approximately thirty-four percent of the perpetrators being family members.143 Thus, especially
for victims assaulted by a family member, delayed disclosure should not come as a surprise.
2. Using an Expert in the Courtroom
Another tool that prosecutors can use to indirectly help child victims is to have an expert
testify to help explain a child’s behavioral reaction to abuse. Not all states allow an expert to
testify about a victim’s behavior.144 The scope of expert testimony also varies from state to
state.145 In New Mexico, expert testimony has been allowed to explain victim behavior. In State v.
Alberico, the Supreme Court of New Mexico allowed expert testimony to show that the teenage
victims suffered from PTSD, which was consistent with someone who was a victim of sexual
abuse or rape.146 Two different cases were addressed in Alberico: Alberico and Marquez.147 The
court allowed expert testimony in the case of Alberico, to show a crime had been committed and
that the victim did not consent to sexual intercourse.148 In the case of Marquez, the court allowed
expert testimony to show the victim’s behavior was indicative that sexual abuse had taken
place.149 The court did note that PTSD testimony was inadmissible to show credibility or to
identify the defendant.150
In Wisconsin, in State v. Jensen, L.J., an eleven-year-old child, accused her stepfather of
sexually assaulting her.151 The state qualified the school guidance counselor as an expert witness
to testify about L.J.’s behavior in school.152 L.J. was sent to the counselor’s office after teachers
noticed marked changes in her behavior:
“acting out in class, some noncompliance as far as doing homework, standards
[sic] up to the teachers, being a little bit disrespectful and quite a bit of writing
notes to boys, and boys writing notes to her.” [The counselor] testified that L.J.
had been [wearing] tight jeans and v-necked sweaters without an undershirt; had
written “I love __” (her “boyfriend’s” name) on the back pocket of her pants; and
had on one occasion pinched a boy’s buttocks.
The instructor of the school’s sex education class had reported to [the
counselor] that L.J. asked precocious questions, such as whether it was possible
to get pregnant by having sexual intercourse in a bathtub. [The counselor]
himself had also observed that L.J. was noticeably nervous and anxious during
the sex education class that dealt with sexual abuse.153
The court allowed the counselor to testify about L.J.’s behavior at school and that these behaviors
were “red flags” for someone who had been sexually abused.154 He was also permitted to testify
that L.J.’s behavior was “consistent with the behavior of children who were victims of sexual
143 Howard N. Snyder, Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident, and Offender
Characteristics, U.S. DEP’T OF JUSTICE, BUREAU JUSTICE STAT. 10 (2000), available at
144 Long, supra note 133, at 19.
146 State v. Alberico, 861 P.2d 192, 195 (N.M. 1993).
148 Id. at 195, 208.
149 Id. at 208.
150 Id. at 210–11.
151 State v. Jensen, 432 N. W.2d 913, 914 (Wis. 1988).