U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Enhancing the Legal Profession's Response to Victims of Child Abuse

NCJ Number
Date Published
14 pages

After reviewing the American Bar Association's general recommendations for the rights and needs of child victims in legal processing of their cases, this article focuses on child sexual abuse victims and the improvement of legal professionals' interaction with these victims.


The criminal justice system can be more child-friendly to promote more child testimony, as well as better mental health outcomes for the children who testify. The recently issued Attorney General's Crime Victim's Guidelines remind U.S. attorneys "of the trauma child victims and witnesses experience when they are forced to relive the crime during the investigation and prosecution of a criminal cases, particularly while they are testifying in court." The rights of sexually abused children in the legal system can best be accessed if they obtain prompt legal advice; therefore, courts should appoint independent lawyers when children's interests are not otherwise adequately protected. Pro bono programs should also be established in order to supply such attorneys. With the assistance of an attorney, child victims can appropriately be informed of their rights, their role, and the scope, timing, and progress of the legal proceedings and the disposition of their cases. In addition, attorneys should present the needs and concerns of child victims in the course of legal proceedings and ensure that their personal interests are respected in a manner consistent with the procedural rule of law. Appropriate support services should be provided the child victim throughout the legal process. Also, in certain cases, the safety of the child victim should be of major concern, with attention to countering intimidation and retaliation. Attorneys for the child should also be attentive to avoiding unnecessary delays in the disposition of cases and the execution of orders or decrees that grant compensation to child victims.

Date Published: January 1, 2009