U.S. flag

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

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Perceptual Language of Credibility: Allegations of Spousal Sexual Abuse in Custody Litigation

NCJ Number
Journal of Trauma Practice Volume: 1 Issue: 2 Dated: 2002 Pages: 31-44
Frank Leavitt
Steven N. Gold Ph.D., Jan Faust Ph.D.
Date Published
14 pages
This study examined the credibility of women who allege marital sexual abuse in the context of custody/visitation disputes by using a measure that taps a novel perceptual bias linked to sexual abuse that can be quantified and examined in a statistical manner.
The present study was designed to examine whether the selective perceptual bias for subtle, abuse-relevant imagery linked to adults with sexual abuse histories moderates the perceptual processing of women alleging spousal sexual abuse. Study participants consisted of 150 female patients referred for psychological testing. The women were at least 18 years of age and had completed a Rorschach test. In the study, four groups of women were compared. First, women in custody/visitation litigation were assigned to either the marital abuse group (MA) or the child abuse group (CA). In addition, control groups consisting of women with no history of sexual abuse (SA) and a group exhibiting symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) who were victims of one or more sexual assaults after age 18 were included. The perceptual bias for abuse imagery was a distinctive feature of women with histories of sexual trauma. The results supported the role of personal experience in the presence of the perceptual bias. Additional findings included: (1) women in the MA group had produced 10 times more sex signs than those in the CA group and (2) perceptual processing was not affected by self-absorption with sexual abuse issues. The study strengthened the linkage between perceptual processing biases for abuse relevant imagery and accounts of sexual abuse. In regards to custody/visitation litigation, non-obvious, abuse data should lead to more informed decisions concerning credibility and require less dependence on expert judgment. References


No download available