Two local agencies have combined forces to try to help trauma victims through the ordeal of telling their story to investigators.
Citizens Against Domestic Violence (CADV) in cooperation with the Camden County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) have created a new room in the sheriff’s office designed to help victims. This room, known as a "Soft Interview Room", attempts to bring the comforts of home to the interview room, putting victims of crime at ease.
The hope is that this will allow the victim to feel more comfortable in revealing information that will lead to a conviction.
Detective Corporal Keith Vance was the brain behind this room, saying he based it off of similar programs around the country.
"Traditional rooms are smaller, with no distractions, so suspects will focus on the interviewer," says Vance. "The difference being that the soft interview room is bigger and much more comfortable. This will encourage victims to speak to us."
The whole idea began when CADV Case Manager Kellie Kost was speaking with Vance and he mentioned the room.
"He said it had been a goal of his for years," says Kost. "I told him 'Well it's one of my goals too!' and we went for it."
CADV staff who spoke to victims that had previously been interviewed noticed that many of them had issues disclosing information to police. The cause? A stifling atmosphere brought on by an uncomfortable room and sterile environments. They said a warmer and more comfortable room would help them feel safer, thus providing a full disclosure of their experiences.
According to the Office for Victims of Crime, coping mechanisms for victims of crime depend largely on their experiences immediately following the crime. Law enforcement officers are usually the first point of contact for victims. For this reason, they are in a unique position to help victims cope with the immediate trauma of the crime and to help restore their sense of security and control over their lives. Promoting feelings of safety allows the victim to be more receptive to help and focus on healing rather than searching for comfort in a sterile environment.
Creation of the new Soft Interview Room is the first step in creating a trauma-informed approach to victim assistance. By implementing features that cultivate a feeling of safety and comfort, CCSO expects to effectively establish rapport and aid in the victim’s journey towards becoming a survivor.
CADV and CCSO encourage local organizations and law enforcement agencies to explore options within their facilities for creating a trauma informed area for victims. Contact CADV or CCSO for more information on creating a Soft Interview Room.
"We really want to help other agencies," says Kost. "We're happy to develop and help any agency that's interested.