QUESTION: What is your background and what drew you to get involved with Heroes Landing?

RONI: I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Ohio University, I began working with Muskingum County Children Services in September 2010. I was approached about being trained to do sexual abuse cases soon after I was hired, as those types of cases are not highly desired, I agreed and within six months into my first year I was sent to Finding Words training to become a certified Forensic Interviewer. Over the next 12 years I have worked closely with our local law enforcement and prosecutor’s office, completing interviews, and becoming specialized in sex abuse cases.

When I was approached to be a part of Heroes Landing, I was honored. Working these cases      I know it is a stress on families to get to and from appointments, with Heroes Landing being right in town I knew this would be one less stress a family would have to worry about.  Families come into a welcoming environment where they are greeted by friendly people.

QUESTION: While an appointment at Heroes Landing is typically an hour, their interaction with you is the first step – can you share what that is like?

RONI: After the child has spent time with the victim advocate, I go out and I introduce myself to the room, that way the non-offending parents or caregivers can see who I am as well. I ask the child if they are ready to go back and speak with me, I am basically showing them from that point on they have control of their bodies. I follow the child into the interview room and give them the option of sitting on a couch or the chair, I explain to them that I have my own chair that I sit in. I explain to the child about how they will be seeing our Nurse after the interview and I always ask if there is anything on their bodies that is hurting them today and if there is, I ask the child if they want the nurse to check it out. I also show the child that there are cameras in the room and explain about them why they are there, the goal is for the child to feel comfortable while in the room with me.

QUESTION: Being a Forensic Interviewer is one of the most challenging jobs on the multi-disciplinary team – how do you quickly build a rapport with a child, enough to make them trust you and share their trauma?

RONI: I want every child to know they are safe when they enter the interview room with me. That they can tell me their stories, children just want to be heard, I tell them that I am willing to listen. During an interview, I always ask a child to tell me more about themselves, I will say to them that “I would like to get to know them a little better before we start talking about why we are here”. Typically, this helps the child see that I actually care about them as a person and not just about the job.

QUESTION: Turnover can be high in roles dealing with sexual and physical abuse of children, how do you cope with the traumatic events that you hear?

I’ve been working with sexually and physically abused children for over 12 years, I have no immediate plans to quit. I have heard and seen so many awful things that have happened to children, what helps me cope is knowing that I’m helping to do some good. By having these children tell their stories to me, I know this helps them, and that helps me.

QUESTION: What is the best part of your job at Heroes Landing?

RONI: The best part of my job at Heroes Landing is when I see a child’s shoulder drop after an interview, that deep sigh they let out, or that last thank you as they leave.