7 Current Issues Crim. Just. 176 (1995-1996)
Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse - Accurate and Truthful Disclosures, False Allegations and False Denials

handle is hein.journals/cicj7 and id is 180 raw text is: Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse
Accurate and Truthful Disclosures, False
Allegations, and False Denials
KAY BUSSEY*
Child sexual abuse is not new. However, interest in determining the veracity of child sex-
ual abuse allegations, particularly by legal professionals, academic researchers and the
media, is new. It is a controversial issue that has sparked considerable debate both within
academia and by the general public. The depth of feeling is illustrated by special issues of
academic journals being devoted to the topic1 and by media accounts that highlight the
plight of innocent victims who are not believed as well as those who are falsely accused
of sexual abuse.
In this article, recent challenges to the reliability of children's testimony are dis-
cussed. Increasing concern over possible false allegations of sexual abuse by children has
led to a spate of laboratory studies that demonstrate the conditions under which children
report false information. These studies show that the accuracy of children's reporting is
reduced when they are repeatedly interviewed in misleading ways. A simple solution to
increase the reliability of children's testimony is to avoid asking misleading questions.
Reasons for this not occurring are examined. For many child sexual abuse victims, dis-
closing the abuse is traumatic, and therefore interviewers resort to suggestive questioning
procedures to elicit information about the abuse. Two models that have been proposed to
describe the difficult process of disclosing sexual abuse are presented. Although they pro-
vide valuable information about the difficulties children encounter with such disclosures,
the models offer little guidance as to how to facilitate disclosure. To redress this limita-
tion, a recent model of disclosure proposed by Bussey and Grimbeek2 is extended here.
Unlike the other models, this model is concerned with developing and evaluating the effi-
cacy of interview techniques for facilitating accurate and truthful disclosures. Particular
attention is also paid to issues of suggestibility. This model further departs from the other
two models of the disclosure process in that it is concerned both with children's false alle-
gations of sexual abuse as well as their false denials of it. False allegations, in this article,
refer to allegations of sexual abuse which did not occur and false denials refer to denials
of abuse which did occur. Finally, children's secret keeping is examined to understand
why children withhold information.
*   Senior Lecturer, School of Behavioural Sciences, Macquarie University.
I   See, for example, (1995) 1 Psychology, Public Policy, and Law at 2 and (1993) 17 Child Abuse and Neglect at 1.
2   Bussey, K and Grimbeek, E J, Disclosure processes: Issues for child sexual abuse victims in Rotenberg,
K J (ed), Disclosure processes in children and adolescents (1995) at 166-203.

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