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August 31, 2012

Many Teens in Intimate Relationships Are Abused by Their Partners

Timothy A. Roberts, MD, LCDR; Jonathan Klein, MD, MPH

Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, April 2003

Abuse in adolescent dating relationships is common, say researchers from the University of Rochester School of Medicine who examined abusive teen relationships and links to other risky behaviors.

Using data from a large national health study of adolescents between 11 and 21 years of age, researchers asked teens whether they had ever had an intimate partner who called them names, insulted them, treated them disrespectfully, swore at them, threatened them with violence, pushed or shoved them, or threw something at them that could hurt them. In the study, the teens also reported whether they used substances such as tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana in the last year. Teens answered questions about whether they had engaged in antisocial behavior, such as destroying property, stealing, lying to parents, or running away, during the past year. Teens also answered questions about their participation in violence, such as fighting, threatening someone with a weapon, or shooting or stabbing someone. The teens were also asked about symptoms of depression.

Both teen girls and boys reported similar rates of abuse by intimate partners; 21% of teen boys and 22% of teen girls said they were abused by intimate partners. Girls who had a history of abuse were significantly more likely to use substances, be depressed and suicidal, and participate in violent and antisocial behaviors. Boys who had a history of abuse were significantly more likely to practice antisocial and violent behavior and be depressed. 

What This Means to You: Abuse by an intimate partner is common among adolescent boys and girls and may increase a teen's risk for depression or participation in other risky behaviors. Signs of abuse by an intimate partner may include: unexplained bruises, broken bones, sprains, or marks; excessive guilt or shame for no apparent reason; secrecy or withdrawal from friends and family; and avoidance of school or social events with excuses that don't seem to make any sense. If your child is being abused, he or she needs your patience, love, and understanding. Talk to your child's doctor or a mental health professional about how to help your child recover from abuse and avoid risky behaviors.

August 28, 2012

Child Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet for Parents, Teachers and Other Caregivers

Developed by the NCTSN Child Sexual Abuse Committee (

What is child sexual abuse?

Child sexual abuse is any interaction between a child and an adult (or another child) in which the child is used for the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or an observer. Sexual abuse can include both touching and non-touching behaviors. Touching behaviors may involve touching of the vagina, penis, breasts or buttocks, oral-genital contact, or sexual intercourse. Non-touching behaviors can include voyeurism (trying to look at a child’s naked body), exhibitionism, or exposure to pornography. Abusers often do not use physical force, but may use play, deception, threats, or other forms of coercion to engage children and maintain their silence. Abusers frequently employ persuasive and manipulative tactics—referred to as “grooming”—such as buying gifts or arranging special activities, which can further confuse the victim.

Who is sexually abused?

Children of all ages, races, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds are vulnerable to sexual abuse. Child sexual abuse affects both girls and boys across all neighborhoods, communities and countries around the world.

How can you tell if a child is being (or has been) sexually abused?

Children who have been sexually abused may display a range of emotional and behavioral reactions characteristic of children who have experienced trauma. These reactions include:

• Increased occurrence of nightmares or other sleeping difficulties

• Withdrawn behavior

• Angry outbursts

• Anxiety • Depression

• New words for private body parts

• Sexual activity with toys or other children

• Not wanting to be left alone with a particular individual(s)

Although many sexually abused children exhibit behavioral and emotional changes, many others do not. It is therefore critical to focus not only on detection, but on prevention and communication—by educating children about body safety, by teaching them about healthy body boundaries, and by encouraging open communication about sexual matters.

Why don’t children tell about sexual abuse?

There are many reasons children do not disclose being sexually abused, including:

• Threats of bodily harm (to the child and/or the child’s family)

• Fear of being removed from the home

• Fear of not being believed

• Shame or guilt

If the abuser is someone the child or the family cares about, the child may worry about getting that person in trouble. In addition, children often believe that the sexual abuse was their own fault and may not disclose for fear of getting in trouble themselves. Very young children may not have the language skills to communicate about the abuse or may not understand that the actions of that perpetrator are abusive, particularly if the sexual abuse is made into a game.

What can you do if a child discloses that he or she is being (or has been) sexually abused?

If a child discloses abuse, it is critical to stay calm, listen carefully, and NEVER blame the child. Thank the child for telling you and reassure him or her of your support. Please remember to call for help immediately.

If you know or suspect that a child is being or has been sexually abused, please call the federally funded Child Welfare Information Gateway at 1.800.4.A.CHILD (1.800.422.4453) or visit

If you need immediate assistance, call 911.

Child Sexual Abuse Myths and Facts Myth:

Child sexual abuse is a rare experience.

Fact: Child sexual abuse is not rare. Research indicates that as many as 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18. However, because child sexual abuse is by its very nature secretive, many of these cases are never reported.

Myth: A child is most likely to be sexually abused by a stranger.

Fact: Children are most often sexually abused by someone they know and trust. Ninety-three percent of reported cases of child sexual abuse are committed by individuals who are considered part of the victim’s “circle of trust.”

Myth: Preschoolers do not need to know about child sexual abuse and would be frightened if educated about it.

Fact: Numerous educational programs are available to teach young children about the difference between healthy and unhealthy touches. These programs can help children develop basic safety skills in a way that is helpful rather than frightening. For more information on educating young children, see Lets Talk About Taking Care of You: An Educational Book About Body Safety, available at

Myth: Children who are sexually abused will never recover.

Fact: Many children are quite resilient, and with a combination of support from their parents or caregivers and effective counseling, they can and do recover from such experiences.

Myth: Children are almost always sexually abused by adults.

Fact: Surveys indicate that up to one third of cases of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by individuals under the age of 18. While some degree of sexual curiosity and exploration is to be expected between children of about the same age, when one child coerces another to engage in adult-like sexual activities, the behavior is unhealthy and abusive. Both the abuser and the victim can benefit from counseling. 

Myth: Talking about sexual abuse with a child who has suffered such an experience will only make it worse.

Fact: Although children often choose not to talk about their abuse, there is no evidence that encouraging children to talk about sexual abuse will make them feel worse. On the contrary, research shows that treatment from a mental health professional can minimize the physical, emotional, and social problems of abused children by allowing them to appropriately process their feelings and fears.

Tips To Help Protect Children From Sexual Abuse

• Always teach children accurate names of private body parts.

• Avoid focusing exclusively on “stranger danger.” Keep in mind that most children are abused by someone they know and trust.

• Teach children about body safety and healthy body boundaries early (in preschool) and often.

• Teach children the difference between healthy and unhealthy touches.

• Reinforce the message that children always have the right to make decisions about their bodies. Empower them to say no when they do not want to be touched, even in non-sexual ways (e.g., politely refusing hugs) and to say no to touching others.

• Make sure children know that adults and older children never need help with their private body parts (e.g., bathing or going to the bathroom.)

• Educate children about the difference between good secrets (like surprise parties—which are okay because they are not kept secret for long) and bad secrets (those that the child is supposed to keep secret forever, which are not okay).

• Trust your instincts!

If you feel uneasy leaving a child with someone, don’t do it. If you’re concerned about possible sexual abuse, ask questions. For more information, visit the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) at THE BEST TIME TO TALK TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT SEXUAL ABUSE IS NOW.

Original Article

August 21, 2012

Adult Manifestations of Childhood Sexual Abuse

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists


Childhood sexual abuse can be defined as any exposure to sexual acts imposed on children who inherently lack the emotional, maturational, and cognitive development to understand or to consent to such acts. These acts do not always involve sexual intercourse or physical force; rather, they involve manipulation and trickery. Authority and power enable the perpetrator to coerce the child into compliance. Characteristics and motivations of perpetrators of childhood sexual abuse vary: some may act out sexually to exert dominance over another individual; others may initiate the abuse for their own sexual gratification (5, 6). 

Although specific legal definitions may vary among states, there is widespread agreement that abusive sexual contact can include breast and genital fondling, oral and anal sex, and vaginal intercourse. Definitions have been expanded to include noncontact events such as coercion to watch sexual acts or posing in child pornography (7). 


The prevalence of childhood sexual abuse in the United States is unknown. Because of the shame and stigma associated with abuse, many victims never disclose such experiences. Incest was once thought to be so rare that its occurrence was inconsequential. However, in the past 25 years there has been increased recognition that incest and other forms of childhood sexual abuse occur with alarming frequency (8). Researchers have found that victims come from all cultural, racial, and economic groups (9). 

Current estimates of incest and other childhood sexual abuse range from 12% to 40% depending on settings and population. Most studies have found that among women, approximately 20% - or 1 in 5 - have experienced childhood sexual abuse (9). Consistent with this range, studies have revealed that: 

Among girls who had sex before they were 13 years old, 22% reported that first sex was nonvoluntary (10). 

Twelve percent of girls in grades 9 through 12 reported they had been sexually abused; 7% of girls in grades 5 through 8 also reported sexual abuse. Of all the girls who experienced sexual abuse, 65% reported the abuse occurred more than once, 57% reported the abuser was a family member, and 53% reported the abuse occurred at home (11). 

Approximately 40% of the women surveyed in a primary care setting had experienced some form of childhood sexual contact; of those, 1 in 6 had been raped as a child (12). 

A national telephone survey on violence against women conducted by the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 18% of 8,000 women surveyed had experienced a completed or attempted rape at some time in their lives. Of this number, 22% were younger than 12 years and 32% were between 12 and 17 years old when they were first raped (9). 

Common Symptoms in Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse:

  • Physical Presentations
  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms/distress
  • Musculoskeletal complaints
  • Obesity, eating disorders
  • Insomnia, sleep disorders
  • Pseudocyesis
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Asthma, respiratory ailments
  • Addiction
  • Chronic headache
  • Chronic back pain
  • Psychologic and Behavioral Presentations
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms
  • Dissociative states
  • Repeated self-injury
  • Suicide attempts
  • Lying, stealing, truancy, running away
  • Poor contraceptive practices
  • Compulsive sexual behaviors
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Somatizing disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Poor adherence to medical recommendations
  • Intolerance of or constant search for intimacy
  • Expectation of early death

Although there is no single syndrome that is universally present in adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, there is an extensive body of research that documents adverse short- and long-term effects of such abuse. To appropriately treat and manage survivors of CSA, it is useful to understand that survivors' symptoms or behavioral sequelae often represent coping strategies employed in response to abnormal, traumatic events. These coping mechanisms are used for protection during the abuse or later to guard against feelings of overwhelming helplessness and terror. Although some of these coping strategies may eventually lead to health problems, if symptoms are evaluated outside their original context, survivors may be misdiagnosed or mislabeled (5). 

In addition to the psychologic distress that may potentiate survivors' symptoms, there is evidence that abuse may result in biophysical changes. For example, one study found that, after controlling for history of psychiatric disturbance, adult survivors had lowered thresholds for pain (13). It also has been suggested that chronic or traumatic stimulation (especially in the pelvic or abdominal region) heightens sensitivity, resulting in persistent pain such as abdominal and pelvic pain or other bowel symptoms (14, 15). 

Although responses to sexual abuse vary, there is remarkable consistency in mental health symptoms, especially depression and anxiety. These mental health symptoms may be found alone or more often in tandem with physical and behavioral symptoms. More extreme symptoms are associated with abuse onset at an early age, extended or frequent abuse, incest by a parent, or use of force (4). Responses may be mitigated by such factors as inherent resiliency or supportive responses from individuals who are important to the victim (4). Even without therapeutic intervention, some survivors maintain the outward appearance of being unaffected by their abuse. Most, however, experience pervasive and deleterious consequences (4). 

The primary aftereffects of childhood sexual abuse have been divided into seven distinct, but overlapping categories (16):

  • Emotional reactions
  • Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Self-perceptions
  • Physical and biomedical effects
  • Sexual effects
  • Interpersonal effects
  • Social functioning

Responses can be greatly variable and idiosyncratic within the seven categories. Also, survivors may fluctuate between being highly symptomatic and relatively symptom free. Health care providers should be aware that such variability is normal.


McCauley J, Kern DE, Kolodner K, Schroeder AF, DeChant HK, Ryden J, et al. Clinical characteristics of women with a history of childhood abuse: unhealed wounds. JAMA 1997;277:1362-1368 

Koss MP, Koss PG, Woodruff WJ. Deleterious effects of criminal victimization on women's health and medical utilization. Arch Intern Med 1991;151:342-347 

Drossman DA, Leserman J, Nachman G, Li ZM, Gluck H, Toomey TC, et al. Sexual and physical abuse in women with functional or organic gastrointestinal disorders. Ann Intern Med 1990;113:828-833 

American Medical Association. Diagnostic and treatment guidelines on mental health effects of family violence. Chicago: AMA, 1995 

Hendricks-Matthews M. Long-term consequences of childhood sexual abuse. In: Rosenfeld J, Alley N, Acheson LS, Admire JB, eds. Women's health in primary care. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1997:267-276 

Britton H, Hansen K. Sexual abuse. Clin Obstet Gynecol 1997;40:226-240 

Maltz W. Adult survivors of incest: how to help them overcome the trauma. Med Aspects Hum Sex 1990;24:42-47 

Hendricks-Matthews MK. Caring for victims of childhood sexual abuse. J Fam Pract 1992;35:501-502 

Tjaden P, Thoennes N. Prevalence, incidence, and consequences of violence against women: findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. Research in Brief. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, November 1998, NCJ 172837 

Moore KA, Driscoll A. Partners, predators, peers, protectors: males and teen pregnancy. New data analysis of the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth. In: Not just for girls: the roles of boys and men in teen pregnancy. Washington, DC: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 1997: 7-12 

Schoen C, Davis K, Collins KS, Greenberg L, Des Roches C, Abrams M. The Commonwealth Fund survey of the health of adolescent girls. New York: The Commonwealth Fund, 1997 

Walker EA, Torkelson N, Katon WJ, Koss MP. The prevalence rate of sexual trauma in a primary care clinic. J Am Board Fam Pract 1993;6:465-471 

Scarinci IC, McDonald-Haile J, Bradley LA, Richter JE. Altered pain perception and psychosocial features among women with gastrointestinal disorders and history of abuse: a preliminary model. Am J Med 1994:97:108-118 

Cervero F, Janig W. Visceral nociceptors: a new world order? Trends Neurosci 1992;15:374-378 

Drossman DA. Physical and sexual abuse and gastrointestinal illness: what is the link? Am J Med 1994;97:105-107 

Courtois CA. Adult survivors of sexual abuse. Prim Care 1993;20:433-446

August 16, 2012

About Marital Rape

Know the Facts

  • A marriage license does not require someone to submit to sexual contact on demand.
  • Everyone has the right to say "no" to any kind of sexual contact.
  • Forced sexual contact within a marriage or relationship is no different than if forced by a stranger.
  • Marital rape is agains the law in Illinois.
  • Marital rape is a serious crime.
  • In Illinois, if a person forces his/her spouse to have sexual intercourse without his/her partner's consent, it is sexual assault (rape).
  • A victim of marital rape has the right to report the crime to the police within 30 days of the assault.

