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Prosecutors’ experiences investigating alleged sexual abuse against preschoolers

Conference contribution
Authors Emelie Ernberg
Mikaela Magnusson
Sara Landström
Published in Annual Conference of the European Association of Psychology and Law 26-29 juni 2018
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords Child sexual abuse, prosecution
Subject categories Applied Psychology


Objectives: Alleged child sexual abuse (CSA) against preschool-aged children is likely one of the most challenging cases for prosecutors to handle. In cases of alleged CSA, prosecutors are in charge of the preliminary investigation and work together with police and oftentimes, Child Protective Services (CPS). We aimed to examine prosecutors’ experiences processing CSA cases involving preschoolers, their views on the quality of child interviews and collaborating with the police and CPS. Method: 98 experienced child prosecutors took part in a survey regarding their experiences processing cases of alleged CSA involving preschoolers. The responses were analyzed using inferential statistics and thematic analysis. Results: The quality of child interviews was mostly rated as high. The quality of the interview was described as vital to the investigation, and as depending either on the interviewer’s expertise and personality or on the resources available to the police. Collaboration with police was rated as significantly better than collaboration with CPS. One-third of the prosecutors stated that CPS involvement could hamper a criminal investigation, mainly by leaking information to the suspect. The child’s ability and willingness to disclose abuse, alongside with a lack of corroborative evidence and the court’s reliability assessment, were described as the main challenges in the processing of CSA cases involving preschoolers. Conclusions: Investigating and prosecuting CSA cases involving preschoolers remain challenging, but there is room for improvement. CSA cases require an innovative, systematic, and unbiased approach and we encourage further research that can help improve the quality of CSA investigations.

Page Manager: Webmaster|Last update: 9/11/2012

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