That's correct; she did not cry.

Author:Mikow, Linda
Position::Emotional responses of child sexual abuse victims at child advocacy centers

TELEVISION CRIME SHOWS, such as Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, appear to make every spectator and potential juror an "expert" in sexual assault. This is far from accurate. These shows portray child victims being interviewed at police stations, in their homes, at school, or even being stopped on the street for questioning. But in the real world, when a case of child sexual assault goes to court, juries often see a different portrayal. In some cases, they might see, in addition to the child himself or herself, a DVD of the child or teen victim being interviewed at a child advocacy center about their abuse. In some of these DVDs, children are shown calmly answering questions and talking in great detail about what happened to them. Jurors expect to see such children cry and show signs of distress. Who wouldn't cry after such traumatizing events? And yet, in real life, they see these children and teens calmly disclose to a trained forensic interviewer explicit details about their abuse that may traumatize even the jurors.

Defense attorneys know this of jurors. So they routinely ask forensic interviewers who testify in court hearings questions like, "This child did not seem upset or distressed, nor did the child cry or seem in pain when they told you about what happened to them, isn't that correct?" And often the answer is, "Yes, that's correct." And of course, it is reasonable for people who are abhorred by such violence, including judges, defense attorneys, detectives, and juries to believe that a child or teenager who was sexually abused will cry and be emotionally distraught when talking about it. If they don't show any emotion, they must be lying and making it up. How could a child or teen calmly talk about something as horrific as sexual abuse without a tear in their eye? This doesn't seem possible if what they are saying really happened to them.

While in some cases of reporting sexual abuse the child may cry and show emotion, the interview process is more comfortable for a child when interviewed in a children's advocacy center (CAC) and therefore, the child is more relaxed and calm. The foremost goal of the forensic interviewing techniques at a CAC is to keep from re-traumatizing the child victim. The CAC is set up to provide a child-fair, relaxing and safe setting for a child or teen to talk about what did or didn't happen. Forensic interviews conducted by a trained forensic interviewer in a CAC are specifically structured so as not to traumatize children. A CAC provides a psychologically safe place for children and teens to give their account of events. The lack of emotion has no bearing on whether the child is telling the truth. The process of giving their account at a CAC results in...

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