Trauma informed investigations: One size doesn’t fit all.

There’s been a lot of commentary of late regarding the way that workplace investigations – particularly those that relate to bullying and sexual harassment – are carried out by investigators. Trauma informed practice and taking a victim centred approach have become an important skill set for a professional investigator.
But what exactly does it mean?
In a nutshell, this approach changes the way we respond and investigate and pays particular attention to the way we interview complainants and witnesses. Welfare and support are also key elements.
But that should go without saying, right?
In theory yes, but it doesn’t always manifest that way. There are many examples of victims (complainants) being disbelieved right from the start, or subjected to processes, procedures and policy that made things worse. Or being interviewed in a certain manner that didn’t show support or sufficiently examine the issues. Or not being told what was going on and explained what was happening, and why.
The way Brittany Higgins was allegedly treated after reporting being sexually assaulted at Parliament House is a good example.
A trauma informed investigator has a high level of professional empathy, patience, knowledge of procedural fairness, expert investigative interviewing skills and adaptable and consistent communication. They have intricate knowledge of the impact trauma can have on a complainant and know the ways to navigate those issues.
Importantly, they believe the complainant regardless of how they look, how they dress or what they do in their personal life. Irrespective of what people say about them, or what they might post on social media.
Unless, of course, there is evidence to the contrary, or that doesn’t corroborate what they are saying. Remaining objective, non-biased and neutral is vital. Showing support, referring to specialists (not just handing out an EAP phone number) and checking in are also traits of a trauma informed investigator.
At Forensix, our point of difference is that we match the investigator with the client’s needs. Matters relating to sensitive bullying or sexual harassment require specialist skills and experience, a great deal of professional empathy and knowledge about victim’s needs (the victim-centred approach).
One size does not fit all for these types of investigations.

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