Despite mixed research on the use of anatomical dolls and diagrams, legislation should
support the use of these aids during testimony for similar reasons given in the suggestion for
leading questions. Young children use their own language that they have adopted from their social
surroundings.276 A child referring to his or her abuser’s “thing” may refer to the abuser’s genitalia
or their finger. Diagrams and dolls allow for better understanding of child witnesses, instead of
pushing them to use medically appropriate language. Forensic interviewers stress the importance
of children responding to questions in their own words without vocabulary influenced by the
interviewer.277 This includes asking any follow-up questions in the child’s words.278 Regardless of
techniques used, some victims will remain reluctant to testify, particularly when they are close to
the offender, have previously disclosed, or lack support from their non-offending caregiver.279
Demonstrative aids can also assist overly uncomfortable children in telling their story without
verbally stating all of the details of the incident.280 Attorneys using anatomical dolls and diagrams
should have professional training in this area prior to testimony. Training will not only improve
the quality of testimony elicited but will decrease objections and appeals on this practice.
G. Comfort Items
Based on new programs allowing for dogs to provide comfort in the courtroom, allowing
comfort items is sure to be an area where case law will soon be forming. For that reason, statutes
should begin the process of addressing this issue.
Suggestion number seven is borrowed from the state statute of Missouri with a change in
the amount of time required to submit a motion due to the frequency at which younger children
might switch between comfort items:
Upon motion made by the child, his or her representative, or any party to the judicial
proceeding, at least [seven] days in advance of the judicial proceeding, the court
may allow the child to have a toy, blanket, or similar item in his or her possession
while testifying281 if the item is agreed upon by all parties, the child is significantly
more likely to testify with the item, and the item does not serve to garner sympathy
from the jury.
While small comfort items such as a blanket or stuffed animal, are rarely contested, a live animal
in the courtroom, despite potential therapeutic benefits, could serve as more of a distraction than a
comfort to child witnesses. For that reason, more research and information must be collected prior
to addressing live animals in an ideal statute.
This Article analyzes the laws on child witnesses in all fifty states. It focuses on seven
issues crucial to children when testifying, which includes limitations on the number of interviews;
276Burrows & Powell, supra note 224, at 298.
277Newlin et al., supra note 241, at 8.
279FALLER, supra note 19, at 182-83.
280HALL & SALES, supra note 15, at 28.
281MO. ANN. STAT. § 491.725.3( 4) (West 2015).