Historic Child Sexual Abuse

Delayed reporting of child sexual abuse is far more common than was once thought. It is estimated that up to one-third of children who are sexually abused delay reporting the abuse for more than a year and up to one-third do not disclose the abuse until adulthood. There are myriad complex social, psychological, and legal consequences of such a long delay. We reviewed over 2000 delayed criminal complaints of child sexual abuse and analyzed them from the perspectives of legal reform, public policy, and psychological research (Connolly & Read, 2006). These rich data allowed us to investigate factors that influence the presence of expert testimony (Connolly, Price, & Read, 2006),  differences between trials by judge alone and trial by judge and jury (Read, Welsh, & Connolly, 2006) as well as factors associated with claims of repressed memories (Connolly & Read, 2007). In Connolly, Price, and Gordon (2009, 2010) we analyzed over 12,000 judicial comments from published criminal trial decisions. Consistent with psychological research, judges placed some but not a lot of weight on consistency and corroboration. Contrary to psychological research, judges spent a considerable amount of time discussing the behavior of the child around the time of the alleged offence.

Connolly, D.A., Price, H. L., & Read, J.D. (2006). Predicting expert testimony in criminal prosecutions of historic child sexual abuse. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 11, 55-74.

Connolly, D.A., & Read, J.D. (2006). Delayed Prosecutions of Historic Child Sexual Abuse: Analyses of 2064 Canadian Criminal Complaints. Law and Human Behavior, 30, 409-434.

Read, J. D., Connolly, D. A. & Welsh, A. (2006). Archival analysis of actual cases of HCSA: A comparison of jury and bench trials. Law and Human Behavior, 30, 259-285.

Connolly, D. A. & Read, J. D. (2007). Canadian Criminal Court reports of historic child sexual abuse: Factors associated with delayed prosecution and reported repression. In M. E. Pipe, M. E. Lamb, Y. Orbach, & A-C Cederborg (Eds.), Disclosing Abuse: Delays, Denials, Retractions and Incomplete Accounts (pp.195-217). NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.

Read, J. D., & Connolly, D. A. (2007). The effects of delay on long-term memory for witnessed events. In M. P. Toglia, J. D. Read, D. F. Ross, & R. C. L. Lindsay (Eds.), Handbook of Eyewitness Psychology: Memory for Events. NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.

Connolly, D. A., Price, H. L., & Gordon, H. M. (2009). Judging the credibility of historic child sexual abuse complainants: How judges describe their decisions. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 15, 102-123.

Connolly, D. A., Price, H. L., & Gordon. H. M. (2010). Judicial decision-making in timely and delayed prosecutions of child sexual abuse: A Study of honesty and cognitive ability in assessments of credibility. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 16, 177-199.