the child terror
Techniques in Interviewing Children - The Controversy
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Names of all children and their families have been changed.

The testimony and statements of child victims is necessarily a central component of child sex abuse prosecutions. Eliciting that testimony often requires careful interviewing - a process that over the years has received increasing scrutiny by child researchers, psychologists and attorneys.

Prosecutors rely on the integrity of the interviews to establish the credibility of the child's claims. On the other hand, defense attorneys often dissect the interview techniques looking for patterns of suggestion or coercion that may result in unreliable statements.

In the case against Harold Grant Snowden, the chief prosecution witness, five year-old Leslie Blandes (not her real name), was interviewed by Dr. Laurie Braga. In 1984, Dr. Braga and her husband, Dr. Joseph Braga, were recruited by State Attorney Janet Reno to assist the State with its child sex abuse investigations. At the insistence of the Bragas, the child interviews were videotaped. State laws would later be changed to allow children's videotaped statements to be used as evidence in child sexual abuse trials.

Video Clips

Two video clips from the interview of Leslie provide an example of the debate that has emerged over child interview techniques.

In the first clip, Dr. Braga explains to the child who she is and the purpose of the interview, and Leslie first discloses an allegation that Snowden molested her. Read the transcript of this clip.

In the second clip, Leslie discloses further incidents of abuse against her and her six-month old brother. Read the transcript of this clip.

Dr. Braga's Testimony

Dr. Braga testified at Snowden's trial and offered explanation and defense of her interviewing methods
Commentary by Dr. Stephen Ceci

Dr. Stephen Ceci, a professor of psychology at Cornell University, and a nationally recognized expert on children's memory and interviewing techniques, discusses problems he identified with Dr. Braga's method of interviewing.
The Full Transcript

In the debate over interviewing techniques, it is commonly argued that the interviews are selectively analyzed - that a full appreciation of the child's statement can only be viewed by examining the entire transcript. Therefore, the full transcript of Dr. Braga's interview with 'Leslie' is provided here.



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