How do I interview families about FGM/C?
Talking to people about FGM/C is a difficult conversation to manage. It is important to remember different cultures use different words to describe the procedure, and to be aware of the different terminology when interviewing others on the topic. This will help make the person feel more comfortable and more willing to answer questions.
When needed, take care in choosing an interpreter when interviewing people. Interpreters should not be someone related to the person, a member of the same community or otherwise known to the individual. This could lead to concealed information from police and/or humiliation or ostracization of the person being interviewed.
Interviews to investigate FGM/C can be handled similarly to interviews investigating other forms of child abuse, domestic violence or other forms of specialized crime. As law enforcement you already possess many skills from trauma informed victim centered trainings and child-first interview training. You can transfer those skills to the scope of FGM/C in order to approach the people you interview with humility.
Ask the right questions
People from communities who practice FGM/C may not view the procedure as mutilation and rarely refer to it as such. Therefore, while interviewing people you may refer to FGM/C as cutting, or, as we strongly recommend, ask people you are interviewing what term they prefer to use.
Here are some possible questions:
- Do you practice circumcision in your community?
- Have you been cut? Is cutting practiced in your community?
- Have you been closed?
How do I discuss FGM/C with a survivor?
|Do provide an interpreter if necessary. 1||Do not let a family member serve as an interpreter. 1|
|Do ask if the survivor would like anyone, including a trusted family member, present during an interview.||Do not use the word mutilation. 2|
|Do ask what word the survivor would like you to use. If the survivor is young, ask the family what would they normally use.||Do not allow a family member to join, if the survivor does not want them there. 3|
What is cultural sensitivity or cultural awareness?
When keeping a protective eye out for children with regard to FGM/C, it’s important to remain culturally sensitive and to practice cultural awareness in various scenarios. Cultural sensitivity and awareness exercises an appreciation for another culture’s values and practices. 4 Culture is not limited to one’s ethnic background, but also includes other racial and social groups that differ from yours. Law enforcement personnel should not make assumptions about cultural practices, and should not assume every person with links to a country that practices FGM/C, has had or is at risk of FGM/C.
A qualitative study of a Somali community in the United Kingdom found that FGM/C-safeguarding practices often translated into stigmatization and traumatizing experiences. 5 The community members in the study were committed to ending FGM/C, but still reported the challenges that came out of the hyper-focus on one’s culture. Key findings from the study included the school setting and noted that if families wanted to take their children on vacation, regardless of whether it was an FGM/C-impacted area or not, they were more at risk of being referred to social services or mothers were questioned directly about their personal experiences with FGM/C.5 Additionally, school referrals would lead to home visits by authoritative officials, such as social services or police. The stigmatization was also seen in clinical settings, at the community level, or when traveling. These negative experiences led to feelings of alienation, fear, and trauma. Despite being active in working against FGM/C, the Somali community in Bristol felt their voices and actions were being ignored.5
This example is a good reminder that there is a delicate balance to strike between ensuring you are picking up on risk factors when visiting a home, while also remaining culturally sensitive.
-Page last updated 01/06/2023. Our team aims to regularly update this toolkit to ensure the most recent and accurate information is reflected.