8 year-old Laney complained that her tummy hurt as she unpacked her over-night bag with her mother. She was coming home from having spent the weekend at her father’s home. Laney’s mother, Sandra, didn’t think too much about the complaint and told Laney she would give her some tea. However, when Laney’s tummy kept aching, Sandra became concerned and scheduled a doctor’s appointment. As they got ready to visit the doctor, Laney started to cry and said she didn’t want to go because she thought the doctor would hurt her insides, just like her uncle had when she was visiting her father’s house. Afraid and angry, Sandra called the police immediately. A detective responded and arranged to have Laney come to CALICO first thing in the morning.
At CALICO, a team of professionals, including a detective, child protective service worker, deputy district attorney, forensic interviewer and family resource specialist, assembled to help and protect Laney. In the pre-briefing before the forensic interview was conducted, the detective reported the details of the disclosure and relayed that the uncle had no known criminal history. The team talked through the family structure and the best way to sensitively approach Laney, who seemed anxious in the waiting room. The child protective service worker suggested that maybe Laney could bring something into the interview room to help her feel more comfortable. When the interviewer met Laney, she was calm and spent extra time talking about Laney’s feelings and exploring ways she could help Laney feel safe. When Laney still didn’t want to leave her mother, the interviewer asked if there was something Laney could hold that would help her feel better. Laney brightened and picked up her mom’s purse. The interviewer, Laney and her mom’s purse went to the interview room. Once comfortably seated on the couch, Laney relaxed, played with the straps on the purse, and patiently explained what her uncle had done. She said that her uncle, who was visiting from out of town, had snuck into her bed, touched her privates and “broke” her insides.
As a result of the interview, the detective was able to have enough evidence to arrest the Laney’s uncle; the child welfare worker was able to determine that Laney was safe in both of her parents’ homes and the deputy district attorney provided her office with additional information on the case and Laney’s demeanor. Wanting to be sure that Laney’s body was healthy and address her worries about being broken, CALICO staff helps arrange for Laney to have a medical exam at the Center for Child Protection (CCP) at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. The doctor there answered all of Laney’s questions and assured Laney that her insides were not broken at all. We’re told she held her mom’s purse through the medical exam too.
During the discovery phase of the criminal prosecution, the defense attorney was provided a copy of the girl’s recorded interview. Immediately after watching it, his client - the suspect - plead guilty, sparing Laney and her family from having to go through the trial process.
Today Laney is feeling much better. Her mom says that after visiting the doctor Laney stopped saying she was broken and that therapy has helped her with some her anxiousness. She doesn’t even need to hold her mom’s purse anymore!