Seminar on Child Sexual Abuse


I. Introduction

A. Investigating and assessing cases of alleged child sexual abuse is difficult and controversial.

1. Ceci & Bruck (1993) describe two distinct positions:

a. Children are highly resistant to suggestion, unlikely to lie, and as reliable as adults.

b. Children have difficulty in distinguishing fact and fantasy, highly suggestible, and unreliable as witnesses.

2. These polarities have become solidified and entrenched with each side distrusting the other. A common ground must be found to get out of the divisiveness and hostility.

3. We suggest that agreement is possible on the proposition that increased accuracy of decision making is to the benefit of everybody. As Saks and Kidd (1980-81) observe:

Through legal decision making we seek to avoid the classic errors of convicting an innocent defendant or acquitting a guilty one, or finding liability when there is none or failing to find liability when it is present. Whatever justice may be, surely it is not error (p. 123).

4. The behavior of the investigators who respond to an allegation of sexual abuse early in the case is pivotal in terms of how the case progresses and is ultimately resolved.

5. A faulty investigation may result in innocent children being damaged and innocent people being falsely charged and guilty people being acquitted whereas a good investigation is likely to result in an accurate decision by the justice system.

B. The type of error being made is in the direction of false positives, that is, of falsely identifying an individual as abused or an abuser when it is not true (e.g., Altemeier, O'Connor, Vietze, Sandler, & Sherrod, 1984; Caldwell, Bogat, & Davidson, 1988; Gambrill, 1990; Horner, 1992; Horner & Guyer, 1991a, 1991b; Kotelchuck, 1982; Melton, 1994; Milner, Gold, Ayoub, & Jacewitz, 1984; Paradise, 1989; Realmuto, Jensen, & Wescoe, 1990; Schachter, 1985; Starr, 1979; Wakefield & Underwager, 1988; Zeitlin, 1987).

1. Much has been made of the harm to children if there is a false negative decision, that is, failing to identify a child as abused when it is true. The claim is that a few mistakes are necessary in order to prevent the harm of abuse.

2. This ignores the damage done to nonabused children by embroiling them in false accusations. It also ignores the evidence suggesting that more children are harmed by the abuse system and by abuse investigations than are helped by them. It may be that the defense attorney and the defense private investigator are the only champions a nonabused child has in the courtroom.

3. This conclusion also ignores the damage done to innocent people who represent the false positives generated by the system (Armbrister, 1993; Baurmann, 1983; Buckey, Buckey, & Buckey, 1990; Davis & Reppucci, 1992; Luza & Ortiz, 1991; McLeod, 1989; Prosser, 1995; Prosser & Lewis, 1992; Robson, 1991; San Diego County Grand Jury, 1992; Schultz, 1986; Weinbach, 1987). C. There is now enough credible scientific knowledge that we can improve the accuracy of the decisions made. We do not need to continue making the kinds of errors that have been made up to the present.

II. What to Look for in Discovery

A. Investigating a case of child sexual abuse poses a fundamental problem. Many accusations rely on uncorroborated statements allegedly made by a child. In many jurisdictions the law has been changed to allow all manner of hearsay evidence that would otherwise be excluded. This is used to bolster statements alleged to have been made by children.

B. Sexual abuse cases are extremely difficult to defend because the defense attorney must find a way for the finder-of-fact to understand why a child is making statements about abuse if it didn't happen. C. The issue is usually not whether or not the child is lying. If a child is lying, it most likely will be disturbed early adolescents who have the capacities required for deliberate and willful lying. It will not likely be younger children.

D. The issue is the level, nature, extent, and effects of adult social influence upon children.

E. The investigator should gather as much information as possible about the parties involved and about the circumstances surrounding the disclosure and accusations.

1. Detailed information from the adult who first spoke to the child about the alleged abuse. Any recordings that may have been made of this along with any notes taken by the adult.

2. The nature, timing, and circumstances surrounding the original disclosure, in as much detail and specificity as possible.

3. Detailed information concerning the nature of the allegations along with any changes in these over time. When an account becomes more complex, detailed, specific, and bizarre across time, it is almost always the result of adult social influence.

4. Records or descriptions of any informal contacts between the child and an adult. Is the parent questioning the child, encouraging the child to make drawings, or giving the child information about what someone else has said? Are parents having meetings or talking with other parents, neighbors, or relatives?

5. Records of the actions and decisions of law enforcement, prosecution, and child protection workers. This includes any team meetings, supervisory contacts or consultations, intake interviews, interrogations, and phone calls to or from other agencies, the reporting adult, parents of the child, and the prosecutor. Also look for any sessions which are supposed to familiarize the child with the courtroom or prepare them to testify.

6. Records and documents from all persons who have interviewed the child concerning the contacts. Audio- or videotapes are particularly important.

7. All investigative contacts with any potential witnesses, alternative suspects, and any information gathered about the person accused. Often, interrogations of persons and children that did not produce inculpatory statements are left out or not revealed.

8. Records of any mental health professional who has had contact with the child.This should include progress notes, any testing, and insurance forms. There are times when a diagnosis made in the records is different than that submitted to an insurance company. Some diagnoses are paid for and others are not.

9. Information about the social and family characteristics and history in the family of the child. This includes information such as conflicts over visitations, new boy friends or girl friends of divorced parents, drug or alcohol use, criminal records, etc. 10. Information about the sleeping and bathing habits of the family, attitudes towards nudity, etc.

11. Information about the behavior of the foster parents towards the child. Sometimes foster parents will function as investigators, questioning the child, making notes of the child's behaviors, and reporting what the child may or may not say. Often, the foster parents will keep logs or diaries documenting that they are doing this.

12. Information about contacts between the child and any family members who are discussing the alleged abuse with the child.

13. Information about books, television shows, or school sexual abuse prevention programs that may have influenced the child. There are television shows on cable television that can only be described as X-rated.

14. The psychological characteristics, drug or alcohol use, job history, and any criminal record or prior behaviors in the accused adult that would either support or undermine the credibility of the allegations.

14. Background information on social workers, police, and mental health professionals that will give information about any prior assumptions or biases. Articles, documents, speeches, programs, etc. Check the credentials of mental health professionals. We have occasionally found cases where the experts have falsified their credentials or have graduated from a diploma mill. Licensing boards will have information about reprimands, educational qualifications, and stated competencies.

15. Information about the techniques and methods used by any mental health professionals.

16. Information about the capacities and developmental level of the child.

a. Medical records of the child from any physician, dentist, hospital, or clinic. This is necessary to look for documentation of any behaviors or symptoms that may predate the allegation of abuse.

b. Records of any psychological or psychiatric treatments or evaluations the child may have had in the past.

c. School records, including dates present, absent, tardy, behavioral observations, or teacher evaluations. This should include any day care centers, preschools, or baby-sitters. Consider statements or affidavits from any teachers or day care workers as to the child's behavior, health, and observed interactions with the parents. Often school records contain observations by teachers that are very different from that reported by parents. There is research evidence that teachers reports may be more accurate than parental reports.

d. Information from any credible adults who have had the opportunity to observe the child's behavior with parents, peers, and other adults.

F. The defense attorney should attempt to get a psychological evaluation or interview of the child by a competent psychologist.

G. If a complaining adult is essential to the development of the accusation, as in the case of a mother who is alleging abuse by a father while the child was on visitation, get all information about the complaining adult.

III. Interviewing children when there are allegations of sexual abuse

A. The child witness

1. Young children are capable of providing accurate and useful information.

2. Jones and Krugman (1986) give an example of a three-year-old child who accurately described her abduction, sexual abuse, and attempted murder.

3. The problem is that adults do not know how to let children produce the most reliable information they can (Garbarino & Stott, 1989).

B. The memory of young children.

1. The free recall of children, particularly if they are questioned soon after an event, can be accurate. However, young children do not produce much in the free recall situation.

2. Infant amnesia

a. Infant amnesia refers to the fact that adults and older children do not usually remember incidents from their lives that happen prior to age three to four (Eisenberg, 1985; Loftus, 1993; Nelson, 1993).

b. This inability to recall events from an early age is a function of the normal process of growth and development.

c. Although some researchers have reported slightly younger estimates of how far back adults can remember, these bits of memory cannot indicate genuine episodic memory, but instead may be the result of educated guesses about what was likely to have happened.

d. Children build "script" memories during this period of life. Script memories are those we have for familiar, repeated events like eating dinner at home or going to the supermarket.

e. The development of narrative accounts is markedly affected by the child talking with parents who play an active role in framing and guiding their children's formulation of what happened. This effect is strongest when parents simply talk with their children about events rather than question them (Nelson, 1993).

3. Young children are more suggestible than older children and adults (Ceci & Bruck, 1993, 1995).

4. Young children are likely to make "source monitoring" errors (Ceci, Loftus, Leitchman, & Bruck, 1994; Johnson, Hashtroudi, & Lindsay, 1993).

a. A source monitoring error is when people mistake events they have thought about, dreamed about, or been questioned about for memories of real events that have happened.

b. Preschoolers appear to be vulnerable to source attribution errors when they are repeated encouraged to think about events that never occurred.

5. Very young children cannot use one object as a representation for another (DeLoache, 1995).

6. Several facts concerning child witnesses can be said to be generally accepted in the scientific community (Ceci & Bruck, 1993):

a. There appear to be significant age differences in suggestibility, with preschool children being more vulnerable to suggestion that either school-aged children or adults.

b. Children can be led to make false or inaccurate reports about very crucial, personally experienced central events.

c. Children sometimes lie when the motivational structure is tiled towards lying.

d. Extreme statements (e.g., children never lie vs. children are incapable of getting it right) are not supported.

e. Even preschoolers are capable of recalling much that is forensically relevant. C. General principles of the investigatory interview

1. The goal of the interview of a child suspected of being sexually abused is to obtain uncontaminated data.

2. The problem is not that children cannot give reliable information but rather that adults do not know how to enable them to produce the information they are capable of providing (Garbarino & Stott, 1989: Wakefield & Underwager, 1988, 1994a).

3. The free recall of children is accurate, but they recall less than do adults (Ceci & Bruck, 1993, 1995; Jones & Krugman, 1986; Lepore, 1991). The less information the child gives in free recall, the sooner the interviewer will turn to using leading questions.

4. Contamination occurs when the child's recollections become altered through poor interview techniques, an adverse interview environment, the interviewer's inappropriate behaviors, or influences outside the interviewer's control (Ceci & Bruck, 1995; Quinn, White, & Santilli, 1989; Underwager & Wakefield, 1990; Wakefield & Underwager, 1988, 1989a, 1994a; White, 1990).

5. The child's memory of any actual experience may be significantly altered by the questioning about the incident (Ceci & Bruck, 1993, 1995; Doris, 1991; White, 1990; Clarke-Stewart, Thompson, & Lepore, 1989) and the child may even develop a memory for events that never happened (Loftus, 1993; Loftus & Ketcham, 1991, 1994; Underwager & Wakefield, 1990, 1994a).

6. The issue is not whether or not the child is lying. The issue is the level, nature, extent, and effects of adult social influence upon young children.

7. Although repeated and/or suggestive interviews and flawed investigations do not mean that a child has not been abused, they make it very difficult, if not impossible, to sort out what, if anything, may have happened.

8. The issue is the level, nature, extent, and effects of adult social influence upon young children. It is through adult social influence that a child can make statements of sexual abuse that may not be true. The child is unlikely to be an active participant when a fabricated allegation is developed.

