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The Legal System and Child Sex Abuse—Ross Cheit's The Witch‐Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children

  • Cynthia Grant Bowman

Abstract

The prosecution of child sex abuse in cases involving very young children presents difficult problems for the justice system. Ross Cheit's book The Witch‐Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children (2014) addresses these problems in the context of the 1980s cases involving daycare centers. While the conventional conclusion drawn from these cases is that young children are not credible witnesses, Cheit's examination of the trial records in these cases reveals credible evidence of abuse in many, as well as evidence of injustice attributable to untrained and/or overenthusiastic interviewers. Cheit's examination of this litigation provides an opportunity to evaluate the legal system's treatment of child witnesses in sex abuse cases, as well as to discuss the appropriate use of social scientific evidence in litigation, the impact of mass media accounts on public policy, and the respective merits of criminal versus civil lawsuits in child sex abuse cases.

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