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Journal Issue: Sexual Abuse of Children Volume 4 Number 2 Summer/Fall 1994

Adjudication of Child Sexual Abuse Cases
John E.B. Myers


  1. There are, however, no national statistics on how many children testify in criminal trials each year.
  2. Pennsylvania v. Ritchie, 480 U.S. 39, 60 (1987).
  3. The same requirements of testimonial competence and oath or affirmation are imposed on adult witnesses.
  4. Melton, G. Children's competence to testify. Law and Human Behavior (1981) 44:1225–33; Myers, J. The competence of young children to testify in legal proceedings. Behavioral Sciences and the Law (1993) 11:121–33; Myers, J. Evidence in child abuse and neglect cases. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1992.
  5. Berliner, L. Deciding whether a child has been sexually abused. In Sexual abuse allegations in custody and visitation cases. B. Nicholson and J. Bulkley, eds. Washington, DC: American Bar Association, 1988, pp. 48–69; Melton, G., Petrila, J., Poythress, N., and Slobogin, C. Psychological evaluations for the courts. New York: Guilford Press, 1987.
  6. See note no. 4, Myers, 1992, pp. 225–29, for a summary of the literature on fabricated allegations of child sexual abuse.
  7. Quinn, K. The credibility of children's allegations of sexual abuse. Behavioral Science and Law (1988) 6:181–99; Yates, A., and Musty, M. Preschool children's erroneous allegations of sexual molestation. American Journal of Psychiatry (1988) 145:989–92.
  8. For examples of harsh rhetoric, see Eberle, P., and Eberle, S. The abuse of innocence: The McMartin preschool trial. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1993; Gardner, R. Sex abuse hysteria: Salem witch trials revisited. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, 1992. For analysis of writing that is hypercritical of efforts to protect children, see Myers, J.E.B. The literature of the backlash. In The backlash: Child protection under fire. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1994. In this author's view, such unbalanced criticism does more harm than good in improving society's response to abuse and neglect.
  9. State V. Michaels, 625 A.2d 489 (N.J. Super. 1993).
  10. See note no. 8, Myers, for a review of media coverage of child sexual abuse.
  11. Fivush, R. Developmental perspectives on autobiographical recall. In Child victims, child witnesses: Understanding and improving testimony. G.S. Goodman and B.L. Bottoms, eds. New York: Guilford Press, 1993.
  12. See note no. 11, Fivush, p. 18.
  13. Baker-Ward, L., Gordon, B.N., Ornstein, P.A., et al. Young children's long-term retention of a pediatric examination. Child Development (1993) 64:1519–33.
  14. Saywitz, K., and Snyder, L. Improving children's testimony with preparation. In Child victims, child witnesses: Understanding and improving testimony. G.S. Goodman and B.L. Bottoms, eds. New York: Guilford Press, 1993.
  15. Loftus, E. Eyewitness testimony. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979.
  16. Ceci, S., and Bruck, M. Suggestibility of the child witness: A historical review and synthesis. Psychological Bulletin (1993) 113,3:403–39; Goodman, S., and Clarke-Stewart, A. Suggestibility in children's testimony: Implications for child sexual abuse investigations. In The suggestibility of children's recollections. J.L. Doris, ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1991.
  17. Goodman, G.S., and Bottoms, B.L., eds. Child victims, child witnesses: Understanding and improving testimony. New York: Guilford Press, 1993; Saywitz, K., Goodman, G., Nicholas, E., and Moan, S. Children's memories of physical examinations involving genital touch: Implications for reports of child sexual abuse. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (1991) 59:682–91.
  18. Ceci, S., and Bruck, M. Child witnesses: Translating research into policy. Social Policy Report (1993) 7,3:1–30; also, see note no. 16, Ceci and Bruck.
  19. Bruck, M., Ceci, S., Francoeur, E., and Barr, R. "I hardly cried when I got my shot!": Influencing children's reports about a visit to their pediatrician. Child Development. In press; Ceci, S., Leichtman, M., and White, T. Interviewing preschoolers: The remembrance of things planted. In The child witness in cognitive, social, and legal context. D. Peters, ed. Netherlands: Kluwer. In press.
  20. See note no. 17, Goodman and Bottoms.
  21. Summit, R. The child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome. Child Abuse & Neglect (1983) 7:177–93.
  22. See note no. 17, Saywitz, Goodman, Nicholas, and Moan.
  23. Sorensen, T., and Snow, B. How children tell: The process of disclosure in child sexual abuse. Child Welfare (1991) 70:3–15.