9. Although repeated and/or suggestive interviews and flawed investigations do not mean that a child has not been abused, they make it very difficult, if not impossible, to sort out what, if anything, may have happened. The most well-known examples of this are the Jordan, MN case (Humphrey, 1985, February) and the McMartin case.

a. Children who have not been abused are treated as though they were and innocent parents may be prevented from having contact with their children.

b. A coercive and contaminating interview can be used by the defense as support for the lack of credibility of the child and an actual abuser can go unpunished.

10. Example of actual interview transcript from the McMartin case. The interviewer is Astrid Heger, M.D.

Q Do you think, do maybe-I'll tell you what. Maybe you could show me with this, with this doll (putting hand on two anatomical dolls, one naked, one dressed) how the kids danced for the naked movie star.

A They didn't really dance. It was just like, a song.

Q Well, what did they do when they sang the song?

A They just, went around singing the song.

Q They just went around and sang the song?

A (Nods head up and down.)

Q And they didn't take their clothes off?

A (Shakes head negative)

Q I heard that, I heard from, several kids, that they took their clothes off. I think that (classmate's name) told me that. I know that (second classmate's name) told me. I know that (third classmate's name) told me. (Fourth classmate's name) and (fifth classmate's name) all told me that. That's kind of a hard secret, it's kind of a yucky secret to talk, of-but, maybe, we could see if we could find-

A Not that I remember.

Q -another puppet. This is my favorite puppet right here. (Reaching, picking up and putting on the bird puppet.)

A I get to be that puppet.

Q You wanna be this puppet? Okay. Then I get to be Detective Dog.

A (Makes a sound.)

Q Okay, let's see if we can figure this. Let's see.

A (Grabs the dog puppet's nose that the interviewer is wearing, using bird puppet's beak.) Q Yeah. Let's be friends. Let's (unintelligible). I know that we're gonna figure this out-all this stuff out right now. Okay, when that tricky part about touching the kids was going on, could you (reaching for marker from can on the table, handing it to girl) could take a pointer in your mouth and point, on the, on the doll over here, on either one of these dolls, where, where the kids were touched? Could you do that?

A I don't know.

Q I know that the kids were touched. Let's see if we can figure that out.

A I don't know.

Q You don't know where they were touched?

A Huh-uh. (Slight of head, negative.)

Q (Unintelligible.) Well, I (unintelligible) some of the kids told me that they were touched sometimes. They said that it was, it kinda sometimes it kinda hurt. And sometimes it felt pretty good. Do you remember that touching game that went on?

A No.

Q Okay, let me see if we can try something else and-

A Weeeeee. (Spinning the bird puppet on right hand above her head.)

Q Come on bird, get down here and help us out here.

A No.

Q (Girl's name) is having a hard time talking. I don't wanna hear any more "no's." No, no, Detective Dog and we're gonna figure this out.

A No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. (To musical cadence, spinning bird puppet over head.)

Q Do you wanna not play with the puppets? Would you rather talk to me directly? Is that easier for ya?

A No.

Q Okay. How can I help you?

A (Makes sound.) gosh.

Q (Girl's name), look at me! (Putting puppeted hand on bird puppet.) How can I help you get rid of those yucky secrets? How can we help you to tell them, so they can go away and not bother you any more? What would be the best way that we could help you do that? I don't think the puppets are working really well. And I think that you're real scared to tell. And I understand why you're scared. 'Cause I heard all about the threats and all the tricks that he tried to make the kids be scared so they wouldn't talk. Those were all tricks, they were lies. They weren't true. None of those things happened to anybody. And none of that stuff that happened at school were the kids' fault. That was all the it, Ray's fault, it wasn't the kids fault. And I know the kids are scared to talk about it, but I need you to tell me. How can I help you get rid of those yucky secrets? What's the best way for me to help you do that?

A (Looks upward with pointer dangling from mouth.) (Cody, 1989, p. 28.)

C. Problems in interviews

1. The interviewer is convinced about what happened before the interview begins.

a. Expectancies about an outcome can influence the outcome itself (Dent & Stephenson, 1979; Darley & Fazio, 1980; Rosenthal, 1976).

b. The interviewer who expects to find abuse is apt to ask questions in a way to confirm his or her hypothesis (Ceci & Bruck, 1995; Ceci, Leichtman, & White, in press; Pettit, Fegan, & Howie, 1990; Pfohl, 1979; White, 1990).

2. The interviewer ignores the pressure felt by the child to conform to what the child believes the interviewer wants. The pressure to give some form of answer may result in demand characteristics to which children have little resistance (Dent & Stephenson, 1979; King & Yuille, 1987). 3. The interviewer reinforces selected responses of the child. a. A child is told that she is brave and that "Mommy will be so proud of you for telling the scary secret" or a child is told that he can play with a special toy or go for a treat after he tells about the abuse.

b. Children have been promised or given candy, food, beverages, and toys if they cooperate and answer the questions. Uncooperative children may be denied access to the lavatory until they finished the interview (Ceci & Bruck, 1995; DeLipsey & James, 1988; Slicner & Hanson, 1989; Underwager & Wakefield, 1990). 4. The interviewer does not make it clear to the child that it is all right not to answer a question if the child does not know the answer (Warren, Hulse-Trotter, & Tubbs, 1991).

a. Children will give answers to bizarre, unanswerable questions. In a study by Hughes and Grieve (1980), 5- and 7-year-old children gave answers to very bizarre questions, such as "Is red wider than yellow?"

b. The pressure to give some form of answer and to discourage "don't know" responses may result in demand characteristics to which children have little resistance (Dent & Stephenson, 1979 ; King & Yuille, 1987).

5. The interviewer ignores responses that don't fit the interviewer's preconceptions.

6. The interviewer encourages a child who does not say anything in response to questions to "pretend" with puppets or dolls.

7. The interviewer begins the interview with good touch/bad touch questions and drawings where the child identifies body parts. This tells the child what will be expected to be discussed in the interview.

8. The interview is not videotaped or audiotaped. A videotape is the only means whereby the procedures and data obtained during the interview can be fully documented (DeLipsey & James, 1988; Herbert, Grams, & Goranson, 1987; Lamb, 1994; Myers, 1994; Raskin & Yuille, 1989; Underwager & Wakefield, 1990; Wakefield & Underwager, 1988, 1989a, 1994a)

9. Procedures with doubtful or nonexistent reliability and validity are used in the interview. These unsupported procedures include drawings, projective tests, and anatomical dolls. a. The APA Council of Representatives (1991) concluded that neither the anatomical dolls nor their use are standardized or accompanied by normative data.

b. The use of the dolls can provide a modeling effect and, as they are often used, can encourage the child to engage in fantasy.

c. Very young children cannot use one object as a representation for another (DeLoache, 1995).

d. There are no data supporting a differential behavior of abused and nonabused children when the dolls are used to assess sexual abuse. The studies that claim to show differences have major methodological shortcomings (Ceci & Bruck, 1993; Underwager & Wakefield, 1990, 1995; Skinner, Berry, & Giles, 1992; Underwager & Wakefield, 1990, 1995; Wakefield & Underwager, 1994a; Wolfner, Faust, & Dawes, 1993).

e. Some studies suggest that some nonabused children engage the dolls in sexual play (Skinner, et al., 1992).

f. We recommend that the dolls not be used. They are controversial and they are not generally accepted in the scientific community.

g. There are similar problems with books and drawings.

10. Disclosure-based play therapy is used to draw conclusions about abuse.

a. There is no scientific evidence showing any efficacy or utility for play therapy with sexual abuse victims (Campbell, 1992a, 1992b; Kazdin, Bass, Ayers, & Rodgers, 1990).

b. The sessions may focus on reenactments and discussions of the abuse and the behavior of the child in the play therapy sessions is used to form conclusions about abuse. Play therapy may encourage false allegations (Campbell, 1992a).

c. A major difficulty is the unexamined assumption that play reflects reality whereas for children play is fantasy (Bretherton, 1984).

d. The therapist providing the therapy may be confusing the therapy and investigator roles.

11. Specific interviewer behaviors that may contaminate children's statements.

a. Open-suggestive questions. These questions are open in nature, but are suggestive or leading in that they may provide or imply information which may in fact be incorrect, and may pertain to information or events to which the child has not previously referred.

Who else was there? (There may not have been others present). Whose house were you at when the man touched you? (The child may not have been at a house). What did the other big person do to you? (The other person may not have done anything). How big was the bed that was in the room? (When there was no previous mention of a bed).

b. Leading or suggestive questions or statements which supply information to the child that may be incorrect, or pertain to information to which the child has not previously referred. Minimal response is required. Does he hurt you? Does this always happen in your room? Has it ever happened in daddy's room? Was it you that she caught him doing it to?

Here the interviewer, not the child, provides most of the information.

c. Questions or statements which put the child on the spot, and coerce or pressure him or her to respond as expected. Questions in this category demand a response, and may contain stated or implied threats. Commands given by the interviewer and non-verbal messages can also be used for this purpose.

All of the other children talked to us, and they felt better. Last time, you told me that they hurt you. Is that true, or not? If you don't tell, you will feel yucky inside. If you don't talk to us, your mommy will be very disappointed in you. Tell us what you told your mommy. We can't play with the game until we finish talking. It's important. We need you to tell us so other children won't get hurt. You can't go outside until you finish telling me! Non-verbal behaviors include using a cold or neutral tone of voice, moving away from the child, avoiding the child's eyes, and ignoring the child's responses or questions.

d. Various rewards-verbal, non-verbal, and material-which the child receives for responding as expected.

You're a good talker! Good-That's just right. You're so brave to tell us all of this! Mommy will be so proud if you tell us. After you talk to us, then you can have an ice cream cone. If you can tell us what happened, that icky feeling inside will go away!

Non-verbal rewards can include smiling, touching or moving closer to the child, head nods, and changing from a cold or neutral voice to a warm voice.

e. Modeling or teaching by the interviewer (often used in conjunction with dolls, puppets, drawings, or books).

k. Ignoring responses that don't fit the interviewer's preconceptions.

l. Giving false information to the child.

The other children have told me about the naked movie star games. Your brother told me some things about how Dad hurt you.

III. General principles for conducting an unbiased interview

A. Several professionals have suggested how to conduct an unbiased evaluation with nonsuggestive and noncontaminating interviews (e.g., Annon, 1994; Daly, 1991; Quinn, White, & Santilli, 1989; Raskin & Yuille, 1989; Slicner & Hanson, 1989; Wakefield & Underwager, 1988, 1994a).

B. General guidelines for appropriate interviewing.

1. Be aware of your own biases and try to explore all possible hypotheses about what may have happened rather than focusing on just one. 2. Conduct the interview in a comfortable room which does not look like a business office or doctor's office. Keep distracting toys out of sight.

3. Do not sit on the floor with the child. Sit in a chair and ask the child to sit in a chair.

4. Interview the child alone. The presence of another person may induce bias, distortions or omissions in the child's account. The error can be in either direction.

5. Begin by establishing the relationship with the child, getting an impression of the child's level of development and capacities, and establishing the child's expectations for what is going to happen in the evaluation. Ask neutral questions regarding age, school and friends before discussing the events surrounding the alleged abuse.

6. Make it clear to the child that it is all right not to answer a question if the child does not know the answer. Tell the child to say "I don't know" and "I don't remember" rather than trying to say what he thinks the interviewer might want to hear. It may help to practice with a question such as "Did the doctor who delivered you wear glasses or not? 7. When the child is comfortable, ask open-ended nonleading questions (i.e., "Tell me about your father"). It may take longer to get useful information but the information obtained is much less likely to be contaminated.

8. Aim toward encouraging the child to provide a free narrative account by asking open-ended questions. The free recall of a child is as accurate as that of an adult; the trick therefore is elicit it and not to alter it through suggestive, leading questions. Open-ended questions can be repeated a number of times.

