Second-degree sexual abuse of a child.
The defendant was convicted of repeatedly raping his daughter from the time she was six or seven years old until she was twelve or thirteen. The victim did not report the crime until she was twenty-four because she was frightened of her father and because he warned her never to tell. She also did not want to hurt her family. The court allowed a licensed forensic interviewer and mental health counselor to testify about the prevalence of delayed disclosure of child sexual abuse as a way of helping the jury understand the delayed disclosure in this case. The defendant was convicted and on appeal, he argued that judge abused his discretion in allowing the expert testimony. The court disagreed, reasoning as follows:
Although an expert may not testify in a such a way that they "verify the credibility" of a victim, an expert may express an opinion regarding “the pertinent mental and physical symptoms of victims of abuse.” The court noted that the expert had not interviewed the victim, and testified only in general terms about the behavior of abused children. The expert explained that most children do not report sexual abuse immediately, citing a number of factors including fear of not being believed, the effect on family, the relationship with the perpetrator, and threats or power and control issues. The expert did not testify about whether the victim fit the profile. For all these reasons, the testimony was properly admitted because the expert did not specifically vouch for or verify the credibility of the victim.
Submitted By: Kelly Renaud -- Law Student