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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 159829 Find in a Library
Title: Divorcing Parents Reporting Abuse Face Backlash (From Child Abuse: Opposing Viewpoints, P 56-63, 1994, David Bender and Bruno Leone, eds. -- See NCJ-159823)
Author(s): M S Fahn
Date Published: 1994
Page Count: 8
Sponsoring Agency: Greenhaven Press
Farmington Hills, MI 48333-9187
Sale Source: Greenhaven Press
P.O. Box 9187
Farmington Hills, MI 48333-9187
United States of America
Type: Survey
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: A basic tenet of American society is the assumption that parents will act in the best interests of their children; because accusations of intrafamily child sexual abuse contradict this assumption, they are inherently difficult to believe.
Abstract: The reluctance to credit child abuse allegations operates with special force in divorce and contested custody cases, resulting in a system that cannot adequately protect child victims. When parties litigate a custody dispute and a child sexual abuse allegation is raised, the burden of proof is on the accuser. Because intrafamily child abuse is so difficult to prove, many investigations result in unsubstantiated findings. Unsubstantiated abuse refers to cases in which the evidence is not sufficient to conclude a child was sexually abused. Thus, if neither party offers conclusive proof, the result is a finding of no abuse. Contrary to the popular assumption that accusers have nothing to lose by raising false allegations, a mother who fails to meet a stringent standard of proof faces the risk of losing custody. In some jurisdictions, even when it is clear that a child was abused, the case may be unsubstantiated if an abuser's identity cannot be conclusively established. The potential for false child sexual abuse allegations in divorce and custody cases, where a parent's vindictiveness may lead to prompting a child to lie about sexual abuse by the other parent, has become a growing concern. In the context of custody disputes with unsubstantiated allegations, there is a tendency to suspect that the person who raised the allegations, usually the mother, deliberately made false accusations in a vengeful attack against her husband. The adversarial nature of the legal system impedes the ability of courts to protect children in unsubstantiated abuse cases; therefore, the legal system should recognize that existing mechanisms cannot adequately protect children from intrafamily sexual abuse. Associations between family breakup and child abuse are discussed, as well as the judicial bias against child abuse allegations.
Main Term(s): Juvenile victims
Index Term(s): Abused children; Abusing parents; Burden of proof; Child abuse investigations; Child custody; Child protection services; Child Sexual Abuse; Child victims; Crimes against children; Domestic relations; Marital problems; Sexual assault victims
Note: Opposing Viewpoints Series
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