Is a Victim Statement Enough for a Sex Crime Charge?
Most child sex crime cases, approximately 75%, consist primarily of just the victim’s statement that they were touched or abused in a sexual manner. The child makes an outcry (statement) to an adult that something happened to them and then an investigation is started. Adults who are told by a child that they have been physically or sexually abused in anyway have an affirmative duty to report the abuse to law enforcement. Failure to report the abuse is a crime — Failure to Report Child Abuse.
In my 20-plus years of handling sex crimes cases, most of these cases have no corroborating or physical evidence. In Houston and Harris County, sex crimes against children cases are generally investigated by detectives who office at the Children’s Assessment Center (CAC). The CAC houses detectives from all of the different law enforcement agencies in Harris County, as well as medical personnel, psychologists, therapists and forensic interviewers. An initial stage in the investigation of sex crimes against children cases is for the child to be interviewed by a forensic interviewer at the CAC. This interview is conducted by someone specially trained to interview children. The interview is recorded on video to be used against the accused.
The next stage in the process is for the child to often undergo a medical examination, which is often conducted at the CAC. The medical examination often starts with the medical doctor asking the child what happened and why they need to be examined. This type of questioning forces the child to repeat what the child told the forensic interviewer earlier. The child’s statements to the doctor or nurse can be introduced as evidence in trial. After the medical examination the child is often required to attend counseling sessions at the CAC, where again the statements about abuse are repeated. Again, these statements to a therapist are often allowed in evidence at trial. Often, sex crimes against children cases are not based on physical or corroborating evidence, but on the child statements and the repetition of that statement to others. Unfortunately, the law allows such repeated, uncorroborated statements into evidence.
Why Would a Child Falsely Accuse Someone of Sexual Assault?
There are many reasons, but sometimes in a divorce or custody battle one parent may implant certain false notions into the child’s head to use against the other parent. The child doesn’t understand the ramifications of such false accusations, so they often go along to please their parent.
Sometimes, when children are older, maybe 10 or 11, they cry out for attention. They may know someone at school who made an allegation and got lots of attention, so to get attention they make false allegations. In some cases, the child is confused, and says something sexual happened, when nothing sexual actually ever happened.
Both as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney, I’ve seen children recant their stories and admit that one of their parents told them what to say. Sometimes children recant during counseling or say that someone else actually touched them and not the person they first accused. Through investigation and interviewing all of the parties involved, I have been able to uncover enough credible evidence to convince the prosecutor that the crime did not actually occur and thus, the case is dismissed. If the child recants to the prosecutor or other investigating authorities, they have a duty to report such recantation to the defense.
For more information on Statements of Alleged Sex Crime Victims call the Law Office of James Alston for a free initial consultation. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (713) 228-1400 today.