Ethical Issues in the Legal System Sexual abuse of children refers to sexual behavior between a child and an adult or between two children when one of them is significantly older or uses coercion. The perpetrator and the victim may be of the same sex of the opposite sex. Child sexual abuse has been reported up to 80,000 times a year, but the number of unreported instances is far greater, because the children are afraid to tell anyone what has happened, and the legal procedure for validating an episode is difficult. The long-term emotional and psychological damage of sexual abuse can be devastating to the child. Child and adoscelent psychologists can help abused children regain a sense of self-esteem, cope with feelings of guilt about the abuse, and begin the process of overcoming the trauma. Psychologists strive to benefit those with whom they work for and to take care of everyone and to do no harm. The psychologist is there mediate the impact of sexual abuse and rebuild the lives of those affected by the trauma. ( e. g. , Courtois 1988; Russell 1986; Trepper & Barrett 1989). Psychologists deal with ethical and legal dilemmas in working with victims of sexual abuse; especially when individual and family needs become a conflict. Psychologists in the United States are required by law to report suspected child abuse. In most jurdistications, reporting requirements override both confidentially and privilege associated the physician patient relationship. When the evidence of abuse comes from the suspected abuser in the course of psychotherapy, difficult ethical issues arise from which authors of reporting legislation have often dismissed too lightly. Despite criticisms, it is clear that all states have determined that mandated reporting of perceived abuse is necessary. Of course the breach of confidently against reporting an individual may come into effect, but if the suspected victim is the one treated there is no breach in confidently since no therauptic relationship has been established. The requirement to report suspected past abuse places therapists in an ethical dilemma between suppressing the evidence of possible abuse and breaking confidence by reporting their suspicions. A system proposed in many states, clearly states the reporting of abuse of any child under eighteen that is currently receiving treatment or has received abuse in the past that may require therapy. The system would provide all the protections for victims currently available under the various state statues without requiring therapists to break confidentially beyond these situations in which professional ethical guidelines already require such reporting. Psychologists are usually called upon to assist the child/victim and family members from psychological problems that have resulted from sexual abuse experiences. Psychologists are specialists in interviewing and assessment techniques, as well as experts in intervention procedures. Psychologists who have received training in child deveoplement are able to appraise the cognitive and emotional development of the child as well as his or her overall functioning. Additionally psychologists are trained in behavioral observations which can help in the specific needs of the victim. Psychologists may also aid in the investigation of detailed events that occurred during the sexual abuse of the victim. Investigators make the mistake of using improper interview techniques that have actually "tainted" the testimony of a child to a point where it became impossible to determine if the child was giving an account of something that actually happened or something they learned during the interview process. These errors are made by interviewers with various levels of training and also with various levels of familiarity with the child. The errors include the omission of details (forgetting) and the commission of details (inserting facts that were not stated), as wells as misreporting the degree to which the child's answers were spontaneous or the result of suggestive techniques. In addition, interviewers often cannot recall the source of their hearsay statements; they cannot remember whether the child originally made the statement, whether the interviewer originally made the statement, and in some cases, whether another child made that statement. The last error is most likely to occur when investigators interview a number of children during the same investigation. (Allen N. Cowling) Children who have been sexually abused can suffer a range of psychological and behavioral problems, from mild to severe, in both the short and long term. Psychologists should follow a certain code of conduct that will provide a framework of ethical dilemmas encountered by family therapists that work with child abuse cases. Psychologists are able to help mend the minds of a child abuse victim by talking and discussing events that can’t be discussed with others in a child sexual abuse investigation the alleged the victim is often also the only witness to the event and therefore the entire investigation depends on the child testimony. The interviewers approach and style of interviewing remain crucial for enabling or disabling the child to give an account of his or her experiences. Reference Page: Conflict of Interest Between Therapist Patient Confidently and the Duty to Report Sexual Abuse of Children By: Robert D. Miller M. D. , PH. D, Robert Weinstocks M. D. - Validation of Child Sexual Abuse: The psychologists Role Lelie I. Risin and J. Regis Mc Namora - Dynamics of Verbal Interactation between interviewer and child in Interviews with alleged victims of child sexual abuse By: Julia Korkma and Pekka Santilla - http://www. allencowling. com/video. htm “Why courts should insist on recording interviews of children”
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