Seeking medical and legal help...

Immediate medical attention provides the best medical protection and legal evidence. With your permission, evidence will be collected and other injuries will be documented. Medical attention is confidential and extremely important. Advocates are available to support you through medical procedures.


  • Do not wash.
  • Do not clean up or shower.
  • Do not change clothing.
  • Do not douche.
  • Bring a change of clothing.

Marital rape victims have the option to...

Make a police report. It is the responsibility of the police to obtain basic information and attend to the physical well-being of the victim. Police will arrange transportation to the hospital if treatment is desired. The Community Crisis Center has advocates who will discuss this option with you.

If you don't feel safe making a police report from your home, go somewhere else, such as the police station, hospital or the Community Crisis Center to make your report. You may have an advocate from the Crisis Center assist you in doing this.

Forms of Abuse...

It is wrong for your partner to:

  • Force or pressure you to perform sexual acts against your will.
  • Physically attack the sexual parts of your body.
  • Treat your body like a sex object.
  • Control what you do, who you see and talk to, where you go, etc.
  • Put you down, try to make you feel bad about yourself, call you names, make you think you are crazy.
  • Use expressions, actions, gestures, loud voice, or smash things or destroy property to make you afraid.
  • Make and/or carry out threats to hurt you emotionally. Threaten to report you to welfare, take the children, or commit suicide.
  • Physically hurt you in any way.

Your Rights...

Every person, whether male or female, married or single, has the right to:

  • Refuse requests without having to feel guilty or selfish.
  • Feel and express anger.
  • Have one's own needs be as important as the needs of other people.

In a marriage agreement, each person has the right to:

  • Seek mutually satisfying resolutions to conflict.
  • Define your own sexual limits.
  • Feel safe and comfortable expressing yourself
  • Accept responsibility for yourself and your actions.
  • Acknowledge past use of violence.
  • Admit being wrong.
  • Communicate openly and truthfully.
  • Seek professional assistance.

August 14, 2012

The Grooming Process

The following information is excerpted from the book Identifying Child Molesters:  Preventing Child Sexual Abuse by Recognizing the Patterns of the Offenders, Carla Van Dam, PHD, The Haworth Maltreatment and Trauma Press, 2001.  This book is an excellent source of information, and a summary of the research to date on the issue of identification of child molesters.  It should be used with caution, however, and only with direction from qualified professionals, to avoid overreaction to some of the information in the book.  The following is a brief summary of information about the grooming process.   

In this summary, the molester is referred to in the male gender solely for ease of reference, given the reality that a vast majority of child molesters are male.   

The Grooming Process

Generally, studies show that child molesters go through a “grooming” process, which can sometimes take months or years, in an effort to facilitate their molestations.  The grooming process generally involves the following elements:   

• Sexual attraction to children:  This is a pre-existing condition in the molester, and can occur for many different reasons. 

• Justification of interest:  The molester often goes through a psychological process of justifying the attraction to children.  This is described further below.  Dr. Lamb described this as a process of breaking down the molester’s own psychological boundaries to allow the molestation to occur. 

• Grooming of adult community:  Often the molester will go through a process of getting the adult community that surrounds the child to accept and even welcome the molester’s involvement with the child.  This is also described further below. 

• Grooming of child:  This is a process the molester goes through to break down the child’s resistance to sexual activity and to engage the child in the activity.   


• This process of justifying the behavior is sometimes called neutralization.  This is the psychological effort the molester goes through to justify the behavior to himself, and to break down any emotional barrier in himself which would prevent him from acting upon the sexual attraction to children. 

• Denial of injury:  The molester denies to himself, and perhaps to others, that any injury to the child could occur.  The molester tells himself things like “This is my way of showing love to the child, I don’t want to hurt the child.”  Many molesters lead themselves to believe that they are helping the child by showing love.

• Denial of victimization:  The molester also denies that the child is a victim, instead choosing to view the child as actively wanting to engage in sexual activity. 

• Condemnation of dissension:  Many molesters actively argue against any societal view that child abuse is wrong.  This is the role taken by the North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) referred to by Dr. Lamb. 

• More enlightened viewpoint:  Molesters will often take the position that their view is in fact the more enlightened view, as NAMBLA has done.  

Grooming of The Adult Community 

Child molesters will then ingratiate themselves with the adult community surrounding the child, and break down any barriers that exist to access to the child.  This includes exhibiting behaviors such as : 

• Friendliness

• Ingratiating activity such as doing favors, helping out when no one has asked for help, etc. 

• Targeting vulnerable families, such as those with alcohol problems, or single mothers 

Grooming Children 

The child molester will then groom a particular child using techniques which: 

• Choose the most vulnerable child

• Engage the child in peerlike activities (playing with the children, playing games, etc.)

• Desensitization of child to touching (see below);

• Isolating the child (see below); and

• Making the child feel responsible and thus less likely to disclose the abuse. 

A Vulnerable Child 

A vulnerable child, and thus a child more likely to be a target of abuse, would have one of the following characteristics:   

• Needy (and thus vulnerable to positive attention)

• Quiet (and thus less likely to tell)

• Craves attention (and thus vulnerable to attention)

• Younger (less likely to understand or tell)

• Picked on by other children (and thus needing a friend)

• Low self esteem (and thus vulnerable to the positive reinforcement of the molester)

• Trusting (and thus less likely to understand the danger)

• Compliant (and thus vulnerable to an adult telling them it is okay)

• Eager to please (vulnerable to engaging in activity if they are told it is pleasing to the adult)

• Single mother (thus the child generally needs attention and the mother is grateful for the help)

• Unsupervised (and thus vulnerable to the attention of the molester)


The molester will often go through a process of desensitizing the child to the touch of the molester by engaging in the following types of activity:   

• Tickling games;

• Wrestling;

• Roughhousing;

• Physical-picking up, carrying child, using this as an opportunity to test the child’s reaction to touch;

• Testing child’s reaction slowly---if the child balks at the touch the molester will back off and continue the grooming process

• Testing whether child will tell---if the child tells, the molester will know to move to another child.   

Of course, there may be very innocent explanations for many of the activities noted above.  This list is intended only to generally describe the process of grooming that may be engaged in by a child molester.

Original Article

August 2, 2012

Ten Steps to Healing From Trauma

By Martin V. Cohen, Ph.D.

Whether you have been a crime victim, involved in an accident or natural disaster, or were the victim of childhood abuse, the resulting trauma is similar. Pervasive fear and feelings of helplessness are natural reactions to events you probably had little or no control over. “I was totally traumatized,” and “I thought I was going to die,” are among the most often used phrases used to describe such occurrences. Unfortunately, trauma and the stress that follows, is on the rise at the turn of the new millenium in America.

Fortunately, there are ways to overcome the “aftershocks” of traumatic incidents. A cluster of symptoms consisting of (1) Persistently REEXPERIENCING the event (e.g., flashbacks, nightmares, etc.), (2)AVOIDANCE (e.g., avoiding people, places or activities that trigger memories of what happened) and (3) HYPERAROUSAL (e.g., jumpiness, feeling on edge, irritability, etc.) can be treated effectively with the following steps toward healing this condition. In 22 years of practicing psychotherapy, specializing in treating trauma victims, I’ve seen them work.

1.-- Recognize that your symptoms are normal reactions to abnormal circumstances. Although you may feel like you are out of control or “going crazy,” in reality, you are experiencing what are called post-traumatic stress symptoms.

2.-- Talk about your thoughts, feeling and reactions to the events with people you trust. Then, talk about it some more. Keep talking about it until you have no need to talk about it anymore.

3.--Do whatever it takes to create a feeling of safety and tranquility in your immediate environment. Do you need to sleep with a night light on for awhile? Can you develop a discipline of meditation or listening to soothing music?

4.-- As much and as quickly as possible, resume your normal activities and routines. Traumatic events can throw your life into a state of chaos. The sooner you resume these activities and routines, the more normal your life will feel. Structure can provide feelings of security as you etch your way back to stability.

5.-- You are in a recovery process. Give yourself the proper rest, nutrition and exercise. If you were recovering from the flu you would not forget these health tips. Do the same for yourself as you recover from traumatic stress.

6.-- Take an affirmative action on your behalf. For example, if you were a victim of crime, prosecuting the perpetrator may be an empowering experience. If this is not an option for you, write in your journal. Strike out at the perpetrator with words. Take some action on your behalf.

7.-- Become aware of your emotional triggers and learn to cope with them creatively. You may have a flashback to your trauma by engaging in a similar activity, going to a similar place, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or feeling something that reminds you of the original trauma. One way to cope with this is to recognize that you are experiencing an emotional trigger and engage in positive self-talk (e.g., “This is frightening but I am safe now.”)

8.--Try to find some deeper meaning in what happened to you. True, you were victimized but you can become a survivor. Survivors often find that changes in their outlook on life are possible, even preferable. What have you learned from your traumatic experience? Record these insights in a journal or voice them in a support group that is sympathetic to your situation.

9.-- Seek therapy. Psychotherapy, particularly with a certified EMDR practitioner who specializes in trauma, is often very effective in helping people overcome the aftermath of trauma. If you can’t stop thinking about what happened; if you are always feeling anxious and on guard; if you find yourself avoiding your normal routines or if you are experiencing some of the other symptoms of post-traumatic stress, you can probably benefit from professional help. The EMDR International Association can give you a referral to a certified EMDR practitioner in your area (, telephone (512) 451-5200. If you were a crime victim, most states offer victims assistance to pay for psychotherapy. For more information call the National Organization for Victim Assistance at (202) 232-6682. In California, call the Victims of Crime Program at (800) -VICTIMS (842-8467).

10.-- Be patient with yourself. Healing takes time. Your recovery will have it’s ups and downs. Follow the guidelines in this article and know that you are in a recovery process that will take time.

Remember, you may have been victimized but you do not have to continue being a victim. In this unfortunate case you were rendered helpless but to continue in that status is very limiting. By following the steps outlined above, you will emerge as a survivor. Your traumatic experience can make you a stronger and wiser person. The potential is there for you to learn and grow in ways you may not have considered had the trauma never occurred.

© 2000 Martin V. Cohen, Ph.D.

Original Article

July 20, 2012

Man Accused Of Attempted Murder After Confrontation With Ex-Girlfriend In North Stonington

By SAMAIA HERNANDEZ, smhernandez@courant.comThe Hartford Courant

9:01 p.m. EDT, July 19, 2012


A 48-year-old man who allegedly sent threatening messages to his ex-girlfriend, shot the tires on her car and attempted to shoot another woman was arraigned Thursday on attempted murder and other charges, state police said.

Michael Bailey, of Westerly, R.I., fled after the alleged incidents on Wednesday evening but was located and arrested Wednesday night.

Other charges against him including unlawful discharge of a weapon, reckless endangerment and threatening. Police said he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol while carrying a gun. His bail was set at $1 million.

Bailey allegedly confronted his ex-girlfriend Wednesday evening after he sent a series of threatening text messages. Police said he shot her car's tires and then entered the home, where he allegedly attempted to shoot another woman, police said. An altercation ensued and Bailey fled before officers arrived.

No one was injured.

Original Article

Man beat wife with dog

I pray that Andrea gets the help that she needs while in jail to get away from her abusive husband before there is a next time and it’s her not an animal.

The link between animal abuse and domestic violence is strong, it’s sad to see cases like this that prove it…

Police: Man beat wife with dog

NORTH FULTON COUNTY NEWS 5:02 p.m. Wednesday, July 18, 2012

By David Ibata

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Emmanuel Alfredo Tadeo, 27, of Sandy Springs, faces felony animal cruelty and other charges after police said he used his wife's Pomeranian dog to beat her. Credit: Fulton County jail

Tadeo 2

A couple who lived in the Foxcroft condominiums on Roswell Road in Sandy Springs were both arrested after the husband allegedly used his wife's Pomeranian dog to beat her. Credit: Channel 2 Action News


Andrea Jill Armintrout, of Sandy Springs, was arrested and charged with misdemeanor obstruction after she allegedly refused to cooperate with a police investigation into an incident in which her husband allegedly beat her and killed her dog. Credit: Fulton County jail


A 27-year-old Sandy Springs man who allegedly grabbed his wife's Pomeranian and beat her with the dog was in the Fulton County jail Wednesday facing felony animal cruelty and other charges, Channel 2 Action News reported.

The man's wife also has been arrested and charged with interfering with the police investigation, authorities said. The dog did not survive.

"It is probably one of the worst cases of animal cruelty that we've ever seen," Capt. Steve Rose, spokesman for the Sandy Springs Police Department, told Channel 2.

