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Professional issues related to allegations and assessment of child sexual abuse in the context of family court litigation
journal contributionposted on 01.07.2009, 00:00 authored by Jennifer Neoh, David MellorDavid Mellor
This article focuses on the challenge of dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse in the context of the Family Court of Australia. Of all cases that come before the Court, those involving such allegations are relatively uncommon. they tend to be the most difficult cases, however, and are more likely to require a trial and the involvement of qualified practitioners. The review establishes that parental separation is a special circumstance in which sexual abuse may be more likely to occur, and many allegations of sexual abuse are found to be true. There is evidence, however, that a proportion of allegations made by people other than the child concerned may be false. Whether these false allegations are well intentioned and genuinely believed, or maliciously motivated has been a contentious issue. Issues considered include the mishandling of cases, the failure by professionals to consider equally plausible alternative hypotheses than the sexual abuse of a child, confirmation bias, and the profound repercussions of allegations for all members of the family. It is concluded that all allegations of child sexual abuse must be evaluated in a thorough and sensitive manner to separate the few false allegations from the many that are true.