  24. Pipe, M., Gee, S., and Wilson, C. Cues, props, and context: Do they facilitate children's event reports? In Child victims, child witnesses: Understanding and improving testimony. G.S. Goodman and B.L. Bottoms, eds. New York: Guilford Press, 1993, p. 26.
  25. See note no. 11, Fivush, p. 6.
  26. Idaho v. Wright, 110 S. Ct. 3139 (1990); People v. Edwards, 586 N.E.2d 1326 (Ill. Ct. App. 1992); State v. Komurke, 560 So.2d 986 (La. Ct. App. 1990).
  27. Saywitz, K.J., Nathanson, R., Snyder, L., and Lamphear, V. Preparing children for the investigative and judicial process: Improving communication, memory and emotional resiliency. Final report to the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect. Grant No. 90-CA-1179, 1993; Warren, A., Hulse-Trotter, K., and Tubbs, E. Inducing resistance to suggestibility in children. Law and Human Behavior (1991) 15:273–86.
  28. American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. Guidelines for psychosocial evaluation of suspected sexual abuse in young children. Chicago: APSAC, 1990.
  29. Goodman, G.S., Bottoms, B.L., Schwartz-Kenney, B.M., and Rudy, L. Children's testimony about a stressful event: Improving children's reports. Journal of Narrative and Life History (1991) 1:69–99.
  30. Faller, K.C. Understanding child sexual maltreatment. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1990; Myers, J.E.B. Legal issues in child abuse and neglect. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1992.
  31. U.S. Constitution, Sixth Amendment. See Gannett Co. v. DePasquale, 443 U.S. 368 (1979).
  32. U.S. Constitution, First Amendment. See Globe Newspaper Co. v. Superior Court, 457 U.S. 596 (1982); Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court, 478 U.S. 1 (1986).
  33. See note no. 32, Globe Newspaper Co. v. Superior Court.
  34. United States ex rel. Latimore v. Sielaff, 561 F.2d 691 (7th Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 1076 (1978); also, see note no. 32, Globe Newspaper Co. v. Superior Court.
  35. Maryland v. Craig, 497 U.S. 836 (1990); Coy v. Iowa, 487 U.S. 1012 (1988).
  36. Goodman, G.S., Taub, E.P., Jones, D.P.H., et al. Testifying in criminal court. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development (1992) 57,5:1–141.
  37. See note no. 35, Maryland v. Craig.
  38. See note no. 4, Myers, 1992.
  39. People v. Fitzpatrick, 1994 W.L. 46899 (Ill. 1994); Commonwealth v. Louden, W.L. 74082 (Pa. 1994).
  40. Davies, G., and Noon, E. An evaluation of the live link for child witnesses. London: Home Office, 1991, p. 138.
  41. In re Mary S., 230 Cal. Rptr. 726 (Ct App 1986).
  42. Delaware v. Van Arsdall, 475 U.S. 673 (1986); Davis v. Alaska, 415 U.S. 308 (1974).
  43. See note no. 42, Delaware v. Van Arsdall, at p. 679.
  44. See note no. 14, Saywitz and Snyder, pp. 117–46.
  45. California Evidence Code Section 765(b).
  46. Runyan, D., Everson, M., Edelsohn, G., et al. Impact of legal intervention on sexually abused children. Journal of Pediatrics (1988) 113:647–53,652.
  47. See note no. 14, Saywitz and Snyder, p. 119.
  48. See note no. 14, Saywitz and Snyder, p. 123.
  49. See note no. 27, Saywitz, Nathanson, Snyder, and Lamphear.
  50. Videotapes are available describing court schools. See Maleng, N. King County prosecutor: A day at King County kid's court. Hosted by Harry Anderson. Seattle: Office of the Prosecuting Attorney, 1992; Children's Hospital and Health Center, Center for Child Protection. Kids in court. San Diego: Children's Hospital and Health Center, 1989.
  51. Gordon, L. Heroes of their own lives: The politics and history of family violence: Boston 18801960. New York: Penguin Books, 1988.
  52. Although national statistics are lacking, a growing body of research focused on particular communities provides insight into the way child abuse cases are handled. For a brief review of these studies see Myers, J.E.B. Commentary: A caIl for forensically relevant research. Child Abuse & Neglect (1993) 17,5:573–79.
  53. New York v. Ferber, 458 U.S. 747, 757 (1982).
  54. Dell' Orfano v. State, 616 So.2d 33 (Fla. 1993).
  55. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect. Neighbors helping neighbors: A new national strategy for the protection of children. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1993.