9. Do not interrupt the child's narrative with questions.

10. If closed questions must be asked, only ask them at the end after first attempting to get a narrative from the child through open questions.

11. Avoid repeating questions other than open-ended. Specific questions introduce more error. (Poole & White, 1991). When a negative response is ignored and a direct question is repeated again and again, the child learns what he is expected to answer.

12. Proceed from the most general aspects to the more specific. Explore specific areas after the child has mentioned them first.

13. Do not encourage make-believe by saying things such as "let's pretend you are in your bedroom . . ." or "let's pretend this doll is you . . ."

14. If the child has difficulty providing specific details, try using nonleading mnemonic devices. For example, ask the child to view the alleged incident from the eyes of a camera.

15. Use invitational statements in order to get more details from the child such as, "And then what happened?" or "Would you please tell me everything you remember about that?"

16. Throughout the interview, be alert to the cognitive developmental level of the child.

17. Throughout the interview, test for alternative hypotheses.

18. Do not ask the child to remember what he said to others-parent, social worker, or police-a couple of days ago. This request means that you are confusing the child between a prior conversation and the reality of a prior event of abuse.

19. Minimize cues given to a child about what he is supposed to say. Requests for details should be about events already disclosed by the child.

20. Use a neutral, friendly tone throughout and avoid pressure or coercion to give a desired response and selective reinforcement of certain types of responses. A frequent subtle cue to a child as to what the interviewer wants is the repetition of a question when the child has already answered but not in the desired direction.

21. Be aware of your own tolerance for ambiguity and frustration level. Remain calm and don't show irritation when the child is not responding as desired.

22. Conduct the interview in a way that does not contribute to the emotional trauma of the child. Know when to stop interviewing. Grilling, coercion, repeated questioning when a child gives a negative response or says "I don't know" tells the child that he is not producing what the adult in authority wants.

23. At some point in the interviews, inquire about possible influences upon the child that may have taken place prior to the interview. This is important both in the case of a child who relates sexual abuse and with a child who recants an earlier story of abuse.

24. At the end of the interview, explore the child's susceptibility to suggestion.

25. Videotape or audiotape all interviews from the beginning. This provides for fully documented interviews and an accurate account of who said what can be transcribed. Videotape also permits examination of some of the nonverbal cues that may be present.

26. Minimize the number of interviews. (However, take the time needed to do a thorough and reliable assessment.)

27. If there is time pressure, as there may be if a choice about the safety of the child must be made, get as much reliable information as you can, and make the choice.

C. Criterion Based Content Analysis/Statement Validity Analysis

1. This is a procedure for interviewing children suspected of being abused and for analyzing the resulting interview. (See Köhnken & Steller, 1988; Raskin & Esplin, 1991; Rogers, 1990; Undeutsch, 1988.) 2. The procedure assumes that an account based on a real memory of an actual event will differ in content and quality from descriptions of accounts that are based on fabricated, learned, or suggested memory.

3. The procedure requires a relatively complete statement obtained as soon as possible after the child has disclosed an incident.

4. It is not intended for eliciting the initial report when abuse has only been suspected because of behavioral indicators.

5. The interview must be designed to obtain a free narrative and leading questions and suggestions must be avoided, except at the end when deliberately used to assess the child's susceptibility to suggestion.

6. The entire interview is tape-recorded and transcribed for later analysis.

D. Cognitive interviewing shows promise of increasing accuracy of accounts (Fisher & Geiselman, 1988; Saywitz, Geiselman, & Bornstein, 1992).

E. Writing the report.

1. After conducting the interview(s), before drawing conclusions and writing a report, obtain as much information about the child and the reported incident as possible. (For example, the nature of the disclosure, the situation in which the allegations surfaced, the personalities of the parties, the number of times the child has previously talked to people about the alleged incident, and the nature of such contacts.)

2. Explore possible motives either to deny real abuse or to fabricate abuse. This is particularly important with older children and adolescents.

3. Review the videotape rather than depending upon your memory. If possible, have the interview transcribed.

IV. Interviewing a child who has been exposed to multiple interrogations

A. A professional is often asked to assess a case after others have interviewed the child. If the initial evaluation and interviews have been conducted by someone else, careful examination of the procedures is necessary in order to assess possible contamination which has been brought into the case (Wakefield & Underwager, 1988; White & Quinn, 1988). When children have been subjected to leading and coercive interviews, the contamination is likely to have altered their recollections so that it becomes extremely difficult to sort out the truth.

B. When interviewing a child who has been repeatedly exposed to adult social influence, the goal is to permit and encourage the most reliable statements a child can make. C. A child who has been interviewed a number of times has learned a certain set of expectations about adult behavior and about the responses the adults reinforce.

1. Most adult interviewers are very task oriented. They aim to affirm what they believe happened. They are dominant and active and the children are passive and compliant. The interviewer is serious, intense, and asserts power and control to keep the child on the task and efforts by the child to engage in spontaneous play are suppressed and controlled.

2. The oft-interviewed child has learned that when responses are given that please the adult, there is positive reinforcement. A child gets praised, sometimes given soda, cookies, access to a special toy, or the ending of the interview.

3. When an evaluation is ordered within the context of an adversarial proceeding, those who have been interviewing the child may teach the child to fear the defense evaluator.

D. In this situation, the evaluator must get all possible information about the child, the accused perpetrator, the nature of the accusations, and the process the child has endured before interviewing the child.

E. It is helpful to have family picture albums, pictures of the accused perpetrator, favorite toys, and objects from the child's prior experience. These items may be used as cues to free recall and checks on the emotional responses of the child.

F. Wherever possible, observe the interaction between the child and the accused perpetrator during the evaluation.

G. The aim is to provide an environment that permits the child to be free from pressure, free for recall, and thus produce maximally reliable statements. The idea is to break the mental set, change the expectancies of the child from the earlier interviews, and establish a new system of relationship for the child.

H. There are two approaches we recommend. The first is genuinely to have fun with the child and the second is to give power to the child.

I. Specific suggestions for interviewing the frequently-interrogated child. (Decisions about which of these techniques to use in a particular interview depend upon the personality of the interviewer and the particular situation.)

1. Start the interview in the waiting room with the very first contact with the child. If there are adults accompanying the child, do not relate to them but to the child first.

2. Get into a playful mode as quickly as possible. Act expansive, jolly, entertaining so that the child can see that you are not like all the other adults asking questions. Children readily pick up that you are kidding and can go along with it.

3. Give power to the child. Let the child lead in the responses to your behavior and then follow his lead. Shift the conversation back and forth, respecting the child's short attention span.

4. Use a Polaroid camera during the interview. Children respond well to photographs and to taking photographs.

5. The use of photographs gives an opportunity to check whether the child's responses include a visual component. A child who has been repeatedly interviewed may have a learned response of "bad touch" associated with a name but not a photograph. This suggests that the account has been learned rather than reflecting a real event.

6. Use unfamiliar toys and objects to check the memory for objects that were present.

7. Permit free recall to see if what may appear to be trivial, peripheral details are volunteered. When an event occurs in real time, there are always many other things happening than a central event. We are aware, even if not focusing upon them, of many stimuli. A cat may meow, a pillow fall off a couch, or an airplane fly overhead. When an account is being given of a real time event such peripheral details will emerge.

8. When there is a negative emotional response to the accused perpetrator and/or familiar objects, when visual cues are responded to, and when details commensurate with an actual experience emerge, the reality of the alleged abuse is suggested V. Criteria for judging an allegation

A. Although the justice system makes the determination of the truth or falsity of an allegation, the mental health professional is often asked to give an opinion.

B. The reports of suspected child abuse have greatly increased in the past 20 years. The increase has been even greater for reports of child sexual abuse.

1. Approximately 60% to 65% percent of all reports of suspected child abuse turn out to be unfounded compared to 1975 when only about 35% were unfounded (Besharov, 1991).

2. This increase in unfounded accusations results from the broadening of the reporting laws along with the great attention given to child abuse. 3. This dramatic increase in unfounded reports overloads the system and prevents help from reaching children who actually are being abused. The protective service agencies are making mistakes on both sides.

4. The more we try to reduce the number of sexually abused children that are missed, the more we will misidentify children as sexually abused when they are not. C. Definitional issues

1. The disagreement over the proportion of false allegations is partially due to differing definitions of a false allegation. Criteria such as as substantiation by child protection, a finding by the justice system, the opinion of a mental health or law enforcement professional, or some combination of these appear in the literature.

2. The terms substantiated and unsubstantiated create confusion. Unsubstantiated is not the same as false and substantiated does not necessarily mean the allegation is true.

3. The category of false allegations sometimes includes all cases which cannot be substantiated. At other times it is limited to cases in which the accuser is purposefully deceiving and situations of good faith misunderstanding are excluded. When an accusation of sexual abuse is false, this does not mean that it was a deliberately fabricated.

4. If actual abuse is defined in terms of substantiated cases and false allegations are limited to deliberate fabrications, a study will report a small number of false allegations. There will be more if a false allegation is defined as all cases that are not substantiated. There will be a still larger number if the criteria is the justice system's finding of abuse, since not all allegations substantiated by social services result in a finding of abuse by the court.

D. Suggested criteria

1. A spontaneous disclosure made by a young child without evident adult influence is more likely to be true.

a. Young children almost never initiate false allegations without influence from an adult.

b. This may be less true of older children and teenagers who have been exposed to prevention programs or the publicity about sexual abuse.

2. Some writers believe allegations that turn out to be false often involve very young children (Schaefer & Guyer, 1988; Everstine & Everstine, 1989, Wakefield & Underwager, 1991b, 1994a). 3. The probability of the behaviors alleged.

a. Knowledge of the behavior of actual abusers is important for evaluating whether an allegation is true in cases where the accused denies the allegation and there is no corroborating evidence. If the alleged behaviors are extremely improbable, then it is less likely that the allegation is true.

b. Investigators and therapists often appear to be ignorant of the real, actual pattern of sexual contact between children and adults. It is crucial to think very realistically and practically about what would actually have to happen in order for the alleged behavior to have actually taken place.

c. Tollison and Adams (1979) describe the general behaviors engaged in by the pedophile as follows:

Pedophiliac behavior may involve caressing a child's body, manipulating a child's genitals, or inducing a child to manipulate an adult's genitals. Occasionally, the behaviors also include penile penetration (partial or complete--vaginal or anal), oral sex, and any practice utilizing the sexual parts or organs of a child so as to bring the person in contact with the child's body in any sexual manner. Pedophiliac acts may be homosexual or heterosexual in nature and may include touching, caressing, masturbation, oral-genital contact, and intercourse, as well as pedophilic exhibitionism, voyeurism, rape, sadism, and masochism....Physical violence to the child occurs in only 2 percent of instances... (page 326).

d. In homosexual pedophilia, the most common contact is masturbation-done to rather than by, the boy. This is followed by fellatio. Anal intercourse is less common.

e. Erickson (1985) and Erickson, Walbek, & Seely, (1988) report that vaginal and anal penetration is rare in young children and is extremely painful. It results in injuries and laceration, not stretching of the involved organ. The molester must have a strategy for muffling the child's screams.

f. Vaginal penetration is more likely with an older child and is more common in clinical samples compared to community samples (Wakefield & Underwager, 1994b).

f. Bribery is more common than threat. Threatening a child is the way to assure the quickest disclosure when the threatening agent is not present.

g. Aggression and violence are not usually part of the behavior. Sadistic, bizarre, or homicidal forms of abuse occur but are extremely rare.

h. There is no evidence for satanic ritual abuse conspiracies (see section below on this)

i. In incest, a grooming process is often involved (Erickson et al., 1988; Christiansen & Blake, 1990).

j. In false cases, the allegations may initially be very vague and not easily amenable to being verified or refuted.

