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Child sexual abuse investigations involving preschool-aged complainants: Which cases are prosecuted?

Conference contribution
Authors Emelie Ernberg
Mikaela Magnusson
Sara Landström
Published in The European Association of Psychology and Law (EAPL) conference
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords Child sexual abuse, legal decision making, prosecution.
Subject categories Applied Psychology


Introduction. Child sexual abuse (CSA) cases are notoriously difficult to investigate and prosecute. Previous data from Swedish samples suggest that 10 - 15 % of reported cases are prosecuted, and several studies suggest that prosecution is less likely in investigations involving preschool-aged complainants compared to cases where the complainant is an older child. We aimed to investigate what is required for CSA cases involving preschool-aged complainants to be prosecuted. Method. Data from CSA cases involving preschool-aged children were analyzed (N = 147) using logistic regression. Results. Prosecuted cases were more likely to contain forensic evidence (documentation of abuse, DNA or a corroborative medical examination), while such evidence was not available in any discontinued case. Furthermore, cases were less likely to be prosecuted if there was a custodial dispute between the child’s parents as well as if the family had prior involvement from social services. Cases with more than one complainant were more likely to be prosecuted. Discussion. The results will be discussed in the light of previous research regarding the prosecution of CSA cases and we will offer some guiding suggestions to how these difficult investigations can be facilitated.

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