WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – A new sexual assault protocol by West Valley City Police has led to four times the number of prosecutions in just two years. Detectives claim the “Trauma Informed Victim Interview” is getting more information from victims than the previous interview methods of the past.
BYU researcher Julie Valentine said the protocol recognizes that a victim of rape or sexual assault reacts differently than victims of other crimes. When officers ask their questions in a different way it helps them remember more.
“The brain actually interprets a rape like an attempted murder,” said Valentine. “There is such a flood of hormones that memory doesn’t encode properly.”
West Valley City Police Chief Lee Russo said after adopting this new ways of interviewing he realized why their old method didn’t work as well.
“We were handling investigations like Joe Friday in Dragnet,” said Chief Russo. “Just the facts, the who, what ,when, why, and where.”
Investigators would often ask follow up questions of things that didn’t add up, or match earlier statements. The trauma of the incident can cause them to forget or not clearly remember many of the details.
Detective Justin Boardman of WVCPD was one of the first ones to implement the new methods. He was very surprised how well it worked in getting more information. Boardman told ABC 4 that the process also requires detectives to be more patient and mostly listen.
“So instead of asking you what happened, I might ask you how you felt,” said Boardman. “It’s pretty impressive to see trigger happen when somebody remembers something that was gone.”
Part of the protocol requires the department to test all rape kits that come in. The city just finished a backlog of 126 kits that were sitting on the shelves. Valentine said the TIVI has been the biggest part of the increased prosecutions.
It’s been better for survivors like Michelle Worthen. Her case is currently going through the court system, but she said how the police treated her made things easier.
“A victim should never feel or be questioned more than the perpetrator,” said Worthen. “They shouldn’t be treated like the perpetrator.”
Her hope is that anyone who has this happen to them isn’t afraid to come forward and speak. Worthen said she now works with survivor advocates.
The BYU study of the department is said to be crucial because it gives hard evidence that the TIVI protocol actually works.