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Police, social workers learn new child interview techniques

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LAWTON, Okla. - Local law enforcement agencies and social workers teamed up Tuesday, to learn how to best interview children who have been victims of abuse.

They are learning a technique known as the Cognitive Graphic Interview (CGI).  The woman who created the system more than 25 years ago, Ann Ahlquist, is guiding the workers through it.  Ahlquist developed the CGI with input from legal experts so that information children give to interviewers can be used in court. 

The learning was hands on.  During a practice interview, a volunteer child came in and a Lawton detective and a social worker spoke with her to simulate a real life situation.  

"This is a great chance for me to learn how to interview children and get that information I need, but I also think this has a relevance on how I will interview adult victims also," said Lawton Police Det. David Shucker.

For Shucker, talking to an abused child is quite new.  He switched from special ops last November and says the most valuable thing he has learned with the CGI technique is drawing everything out while talking to the child.

"By mapping that information, puts the child right there in the instance when we reconstruct what occurred.  It's right there on the map for us to see and we get more details that way," said Shucker.

If there are any discrepancies, the heat goes back on the interviewer.

"There's a great deal of scrutiny in the person that asks the question.  By that, I mean the public perceives the children are easily led in making false statements of abuse which is not true," said Ahlquist.

Participants must learn the right way to get the information.

"Asking big questions, learning how to intentionally ask high-level questions, so a child can tell about their experience," said Ahlquist.

Shucker says the course will surely give him a leg up for future cases.

"Each child presents a different challenge.  Sometimes you have a very open kid's that's ready to talk, some kids are burdened and don't want to talk," said Shucker.

Ahlquist says most of the time children are very tight lipped when telling to police or social workers about their experience because, in 85% of those cases, the abuser is someone close to them.

The four types of abuse are sexual abuse, neglect, physical abuse, and witnessing domestic violence.  Ahlquist says child abuse numbers are up only because we are becoming more aware of the issue. 

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