Goodman-Delahunty, Cossins, & O’Brien on Enhancing the Credibility of Complainants in Child Sexual Assault Trials: The Effect of Expert Evidence and Judicial Directions

Professor Jane Goodman-Delahunty of Charles Sturt University Australian Graduate School of Policing, Dr. Anne Cossins of the University of South Wales Faculty of Law, and Kate O’Brien of the Monash University School of Psychology and Psychiatry, have published Enhancing the Credibility of Complainants in Child Sexual Assault Trials: The Effect of Expert Evidence and Judicial Directions, forthcoming in Behavioral Sciences and the Law. Here is the abstract:

This study investigated the knowledge and misconceptions of jury-eligible citizens about children’s reliability as witnesses and responses to child sexual assault (CSA), and examined the influence of expert evidence and judicial directions in challenging common misconceptions. Community volunteers (N = 130) read one of five versions of a simulated jury trial, and completed a pre- and post-trial questionnaire to provide measures of their knowledge of children’s responses to sexual abuse, perceptions of victim credibility, and verdict. Results revealed that endorsement of CSA misconceptions negatively impacted ratings of complainant credibility and verdicts. Judicial directions provided before the child complainant testified enhanced complainant credibility, which in turn predicted guilty verdicts. Comparisons of the effectiveness of two procedural legal mechanisms to manage juror misconceptions and improve knowledge about CSA provide guidance for future researchers investigating ways to increase fairness in cases of CSA.

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