“I know it because it happened to me!” Confrontations of children within forensic investigations

Carmit Katz, Zion Barnetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Confrontations and cross-examination are considered to be a vital stage in forensic investigations; however, laboratory and field studies have systematically shown their adverse effects on children’s testimonies. The current field study aimed to assess the strategies utilized, and the frequency with which they are used, in confrontations within forensic investigations involving children following suspected abuse, and to assess their effects on the children's testimonies. The forensic investigations were conducted using the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Protocol. The transcripts of 224 children aged 4–14, who were referred for forensic investigation following suspected physical or sexual abuse, were analyzed. All the cases included external evidence suggesting a high probability of abuse. The results indicated that confrontations of children were utilized in more than 60% of the forensic interviews, regardless of the child’s age. The vast majority of the interviewers’ confrontation strategies involved references to the alleged suspects, with the number of confrontations ranging from 1 to 18 per interview. An examination of the children’s responses to the confrontations revealed that most of the children insisted on their initial reported testimonies; however, some of the children displayed confusion or fear, and one child recanted the allegation. The discussion addresses how confrontations and cross-examination, as a necessary stage of forensic investigation, can affect children’s testimonies, and the implications of these effects for the forensic context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-133
Number of pages10
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Volume82
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2018

Keywords

  • Child maltreatment
  • Confrontations
  • Cross-examination
  • Forensic investigation

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