What to expect after you leave the center
It is the job of the Law Enforcement Officer, the Prosecutor and the Children’s Protective Services Case Worker to follow up on the investigation and gather more evidence and facts after the forensic interview is done. They do this by questioning the suspect, possible witnesses, and any other parties involved. A medical exam will be done only when needed. All of this information is then given to the prosecutor’s office. The Prosecutor makes the final decision as to whether or not to charge a suspect with a crime. The legal process tends to be slow and confusing at times; however, the Multi-disciplinary Team works together for the best possible outcome for all concerned. Parents/caregivers should contact the professionals working on the case as needed.
The Legal System
Steps in the Court Process – After the forensic interview and investigation, the Prosecutor will decide if criminal charges will be filed and if the case should go through the criminal court system. Because every case is different, not every case follows the same steps, which may or may not result in a trial. If the case is held over for trial, you will be contacted by a Victim Rights Advocate from the Midland County Prosecutor’s Office. This Advocate will work with you throughout the prosecution of your case. Our current legal system was not set up with children in mind; however, this is slowly changing through the efforts of Child Advocacy Centers and Multi-Disciplinary Teams all over the country. Working with the legal system can be a confusing and frustrating process. The investigation must be handled carefully and completed in certain steps. As a result, it may seem as if the investigation is moving very slowly. In addition, court dates may be rescheduled many times and legal cases may take as long as one or two years to get settled. It is okay for you to check on the status of your case with the investigator and with the Victim Rights Advocate at the Prosecutor’s Office (989-832-6732).
Preparing a Child for Court – There are many things that can be done to help prepare a child for court and calm a child’s fears. The Victim Rights Advocate can arrange a visit with the Prosecuting Attorney, a visit to the courtroom, or answer questions about testifying. Any and/or all of these actions will help make going to court easier for you and your child. Counseling can also help your child and you to deal with the entire court process.
The End of the Court Case – When the case is finally done, many parents and caregivers may feel let down or a bit depressed. This is normal as you have most likely used a lot of time and energy to do what was needed. Also, the final result may be frustrating. Parents and caregivers are often unhappy if the case is dropped or if the final verdict and sentencing are not what they were hoping for. No matter what happens at the end, tell the child it is over and that he or she was very brave. Celebrate the end of a long journey and congratulate yourself for standing up for a child and doing something about child abuse.
The Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund – It is important that crime victims (or their parents and/or caregivers) know about the Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund forms, as money may be available to help pay for medical and counseling services not covered by insurance. When getting services as a result of child sexual abuse, be sure to save all receipts and bills. If you are interested in getting the Crime Victims Compensation Fund form, contact the Victim Rights Office at the Midland County Prosecutor’s Office at (989) 832-6732.