Trauma Focused Law Enforcement Sexual Battery Investigation Trainings

FCASV Brings Trauma Focused Law Enforcement Sexual Battery Investigation Training to Florida

Around the country, research from the field of psychology is changing the way law enforcement officers are interacting with victims and investigating sex crimes. FCASV is bringing Deputy Chief Steve Bellshaw of the Salem Police Department and Jenna Harper of the Oregon Sexual Assault Task Force to Florida to lead two in-depth trainings on how best practices are shifting and sexual violence survivors are benefiting. The trainings are based on the work of Michigan State University psychologist Dr. Rebecca Campbell and Russell Strand, retired U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division, or CID, special agent and the current chief of the Family Advocacy Law Enforcement Training Division at the U.S. Army Military Police School Chief, Behavioral Sciences Education & Training Division at U.S. Army Military Police School.

Dr. Campbell’s research on trauma’s effect on the brain is helping law enforcement officers identify victim behaviors that they may previously have believed to be suspicious as normal reactions to rape.  Using this research, Russell Strand has developed the Forensic Experiential Trauma Interviews, or FETI process, which gives law enforcement a tool to use in unlocking the more primitive part of the brain that has stored sensory information about the assault.  Most law enforcement interview training has been focused on the details of the “who, what, when, where” of the event, information that would normally captured by the neo-cortex. This is an area of the brain many trauma victims cannot readily access, because during the assault, this part of the brain shut down when the survival instincts of the primitive brain took over. 

The FETI techniques focus on establishing trust with the survivor through acknowledging the pain they have experienced.  FETI also directs the officer to ask what the survivor is able to remember about the experience, not ask them to start at the beginning.  Open-ended prompts are used to review what sensory memories they have of the assault.  These techniques have proven highly effective in gaining necessary information for the investigation while reducing retraumatization to the victim. The FETI process can be used with victims of any trauma.

The two trainings on the neurobiology of sexual assault and FETI will be held in Tallahassee and Gainesville in June and are co-sponsored by the Florida Sheriffs Association, the Florida Police Chiefs Association, Tallahassee Police Department and Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. 

View Dr. Rebecca Campbell’s seminar, Neurobiology of Sexual Assault, at the National Institute of Justice for more detailed information.  Short interviews with Dr. Campbell on her work can also be viewed.

Read Russell Strand’s white paper for a full description of the Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview (FETI)