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NCJ Number: 97656 Find in a Library
Title: Sexually Abused Children and the Legal System - Some Policy Recommendations
Journal: American Journal of Family Therapy  Volume:13  Issue:1  Dated:(Spring 1985)  Pages:61-67
Author(s): G B Melton
Date Published: 1985
Page Count: 7
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article reviews psychological research pertinent to two issues raised by sexually abused children's involvement in the legal system: their competency to testify and procedural and evidentiary reforms to protect them.
Abstract: Although there are some qualifiers, the available research generally supports the potential of children as young as age 4 to present testimony which is reliable, or at least as reliable as that produced by adult eyewitnesses. However, two caveats about misconceptualizing the question of children's competency to testify as an internal attribute of the child are presented. First, the issue of competency to testify is shown to be as much an issue of judges' and jurors' capacities as that of the child. Second, the level of the child's competency is revealed to vary with the situation; high levels of anxiety, for example, may adversely affect recall and cognitive functioning. Therefore, interventions designed to reduce ambiguity about the situation are recommended. Attention is focused on proposals for reform intended to reduce the risk of children being traumatized by the legal process. In general, these proposals provide for limiting the audience during child victims' testimony or preventing face-to-face confrontation by the defendant. The constitutional issues raised by these proposals are considered, and the need for legal procedures to be examined with respect to their effect upon the child's emotional well-being is highlighted. Finally, research on the effects of legal procedures on children is urged. Included are 43 references.
Index Term(s): Abused children; Child abuse and neglect hearings; Juvenile witnesses; Literature reviews; Testimony
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