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Gaining the Trust of Your Victim Witness: A Guide for Law Enforcement Working Human Trafficking Cases

NCJ Number
Kelly Heinrich; Jennifer Podkul
Date Published
50 pages
One in a series of guidebooks on countering trafficking in persons for forced commercial sex and slave labor, this guidebook provides law enforcement officials with techniques for gaining the trust of a victim-witness in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers.
Chapter 1 focuses on the physical environment in which trafficking victims-witnesses are interviewed, including the building, room, and general environment in which interviews are conducted. The chapter advises interviewers to choose an interview location with which the victim-witness is already familiar, for example, a nongovernmental organizational (NGO) advocate's meeting space. For security purposes, a shelter should not be used for the meeting. Other suggestions pertinent to the environment of the interview are to arrange the setting so the victim-witness can see a window or door, to conduct the interview at a roundtable or with no table at all, and to provide food and drink. Chapter 2 focuses on the physical features of the interviewer and others in the interview room. The interviewer should remove all signs of his/her law enforcement status, wear street clothes, and limit the number of people in the room. If victims-witnesses are known to have been sexually abused, a female victim-witness may feel more comfortable with a female interviewer. Only one person should be designated to ask the questions, and the interviewer should not be abrupt or confrontational at any stage of the interview. Other suggestions are to be prepared for additional questions and to seek assistance from the victim-witness' attorney. Chapter 3 offers recommendations pertinent to the use of an interpreter for the interview, and chapter 4 presents recommendations for the interview structure. Chapter 5 addresses explanations that should be given victims-witnesses prior to beginning questioning. The concluding chapter focuses on the dynamics of the interaction between the interviewer and the victim-witness. Appended checklist