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L. Dennison Reed, Psy.D. NSU CPS. An innocent mistake is not a lie.

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Presentation on theme: "L. Dennison Reed, Psy.D. NSU CPS. An innocent mistake is not a lie."— Presentation transcript:

1 L. Dennison Reed, Psy.D. NSU CPS


3 An innocent mistake is not a lie

4 Mistaken beliefs may result from a misunderstanding between a young child (preschooler) and those who interviewed the child: hygiene practices can be mistaken for abuse Daddy touched my pee-pee Inadvertent leading: concerned adult asks inappropriate questions of a young child: 3 year-old is rubbing her vagina and mother asks Who taught you to do that?

5 Seen most often in cases involving: Preschoolers Suspicious or overanxious adults (including parents, investigators, mental health professionals)some of whom may have unresolved abuse issues) Interviewers who lack forensic interview skills (and ask leading questions)

6 Can result in false allegations of CSA Mistaken beliefs are not lies made up by malicious people Evaluators should be especially alert to the possibility of mistaken beliefs and inadvertent leading in cases involving: Preschoolers (3-5 years old) Overanxious/highly suspicious adults Unskilled interviewers

7 Child Protective Services often lack the resources to perform adequate, comprehensive evaluations-especially in complex cases Insufficient information accounts for many cases being unsubstantiated (approximately 20-25% of such cases)

8 Among preadolescents, false allegations are quite uncommon It is highly unusual for preadolescents to initiate deliberate fabrications (lies) of CSA Adults and teenagers are more likely to make false allegations, but this is still not common

9 Children and teens who have a history of sexual abuse and symptoms of PTSD (misinterpretation or deliberate fabrication) Adolescents (usually females) who: Fabricate CSA allegations to cover up consensual sexual activity Fabricate CSA allegations to effect removal from unsatisfactory living arrangements (e.g., foster care) Have major psychiatric disturbance Very young children (e.g., age 3-5) who have been influenced by improper questioning by an adult (parent/therapist) to make false allegations or even to believe them. When young children come to mistakenly believe that they were abused, this is an example of source misattributionnot lying

10 Adults with a history of child sexual abuse and unresolved PTSD symptoms Adults who are misinformed about signs of sexual abuse or who otherwise prematurely presume that the child was sexually abused Adults (e.g., parents, therapists, forensic interviewers) who improperly question young children in a highly leading fashion

11 Some have argued that allegations of child sexual abuse that come forth amidst divorce/child custody disputes are not only far more likely to be false but to be deliberate fabrications


13 There is an epidemic of fabricated child sexual abuse allegations in custody cases because manipulative parents recognize that this is the atomic bomb in custody warfare Parents (typically mothers) deliberately fabricate the allegations and brainwash or otherwise influence their children to make false abuse allegations

14 The vast majority (over 90%) of such allegations are fabricated and are made by malicious and psychologically disturbed mothers (i.e., paranoid, hysterical or borderline mothers) who set out to alienate the child from the father. Appearing in: The Parental Alienation Syndrome and the Differentiation Between Fabricated and Genuine Child Sexual Abuse (1987)


16 If, in Dr. Gardners opinion, the mother has alienated the child from the father and has fostered false allegations of CSA against the father, Dr. Gardner recommends that the court remove the child from the mother and place the child in the (sole) custody of the father that was accused of abuse.


18 No controlled studies or representative samples Based only on cases referred to Dr. Gardner (primarily by attorneys seeking to discredit the CSA allegations) Dr. Gardners highly subjective criteria for determining which allegations are fabricated have come under fire

19 Dr. Gardners PAS theory has provoked vehement opposition from many mental health professionals, child abuse experts and lawyers. Critics argue that it lacks a scientific basis, noting that the American Psychiatric Association, the APA, and the American Medical Association have not recognized it as a syndrome. (e.g., not included in DSM-IV-TR)

20 Dr. Gardners views about pedophilia in general may shed some light on his views about fabricated sexual abuse allegations

21 I believe that all of us have some pedophilia within us. Each time we conjure up a visual image of the child being sexually abused, we gratify vicariously our own pedophilic impulses. The identification in this image can be with either of the participants, the child or the alleged perpetrator. When one identifies with the victim, one is basically saying, I would like him (her) to do that to me. When one identifies with the perpetrator, one is basically saying, I would like to do that with the child.

22 In making allegations of sexual abuse, the mothers own suppressed and repressed sexual fantasies are projected onto the child and the father. By visualizing the father having a sexual experience with the child, the mother is satisfying vicariously her own desires to be a recipient of such overtures and activities.

23 [A] mother who is sexually inhibited may view sexual encounters with loathing. Consciously or unconsciously she facilitates the fathers turning his sexual attentions to her daughter in order to get him off her back (or front, as the case may be). In this way, she avoids involving herself in the disgusting activities and yet allows the beast to gratify his primitive needs and keeps him tamed and out of trouble.

