Critically Evaluate Two of the Main Factors Affecting the Accuracy and Reliability of Children’s Testimony in Cases of Suspected Sexual Abuse.

In the 1980s, society gained an increased awareness of the pervasiveness of child sexual abuse. This, along with increases in allegations of abuse, led to important changes in the legal system, regarding the acceptability of child witness testimonies (Ceci & Bruck, 1995). The requirement for verification of children's testimonies alleging sexual abuse was abandoned and the testimony of young children was often accepted in the justice system as truthful, with false allegations considered to be extremely rare (Faller, 1984).

However, children’s competency to testify in cases of suspected sexual abuse is dubious, due to many factors, which can affect the accuracy and the reliability of their testimony. Such factors include; whether the child has the language skills to provide sufficient detail, how the abuse was first disclosed, and the misperceived presence of sexualised behaviour in non-abused children, as a result of normal development. However, a large proportion of the issues affecting accuracy and reliability arise from two specific factors, both related to forensic interviewing, which can seriously jeopardise a child’s testimony. These factors are; the affect of interviewing techniques on children’s memory accuracy and the use of interviewing props to aid children during interviews.
In child sexual abuse cases, competent forensic interviews are essential to ensure the protection of victims and the falsely accused, and the conviction of child sex offenders. The purpose of the forensic interview is considered to be “to elicit as complete and accurate a report from the alleged child victim as possible in order to determine whether the child has been abused (or is in imminent risk of abuse) and, if so, by whom” (APSAC, 2002, p. 2). Bad interviewing can lead to serious consequences, including; prompting false allegations, subjecting families to unnecessary stress and upset, destroying a child’s credibility in court, interfering with facts and reducing the...