Emmanuel Alfredo Tadeo was arrested May 20 after officers responded to calls that he allegedly was beating his wife, Andrea Jill Armintrout, in their Foxcroft condominium home on Roswell Road, police said. The man allegedly had been drinking heavily.

"The argument started over him blaming his wife for his misfortunes in life," Rose said.

At some point, Tadeo stomped and kicked the Pomeranian, then grabbed it and swung the animal at his wife, striking her, police said.

"It was a very graphic scene. The dog was dead. The man had not only kicked the dog and stomped on the dog, according to what he said, [he] snapped the dog's neck," Rose said.

Tadeo initially was charged with battery and misdemeanor cruelty to animals, according to Fulton County jail records. He was released June 14 after posting $5,000 bond.

This week, prosecutors upgraded the charges to aggravated assault, aggravated battery, battery and two counts of cruelty to animals, jail records showed. The man was re-arrested Friday and was being held without bond.

Armintrout, meanwhile, also was arrested Friday and charged with one count of misdemeanor obstruction, jail records showed. She was being held on $500 bond Wednesday.

"It makes it harder to understand. You have this cruel act, and the victim who decides not to cooperate," Rose said.

Original Article

Indianapolis police officer faces 30 counts

Why is it the fact that this is a police officer who’s in this kind of trouble surprise anyone?  When are people going to let it sink in that DV can happen to anyone, in any financial status or job?  Which of course means any human being in any job position could have abusive tendencies? 

Indianapolis police officer faces 30 counts

July 19, 2012 3:04PM

NDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indianapolis police officer involved in a four-hour standoff with other officers at a city park faces 30 criminal counts.

Marion County prosecutors on Thursday filed charges including stalking, battery and invasion of privacy against 54-year-old Officer Craig Ratcliff.

Court documents allege Ratcliff harassed a former girlfriend for several months, following her, sending her flowers, phoning her and other things.

Ratcliff held off police on Feb. 14, saying he was upset with a woman over Valentine’s Day. He was carrying a small box of candy, a greeting card and a stuffed animal when he surrendered.

Prosecutors say Ratcliff is being held in a county jail.

An attorney who formerly represented Ratcliff says he doesn’t yet know if he’ll be hired to defend him on the new charges.

Original Article

July 19, 2012

W. Va. sherrif says woman tortured; husband charged

Grabbed this off FB, and agree with the person who posted the information (lost it in the world of FB never to be found again to add here ugh!), so glad that they had the information available to help this woman!!!  If you run a business, do you have emergency numbers or information to help someone in this type of situation?  If you’re a DV organization, have you insured that the area businesses have your information in case needed?  Just food for thought…

Prayers going out to this woman and pray that she receives the help, support and healing that she so deserves!

W.Va. sheriff says woman tortured; husband charged

Published - Jul 11 2012 10:24PM EST

JOHN RABY, Associated Press

Tortured Wife

LEROY, W.Va. (AP) — While her husband returned a rototiller to a West Virginia rental shop, a limping woman sneaked into another part of the building seeking help. Soon, court papers say, she was at a shelter with a horrifying tale: She had been held captive for the better part of a decade — beaten, burned and even shackled during childbirth.

Investigators said they have 45 photographs showing burns on her back and breasts from irons and frying pans, and scars on her wrists and ankles. Now her husband is in jail and authorities are investigating what Jackson County Chief Sheriff's Deputy Tony Boggs called one of the most terrible cases he's seen.

"This appears to go beyond abuse to what I would consider torture," he said Wednesday.

Authorities said Peter Lizon, 37, was in jail Wednesday on $300,000 bond. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Friday on a malicious wounding charge, they said.

The criminal complaint says 43-year-old Stephanie Lizon told another woman at a Parkersburg shelter that her husband smashed her foot with a piece of farm equipment, among other things.

But Shawn Bayliss, Peter Lizon's attorney, said the allegations are "the fabrication of a fertile imagination or a feeble mind, one of the two."

"The alleged victim didn't make these accusations. It was a third party," Bayliss said. " ... Stephanie would say this story is absolutely untrue, and the charges levied against her husband are blatantly false."

He compared it to the childhood game of "telephone," where something whispered from one person to another ultimately bears no resemblance to reality.

"This is a situation where a person has taken a nugget of information, taken an acorn and tried to turn it into a tree," he said. "And the tree won't support this story."

The details of the alleged abuse came out after the wife fled July 2 in Parkersburg, which is located about 75 miles north of the state capital of Charleston.

Stephanie Lizon entered another part of the building while her husband was inside Bosley Rental & Supply and told the staff, "I'm trying to get away from my husband. I just need to hide for a few minutes," one employee told The Associated Press.

The employee declined to give her name, citing concern for her safety and that of her co-workers at the rental shop, located about 45 minutes from the couple's home in Leroy.

In an office, the wife "seemed pretty calm but kept looking out the window to see if he was looking for her," the employee said.

Stephanie Lizon told the staff she didn't want to involve police, but she accepted the number for the domestic violence shelter and called it, the store employee said. She also called family to ask for money, and the employees gave her cash and called a taxi to take her to a Western Union office and the shelter.

The woman was limping and had appeared to have some sort of injury, the store employee said. And while her clothing was clean, she smelled bad. The husband did not come inside looking for his wife and police didn't come until several days later, the employee said.

At the shelter, however, Stephanie Lizon told another woman about the abuse she had suffered at the hands of her husband, a native of the Czech Republic, according to the criminal complaint. The wife said her family was from Alexandria, Va.

Stephanie Lizon's father declined to discuss the case when contacted by The Associated Press. Relatives of her husband didn't immediately return messages.

The complaint provided the following account:

The witness at the shelter described Stephanie Lizon as "gaunt and filthy," and covered in scars, bruises and burns. She had "mutilated and swollen" feet, a scar in the shape of a clothes iron on one breast, and burns on her back that the victim said came from a hot frying pan.

The witness said the wife said she was called a "slave" and ordered to kneel before her husband every time she entered a room. The wife also said she had delivered a fully developed, stillborn child while in shackles, and her husband buried the corpse on their farm.

Another child survived a similar delivery, but Stephanie Lizon said the child had never received medical attention.

Boggs of the sheriff's office said state child-welfare authorities have been notified, but Peter Lizon's attorney said the child — a 1-year-old boy — remains with his mother.

The complaint says investigators confirmed that the wife was treated in the emergency room of St. Joseph's Hospital in June and that photographs were taken at the shelter to document her injuries. A Sunbeam iron was among the items seized during a July 5 search of the couple's home. Lizon was arrested that day.

Outside the couple's house down a narrow gravel road in a hollow in Leroy, about an hour north of Charleston, chickens and young turkeys roamed freely and goats ate away at grass. Only a handful of houses dot the side of the approximately 2-mile-long road, and nobody answered the door at a neighbor's home.

Across the street, signs read "No Trespassing" and "Guard Dog on Duty," although no dog could be seen. One of two brightly colored barrels was filled with dozens of empty bottles of imported beer near a black van with no license plate.

Cliff Boggess, 62, has lived in the area since 2005 and rode his all-terrain vehicle past the home on Wednesday evening. He said he was shocked by the news and said he's never noticed any human activity at the house.

"Nothing. And I guarantee, that's the same answer you'll get from everybody around here," Boggess said. "This guy, whoever he (is), I've never seen him."

Nearby, screen doors were open and music could be heard coming from inside.

A mile up the road, choir practice was in full swing at the Meadow Dale Baptist Church, which only a few days earlier had gotten its electricity back from the June 29 storms that hit much of the state. The church's sign reads, "God cares for us in all of life's storms."

Pastor Mike King said he had just taken over at the church in May. The only news he heard about Lizon was from what he heard on television.

Both Peter and Stephanie Lizon were arrested in Maryland in 2004 and later performed community service for cutting up Bush-Cheney campaign signs with a bayonet. The couple was apparently living in Randallstown, Md., at the time.

Court records also show that Stephanie Lizon was arrested on drug charges a few months later in Baltimore County. She pleaded guilty and got probation.

The West Virginia Division of Corrections said it had no history of criminal actions by either spouse, and Boggs said the sheriff's department had no previous contact with them, either.

Original Article

July 17, 2012

Children and Family Violence: The Unnoticed Victims

Gabrielle M. Maxwell

Office of the Commissioner for Children, New Zealand

Published: May 1994

Copyright © 1994 Gabrielle M. Maxwell

Table of Contents

The assailants, the victims, and the children in the victims' care
How often do children witness the violence?
What the children saw or heard
Who was violent to whom in the presence of children
What happened to the children who watched
What happened afterwards


Current concerns about family violence focus on the women who are usually the victims and the men who are usually the assailants. But children are also part of families where violence is happening. Their lives, too, are being affected. Yet we know surprisingly little about their involvement.

A New Zealand study conducted by the National Collective of Independent Women's Refuges ( 1991 ) suggested that, for women receiving help from refuges, 90% of their children had witnessed violence and 50% of the children had also been physically abused. Overseas research ( Jaffe, 1990 ; 1992 ) also confirms that children are often involved directly and indirectly in family violence and that this is likely to have damaging consequences for them both immediately and in the longer term.

Data recorded by the Hamilton Abuse Intervention Pilot Project (Haipp) offered an opportunity to explore further the involvement of children in incidents of family violence in New Zealand. The procedure in Hamilton is for all incidents reported to the police in that Police District to be also reported to Haipp. When an arrest has been made, the Refuge Crisisline is also contacted by the police. Refuge advocates then visit the victim and a victims' "Advocate Form" is completed and collected by Haipp. The form covers details of the incident, the assailant and the victim, including whether or not children were present, witnessed the violence and were abused themselves. One important use of the information is to make it available to the court advocate. In addition some information is routinely computerised although other information, including that on children, is only recorded in the written files.

From the written files we were able to create a computer database of 528 records of police incidents collected by Haipp between July 1991 and April 1994. This included all police incidents which involved a physical assault involving family or people in a close relationship and on which Haipp Advocate Forms had been collected. From the database it was possible to determine whether or not the victims of family violence had children in their care who were present and who were caught up in the violence; the type of violence that the children witnessed and experienced; and how the children reacted at the time. This paper presents these results, discusses the possible longer term effects of the violence on these children and suggests options for us as a society to protect the children more effectively.

Questions can be raised about the representativeness of the incidents recorded in the database. Haipp Advocate forms were only present for 46% of the police incidents reported to Haipp. The absence of a Haipp Advocate Form could come about because: the woman had left the scene before the advocate arrived; the incident was not notified to the Crisisline at the time and only came to Haipp's attention when the assailant appeared in court, the form was not filled out because information was telephoned directly to the court advocate; the victim did not wish to speak to the advocate; the incident may have been in a remote area outside that in which the advocates were able to operate. In addition, we did not record details unless it was clear that a physical assault or a serious threat had been made. It is not possible to put numbers on the various reasons and hence it is not possible to establish the representativeness of the data. On the other hand, there is little reason to suppose that the reasons that led to victims not being interviewed were related to the nature of the involvement of children, and in this sense the data is likely to be indicative of what might be expected in a more randomly selected sample of police incidents of family violence in New Zealand.


The assailants, the victims, and the children in the victims' care

There was little descriptive data on the assailants. Ethnicity was recorded for 23% and employment for 4%. We have not, therefore, reported any breakdown on these factors because there must be doubt about the reliability of the details. However, all but four of the assailants were male, all but one was over the age of 17, their average age was 31 years and 76% were aged between 20 and 39 years. Furthermore, approximately half (53%) had been convicted previously of an offence involving violence.

The average age of the victims was fairly similar to that of the assailants - 29 years; and 72% were aged between 20 and 39 years. However, twice as many of the victims were under the age of 20 compared with the assailants - 12% of victims but only 6% of assailants - and 3% of the victims were under the age of 17. At least 84% of the victims were female; we do not know the sex of the remaining 16%.

The victim sample was made up of Maori or Pakeha in equal percentages (each group made up 48% of the victim population whose ethnicity was known). This indicates that the victims in this sample are 3 to 4 times as likely to be Maori as would be expected from the 1991 census data on the ethnicity of the population of Hamilton city. However, it is important not to assume from this data that family violence is more likely in Maori families - overseas research ( Sherman, 1992, p. 7 ) suggests that there are considerable differences in the likelihood that the police will become involved in family violence in different groups in the population.

An analysis of the 528 recorded incidents showed that at least 62% of the victims had children under the age of 17 in their care . Those with children had, on average, two each.


How often do children witness the violence?

Analysis of the data clearly established that children were frequently present when family violence occurred. In 58% of all the incidents on which there was information, children were present in the house at the time.

Because many incidents involved victims who had children in their care, these children were very likely to have been present when the incident occurred. The data show that children were present for 79% of the cases in which victims had children in their care. Even when victims did not have children in their care, there were children present in the house during 21% of the incidents. These were most likely to be the siblings of a young victim, the assailant's children or the children of other relatives of the assailant or the victim.

When children were present, they were very likely to witness the violence; 73% did so. Other children who were not actually in the same room would often have heard the screams, the thuds and the shouting that must surely have accompanied the assaults:

He kicked & punched her body, grabbed her by the hair and dragged her around the room. He threatened to harm her family and the baby. She was held down to the ground while he slapped and punched her face. He came to the house and broke down the door and threatened the woman. She was punched and kicked. He threatened to hit her with a piece of four by two. He threatened to take the baby.

Some of the comments confirmed that the children did indeed hear what happened even when they did not watch it:

The child, aged 7 years, woke twice and was very frightened. The children heard what happened and the things he was saying about them. The children were in and out of the room. The daughter went to help her mother but he told the kids to get out. The children were in the back room. The 12 year old heard the noise and rang the police.

