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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 202788 Find in a Library
Title: Pre-Trial Therapy for Child Complainants of Sexual Abuse in the Criminal Justice System: Forensic Implications
Author(s): Anna Maxwell
Date Published: May 2003
Page Count: 12
Sponsoring Agency: Australian Institute of Criminology
Canberra ACT, 2601, Australia
Sale Source: Australian Institute of Criminology
GPO Box 2944
Canberra ACT, 2601,
Document: PDF
Type: Conference Material; Issue Overview
Format: Document (Online)
Language: English
Country: Australia
Annotation: This paper examines forensic issues that arise when considering whether or not to provide an alleged victim of child sexual abuse with therapy prior to the adjudication of the case in the legal system.
Abstract: At issue is whether pretrial treatment implies a fact yet to be proven in a legal forum or may manipulate or distort the child's recollection and perception of the event at issue in the legal proceedings. On the other hand, delaying treatment of the child until after the conclusion of legal proceedings may postpone treatment for an extended period to the detriment of the child. The United Kingdom Crown Prosecution Service has developed a set of practice guidelines to assist in children receiving, as soon as possible, effective treatment to assist in their recovery. One guideline recommends that "therapists or counselors should avoid using leading questions or discussing the evidence which the individual or any other witness will give, including exploring in detail the substance of specific allegations made." Another guideline states that "children may derive therapeutic benefits from talking about their experiences, but any detailed recounting or re-enactment of the abuse may be perceived as coaching. Therapists should recognize that the criminal case is almost certain to fail as a consequence of this type of therapeutic work." In order to aid in decisions pertinent to the pretrial treatment of alleged child sexual abuse victims, this paper discusses the effects of child sexual abuse, treatment of sexually abused children and adolescents, memory and suggestibility in children, trauma and memory, and children's communicative competence. The paper recommends that both the legal and mental health systems collaborate in meeting the needs of children who are required to testify in an adversarial court system designed to ensure the rights of the accused. The field of therapeutic jurisprudence is one source of guidance as courts consider the philosophical and practical issues associated with changes to their role and in what the public expects of the courts. Families involved in the legal proceedings that focus on a child alleged to have been sexually abused must receive informed professional guidance based on knowledge of both legal and therapeutic guidelines that bear upon the best interests of the child. 35 references
Main Term(s): Juvenile victims
Index Term(s): Child Sexual Abuse; Counseling; Counseling training; Juvenile counseling; Juvenile witnesses; Pretrial procedures; Pretrial programs; Victim counseling
Note: Paper presented at the Child Sexual Abuse: Justice Response or Alternative Resolution Conference held in Adelaide, Australia, May 1-2, 2003; downloaded November 6, 2003.
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