Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Coercion And Child Truthfulness Related To Sex Abuse

This article by Jenni Whitehead titled Do children tell lies about sexual abuse? And can we tell if they are lying? begins with this paragraph:

I have wanted to write this article for some time because I am often challenged in the training room about whether children and young people make false claims of sexual abuse. Only yesterday I had a participant announce to the rest of the group that according to his union 90% of allegations made against members of staff are false and often malicious. I hasten to add that I do not know of any teacher’s union making such a claim! In fact all the national audits of allegations of abuse made against education staff have concluded that wholly false allegations are extremely rare.

One of the issues raised in this article is coercion which can lead a child to tell an adult what the adult wants to hear. Many people acknowledge this coercion only when they want to discredit the child's report of abuse. However, coercion can be, and often is, used by people in authority positions to pressure a child into recanting.

I received a comment on another post which I didn't approve because it contained an unsubstantiated claim that a man was falsely accused. The comment stressed that the investigation, had it continued, would have bankrupted the county that had already seriously overextended itself financially because of the investigation.

The man's step-daughter recanted thus saving the county from financial ruin.

That's too much pressure for many adults to withstand. Many times children remain silent because they understand that telling the full truth will shake up what stability they have in their world. It doesn't take much for many adults -- even well-meaning ones -- to be able to terrorize children who have told the truth back into silence or into outright denial.

This does a double disservice in that it allows someone who might be a real perpetrator to escape justice and turns someone who is very likely a real victim into someone who is labeled as not credible thus making that child someone unlikely to speak up if they are subsequently sexually abused or assaulted. And if they ever report later crimes against them, their perpetrator's defense attorneys are likely to do everything they can to make the public believe that the alleged victim is a serial false accuser.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:44 AM   0 comments links to this post


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