Afterwards, the children who did not actually see what had happened, would have seen the injuries: When the victim's cousin, a child, saw the injuries he was afraid and went home.

In some cases very young babies were in the room. It is not possible to judge the extent to which they would have been affected, but in several examples they were in a crib in the same room as the victim, or in the victim's arms, while the assault was occurring.


What the children saw or heard

Most of the violence that occurred when children were present did not involve objects or weapons - the violence came directly from hands, fists, feet, heads, teeth and bodies (84%). However, 10% of the incidents did involve objects which were used to hit or to throw at the victim. Sometimes the objects seemed like natural weapons: bottles, belts, the hoses of vacuum cleaners and so on. But often they were everyday household articles which were handy at the time: eggs, a plastic vegetable rack, plates, and even a stuffed toy. A minority of the assaults involved weapons: knives or an axe were used, usually to threaten rather than to cut, by 4%, and the use of a gun was threatened in 1% of cases.

The degree of violence was by no means trivial. Table 1 below sets out a classification of the different types of assaults in cases where children witnessed the attack.

Table 1. Table 1: Types of assaults witnessed by children: percentages (N=188)


Percentage(%) Types of Assault
1 Sexual attack
10 Hitting or throwing things at
13 Kicking
27 General attack
34 Punching
7 Pushing and shoving
5 Slapping
5 Threats

Threats were the least obviously injurious but these threats were almost always very drastic: usually a threat to kill or to damage severely. Sometimes they were made or backed up by the display of objects, knives or guns. Slapping or pushing and shoving were the most prominent methods in a number of the incidents to which police were called; in some of these cases there were no visible injuries but in others the women were severely bruised and hurt by being knocked to the ground or against the furniture. Punching was the most frequent method of assault and the results in many of these cases were moderately serious. The next most frequent category was that of general attack, which usually included a range of methods such as pushing, knocking over, dragging along the ground, slamming the victim against a wall or other object, threatening, jumping on the victim and punching or slapping; in many of these cases the injuries were quite severe. Kicking, sometimes accompanied by punching and other forms of attack, often led to severe injuries, especially when the assailant wore steel-capped boots. Only 10% of the victims were hit with objects or had objects thrown at them, in contrast to the 85% who were attacked with hands, feet, heads and bodies. And finally there were a small number of cases which included a sexual assault.

The very brief categorisation above of the assaults gives some indication of their severity; but even more vivid are the full accounts which sometimes ran to several pages. We summarised the accounts in order to fit them into one and a half lines on our computer. Below are some of these summaries. The cases that have been selected are neither the mildest nor the most severe but rather those that are typical:

He hit her with the steel table leg over the body and punched her in the face and head. Pushing her with his hand around her throat, he kept on punching her. She was fist punched, backhanded, pushed against the wall and he attempted to strangle her. Knocked on the floor, kicked in the head, pushed over. Then he pulled a knife and threatened to kill her. He slapped her several times, twisted her arm, pushed her against the cupboards and threatened to break her arm. Picked her up and threw her at the wall and the fridge eight times. Hit her with a cupboard and threatened her with a gun. He threw a chair at her, smashed her into a wall. Then he threw vacuum cleaner pieces at her. Kicked her in the back, punched her face, threw her against a wall and attempted to strangle her.Dragged her around the house by the hair, banged her head on the floor, punched her in the face, grabbed her head and slammed it against the towel rail.

These were traumatic scenes for children to be watching. And in the days following the violence, the children in the victim's care would have seen the impact on their caregiver of the injuries that had been sustained.

Table 2. Table 2: Types of injuries sustained by the victims and the part of the body injured: percentages (N=476)


Percentage Type of Injury
3 Fracture
3 Cut requiring stitches
1 Teeth broken or knocked out
0.5 Rendered unconscious
7 Black eyes
61 Bruises, laceration, redness, swelling etc.
26 No visible injuries

Table 3. Part of body injured (N= 345 visibly injured victims)


Percentage Body parts
80 Head (or head and other parts)
10 Body (or body and limbs)
10 Limbs only

The above table shows that a quarter of the victims reported no visible injuries, but 61% reported being left with visible marks in the form of cuts, bruises, lacerations, swelling and redness. The remainder reported more serious injuries, in the form of black eyes (7%), or damaged teeth, stitches and/or fractures (another 7%). It is noticeable that most of the reported injuries (80%) were to the head, neck and face, so that they would have been very visible. Only 20% of the visible injuries were confined to the body and limbs. The pattern of injuries reported was the same regardless of whether or not children were present or watching.

The reality behind the statistics presented in the above table was detailed on the files:

She had a dislocated jaw, lumps on the head, a broken cartilage on her ear, bruised arms and sore ribs. Two black eyes and a cut above the eye. Bruises on her face and stitches in her head. A black eye, a split lip, a bruised body and lumps on the head.Bruising and teethmarks on her face. A swollen face and red marks around her neck. Damaged wrist, lacerations, swollen hand and twisted neck.

For some of the children, this would not have been the first time they had seen family violence. The records show that for 16% of the assailants there had been a previous violent incident reported to Haipp. Comments recorded on the Haipp Advocate Form sometimes referred to other incidents:

The children have witnessed me being hit before and they have been affected by the emotional and mental abuse. My daughter has witnessed other assaults.

Sometimes these previous incidents had involved a child rather than an adult as the victim:

The baby was hospitalised before with brain injuries from an assault.


Who was violent to whom in the presence of children

Most of the children on whom there was information watched an incident in which either the victim or the assailant was their mother or father or in which both of their parents were involved (93%). Another three percent watched a brother or sister being assaulted. The remaining four percent had different relationship to the victim or assailant; for instance: grandchildren, nephew, neighbour, and so on.

In the cases where the children watched one or the other of their parents attacking or being attacked, the relationship between the pair is described in Table 3.

Table 4. Table 3: Relationship between victim and assailant in cases where the victim and/or assailant's child or children was present: percentages (N=250)


Percentage Relationship
27 Married
36 Partners
63 Total in a current live-in relationship
4 Previously married
13 Previously partnered

Total in a live-in relationship previously


3 Previously boyfriend/girlfriend
11 Total previous or current non live-in relationship
1 Father attacking his child
2 Son attacking his mother
4 A relative attacking another
3 Other relationships

The table shows how close the relationship was between the assailant and the victim. In 63% of the incidents, the children were present during an assault involving both their caregivers. In 17% of cases there had been a close live-in relationship between the assailant and victim previously. Another 11% of the children, although not watching both their caregivers, were watching a couple who were involved in a non live-in romantic relationship. Together these relationships accounted for 90% of the incidents.

In the remaining 10% of the incidents the children who were present watched their fathers attack their siblings, their siblings attack their mothers or one of their parents attacking or being attacked by another relative or friend.


What happened to the children who watched

Unfortunately the files do not tell us much about the reactions of the children; but the brief comments that were made provided some insight into what probably happened in most of the cases.

The first thing to note is that there was not a single record which suggested that the child witnesses endorsed, joined in or applauded the violence. Where comments were made on the emotional reactions of the children, distress and fear were almost universally recorded:

Children very upset and crying. Children yelling; crying for the assailant to stop ; 9 year old boy yelling leave my mum alone; 3 year old calling out "Mum! Dad! Mum! Dad!" The 2 year old was very distressed; screaming and crying. When the daughter found her mother [lying unconscious] she was afraid and tried to waken her mother.

In 15% of the cases when children were present, the children were recorded as having actively attempted to prevent what was happening. Some (6%) tried to get help:

The 14 year old was told to get out of house last night and ran to the neighbours for help. The 7 year old was screaming for her father to stop and the 14 year old ran away to get help. The 5 year old called the police and described the assault to them.

Some (10%) tried actively to intervene to protect the victim or to prevent further harm:

The 14 year old tried to intervene, crying, and the 18 year old also tried to stop what was happening. The 5 year old was crying and yelling for him to leave mum alone. This child had also been assaulted previously by the assailant. The 7 year old jumped on the assailant's back telling him to stop and then ran next door and called the police. The small child was crying and punching the assailant's back saying: "Leave Mummy alone". The children were all crying and their mother was scared for her daughter because the daughter tried to help her.

And some of those who tried to intervene, or even just cried out, were also abused either verbally or physically:

The child screamed and was hit by the assailant. The 2 oldest children tried to intervene and were shouted at and threatened. He threatened the 5 year old with the death of his mother. The children were scared and ran outside. The son [14 years] tried to intervene but was also whacked and pushed. The victim's son [the assailant] picked up a hockey stick and hit his brother on the shoulder when the younger boy tried to intervene. When the son intervened the assailant took him to the washhouse and gave him a hiding. A brother of the 14 year old victim got punched when he tried to intervene.

Sometimes the children seem to have been hurt almost accidentally or as a side product of the attack on another victim:

The chair missed the mother and hit the baby. The baby who was in the mother's arms got hit instead sometimes. The 6 year old boy was screaming and saying: "Don't hurt my mummy". The baby was screaming and so the assailant pushed a toy panda down on the baby. The assailant threw a wooden cot at the baby and knocked the 14 year old to the ground.

The injuries for these children who became caught up in the violence were sometimes life threatening:

The baby was pulled from the mother, dropped on the floor and punched. It was later hospitalised with a fractured skull.

In another case, the threat to a child seemed potentially very dangerous:

He had a rope around the 2 year old's neck connected to the ceiling while he punched the mother around the head and body [he has sole custody of the children].

Altogether, in 16% of the incidents on which there were records of children being present, the children too became victims of the physical violence. In a few cases (3%), the principal object of the violence was a child. The descriptions below outline some of the attacks that were made on children:

Hit with a belt for an hour; massive bruising to the bodies of the children. Hit 12 year old child in the face with a tent pole; broken cheekbone, chipped teeth, stitched face and cut mouth. 14 year old - punched around head and body; bruised head and leg, redness and soreness. 5 year old was hit around the leg with the jug cord, punched in the face and threatened to harm; there were welts on the legs and a bruised cheek.

In at least 30 cases (6% of those where children were present) a pregnant woman was the victim. In 5 of these cases the assault seemed directed, at least in part, toward the unborn child. For example:

She was hit with the fist in the body and stomach. He punched her head, kicked her abdomen, bit her hand and hit her on the head with a handbag. He put her in a headlock and squeezed her stomach. He grabbed her, punched her face and legs, delivered body slaps to her stomach, shoved her and threatened to kill her babies and her; she sustained facial swelling, bruising, a lump on the head and bruised legs and stomach.

And in one case the file noted that the pregnant victim had already miscarried once after a previous beating. A later incident involving the same people was noted in the Haipp files and this time, although the second pregnancy should have resulted in a birth by that date, no children were recorded as being in the care of the woman.


What happened afterwards

The violence is only the first part of the incident. Police attended all these scenes, so that the children were likely to have also watched their parents, whether victims or assailants, being interviewed by the police. In 93% of cases the assailants were arrested and taken into police custody. Most of them were later sentenced in court: 14% were given a sentence of imprisonment, 48% received community sentences or monetary penalties and another 24% were given suspended sentences. In addition to these penalties, involvement in a Haipp programme was a condition of their sentence for 62% .

The victims went to the doctor to have their injuries attended in 30% of cases. And in 10% of cases women went to a refuge. All these events are likely to have affected the children in a variety of ways and in different degrees.



Family violence is usually seen as occurring between men and women in intimate relationships. The reality is in many cases more complex. The data recorded on the Haipp files paints a vivid picture of the extent to which children are intimately involved with family violence The two principals involved in the incidents were often parents who were caring for children (in at least 62% of incidents in the sample the victim was a parent of children under 17). Children were present in the house while the violence was occurring in 87% of the incidents in which their parent was the victim. They usually witnessed the violence, or at least heard it. The beatings often occurred to the punctuation of screams and cries from frightened children.

Sometimes the children became directly involved in the incident by trying to intervene (10%) or by seeking help (6%). And, in nearly one in 5 incidents, the children were themselves the targets either principally or as well: unborn children were attacked as they lay in their mothers womb, babies were punched by mistake or thrown from their mother's arms, children were belted and punched and threats were made to take them away or to hurt them.

As well as this direct involvement, the children are likely to be affected by what they see and hear. Over and above the immediate fear of being in a violent situation, there are a number of other elements that may create conflict for the children. First, the children are watching at least one of their parents act violently or being the target of violence. When both caregivers are involved there must be a conflict between the child's loyalty to the assailant and to the victim. Second, regardless of loyalties, the children are faced with the practical question of what should they do about the violence. Third, the child is seeing violence portrayed as part of a close sexual relationship between adults. These experiences are likely to have a powerful effect on the child's developing understanding of intimate adult life and the role of violence in human relationships. Nor can one feel much more sanguine about the impact on the children who witnessed the other assaults.

What will be the future of children whose vivid early memories of close human relationships enshrine violence and victimisation? Overseas research ( Jaffe et al, 1992 reviews much of this work) increasingly suggests that children who have witnessed family violence demonstrate adjustment difficulties in a number of areas including health problems, cognitive deficits, adolescent hostility and aggression and difficulties in adult relationships with the opposite sex. Research ( Straus and Gelles, 1990 , Jaffe et al, 1990 and 1992)) also suggests that these are the children who are likely to grow up to fight and bully their peers, to beat their wives and to commit violent crimes; or, especially if they are female, who are likely to acquiesce in victimisation and accept violence from their friends and partners.

The data described in this paper come from records of incidents that came to police attention because of a primary focus on men's violence towards women. The fact that there were so many cases where the violence towards children during these incidents remained in the background, raises the question of how much more violence towards children goes unrecorded. Certainly it seems reasonable to assume from this data that, despite the growing awareness of the need to call the police when men hit women, there is not the same recognition of the need to call the police when children are the victims. To beat or belt a child, or even to punch them, is still seen by many as a legitimate part of parenting. A recent study from this Office ( Maxwell, 1993 ) showed that 2% of a random sample of over 300 current parents said that they had given their child "a really severe thrashing" and 11% reported that they had "hit with a strap, stick or something similar". Such behaviour is likely to continue to be seen as acceptable parenting rather than violence towards children so long as it is supported by the fact that Section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961 exempts from a charge of assault parents who use "reasonable force" towards their children.

