Experts warn Cleo Smith could be 're-traumatised' if she is interviewed on TV about her ordeal 1

Experts warn Cleo Smith could be ‘re-traumatised’ if she is interviewed on TV about her ordeal

Advertisement

Two leading child psychologists fear Cleo Smith could be ‘re-traumatised’ if interviewed on television about her harrowing kidnapping ordeal last year.

Advertisement

Her parents this week signed a $2million deal with Channel 9 to tell the story that captivated the world.

Little Cleo, four, vanished from her family’s tent at Quobba Blowholes campground on the north-west coast of Western Australia in the early hours of October 16 last year.

Advertisement

She was allegedly abducted by Terence Darrell Kelly, 36, and was missing for 18 days – but police stated she was not physically harmed.

Cleo was located alone by investigating officers inside a locked home at Carnarvon, about 50 minutes south from the camp site on November 3. 

Two leading child psychologists fear Cleo Smith (pictured) could be 're-traumatised' if interviewed on television about her kidnapping last year

Two leading child psychologists fear Cleo Smith (pictured) could be ‘re-traumatised’ if interviewed on television about her kidnapping last year

Veteran reporter Liz Hayes was due to fly to Perth on February 6 to interview Cleo and her family - but a change to border closures this week in Western Australia has thrown plans into disarray

Veteran reporter Liz Hayes was due to fly to Perth on February 6 to interview Cleo and her family – but a change to border closures this week in Western Australia has thrown plans into disarray

Advertisement

Steve Zolezzi, a psychologist who specialises in a trauma-sensitive approaches to psychological distress, said it was a dangerous move to interview the youngster about her alleged abduction.

‘If this kid gets placed in an unnecessary unsafe environment, that could further re-traumatise the child,’ he said.  

‘The parents shouldn’t place their child in that situation, she shouldn’t even be a spectator.’

Mr Zolezzi added that most children Cleo’s age are ‘like sponges, they absorb things around them’ and he felt re-telling the experience on camera had the potential to ‘reinforce memories to become even more powerful.’ 

Advertisement

Clinical and forensic psychologist Chris Lennings agreed with Zolezzi, and is adamant Cleo should be shielded from publicity.

‘She was held captive for 18 days, that’s a terribly long time for a young child to be away from family in an uncertain, frightening environment,’ he told The Australian.

 ‘Ordinarily, you would be doing protective things and trying to assist the child recover from the trauma, not re-expose them.’ 

Earlier this week, Cleo’s parents said they were considering changing the four-year-old’s name to shield her from unwanted future media and public attention in the wake of her miraculous rescue.

Advertisement

Mother Ellie Smith and stepfather Jake Gliddon have been seeking advice from other parents whose children have been unwittingly thrust into the spotlight after suffering comparable ordeals.  

Forensic psychologist Tim Watson-Munro said seeking relatable opinions was a wise move from Cleo’s parents.

‘I think it’s a great thing as long as people are willing to speak with them,’ he said. ‘It’s like any sort of therapy.

‘Those who’ve been through trauma are often best-placed to speak to others about their experiences and they seem to identify more with it that way.

Advertisement

‘They don’t have people coming in just from a clinical, academic perspective. They’re coming from real-life experiences and it seems to work for people. 

Terence Darrell Kelly, 36, who allegedly kept Cleo in a Carnarvon home for 18 days, was charged in November with forcibly taking a child under the age of 16 - he will appear in court later this month

Terence Darrell Kelly, 36, who allegedly kept Cleo in a Carnarvon home for 18 days, was charged in November with forcibly taking a child under the age of 16 – he will appear in court later this month

Terence Darrell Kelly, 36, has been labelled a 'doll obsessed loner' - he was charged with the kidnapping of Cleo Smith last November

Terence Darrell Kelly, 36, has been labelled a ‘doll obsessed loner’ – he was charged with the kidnapping of Cleo Smith last November

Cleo Smith's mother and stepfather are considering changing her name in a bid to shield her from unwanted future media and public attention

Cleo Smith’s mother and stepfather are considering changing her name in a bid to shield her from unwanted future media and public attention

Advertisement

‘I think it’s a great thing that they’re doing it, frankly, if it’s assisting people.’

Meanwhile, the decision by the WA government on Thursday to extend the closure of the border beyond February 5 has thrown filming plans for the exclusive TV interview with Cleo’s family into disarray.

Channel 9’s Liz Hayes was expected to fly to Perth on February 6 to start filming  –  but that now appears highly unlikely. 

Kelly, 36, who allegedly kept Cleo in his Carnarvon home where she was found playing with a series of child-like dolls, was charged in November with forcibly taking a child under the age of 16. 

Advertisement

He is expected to again appear in court later this month.

‘A big call’ to change a child’s identity says leading psychologist 

Forensic psychologist Tim Watson-Munro could not speak specifically about changing Cleo Smith’s name, but said any such a move would need to be considered carefully. 

‘I think it’s a big call to change a child’s identity,’ he said this week. ‘There would have to be fairly compelling reasons for that.

‘I understand they don’t want publicity, they don’t want to draw attention to themselves, they want to blend into the community.

Advertisement

‘But that has to be considered in the context of the age of the child, the child’s sense of identity at that age. 

‘If it’s little Flossy and that’s what she’s grown up with all her life and all of a sudden she’s told she’s not that person anymore but someone else I think that has the potential to be quite damaging to the child.

‘I guess it’s a case-by-case scenario depending on the publicity and how robust the child is but it’s not something you’d race into in my view.’

Advertisement
Advertisement

Similar Posts