Psychology does not want to participate in children’s testimonies – 05/26/2023 – Folha Seminars

Psychology does not want to participate in children’s testimonies – 05/26/2023 – Folha Seminars

An eight-year-old girl is raped by her stepfather. Her mother goes to the police station and files a police report. There, a psychologist is scheduled to talk to the child.

In this hypothetical case, the child feels confident and tells what happened. But she doesn’t know that the room where just the two of them are is surrounded by cameras and, in another environment, the chief watches the entire conversation. He can even guide the psychologist through an electronic point to ask certain questions.

“This violates autonomy and professional secrecy, because it is the psychologist who must define how she is going to ask the questions. Even if the person in charge authorizes third parties, it is not correct”, says Marina Poniwas, from the CFP (Conselho Federal de Psicologia) and vice-president president of Conanda (National Council for the Rights of Children and Adolescents).

Reginaldo Alves Júnior, a legal psychologist at the Federal District Court of Justice, considers the methodology adequate. According to him, the argument that such a situation violates professional secrecy is raised by clinical psychologists. “The professional who works in the justice system can make his assessments and inform the competent authority.”

The discussion gained momentum after 2017, when then-President Michel Temer (MDB) signed a law that regulates listening to child victims of violence.

According to the text, the special testimony is carried out by the police or judicial authority only once as an advance production of evidence. The device also says that the procedure must be done in a place that guarantees reception and privacy.

Experts who helped draft it argue that the law is aimed at speeding up investigations and facilitating accountability. Furthermore, the recording of the conversation between the child and the psychologist and the intermediation of a police or legal authority may reduce the chance that the victim will have to be heard more than once. If the prosecutor or the judge wants to know the child’s version, he can watch the video of the interaction.

Itamar Batista Gonçalves, Childhood Brasil’s advocacy manager and one of the organizers of the legislation, says that when the psychologist participates in the testimony, he does not exercise his original profession, but that of forensic interviewer. Thus, he says, it is not possible to talk about professional secrecy.

But the CFP (Federal Council of Psychology) does not understand that. In 2010, seven years before the enactment of the law, the entity prohibited professionals from exercising the role of inquirer in dealing with these cases. The Federal Court suspended the measure three years later and demanded its revocation in 2020.

Since then, the CFP only recommends that professionals not perform the function. For the entity, the correct thing is to listen to the child for several sessions and, from that, formulate a technical report that subsidizes the Justice. This is a procedure performed by Poniwas, who is also a psychologist at the Court of Justice of Paraná.

“It is up to psychology to provide care, reception, prevention and protection in cases of sexual violence. But it is not up to psychology to be concerned with the procedural truth of the facts. That is the task of the law.”

“When you send a psychological report to the judge saying what happened, you are not giving the child a voice.

A study carried out by the Court of Justice of Rio Grande do Sul this year pointed out that, in 79% of the special testimonies, children confirm that the violence occurred in the same way as pointed out by those who reported the case to the police, which helps to hold the accused accountable. The survey considers only the hearings that took place in the state in 2022.

The special statement can be made both at the Justice Forum and at the police station.

In the midst of the impasse, Gonçalves defends that, if necessary, psychologists be replaced by pedagogues and social workers. These two professions already act in the special testimony in several states. According to the TJRS study, for example, more than 70% of court interviewers are social workers, against 23% of psychologists.

The 2017 law does not define which category should perform the role of forensic interviewer.

In Mato Grosso do Sul, where Sophia de Jesus Ocampo, aged 2 years and 7 months, died in January after being assaulted and raped, the Secretariat of Public Security determined, in March, that police officers will act as interviewers in special testimonies.

“Unfortunately, the number of child victims of these cases increased a lot during the pandemic, which caused a huge bottleneck in the police stations and in the Judiciary”, says Judge Kelly Gaspar Duarte Neves, pedagogical coordinator of the Judicial School of Mato Grosso do Sul.

Around 400 police officers will participate in a 48-hour course, 40 of which will be remote and 8 practical. The grid, according to Neves, is based on the Brazilian forensic interview protocol, which Gonçalves and Alves Júnior helped to formulate. Most of the chosen agents work internally in the police stations.

The measure generated a warning from experts. “For God’s sake, children feel very bad in front of the police and authorities in general. They need an adult who is sensitive and who wants to listen and read about their suffering”, says Eliana Caligiuri, psychoanalyst and author of an article published on the theme.

Alves Júnior also observes: “It may be that a police officer has the sensitivity to talk to this child and is trained to talk about the dynamics of violence. On the other hand, a professional in the field of mental health is equipped with more training to be able to observe what way the trauma interferes with the child’s speech. A police officer may not have this handling.”

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