(Vol. 19 No. 2) “Child Witnesses in Sexual Abuse Cases” 

How believable are children when they accuse someone of sexually abusing them?  Can we tell when children are truthful, lying, or relating false memories implanted by adults?  If a child has difficulty testifying eye-to-eye with an alleged abuser in open court, should the court allow the child to testify from the judge’s chambers by closed-circuit TV or permit adults—such as doctors, social workers, teachers, police—to testify about what the child told them?  How are public opinion and the judicial system affected by media coverage of such cases?  These are subjects of passionate controversy.  This symposium brings together leading researchers in the field—from law, psychology, public policy, and communications—for what promises to be a lively and important discussion.

Symposium Participants and Topics:

Nicholas C. Bala, Professor, Law Faculty, Queens University, Canada
. Topic: “Recognizing Children’s Capacity and Facilitating Their Testimony: Psychological Research Informing Reform in Canada’s Child Witness Laws”

Ross A. Cheit, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, Brown University. 
Topic: Professor Cheit will explore the popular appeal of the witch-hunt narrative in American culture and document how that narrative has been misapplied in child sexual abuse cases.

Jennifer J. Freyd, Professor of Psychology, University of Oregon. Topic: “Avoiding Judicial Betrayal of Child Witnesses: Implications from Betrayal Trauma Theory”

Gail Goodman, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of California-Davis. Topic: “Children’s Eyewitness Memory and Testimony”

Steven M. Gorelick, Professor of Media Studies, Hunter College, CCNY. 
Topic: “Child Sexual Abuse, Media Coverage, and the Criminal Justice System: The Struggle for Fair Trials and Due Process in Times of Moral Panic”

Thomas D. Lyon, Judge Edward J. and Ruey L. Guirado Chair in Law and Psychology, University of Southern California School of Law. Topic: Professor Lyon will discuss how research in interviewing has suggested improvements in the process by which attorneys elicit children’s testimony in court.

Wendy J. Murphy, Adjunct Professor of Law, New England Law-Boston; former prosecutor; consultant; author of And Justice For Some. Topic: Professor Murphy will discuss children and the concept of testimonial accommodations as understood through existing disabilities rights laws.

Debra Poole, Professor of Psychology, Central Michigan University. Topic: “Sources of Unreliable Testimony in Children”