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Child Sexual Abuse in Civil Cases.

Child Sexual Abuse in Civil Cases

Ann M. Haralambie American Bar Association PO. Box 10892 Chicago, IL 60611 464pp., $99.95

Incidents of child sexual abuse usually occur in private with no witnesses other than the perpetrator and the victim. Most perpetrators usually will not admit their misconduct, even when confronted with compelling evidence. Typically, this quandary forces investigators to depend on children's accounts or on physical and material evidence in order to evaluate the validity of the allegations.

In Child Sexual Abuse in Civil Cases, Ann Haralambie, a Tucson, Arizona, attorney who handles juvenile and domestic relations cases, argues that child sexual abuse cases are among the most difficult to litigate because expert testimony too often becomes personal opinion or is based on conclusions originating from "junk science."

Lawyers' and judges' inability to examine, impeach, and distinguish "junk expert testimony" or "junk science" often results in incorrect decisions, which, according to Haralambie, "improperly rupture parent-child relationships or fail to protect a child, sometimes throwing the child into his or her molester's arms." Lawyers trying a child abuse case, she adds, need "the help of good, multidisciplinary expertise."

The book should be required reading for attorneys, judges, and mental health professionals involved in these cases. The text includes comprehensive footnotes and current citations and draws on reliable data and relevant research. Moreover, the book integrates the past 20 years of psychological, medical, and psychiatric progress in this area and validates the diverse strategies, techniques, and interventions needed to credibly investigate alleged child sexual abuse.

On the other hand, readers should be cautious of the author's weak discussion of gender bias in the courts and the rise in spurious and false claims of sexual abuse, which all too often spouses use to gain legal advantage in a custody or visitation dispute. False allegations, no matter how flimsy, usually result in a court suspending or supervising a parent's relationship with a child (most often the father's), as most judges prefer to err on the side of caution. These decisions may irreparably harm the father-child relationship and, curiously, backfire.

A 1988 National Health Interview Survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, reported that compared with children of intact, two-parent families, children from disrupted families are at a much higher risk for physical or sexual abuse. The absence of a biological father increases by 900 percent a daughter's vulnerability to rape and sexual abuse--often these assaults are committed by stepfathers or boyfriends of custodial mothers. (Jeffery M. Leving & Kenneth A. Dachman, Fathers' Rights 47 (1997).)

Child Sexual Abuse in Civil Cases cogently and skillfully provides lawyers, judges, mental health professionals, and other multidisciplinary health care providers with a concise handbook and textbook. As John E.B. Meyers, a professor at McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific in Sacramento, California, writes in the forward, the book is a "comprehensive yet accessible synthesis of 20 years of experience and learning about child sexual abuse." The result is a readable combination of law, psychology, and practical science that fills the void on the investigator's bookshelf.

Sad statistic

The absence of a biological father increase by 900 percent a daughter's vulnerability to rape and sexual assault.

Jeffery M. Leving practices marital and family law in Chicago. Mark Rogers is a doctor of clinical psychology in Chicago.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Rogers, Mark
Article Type:Book Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2000
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