In many cases involving sexual molestation or other sex crimes involving children, it is common for the prosecution (and sometimes the defense) to call a Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome ("CSAAS") expert. This expert, typically a psychiatrist or psychologist, seeks to provide insight to the jury concerning why children are reluctant to disclose sexual abuse and how children attempt to cope psychologically with sexual abuse.
CSAAS has its origins in 1983, when Dr. Roland Summit published a research paper outlining CSAAS as a model to help clinicians understand why child victims of intrafamilial abuse may be reluctant to disclose abuse. Summit's model had five components: (1) secrecy; (2) helplessness; (3) entrapment and accommodation; (4) delayed, conflicted and unconvincing disclosure; and (5) retraction of disclosure. Summit later clarified that his model was not a diagnostic tool and should not be used to "diagnose" a child as a victim of abuse. Since then, CSAAS has served as a guideline for assessing potential child sexual abuse.
Subsequently, researchers have tried to determine how many of Summit's components have empirical support. The body of scientific research is mixed, but a leading expert, Dr. Stephen Ceci of Cornell University, concluded that only the delayed disclosure component had verified scientific support.
Links to key articles concerning CSAAS are listed below:
A solid defense strategy in a sex crime case involving children has to include a thorough understanding of CSAAS and how to attack the lack of scientific support for many aspects of CSAAS that the prosecution may try to use against you in your case. At Chambers Law Firm, we understand CSAAS and how it can be used to help you in the defense of your case. If you are facing a sex crime involving a minor, contact us today to see how we can assist you.