posted by admin on Jul 20

Nichols Consulting has launched a new service aimed at assisting those falsely accused of child sexual abuse in finding an effective lawyer.  Key to this new program is the use of “peer-rating” in assessing the effectiveness of criminal and family law attorneys.  The program is designed to provide three qualified attorney referrals within 24 hours.  Information is available by calling the Nichols Consulting 24 hour hotline.

posted by admin on Jul 20

How do you find the right attorney when you are falsely accused of child sexual abuse?  Many turn to Nichols Consulting and this is why:

Our lawyer referrals are based on the attorney’s practice areas, firm profile, years of experience, available biography, memberships, education, age, reported cases, and perhaps most importantly, peer ratings.

Attorneys rate each other and their ratings are not based on who has the biggest telephone book ad, TV commercial, or website, but rather, peer ratings are based on an attorney’s reputation within the legal community. [Would you be surprised to learn that some attorneys who hold themselves out as "national" experts actually have a poor reputation in their own backyard?]

Looking for the right attorney? Take a minute to read about our referral service and let us help you to make this very important decision.

posted by admin on Mar 7

Behind every false allegation of child sexual abuse there are hidden agenda. Sometimes these agenda are subtle. Other times they are blatant. The key is to identify, as early as possible, those agenda which, once exposed, will most benefit your client.

Commonly, in cases of false allegations, a former or divorcing wife may have an agenda that includes wanting to estrange the falsely accused from a child. In domestic litigation, the false allegations of child sexual abuse may be a nuclear weapon launched by a vindictive parent during a strategic war. But let us explore briefly the importance of identifying all possible agenda:

While it is often true that a former wife may be shown to be a vindictive person who desires to “ruin” your client, it is often equally true that your client may be shown to be a “violent, cheating, cad” who might inspire “vindictiveness” in any woman. Remembering that whether before jury or judge (criminal or civil), the “perception” is the reality” regarding these matters. It therefore behooves the attorney to search for hidden agenda among allegedly “neutral” players.

By way of illustration, let us explore the not so uncommon case of the husband and wife engaged in a bitter custody/visitation dispute: The civil litigation is ongoing. The mother has repeatedly interfered with court ordered visitation with the five-year-old daughter. She has alleged that the child was sick, frightened, confused and otherwise “unwilling” to go to the father. Both the mother and child are in counseling. The father has brought a number of contempt motionsand the judge is losing her patience with the mother. Suddenly, there is an allegation of child sexual abuse made after a visit with the father.

These facts clearly establish a motivation on the part of the mother. A careful inquiry, however, into all hidden agenda might be very productive.

The author has been involved in many cases wherein a careful exploration of the activities of the counselor was most revealing in terms of hidden agenda. In one case the counselor routinely used so- called “regressive therapy” whereby clients were “helped” to “discover” that they were sexually abused as children. The clients were then told that because of their new “discovery” they may be able to “remember” other abuse in their life or the life of their child. Clients were given a list of the “indicators” of child sexual abuse which contained many behaviors normally found among non-abused children. They were told to let the counselor know if they observed any of these “indicators.” Not surprisingly, the behaviors were observed, whereupon, false allegations were made.

As you might imagine, a counselor who has this agenda properly exposed in court will not be credible. Moreover, regardless of the “vindictive” mother’s agenda, the factual case that emerges as a result of exposing the counselor’s agenda is compelling!

Therefore, in conducting your initial assessment of the allegations, apparent and potential hidden agenda need to be explored thoroughly and with an open mind.

[From False Allegations Of Child Sexual Abuse by Edward Nichols, MSW, LCSW -- Available for immediate download.]

posted by admin on Mar 6

As one who has worked within that system (however briefly), my subsequent professional experience has taught me that the most prudent way to discredit the “findings” and testimony of protective caseworkers is by taking a trip up the bureaucratic ladder in search of witnesses.

These agencies are mindful of the humble qualifications of their numerous “caseworkers” and “counselors”, and thus they have attempted to insulate these personnel from vigorous scrutiny through the employment of a network of “supervisors” who are often persons of substantial experience and training. But above this layer of “supervisors” is a mountain of regulations, protocols, training directives, rules and statutes that leads directly to the federal pursestrings.

