Thursday, January 07, 2010


I was on telephone standby at the beginning of the week for a trial for a case I did back in 2005.  I met with the district attorney about a month ago to go over the record.  I didn't really remember the case but, of course, it was mine.  I certainly recognized my handwriting  and could testify that it was mine and my documetation is always very thorough and I recorded what the child said to me in quotes, in great detail.  I explained to the D. A. that, over the course of eleven years, as a sexual assault nurse examiner at the San Francisco Rape Treatment Center, I did nearly five hundred exams myself.  During my 21 years at CASARC, the Child and Adolescent Sexual Abuse Resource Center, I probably was involved with about a thousand child cases, either assisting with exams, documenting histories, and doing child forensic interviews.  I deliberately did not try to recall these cases.  Once they were over, I tried to put them from my mind until I needed to recall them.  This was my way of taking care of myself.

Tuesday, I had an email from the district attorney saying the defendant pled guilty so I will not have to testify.  Great!  Now that I am retired, I no longer get paid when I have to go to court which is annoying!  It doesn't seem fair.  My parking gets paid and I get paid for mileage but nothing more.  And, in the afternoon mail, I get yet another subpoena for a trial at the end of January!  It says that I am to be available for telephone standby from 1-26-2010 to the completion of the trial.  Well, I already have airline tickets and I am away from San Francisco from 1-29-2010 at 3PM until 2-6-2010 at 6PM.  I hope my testimony can take place on the 27th or 28th of January!

I actually don't mind going to court.  It's been part of the job for the past twenty-one years.  I am not intimidated by the courtroom and I am clear about my role as a forensic nurse.  I testify as to what I did and I don't step outside my scope of practice or my area of expertise.

While I would never discuss the specifics of a case, I can share with you a couple of humorous anecdotes.  In our role as child forensic interviewers, we have a very specific format we follow, all geared toward not asking the child leading questions so that the interview is not disqualified in court.  We begin by introducing ourselves to the child and explaining the room, the fact that others will be watching, and that the interview will be videotaped.  I always tell the child that I am a special nurse whose job it is to talk to children.  I also let them know that there will be no

We wear regular clothes, not uniforms, and I usually match my eyeshadow to my clothes, as I have done all my life - usually wearing three different colors.  One day, I had finished my introduction with a five-year-old girl and was well into the interview, when she stopped and looked very closely at me.  "Is there something wrong?" I asked.  "Well, she said, "I was wondering, are you a movie star?"  I guess all that explanation about my being a nurse didn't
make an impact when she saw the eyeshadow!

Another time in court, when the defense attorney. asked the child if he remembered the nurse who took care of him in the middle of the night ( this was about two years later ), he answered emphatically, "Yes."   The defense attorney wanted to know how he could remember something that long ago.  The child answered, "The eyes."

I'm not the only one who gets remembered because of distinguishing facial characteristics.  My dear colleague, for the past 21 years, has always worn bright red lipstick.  Once, when we interviewed siblings, the sisters recalled the nurses with the "eyes" and the "lips" though they couldn't remember our names years later when the district attorney met with them.

We usually end our interviews by thanking the child for coming to talk to us and asking if they have any questions they would like to ask us.  Once, a little boy, very unabashedly asked, "Are you always going to be as fat as you are now?"  Wow, I will really be embarrassed when that video gets played in court.  I hope I'll be a lot skinnier then!!



  1. Your eyes are lovely!

    The children's remarks made me smile!

    Nuts in May

  2. Oh my kids are funny! But what a wonderful career you've had, helping children who need help the most!


  3. You got stories to tell, books to write.

  4. Your job sounds so interesting....and oh yeah out of the mouths of babes.....they are always so observant and don't hesitate to tell you what they are thinking...I love kids.....:-) Hugs

  5. i dig your sense of made me laugh and smile all through. talking of smiles, yours is dazzling. loved the lighthearted post. :) tata

  6. Maggie May - it's funny, I get compliments on
    my eyes from all sorts of folks, old men on
    the streets, teenage girls, children! It's
    great fun.

    Children do come out with funny things.
    They are so wonderfully spontaneous.

    Breeze - Though very sad at times, I have loved
    my work. I still mourn the loss of my job,
    ten months later.

    lakeviewer - I could definitely tell a lot of
    stories. Nothing I hear surprises me any-

    Bernie - litte ones, especially, really tell
    it like it is!

    Tongue Trip - we had to keep a sense of humour
    in that work - though, when interviewing, we
    had to maintain a straight face! Sometimes,
    it was hard not to laugh or to cry!

    Glad you like the smile!

  7. An interesting yet heart-wrenching job. I'm so glad you took care of yourself. Love the photos, particularly the middle one with the goldy shadow. xa

  8. As a nurse, I understand your need to not think about your cases. I think your job must have been a tough one because of what your patient's have been through. It is not a position I would apply for.
    I did love the stories, children are great for their little quips.

  9. Carmen- I love hearing about the things you did on your job. I'm learning what a forensic nurse does. And your eyes are indeed memorable.

  10. You just never know what a kid will say!

    I think it's nice to be remembered for your eyes! That means the child was actually looking at you.

    It's surprising you don't get paid to come to court and/or be on call. That's a kink in the system that doesn't seem fair. but I remember being on jury duty in San Francisco and the parking fee was higher than the "wage" I was paid to attend. Ugh!

    Have a great time in SF!

  11. Alaine - I cannot tell you how much the support
    of my colleagues, all over the world, helped
    in this work!

    I love all the eyeshadow. The golds are some
    of my favorites!

