Child Abuse Expert Witnesses

In What is Child Abuse? states: “Child abuse consists of any act of commission or omission that endangers or impairs a child’s physical or emotional health and development. Child abuse includes any damage done to a child which cannot be reasonably explained and which is often represented by an injury or series of injuries appearing to be non-accidental in nature.” Child abuse expert witnesses are effective advocates for children and may advise regarding child abuse and neglect, child maltreatment, and child sexual abuse. At Forensic Pediatrics, board certified doctors and experts in child abuse, pediatrics, and forensic interviews describe Forms of Child Abuse:

Physical abuse Any non-accidental injury to a child. This includes hitting, kicking, slapping, shaking, burning, pinching, hair pulling, biting, choking, throwing, shoving, whipping, and paddling.

Sexual abuse Any sexual act between an adult and child. This includes fondling, penetration, intercourse, exploitation, pornography, exhibitionism, child prostitution, group sex, oral sex, or forced observation of sexual acts.

Neglect Failure to provide for a child’s physical needs. This includes lack of supervision, inappropriate housing or shelter, inadequate provision of food and water, inappropriate clothing for season or weather, abandonment, denial of medical care and inadequate hygiene.

Emotional abuse Any attitude or behavior which interferes with a child’s mental health or social development. This includes yelling, screaming, name-calling, shaming, negative comparisons to others, telling them they are “bad, no good, worthless” or “a mistake.” It also includes the failure to provide the affection and support necessary for the development of a child’s emotional, social, physical and intellectual well-being. This includes ignoring, lack of appropriate physical affection (hugs), not saying “I love you,” withdrawal of attention, lack of praise and lack of positive reinforcement.

Expert witnesses at Forensic Pediatrics Consultants describe the content of a child sexual abuse forensic interview:

A forensic interview should not take the form of an interrogation. Note the child’s affect while discussing these topics and be tactful in helping the child manage anxiety. Young children may not be able to report all of the relevant information and disclosures commonly emerge over time. The examiner should explore the following:

whether the child was told to report or not report anything;
what relationship the child has to alleged perpetrator was;
what the alleged perpetrator did;
where it happened;
for multiple occurrences that are reported, when the abuse it started and when it ended;
number of times the abuse occurred;
if and how the child was initially engaged and how the abuse progressed over time;
if and how the alleged perpetrator induced the child to maintain secrecy;
whether the child is aware of specific injuries or physical symptoms associated with the abuse;
whether any photography or videotaping took place.

The Stepwise Interview Components and Protocol Build Rapport Ask the Child to Describe Two Specific Past Events Establish the Need to Tell the Truth Reach an agreement with the child that in this interview only the truth (not “pretend” or imagination) will be discussed.
Explain to the child that it is fine not to know the answer to a question. It is fine to correct the interviewer.
Start with general questions such as “Do you know why you are talking with me today?” Proceed, if necessary, to more specific questions such as “Has anything happened to you?” Drawings may help initiate disclosure.
Elicit a Free Narrative Pose General Questions Pose Specific Questions if Necessary Conclude the Interview

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