Wrongful Acquittals of Sexual Abuse

Thomas D. Lyon, Stacia Roosevelt, Kelly McWilliams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Ross Cheit’s book The Witch-Hunt Narrative highlights the difficulties of prosecuting child sexual abuse. Drawing examples from a single case, Alex A., we examine the ways in which false acquittals of sexual abuse are likely to occur. First, prosecutors tend to question children in ways that undermine their productivity and credibility. Second, prosecutors have difficulty in explaining to juries the dynamics of sexual abuse and disclosure, making children’s acquiescence to abuse and their failure to disclose when abuse first occurs incredible. Third, attorneys undermine children’s credibility by pushing them to provide difficult to estimate temporal and numerical information. A post-script to the Alex A. case illustrates the costs of wrongful acquittals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)805-825
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • child abuse
  • child sexual abuse
  • prevention of child abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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