Wolfe, D. A., & Legate, B. L. (2003). Expert Opinion on Child Sexual Abuse: Separating Myths from Reality. Clinical Psychology: Science & Practice, 10(3), 339-343.
This commentary on the article by T. P. Sbraga and W. O'Donohue (WPE's Abstract Page) discusses the proper role of expert testimony in relation to child sexual abuse in criminal and civil proceedings, the use of opinion evidence in court, and the specific role of mental health experts. We argue that, due to faulty assumptions about the role of mental health experts in the courtroom, much of the information in the article is misleading. Mental health experts would not, ethically or legally, be permitted to offer an opinion (post hoc or otherwise) as to whether or not someone had been sexually abused. Rather, their appropriate role is to offer sound scientific and clinical opinion on the consistency and/or inconsistency of presenting symptoms, complaints, and/or behavior patterns relating to child sexual abuse in order to educate or inform the court. Expert witnesses are distinct from other witnesses (e.g., victim advocates, therapists) and must offer unbiased and objective information that does not usurp the role of the trier of facts. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2003 APA, all rights reserved)Author's email address