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Protecting Child Witnesses: Judicial Efforts to Minimize Trauma and Reduce Evidentiary Barriers

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Growing attention has been given to the need to protect child witnesses from the potential trauma associated with providing testimony in the courtroom, as well as to the importance of maximizing the validity and reliability of that testimony. At the same time, these efforts may conflict with the right of an accused to confront his or her accuser or various evidentiary rights of the accused. Numerous educational programs have been conducted to assist judges and lawyers to better respond to these issues. A nation-wide survey of judges was conducted to determine the relative use of various means to minimize trauma or reduce evidentiary barriers in child sexual abuse cases, how judges evaluate these means, and the impact of educational programs in this area. The survey indicated that although judges use a broad range of approaches to minimize this trauma or reduce evidentiary barriers, they are particularly likely to use simpler techniques that are relatively easy to implement and which they consider both effective and fair to the parties appearing before the court. Attending educational programs appears to influence the use of these approaches. Survey results also indicated the best methods for disseminating relevant information on child sexual abuse to judges.

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: The Institute on Mental Disability and the Law, National Center for State Courts

Publication date: January 1, 1996

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