Frankly, it is humanly impossible for a caseworker to comply with the Law of the Bureaucracy. It is the role of each worker’s supervisor to make it seem as if they have. The dutiful attorney who makes the proper inquiry will find a basket of agency witnesses who have no other alternative than to demonstrate that the worker “did not follow procedure”.

The following questions will guide your inquiry: What is the name of each individual that the caseworker has spoken to regarding the case? What are the dates of each discussion with others? What is the title of each other individual spoken to? Who is the caseworker’s regular supervisor? Did any other supervisor have any knowledge regarding the case? What notes, recordings or other records existregarding any discussions with others? Who is the supervisor directly in charge of the caseworker? To whom does this supervisor report? Has the supervisor had any direct contact with the child, parents or any relatives? When, where, any notes or recordings? Who is in charge of the agency? To whom does she report? What written guidelines and protocols exist for the investigation of allegations of child sexual abuse? Who is responsible to insure that these standards are adhered to? To whom does the agency director report within the county? Where are the written county guidelines, regulations and protocols regarding investigations and evaluations? Who is responsible for overseeing county agency activities within the state? Where are the written regulations and guidelines for investigations located (check the statutes)? Who, on the state level, is responsible to insure compliance with federal regulations?

As you can see, we have moved from the caseworker up the Bureaucratic Ladder in order to get the Law of the Bureaucracy working for you. As you begin these initial inquiry activities, you will identify the potential witnesses while putting the caseworker, the supervisor, and agency on notice: This case will not be business as usual.

[From False Allegations Of Child Sexual Abuse by Edward Nichols, MSW, LCSW -- Available for immediate download.]

posted by admin on Mar 5

The first step in assessing false allegations of child sexual abuse involves the “Who, What, Where, When and Why” conceptualization of the allegations. While the formal allegations, in either a civil or criminal matter, may be a simple, one- sentence assertion, the components of the stated allegations are generally much more extensive.For example, the formally stated allegation may be: “That the alleged perpetrator did place his finger in the vagina of the victim while bathing her on the evening of… .” The “components” of this allegation will be determined by a careful exploration and evaluation of data leading to the formal complaint. Rarely, if ever, do false allegations emerge spontaneously, from within a vacuum.

While exploration of these factors in a normal and natural part of an attorney’s initial inquiry, a word of caution is in order. This initial inquiry often becomes the foundation for discovery activities and thus the overall conceptualization of the case.

Failure to probe carefully and vigorously at this point, in my experience, is most often responsible for the oversight of critical forensic evidence.

Thus, if we return to our example, a careful review of the evaluation of this allegation may reveal the following components: [1] The child was first counseled by her teacher who began to notice “acting out” behavior; [2] In the course of the teacher’s intervention, the child reported that she wet the bed the other night; [3] The teacher contacted the mother who explained that she was going through a divorce owing to the “father’s strange sexual behavior”; [4] The child was referred to a “sexual abuse expert” who subsequently found that the child’s behavior was “consistent with” sexual abuse by the father though no such behavior was directly reported by the child; [5] The “sexual abuse expert” made a report to the Child Protective Agency as required by law; [6] Upon interview by a caseworker, the child “discloses” that her father “touched her down there”; [7] An emergency hearing brought by social services results in the father being removed from the home pending a full investigation; [8] The child is placed in “treatment” at the protective service agency; [9] During the course of “treatment” the child “discloses” that the father put his finger “inside” her; [10] The formal allegation is made in the context of the divorce litigation as the protective service agency does not recommend criminal charges since the father poses no danger to the child at this time.

I have seen scenarios such as this in case after case nationally. It will serve the attorney well to make careful, detailed notes regarding each detail of each component. The example provided above is condensed and summarized for purposes of illustration. In reality one will encounter scores of components in the typical case.

The next important step is to develop a list of questions that flow naturally from each identified component. For example:

[1] “The child was first counseled by her teacher who began to notice ‘acting out’ behavior.” What was the specific behavior observed? When was it observed? Is this a common behavior for this age?

Has the teacher been instructed regarding the identification of sexual abuse (most have)? By whom? When? What was the content of the instruction? Does the teacher have a background as a counselor or history of working with sexually abused children? Since teachers are mandated reporters of suspected child abuse, why didn’t she make a report? Has she made reports in the past? Why did she decide not to make a report at this time?

