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Seeking Justice in Child Sexual Abuse

Seeking Justice in Child Sexual Abuse: Shifting Burdens and Sharing Responsibilities

Karen M. Staller
Kathleen Coulborn Faller
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Seeking Justice in Child Sexual Abuse
    Book Description:

    St. Mary County is a small rural midwestern enclave with a unique approach to handling accusations of child sexual abuse. Hoping to spare children the trauma of lengthy court appearances and probing interrogations, St. Mary's professionals strive to obtain confessions from accused sex offenders rather than ask the victim to bear the burden of proof.

    Treating this county as a critical case study, scholars from a variety of fields come together to analyze this community's unique approach. They address relevant case law, innovative treatments for both victim and offender, and the social history of child sexual abuse as a national policy concern. They cover legal burdens and scientific methods, prosecutors and protocol, the interrogation of victims and suspects, the use of expert witnesses, defense strategies, and practice wisdom in videotaping. In addition, they examine the unfolding drama of a single legal case from incidence to conviction.

    The result is a fascinating dialogue that confronts the unique complexities of child sexual abuse for readers on all sides of the issue. Introducing a model that makes enormous headway in the pursuit of justice, fairness, and trauma treatment, this interdisciplinary text is an indispensible tool for all communities seeking redress.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51826-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Note to the Reader
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. ONE Child Sexual Abuse: Legal Burdens and Scientific Methods
    (pp. 1-32)

    In his waning days as the prosecutor in St. Mary County, Mark Jameson stood one snowy morning in December 2002 before a jury and told its twelve members that in the next three days he would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that forty-eight-year old Tommy Inman had repeatedly sexually assaulted twelve-year old Takisha Johnson. Eight men and five women would hear the evidence against the defendant, much of it presented by the preteen girl, and decide Inman’s fate.

    Inman was charged under state law with three counts of criminal sexual conduct (CSC) in the first degree. When Jameson, in his...

  5. PART I: People, Personalities, and Protocol Development

    • TWO Prosecutors and a Protocol: Switching Doors and Staying in Place
      (pp. 35-68)

      St. Mary County was originally settled by French missionaries who made their home among the native Nottowa-Seepes Indian tribes. The legacy of this marriage of Native American and French immigrants is evident in the names of the small towns, rivers, and landmarks that dot the county, which was formally organized in 1829. Two years later, in 1831, Prochainville was settled. Since its founding it has been the county seat, and just eleven years after that, its first courthouse was erected there. To this day, its name bears the spelling of its French heritage, but the pronunciation was long ago alternated...

    • THREE Sex Busters
      (pp. 69-86)

      My ten years as a child protective services (CPS) worker in St. Mary County changed me. Gone is my naive belief that life is fair. Gone is my denial that children can easily overcome sexual-abuse trauma with help from professionals. I know now that my denial was self-protective. I did not want to acknowledge and feel the pain of maltreated children. I was afraid of my own pain. What slowly replaced my denial was an awareness of a deep grief that still lingers to this day. My career in child welfare has been shaped by this grief. Even now, when...

  6. Part II. Protocol as Process

    • FOUR Investigation of Child Sexual Abuse: Interviewing Victims and Interrogating Suspects
      (pp. 89-112)

      Investigation of child sexual abuse (CSA) involves at least two separate and distinct elements: the child interview and the suspect interrogation. In St. Mary County, the child interview was intended to be the beginning and the end of the child’s participation in the investigation. Once the child was interviewed, professionals used the videotape recording of the child’s disclosure to move the case forward. Thus, the videotape aids the police officer and forms the basis for the suspect’s interrogation.

      In many communities and cases, child protective services (CPS) workers interview possible victims, while law-enforcement officers interrogate suspects. But the highest-quality investigations...

    • FIVE Professional Practitioners’ Views on Videotaping: Capturing and Conveying a Child’s Story
      (pp. 113-140)

      When St. Mary County first experimented with capturing children’s interviews on videotape, it stumbled on two primary advantages, although Prosecutor Charles Davis was uncertain about the driving force behind the initiative—“the idea to avoid multiple interviews, [or] to induce confessions.” Among other things, the county discovered that if young accusers confronted adult suspects through the medium of videotape, the suspects seemed to confess. At the same time, these children would not have to be subjected to multiple interviews. These two factors, preserving the child’s story and encouraging confession by suspects, are central to the mission of shifting the burden...

