An explorative study of the training needs of investigating officers interviewing young victims of sexual abuse
There is deep concern nationally and internationally about the increasing numbers of sexual offences against children. South Africa is one of the countries with a very high incidence of child sexual abuse. Child sexual abuse is very traumatic for most children: research reveals that the negative psychological impact of child sexual abuse persists over time and even into adulthood. Disclosure of sexual abuse is often very traumatic for the victim and the response of the investigation officer is crucial as inappropriate responses to disclosure can inhibit the child's healing process, jeopardize the subsequent legal proceedings and expose the child to secondary traumatisation. This study explores the training needs of investigating officers of the South African Police Services with regard to interviewing young victims of sexual abuse. The rationale would be that if investigating officers were adequately trained in interviewing sexually abused children the trauma will be lessened for the child victim and their families. A qualitative study was conducted. Two groups of participants were used in the study: Investigating officers working for the SA Police Service and social workers working for various non-governmental organizations. Participants were purposefully selected. Data were produced by the use of questionnaires and interviews semi-structured. The interviews were analysed thematically. The seven themes that emerged from the data analysis were: reporting of sexual abuse, investigation of sexual abuse, knowledge of sexual abuse, practical skills, attitudes of investigating officers, children with disabilities and support for investigating officers. The data from the questionnaires were also analysed quantitatively. The findings from the study indicate that investigating officers need more in-depth and extensive training on how to interview sexually abused children.