4. Female child sexual abusers (see Wakefield & Underwager, 1991a).

a. Sexual abusers are primarily male.

b. There are widely different circumstances in which females may engage in behavior that is defined as "child sexual abuse" and the circumstances that lead women to sexually abuse children can often be differentiated from those causing men to do so.

i.One example of this is sexual abuse which occurs in conjunction with a dominant male and in which the woman plays a secondary role.

ii.Another is found by the retrospective surveys of college men in which many of the boys reported that they had engaged in the incidents voluntarily and did not feel victimized.

c. Some of the recent literature which discusses female perpetrators is likely to have included cases of false accusations which gives a misleading picture of both the frequency with which females abuse children and the characteristics of such women. An example of this is the Finkelhor day care study (Finkelhor, Williams, & Burns, 1988; Finkelhor, Williams, Burns, & Kalinowski, 1988).

5. Characteristics of the child's statement

a. There is general agreement that valid accounts of abuse will have appropriate details given the child's age, especially affective and contextual details and the child's affect will be appropriate to the report (deYoung, 1986; Faller, 1988; Jones & McGraw, 1987; Jones & Seig, 1988; Köhnken & Steller, 1988; Sink, 1988a Raskin & Esplin, 1991; Rogers, 1990; Undeutsch, 1988)

b. If there is strong hatred expressed toward the accused that is based upon trivial and vague reasons, this may be the result of learning from the accusing parent rather than from actual abuse (Gardner, 1987).

c. A child who is very eager to talk about the abuse may have learned that adults reward such talk (Wakefield & Underwager, 1988).

d. Significant contradiction and variation in the story across time, especially when the account shows that the child has no visual image but is responding to verbal cues, supports the possibility of the child learning the story from adults.

e. However, Ceci and Bruck (1995) found that professionals were unable to differentiate between videotapes of children describing real events and children describing events they had learned about through suggestive questioning. Adult judgments or opinions about the accuracy of children's accounts may be no better than chance. 6. Personality characteristics of the persons involved.

a. A history of sexual abuse in the childhood experience of an adult involved in an accusation may produce anxiety, sensitivity, suspiciousness, and readiness to overinterpret innocuous events.

b. On the other hand, an experience of having been sexually abused may mean that an adult can pick up accurate signs in the behavior of children and the perpetrator.

c. In divorce and custody cases, a personality disorder may increase the possibility of an allegation being false (Wakefield & Underwager, 1990). d. The personality patterns of the person accused.

i. If it cannot be demonstrated that an accused person has the pathology associated with most child sexual abusers, the likelihood of a false accusation increases.

ii. A "normal" personality based on an MMPI or other assessment techniques does not mean that the individual could not be a sexual abuser. A significant minority of child sexual abusers have normal MMPIs and appear relatively normal.

iii. The presence of psychological problems does not prove that the abuse is real.

iv. Consideration of the personality characteristics of the accused is particularly important when the allegations are of highly deviant behaviors.

v. Unusual or infrequent sexual behaviors in the life of the accused does not necessarily increase the likelihood of being a child molester. An example is transvestite behaviors which do not increase the probability of being a child abuser.

7. The behavior of the professionals involved:

a. Conclusions or opinions based on personal experience alone which ignore the research data are most likely wrong (Dawes, 1989, 1994).

b. There are no scientific data supporting symbolic sign interpretations of drawings, coloring books, play, and dolls (Underwager & Wakefield, 1995).

c. When the professional has done a careful investigation, used accepted procedures, and considered alternative explanations, the conclusions are more likely to be accurate.

d. The tendency to make unwarranted assumptions and the failure to consider multiple hypotheses and to gather as much uncontaminated information as possible can lead to premature decisions (Mandel, Lehman, & Yuille, 1994). In cases of false accusations professionals often immediately conclude that an accusation is true (Blush & Ross, 1990).

e. Investigators often do not follow the procedures established by law or by internal regulations. The presence of procedural errors by the decision makers increases the likelihood of a mistake being made.

8. A discernible "language game" has developed within the system for dealing with sexual abuse accusations.

a. Examples are the surplus meaning attached to words and phrases like "touch" or "hurt," "private parts," "bad touch," or "felt yucky." b. When children and adults show verbal behaviors that can be identified as a shared language game, there has been some learning and a mutual acceptance of the tacit assumption defining the activity. c. Actual sexual abuse occurring within the customary language of most people does not require a different language game in order to do it or talk about it.

9. There are situational factors that increase the probability that an accusation is false:

a. Accusations arising within a divorce/custody dispute.

b. Accusations involving a disturbed adolescent.

c. Accusations about sexual abuse in day care centers.

VI. Allegations of ritualistic and satanic abuse

A. Extent of the allegations

1.The American Bar Association is conducting a survey of local prosecutors to obtain an estimate of the national incidence of different types of cases of child abuse. As of early 1991 the preliminary data indicated that about one-third of local prosecutors have handled cases involving "ritualistic or satanic abuse" (Victor, 1991).

2. The FBI has investigated over 300 of these cases (Lanning, 1991, 1992).

3. Books by "survivors" and appearances on television talk shows such as Geraldo Rivera are becoming common.

4. Articles and books in the professional and popular literature have proliferated in the past several years.

B. The professional community has become polarized in response to such allegations.

C. There are many meanings given to the terms ritualistic and/or satanic abuse and the lack of a consensus as to what is meant makes investigation more difficult.

D. The allegations of ritual abuse come from two sources:

1. Accounts of "survivors" who uncover memories of bizarre satanic ritual abuse ceremonies during the course of therapy. The alleged abuse is not remembered until the adult goes into therapy with a therapist skilled in special techniques, such as survivors' groups and hypnotherapy.

2. Accounts of children who have allegedly been ritualistically abused at day care centers, of which the McMartin case is the best known example.

3. These sources have affected one another.

a. A well-known "survivor's" book, Michelle Remembers (Smith & Pazder, 1980) was used by police and prosecutors in the early 1980s in preparing cases against people accused of sexually molesting children in day care centers (Charlier & Downing, 1988).

b. Michelle Smith and other "survivors" met with the parents and children involved in the McMartin case after the case was reported in the press (Nathan, 1991).

E. Supportive networks

1.The belief in satanic, ritualistic abuse has been supported by several volunteer associations of parents and conferences on ritual abuse for police and child protection workers function as organizing agencies, which promote the conversion and recruitment of more and more professionals to the moral crusade, including social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians and police (Hicks, 1991, Victor, 1991).

2. These professionals then become "experts" on ritual abuse and disseminate the satanic cult legend to the local level, where they alert people to the "signs" of ritual abuse in public speeches and small town newspaper articles.

3. As a result, there is now a vast communication network which disseminates elaborate assumptions about ritual abuse (Gonzales, 1989; Mulhern, 1991; Victor, 1991).

F. Survivor's accounts

1. These "survivors" generally first uncover "memories" of these experiences during psychotherapy.

2. Frequently, techniques such as hypnosis or survivors groups are used.

3. The survivors are diagnosed as multiple personality disorder (MPD)

4. The survivors allege memories of bizarre events, including urine and feces, ritual murder and torture, cannibalism, and baby breeding.

G. Problems with survivor stories

1. Research with hypnosis indicates that memories retrieved in a hypnotic trance will contain a combination of fact, fantasy and suggestion that cannot be accurately determined without external corroboration (Ganaway, 1991, Spanos, 1991).

2. A few therapists are finding almost all of the satanic cult survivors. This strongly suggests the influence of the beliefs of the therapist.

3. The allegations in these accounts have not been independently verified. The one careful attempt (Passantino, Passantino & Trott, 1989) to verify one of these accounts, Satan's Underground, by Lauren Stratford (1988) showed that the claims were not corroborated.

4. MPD is controversial and cannot said to be generally accepted in the scientific community (Aldridge-Morris, 1989; Fahy, 1988; Frankel, 1993; Freeland, Manchanda, Chiu, Sharma, & Merskey, 1993; McHugh, 1993; Merskey, 1992; Spanos, 1994; Wakefield & Underwager, 1994b; Weissberg, 1993).

5. There is nothing in the scientific literature to support the claims of recovered memory of "repressed" childhood sexual abuse (Wakefield & Underwager, 1992, 1994b).

6. Such stories are likely the result of the therapy given (Wakefield & Underwager, 1992, 1994b).

H. Allegations of ritual abuse in day care centers

1. Rumors that satanists were sexually molesting children in day care centers first attained national attention in the McMartin Preschool case (Underwager & Wakefield, 1991).

2. Soon after the McMartin case attracted national attention, similar accusations of ritual sexual abuse swept across the country (Charlier & Downing, 1988).

3. As in the survivor's accounts, there has been no evidence found to supporting the ritual abuse allegations.

4. The allegations come from the way the children are interviewed in these cases, by interviewers who believe the abuse is real, who attend the same workshops and conferences, who consult with one another, conferences, and who then interview children with suggestive and leading questions (Wakefield & Underwager, 1994b).

5. Some recent interviewing tools contain explicit drawings of ritualistic abuse (Northwest Psychological Publishers, 1990; Sanford, 1990).

6. The tunnels under the McMartin preschool.

a. There is currently a group of professionals who believe that there was ritual abuse at the McMartin preschool and that the tunnels under the school where these activities allegedly took place were found (Summit, 1993, 1994, Vanderbilt, 1992).

b. This claim has been made at conferences and in the sexual abuse survivor literature and has now found its way into the professional literature (i.e., Gelinas, 19995).

c. However, a careful analysis of the evidence for the tunnels indicates that there is no good evidence for their existence (Earl, 1995).

I. There are sadistic and disturbed people who abuse and brutalize children. Some of these people may abuse a child in what looks like or is interpreted as a satanic ritual, a possibility that becomes more probable given the current media attention and publicity.

J. However, despite hundreds of investigations by the FBI and police, there is no independent evidence of ritual abuse, animal and human sacrifice, murder, and cannibalism of hundreds of children by a conspiracy of apparently normal adults who are functional and organized enough to leave no trace of their activities (Hicks, 1991; Lanning, 1991, 1992; Richardson, Best, & Bromley, 1991; Victor, 1991).

K. Despite this, many professionals and lay people believe in the satanic cult myth.

a. A survey of clinical psychologists indicated that 93% of those who had seen cases of ritual or religious abuse believed the ritual abuse was true (Goodman, Qin, Bottoms, & Shaver, undated).

b. Although there was convincing evidence for a variety of types of religion-related abuse (e.g., withholding medical care, abuse by priests, exorcisms), there was no evidence for claims of satanic cult activity.

H. Attached at the end of the outline is a sample of several multivictim, multiperpetrator allegations. They are in several other countries in addition to the United States. These cases all had massive publicity in their geographical areas, and several have been publicized throughout the world. This is a limited sample, there are many similar cases. We were professionally involved in all but a couple of these.

VII. Sexual abuse allegations in divorce and custody disputes

A. Child sexual abuse allegations arising during a divorce and custody dispute present unusual difficulties (Wakefield & Underwager, 1991b).

1. Changes in attitudes and laws concerning divorce have created an environment that makes abuse allegations more likely.

2. In addition to no fault divorce laws, there have been changes in custody laws.

3. These changes did not reduce anger and frustrations of divorcing spouses and with the trend towards no-fault divorce and community property laws, angry and hostile couples have nothing left to fight over except the children.

B. Frequency

1. Mental health professionals and attorneys report seeing more accusations during marital conflict in the past few years although the increase may be no greater than the dramatic increase in sexual allegations in general over the past 10 to 15 years.

2. Many people believe that false accusations have become a serious problem in vindictive, angry custody and visitation battles.

