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Journal Article

Citation

Denne E, Sullivan C, Ernest K, Stolzenberg SN. Child Maltreat. 2019; ePub(ePub): ePub.

Affiliation

1 Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ, USA.

Copyright

(Copyright © 2019, American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, Publisher SAGE Publishing)

DOI

10.1177/1077559519872825

PMID

31495202

Abstract

As children's testimonies of child sexual abuse (CSA) often lack concrete evidence to corroborate a child's claims, attorneys devote a substantial amount of time to establishing a child as credible during the course of a trial. Examining 134 CSA victim testimonies for children aged 5-17 (M = 12.48, SD = 3.34; 90% female), we explored how attorneys assess child credibility through specifically targeting children's suggestibility/honesty, plausibility, and consistency.

RESULTS revealed that while prosecutors examine plausibility more often to establish credibility, defense attorneys focus their assessments on suggestibility/honesty and potential inconsistency. However, both attorneys asked many more questions about children's consistency than any other area of potential credibility. Furthermore, while prosecutors ask proportionally more credibility-challenging questions of older children, the defense do not. These results suggest that prosecutors may be missing an opportunity to establish children as honest and consistent and elucidate a need to train attorneys on the implications of children's inconsistencies, suggestibility, and plausible abuse dynamics.


Language: en

Keywords

child sexual abuse; children’s consistency; children’s credibility; children’s testimony

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