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Prosecutors’ reflections on sexually abused preschoolers and their ability to stand trial

Journal article
Authors Emelie Ernberg
Inga Tidefors
Sara Landström
Published in Child Abuse & Neglect
Volume 57
Pages 20-29
ISSN 0145-2134
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 20-29
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2016.06...
Keywords Child sexual abuse, Prosecution, Children's testimony
Subject categories Applied Psychology

Abstract

Child sexual abuse (CSA) cases are notoriously difficult to investigate, and less than 10% of cases are prosecuted. We aimed to investigate prosecutors’ experiences of preparing for and prosecuting suspected CSA cases with preschool aged victims. Nine specialized child prosecutors (6 women, 3 men) took part either in individual interviews or in focus groups on this subject. The transcripts were analyzed thematically. The prosecutors said that children's testimony was sometimes held to an adult standard and that child complainants who expressed emotion could be perceived as more credible than their less expressive counterparts. CSA victims were identified as vulnerable victims who had difficulty telling their stories. Some of the interviewers were described as lacking in the ability to approach these children. The results imply that the reliability and credibility of sexually abused preschoolers and their testimony might be influenced by a number of verbal and non-verbal factors and that there are several obstacles preventing prosecutors from prosecuting these cases.

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