The Myth of Epidemic False Allegations of Sexual Abuse in Divorce Cases

April 23, 2009 § Leave a comment

The Myth of Epidemic False Allegations of Sexual Abuse in Divorce Cases  by Merrilyn McDonald  (note: abstract summaries and web page addresses are not from the article)

CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE IS A COMMON EXPERIENCE. A more recent national survey found that 27 percent of women and 16 percent of men reported sexual abuse as a child. David Finkelhor, Gerald Hotaling, I.A. Lewis & Christine Smith, “Sexual Abuse in a National Survey of Adult Men and Women: Prevalence, Characteristics, and Risk Factors,” Child Abuse and Neglect: The International Journal, v14 n1 p19-28 1990. Abstract: The national survey of over 2500 adult men and women found a reported history of childhood sexual abuse of 27 percent in women and 16 percent in men. Correlates of higher rates of abuse (e.g., growing up in unhappy families) are reported for both men and women. http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/custom/portlets/recordDetails/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=EJ406942&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=EJ406942 The rates of 27 percent of women and 16 percent of men are considered to be solid, accurate rates by most researchers.

ALLEGATIONS OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE IN DIVORCE CASES ARE INFREQUENT. An excellent study on the incidence of sexual abuse in divorce was done by Thoennes and Tjaden of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts Research Unit in Denver, with funding from the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect. Data was gathered from domestic relations court staff in eight jurisdictions, during a six-month period. Staff in these jurisdictions completed a questionnaire each time there was an allegation of sexual abuse in a custody or visitation dispute. More than 9,000 families in these areas had custody or visitation disputes. Of these 9,000 families, less than 2 percent had allegations of sexual abuse. (Nancy Thoennes & Patricia G. Tjaden, “The Extent, Nature, and Validity of Sexual Abuse Allegations in Custody/Divorce Disputes,” Child Abuse and Neglect: The International Journal, v14 n2 p151-63 (1990). “A study of over 9,000 custody/visitation dispute cases found that sexual abuse allegations occurred in 2 percent of contested cases. Such cases involve a variety of accused and accusing parties and are no less likely to be “unfounded” than other sexual abuse reports.”
http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/custom/portlets/recordDetails/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=EJ411724&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=EJ411724

David P. H. Jones & J. Melbourne McGraw, “Reliable and Fictitious Accounts of Sexual Abuse to Children,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Vol. 2, No. 1, 27-45 (March 1987). “The various categories of reports of child sexual abuse were examined in Phase 1 of a two-part study. In this first phase, all the reports (N = 576) of child sexual abuse made to the Denver Department of Social Services were categorized. Most reports were reliable accounts (70%), but a small proportion appeared to be fictitious (8%)” http://jiv.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/2/1/27

Why Do Kids Recant?….The fact that a child recants does not mean that abuse never happened. It often means that pressure has been applied to the child and the child submitted. A child may also recant when he feels he is not being believed. Naturally reluctant to talk about abuse, a child may become silent or recant if those interviewing him seem skeptical of his disclosure. (Published in the Spring 1998 issue of Court Review)  http://www.omsys.com/mmcd/courtrev.htm

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