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Protections for child sex abuse victims in court

In our prior posts, we have highlighted how difficult it can be for victims of sexual abuse to recall specific instances because the pain of their encounters can become too emotionally difficult. Also, the experiences of flashbacks and loss of self worth can lead to a downward spiral of self-destructive activity.

 Even with this in mind, some child victims must still testify in court to provide sufficient evidence to convict their abusers. The difficulty of this can certainly be overwhelming, especially in a court of law where all eyes are upon the victim, who may already be emotionally traumatized by having so much attention drawn on them, let alone having to describe incredibly painful and embarrassing moments of their lives. 

Because of this, federal law and California law allows for young sexual assault victims to testify in a separate room or location through closed circuit television. Courts have discretion in allowing children to testify in this manner so that judges may balance the constitutional rights of defendants to face their accusers against the ability to obtain truthful and accurate testimony from a witness while protecting the integrity of the judicial process.

In doing so, a prosecutor or charging party must petition the court to have the child witness testify outside of the presence of the jury or the defendant, and to have such testimony communicated directly to the court.

Indeed, there are certain elements that must be satisfied, including that the defendant inflicted great bodily harm upon the victim or that the defendant acted in a way that caused the victim to be unable to continue with his or her testimony. An attorney experienced with child sex abuse cases can promote such a motion to protect a child victim.

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