3. Thoennes and her colleagues (Thoennes & Pearson 1988a, 1988b; Thoennes & Tjaden, 1990) attempted to get an estimate of the frequency.

a. They report that their initial survey and interviews revealed a general consensus that sexual abuse allegations in custody disputes occur in "a small but growing" number of cases

b. They estimate accusations of sexual abuse are found in approximately 2% of contested custody cases.

c. They state that there are approximately one million divorces annually, and of these, about 55% or 550,000 involve minor children. About 15% of these (82,500) result in court involvement due to custody and/or visitation disputes. Their estimate of 2% sexual abuse accusations in 82,500 custody disputes translates into 1,650 cases of sexual abuse accusations annually within the environment of a divorce/custody dispute.

4. We suspect that their estimate is too low on the basis of the large number of cases being seen by us and others who have communicated with us.

5. There is disagreement over how many of these accusations are false, although most estimates range between 20% and 80%. No one really knows how many allegations are, in fact, false.

C. Professionals should not conclude immediately that an allegation is false just because it arises in a divorce and custody dispute. Several authors (Berliner 1988; Corwin, Berliner, Goodman, Goodwin, & White, 1987; Faller, 1990; MacFarlane, 1986; Sink, 1988) suggest reasons why valid allegations of sexual abuse may not surface until the time of a divorce.

1. The nonoffending parent finds out about the sexual abuse and decides to divorce the offending parent,

2. There is long-standing sexual abuse that is only revealed in the context of divorce.

3. There is sexual abuse that has been precipitated by the marital dissolution.

4. A few writers claim some parents are more likely to begin sexually abusing their child after the divorce.

a. This may be to retaliate against the spouse or because the stress of the divorce results in the parent behaving more impulsively. (See Faller, 1990; MacFarlane,1986; Corwin et al., 1987; Goodwin, Sahd & Rada, 1989).

b. However, there is no empirical quantified support for the belief that a man with no history of child sexual abuse, who is in the midst of a conflict over custody or visitations with his children, is likely to react to this stress by suddenly beginning to sexually abuse his children on visits.

5. If it can be determined that the divorce occurs as a result of the abuse disclosures, the abuse likely to be true. Sirles and Lofberg (1990) studied 128 families in which sexual abuse occurred and approximately half of these families ended in separation and/or divorce.

D. Factors behind false allegations

1. A false accusation is seldom a deliberate fabrication made for the purpose of obtaining custody.

2. Instead, media coverage of sexual abuse, widespread publication of so-called "behavioral indicators," and proliferation of child sexual abuse prevention programs may result in a parent becoming hypersensitive to the possibility of abuse.

3. In an acrimonious custody conflict, the parent may be ready to jump to premature conclusions when presented with minimal data. Any suspicious circumstances may lead to suggestive questioning and inadvertent reinforcement of a young child. A parent may be influenced by a professional who is ready to suggest abuse occurs frequently (Wakefield & Underwager, 1990).

4. In a bitter divorce, not only is the child likely to undergo significant stress, but the parents are likely to blame the child's anxiety and distress on the other parent (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1975 & 1980).

5. However, in some cases a parent can deliberately foster a false accusation as a way to get custody (Wakefield & Underwager, 1989b). Thoennes and Pearson (1988b) report that in 15% of the cases they studied, the case worker expressed doubt that the report was offered in good faith.

6. Gardner (1992) describes a "parental alienation syndrome" in which the child identifies with the vilifying parent and communicates absolute hatred toward the other parent. A false accusation of sexual abuse may develop in this situation.

7. Occasionally, a mother who is obsessed with hatred toward the father may bring the child to the point of having paranoid delusions about the father. A "folie â deux" relationship may evolve in which the child acquires the mother's paranoid delusions (Gardner, 1992; Green, 1986; Ferguson, 1988; Kaplan & Kaplan, 1981; Rand, 1989, 1990, 1993).

8. Blush and Ross (1987) propose the SAID syndrome (Sexual Allegations in Divorce) for false allegations that arise in divorcing families.

a. The accusations surface after separation and legal action begins.

b. There is a history of family dysfunction with unresolved divorce conflict and hidden underlying issues.

c. The female(accusing) parent often is a hysterical or borderline personality or is angry, defensive and justifying.

d. The male (the accused) parent is generally passive, nurturing, and lacks "macho" characteristics.

e. The child is typically a female under age eight.

f. The allegations surfaces via the custodial parent.

g. The mother takes the child to an "expert" who confirms the abuse and identifies the father as the perpetrator.

h. The court reacts to the experts information by terminating or limiting visitation.

9. Study on personality characteristics of parents who make false allegations of child sexual abuse (Wakefield & Underwager, 1990).

a. Compared falsely accusing parents, falsely accused parents and custody only parents.

b. The falsely accusing parents were much more likely than the other two groups to have a diagnosis of personality disorder such as histrionic, borderline, passive-aggressive, or paranoid.

c. Wakefield and Underwager (1990) suggest a typology of parents who make or encourage false accusations of sexual abuse in divorce and custody battles:

i.The highly disturbed individual whose personality disorder interferes with functioning, judgment, and sometimes the ability to differentiate between fact and fantasy.

ii. The individual (who may or may not have a personality disorder) who is obsessed with hatred and hostility towards an estranged or former spouse.

iii. The individual who is obsessed over the possibility that the child has been or may be sexually abused.

iv. The individual who reacts fairly appropriately to an ambiguous situation by seeking guidance from a therapist or physician who suggests abuse occurred.

10. Ross and Blush (1990) also describe typical personality problems in parents making false allegations in divorce and custody conflicts.

11. But a histrionic or angry parent may have nevertheless discovered genuine sexual abuse.

E. Characteristics of false accusations in divorce and custody litigation.

1. Usually a woman accuses her husband of sexual abuse but women can also occasionally be accused. Sometimes the boyfriend of the mother is accused by the father.

2. The cases generally involve very young children-usually ages 2 to 6.

3. The accusations often surface following some change in the situation, i.e., the father gets remarried or seeks or is awarded custody or increased visitation by the court.

4. Most of the accusations are made as a result of questioning by an adult, usually the mother. The adult doing the questioning has often observed one of the alleged behavioral indicators or has observed redness or irritation in the genitals following a visit with the father. 5. Sometimes the accusations across time develop into extreme, improbable behaviors such as anal and vaginal penetration, objects in the vagina, coprophagia (defecation) and urolagia (urination). There is no corroborating evidence (i.e. medical) for these allegations.

6. When there is an ongoing investigation or litigation of an accusation, a claim that a child was abused again on a visitation must include a demonstration that the accused parent is nonfunctional.

7. If the accusing parent is prematurely convinced that the abuse is real and cannot "hear" any other possibilities, the allegation may be false (Bresee, Stearns, Bess, & Packer, 1986; Faller, 1990, Gardner, 1987; Jones & Seig, 1988).

a. Such a parent may may involve the child in multiple examinations, and demand that the investigation continue, irrespective of the impact the process is having on the child (Bresee, et al.1986; Rand, 1989, 1990; Schaefer & Guyer, 1988). This may be emotional abuse.

b. Sometimes such parents take their children and disappear into an "underground railroad."

F. There are no easy answers; each case must be carefully examined on its own merits since mistakes on either side have very serious consequences for all parties involved.

VIII. Behavioral indicators

A. Various behaviors and behavior changes are often cited as signs of sexual abuse in children and adolescents. 1. For example, The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA, 1985, p. 798) includes the following as behavioral signs of sexual abuse:

a. Become withdrawn and daydream excessively b. Evidence poor peer relationships c. Experience poor self-esteem d. Seem frightened or phobic, especially of adults e. Experience deterioration of body image f. Express general feelings of shame or guilt g. Exhibit a sudden deterioration in academic performance h. Show pseudomature personality development i. Attempt suicide j. Exhibit a positive relationship toward the offender k. Display regressive behavior l. Display enuresis and/or encopresis m. Engage in excessive masturbation n. Engage in highly sexualized play o. Become sexually promiscuous

2. Such lists have been widely disseminated through the media, pamphlets, popular articles, seminars and workshop aimed at training or consciousness raising.

3. To spread these claims without appropriate cautions about the limitations of such information can generate mistakes, confusion, over-reaction, and over-interpretation. 4. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries there was a great deal of public attention given to the pernicious and destructive habit of masturbation by children. J. Kellogg, M. D., originator of corn flakes, produced several books for parents to help them stamp out this evil. The behavioral indicators parents used then to know if their children were masturbating are the same behavioral indicators now said to prove a child has been abused (Legrand, Wakefield, & Underwager, 1989). These beliefs resulted in serious damage to children including clitoridectomies for young females and physical restraints for males.

5. It is an error in diagnosis to use non-discriminating signs to make a diagnosis. If a sign can be caused by 100 different variables, it cannot to be used to select a single one.

B. Age-inappropriate sexual behavior in children is often claimed to be a better behavioral indicator.

1. What children normally and naturally do sexually is much more frequent and involved than most people assume (Best, 1983; Gundersen, Melas & Skar, 1981; Martinson, 1981). Without knowing what a normal level is, it cannot be determined what is precocious, greater interest than normal, and what may indicate abuse.

2. Rosenfeld and his colleagues (Rosenfeld, Bailey, Siegel & Bailey, 1986; Rosenfeld, Siegel & Bailey, 1987) emphasize getting normative information on nakedness, genital touching and bathing practices before deciding whether these behaviors support a suspicion of sexual abuse. They found that genital touching of parents on an incidental basis is not uncommon even among 10-year-olds.

3. Friedrich, Grambsch, Broughton, Kuiper, and Beilke, R. N. (1991) report that their normal, nonabused sample of children showed a wide variety of sexual behaviors at relatively high frequencies.

4. However, Friedrich et al. also found that behaviors more imitative of adult sexual behavior were unusual. Therefore, if a child is found engaging in explicitly sexual behavior, such as oral-genital contact, this should be carefully checked out.

5. But even this does not prove that the child was sexually abused by an adult. Peer sexual play, inadvertently seeing adults having intercourse, or access to x-rated video might account for it. D. Behavioral indicators result from stress in general and are not specific to the stress of sexual abuse.

1. These alleged behavioral indicators of sexual abuse are found in many different situations, including divorce, conflict between parents, economic stress, wartime separations, absent father, and almost any stressful situation children experience.

2. The stress resulting from parents divorcing, particularly if the divorce is bitter and custody is contested, can result in many of the behavioral indicators in children.

3. Possible consequences arising from an allegation of sexual abuse-a frightening and perhaps painful physical examination by a stranger, separation from one or both parents, possible removal to a foster home, multiple interrogations by a number of inter-viewers-are themselves the source of significant stress.

4. The base rates of the presence of many such behaviors in normal children, in troubled children, in non-abused children, and as part of the developmental process for all children is so high that any attempt to use them as indicating abuse will result in a high rate of error.

E. In addition, not all sexually abused children are symptomatic subsequent to sexual abuse (Gomes-Schwartz, Horowitz, & Cardarelli, 1990), so the absence of behavioral symptoms cannot be used to rule out sexual abuse.

E. Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome (CSAAS) (The following criticisms apply also to the Sexually Abused Child Syndrome.)

1. The CSAAS was developed and described by a psychiatrist, Roland Summit (1983). It is used by interviewers to justify their questioning and interpretation of the responses of children while undergoing an interview.

2. Summit proposes five categories of behavior that constitute the syndrome. The five are 1) secrecy, 2) helplessness, 3) entrapment and accommodation, 4) delayed, conflicted, and unconvincing disclosure, and 5) retraction.

3. The concepts of this putative syndrome are being used to decide whether or not a child's statements about being sexually abused are valid or false.

