from their abuser.63 They may experience nightmares, be hyper-vigilant, be hyperactive, act
hyper-aggressively, or socially isolate themselves.64
Sexual abuse has many insidious effects upon its victims. For children, one of the many
ways the effects of sexual abuse can manifest themselves is through sexual behaviors, or
“[s]exual[ly] acting out.”65 Behaviors such as a child exposing himself to others, masturbating
suddenly, looking at pornographic material, or dressing promiscuously are all behaviors that may
result from sexual abuse.66 In a child who has been sexually abused, these types of behaviors may
result from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) and a phenomenon called “
reexperiencing.”67 A child may be depressed or have other mental health issues.68 He or she may
self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.69
2. Build Trust
Along with victim advocates, prosecutors are in the best position to help a child victim
with the demands and stressors of a trial. After all, the prosecutor will know the most about the
case, they will be calling the child as a witness, they will meet with the child multiple times, and
they will be the primary defender of the child in the courtroom. The latter is especially true when
the child and his or her support network are both testifying, because in these cases, the support
network may be excluded from the courtroom while the child testifies.70
Moreover, when a child is forced into the legal system, he or she is forced into a world
full of strangers.71 When children, abused or not, have to interact with strangers in a strange
place, they frequently experience anxiety.72 Throughout the legal process, previously traumatized
children must extensively interact with strangers, such as attorneys, interviewers, judges, jurors,73
victim advocates, and other legal staff. All of these interactions can add stress to an already
For these reasons, prosecutors must establish trust with the child if the prosecutor intends
to have honest and productive interactions with the child.75 “Rapport . . . must be achieved before
an adolescent will truly allow an adult into his or her world.”76 There are many ways to build
trust. This Article explores building trust through meeting with children and being able to educate
them about the legal system.
i. Meeting with the child
63 BOWLES E T AL., supra note 61, at 7.
64 See WILLIAM E. KRILL, JR., GENTLING: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO TREATING PTSD IN ABUSED CHILDREN 9–34 (2d ed. 2011)
(detailing the possible signs and symptoms of PTSD).
65 Child Sexual Abuse Trauma Treatment, THE REFUGE – A HEALING PLACE,
http://www.therefuge-ahealingplace.com/ptsd-treatment/child-sexual-abuse (last visited Apr. 10, 2015).
66 Paris-Goodyear Brown et al., Child Sexual Abuse: The Scope of the Problem, in HANDBOOK OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE:
IDENTIFICATION, ASSESSMENT, AND TREATMENT 3, 5 (Paris Goodyear-Brown ed., 2011).
67 Id. at 14.
68 BOWLES E T AL., supra note 61, at 7.
70 This is procedurally known as the “exclusionary rule.” See FED. R. EVID. 615; see also Karen J. Saywitz, Developmental
Underpinnings of Children’s Testimony, in CHILDREN’S TESTIMONY: A HANDBOOK OF PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH AND FORENSIC
PRACTICE 3, 12 (Helen L. Westcott et al. eds., 2002) (“When both parents and children are witnesses in a case, parents are often
precluded from being in the courtroom when their children testify.”).
71 Saywitz, supra note 70, at 12.
76 Sharon A. McGee & C. Curtis Holmes, Treatment Considerations with Sexually Traumatized Adolescents, in HANDBOOK OF CHILD
SEXUAL ABUSE: IDENTIFICATION, ASSESSMENT, AND TREATMENT 447, 449 (Paris Goodyear-Brown ed., 2012).