  56. Berlin, F., Malin, M., and Dean, S. Effects of statutes requiring psychiatrists to report suspected sexual abuse of children. American Journal of Psychiatry (April 1991) 148,4:449–53. Dr. Berlin and his colleagues argue that requiring mental health professionals to report their patients' admissions of child sexual abuse effectively deters perpetrators from voluntarily seeking therapy. For commentary on Dr. Berlin's article, see Kalichman, S. Letter to the editor: Laws on reporting sexual abuse of children. American Journal of Psychiatry (November 1991) 148,11:1618–19.
  57. Peters, J., Dinsmore, J., and Toth, P. Why prosecute child abuse? South Dakota Law Review (1989) 34:649–59.
  58. See note no. 57, Peters, Dinsmore, and Toth, pp. 654, 659.
  59. For an example of a reporting statute that requires cross-reporting, see California Penal Code Section 11166(g).
  60. Pizzini, S. The backlash from the perspective of a county child protective services administrator. In The backlash: Child protection under fire. J.E.B. Myers, ed. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1994.
  61. See note no. 30, Myers, for a more detailed description of the criminal justice system's handling of child abuse cases.
  62. For information regarding the multidisciplinary approach, contact the National Children's Advocacy Center, 106 Lincoln St., Huntsville, AL 35801, or call (205) 533-KIDS; or write to the Crime and Violence Prevention Center, Department of Justice, 1515 K St., Ste. 100, Sacramento, CA 95814, or call (916) 322-2900.
  63. California Attorney General's Office. California child victim witness judicial advisory committee: Final report. Sacramento: California Attorney General's Office, 1988, pp. 22–23.
  64. Congress recognized the promise of the multidisciplinary approach. See 42 United States Code Section 13001 et seq.
  65. Compare Stern, P. Videotaping child interviews: A detriment to an accurate determination of guilt. Journal of Interpersonal Violence (1992) 7,2:278–84, with Stephenson, C. Videotaping and how it works well in San Diego. Journal of Interpersonal Violence (1992) 7,2:284–88.
  66. Myers, J.E.B. Investigative interviews of children: Should they be videotaped? Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy (1993) 7,2:371–86.
  67. California Attorney General's Office. Child victim witness investigative pilot projects: Research and evaluation. Final report, 1994.
  68. LaFave, W., and Israel, J. Criminal procedure. St. Paul, MN: West, 1985, p. 561.
  69. For research on factors considered by prosecutors in deciding whether to file charges, see Bradshaw, T., and Marks, A. Beyond a reasonable doubt: Factors that influence the legal disposition of child sexual abuse cases. Crime and Delinquency (1990) 36:276–85; Gray, E. Unequal justice: The prosecution of child sexual abuse. New York: Free Press, 1993; Lipovsky, J., Tidwell, R., Crisp, J., et al. Child witnesses in criminal court: Descriptive information from three southern states. Law and Human Behavior (1992) 16:635–50; Tjaden, P., and Thoennes, N. Predictors of legal intervention in child maltreatment cases. Child Abuse & Neglect (1992) 16:807–21; Whitcomb, D., Runyan, D., De Vos, E., et al. Final report of the child victim as witness research and development program. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. In press.
  70. See note no. 69, Tjaden and Thoennes, p. 816.
  71. Bays, J., and Chadwick, D. Medical diagnosis of the sexually abused child. Child Abuse & Neglect (1993) 17:91–110.
  72. See note no. 52, Myers.
  73. American Bar Association. Innovations in the prosecuting of child sexual abuse cases. 5th printing. Washington, DC: American Bar Association, 1981, p. 9.
  74. See note no. 69, Tjaden and Thoennes.
  75. Arthur, S. The norplant prescription: Birth control, woman control, or crime control? UCLA Law Review (1992) 40:1–101.
  76. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Felony sentences in state courts, 1990. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, 1993, p. 15.
  77. See note no. 76, U.S. Department of Justice, p. 4.
  78. Becker, J.V., and Hunter, J.A. Evaluation of treatment outcome for adult perpetrators of child sexual abuse. Criminal Justice and Behavior (1992) 19,1:74–92, p. 82.
  79. Marshall, W.L., Jones, R., Ward, T., et al. Treatment outcome with sex offenders. Clinical Psychology Review (1991) 11:465–85.
  80. Quinsey, V.L., Harris, G.T., Rice, M.E., and Lalumiere, M.L. Assessing treatment efficacy in outcome studies of sex offenders. Journal of Interpersonal Violence (1993) 8,4:521.