    • SIX Polygraph Magic
      (pp. 141-165)

      In St. Mary County, the polygraph of the suspect was a critical part of the protocol. If, during the police interview, the suspect denied sexual abuse disclosed by the child, he or she was offered a polygraph. This component of the protocol built upon state statute, which entitles every individual accused of a sex crime the opportunity to demand a polygraph examination. (Although the suspect has a right to demand a polygraph if accused of a sex crime, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that law enforcement cannot compel a suspect to take a polygraph because of the Fifth Amendment...

    • SEVEN Shifting the Narrative Burden Throughout Investigations and Prosecutions of Child Sexual Abuse
      (pp. 166-193)

      This chapter focuses on the ways that children are relatively disempowered narrators in U.S. legal settings and how the St. Mary County professionals increased the legal power of children’s disclosure narratives while simultaneously decreasing the frequency with which children were actually required to narrate abuse experiences. In legal settings, adults are widely believed to be more accurate and believable narrators than children (see Ceci and Bruck, 1995). Standard child sexual abuse (CSA) cases generally rely upon children’s abuse narratives to prosecute adult defendants and therefore are very difficult to prove. Available legal scholarship on the narrative dimensions of law focuses...

    • EIGHT Shouldering the Shifted Burden: The Defense Attorneys
      (pp. 194-224)

      Sam Huff, portly and bespectacled, practices law out of a converted wood-frame house on Main Street in Two Lakes. He is the nominal leader among the contract lawyers appointed by the St. Mary County court to represent indigent defendants brought before the court on charges of criminal sexual conduct (CSC). Richard Nowak, one of Huff’s colleagues, says of him, “He’s got the most experience out of the contract group. He’s got the lion’s share of the work.” By comparison, Nowak notes that his own appointed criminal practice is a “tiny slice of the pie.” Huff began practicing law in St....

    • NINE Victim and Offender Treatment and Therapeutic Justice
      (pp. 225-248)

      Treatment is an important component of a comprehensive response to child sexual abuse (CSA). Victims deserve treatment; offenders need it. In St. Mary County, we found what we have termed “therapeutic justice,” which is broader than mere therapy. Therapeutic justice is embodied in the protocol, in victim advocacy, in treatment for victims, and in community-based treatment for those offenders who satisfy the screening criteria. Therapeutic justice is embedded in a community compact about management of sexual-abuse allegations, which can be characterized as normative justice. This chapter describes treatment and supportive services for victims and the screening process and sentencing alternatives...

  7. Part III. The Overall Process and Concluding Lessons

    • TEN People, Protocol, and Process: The Inman Case
      (pp. 251-285)

      Unlike the ones that have come before, this chapter follows the life history of a single St. Mary case from initial incident to final outcome. Admittedly, this case does not illustrate the optimal operation of the protocol—which in the best of circumstances would not have required a child victim to testify at a criminal trial. In doing so, it highlights some of the difficulties facing prosecutors elsewhere. However, this case does illustrate the tenacious and dedicated nature of the St. Mary’s prosecutor’s office even thirty years after the development of the initial protocol. In the end, it illustrates what...

    • ELEVEN Conclusions from the Study of St. Mary County
      (pp. 286-314)

      The story of St. Mary County, as told in these pages, builds on the idea that there is value in studying the particulars of a single case. Such studies can illustrate how professional practices operate in the real world and how actors understand their world and make choices, and therefore speak to the values and priorities that undergird their decision making. This, in turn, reveals the inner workings of bigger, value-laden concepts, such as the notion of “justice.”

      Case studies are generally credited with having at least three basic strengths relative to other methods. First, they are able to answer...

  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 315-332)
  9. Contributors and Members of the Research Team
    (pp. 333-336)
  10. Index
    (pp. 337-358)