24 By the process of reaction formation [the child] can turn [her incestuous fantasies] into unpleasant ones and thereby assuage the guilt that would be experienced if the child were to accept the fact that sexual activities are what she wants. Instead of saying, I would love to have some sexual involvement with my father, she can say, I hate having a sexual relationship with my father. The sexually abused child is generally considered to be the victim, though the child may initiate sexual encounters by seducing the adult. If the sexual relationship is discovered, the child is likely to fabricate so that the adult will be blamed for the initiation.

25 Pedophilia serves a procreative purpose. Although the child can not become pregnant, a child who is drawn into sexual encounters at an early age is likely to become highly sexualized and thus will crave sexual experiences during the prepubertal years. Such a sexually charged up child is more likely to transmit his or her genes in his or her progeny at an early age. The younger the survival machine at the time sexual urges appear, the longer will be the span of procreative capacity, and the greater the likelihood that individual will create more survival machines in the next generation.

26 Only small minority of contested custody cases involve allegations of child sexual abusehardly an epidemic False abuse allegations do occur more often in custody cases, but such allegations are not necessarily the result of deliberate fabrication or malice Mistaken beliefs appear to account for many of the false allegations in custody cases

27 STUDY n FALSE TRUE UNCERTAIN AFCC (1990) 9,000 33% 50% 17% Canada (2005) 7,672 6% (none by children) No one knows the actual incidence of True & False Allegations

28 The exact proportion of false allegations arising amidst custody disputes is unknown. However, there is NO reliable data that supports Gardners claim that the vast majority of such allegations are falselet alone deliberate fabrications brought forth by malicious and/or crazy mothers

29 There are also factors that can contribute to an increased risk of CSA occurring or being discovered during custody disputes

30 1. Divorce-related stress: Feelings of rejection by spouse, failure at marriage, litigation stressors, increased need for affection, desire to retaliate - all can contribute to the onset or the exacerbation of abuse 2. Increased OPPORTUNITY to ABUSE the child: The perpetrator may be alone with victim more often, e.g., during visitations

31 3. Increased OPPORTUNITY for the victim to DISCLOSE the abuse. When the parents are separated and perpetrator no longer lives with the child, he may be less able to enforce secrecy. 4. Non-offending parent may be more willing to believe that her ex is capable of molesting the child. The child may sense that mom is angry at dad and that she is now more receptive to hearing negative things about dad. Factors That Can Contribute to the Occurrence or Discovery of Sexual Abuse During Custody Litigation

32 Kathleen Coulborn Faller Interviewing Children About Sexual Abuse (2007)


34 FANTASTIC ELEMENTS IN CHILDRENS DISCLOSURES OF SEXUAL ABUSE (Constance Dalenberg, San Diego Childrens Hospital Study, 1996)

35 The records of 284 3-9 year-olds were reviewed The abuse allegations were classified with regard to severity of abuse and validity of the allegations: severe or non-severe abuse confirmed or questionable allegations


37 The perpetrator confessed to the crime AND there was medical evidence consistent with the abuse that was alleged In 80% of these cases, there existed other corroboration, e.g., eyewitnesses, sibling making a similar allegation

38 The presence of fantasy elements related to: 1. Whether abuse was confirmed or questionable 2. The severity of the abuse; 3. The age of the child.

39 Severe Confirmed Severe Questionable (n=52) (n=52) Fantasy: 15%Fantasy: 4% (5 boys/3girls) (2 boys) Nonsevere Confirmed Nonsevere Questionable (n=90) (n=90) Fantasy: 2% Fantasy: 0%

40 The perpetrator injected poison into his penis before penetration. A family of dinosaurs and monsters joined the sexually abusive father in threatening to eat the 8 year-old boy.

41 A 7 year-old girl claimed babies were chopped up and eaten during a cult ritual and her mother tried to poison her. [Independently, the girls psychotic mother described the same events and admitted trying to poison her daughter.] A 3½-year-old severely abused girl claimed she shot her abusive father with a real gun and there was blood all over.

42 Several young boys claimed they physically resisted or assaulted their male abuser, i.e., giving him karate chops, beating him up.

43 The perpetrator destroyed every toy in the house. The perpetrator left a black and blue mark that covered the childs entire leg. The perp put his penis in the 4 year-old girls vagina and it ripped her open from her vagina to her breasts, and things she couldnt describe fell out of her and she had to put them back in. [She had been severely penetrated]


45 Be mindful that false denials of abuse are generally far more common than false allegations of abuse Be mindful of risk factors for false allegations Be mindful that statistics about false denials and false allegations do not necessarily apply to the case at hand; many cases defy the probabilities (e.g., a false allegation may be made by an 8- year-old in a non-custody-dispute case; a true allegation may be made by a 4-year-old who was questioned improperly and whose parents are involved in a custody dispute, or by a teenage girl who was previously sexually abused and has PTSD

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