4. There are no scientific research studies that support the validity and reliability of the CSAAS or the sexually abused child syndrome (Corwin, 1988).

5. In spite of the complete lack of validation the syndrome has been adopted by many professionals involved with allegations of sexual abuse. For example, the concept of secrecy, that a child who has been abused will keep it a secret, is used to support the tactic of continuing to pursue questioning when a child denies abuse.

6. The application of the CSAAS to children's statements means that nothing they say can count against the belief that abuse happened. Once an allegation hits a professional who believes in the validity of the CSAAS concept, nothing can falsify it.

7. Summit (1992) acknowledges that the the CSAAS is a clinical opinion, not a scientific instrument and admits that its original basis was his experience consulting with practitioners about incestuous abuse. (Summit did not see the child victims himself.)

8. Although Summit 1992) denies that the CSAAS is specific to father-daughter incest, the syndrome has been criticized by others as inapplicable to different circumstances, such as an accused neighbor, or a baby sitter, or in a divorce and custody battle.

9. Myers (1993) notes that the CSAAS is a nondiagnostic syndrome because it does not point with any certainty to sexual abuse and he states that it should not be used as evidence that the alleged abuse occurred.

10. Courts have generally ruled that CSAAS is inadmissible to prove that abuse occurred but it has been admitted to rehabilitate children when there is delayed reporting and recantation (Myers, 1993).

F. It is the consensus of scientific opinion that no specific behavioral syndromes characterize victims of sexual abuse; therefore the presence of symptoms cannot be used to demonstrate that abuse or occurred and the absence of symptoms does not rule it out (e.g., Lamb, 1994).

IX. Medical evidence

A. There is an over reliance on the medical examination.

1. Many parents, social workers, investigators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, therapists, etc. assume that an abused child will show physical signs of the abuse.

2. In most reported cases of child sexual abuse, however, there is no physical or medical evidence that a child has been sexually abused.

a. Inasmuch as a considerable portion of sexual abuse involves exhibitionism, breast and/or genital fondling, and masturbation of the perpetrator, this finding is not surprising.

b. Therefore, a normal physical exam cannot rule out sexual abuse. B. Uses of a medical examination.

1. A medical examination ought be done whenever it may contribute helpful information if a report is not immediately dismissed as unfounded.

2. It is particularly important when the allegations are of abusive behaviors that are likely to result in physical sequelae (i.e., penile penetration of a young child).

3. For example, Paul (1977) reports that penile penetration in young children results in diffuse and widespread injuries including multiple tears and bruising in the labia, vaginal walls and hymen. The injury will bleed and the child will experience immediate and excruciating pain. If an accusation of penetration in a very young child is made and there is no physical evidence, it is unlikely that the accusation is true.

4. The medical examination must be done as soon as possible since genital injuries heal rapidly and physical signs will be difficult to detect if the examination is not performed immediately after the alleged event (Bays & Chadwick, 1993; McCann, Voris, & Simon, 1992).

5. However, the high level of unquestioning credibility given to what is presented as medical evidence must be considered in evaluating medical examinations (Krugman, 1989).

C. The results of medical examinations for sexual abuse are frequently ambiguous.

1. Base rate studies of nonabused children indicate that many of the findings often used to support a diagnosis of abuse are found with a high enough frequency in normals that they do not support an opinion that abuse occurred (Coleman, 1989; McCann, Voris, Simon, & Wells, 1989, 1990; McCann, Wells, Simon, & Voris, 1990).

2. Some reported findings, such as lax sphincter tone and the anal dilatation reflex, are controversial and rejected by many medical authorities.

3. Enlarged vaginal openings

a. Cantwell, in 1983, stated that an enlarged vaginal opening as a single finding correlates with the reported history of sexual abuse in approximately 75% of 45 cases. She defined an enlarged opening as one exceeding 4 mm. This assertion is still found in medical reports we have reviewed.

b. Since that time, baseline studies have shown that this conclusion cannot be supported (Emans, Woods, Flagg & Freeman, 1987; McCann, Wells, Simon, & Voris, 1990).

c. An examining physician may make statements about the size of the hymenal opening based on the basis of visual examination alone. The claim of an enlarged opening obtained by visual examination only is highly questionable.

d. The position the examination is done in will affect the results of the examination (McCann, Voris, Simon, & Wells, 1990).

e. Paradise (1989) estimates that when the hymenal orifice diameter is used as a screening test for sexual abuse, there will be 65% false positives for allegations of penile penetration and 73% for digital penetration.

4. Genital injuries and trauma are often associated with sexual abuse. However, there can be other causes which must be ruled out.

a. A number of conditions in young girls are associated with prepubertal vaginal bleeding, including severe vaginal infections and lesions caused by physical activity such as fence or straddle injuries (Behrman & Vaughan, 1983).

b. Falls onto a pointed object and violent splits can cause injuries to the genital area of young children and the doctor must consider such an interpretation when looking at genital injuries (Paul, 1977).

5. Sexually transmitted diseases

a. Sexually abused children have contracted gonorrhea, rectogenital chlamydial infections, herpes simplex, venereal warts and syphilis Such diseases have been found in the genitals, rectum and throat.

b. However, only a relatively small percentage of sexually abused children contract these diseases.

c. Although it is rare for sexually transmitted diseases to occur in children without sexual abuse, it can happen. Therefore, a finding of these venereal diseases in children does not conclusively establish sexual abuse. But further investigation for sexual abuse is warranted whenever these diseases are found. 6

6. Vaginal discharge and infection.

a. Vaginal discharge and infections often result in suspicion of sexual abuse.

b. However, vaginal infections are not unusual in young girls and constitute the most common gynecological problems of children and adolescents (Behrman & Vaughan, 1983; Huffman,1958). Most of these infections are not due to sexual abuse.

c. The premenarchal genitals present a different environment for the growth of bacteria than do the tissues of adults (Huffman, 1958). The anatomy of the prepubertal vagina lying close to the anus, lacking the pubic hair and labial fat pads of the older girl in conjunction with poor hygiene leads to vaginal infections (Behrman & Vaughan, 1983; Singleton, 1980).

7. Redness, irritation, and/or erythema of the vaginal area

a. Paul (1977) notes that the infantile mucosa is normally much redder than that of the post- pubescent merely because the epithelium is thinner. This redness is not the same as the more localized redness due to bruising and abrasion that can result from attempted penetration. Therefore, such redness does not indicate that sexual abuse has probably occurred.

b. Excoriation of the skin of the vulval and perineal areas and of the skin around the natal cleft is sometimes interpreted as evidence of sexual assault. However, such excoriation is common in small children due to poor local hygiene, the exclusion of the air by waterproof or nylon panties, or scratching from worm infestations.

c. Sometimes a vulvo-vaginitis of the Monilia type will be found after taking antibiotics (Paul, 1977).

8. Erickson (1985) claims that lax sphincter muscles and enlarged openings in young children do not indicate abuse inasmuch as penetration by an adult male phallus results not in stretching and laxness but in tearing, mutilation, and injury.

D. However, there are now enough data on normal and nonabused children to classify many findings as normal or nonspecific and others as lying on a continuum of certainty that sexual abuse has occurred (Adams, 1992; Bays & Chadwick, 1993).

E. An invariable finding when there has been anal penetration is that the child will experience pain on defecation for some time afterwards ( Paul, 1990.)

F. Violent cases of sexual abuse can produce nongenital cuts and bruises (Woodling & Kossoris, 1981). Sometimes there is abrasion or bruising of the inner surface of the lips, looseness of the incisor teeth, or even damage to the frenulum of the upper lip in cases where a very young child has been sexually assaulted. Such injuries accompany the attempts to muffle the child's screams (Paul, 1977).

G. Controversial medical techniques.

1. Breo (1984) claims evidence of sexual abuse by emotional reactions of children while undergoing medical examination (insertion of a finger or fingers into the vagina or anus, noting apparent laxness of sphincter muscles).

2. A Minneapolis pediatrician uses a technique of inserting her finger into the vagina and anus and stroking the clitoris in order to elicit alleged associations with prior experience.

3. Most responsible physicians resist such examinations, claiming they are medically dangerous and/or unable to yield valid conclusions (Erickson,1985; Cantwell, 1983; Woodling, 1986).

H. In many instances a medical report claiming to have substantiated abuse has no physical evidence but is instead based upon the history given to the physician either by a parent or law enforcement or social work personnel, an interpretation of emotional expressions of the child, or statements attributed to the child.

1. There is nothing in the training of physicians that qualifies them for expertise in interpreting emotions or emotional behavior exhibited by a child.

2. When a medical report is based upon data other than observed physiological facts, its reliability is no greater than the subjective capacities and competence of the person making the examination.

I. There are no data to support the conclusion that the behavior of the child during the physical exam can give information about whether the child was abused.

1. Neither unusual fearfulness nor lack of anxiety during the exam should not be used as evidence for or against abuse.

2. We have read reports using both of these behaviors as evidence of abuse.

J. The only specific and unambiguous physical findings demonstrating sexual contact are pregnancy or sperm in the vagina or anus (Krugman, 1989). Each report stating an opinion that a medical examination conclusively substantiates a diagnosis of abuse or rules it out must be examined carefully. This is especially true of those that do not report any physical findings but rely upon history or interpretations of emotion or behavior.

X. Recovered Memories of Childhood Sexual Abuse

A. Claims that traumatic and intrusive childhood sexual abuse was "repressed" or "dissociated" so the victim had no memories until, with the aid of a survivors' book or therapy, the memories were recovered.

B. Recovered memories claims have created fierce controversy and massive polarization in the professional community.

C. The False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF) in was founded in 1992 in Philadelphia and has been contacted by some 17,000 parents.

D. Recovered memory assumptions

1. Many women have suffered childhood sexual abuse but do not remember the abuse.

2. These "survivors" have a variety of symptoms.

3. The "survivor" must be helped to retrieve her memories so she can process the trauma. Without retrieving the memories, the person cannot heal and recover.

4. These assumptions are supported by referring to one or more of several concepts.

a. repression

b. dissociation

c. body memories, flashbacks, and nightmares

d. multiple personality disorder

5. Information about the therapy that elicits recovered memories comes from several sources.

a. Reports of people who have undergone such treatment (Goldstein & Farmer, 1993; Nelson & Simpson, 1994; Wakefield & Underwager, 1994b)

b. Writings of the therapists who describe their techniques in books, articles, and workshop presentations (e.g., Bass & Davis, 1988; Blume, 1990; Courtois, 1992; Dolan, 1991; Fredrickson, 1992).

c. Journalists or private investigators who join a survivors' group or go to a recovered memory therapist and record what happens (e.g. Nathan, 1992).

d. Information obtained by the FMSF questionnaire project. (Freyd, Roth, Wakefield, & Underwager, 1993; Wakefield & Underwager, 1992, 1994b).

D. Recovered memory techniques

1. These include direct questioning, hypnosis, age regression, reading survivors' books, attending survivors' groups, free association, massage therapy, dream interpretation, ideomotor signaling with the unconscious, and expanding on imagistic memories.

2. In the FMSF questionnaire, respondents also were aware of a variety of other unconventional techniques, including prayer, meditation, neurolinguistic programming, reflexology, channeling, psychodrama, casting out demons, yoga, trance writing, and primal scream therapy.

3. After memories are retrieved, the "survivor" is encouraged to express her rage at the perpetrator in a variety of ways such as throwing darts at his photograph, writing him angry letters, or confronting him during a family gathering. The goal of the therapist is to be accepting, reassuring, encouraging, and validating of the disclosures.

