When interviewing someone, it is important to understand the ways in which your questions can influence the information the interviewee provides. In order to give the interviewee space to share everything that they remember – acknowledging the intricacies of memory as explored in previous modules – the interviewer has a responsibility to ask the right kind of questions, in the right order. This module provides insight into how you can structure your interview to make it most effective for your objectives.
In Module 5, you will:
● Learn how to give space to the interviewee to share an uninterrupted narrative account of their experience as they recall it
● Understand what the reliability hierarchy and the topic spiral are and how to apply them to obtain accurate and reliable information
✓ The ‘Account’ phase is the main part of the interview, in which the interviewer collects information on the interviewee’s experience, while making efforts to minimize the risk of retraumatization. In this phase, it is important to keep in mind that people remember what they remember. The interviewer shall not try to force the interviewee to remember details that are not clear for them. Rather, it is paramount to create a space where they remember what they can and share an uninterrupted account of their experience as they recall it.
✓ The reliability hierachy and the topic spiral are techniques the interviewer can use to get information that is as reliable and accurate as possible from the interviewee. The reliability hierarchy refers to a way to structure interview questions to guide the reconstruction of memory and increase the reliability of the information gathered. It is applied in a topic spiral, which refers to the ability of the interviewer to identify and discuss one topic at the time.
✓ The interviewer shall phrase questions in a way that helps the interviewee retrieve memories from a traumatic event while not guiding or influencing their account. Engaging in active listening, refraining from interrupting the interviewee and letting them talk are some of the steps the interviewer can take to make sure the interviewee feels supported and remains engaged in the process. It is also important to be aware of the timing of different types of questions.
Before moving on to the quiz, please check out the additional resources provided under the “Materials” tab above.
Guidelines: "Successful Trauma-Informed Victim Interviewing", IACP
If you’re struggling to figure out how to rephrase or pose your questions in a way that respects trauma-informed interviewing principles, this resource explains the reasoning behind reworking questions in different scenarios.