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Mock jury attitudes towards credibility, age, and guilt in a fictional child sexual assault scenario
journal contributionposted on 2014-03-01, 00:00 authored by Samantha Tabak, Bianca KlettkeBianca Klettke
Low conviction rates of child sexual assault (CSA) remain a persistent social problem in Australia. One reason for this may be the impact of attitudes regarding the victims when the evidence is weak. This article examines the effects of victim age on perceptions of credibility and verdict in a CSA case. Eleven electronic focus groups deliberated a fictional CSA case, in which the age of the child was systemically varied between 6 and 15 years. Deliberation transcripts were analysed with NVivo (Version 9, QSR International Pty Ltd., Burlington, MA, USA), from which thematic clusters were derived. Results showed that as the child's age increased, credibility and guilty verdicts decreased. In addition, testimony alone had little impact in influencing the verdict. These findings suggest that in lieu of corroborating evidence, increasing supporting information, such as expert testimony, and providing structured deliberation for the jury may reduce the influence of victim blame, particularly when the child victim is older.