I have compiled a list of evidence which can corroborate that a child has been sexually abused. I have added a parallel list consisting of what has been reported by adult survivors who, at one time, repressed childhood sexual abuse. Many factors can bolster the validity of a child’s accusation of sexual abuse, as well as an adult’s previously repressed memories of abuse.
- Medical or physical evidence of abuse in a child: A child’s statement may be corroborated by medical, laboratory, scientific, or physical evidence.
- Adult making an accusation of abuse after memories return: Most adults, who blocked abuse from their mind, have multiple physical manifestations that research has linked to child sexual assault.
- Changes in a child’s behavior: The child might demonstrate extreme anxiety, or masturbate on being questioned about the alleged sexual abuse. The victim can develop abnormal behavior following visits with the alleged perpetrator. The child can have nightmares, become ill, and refuse to allow others to touch them.
- Adult making accusation: They suffer anxiety, nightmares, and have problems with being touched by others. The adult might have depression, bouts of anger, and are often promiscuous. They might have PTSD symptoms, and body memories that often predate the return of memories. Adults with amnesia for abuse they suffered as a child, frequently become extremely irritable following family visits or encounters with the person whom they eventually remember as their abuser.
- Developmentally unusual sexual knowledge: Child displays unusual knowledge of sex acts, anatomy, or sexual terminology.
- Adult making accusation: People who had Dissociative Amnesia for sexual abuse say, that as an adult, they “instinctively” knew how to give oral sex to a man the “first time” they performed it. It was as if they just knew exactly what to do, as if they had given fellatio many times before. In addition, frequent masturbation at a young age has been reported among those who experience delayed memory. Sometimes, the adult who has repressed memories of child sexual abuse, will experience sexual stimulation at inappropriate times, for unknown reasons, or be stimulated by rape or incest scenes in movies.
- Play and gestures indicative of abuse: A child’s games or gestures can corroborate the child’s statement. Quotes from cases include: “The child’s non-communicative behavior, described by the psychologist as ‘sexualized,’ indicated that the child had some basis in experience for her statement.”
- Adult making accusation: Indiscriminate sexual behavior is common among those who have been sexually abused as children.
- More than one child with the same story: Two or more children may be exposed to the same abusive event. If the children are interviewed separately and each tells a similar story, their statements are mutually corroborative –enhancing the reliability of each.
- Adult making accusation: More than one sibling occasionally makes an accusation of delayed abuse memories about the same perpetrator, and they describe similar experiences. Often a sibling, who has always remembered being abused, will corroborate the memories of the person reporting delayed memories. There have been a number of repressed memory cases where the adult victims, unknown to one another, make an accusation about the same person.
- Defendant’s opportunity to carry out the abuse: The fact that the accused had the opportunity to commit the act described in a child’s statement, increases the reliability of the statement.
- Adult making accusation: Most accused parents, siblings, baby sitters, family friends, extended relatives, and even neighbors had ample opportunity spanning over a number of years to have committed many acts of sexual abuse.
- Substantiation with defendant’s prior uncharged misconduct: Evidence that the accused has a history of activity similar to what the child is complaining about can support the child’s assertion.
- Adult making accusation: It is often disclosed through other family members (or by the accuser having always remembered) that the accused had a large pornographic collection or had walked around the house naked in front of the children. Some of the parents accused in repressed memories cases, violated boundaries in other areas like deliberately walking in on the child in the bathroom or while the child was dressing.
- Character evidence: If a pertinent trait of the defendant’s character substantiates a child’s hearsay statement, evidence of character trait may be admissible in court under the issue of corroboration.
- Adult making accusation: Many of the accused perpetrators were alcoholics and had trouble with anger. Others were physically abusive or had violent tempers. Alcoholism and physical abuse are both linked to those who commit child sexual abuse.
- Expert testimony that child was abused: Expert testimony which corroborates the child’s statement can be used to affirm the sexual assaults.
- Adult making accusation: Licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, therapists, and counselors have frequently determined that an adult making an accusation of sexual abuse showed signs of having been abused as a child.
Common ways that children are affected by sexual abuse:
Low Self Esteem
Lack of Concentration
Trouble Getting Along with Peers
Lack of Trust
Fear of Restrooms
Drug or Alcohol Use
Crying without provocation
Avoidance of reminders of the trauma
Regressing in age
Excessive worry about themselves dying, or loved ones dying
Avoiding things they used to love
Unusual triggers (A piece of food shaped like a sexual organ may set them off)
Thoughts of suicide
Aggression and impulsive behavior
The previous symptoms are used to help indicate whether a child is being sexually abused. The same list can help determine if someone’s accusations of child sexual abuse are valid.
Sources: John E.B. Myers Professor of Law.