    Glynis - I think all areas of nursing can be
    difficult but working in interpersonal
    violence has its own set of issues. Kids
    are so amazing, though, in their ability to
    endure, especially is someone believes them.

    Sharkbytes - there are so many areas of forensic
    nursing. Mine was primarily sexual assault
    but I really wanted to be in death investi-
    gation - they didn't use nurses in this role
    in San Francisco though I took so many
    courses to prepare myself!

    I started really doing my eyes when I worked
    in the operating room and that was all that
    showed. Patients really liked it.

  12. What a fascinating person you are. I shall look forward to hearing more of your stories about your work and your travels!

  13. I also want to add that your eyes reflect kindness and caring. And quite a bit of mischief and love of a good time.

  14. Anonymous1:25 PM

    I like the children's remark about your eyes, and your job is really interesting to know. I couldn't do that because my emotional will be on a roller coaster..

    Hope the trial in January works out for you, Carmen!

  15. Oh- I want to be as guilty as you!!!

  16. Carmen..hello glad you stopped by Farmhouse.....and YES ! they do have farmers market in the is starting in a little less than an hour...starts at 6..goes every Thursday unless it is Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years...

    we are not going tonight..we can walk down in 5 minutes from where we live...we live across the street from The Del Monte Cafe on Upham Street if you know San Luis...

    but next Thursday is Snow Night..we usually go to that...but first we have a nice glass of red wine....hmmmmmm

    more later...

    kary in slo

  17. well first thing, i have never seen a courtroom and not willing to for rest of my life..... :)

    sexually abused kids???/ am i getting it rite?? if yea....i think it would be really difficult to work around them.....

    and getting paid to testifying.....that's something new i heard......

  18. The eyeshadow works on you. Not everyone can look as stylish as you wearing all those colours. Heck, I don't think I can apply eyeshadow that well, but I do have a sparkly eye shadow that I were out some times.

    I think it takes an extremely special person to do a job like yours.

  19. You are indeed a special person to do a job like that. An angel in human form. The eyeshadow only heightens the sparkle in your eyes.

  20. I braced myself when you started the post because of the nature of your career. I'm glad that there was levity in amongst all of the pain.

  21. that's a tough job!

    i love your smile and your eyes, they simply sparkle!

  22. Bernie - I certainly have lots of stories I can
    tell! You're right about me, you know, I am
    full of mischief, even at 65, and I do love a
    good time!

    Icy BC - I haven't talked to the DA yet - will
    send her an email this weekend about my time

    My Farmhouse Kitchen - for about fifteen
    consecutive years, I've attended an annual
    CA Sexual Assault Investigators conference
    that takes place every spring at the Cliffs
    at Shell Beach. Not sure I'll make the one
    in Mar since my job loss & retirement have
    made me a pauper. We always tried to make
    it to the farmer's market and usually ate
    at Rosa's, McClintock's or Jocko's and a
    few other local places. Of course, during
    the recent two years my son was at Cal Poly,
    we also went to Firestone Grill!

  23. Hitesh Rawat - in the course of my 21 years as a
    sexual assault nurse examiner and a child
    forenic interviewer, I've spent a good bit of
    time in courtrooms. Fortunately, I've never
    been for any other reason and, like you, I
    hope I never will. In the course of my
    employment, I was paid when I had to go to
    court. I will also be paid if I do some
    consulting or work as an expert witness.
    However, any cases that I must testify on
    as a retired nurse for the city, that I did
    while I was a nurse at the Child Sexual
    Abuse Agency, I won't be paid for. Regard-
    less, I feel I have an obligation, as the
    nurse who did a case, to testify.

    Liss - I always laugh when people ask me if I
    did my makeup myself? Like do I have my own
    makeup artist? I've been doing it for
    over fifty years so I've gotten pretty
    proficient..let's hope my vision holds out
    and that I don't develop tremors...then it
    will be a whole new me!

    schererart - you must be the angel, you paint
    them so beautifully! I think you walk among
    them! The work, both with adult and child
    victims of sexual assault, was wonderful,
    though difficult. Having worked in mental
    health for many years, I dealt better with
    the emotional issues. I had a harder time
    when the adults/children showed outward
    signs of physical trauma as well. Often
    with children, sexual abuse is perpetrated
    by those the children love and they are not
    even aware something bad has happened to
    them - but seeing little ones with cigarette
    burns on their bodies or bruises all over,
    that really got to me - as did some of the
    horrible stories of sex abuse. That is
    when debriefing with my fellow nurses really
    was so important. We always knew we could
    call each other at any time of the day or
    night if we needed.

    Woman in a Window - thankfully, there were
    times to laugh and we shed a few tears at
    times, when we were away from our patients.

    Ayie - it was a tough job but I did love it.
    Glad you like my makeup skills!!

  24. Thank you RN for a very interesting post. I often wondered about your work as a forensic nurse. It must have been heartbreaking some times to interview these children. It must be wonderfully rewarding knowing that what you are doing, really does have meaning.

  25. I respect your contribution to society.
    It is holy to be the friend of the weak.

    Happy new year.

    From the Far East.
    Best regards.

  26. A human kind of human - well, my job ended ten
    months ago, after 21 years, in the massive
    budget cuts in San Francisco. Even though I
    am 65, I am not ready to be put out to
    pasture. I am still hoping to find some
    consulting work, at the very least, though
    I miss working with the children. The work
    was never easy but it felt so special.

    ruma2008 - I am so glad I am reconnected with
    you. I put in your blog address again
    because, for some reason, I had stopped
    getting your wonderful photographs!

    Thank you for your kind words. May we both
    have a wonderful year.