Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome (CSAAS) is a model that was developed to help understand the ways children react to sexual abuse. The syndrome classifies the most typical reactions of child sex abuse victims, dividing them into five categories consisting of secrecy, helplessness, entrapment and accommodation, delayed disclosure, and retraction.
During a child abuse case CSAAS evidence can be influential for the prosecution's argument. Expert witness, Dr. Anthony Urquize is testifying on several child abuse cases throughout the country. The courts have found CSAAS evidence admissible to purportedly show lay jurors how the actions of a child claiming child abuse are not inconsistent with guilt (People vs. Bledsoe).Yet, prosecutors have found a way to present evidence to suggest the defendant is in fact guilty.
Prosecutors have started to widen the range of Dr. Urquiza's testimony to address areas beyond those of the categories included in the “syndrome.” For instance, he has now started presenting statistical data showing that children rarely falsely accuse adults of child sexual abuse. He described that false allegations occur in less than four percent of cases. On the contrary, in People vs. Wilson, the Court of Appeals found the introduction to this statistical data as erroneous. The court found the testimony had the effect of telling the jurors that there was at least a 96 percent chance that any given accuser was telling the truth, and there was an overwhelming likelihood that the accuser in the present case was truthful. The court found that the testimony invaded the province of the jury, was not relevant and was highly prejudicial.
The false allegation testimony is misleading: the real question is not whether the child falsely accuses someone of abuse, but whether they are correctly reporting an actual event. There are instances that show that psychological factors play a significant role in these cases and can cause a child to report an incident that never happened.
The introduction of CSAAS data should be objected by counsel, as the evidence is prejudicial and inaccurate. The scientific community doesn't generally accept CSAAS evidence, apart from delayed disclosure. The defense must continue to challenge this type of testimony and any evidence about CSAAS and any attempt to allow experts to explain how the actions of an accusing child in light of CSAAS help establish a defendant's guilt.