Strange Language: Child Victims Under Cross Examination

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Riverina Literacy Centre, Jan 1, 1988 - Abused children - 103 pages
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The experience of the child victim as a courtroom witness in sexual abuse cases is examined in this study of a testing program involving 30 children aged 6 to 15. The purpose of the study was to identify needs not recognized by courts that can be responded to, denied, or exacerbated through language. Based on court transcripts, differences were studied between the language repertoire of the child and that demanded by the courtroom. Court-related language features are identified and discussed: use of negative; juxtaposition; nominalization; multifaceted questions; unclear or confused expressions; specific and difficult vocabulary; unclear anaphora; use of police statements; quoting of the child's words; quoting of other people's words; repetition of previous response; time, space and location questions; and embeddings. Results of the testing program indicate that certain types of questions posed problems for the child trying to hear language. It is suggested that court appearance is not necessarily traumatizing for a child, but becomes so when a child cannot feel sure that he or she is heard, understood, and believed. Suggestions for improved questioning are offered. An annotated bibliography is included that contains 66 references. (LB)

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Shooting rats in a barrel
Listening but not hearing

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About the author (1988)

Mark Brennan, PhD, is a Senior Research Associate with Lighthouse International in New York. He received his PhD in Applied Developmental Psychology from Fordham University in 1995. Dr. Brennan joined the Lighthouse in 1996 after working as Senior Research Associate at the New York City Department of Aging. Work at the Lighthouse has included secondary analyses of The Lighthouse National Survey on Vision Loss and Aging, examining coping and adaptation to age-related vision loss through qualitative analysis, and an examination of the roles of religiousness and spirituality in adaptation to vision impairment among middle-aged and older adults.

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