Empirical Guidance on the Effects of Child Sexual Abuse on Memory and Complainants' Evidence

Jane Goodman-Delahunty, Mark A Nolan and Evianne L van Gijn-Grosvenor

July 2017

ISBN 978-1-925622-18-8

Executive Summary

This transdisciplinary report reviews contemporary scientific psychological research on the memory of child sexual abuse as evidence. This report is particularly relevant for police officers, legal practitioners, judges and juries who must assess child sexual abuse victims’ memory capabilities and the reliability of their memories. The purpose of the report is to summarise what is known about how victims remember experiences of abuse, how victims optimally remember their experiences, and how this affects their reporting and the evidence given at trial.

This report aimed to gather contemporary psychological scientific research evidence that police, lawyers and juries should be aware of when responding to victims of child sexual abuse, in general, and to victims of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts, in particular. The report summarises what victims can be expected to remember about experiences of child sexual abuse, how they can be assisted to optimally remember those experiences, and how these experiences affect their reporting to police and their evidence in legal proceedings.

This empirical guidance on memory in cases of child sexual abuse applied a transdisciplinary approach to optimise the way in which the scientific psychological research was translated for use by police, legal practitioners, judges, juries and law reformers. Based on this empirical review, a standalone summary of key guidance on the effects of child sexual abuse on memory and complainants’ evidence was prepared, presenting the main findings derived from the report. This guidance was fully cross-referenced to evidence-based sources in each of the substantive chapters of the report.