Trauma-informed justice, also called “victim-centered” justice, is becoming the cool new thing as woke anti-civil rights activists seek to get around due process and the presumption of innocence when it suits their agenda. The technique involves an interview methodology where the police prioritize empathy for accusers, who are automatically presumed to be victims. The methodology is especially favored for allegations of sexual abuse and domestic violence, where the accusers are overwhelmingly female: this a “believe all victims as long as they are wo,men” anti-male approach that has its roots in the feminist movement. The methodology was refined by Russell Strand, U.S. Military Police School, who offered the Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview (FETI) as a way to question presumed victims without making them relive an assault.
The theory dictates that police conduct investigations following three principles:
1. The accuser is automatically assumed to be a victim even before any investigation occurs, meaning that accused is assumed to be guilty. A leading proponent of the trauma-informed approach is the End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI) group, which holds that “believing” accusers “is the starting point for a fair and thorough investigation.” I
2. Contradictions, missing facts, and inconsistencies in an accuser’s testimony indicate trauma and thus should negatively affect the credibility of the accusation. One guide to trauma-informed justice states, “Trauma victims often omit, exaggerate, or make up information when trying to make sense of what happened to them or to fill gaps in memory.” The true flaw in the process is said to be the police department’s approach which depends on what is called “peripheral information”–for example, a suspect’s description and the time or place of an alleged attack. The police, therefore, should concentrate their efforts on decoding on what may be scattered and disjointed information from the accuser, thus establishing trust and helping to interpret and translate her memories.The lack of what trauma-informed justice advocates regard as“peripheral information,” like a suspect’s description and the time or place of an alleged attack. (!) should not be considered disqualifying.
3. Finally, factors that cast doubt on the allegation, such as an accuser’s history of false allegations or drug use, should be regarded as irrelevant. By traditional assessment of what kind of case should proceed to trial, such an approach is per se unethical. The Arizona Governor’s Commission to Prevent Violence Against Women issued a letter to Arizona’s criminal justice agencies to warn them that “In cases that proceed to trial, defense counsel likely could impugn investigators and claim that alternative versions of the crime were ignored and/or errors were made during the investigation as a result of confirmation bias created by the ‘belief’ element of the Start By Believing campaign.”
This should be familiar: it is essentially the approach taken by colleges and universities in their handling of sexual abuse, harassment and assault cases in the wake of the Obama Education Department’s infamous “Dear Colleague” letter. It is also what I have observed in many work-place situations, involving harassment, where the accused is not told who his accuser or accusers are, and damaging accounts are placed in his file without confirmation or proof. “Trauma-informed justice” is, like so much jargon-based “innovations,” per se unethical, depending on an abandonment of due process and the presumption of innocence.The International Association of Chiefs of Police. Article 10, Presentation of Evidence states, “The law enforcement officer shall be concerned equally in the prosecution of the wrong-doer and the defense of the innocent. He shall ascertain what constitutes evidence and shall present such evidence impartially and without malice.” Nah… when the alleged victim is female, that’s not acceptable. A just system must be a biased system: biased against the accused.
The touchy-feely interview techniques prescribed by TIJ advocates have another problem in addition to the constitutional one: there is no reason to think they work. As the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations concluded in its “Report on the Use of the Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview (FETI) Technique” (2015), “We believe it would be inappropriate and irresponsible to discontinue the use of a robust, well-studied, effective, and empirically-validated interviewing method that is supported by the latest scientific research (the Cognitive Interview), in favor of an interviewing method that is loosely-constructed, is based on flawed science, makes unfounded claims about its effectiveness, and has never once been tested, studied, researched or validated.” Wendy McElroy, in an editorial last week called “The Metastasizing Cancer of Trauma-Informed Justice,” goes further, concluding,
“Social workers and therapists may need to Start By Believing the person they seek to heal. But the police are not mental health workers; they deal in cold, hard facts that have no gender or race. Investigators need to discern what is true or false about a situation rather than respond emotionally to it. In the process, some officers make mistakes and some act with malice; officers are human beings with all the flaws of shared humanity. The incompetence or malfeasance of individuals must be remedied but neither one is an indictment of the principles of Western justice. Turning accusations into convictions only makes prisoners of innocent people.”