find that in the interview we seldom discuss how they relate to their culture. We do however talk about who they relate to and who they talk to. Sometimes this leads into the discussion regarding what they believe and what values they regard as important.
Hi Hollie, Two questions First What are or should be the minimum standard(s) of Best Practice to conduct a Forensic/Investigative Interview? (I fear that "anyone" may begin conducting interviews in the mistaken belief that they will be accepted by the Criminal and Civil justice systems) Question TWO What are the challenges for working as a Forensic Interviewer serving Tribes needs and the needs Investigative members of a Multidisciplinary Team in Indian Country?
1.  Hollie Strand
 Hello Mike! #1 I think every interviewer should complete a basic 40 hour course in forensic interviewing. Hopefully the course covers cultural competency, if not an additional course covering cultural issues needs to be completed. After that, frequent training, observation of peer interviews, and reading research should be mandated. I think peer review is vital and should also be an unquestionable requirement. As for the interview, it needs to be structured and follow a model or a set of guidelines. Every question in the interview should have a specific purpose and be defendable in court. Without training, peer feedback, and a set model, interviewers may find themselves detrimental to abuse investigations. #2 One of the toughest problems is the physical distant between here and there. I find myself wanting to be more involved however without being on-site I am less effective and I am not able to offer the amount of support I would like to contribute. However I love the MDT we have set up here in the Black Hills. Every other month we alternate our meeting site from Rapid City to Pine Ridge. This helps ensure we are providing more people the opportunity to attend from both sites. We have a lot of involvement in our MDT and I feel we are a close-knit team. I dont know how we would do things without having our MDT. I consider the MDT to be the most effective way of addressing investigative concerns, questions pertaining to prosecution, and establishing direct services to identified victims and families.
Do you have any comments/experience with different interview protocols or question typologies with tribal communities?
1.  Hollie Strand
 I use a rather eclectic model which allows me a lot of flexibility. I find that having a rigid model does not allow room to adjust for character differences in children. I find having a more flexible model allows me the ability to adjust my model to all children regardless of culture or other differences. Regardless of the model, most of the types and lines of questioning are quite similar.
Given many tribal communities distrust of non-tribal social services and court systems, how do gain the trust of those individuals involved? What are some best practices for coming across in a non-punitive or overly judgmental fashion?
1.  Hollie Strand
 Using the offer of establishing a formal MDT with the goal of helping all the children might be a good start. Almost everyone I have met who works in child services, law enforcement, CASA, victim assistance programs whether it be Tribal or non-Tribal are interested in helping children. We all have the same goals we just need to get on the same side. I have found that when working with other agencies towards a shared goal, differences are often put aside for the greater good, especially for a child. Our federal MDT which includes Lakota Oyate Wakanyeja Owicakiyapi (child protection services), Oglala Sioux Tribe Law Enforcement, BIA, FBI, CAC of Black Hills, US Attorneys Office, Victims Assistance, CASA, and Indian Health Services. We meet monthly and work closely together. We all benefit from having an MDT and with the right invitation I think Tribes and other non-Tribal agencies will view it as a positive gesture.
As a forensic interviewing service located in an area which serves many members of nearby tribal communities, are there additional services, considerations, materials, etc. that our interviewers should take into consideration when working with a family from a Native community? How can our interviewers best serve these families--to make this process as easy on them as possible, to create a welcoming and comfortable environment at our center, etc.? Can you address some of the factors that come into play when interviewing a child from a tribal community and how forensic interviewers can best work with the child and their family?
1.  Hollie Strand
 As a CAC we attempt to be culturally sensitive to all the children we serve. I have found that working closely with the law enforcement, child protection services, victims assistance, CASA, and other agencies on the reservation has been extremely beneficial. The more time I spend working with these agencies the more I have learned about the culture and how I can be effective when working with victims both on and off the reservation. I feel the best method of discovering and developing services, materials, and accommodations is to get involved with the Tribe and partnership with other agencies.
Is there a difference in numbers seen in intergenerational sexual abuse in tribal families compared to other cultures?
1.  sue
 I can't seem to find anything either. I have some eithnic stats for NE but just on sexual assault of adult women. No stats on children. I am a certified SANE-A and Certified Forensic Nurse. Thank you for your time.
2.  Hollie Strand
 I do not know if there is a difference. That is a great question however I do not have the answer. I find that the occurrence seems to exist in all cultures in some degree and personally I have not noticed a difference in the numbers of victims from different cultures of the victims I work with.
What suggestions do you have for developing rapport with a child from a tribal community (when the forensic interviewer is not a member [of the tribal community]) that differs from rapport building with a child not from a tribal community? How do you overcome any animosity on the part of the child victim that may be the result of cultural differences rather than a result of the alleged abuse?
1.  Hollie Strand
 Anyone who knows me would probably tell you I am full of energy and can be loud and quite animated at times. I know that this has worked against me when working with children who are quiet and reserved. I find that I try to mirror the childs level of interaction with me. Some Native children I work with are extremely outgoing and are quick to interact with me while others are quite shy and uncertain of me. If they are outgoing and talkative then I mirror that type of response. If a child is child is quiet and distant I give the child more time to get comfortable. It is also important to help the childs family get comfortable as well. If a childs family is comfortable with me, the child is more likely to get comfortable as well. I find all the above to be true with both Native and non-Native children.
How do we propose to OVC the cultural approach within our own community that would appropriately address the non-offending and the offending family member (s) so that the children are protected at all times. Of course this would be initiated along with the interview?
1.  Hollie Strand
 Hello Arlana!! I know I have mentioned this several times today but I think prevention is the key to healing our families and communities. When proposing to OVC I feel the cultural approach of healing need to be offered as a method of prevention. Society often screams for prosecution but then forgets there are children and families in need. As we heal children and their families we help create a generational impact. Without help the cycle continues and we see the children of the victims we interviewed and watch the abuse continue. A line needs to be drawn showing how the cultural approach to healing families leads to prevention. Once the prevention piece is understood I would hope monies would become available to provide that approach to our families.
I am a non-native forensic interviewer. I have learned much in my almost 2 years of interviewing and try to be very culturally sensitive as well, out center is open to cultural traditions. There have been discussions in my area (Minnesota) about native vs non-native interviewers. Is it more valuable that the interviewer be experienced, vs their cultural background? It seems that I am a much better interviewer now after 100 interviews.
1.  Hollie Strand
 I think that having similar backgrounds can be advantageous however I feel the experience of 100 interviews and training cannot be replaced. I feel the skill level of the interviewer and their cultural understanding have more impact that simply being of the same culture. Children may have blocks which impact an interview more than culture such as the gender, age, height, clothes or tone of voice of the interviewer. As interviewers we need to do our best to ensure we are taking culture as well as other attributes into consideration. We need to be cognizant of all the potential blocks we may encounter working with children and work to minimize or remove those blocks if possible.
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