E. Poole, Lindsay, Memon, and Bull (1995) survey

1. Poole et al. found that 71% of three random samples of doctoral level therapists taken from the National Register of Health Services Providers in Psychology (NRHSPP) in the United States and the Register of Chartered Clinical Psychologists (RCP) in Britain had used techniques to help clients recover suspected repressed memories of sexual abuse.

2. Out of their total sample of 202 therapists, 25% reported a constellation of beliefs and practices suggestive of a focus on memory recovery and this latter group reported relatively high rates of memory recovery in their clients.

3. Poole et al. observe that their findings argue against the claim that recovered memory therapists are a small group of uncredentialed and untrained therapists.

F. Scientific support for the recovered memory claims is lacking.

1. The reconstructive nature of memory.

a. What we remember is a combination of the original encoding of the event, everything that happens to us since the event occurred, and our current beliefs and feelings (Dawes, 1988; Loftus & Ketcham, 1991, 1994, Wakefield & Underwager, 1994b).

b. Reconstructed memories can include detailed and subjectively real pseudomemories of events that never happened.

c.Therapy involves the telling and retelling of life experiences and the therapist shapes the telling of the personal history by selectively reinforcing and validating the client's recollections (Lynn & Nash, 1994).

4. Memories can be shaped, combined with fantasies, distorted, and even totally created.

G. Forgetting

1. Many things that happen are simply forgotten, although many forgotten events are readily recalled when there are cues.

2. People are seldom able to remember incidents from before the age of 3 or 4 because of the phenomenon of infant amnesia (Eisenberg, 1985; Loftus, 1993; Nelson, 1993).

3. Even sexual abuse may be forgotten-not "repressed," not "dissociated," not remembered only by an "alter personality," but simply forgotten. Not all sexual abuse is traumatic. For many children, the abuse may have been an unpleasant, but relatively unimportant event in the same category as countless other unpleasant childhood events (Spence, 1994). Some victims of less traumatic and intrusive abuse will forget about it until they are reminded in some way.

H. Memory for documented trauma

1. There is a great deal of information on the reactions of people to documented trauma, such as fires, airplane crashes, terrorist attacks, automobile accidents, hurricanes, and being held hostage.

2. Although such trauma victims may report feelings of unreality, detachment, numbing, disorientation, depersonalization, and flashbacks, they do not forget the entire event. We were unable to find any studies on children exposed to trauma and disasters where the children were described as developing amnesia.

3. Children who have witnessed a parent being murdered are likely to be troubled by intrusive thoughts (Black, Kaplan, & Hendricks, 1993; Malmquist, 1986).

I. Repression

1. Repression is seen as a psychological defense that results in the person losing all memory for traumatic events.

2. Repression comes from Freudian psychodynamic theory and is seen as an active, filtering process that is different from ordinary forgetting.

3. The concept of repression that involves the banishment from consciousness of a series of traumatic and intrusive events that take place in different circumstances over a number of years has been termed "robust repression" by Ofshe and Watters (1993).

4. There is no experimental support for the theory of repression; the only "evidence" comes from impressionistic clinical case studies and anecdotal reports.

5. In reviews of the literature over many years, Holmes (1974, 1990, 1994) concludes that there is no reliable evidence for repression. There is absolutely no support for the concept of robust repression as used in the recovered memory therapies.

J. Dissociation

1. Dissociation is now most often used to describe the process by traumatic memories are banished from consciousness.

2. All of us are familiar with minor forms of dissociation, such as daydreaming, becoming lost in a book, or "spacing out" while driving.

3. Dissociation can be seen as lying on a continuum from such ordinary forms to pathological forms such as amnesia, depersonalization, and fugue states.

4. However, there are no empirical data supporting a concept of psychogenic amnesia for a category of events stretching across several years.

5. No one has explained just how traumatic amnesia (or "repression" or "dissociation") is supposed to work in eradicating sexual abuse memories. Does the person completely dissociate the abuse and therefore develop traumatic amnesia immediately following each event? If this is the case, each new instance of abuse would be like the very first time since the child would have no memories of any of the previous incidents. Or, at some point after the abuse stops, does the person suddenly develop total amnesia for all memories of all of the abuse incidents which had previously been remembered?

K. Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD)

1. Now called "Dissociative Identity Disorder."

2. The recovered memory proponents assume that most people with MPD were abused as children. A "protector" personality is believed to develop and take over for the child, who therefore escapes psychologically from the abuse.

3. But MPD itself is controversial and many researchers and clinicians believe there is little empirical evidence supporting MPD as a distinct mental disorder and that it is heavily dependent upon cultural influences for both its emergence and its diagnosis (Aldridge-Morris, 1989; Fahy, 1988; Frankel, 1993; Freeland, Manchanda, Chiu, Sharma, & Merskey, 1993; McHugh, 1993; Merskey, 1992; Spanos, 1994; Wakefield & Underwager, 1994b; Weissberg, 1993).

4. We believe that MPD is a media or therapist-induced disorder resulting from the widespread publicity about MPD and sexual abuse, suggestibility in vulnerable patients, inadvertent shaping and reinforcement from believing therapists, and social support and secondary reinforcement for the disorder. L. Although the proponents of recovered memory offer three studies to support a claim of repressed or dissociated memories (Briere & Conte, 1989, 1993; Herman & Schatzow, 1987; Williams, 1992, 1993), none of these studies provides any credible scientific evidence to support the assumptions of recovered memories (see Wakefield & Underwager, 1994b, for a detailed critique of these studies).

M. Civil Litigation

1. There have been several lawsuits filed based on recovered memory claims.

2. Several states have passed legislation extending the statutory period in civil cases so that the statute of limitations does not begin until two or three years after the alleged abuse is remembered and/or after the claimant understands that the abuse caused injury (Bulkley & Horwitz, 1994; Loftus & Rosenwald, 1993; Slovenko, 1993).

3. Recently, in trial courts, testimony of recovered memory therapists has not been admitted into evidence since it does not meet the standards of Daubert (described in section XII).

4. There have been successful lawsuits against recovered memory therapists by parents and clients who later retracted their recovered memories. (Gross, 1994).

N. Evaluating claims of recovered memories.

1.Without external corroboration, there is no truly satisfactory way to determine the truth of a given "memory."

2. Daly and Pacifico (1991) suggest gathering the following information:

a. All medical, psychiatric, and and school records of the person claiming abuse from childhood to the present.

b. Any information concerning relationships with peers, siblings and parents, or any childhood behavior problems of the person claiming abuse.

c. Any information concerning the sexual history of the person claiming abuse, including rapes, other childhood sexual abuse, abortions, etc.

d. The nature and origin of the disclosure, in as much detail and specificity as possible.

e. Information about any current problems or stresses in the life of the person claiming abuse.

f. The nature of any current therapy, e.g. whether techniques such as hypnosis and survivors' groups were used, the training and background of the therapist, and whether he or she specializes in treating MPD or "recovered" abuse.

g. Any books, television shows, or workshops about sexual abuse or rape to which the person claiming abuse may have been exposed.

h. Any exposure to recovered memory cases though a highly publicized case in the media or through friends who may have reported that this happened to them.

i. The work history of the person claiming abuse, including any problems with supervisors or coworkers, especially any allegations of sexual harassment.

j. The psychological characteristics and social and family history of the accused adult(s), including any drug or alcohol use, sexual history, family relationships, and job history.

k. Any criminal record or prior behaviors in the accused adult which would support or undermine the credibility of the allegations.

l. A detailed description of the behaviors alleged to have occurred.

m. Possible ways by which the person making the accusation might benefit from or receive reinforcement from making the accusation (e.g., a civil lawsuit, an explanation for why life has not gone well, the expression of anger for perceived childhood injustices, power over a dominant parent, attention, acceptance, new friends [in survivor group], etc.).

3. After obtaining the available documents and information, create a chronology of events. Note information about how the memory returned and how it was disclosed, the impact of therapy, books, or survivors' groups, etc., any changes in the nature of the allegations over time, and any possible secondary reinforcement.

4. Some suggestions for evaluating claims.

a. When the allegations are of extremely deviant, low-probability behaviors, rather than of behaviors more typical of actual abusers, the memory is less likely to be for a real event.

b. If there are allegations of a series of abusive incidents across time in different places and situations along with total amnesia for all of these, the recovered memory is less likely to be true than if it is for a single highly traumatic incident for which the person may have developed psychogenic amnesia.

c. When the disclosures progress across time to ever more intrusive, abusive, and highly improbable behaviors, the growth and embellishment of the story is likely to represent the suggestions and reinforcement in therapy.

d. If the memory is for abuse that occurred at a very young age, such as abuse during infancy or under age 3 or 4, the memory is unlikely to reflect a real event. e. Especially when the behaviors alleged are highly deviant, the allegations are less likely to be true when they include the mother and when the person accused has no discernible serious pathology.

f. If the abuse has only recently been "remembered," it is less likely to be true than if it has always been remembered but the person is only now disclosing.

g. Memories are especially unlikely to reflect actual events when they only emerge following therapy with a practitioner who specializes in recovered memory therapy.

h. Although psychopathology in some individuals may well make them more susceptible to the influence of a recovered memory therapist, the data from the FMSF survey (Freyd et al., 1993) suggests that many people who recover memories of childhood abuse are not psychologically disturbed. These data are consistent with the work of Spanos, Cross, Dickson, and DuBreuil (1993), who found that subjects reporting UFO experiences were not psychologically disturbed.

i. Corroborating evidence, such as such as a childhood diary with unambiguous entries, pornographic photographs, or an uncoerced admission by the perpetrator, obviously makes the allegations much more likely to be true. Some cases may have this type of corroboration. Ambiguous evidence, however, such as a childhood story or drawings now reinterpreted in light of the believed-in abuse, cannot be used as proof that the abuse actually occurred.

O. Claims of psychological damage.

1. Claims of emotional or psychological damage which assert a single or unidimensional cause must be evaluated in light of the scientific fact that human behavior is multicausal and multidimensional.

2. The existence of eating disorders, sexual dysfunction, anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem cannot be used to support abuse claims since these can all be caused by a variety of factors (Beitchman et al., 1992, Pope & Hudson, 1992).

3. Contrary to what most people believe, the effects of sexual abuse are not nearly as severe as is often assumed (Levitt & Pinnell, 1995; Rind & Harrington, Undated). The effects of physical abuse and neglect are likely to be more serious and generate more long-term damage (Ney, Fung, & Wickett, 1994).

4. When family dysfunction is controlled, the effects of sexual abuse wash out. This is because both extrafamilial and intrafamilial sexual abuse are closely associated with families that are dysfunctional and pathological (Alexander & Lupfer, 1987, Beitchman et al., 1991, Harter, Alexander, & Neimeyer; Hoagwood & Stewart, 1989; Levitt & Pinnell, 1995; Nash, Hulsey, Sexton, Harralson, & Lambert, 1993; Underwager & Wakefield, 1995).).

XI. Coerced and False Confessions and Police Deception

A. Importance of confessions

1. It has been estimated that more than 80% of criminal cases are solved by a confession (Zimbardo, 1967a, 1967b).

2. A confession is the strongest form of evidence; jurors are more likely to convict on the basis of a confession than anything else, including eyewitness identification (Kassin & Wrightsman, 1985; Kassin & McNall, 1991).

3. It has been estimated that after after mistaken eyewitness identification, false confessions are the most common cause of wrongful imprisonment (Brandon & Davies, 1973).

4. Coerced confessions are no longer extracted by physical violence, instead they are likely to result from psychological interrogation methods. 5. Jurors accept subtle interrogation that elicits a nonvoluntary confession and discount any coercion (Kassin & McNall, 1991).

6. The courts aim at only admitting into evidence voluntary confessions, but although judges may readily exclude confessions where the coercion is blatant and direct, they may not recognize and exclude confessions where the coercion is subtle.

