The Case of the 14-Year-Old Sexual Assault Victim Interviewed Twice
A 14-year-old girl, whose identity cannot be disclosed for privacy reasons, reported to her mother that the mother's former partner had sexually assaulted her. Independent, external evidence supported her allegation. When prompted by the investigative interviewer who said, "My job is to talk to people about things that might have happened to them. It's important that you explain to me why you are here today," the victim recounted three different episodes of abuse, disclosing many details in response to open-ended questions. After that interview, the victim told her mother that she had forgotten to mention another abusive experience, so on the next day she was interviewed again, also in an open-ended question format.
Here is an excerpt of what she reported during the initial interview (in regular type) and what she reported for the first time during the second interview (in bold type):
It started when I was about eleven, going on twelve. He was downstairs with my mum and then he came up to tuck us in like he usually does. He was in my room. My sister fell asleep and then he took me into a different room. It started from there. He started feeling me. He touched my fanny (vagina) with his hands. He got his finger and rubbed it round my fanny. It was under my clothes. He had clothes on...
My mum had gone out. I was upstairs in my room. I think he told me to "get on the bed," so I did and then he started touching me again, and he tried to put his willy inside me, but he couldn't. He touched me with his hands and his willy. He put his hands on my fanny and in my fanny. He put his fingers inside me...
It was downstairs. I was doing my homework or something. He made me watch a video. He sat with me and we watched the video. It had people on it showing sex and things like that. They had their clothes off. The willy was going in the fanny...
One day he brought a video camera home. It was upstairs in the bedroom that was my mum's. He switched the video camera on. He told me to take my clothes off so I did. He said to "get on the bed," so I did. He had no clothes on either. He told me to pull his willy up and down. He tried to put his willy inside me again. It hurt. He was on top of me (adapted from La Rooy et al., 2010).
Notice that during the second interview, the girl provided information relevant to an entirely different episode of abuse and that she was able to give additional details about the incidents she had described previously.
Critical Thought Question
What features of these interviews were crucial in allowing the victim to recall what had happened to her?