Not only is there too little information in New Zealand on the incidence and prevalence of family violence that involves children, but we also know too little of the impact that family violence has on children who are caught up in it. Locally the only research on the effects on children of involvement in family violence comes from a recent thesis by Tanya Pocock ( 1994 ), which compares children in refuges with children who are not.

Although research is needed, the information that is already available clearly establishes that a problem exists. It is time to include children in policies about family violence.

If New Zealand is to assert the importance of laying charges when women are assaulted, the police should equally be required to lay charges when children have been assaulted. Here, the problem may be in part one of awareness. Routine inquiries by police who attend incidents of family violence about whether or not any children have also suffered from the violence may lead to better protection of children; especially if the police are also required to act on any case where there is evidence of violence towards children.

Domestic Protection orders are currently available only to those in a spousal relationship (although a woman's children may also be named on protection orders). Restraining orders are available under the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989 to protect children but they are not readily available on the first occasion an incident of violence involving a child is reported. Alterations to the Domestic Protection Act which are currently being considered could protect children in families where violence has occurred or been threatened and orders to protect children could be made available on an ex parte basis in the same way as they are available to an adult partner ( Office of the Commissioner for Children, 1994 ). Further, the police should be included as a party able to make application for orders for the protection of a child where there are grounds to believe that the child may be in danger.

At present, custody orders can be made without those conducting inquiries being required to ascertain whether or not there has been a history of violence in the relationship between the adults and the children involved - these practices should be reviewed. Recently Justice Sir Ronald Davison ( 1994 ) has proposed that a primary concern in all dealings with situations where family violence has occurred should be - are the children safe? He specifically proposes that a parent who has used violence against a spouse should not be granted custody or unsupervised access until they can show that the child will be safe with them. Other North American jurisdictions are currently considering or have developed codes that include a concern for the potential physical danger to children ( Hart, 1992 ). Such proposals deserve consideration in relation to Family Court proceedings and in relation to all other inquiries about the placement of children.

It is time, therefore, to ensure that New Zealand takes the same steps and makes the same provisions to ensure the safety of children in homes where there is family violence, that it has put in place to protect the safety of women. And it is time to examine issues of safety from violence for all children for whom a change of placement, custody or access is being considered.

Note: Since this paper was written New Zealand has developed new legislation which provides for domestic protection orders for children and defines violence to include psychological violence including allowing children to witness violence. New police policy is also being developed to encompass responses to potential child witnesses. Children who experience or witness violence will be referred to state funded funded programs. Further research is ongoing.


Davison, R (1994) Report of Inquiry into Family Court Proceedings Involving Christine Madeline Marion Bristol and Alan Robert Bristol: an unpublished report to the Minister of Justice.

Gelles, Richard (1988) Violence and Pregnancy: Are Pregnant Women at Greater Risk of Abuse? In: Journal of Marriage and the Family; 50(3), 841-847.

Hart, Barbara (1992) State Codes on Domestic Violence. National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.

Jaffe, P.G., Sudermann, M. and Reitzel, D. (1992) Child Witnesses of Marital Violence. In Assessment of Family Violence: Clinical and Legal Courtbook. Eds: Ammermand, R.T. & Hersen, M. Wiley, New York.

Jaffe, P.G., Wolfe, D.A. and Wilson, S.K. (1990) Children of Battered Women. Sage Publications.

Lovell, R and Norris, M. (1990) One in Four: Offending from Age Ten to Twenty-four in a Cohort of New Zealand Males. Department of Social Welfare, Wellington, New Zealand.

Maxwell, Gabrielle M. (1993) Physical Punishment in the Home in New Zealand. Occasional Paper No. 2, Office of the Commissioner for Children, Wellington.

National Collective of Independent Women's Refuges (1991) Treasure the Child: Children Living Without Violence. Published by the National Collective of Independent Women's Refuges, Wellington.

Office of the Commissioner for Children (1994) Comment from the Office of the Commissioner for Children in response to "Domestic Protection Act 1982: A Discussion Paper". Unpublished submission to the Department of Justice.

Pocock, T (1994) Unpublished thesis. Masters degree in Psychology, University of Auckland, 1994.

Sherman, L. W. (1992) Policing Domestic Violence: Experiments and Dilemmas. Open University Press.

Straus M.A. and Gelles R.J. (1990) Physical Violence in American Families. Transaction Publishers. New Brunswick.

Original Article

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July 16, 2012

Recommendations to Improve the Criminal Justice Response to Child Victims and Witnesses

Breaking the Cycle of Violence:
Recommendations to Improve the Criminal Justice Response to Child Victims and Witnesses

June 1999

U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
810 Seventh Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20531

Janet Reno
Attorney General

Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Deputy Attorney General

Raymond C. Fisher
Associate Attorney General

Laurie Robinson
Assistant Attorney General

Noel Brennan
Deputy Assistant Attorney General

Kathryn M. Turman
Acting Director, Office for Victims of Crime

Office of Justice Programs
World Wide Web Homepage:

Office for Victims of Crime
World Wide Web Homepage:

For grant and funding information contact:
Department of Justice Response Center

NCJ #176983

The Office for Victims of Crime is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which
also includes the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the
National Institute of Justice, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.


Message from the Director   ii

Executive Summary   iii

Children as Victims and Witnesses   1
    Prevalence   1
    Invisible Victims: Children Who Witness Violence   1
    Long-Term Impact of Victimization and Witnessing Violence   3

Child Victims and Witnesses in the Criminal Justice System   4
    A System Designed for Adults   5

What Works: Innovative Practices and Programs   6
    Specialization and Training of Criminal Justice Professionals   7
    Use of Child Interview Specialists   8
    Interacting with Children Who Witness Domestic Violence   9
    Multidisciplinary Initiatives   10
    Children's Advocacy Centers   11
    Child Death Review Teams   11
    Child Development - Community Policing   12
    Legal Representation for Child Victims   13
    Reform of Juvenile/Family Court Handling of Child Abuse and Neglect Cases   13
    Use of Victim Assistance Professionals   14
    Preparing Children for Court: Court School Programs   14
    Special Courtroom Accommodations   15
    Victim Impact Statements: In a Child's Words   17

Recommendations for Improving the Response to Children Exposed to Violence   18
    Recommendations for All Criminal Justice Professionals   18
    Specific Recommendations for Law Enforcement Agencies   18
    Specific Recommendations for Prosecutors' Offices   19
    Specific Recommendations for Criminal Court Judges and Administrators   19

Conclusion   20

Resources for Information and Training   21

Innovative Programs   22

References   23

Message from the Deputy Attorney General

Some of the most important cases investigators, prosecutors, and judges will handle during the course of their careers are those involving child victims and witnesses. The stakes are incredibly high. What happens to these children has a significant impact both on individual children and on the overall safety and well-being of communities.

Children who are victims of or witnesses to violent crime are at an increased risk for delinquency, adult criminality, and violent behavior. National studies have shown that being abused or neglected as a child increases the likelihood of arrest as a juvenile by 53 percent and of arrest for a violent crime as an adult by 38 percent.1 It also places children at significant risk for substance abuse, mental illness, and suicide. Witnessing family violence appears to have both short- and long-term effects on children. Intervening in the lives of victimized children before negative patterns of behavior, low self-esteem, and damaged character are established may be the only real opportunity to prevent future violence in our streets and in our homes.

If the criminal justice system does not take victimization of children seriously, it is unrealistic to expect our communities to view crimes against children as a serious problem. Children need to know that their lives and well-being are critically important to our society. Children need to know that their safety is a priority. Perpetrators need to know that their actions will have severe consequences.

To respond effectively to child victims and witnesses, those of us in the criminal justice system must learn to do things differently. Being involved in a case as a victim or witness is intimidating and stressful for adults; children find it even more terrifying. We must adapt our practice to meet the needs of child victims and witnesses in an age-appropriate and sensitive manner. Doing so will make the process less traumatic for children, will enhance the ability of the child to participate effectively, and will increase the chances of a successful outcome to the investigation and prosecution.

Over the last decade, police departments, prosecutors' offices, and courts have developed extraordinary innovations. This monograph attempts to describe the best practices and programs that focus on the response to child victims and witnesses. We hope it will serve as a blueprint for policymakers and criminal justice professionals who recognize the importance of intervening effectively in the lives of victimized children as a way to prevent future crime and violence.

Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Deputy Attorney General


Kathryn M. Turman
Acting Director, Office for Victims of Crime

1 Widom, C.S., "The Cycle of Violence," (Research in Brief), National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, 1992.

Executive Summary

Children represent one-quarter of American crime victims. They suffer abuse at the hands of their parents and caretakers; they are victimized by strangers; they are exposed to violence when they witness crimes in their homes and neighborhoods. Children have a limited capacity to understand the violence they experience and almost no capacity to protect themselves. They need to be treated with compassion and professionalism by criminal justice personnel from the first response to the crime and throughout the prosecution process. Effective, age-appropriate interaction and practices adapted to the child can reduce the trauma child victims and child witnesses experience and minimize their long-term physical, emotional, and social problems. This monograph offers recommendations and sample practices that can improve the response of criminal justice personnel to children who are victims of and witnesses to crime.

Child victims and child witnesses provide our society and our judicial system with a huge challenge. Children who are victims of or witnesses to violent crime are at an increased risk for delinquency, adult criminality, and violent behavior. National studies show that neglected, abused, and otherwise victimized children grow up to have an increased risk of criminal behavior, substance abuse, mental illness, and suicide. If our criminal justice system can intervene effectively in the lives of victimized children as soon as the crime occurs, we have a real opportunity to prevent the spawning of future violence in our streets and in our homes.

By taking the victimization of children seriously, we teach our communities to view crime against children as the serious problem that it is. We also teach perpetrators that their actions will result in severe consequences. To effectively pursue and prosecute the offenders in cases involving child victims and child witnesses, investigators, prosecutors, and judges must adapt their practices to meet the needs of these children in an age-appropriate and sensitive manner. Reducing trauma to the child increases the child's participation, leading to an increased chance of a successful outcome to the investigation and prosecution.

After outlining the challenges the criminal justice system faces in responding to child victims and child witnesses, this monograph presents model practices and makes several recommendations. To improve their response to child victims and child witnesses, this monograph offers specific recommendations to law enforcement personnel, prosecutors, and criminal court judges and administrators. However, the following five recommendations are offered to all criminal justice professionals to improve their response to children exposed to violence:

  • To ensure the earliest possible recognition and reporting of crimes against children, all criminal justice professionals who come in contact with children should be: 1) trained to identify children who are exposed to violence as victims or witnesses and 2) informed of the impact of victimization on children.
  • Criminal justice professionals assigned to handle cases involving child victims and child witnesses should have more indepth training in forensic interviewing, child development, identification of abuse-related injuries, the emotional and psychological impact of abuse, and legal issues related to child victims and witnesses.
  • Children who witness violence should be provided the same level of victim assistance and special protections within the criminal and juvenile justice systems as child victims.
  • Criminal justice agencies handling cases involving children as victims and witnesses should work in collaboration with other agencies having responsibility for at-risk children, such as family and juvenile courts, social services agencies, medical and mental health providers, and victim services agencies. When multiple agencies are involved in a child's life, communication among professionals is critical to ensure complete and accurate information is available to decision makers to ensure the child is adequately protected.
  • Criminal justice professionals should adapt their practice to recognize the developmental stages and needs of child victims and witnesses to ensure they are sensitively treated throughout the investigative and trial process.

This monograph describes the best practices and programs that focus on the most effective response to child victims and child witnesses by all those who work in our criminal justice system, beginning at the crime scene and continuing through the prosecution. We hope that the information, skills, programs, and practices described in this document will serve as a blueprint for policymakers, criminal justice professionals, and all those who recognize the importance of effective intervention in the lives of victimized children as a way to prevent future crime and violence.

Children as Victims and Witnesses

"In all the wide-ranging discussions about crime over the last few years, there is an important fact that is not often recognized or talked about: Children and youth are substantially more vulnerable to crime victimization in general than are adults. Not just more likely to be offenders, young people are also more likely, much more likely, to be victims."2 Young people, particularly teens, commit about 18 percent of crime but make up about 25 percent of victims. Annually, an estimated 1 million violent crimes involving child victims are reported to the police, and another 1.1 million cases of child abuse are substantiated by child protection agencies. As many as half a million children may be encountered by police during domestic violence arrests. Of the nation's 22.3 million adolescents aged 12 to 17, approximately 1.8 million reported having been victims of a serious sexual assault, 3.9 million reported having been victims of a serious physical assault, and almost 9 million reported having witnessed serious violence during their lifetimes.3

It appears that all children, regardless of race or social class, are victimized at higher rates than adults in both urban and rural areas. Children are more vulnerable because of their size, age, and dependency status. Children have little or no control over who lives in their home or who associates with members of the household. Certain children are targeted more frequently, including those labeled "bad kids"; shy, lonely, and compliant children; preverbal and very young children; and emotionally disturbed or "needy" adolescents. Children with physical, emotional, or developmental disabilities are particularly vulnerable to victimization.

Children are victimized in multiple ways - sexual and physical assaults, sexual exploitation (such as forcing a child or teenager into prostitution or posing for pornography), neglect, homicide, and abduction. Their assailants are frequently their parents but may be other family members, friends, acquaintances, caretakers, and strangers. The closer the relationship of the child to the offender, the stronger the feelings of betrayal, particularly as time goes by. The longer the abuse continues, the more difficult it is for the victim to recover.

