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Reliable and Fictitious Accounts of Sexual Abuse to Children

NCJ Number
Journal of Interpersonal Violence Volume: 2 Issue: 1 Dated: (March 1987) Pages: 27-45
D P H Jones; J M McGraw
Date Published
19 pages
Children rarely make up stories about sexual abuse, but fictitious reports appear to share several features.
The first phase of a two-part study considered all 576 reports of child sexual abuse made to the Denver Department of Social Services during 1983. The researchers reexamined caseworkers' classifications of each report as founded or unfounded and generally agreed with the caseworkers. Seventy percent of the reports were clearly reliable, but 8 percent appeared to be fictitious. Fictitious accounts were examined in detail in the study's second phase. Certain clinical features appeared to mark the fictitious reports: lack of emotion and an absence of coercion and threat in the child's account, absence of detail, and, in some cases, the existence of posttraumatic stress disorder resulting from a previous experience. In some cases, custody or visitation disputes were taking place when the allegation arose. Poor quality of interviews with children was sometimes a factor. The current level of knowledge does not permit absolute conclusions in the absence of corroboration. Professionals with training in child development and child sexual abuse should be involved in investigations of these cases. Guidelines for evaluations, recommendations for research, notes and 24 references. (Author abstract modified)