This report presents a training program developed to improve officers’ knowledge of trauma-informed practices, perception of victims, comfort with interviewing, and use of trauma-informed techniques in interviews with standardized actors.
This document reports on a project that addressed several objectives and priority areas outlined by the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ) Violence Against Women program through the use of a randomized experimental design, aimed at evaluating a new training program offered to officers in Kentucky. The training program sought to improve police officers’ response to victims through exposure to victim-centered, trauma-informed (VCTI) interview techniques. The study provided officers with hands-on experiential learning by conducting interviews with standardized actors trained to portray survivors of sexual assault. This report describes that study, providing: a discussion of the sexual assault investigator training literature; sexual assault investigator training efforts in Kentucky; the development of the VCTI training program; the use of actors in the VCTI training program; and the outcomes from the training evaluation, plus eight appendices. The report concludes that the results of the study are consistent with previous literature and recommendations from advocacy groups that suggest police sexual assault training can be effective at improving officers’ perceptions of victims, knowledge of trauma-informed practice, and behavior. Five recommendations are made, based on study results: jurisdictions should implement and evaluate VCTI interview training courses in other jurisdictions; jurisdictions should continue to include mock interviews with standardized actors in VCTI training to provide hands-on training and give officers a chance to try new skills before entering the field; jurisdictions should develop and implement VCTI interview training for other criminal justice actors, including victim advocates and prosecutors; VCTI interview training for initial police interactions with sexual assault survivors should be developed and implemented; and jurisdictions should evaluate response training using quasi-experimental and experimental designs that assess cognitive, attitudinal, and behavioral outcomes.