Common Errors in Forensic Child Sexual Abuse Evaluations

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CE Credit: 1.5

Length: 1 hour

Exam Items: 10

Mental health and medical professionals and paraprofessionals (MHPs) participate in hundreds of thousands forensic child sexual abuse evaluations each year. These MHPs are often required or encouraged to make expert judgments about the validity of allegations of child sexual abuse that are not corroborated by hard evidence such as a perpetrator confession. Mistakes in these judgments are more common than most laypersons realize.

Psychologists are often called upon to either perform initial forensic evaluations in cases of alleged CSA or, perhaps more commonly, to evaluate the quality and outcomes of evaluations performed by lower-level MHPs. The purpose of this workshop is to help participants recognize three common errors that are endemic in the current practice of forensic CSA evaluations. Participants will learn how to explain these errors to finders of fact by citing solid research findings and using easy to understand visual aids and metaphors.

Learning Objective 1
Understand common errors of professionals and laypersons involved in child sex abuse investigations, why these errors occur, and how to avoid these errors in the future.

Learning Objective 2
Learn what research tells us about the accuracy of judgments by professionals about the validity of allegations of child sexual abuse.

Learning Objective 3 
Learn how to improve forensic interview quality by minimizing the risk of false confessions and false memories.

Presenter: Steve Herman, PhD

Dr. Herman received his Ph. D. in Counseling Psychology from Stanford University in 1998 and is licensed to practice as a psychologist in Hawaii. His areas of clinical and research interest include the study of judgments about the validity of allegations of child sexual abuse evaluations, juror decision making in criminal trials, behavioral medicine (especially  psychosocial interventions for cancer and heart disease patients), mitigating the impact of financial catastrophes such as foreclosure and bankruptcy on mental health, career counseling,group counseling, and positive psychology. Dr. Herman joined the faculty of the University of Hawaii at Hilo in August 2005. He has two major current research projects focusing  on a) mental health professionals' judgments about the validity of child sexual abuse allegationsand b) the accuracy of jury verdicts in criminal trials. Dr. Herman teaches courses on counseling theories and skills, career counseling, group counseling, child maltreatment, and personality psychology. He also supervises our master's students' practicum and internship experiences.

In 2010, Dr. Herman was invited to Seoul, Korea to present a workshop on the science and practice of child sexual abuse evaluations to Korean child interviewers, psychologists, law enforcement personnel, and policy-makers. He also presents workshops on this topic for American psychologists at the annual conventions of the American Psychological Association. He has authored or co-authored numerous professional publications.  


1 User Review

"Excellent, much-needed fact-based information to correct widely-held but inaccurate beliefs and opinions held by professionals about child sexual abuse. Every mental health professional, attorney and judge who deals with child sexual abuse should see this."
— David C.