U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Recantation in Child Sexual Abuse Cases

NCJ Number
Child Welfare Volume: 70 Issue: 6 Dated: (November/December 1991) Pages: 611-621
M Rieser
Date Published
11 pages
This article discusses victim recantations that occur following a formal report of child sexual abuse including the possible reasons for recantation, its negative effects, and strategies for preventing recantation.
Recantation occurs when children who reported they were sexually abused subsequently state that their earlier report was a lie. Such recantations may occur for a number of reasons. Having accommodated themselves to the secrecy of the abuse, they may become frightened after revealing it and seek to return to the state of secrecy. As a form of emotional protection, they may deny that the abuse occurred. They may also recant after failing to receive support for telling the truth or being subjected to pressure to recant the statement. The children or families involved may have a negative interaction with the professionals involved in the case, and this may also lead to a recantation. If a long time passes between the original disclosure and the trial, the risk of an intervening event that will encourage recantation may occur as well. Recantation increases the risk that the child and perhaps other children will be abused by the perpetrator. The child will also be denied the opportunity to deal with the abuse in a rehabilitative way. Strategies for reducing the likelihood of recantation include the appointment of an advocate for the child early in the case, immediate mental health services for both the victim and perpetrator, and reduction in the trauma for the child in the case processing. 17 references