More than 1,000 times since 2002, Colleen Medwid, forensic interviewer and program coordinator at Dove House Children’s Advocacy Center in Statesville, has interviewed a child about the difficult subject of sexual abuse. Dove House provides a child-friendly environment for investigations involving children ages 2 to 17. “The team effort (at Dove House) has made such a difference in the lives of so many children,” she says. In addition to forensic interviews, Dove House also provides medical exams and victim advocate services and has a multi-disciplinary team consisting of six law enforcement agencies in Iredell and Alexander counties. This year marks the tenth annual “An Evening for Dove House” event, the organization’s largest fundraiser.
Q. How do you separate your emotions from your work?
I have to always keep in mind that if I show emotions, the interview will not be forensic in nature. It is my duty to every child to give them the chance to give their information to someone who will listen to what they have to say in a non-judgmental way, therefore keeping their dignity intact and giving them a chance at justice – whether that is through a plea deal or a trial.
Q. How do you gain the trust of the children you interview?
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I begin every interview with rapport building. Every child’s comfort level is different, so I assess when the child is ready to begin the conversation about the abuse. I am honest with every child I see and I gain their trust by explaining the interview process and encouraging them to ask any questions of me that they have in order to help them feel comfortable. I proceed at the child’s pace.
Q. How does what you do differ from what other law enforcement agencies do to help the victims?We offer an environment that is non-intimidating to the child as well as the non-offending family member. We have two victim advocates who support the family by referring to resources in the community of services that they might be in need of such as counseling, food pantries and assistance with other needs. Everything we do at Dove House is victim-oriented. Much of what law enforcement does is offender-oriented.
Q. How do you collaborate with other agencies to bring justice to the victims?We work together as a team with each agency involved having different roles yet sharing a common goal - the child’s safety and overall welfare. All information is shared among the participating agencies and this helps to ensure the child’s situation is fully understood by everyone and also alleviates the trauma of duplication for the child and family.
Q. What advice would you give someone who suspects an abusive situation involving a child?For the child’s safety, assume abuse is occurring and report it to either your local Department of Social Services or the police. Those agencies will then send us a report and we will schedule the child in for an interview.
Want to help?
“An Evening for Dove House”The May 7 fundraiser’s tickets are sold out, but to donate items for the auction, contact Jack Grossman at 704-662-3620 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also help Dove House by donating financial contributions, purchasing wall tiles or brick pavers through the Engraved Brick Program, which helps pay off the balance for their new facility, and contributing to their wish list. More info: www.dovehouse.us.
“A Special Mother’s Day Worship Service:” On May 8 there will be a non-denominational service and dedication ceremony in memory of Jessica Lunsford, the namesake of “Jessica’s Law,” a provision toughening punishments for sex offenders in many states. Her father, Mark Lunsford, is the testimonial speaker at “An Evening for Dove House.” Light refreshments will be served following the ceremony. 10:30 a.m. Free and open to the public. Dove House Meditation Garden, 2407 Simonton Road, Statesville.