B. Police interrogations

1. Being interrogated by the police is a highly stressful experience.

2. Isolation and confinement can cause a wide range of behavioral and physiological disturbances including loss of contact with reality (Gudjonsson & MacKeith, 1982).

3. Police interrogation "can produce a trance-like state of heightened suggestibility" so that "truth and falsehood become hopelessly confused in the suspects's mind" (Foster, 1969, pp. 690-691).

4. When the interrogator is perceived as a legitimate authority, the suspect may obey instructions and suggestions which would ordinarily be rejected (e.g., Milgram, 1963).

5. If a person has no experience with arrest and interrogation, he is more likely to become upset and stressed by the interrogation (Gudjonsson & MacKeith, 1982).

6. Police techniques designed to get confessions can potentially undermine the concept of a voluntary confession.

7. These techniques can be highly developed, psychologically sophisticated, and extremely effective (Inbau, Reid, & Buckley , 1986; Zimbardo, 1967a).

8. The polygraph may be misused as an interrogation tool to extract a confession.

9. A common approach is to overwhelm the suspect with damaging evidence, to assert a firm belief in his guilt, and then to suggest that it would be easier for all concerned if the suspect admitted to his role in the crime (Driver, 1968, Inbau, Reid, & Buckley, 1986; Kassin & Wrightsman, 1985).

10. The most widely used text for training police is Criminal Interrogation and Confessions (Inbau, Reid, & Buckley, 1986).

a. In 1966 in Miranda v. Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court quoted the 1962 edition to show that police used deception and psychologically coercive methods in questioning people.

b. The court concluded that interrogation is now psychologically oriented rather than physical but that the degree of of coerciveness inherent in the situation had not diminished (p. 448).

c. This current edition continues to actively advocate deception and lying practices for interrogators to get evidence and confessions.

d. An example is the advice given about questioning a rape victim:

Where circumstances permit, the suggestion might be offered that the rape victim had acted like she might have been a prostitute and that the suspect had assumed she was a willing partner. In fact, the interrogator may even say that the police knew she had engaged in prostitution on other occasions . . . (p. 109).

e. The U. S. Supreme Court perceived that the sixteen strategies for interrogation proposed by Inbau and Reid (1962) show three major themes.

i. The first is to re attribute the implications of the situation by shifting the blame or minimizing the seriousness.

ii. Alternatively, the questioning may aim at frightening the individual by exaggerating the evidence available, the consequences to the individual, or stating firmly that the interrogator knows the person is guilty.

iii. The third theme is the emotional appeal to the person being questioned by showing sympathy, flattery, respect, and appeal to the best interest of the suspect. These are some of the practices the court found inherently coercive.

C. Individual factors

1. Factors encouraging a suspect to make a genuine confession may be similar to those in influencing a person to make a false confession.

2. Gudjonsson and MacKeith (1982) note that "non-psychotic individuals ruminating guiltily about such things as sexual deviation may also have an exceptionally low threshold to confession to things that they have not actually done" (p. 259).

3. The false confessor may be aware he is not telling the truth or his perceptions may be distorted or he might even be deluded for a brief period of time.

4. The false confession in all of these situations is an interplay between the person's mental state, basic personality, intelligence, and all of the circumstances of the interrogation.

5. Criminal suspects who make confession statements which they later deny differ from subjects who persistently deny any involvement in the crime for which they are accused.

6. In our experience with child sexual abuse allegations, there is a subset of individuals who are accused, interrogated, often jailed, who then produce a confession of sorts. Later they deny the accusation, retract the confession, and claim to have been coerced and pressured by the police.

7. Individuals who are naive, suggestible, passive, dependent, and who obey authorities appear more vulnerable.

8. Gudjonsson and his colleagues have done research on this and have developed a scale to assess this (Gudjonsson 1984a, 1984b, 1991; Gudjonsson & Clark, 1986).

9. Kassin & Wrightsman (1985) describe three types of false confessions.

a. voluntary

b. coerced-compliant

c. coerced-internalized

D. Police deception

1. The investigator must be aware of the possibility of misbehavior by police.

2. Explanations for police deception

a. The "rotten apple" concept sees personal pathology or character deficits as the cause of police misbehavior.

b. The "rotten barrel" concept asserts that it is the environment and nature of police work that accounts for police misbehavior. Barker (1977) documented the social support for corruption, the opportunities, and the socialization practices of police departments.

c. The built-in paradox (Skolnick, 1982). Detecting for a police officer is a process moving from investigation, through interrogation, to testimony. The system permits deception during the investigation phase. A detective may pose as a consumer, a fellow criminal, a panderer, or use informers and wiretaps. The line between entrapment and acceptable deceit is vague and unclear. The paradox is that the end of truth justifies the means of lying.

d. The role of interrogator may be powerful enough to produce lying behavior from anyone who is placed in that role. The Stanford Prison Experiment (Haney, Banks, & Zimbardo, 1973) showed that in less than a week normal, educated, mentally healthy young American men could be transformed into either hardened, dehumanizing, lying guards acting in the same patterns as Nazi concentration camp guards or passive, dependent, and depressed prisoners by the role assigned to them.

3. While lying is approved in investigation, and viewed as necessary in interrogation, perjury is not formally condoned. But although the rules are clear that lying is not permitted in testimony in court, it is generally accepted that police lie under oath and regularly commit perjury (Barker & Carter, 1990).

E. Examples of lying by police that we have seen when children are questioned in child sexual abuse cases.

1. Telling children that other children who have been questioned told of abuse (Underwager & Wakefield, 1990). This is a form of the interrogation tactic, "playing one offender against another," advised by Inbau, Reid, and Buckley (1986) which tells the interrogator to say that another person has confessed or implicated the one being questioned.

2. Telling children the doctor found proof they had been abused when the medical examination was normal and there was no physical observation to support a claim of abuse.

3. Telling children if they told what their parents did they would get to leave the foster home and go home but if they didn't tell they could not go home.

4. Telling children that Daddy is "sick" and the child should tell so he can get "help" and not do those terrible things anymore.

5. Telling children mommy or grandma or some other adult told them what happened or what the child said earlier.

6. Pretending to call Daddy on a telephone in the office and then telling the child that Daddy said he wouldn't abuse her anymore.

7. Writing a letter to the child and telling the child it was from the accused perpetrator. The letter told the child to tell about the abuse.

F. Other Types of Police Deception

1. "Fluffing up" the evidence to insure conviction of a suspect the officer believes to be guilty (Barker & Carter, 1990).

2. McCloskey (1989) lists police lies on the witness stand, police pressure to coerce false witnesses, suppression of exculpatory evidence, shoddy police work after a conclusion has been reached about guilt, and falsified forensic science reports as major factors in wrongful convictions.

3. In the current controversy about the prosecutor's actions toward DNA researchers, in the Frye hearing, it was documented that the FBI had concealed scientific data that falsified its reliance upon DNA testing and sought to suborn witnesses (Scheck & Neufeld, 1991).

4. There is a widespread belief among law enforcement personnel that police work by the book is impossible is the chief rationalization for lying (Hunt & Manning, 1991)

5. Lindsay (1991) conducted a series of four experiments which suggest that police deliberately and intentionally construct biased line ups to assure identification of a suspect they believe guilty.

XII. Important Court Rulings

A. Maryland v. Craig (110 S. Ct., 3157, 1990)

1. Arose out of efforts to protect the child from the trauma of testifying by modifying court procedures, such as testifying behind a screen or on videotape in another room.

2. According to the Supreme Court, if the prosecution moves to have the child witness testify behind a screen, they will have establish several things.

3. The requisite necessity finding must be case specific. The trial court must hear evidence and determine whether the procedure's use is necessary to protect the particular child witness' welfare; find that the child would be traumatized, not by the courtroom generally, but by the defendant's presence; and find that the emotional distress suffered by the child in the defendant's presence is more than de minimis.

4. This Supreme Court ruling demands that there be an evidentiary hearing, prior to the trial, at which there will be testimony about the effect on the specific child of testifying in the presence of the person accused.

5. There is no research separating out the single factor of the defendant's presence from all other factors in assessing the probable effects of courtroom testimony on a child. There are no empirical data to support such a claim. There is no way any competent mental health professional can testify that emotional distress would be caused solely and alone by the presence of the defendant (Underwager & Wakefield, 1992).

6. In Akiki, the motion was denied and the children testified in open court. Later, the transcripts were examined. The children for the most part were able to testify and did not behave in the way the mental health professionals had predicted (Montoya, 1995).

B. Idaho v. Wright (110 S. Ct., 3139, 1990)

1. In Idaho v. Wright the court addressed the issue of what kinds of hearsay are admissible in terms of the Confrontation Clause.

2. The Court set forth a two-part test for determining whether hearsay evidence may be admitted against a defendant in a sexual abuse case.

a. First, hearsay may be admitted if it falls under a "firmly rooted" exception to the hearsay rule.

b. Second, if the statement falls under a hearsay exception that is not "firmly rooted," then the statement is presumptively unreliable and inadmissible, and will only meet Confrontation Clause standards of admissibility if it is supported by a showing of "particularized guarantees of trustworthiness."

3. It is difficult to meet the standard of "particularized guarantees of trustworthiness" without a tape of the interview since without a tape, there is no way to establish just what transpired in the interview.

C. New Jersey vs. Michaels (642 A.2d 1372, N.J. 1994)

1. New Jersey v Michaels is a decision from the New Jersey Supreme Court. Kelly Michaels had been convicted of sexually abusing children in a day care center and was imprisoned for 5 years before her case was overturned on appeal (see Rosenthal, 1995 for an overview of the case and the issues).

2. The children had been subjected to highly leading, suggestive, and coercive interviews. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the interrogations of the children were improper, and given substantial likelihood the evidence derived from them was unreliable, a pretrial hearing was required at which the state would be required to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the statements and testimony retained sufficient degree of reliability to warrant admission at trial. This hearing is called a "taint hearing."

3. Where the interviews of the child witnesses are leading and suggestive, the attorney can move for a taint hearing where the state must prove that the interviews were not leading and coercive and that the testimony of the child witness(es) would be reliable.

4. In the taint hearing, the state is entitled to call experts to offer testimony with regard to the suggestive capacity of the suspect investigative procedures, and the defendant may offer expert testimony of the issue of the suggestiveness to counter the state's evidence.

C. Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals (61 U.S.L.W. 4805, 113 S Ct 2786, 1993)

1. The unanimous United States Supreme Court decision dramatically changes the criteria by which scientific testimony will be admitted as evidence in court.

2. The major criterion of the scientific status of a theory is its falsifiability, refutability, or testability. This, in effect, replaces the Frye test (Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013) with the Popperian principle of falsification as the determinant of scientific knowledge.

3. Justice Blackmun identified four factors that the court should consider in determining whether an expert's opinion is valid under rule 702:

a. Whether the expert's theory or technique has been or can be tested or falsified.

b. Whether the theory or technique has been subjected to peer review or publication.

c. What the known or potential rate of error is for any test or scientific technique that has been employed.

d. Whether the technique is generally accepted in the scientific community.

4. Therefore, general acceptance in the scientific community (the Frye test) is one consideration, the lack of such by itself does not preclude the proposed testimony. This will make admissible new scientific evidence that was excluded under Frye.

5. At the same time, if properly understood and followed, this ruling is likely to render inadmissible testimony based on such concepts and theories as the child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome and claims that childhood sexual abuse has been "repressed."

6. Although the decision is limited to federal court, it will be applicable wherever federal rules of evidence apply. (See Imwinkelried, 1993, Underwager & Wakefield, 1993, and Stewart, 1993 for discussions of the Daubert decision.)


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