Disclosure, denial, delay, recantation, and confirmation in CSA

Despite several years of high quality research in CSA, courts continue to hear that patterns of disclosure, denial, delay, and recantation are (or are not) dispositive of CSA.

In their review of these issues in a recent special issue of Memory, London, Ceci, Wright, and Ceci (2008) draw the following conclusions:

“We have argued that, in order to obtain reliable disclosure rates in forensic samples, there must be evidence that the children were actually abused. One important factor in making these decisions should be the quality of the interview itself….due to the accumulation of scientific findings on interview bias and the effect of suggestive interviewing techniques, selective reinforcement, repeated questions, repeated interviews, a number of protocols have been developed (refs deleted). Because these protocols avoid techniques that are known to produce false disclosures, and use techniques that produce high rates of true disclosures even from young children, the results should be given high prominence in issues dealing with disclosure.”

Three studies using the NICDH protocol provide disclosure rates due to suspicions of CSA. “The pooled rate of disclosures in the studies reporting disclosure rates of substantiated cases … is 85%.”

The authors further conclude that studies suggest a recantation rate of up to 23%. They speculate as to whether recantations are due to withdrawal of disclosures obtained through suggestive interviewing (rather than due to Summit’s Child Abuse Accommodation Syndrome).

The bottom line, “It thus seems that among sexually abused children undergoing forensic interviews, a majority will provide details; and even with repeated interviews, most will continue to provide abuse consistent details (and will not recant).”

London, K., Bruck, M., Wright, D., & Ceci, St. (2008). Review of the contemporary literature on how children report sexual abuse to others: Findings, methodological issues, and implications for forensic interviewers. Memory, 16, 1, 29-47.


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