Quoted from a report of a study by J. Pearson, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Policy Research, an independent, nonprofit organization established in l991 to research and evaluate a variety of family law and child welfare issues, from article published FAMILY LAW JOURNAL, Summer l993, Vol 27, No 2 copyright American Bar Association Family Law Section.Media accounts, anecdotal reports, and small clinical studies that focus on contested custody cases with sexual abuse allegations have fostered the perception that these problems are rampant and are new common weapons in the divorce arsenal.
To assess the incidence, nature, and validity of such allegations, we had mediators and court evaluators in eight domestic relations courts keep track of all sexual abuse allegations made in every custody/visitation case they handled over a six month period of time in l986. Of the more than 9,000 families served, less than 2 percent also involved allegations of sexual abuse. The percentage range was from 1 percent ro 8 percent. These patterns were consistent with findings obtained in an independent investigation conducted in the Oakland court during l985-87 where incidences of 5 and 6 percent of contested cases were discovered.
Hence, while these allegations might be increasing, they are hardly rampant. Other popular conceptions were also called into question by this study. For example, these cases are not limited to accusations against fathers. Indeed, mothers accused the child's father in only half the cases. The rest involved third parties, mother's new partners, stepfathers, and others.
Nor did we find that sexual abuse allegations in contested cases were more likely to be unfounded than in cases in the general population. In half the cases with allegations, abuse was believed to have occurred, in 33 percent no abuse was believed to have occurred, and in 17 percent no determination was reached by either a court evaluator or CPS worker. Even when the allegation was unfounded, most of the experts we interviewed believed the reports were made in good faith.
Finally, cases involving allegations made by mothers against fathers were equally likely to be perceived as valid as allegations made by fathers against mothers. Allegations that were not founded tended to involved younger children and single rather than multiple episodes with no prior abuse or neglect reports. These are precisely the types of cases that tend to be judged unfounded when sexual abuse allegations occur in the general population. Like visitation denial cases, sexual abuse allegations are extremely vexing. As a result, their impact on the court system remains disproportional to their incidence.
Allegations of Child Molestation and Abuse
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