2 Finkelhor, D., Ph.D., "Children as Victims of Crime and Violence," Congressional Briefing, July 14, 1998.

3 Kilpatrick, D., and Saunders, B., "Prevalence and Consequences of Child Victimization," Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, Medical University of South Carolina, Research in Brief, National Institute of Justice, 1997.

Invisible Victims: Children Who Witness Violence

In this country, children witness violent crimes on a daily basis, including homicide, rape, assault, and domestic violence. Even when child witnesses do not suffer physical injury, the emotional consequences of viewing or hearing violent acts are severe and long-lasting. In fact, children who witness violence often experience many of the same symptoms and lasting effects as children who are victims of violence themselves, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Although child witnesses to violent crimes are often on the scene when police respond, investigators may overlook both the child's ability to provide information and the child's trauma from witnessing the violence. Adults often minimize or deny the presence of children at the scene while crimes are occurring. However, when children are questioned later about events they witnessed or heard, they are able to provide, depending on their stage of development, a detailed description of the events.4 It is not uncommon for adults - even some mental health professionals - to minimize the impact on children of witnessing violence and fail to provide appropriate intervention. Caretakers may mistakenly believe that young children will "forget" about the violent event if they are "left alone" and not reminded of it. On the contrary, children need to talk about what they saw and their perceptions of the consequences. Further, child victims and witnesses need to be free from intimidation and persuasion aimed at pressuring them to change their description of events.

While exact numbers are not available, it is clear that each year hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of children witness domestic violence and are present in many domestic violence incidents to which police agencies respond. It is estimated that physical abuse of children occurs in between a third and half of domestic violence situations involving abuse of the mother. Children who are present during domestic violence are at an increased risk for being murdered or physically injured. Children who are exposed to domestic violence experience feelings of terror, isolation, guilt, helplessness, and grief. Many children exhibit psychosomatic complaints such as headaches, stomach problems, and other medical problems. Children can experience problems with depression, anxiety, embarrassment, and, if exposed to violence for an extended period of time, ambivalence. Children act out what they see; their demonstration of violent behavior can be a manifestation of their exposure to domestic violence.5

Approximately 34 percent of rapes are estimated to occur in the victim's home where children are likely to be present to see or hear the sexual assault of their mothers or caretakers. Depending on the age of the children and their knowledge of sexual activity, their perceptions of the assault and their reactions will vary significantly. Children who are present during a sexual assault are at significant risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder. Children may have recurrent and intrusive thoughts about the sexual assault and may reenact the event in repetitive play. Feeling a loss of control and the inability to protect their mothers may leave children feeling anxious, depressed, vulnerable, and angry. After witnessing a sexual assault, children may become more concerned with their own safety and may exhibit more anger and irritability than prior to the assault.6

Children witness many different types of homicide. They may witness the death of a sibling, parent, another relative, a friend, or a stranger. When a child witnesses the fatal abuse of a sibling or parent, it is highly probable that the child knows the perpetrator intimately as a parent or other family member. A child who witnesses a homicide is likely to be traumatized and may experience a range of grief responses. The child may have recurrent and intrusive thoughts about the homicide, traumatic or anxiety-provoking dreams, other sleep disturbances, and a diminished interest in activities.

4 Christianson, S. A., "Emotional Stress and Eyewitness Memory: A Critical Review," Psychological Bulletin, vol. 112, 1992.

5 Rhea, M. H., Chafey, K. H., Dohner, V. A., and Terragno, R., "The Silent Victims of Domestic Violence - Who Will Speak?" Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, vol. 9, no. 3, 1996.

6 Pynoos, R. S. and Nader, K., "Children Who Witness the Sexual Assaults of Their Mothers," Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, vol. 27, 1988.

Long-Term Impact of Victimization and Witnessing Violence

Exposure to violence as a victim or witness poses a serious threat to American children. In 1992, the National Institute of Justice released a report, "The Cycle of Violence," by Cathy Spatz Widom, University of Albany, New York. The reported study revealed a significant link between victimization in childhood and later involvement in violent crimes, revealing a cycle of violence. Those who had been abused or neglected as children were more likely to be arrested as juveniles and as adults for violent crimes. On average, abused and neglected children begin committing crimes at younger ages, they commit nearly twice as many offenses as nonabused children, and they are arrested more frequently. Widom also interviewed a large number of people 20 years after their childhood victimization. Findings from this follow-up study suggest that the long-term consequences of childhood victimization may also include mental health problems, educational difficulties, alcohol and drug abuse, and employment problems.

Saunders and Kilpatrick found that approximately 2 million adolescents, ages 12-17, appear to have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - a long-term mental health condition characterized by depression, anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares, and other behavioral and physiological symptoms. A significant number of these adolescents abuse alcohol and drugs as a method of coping with PTSD. Estimates are that 25 percent of disabled adults were disabled as a result of physical or sexual victimization. In younger children, victimization and PTSD can derail normal mental, emotional, and physical development.

Since trauma in children may not be revealed for months or years, caretakers, service providers, and support persons should not postpone reporting abuse or providing assistance in the form of support or therapy because they feel the child is "too young" to understand, appears to be unaffected, or suffered the victimization years ago. While a child's traumatic reaction to victimization cannot be prevented, it can be minimized when assistance is provided quickly.

Children who are victims of or witnesses to violence need to be identified quickly and their continued safety ensured. They need to be able to communicate what happened and to have the reality of their experience validated. Child victims and witnesses need emotional support from nonoffending family members, their caretakers, the school, and the professionals involved in any investigation or civil or criminal case. Child victims need age-appropriate therapeutic services from mental health professionals who have training and experience working with violent victimization and traumatized children.

Not all children who are exposed to violence develop symptoms associated with the trauma. Many children, supported by nonoffending family members and other support systems, can be very resilient. The criminal justice response can be a critical turning point in defining how experiencing violence will impact a child's life.

Child Victims and Witnesses in the Criminal Justice System

Child victims and witnesses face some difficult issues that may impact their ability to participate effectively in the criminal justice process. First, children are just that - children. The way they understand, communicate, and participate is determined by their developmental status. The adult professionals working with children must be able and willing to adjust their approach to the child's developmental level. Since most law enforcement officers and prosecutors are not child development specialists, it becomes critical to do two things - to involve other professionals who can provide advice and assistance in dealing with children and to give police and prosecutors enough training to provide them a basic understanding of child development.

If the perpetrator is a family member, child protective services and the dependency court are likely to become involved. Disclosure of abuse or violence can result in total upheaval of the child's life. Caregivers and parents often initially disbelieve the child, minimize the acts, or withdraw affection. The suspected abuser may be arrested, causing havoc in the family, including loss of financial support and recriminations from family members. The child may be removed from the home and placed in foster care. Social service and legal system responses may feel like punishment to the child, prompting the child to recant the disclosure. A child victim may have tried to report previously but the report was not documented. The child may have been threatened with personal harm, harm to a loved one, or public embarrassment.

Children are more likely than adult victims to blame themselves, particularly when they have a close bond with the abuser. Perpetrators often tell their child victims that the abuse or violence was the child's fault. Since adults are powerful authority figures, the child is likely to accept that explanation. In a child's mind, it is easier for the child to believe he or she was somehow to blame for the abuse than to recognize and accept that an adult who was supposed to protect the child instead intentionally harmed the child.

Like adults, children find it upsetting to talk about traumatic events. As they talk about it, children may "re-live" the abuse and feel the associated emotions again. This is particularly true of younger children. Professionals should be sensitive to the potential impact of this "re-emergence" into the details of the crime. This "re-living" of the abuse may intensify the victim's trauma and generate behavior that poses additional barriers to successful investigation and prosecution.

Most children do not make up stories of abuse. False allegations are the exception. Professionals should not let the possibility of a false report prevent a thorough investigation. They should know that it is far more likely a child will lie to conceal abuse to protect the abuser.

Children disclose abuse and facts regarding traumatic events over time. The more comfortable a child becomes with an adult, the more likely he or she is to provide additional information. This dynamic can present particular problems for police and prosecutors who may face challenges to the child's credibility because the child did not present complete information at the initial interview.

A System Designed For Adults

The criminal justice system is not designed to accommodate the special developmental needs of children. Many police officers, attorneys, judges, and other criminal justice professionals find it difficult to work with children. Many children find the criminal justice system intimidating, particularly the courtroom experience. Under these circumstances, the child can be a poor witness, providing weak testimony and contributing less information than needed to make or win the case. Also, the lengthy process of navigating the formal and adversarial criminal and civil justice systems can affect the child's psychological development in significant and long-lasting ways. Listed below are a number of court-related factors that have been identified as stressful for child victims and witnesses:

  • Multiple interviews and not using developmentally appropriate language.
  • Delays and continuances.
  • Testifying more than once.
  • Lack of communication between professionals.
  • Fear of public exposure.
  • Lack of understanding of complex legal procedures.
  • Face-to-face contact with the defendant.
  • Practices that are insensitive to developmental needs.
  • Harsh cross-examination.
  • Lack of adequate support and victims services.
  • Sequestration of witnesses who may be supportive to the child.
  • Placement that exposes the child to intimidation, pressure, or continued abuse.
  • Inadequate preparation for testifying.
  • Lack of evidence other than the testimony of the child.7

It is clearly in the best interest of the child and criminal justice system to handle child victims and witnesses in the most effective and sensitive manner possible. A number of studies have found the following: reducing the number of interviews of children can minimize psychological harm to child victims (Tedesco & Schnell, 1987); testifying is not necessarily harmful to children if adequate preparation is conducted (Goodman et al., 1992; Oates et al., 1995; Whitcomb, Goodman, Runyon, and Hoak, 1994); and, having a trusted person help the child prepare for court and be with the child when he or she testified reduced the anxiety of the child (Henry, 1997).

To ensure children receive special assistance, all professionals working with child victims and witnesses must be willing to learn the basics of child development, to tailor their methods of practice to children, and to take advantage of the skills and services of allied professionals such as victim-witness advocates and child interview specialists. Studies indicate that the participation of victim-witness advocates in child sexual abuse cases appears to increase the percentage of guilty verdicts. One study found the conviction rate for child sexual abuse cases almost doubled (38 percent to 72 percent) after offices implemented child victim-witness advocacy programs. The proportion of offenders receiving prison sentences also almost doubled, from 25 percent to 48 percent. Over the same period, prison sentences increased from 9.24 years to 16.48 years (Dible and Teske, 1993). Research consistently suggests that prepared and relaxed child victims and witnesses are more credible, enabling prosecutors to present stronger cases and win more convictions.

7 Lipovsky, J., and Stern, P., "Preparing Children for Court: An Interdisciplinary View," Child Maltreatment, vol. 2, no. 2, May 1997.

Working effectively with child victims is emotionally demanding. While some adults have a natural ability to relate comfortably to children, many do not, especially to children whose lives and experiences are different from their own. With training and guidance, however, all professionals can develop skills that improve their ability to work with young victims and witnesses.

What Works: Innovative Practices and Programs

During the past 15 years, the criminal justice system has seen a huge increase in the number of cases involving child victims and witnesses. Over time and with experience, many individuals and agencies have developed programs and practices that enhance the ability of criminal justice professionals to handle these cases more effectively and to prevent unnecessary system-related trauma for children. These programs include multidisciplinary initiatives that do a number of things: they coordinate the responses of the various agencies involved with the child victims; they enhance support and representation for child victims in the criminal justice and juvenile court system; and, they access treatment programs to help children recover and to help prevent future revictimization. Ultimately, improving practice with child victims benefits both the child victims and the cause of justice. Some helpful strategies are listed below:

  • Apply "child friendly" practices when working with children.
  • Use personnel trained in interviewing children to meet with the children as soon as possible after the event. Use standard interviewing protocols for child victims and witnesses.
  • Involve victim advocates and clinicians in the early stages to help manage these cases and ensure that assistance is provided to child victims on a continuing basis.
  • Prepare children for court in a manner that is developmentally appropriate and sensitive to the child's mental health needs. In many cases, it may be necessary to have a clinician assess the psychological capability of the child to testify in court.
  • Use a multidisciplinary, team approach when handling cases involving child victims and witnesses. Maintain good communication with representatives from other agencies involved with the child.

Specialization and Training of Criminal Justice Professionals

Police officers need to be trained to recognize the situations in which children may be victims and witnesses. Both prosecutors and police officers need information and training on how to interview children. Police also need information on how to appropriately handle children on crime scenes.

Law enforcement agencies and chief prosecutors should designate specialists or create special units to handle child victims and witnesses. Officers and prosecutors assigned to child cases need to have a basic understanding of normal child development and limitations for children of different ages. Cases involving child victims and witnesses require more time and resources than do most other types of cases. A national survey of prosecutors found that of all cases, child abuse and adult sexual assault required the most time and resources.8 To be effective, professionals handling these cases should have reasonable case loads and access to victim assistance professionals who also have special training for working with child victims.

Criminal justice agencies should provide a "child friendly," developmentally appropriate place to work with children. Many police departments and prosecutors' offices set aside a room designed to be comfortable and appropriate for interviewing or preparing children. Other agencies use existing facilities created for these purposes, which may be housed in children's hospitals or children's advocacy centers.

Dallas Crimes Against Children Unit, Dallas, Texas

The Dallas Police Department Investigations Unit has developed four specialty areas for crimes against children:

  • The Child Abuse Unit works with four other partner agencies at the Dallas Children's Advocacy Center to conduct investigations in a child friendly environment in cases of physical, sexual, and fatal child abuse and neglect.
  • The Child Exploitation Unit investigates child sexual offenses and exploitation involving nonfamily members.
  • The Internet Crimes Against Children Unit handles Internet child pornography cases.
  • The Sex Offender Apprehension Program (SOAP) was developed in response to the Sex Offender Registration Law. By strictly enforcing compliance with the law, the SOAP arrested 600 registered sex offenders within its first 2 years of operation and won the Weber-Seavey Award for innovative law enforcement.