  81. The address for the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers is P.O. Box 866, Lake Oswego, OR 97034.
  82. See Revised Code of Washington, Title 18, Section 18.155.010 et seq.
  83. Revised Code of Washington, Title 17, Section 71.09.020 et seq.
  84. In re Young, 857 P.2d 989 (Wash. 1993).
  85. States that have registration laws include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Washington; see National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse. Legislation requiring sex offenders to register with a government agency. Alexandria, VA: NCPCA, 1993. For information about this publication call (703) 739-0321 or write to the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse, 99 Canal Center Plaza, Suite 510, Alexandria, VA 22314.
  86. States that require registered sex offenders to provide samples of body fluids include Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Missouri, South Dakota, and Tennessee.
  87. Registration laws have typically been challenged as a violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment," or of state constitutions which contain similar provisions.
  88. Although certain applications of registration laws are unconstitutional, the basic framework of the laws has withstood constitutional challenge.
  89. National Child Protection Act, 42 United States Code Section 5119.
  90. U.S. Congress, House. National Child Protection Act of 1993. House Report No. 103-393. 103rd Cong., 1st sess.
  91. In addition to its jurisdiction over delinquents and abused and neglected children, the juvenile court has authority over children called status offenders. A minor commits a status offense by violating a curfew law, skipping school, running away from home, or by driving, drinking, or smoking under age. A status offense is not a crime; thus status offenders are not delinquents.
  92. National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. The revised report from the national task force on juvenile sexual offending. Juvenile and Family Court Journal (1993) 44,4:1–120.
  93. For an excellent discussion of the complex task of representing children, see Haralambie, A.M. The child's attorney. Chicago: American Bar Association, 1993.
  94. For a breakdown of postreferral dispositions in sexual abuse cases in three California counties during 1991, see Barth, R.P., Berrick, J.D., Courtney, M., and Albert, V. Pathways through child welfare services. Final report. Berkeley: University of California, Berkeley, Child Welfare Research Center, May 1992, p. 67.
  95. In a study of 625 children ages 0 to 12 who were reunited with their families after a stay of 72 hours to 12 months in foster care, researchers found that physical and sexual abuse were not associated with the reunification outcome, that is, whether there was rereferral or reentry into foster care. Davis, I.P., English, D.J., and Landsverk, J.A. Going homeand returning to care: A study of foster care reunification. Summary report. San Diego, CA: San Diego State University College of Health and Human Sciences, 1993, p. 8.
  96. Thoennes, N., and Tjaden, P. The extent, nature, and validity of sexual abuse allegations in custody/visitation disputes. Child Abuse & Neglect (1990) 14:151–63.
  97. Jones, D., and McGraw, M. Reliable and fictitious accounts of sexual abuse to children. Journal of Interpersonal Violence (1987) 2:27–45.
  98. See note no. 4, Myers, 1992, for a description of the research.
  99. Green, A. True and false allegations of sexual abuse in child custody disputes. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry (1986) 25:449–56.
  100. Benedek, E., and Schetky, D. Allegations of sexual abuse in child custody and visitation disputes. In Emerging issues in child psychiatry and the law. D. Schetky and E. Benedek, eds. New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1985, pp. 145–58.
  101. See note no. 7, Quinn, p. 181.
  102. See note no. 5, Berliner, pp. 48–69, 52.
  103. Jones, D., and Seig, A. Child sexual abuse allegations in custody or visitation cases: A report of 20 cases. In Sexual abuse allegations in custody and visitation cases. B. Nicholson and J. Bulkley, eds. Washington, DC: American Bar Association, 1988, pp. 22–36.
  104. See note no. 103, Jones and Seig, p. 29.
  105. In addition to criminal cases, juvenile court litigation to protect children, and child custody cases, allegations of child sexual abuse are litigated in administrative proceedings to revoke licenses of day care centers where sexual abuse occurs, guardianship proceedings, civil litigation by victims seeking monetary damages from perpetrators, civil actions by victims against institutions where abuse occurs, civil actions by victims against child protective services agencies for failing to protect children from sexual abuse, and civil litigation by the state to terminate the parental rights of abusive adults.
  106. For a thorough discussion of the importance of coordination between family and juvenile court, see Edwards, E. The relationship of family and juvenile courts in child abuse cases. Santa Clara Law Review (1987) 27:201–69.
  107. Katz, S.N., and Kuhn, J. Recommendations for a model family court. A report from the National Family Court Symposium. Reno, NV: National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 1991; Edwards, L.P. The juvenile court and the role of the juvenile court judge. Juvenile and Family Court Journal (1992) 43:1–45; Page, R.W. Family courts: An effective judicial approach to resolution of family disputes. Juvenile and Family Court Journal (1993) 44:1–59.