Wrongful Acquittals of Child Sexual Abuse
Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Forthcoming
32 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2015
Date Written: November 5, 2015
Ross Cheit’s book The Witch-Hunt Narrative highlights the difficulties of prosecuting child sexual abuse. Drawing examples from a single case, Alex A., we examine the ways in which false acquittals of sexual abuse are likely to occur. First, prosecutors tend to question children in ways that undermine their productivity and credibility. Second, prosecutors have difficulty in explaining to juries the dynamics of sexual abuse and disclosure, making children’s acquiescence to abuse and their failure to disclose when abuse first occurs incredible. Third, attorneys undermine children’s credibility by pushing them to provide difficult to estimate temporal and numerical information. A postscript to the Alex A. case illustrates the costs of wrongful acquittals.
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