8 National Assessment Program: 1994 Survey Results, National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC.

Use of Child Interview Specialists

Conducting a forensic interview with a child about traumatic events the child experienced or witnessed can be difficult. If done incorrectly, it can jeopardize a case. To obtain reliable information from a child, the interviewer must assess the developmental level of the child and adapt the interview accordingly. Professionals conducting forensic interviews should use consistent methods and should follow a tested protocol. To be effective and legally defensible, any forensic interviewing protocol should include techniques based on updated research.

It is extremely important that professionals who interview child victims have adequate training. Cases involving very young children (under age 6), severely abused children, children who have witnessed extreme violence, and children with developmental disabilities require experienced, highly trained interviewers. Children's Advocacy Centers and hospital-based child protection teams are frequently good sources for finding experienced interviewers and receiving training. Interview training is also offered at many regional and national child abuse conferences and on-site through organizations funded by the Department of Justice. (See the section at the end of this monograph for training and informational resources).

The environment in which the child is interviewed is also very important. Many jurisdictions now have facilities that allow observation through a two-way mirror, by closed-circuit television, or by videotaping the interview. The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC) has developed a series of practice guidelines for professionals on a variety of issues, including use of anatomical dolls, videotaping of child interviews, and medical evaluations of suspected child abuse victims. (For information on how to contact APSAC, see the resource section of this monograph.)

District of Columbia U.S. Attorney's Office

When prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office in the District of Columbia must work on a murder case involving a young child as the only witness or if they must prosecute a case in which children were the victims of violent crime, they can go down the hall for help. Working and closely with the prosecutors to conduct forensic interviews in the Children's Advocacy Center and to meet with children to prepare for trial are Child Interview Specialists - Licensed Clinical Social Workers with extensive experience working with children and knowledge of child development. By building relationships with the traumatized children, the specialists are often able to get clear statements, bolster the children's confidence, and make it far more likely that child witnesses will be credible in court. Equally important, the children have the opportunity to have their experience validated, to receive help understanding and verbalizing their feelings about the crime they experienced, and to be linked to community resources for help with recovery from their ordeal. This demonstration project, funded by the Office for Victims of Crime, is being replicated in other U.S. Attorneys' offices throughout the country.

Interacting with Children Who Witness Domestic Violence

Children often see or hear domestic assaults. Children may become injured when they attempt to intervene and protect the victim parent, or they may be intended targets of the assault along with the victim parent. When police arrive on the scene, children may not be in plain view. Police officers responding to the crime should not assume that the children did not hear or see the violence. It is important for the police officers to ascertain what the children saw or heard, while taking care not to interview the children in the presence of the perpetrator. In some States, committing domestic violence in the presence of children may result in child endangerment charges or enhanced sentences. In most cases, prosecutors should avoid using children as witnesses against the perpetrating parent since doing so may cause additional trauma to the child.

Prosecutors may encounter cases involving severe violence where a child may be the only witness or may be able to provide crucial testimony. Criminal justice officials should take special care to let the child know that the trial and the outcome are not the child's responsibility, but the direct result of the violent parent's behavior. In some circumstances, children may be empowered by testifying-particularly if the perpetrator is not a natural parent or if the child witness feels very negatively about the perpetrator. Children who witness domestic violence need support, as does their battered parent; both will need counseling and education about domestic violence.

Children who witness violence against a sibling should not be ignored. Many of the same issues found in domestic violence cases occur when the victim is another child. Children may feel responsible for the violence or for not protecting the victim. Children who witness the homicide of another family member will need special support services, including mental health services, from professionals trained to work with highly traumatized children.

The San Diego Children's Hospital Family Violence Program, San Diego, California

The San Diego Children's Hospital Family Violence Program assists battered mothers in their efforts to establish a safe environment for their children and themselves. Serving 120 women and 350 children each year, the program pairs battered women and their children with a two-person team of advocate and therapist. Mother and child receive free intensive advocacy, legal consultation, and mental health services. The children are often treated for PTSD and receive a range of preventive and therapeutic interventions, including age appropriate play therapy and teen groups. At intake, 88 percent of the program participants report physical assault. At the six-month followup, the level of physical violence the women experience has decreased to 10 percent. The proportion of children exposed to family violence decreased from 85 percent to 20 percent.

Multidisciplinary Initiatives

Cases involving child victims tend to involve multiple agencies and professionals from various disciplines. In such cases, both the professionals and the child victims benefit from effective communication and collaboration. Experience indicates that coordinated responses to child victim cases can:

  • Reduce the number of interviews a child undergoes.
  • Minimize the number of people involved in a case.
  • Enhance the quality of evidence discovered for criminal prosecution or civil litigation.
  • Provide information essential to family and child protection service agencies.
  • Minimize the likelihood of conflicts among agencies with different philosophies and mandates.9

Cases involving child witnesses also involve complex medical issues and family relationships. These cases often involve a number of people and systems, including family members, police, clergy, hospital staff, prosecutors, guardians ad litem, civil attorneys, criminal defense attorneys, child protection agencies, family courts, and therapeutic clinicians. Prosecutors and victim advocates have to be particularly diligent in managing the case to monitor and provide for the well-being of the child witness.

Many communities have some form of multidisciplinary team (MDT) to effectively manage child abuse cases that involve several agencies. The purpose of multidisciplinary child abuse teams is to reduce duplication of agency procedures and the number of child interviews and to coordinate intervention and services. Apparent inconsistencies in young victims' statements are often caused by the phrasing of questions and differences in the way individuals interpret answers. Jointly conducted or monitored interviews can reduce inconsistencies and improve the quality of information.

Sharing information, expertise, and experiences with other professionals can improve the quality and outcome of child victim cases. Law enforcement officers and prosecutors with limited knowledge of child development stages should consult social workers and therapists who have studied and are experienced with troubled children. They should also meet with pediatricians and medical examiners. Social workers and medical providers may consult with police officers who can provide guidance on investigation and evidentiary issues.

Many States have laws requiring joint investigations and cooperation between law enforcement and child protection agencies in child abuse cases. Other States have laws authorizing creation of multidisciplinary and multiagency child protection teams. Many more States have informal information-sharing arrangements. A formal MDT is not necessary for effective collaboration and information sharing, but the interagency relationships do need to be developed and institutionalized through written policies or memoranda of understanding.

9 Joint Investigations of Child Abuse: Report of a Symposium, National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice (p. 3), July 1993.

Children's Advocacy Centers

One of the best examples of a team approach to handling child victim cases is children's advocacy centers. More than 350 communities have established or are in the process of developing children's advocacy center programs. These centers allow law enforcement officers, child protection workers, prosecutors, victim advocates, medical professionals, and therapists to coordinate the investigation, prosecution, and treatment of the child victim. A single or limited number of investigatory interviews are conducted in "child friendly" settings rather than multiple interviews in intimidating environments. The children's advocacy center approach makes it easier for a team of professionals with varied expertise to work together to ensure that maltreatment of children is responded to in the most appropriate way with the least amount of additional trauma to child victims during the various stages of criminal justice intervention. Some centers are affiliated with medical centers and/or have facilities for medical examinations. Many are equipped with one-way mirrors and have videotaping capacity. All children's advocacy centers are furnished with young children in mind. The coordinated approach and team decision-making processes also improve the quality of information and increase the number of successful prosecutions. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) in the U.S. Department of Justice provides funds to communities seeking to establish or strengthen children's advocacy centers. The funds are administered by the National Children's Alliance, which maintains a directory of existing centers (see the resource section of this monograph).

Child Death Review Teams

Homicide is the leading cause of nonillness death of children under age five. More than half of these child victims are under age two. A significant number of these deaths are initially misidentified as SIDS or accidental deaths. Until recently, the death of a child as a result of chronic child abuse or severe neglect was not recognized under most State laws as an intentional homicide, nor prosecuted as first-degree murder. Today, more than 23 States and the District of Columbia have adopted "homicide by abuse" laws that do not require proof of specific intent to kill when a child's death results from abuse, thus allowing stiffer sentences, sanctions, and penalties. Child death review teams, first initiated in Los Angeles County in 1978, now exist in all 50 States and the District of Columbia and are charged with examining the circumstances surrounding certain child deaths known or suspected to be preventable or the result of child abuse or neglect. Child death review teams try to correctly determine when children have died from abuse or neglect, identifying risk factors and systemic problems in hopes of preventing future deaths. Most teams consist of representatives from law enforcement, the prosecutor, child protective services, the medical examiner or coroner's office, public health agencies, and emergency medical personnel and pediatricians.

The ICAN National Center on Child Fatality Review was launched by the Interagency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect in 1996 with support from the Los Angeles Times Mirror Foundation, the U.S. Department of Justice, and others. The Center provides technical assistance and information to communities seeking to develop or enhance a child death review team. The Center also facilitates the exchange of information among teams across the country. The Center's repository of information from case reviews provides a valuable resource for teams to identify and to prevent future child fatalities, serious abuse and neglect, and accidental injuries and death.

Child Development - Community Policing

The New Haven Department of Police Services and the Child Study Center at the Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, have developed a unique collaborative program to address the psychological impact of family and community violence on children and families. The Child Development-Community Policing (CD-CP) program brings together police officers and mental health professionals to provide each other with training and consultation and to provide direct interdisciplinary intervention for children who are victims, witnesses, or perpetrators of violent crime. Police officers can call for support from a mental health clinician at the scene of a crime 24 hours a day. Clinicians respond immediately to work with traumatized children; if needed, they continue to work with the child and the family in a clinic or school setting. Families who become involved in the CD-CP program can receive ongoing intervention and support coordinated by a multidisciplinary case-conferencing team.

CD-CP Addresses Gang Violence and Domestic Violence

Through the Community Outreach Police in Schools (COPS) program, police officers and mental health professionals offer school-based support groups in the New Haven schools most affected by gang violence. These groups help fifth and sixth graders learn about themselves, understand their reactions to the violence around them, verbalize their fears, and learn to solve problems. Children who have participated in this program show a marked change in their relationships with their community police officers.

Focusing on the neighborhood of Fair Haven, the CD-CP program is implementing an approach to intervention in domestic violence cases where children are present that combines: 1) external authority to interrupt the violence, 2) concrete support for mothers' and children's safety through legal advocacy and linkages to other social services, and 3) acute and follow-up counseling services for women and their children. This approach is based on the assumption that the best help for battered women and their children is achieved by increasing their safety through the arrest of the perpetrator, heightened police presence, and realistic safety planning.

Legal Representation for Child Victims

For children who are the subject of protection proceedings in juvenile or family court, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act requires States to provide child victims with independent representation. In some communities, children are represented in such cases by an attorney appointed to act as guardian ad litem. Courts in hundreds of communities are also using volunteer court-appointed special advocates who perform independent assessments of the children's circumstances and file their own reports with the court. The National Court-Appointed Special Advocate Association is funded by OJJDP to help courts establish a volunteer program and to standardize training for volunteer advocates. The American Bar Association has developed standards and practices for lawyers representing children in abuse and neglect cases. While most of these programs are available only in family or juvenile courts, there has been an increase in the use of independent legal advocacy for child victims in criminal court proceedings.

Reform of Juvenile/Family Court Handling of Child Abuse and Neglect Cases

In recent years, several important developments are helping improve the ability of juvenile and family courts to work with greater effectiveness and speed in cases involving maltreated children. State court systems in 48 States received funding from the Children's Bureau at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to evaluate and improve operations in child abuse and neglect-related proceedings. Based upon administrative reforms undertaken by the Hamilton County, Ohio, Juvenile and Family Court, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges in 1995 developed and published a document entitled "Resource Guidelines: Improving Court Practice in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases." This publication sets forth the essential elements of properly conducted court hearings and describes how courts can more efficiently manage their work to ensure each child receives a fair, thorough, and speedy court process.

Using the "Resource Guidelines" as a blueprint, the Child Victims Model Courts Project of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the OJJPD focus on improving how courts handle child abuse and neglect cases. Since 1995, eighteen courts have adopted the model court practices developed in Hamilton County, Ohio. The model courts practices are characterized by the use of alternative dispute resolution; community-based services; multidisciplinary, court-led meetings and training; court calendar improvements; assignment of a single magistrate for the life of the case; more substantive preliminary hearings; and, increased representation for families and children.

Criminal courts can learn from the example of the juvenile and family court innovations to improve system responses to children. Children who are crime victims or witnesses may be involved in both juvenile and criminal courts and benefit from close coordination between the two systems.

Model Children's Court, El Paso, Texas

The Honorable Patricia Macias, Lead Judge for the El Paso Children's Court, guides that community's effort to improve the court's response to abused and neglected children. In all cases requiring foster care placement for abused or neglected children, the Court involves local networks of professionals to provide "front-loaded" services to increase the likelihood of safe permanent homes. A new assessment foster home project has been established to provide a nurturing home environment where the child's special needs can be immediately identified. To ensure that the child's support system is fully involved in the proceedings, the Court provides simultaneous language interpretation for all non-English-speaking court participants, and foster parents testify at each hearing and participate in permanency transition teams. Through such innovations, the court has streamlined court procedures and reduced the length of time children spend in foster care.

