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Understanding Children’s Medium for Disclosing Sexual Abuse - A Tool for Overcoming Potential Misconceptions in the Courtroom

Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, Vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 379-393, 2009

Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 10/87

34 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2010  

Rita Shackel

The University of Sydney Law School

Date Written: September 7, 2010

Abstract

Complainants in child sexual assault trials are often questioned by the defence about disclosure of the alleged abuse. The defence will often ask the child how they disclosed the alleged sexual abuse, including to whom the initial disclosure was made. Such questions are legitimate and directed towards testing the complainant's allegations. Sometimes, such questions are used to impeach the complainant's credibility. It is not uncommon in such instances for the defence to suggest that certain modes of disclosure are more consistent with having been sexually victimized and that a complainant who has disclosed otherwise is more likely to have fabricated the allegations of abuse. This article reviews the findings of empirical research on whom victims of child sexual abuse most commonly disclose their abuse to and by what means such disclosure is commonly made. This understanding is important to challenge misconceived views about how victims disclose child sexual abuse.

Keywords: child sexual abuse, disclosure, medium of disclosure, misconceptions, recipients of disclosure

JEL Classification: K10, K14, K30

Suggested Citation

Shackel, Rita, Understanding Children’s Medium for Disclosing Sexual Abuse - A Tool for Overcoming Potential Misconceptions in the Courtroom (September 7, 2010). Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, Vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 379-393, 2009; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 10/87. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1673036

Rita Shackel (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

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