Child Victim Investigations: Navigating the Unthinkable
REPORT ALL SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY TO POLICE
The following is a detailed explanation on what to expect, in general, during the course of an investigation in which a child is victimized.
Step One: Detective Responds
An on-duty detective from Henrico Police may respond, regardless of day or time. However, this may not be the same detective who will ultimately be assigned to the child’s case.
Step Two: Detective Assigned
A detective from the Henrico Police Division’s Special Victims Unit will be assigned to the investigation. He or she will contact you soon after the initial report is taken, typically during daytime hours. The detective assigned to the investigation may, or may not, be the same detective with whom you initially met.
Step Three: Forensic Interview
A forensic interview of the child may be conducted at a Child Advocacy Center. A forensic interview is a structured conversation with a child intended to elicit details about possible events the child may have experienced or witnessed. The interview is conducted by a specially-trained forensic interviewer in a child-friendly setting; not at a police facility.
The interview is observed by the detective. Questions are carefully worded so answers are in the child’s own words. No child is coached or led to a response. The interview is recorded and used for investigation purposes; it will not be released to the public.
If it is determined that a forensic interview of the child is necessary to the investigation, a pamphlet with greater detail about the interview process will be provided.
Step Four: Physical Examination
Depending on the circumstances, the child may be examined by specially-trained nurses at either St. Mary’s Hospital (5801 Bremo Road), or MCV-VCU Hospital (1213 E. Clay Street). The purpose of the examination is to recover and document any potential evidence corroborating the child’s disclosure.
Step Five: Child Protective Services
Henrico Child Protective Services (CPS) may be involved in the investigation if the potential abuser is a care provider for the child.
A care provider is any adult (18 years of age or older), designated to be in a position of authority, care, or responsibility for the child at the time the act(s) occurred. Examples of a care provider include a parent, guardian, sibling, family member, babysitter, coach, teacher, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc.
Step Six: Witness Interviews
In the initial stages of the investigation, the primary focus will be on the well-being of the child and the collection of evidence, statements, etc. This sometimes confuses and frustrates loved ones, as it may appear police are not investigating all possible leads. However, rest assured, any and all potential witnesses pertinent to the investigation will be contacted during the course of the investigation.
Step Seven: Findings Presented
Once the investigation is complete, the findings are presented by the detective to the Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney for Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court. Upon review, the Commonwealth’s Attorney will make a determination to either continue the investigation, place criminal charges, or decline prosecution.