Use of Victim Assistance Professionals

Numerous victim assistance programs provide special support services for child victims who are involved in criminal justice system cases. Research indicates that participation of a victim-witness advocate appears to increase guilty verdicts in sexual abuse cases, suggesting that better prepared and more relaxed child victims and child witnesses are more credible at trial (Dible & Teske, 1993). Advocates working with child victims and child witnesses should have specialized training and experience with abused and traumatized children. A child advocate or a child interview specialist may provide a great deal of assistance, including the following: interview or help interview child victims or child witnesses; assess safety issues; assess the mental condition and developmental level of the child; as necessary, refer the child for more in-depth psychological assessment; participate in support groups or individual counseling; explain the legal process to the child and the nonoffending caretaker; make crisis intervention and social services referrals; conduct court preparation; provide logistical support for the child victim and family, including transportation and assistance with medical and therapy appointments; and, support the victim during trial, including accompanying the child to court when he or she testifies. Advocates can also help the victim and/or caretaker complete victim impact statements for sentencing, if desired. Victim advocates can help monitor the child's situation and alert prosecutors when the child is not supported, when stay-away orders are violated, or when the child is threatened or coerced into recanting. Many police departments and prosecutors' offices have their own victim assistance units and advocates who work closely with officers and prosecutors.

Preparing Children for Court: Court School Programs

Every witness needs some preparation prior to testifying. To bring a child into the complex and often stressful process of testifying in court without careful preparation is unthinkable. A child who knows what to expect and is prepared for his or her role will provide more credible testimony. Child victims and witnesses require extra time and special effort to prepare for court. There are two primary methods of preparing a child - individual preparation by the prosecuting attorney or through a group process that focuses on general orientation programs, such as court school. Individual preparation is best handled by the case prosecutor and a victim advocate. It should be tailored to the specific age and needs of the child. Specific case issues are covered in this type of preparation. Many prosecutors will take the child witness to an empty courtroom to familiarize the child with the setting.

Court school programs are designed to orient the child victim and child witness to the court process and to the role of the witness. These programs are usually facilitated by victim advocates and prosecutors and include a group of children scheduled to testify in the near future. Most programs include role-playing, a courtroom tour, and opportunities to practice answering questions in the courtroom. Individual cases are never discussed, and the program is designed to avoid jeopardizing the child's testimony in any way. Court school programs may use props, such as puppets, child-sized judges robes, coloring/activity books about court, and a wooden model of a courtroom with moveable figures. Court school programs help reduce anxiety in children and normalize what may have been a strange and frightening process. Many programs include a concurrent session for nonoffending parents and caretakers to provide information about the court process and how they can support their children.

Kids' Court, King County, Seattle, Washington

In King County, Washington, Kids' Court and Teen Court empower child crime victims and their parents through education about the legal process. In the five-hour Saturday court school, children meet with a judge and prosecutor and participate in activities that help them understand the roles of court personnel, discuss their concerns about testifying in court, and feel comfortable in the courtroom. Judges and prosecutors lead discussions about the importance of telling the truth and answer children's questions about the upcoming trial. Children and their parents learn stress reduction techniques to help them through the trial. Kids' Court has developed a comprehensive curriculum and has served over 1,200 children in the last 9 years. It is being replicated in several cities throughout the United States and abroad.

Special Courtroom Accommodations

Judges should make efforts to ensure that the trial process and courtroom atmosphere help the child witnesses provide true and accurate information without unnecessary revictimization. Judges need to know and understand the special developmental needs of children. Judges can do many things to prevent trauma to children in court, such as making sure all objections are argued outside the hearing or presence of the child, requiring that all attorneys use developmentally appropriate language when questioning child witnesses, and arranging the courtroom to be less intimidating for the child witness. A simple example of how to arrange the courtroom to avoid intimidating the child witness would be to allow the child to sit in a child-sized chair or to allow the child to sit next to a support person. Continuances should be limited unless it is in the best interest of the particular child or in the cause of justice. Speedy resolution of child victim cases should be encouraged. In Federal cases, when a child will be called to give testimony, judges can designate the case as being of special public importance which gives the case precedence over all others on the judge's calendar (18 U.S.C. 3509(j)). Safe and separate waiting areas should be available to prevent the child from encountering the defendant and the defendant's family. If a separate waiting area is impossible, a victim-witness advocate should remain with the child and caretaker to monitor the situation. Children should be allowed to have a support person in court with them. Judges should take care to ensure that the defense attorney does not unnecessarily subpoena support persons.

Courts should consider alternatives to live testimony. If the child would be too traumatized by seeing the defendant in the courtroom, prosecutors should consider making a motion for him or her to testify via closed circuit television. The use of closed circuit television has advantages and disadvantages. It may help reduce trauma and enable the child to testify more effectively, but it may be less compelling than a child's live presence in the courtroom. Prosecuting attorneys should weigh the advantages and disadvantages of testimony via closed circuit television on a case-by-case basis, always keeping in mind the level of trauma to the child. The Federal courts and many States allow videotaped testimony of children under special circumstances; some States include tapes of original forensic interviews with children. These videotapes may be particularly useful when child victims recant their testimony.

Los Angeles County Children's Court, Los Angeles, California

Children's Court in Los Angeles County, California, was built with the 550 children who come to court each day in mind. Courtrooms have child-size proportions, a lower judge's bench, no jury box, and limited seating. Children who await hearings are protected from contact with offenders through private waiting rooms and seating areas that carry the Disney Channel and other children's programming. During the inevitable delays, an arts program and play rooms safely occupy the children. On site, immediate services and personnel, including school system personnel, mental health providers, and victim advocates are available for planning and consultation with children and families. Dependency Court administrators insist that more important than the new child-friendly facility is the court's philosophy that supports children's involvement in a secure court environment in all court proceedings affecting them.

Victim Impact Statements: In a Child's Words

A victim impact statement (VIS) from a child can be a powerful evidentiary tool, bringing the full impact of the crime home to the judge or jury in a potent way. Clearly, child victims should not be forced to make a VIS nor be made uncomfortable or fearful while making one. The process of making the VIS actually becomes an important step in the healing process for many children.

In most States and the District of Columbia, children have the right to present a VIS at the time of sentencing or to have an adult present a statement on their behalf. Since most children need help preparing a VIS, a victim advocate can work with the child to develop one that is accurate and age-appropriate. Knowledgeable professionals should assess the substantial body of research documenting the initial and long-term psychological effects of abuse on children and be sure to present this evidence as part of the VIS.

In most cases, the primary impact of abuse is psychological, not financial. However, the treatment of medical and psychological damage resulting from the abuse will often have a significant financial impact on the victim and the victim's family. Therefore, the financial impact portion of the victim impact statement should cover expenditures for medical treatment and psychological counseling expenditures. A restitution order should be requested for these expenditures, with contingencies for possible future medical and psychological expenses related to the crime.

While most VIS are technical documents unlikely to be reviewed directly by children, many children understand and like the idea of writing a letter to the judge describing what happened and how they were affected. Very young children can be encouraged to draw pictures of how they feel about the crime, themselves, or the defendant. Victim-witness advocates may wish to ask the child questions and transcribe the answers. Some courts allow audiotapes or videotapes of children making statements during an interview. Oral statements by the child at sentencing can be effective in helping judges understand the crime's impact. If a severely traumatized or injured child cannot provide a statement or drawing, the caretaker, physician, or therapist should prepare the primary statement and present it as part of an information package. Copies of research articles that document the short- and long-term impact of victimization on children can be attached. Nonoffending parents are usually good sources of information on how the abuse affected the child, the siblings, and the entire family. Siblings are often forgotten secondary victims and should be allowed to participate in the process or make their own VIS. Older children should be encouraged to write a letter to the judge expressing their feelings about the crime and the defendant. Some adolescent victims express their feelings and thoughts related to their abusive experience by keeping journals, writing poetry, or creating artwork. Copies of these can be presented as part of their VIS.

Recommendations for Improving the Response to Children Exposed to Violence

Recommendations for All Criminal Justice Professionals

(1) To ensure the earliest possible recognition and reporting of crimes against children, all criminal justice professionals who come in contact with children should be trained to identify children who are exposed to violence as victims or witnesses and should be informed of the impact of victimization.

(2) Criminal justice professionals assigned to handle cases involving child victims should have more indepth training in forensic interviewing, child development, identification of abuse-related injuries, the emotional and psychological impact of abuse, and legal issues related to child victims and witnesses.

(3) Children who witness violence should be provided the same level of victim assistance and special protections within the criminal and juvenile justice systems as child victims.

(4) Criminal justice agencies handling cases involving children as victims and witnesses should work in collaboration with other agencies having responsibility for at-risk children, such as family and juvenile courts, social services agencies, medical and mental health providers, and victim services agencies. When multiple agencies are involved in a child's life, communication among professionals is critical to ensure complete and accurate information is available to decisionmakers to ensure the child is adequately protected.

(5) Criminal justice professionals should adapt their practice to recognize the developmental stages and needs of child victims and witnesses to ensure they are sensitively treated throughout the investigative and trial process.

Specific Recommendations for Law Enforcement Agencies

(1) All officers should have at least basic training in recognizing and responding to children who are abused, neglected, or exposed to violence.

(2) Agency heads should specially assign officers to handle cases involving child victims and witnesses, ensuring these officers receive indepth training in interviewing children, identifying injury, child development, and understanding the impact of victimization and witnessing violence on children.

(3) Police agencies should have written child abuse policies that provide sufficient guidance for making important decisions, such as whether to arrest a suspected perpetrator, whether to place a child in protective custody, and how to deal with unusual or difficult situations.

(4) Law enforcement investigators should work in collaboration with medical and mental health providers, child protective services agencies, and victim assistance providers.

Specific Recommendations for Prosecutors' Offices

(1) Chief prosecutors should ensure that cases involving child victims and witnesses receive priority and are handled as expeditiously as possible, minimizing unnecessary delays. They should ensure that child victims and witnesses receive support services as they go through the criminal justice process.

(2) Prosecutors should be specially assigned to handle cases involving child victims and witnesses, receiving indepth training on issues related to victimization of children, including medical and legal issues.

(3) Prosecutors should ensure that child victims and witnesses are adequately and appropriately prepared for the court process and testifying.

(4) Prosecutors should work in collaboration with medical and mental health providers, child protective services agencies, and victim assistance providers.

Specific Recommendations for Criminal Court Judges and Administrators

(1) Judges should ensure that cases involving children as victims and witnesses receive high priority and are handled as expeditiously as possible, minimizing unnecessary delays and continuances.

(2) Judges who handle cases involving child victimization should receive adequate training in the dynamics of child maltreatment as well as the impact of victimization and witnessing violence on children and child development.

(3) Judges and court administrators should ensure that the developmental needs of children are recognized and accommodated in the arrangement of the courtroom. Separate and safe waiting areas should be provided for child victims and witnesses.

(4) Judges should ensure that the developmental stages and needs of children are recognized and addressed throughout the court process by requiring that all attorneys use age-appropriate language, by timing hearings and testimony to meet the attention span and physical needs of the child, and by allowing the use of testimonial aids when necessary to facilitate the ability of the child to testify.

(5) Children should be presumed to be competent to testify.

(6) Judges should be flexible in allowing the child to have a support person present while testifying and should guard against unnecessary sequestration of support persons.

(7) Judges should ensure that child victims and witnesses, or their support persons, have an opportunity to present victim impact information. Judges should allow the victim impact information to be presented in a format consistent with the child's age and developmental level.


We ask a great deal of children who have been victims or witnesses to crime when we ask them to participate in the criminal justice system. It is a system designed for adults, not for children. We expect young children to take part in a process that many adults find complex, confusing, and intimidating. We want children to answer detailed questions about terrifying events in the presence of strangers and the defendant. If an investigation and a trial are a search for the truth, then we must do everything we can to enable children to tell what happened to them as clearly and completely as possible. Just as the criminal justice system makes accommodations for victims and witnesses who do not speak English or who have physical handicaps, it must also make accommodations for children. It is important that criminal justice professionals adapt their practice to the special needs of child victims and witnesses. If children cannot participate effectively in the criminal justice system, it may be impossible to protect them from future victimization and to hold the offenders accountable for their actions.

Resources for Information and Training

The following professional organizations and clearinghouses provide information on research, best practice, and training opportunities.

American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC)
407 S. Dearborn Street, Suite 1300
Chicago, IL 60605

Child Victim Model Court Project
National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
P.O. Box 8970
Reno, NV 89507

National Center for Child Fatality Review
4024 Durfee Avenue
El Monte, CA 91732

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
2101 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 550
Arlington, VA 22201-5302
1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678)
World Wide Web:
Internet E-mail:

National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse/American Prosecutors Research Institute
99 Canal Place, Suite 510
Alexandria, VA 22314

National Center for State and Local Law Enforcement Training
Fox Valley Technical College
Criminal Justice Department
P.O. Box 2277
Appleton, WI 54913-2277

National Children's Alliance
1319 F Street, NW, Suite 1001
Washington, DC 20004-1106

National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information
300 C Street, SW
Washington, DC 20447
703-385-7565 or 1-800-FYI-3366

National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association
100 W. Harrison Street, North Tower, Suite 500
Seattle, WA 98119
World Wide Web:

National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS)
1600 Research Boulevard
Rockville, MD 20850
Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse 1-800-638-8736
Office for Victims of Crime Resource Center 1-800-627-6872
Fax: 301-251-5212

National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE)
4609 Pinecrest Office Park Drive, Suite F
Alexandria, VA 22312

Police Executive Research Forum (PERF)
1120 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 930
Washington, DC 20036

Innovative Programs

Child Development-Community Policing (CD-CP) Program
Yale Child Study Center
47 College Street, Suite 212
New Haven, CT 06520

Dallas Police Department
Youth and Family Crimes Division
106 S. Harewood Street, Room 225
Dallas, TX 75201

King County Kids' Court
3020 Issaguah Pine Lake, SE, Suite 514
Issaguah, WA 98029
206-386-KIDS or 206-296-9067

San Diego Children's Hospital Family Violence Program
3020 Children's Way, Mail Code 5087
San Diego, CA 92123

U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Columbia
Child Interview Specialists
555 4th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001


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