The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX

Local News

December 3, 2012

Forensic interviewer works with child abuse victims


Forensic interviewer Rebecca Cunio got all the thanks she needs for what might seem like a tough and thankless job.
 After talking for two hours about ongoing sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather, a 7-year-old girl handed Cunio a drawing of a large heart encircled by smaller ones. 
It read, “I love you for what you do.” 
For Cunio, it was a defining moment in her career.
“It lends credence to the power of these interviews because of what it means to the young victims and their families,” said Cunio, an online master’s degree student at Sam Houston State University.
Cunio works in the Children’s Advocacy Center, a program of the Crisis Center of Anderson and Cherokee counties.  
This is one of 64 CACs  in the state and among 700 others across the country that provide a place where Child Protective Services representatives can interview children who might have been abused or neglected for criminal cases and civil actions. 
These non-profit agencies provide a number of services to victims and their families, including counseling, therapy and family advocacy. 
In addition, the Children’s Advocacy Center provides community education year round to educate adults and children on topics such as personal safety, how to recognize signs of abuse, and how to report suspected child abuse or neglect.
Cunio conducts forensic interviews with children at the request of law enforcement and Child Protective Services. 
A forensic interview is a semi-structured conversation conducted with children between ages 2 and 17. The interview is designed to elicit an accurate and legally defensible account. 
Last year, Cunio conducted more than 200 forensic interviews within two small rural counties in East Texas, which are centered around Rusk and Palestine and have populations of about 50,000 each.
 The forensic interview, which is recorded on video, becomes a critical component of the civil and criminal investigation and may be used in any future court proceedings. 

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