Child victims of sexual abuse may find themselves behind closed doors answering 1-on-1 questions from a trained psychologist representing the defense. This psychologist is typically hired by the defendant, and could use aggressive or unfair tactics that wouldn’t even be appropriate for an adult in normal circumstances.
Ms. Micha Liberty of Liberty Law Office often represents children who have been sexually abused. Not only is she in favor of SB 755 – the bill that would limit exams to three hours for children under the age of 15 – she also appeared on the Assembly Judiciary Committee at a hearing for the bill in Sacramento this June.
Currently, there is no time limit for examinations of sexual abuse victims below the age of 15, and some are frequently examined for up to six hours straight. According to Ms. Liberty, this is too long for most children. In one particularly egregious case, a therapist denied a 6-year-old boy a bathroom break for more than an hour after an initial request.
The boy urinated himself, after which the therapist got angry with the boy and accused him of lying about the alleged abuse. “I stopped the exam once I heard yelling through the door, and then obtained a favorable settlement on behalf of the client the following week,” said Liberty.
“I stopped the exam once I heard yelling through the door, and then obtained a favorable settlement on behalf of the client the following week,” said Liberty.
Depositions and examinations are often known to be contentious, where one party is probing a witness or accuser. Children under 15 should not be subject to such potentially aggressive examination.
“If an expert requires more than three hours to examine a child under 15, they are likely not well organized, and a child represented by my firm will absolutely not be affected by [the defense’s] lack of preparation over what is already a traumatic matter.”
Liberty continued, “If by the end of three hours they were not able to complete their examination, a judge who is familiar with these types of cases will make a decision should there be reasonable evidence to extend.”
The California Psychiatric Association supported the bill amid opposition from law firms representing alleged abusers, after obtaining early amendments that called for minimum standards for therapists who conduct exams.
If you have questions regarding child sexual abuse, assault, or would like to know more about SB 755, contact Micha Liberty at 510-645-1000.
To view the Legislative Counsel’s Digest, Click Here.