Pub. date: 2005 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412950565 | Print ISBN: 9780761928201 | Online ISBN: 9781412950565| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Law, Child Witnesses
Sarah Christine Kulkofsky & Stephen J. Ceci
When accusations of child abuse arise, the only witness is often a child. In the past, legal restrictions on child witnesses prevented their testimony from being included as evidence in criminal cases, thus making prosecution of such crimes difficult. As society's awareness of child abuse and maltreatment increased, changes to the legal system were enacted to facilitate children testifying in court. With these changes came a greater number of children taking the stand in court. Current estimates suggest that approximately 100,000 children testify in court cases in the United States annually, with 13,000 testifying in sexual abuse cases (Ceci & Bruck, 1995). With such a large number of children testifying, especially in cases where the only evidence is the child's report of the events, issues of the reliability of child witnesses become paramount. Are children, especially young children, able to accurately report events they have experienced, and furthermore, are there ...