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46. Wrongful acquittals of sexual abuse.
Journal of Interpersonal Violence (Published 2017) (2015)
  • Thomas D. Lyon, University of Southern California
  • Stacia N. Stolzenberg, Arizona State University
  • Kelly McWilliams, University of Southern California Law School
Ross Cheit’s book The Witch-Hunt Narrative highlights the difficulties of prosecuting child sexual abuse. Drawing examples from a single case, Alex A., we examine the ways in which false acquittals of sexual abuse are likely to occur. First, prosecutors tend to question children in ways that undermine their productivity and credibility. Second, prosecutors have difficulty in explaining to juries the dynamics of sexual abuse and disclosure, making children’s acquiescence to abuse and their failure to disclose when abuse first occurs incredible. Third, attorneys undermine children’s credibility by pushing them to provide difficult to estimate temporal and numerical information. A postscript to the Alex A. case illustrates the costs of wrongful acquittals.
  • child abuse,
  • child testimony,
  • child witness,
  • wrongful aquittals
Publication Date
November 5, 2015
Citation Information
Lyon, T.D., Stolzenberg, S.N., & McWilliams, K. (2017). Wrongful acquittals of sexual abuse. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 32, 805-825