Child-friendly investigation in sexual offenses is a crucial aspect of the legal process to ensure that child victims of sexual abuse are treated with sensitivity, compassion, and understanding. The objective is to minimize the trauma experienced by the child during the investigation and provide a safe and supportive environment for them to disclose the abuse. Several measures and guidelines have been implemented to ensure child-friendly investigation in sexual offense cases in India. Some of these include:
- Trained Personnel: Police officers, investigators, and other professionals involved in the investigation undergo specialized training on child-sensitive interviewing techniques and dealing with child victims. This training equips them with the necessary skills to communicate effectively with children and create a safe space for disclosure.
- Child-Friendly Environment: The investigation is conducted in a child-friendly setting, such as a child-friendly police station or a designated room with age-appropriate toys, books, and games to make the child feel comfortable and relaxed.
- Use of Intermediaries: In cases where the child is too young or traumatized to communicate directly with investigators, intermediaries, such as child psychologists or social workers, may be used to facilitate communication with the child.
- Special Educators and Counselors: The presence of special educators or counselors during the child’s statement recording helps in providing emotional support to the child and ensuring that the child’s needs are met during the process.
- Age-Appropriate Language: Investigators use age-appropriate language and avoid leading questions or suggestive language while questioning the child. This ensures that the child’s statement is not influenced and remains reliable.
- Video Recording: The statement of the child is often video-recorded to create a permanent record of the child’s disclosure, which can be used as evidence during the trial. This measure also reduces the need for the child to repeat their statement multiple times.
- Avoiding Multiple Interviews: Efforts are made to limit the number of interviews the child has to undergo. Multiple interviews can be distressing for the child, and therefore, interviewers coordinate to ensure that all relevant information is gathered in a single interview.
- Support from Family: The child is encouraged to have a trusted family member, guardian, or support person present during the investigation to provide emotional support and reassurance.
- Child Welfare Experts: In certain cases, child welfare experts or Child Welfare Committees may be involved to oversee the welfare and rehabilitation of the child.
- Prohibition on Re-Victimization: Child-friendly investigation ensures that the child is not subjected to any form of re-victimization during the legal process. This includes avoiding insensitive questioning and protecting the child’s identity from public disclosure.
Child-friendly investigation practices are essential to build trust and confidence in the legal system among child victims and their families. These practices also facilitate the collection of accurate and reliable evidence, leading to a higher chance of successful prosecution and justice for the child victim.