On Assignment

Empathy and Trust: How Police Officers Support Victims of Sexual Crime (Part 2)

Asking difficult questions with sensitivity and care – behind the scenes at a training course that teaches officers how to engage with and help victims.
Due to the specific requirements of their role, Investigation Officers (IOs) who work on cases of sexual crime must undergo an intensive sexual crime investigation course administered by the Home Team School of Criminal Investigation. Not only do IOs learn about the Singapore Police Force’s (SPF) victim-centric approach, they also sharpen their knowledge of investigative principles and processes; interview techniques with active listening skills; and victim management methods.

Home Team News SCDO course 01B
Officers undergoing the SCDO course at the Home Team Academy. PHOTO: Alvin Loh

But it isn’t only IOs who receive such training; frontline Police officers also take a Sexual Crime Duty Officer (SCDO) course conducted by the Police Psychological Services Department (PPSD). We dropped by a recent SCDO training session at the Home Team Academy to learn more about the course. 

Home Team News SCDO course 02
Tiffany Danker conducts training for Police officers to help them better support victims. PHOTO: Chloe Low

According to Tiffany Danker, a Police Psychologist with PPSD, officers are taught the Safety-Emotion-Information model for engaging with victims. “This covers a range of techniques that officers can use during interviews to help victims feel safe, express their emotions and process information,” she explained.

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PHOTO: Alvin Loh

Officers also learn to preface sensitive questions with an explanation about why these questions are necessary. For example, a description of the clothing worn during the incident can help officers identify the victim through CCTV footage. 
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PHOTO: Alvin Loh
“It’s important to communicate that the questions are for investigation purposes and don’t impute responsibility to a victim,” explained Tiffany. “The intention of the officers is always to establish the truth and bring perpetrators to justice.”
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PHOTO: Alvin Loh
After learning about how they can demonstrate empathy when attending to victims of sexual crime, the officers dove deeper into the subject through a series of group discussions. 
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PHOTO: Alvin Loh
The officers were given brief facts about a case and asked to share their proposed approach for engaging the victim. The victim profiles were also diverse, covering adults, younger victims and those who may have cognitive difficulties. 
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PHOTO: Alvin Loh
After the group discussions, the officers moved to an interview room for roleplaying sessions. The officers considered a victim’s profile and practised applying the proper attending behaviours. 

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PHOTO: Alvin Loh
After each session, an instructor offered the officers feedback and guidance, especially for complex scenarios. “Essentially, it boils down to establishing a mutual understanding and trust between the officer and the victim,” explained Tiffany.
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PHOTO: Alvin Loh
For Tiffany, empathy is an essential quality when it comes to supporting victims during the interview process. “The tone that our officers use is important, in order to express both non-judgment and care,” said Tiffany. “Ultimately, our goal is to support victims, establish the truth and bring perpetrators to justice.”
Part 1: Read about SPF’s victim-centric approach to supporting victims of sexual crime.

Sexual Assault Awareness Seminar
As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) held a Sexual Assault Awareness Seminar on 12 April 2022 to raise awareness on the dynamics and impact of sexual assault on victims and enhance partnership and collaborations amongst the stakeholders in the ecosystem. The Seminar featured presentations on the subject of supporting victims by SPF, the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the Ministry of Social and Family Development and KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital

At the Seminar, Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law, also announced that SPF will be conducting a Sexual Crime Review that will focus on four areas: Police’s operational and investigative processes including the formation of a new Sexual Crime and Family Violence Command; training for Police officers; community partnerships to strengthen support for victims; and public awareness of sexual crime investigation and court processes. Read the speech by Mr K Shanmugam.

Written by

Lynn Ng


12 April 2022

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