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Sexual Abuse of Children - Recent Developments in the Law of Evidence

NCJ Number
Children's Legal Rights Journal Volume: 5 Issue: 4 Dated: (Fall 1984) Pages: 2-7
D K Weisberg
Date Published
6 pages
This article describes trends to reduce the trauma on child victims who testify in court in sexual abuse cases involving persons within and outside the family.
Testifying in court can be frightening for young sexual abuse victims, and the effects may be long-term emotional distress, confusion, and feelings of guilt. Innovations to reduce child victim trauma in Denmark and Sweden include interviewing child victims by specially qualified policewomen. The child's evidence may be tape-recorded -- to spare repetition of the account -- and introduced as evidence in court. In Israel, children are interviewed at home and a special child interrogator acts as the liaison with the child. In the United States, many States now also use specially trained child protective services personnel. Additionally, the trend to reduce child trauma in testifying in court has taken several forms. New legislation has abolished all grounds of incompetency, including age, allowing children to testify without first proving competence. Requirements concerning additional evidence -- corroboration of the child's testimony -- are being relaxed in many jurisdictions. Out of court statements, or hearsay, can be admitted in some States, possible sparing the child the need to testify. Video tape interviews of the child victim are increasingly used; however, the defendant's right to cross-examination may be abused by this method. The use of closed-circuit television similarly allows the child to testify separately; however, the testimony is viewed simultaneously by the defendant without the child being present. A total of 29 footnotes are listed.