Representatives of the child protection community in Lagos State gathered recently to attend the launch of the Cece Yara Child Advocacy Centre’s state-of-the-art Forensic Suite for children who have experienced sexual abuse, in Lagos. A forensic interview is a structured conversation between a Forensic Interviewer and a child with the objective of obtaining detailed information or accounts of events that the child may have experienced or witnessed. The interview is usually carried out in a child-friendly setting, at the beginning of a police or child protection investigation. It is especially valuable especially where there are no witnesses or physical evidence, and the outcome of the case depends on the victim’s verbal account of what happened. The child’s account is also digitally recorded.
In recent times, Nigeria has recorded an alarming rate of child sexual abuse more than ever in history. It is regrettable to know that only a minimal number of perpetrators are convicted or punished for this crime. Underreporting, improper interviewing, the inability of our community and law enforcement agents to react appropriately to disclosures of child sexual abuse, as well as the limited ways to assess the credibility of testimonies of victims, may have also contributed to the increasing number of unprosecuted cases.
At the launch, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, the Founder Trustee of the Cece Yara Foundation, stated that the Forensic Interview Suite was in the forefront of technology and research-based investigation of child sexual abuse cases, and would be transformational in assisting the police to the carry out more thorough investigations and the discovery of high quality evidence. The Cece Yara Foundation, a child-centred non-profit organisation established to prevent child sexual abuse and to promote prevention awareness among adults and children, arranged for the successful training of 10 Forensic Interviewers, including staff from the Nigerian Police, and the Ministry of Youth and Social Development on providing skillful child-friendly forensic interviews.
The team was trained by Dr. Princess Olufemi-Kayode, who has worked for nearly 20 years with sexual and gender based violence victims, started the first Rape Crisis Centre in Nigeria in 2005, and is the founder of Media Concern Initiative for Women and Children (MediaCon), a Non-Governmental Organisation committed to responding to issues of sexual violence against women and children.
Forensic Interview is designed to eliminate obstacles during the investigation in the event that the perpetrator denies the abuse. Though the practice is relatively unknown in Nigeria, The Cece Yara Foundation intends to collaborate with the Ministry of Youth and Social Development, Ministry of Justice and the Nigerian Police in driving the process of ensuring that child Forensic interview becomes best practice in Nigeria, similar to other developed countries. The Cece Yara Foundation is confident that forensic interviewing will aid in successful prosecutions, the conviction of perpetrators and reduction in child trauma. The Cece Yara Foundation is a child-centred non-profit organisation established in 2016 to prevent child sexual abuse and provide access to care, information, protection and emergency intervention for children who are sexually abused or at risk, and their family. The Foundation provides the ideal response to children through a 24-hour free child telephone helpline (0800 800 8001) and its child-friendly Child Advocacy Centre based in Lagos, which provides provide professional counselling, medical, legal and psycho-social support, as well as referral services. The Foundation also conducts prevention programmes for children and adults to raise the awareness of sexual abuse, and to educate adults on how to protect children from sexual abuse.