[2] “In the course of the teacher’s intervention the child reported that she wet the bed the other night.” When and where did this meeting with the child take place? Were the parents notified of the meeting and its purpose? Why so, or not? Was there anyone present at the meeting? Were notes taken or was the meeting recorded by any means? Did the teacher speak to anyone, other than those already identified, about the child following the meeting? How did the subject of bedwetting come up? What were the child’s exact words? What inquiries did the teacher make into the child’s home-life? Why were these inquiries made? Was the content and manner of this meeting consistent with the teacher’s sexual abuse prevention training? At what exact point did the teacher suspect child abuse?

[3] “The teacher contacted the mother who explained that she was going through a divorce owing to the father’s strange sexual behavior.” What is the history of communications between the mother and the teacher? Between the father and the teacher? Why was the father not contacted by the teacher? Did she at this time suspect sexual abuse? If so, why didn’t she report it as required by law? What kind of “strange” sexual behavior did the mother report to the teacher? Did the teacher make notes regarding the conversation with the mother? If not, why not? Did she think the mother’s report was important? Did she discuss her conversation with the mother with anyone? Who? When?

[4] “The child was referred to a ’sexual abuse expert’ who subsequently found that the child’s behavior was ‘consistent with’ sexual abuse by the father though no such behavior was directly reported by the child.” When the teacher made the referral, did she forward any written notes, write a letter, etc.? How is it that the teacher knew to make a referral to this individual? Was this referral consistent with the teacher’s training and the school’s written protocol in such matters? Is there any relationship, professional, social or otherwise, between the teacher and the expert? At the time of the referral, did the teacher suspect that the child was abused? If so, why did she not make a report as required by law? What are the dates, times, locations, and duration of meetings between the child and the expert? What written notes or recordings of each meeting were made? Was anyone else present at any of these meetings? Did the expert consult with anyone else regarding the child? What is the educational background of the expert? What percentage of her income is derived from the finding of sexual abuse? What percentage of her referrals come from the teacher or the school system? What tests or other evaluation methods were used? What contact did the expert have with the mother, father, relatives, or lawyers? If the child was indeed sexually abused, who are all the individuals who could have perpetrated the abuse “consistent with” the expert’s findings?

[5] “The ’sexual abuse expert’ made a report to the Child Protective Agency as required by law.” When, by what means, and to whom? Were any notes or other recorded data forwarded? What, if any, is the relationship, professional, social or otherwise, between the expert and the agency or any of its employees or board members? Is the expert a former employee or consultant to the agency? Is the expert currently, or was she formerly, in practice with any employee or board member of the agency? Does the agency make any referrals to this expert? How many? What kind? What percentage of the expert’s income is derived from agency referrals? etc.

[6] “Upon interview by a caseworker, the child ‘discloses’ that her father ‘touched her down there’.” What are the dates, times, locations and duration of each meeting with each caseworker? Who else, if anyone, was present? What notes, reports, or recordings were made? Were all interviews conducted in a manner consistent with agency written protocols? What tests or other evaluation devices, such as anatomical dolls, were used? What are all the possible explanations for why a father would “touch” a child as “disclosed”? Why did the child make this “disclosure” to the caseworker and not the “expert”? Is the caseworker better trained? What evidence is there that the caseworker is better trained? Is the caseworker familiar with the current research on the suggestibility of children in the context of child abuse investigations? etc.

[7] “An emergency hearing brought by social services results in the father being removed from the home pending a full investigation.” Was the father interviewed by agency staff? Who, when, where and why? Are there any notes, reports or recordings of these interviews? Was the mother interviewed? Who, when, where and why? Any notes, reports or recordings? Was the agency fully apprized of the pending divorce litigation? What is the agency’s written protocol for dealing with allegations of sexual abuse in the context of divorce litigation? Have any of the parents’ attorneys been in contact with the agency? What information was volunteered to the agency by the parties or their attorneys? Was any pertinent information withheld from the agency by any party? Since the agency’s investigation was not complete, what specific information insures that the child was not abused by the mother or a third-party known to the mother?

[8] “The child is placed in ‘treatment’ at the protective service agency.” With whom? What are her qualifications and experience? Is she familiar with the current research on the suggestibility of children and false abuse allegations in the context of divorce litigation? What are the dates, times, duration and location of each counseling session? Did she make notes, reports or record any of the sessions? What is the purpose of the “treatment”? Was it the counselor’s understanding that the child was sexually abused by her father upon referral? Was it the counselor’s role to “gather information” regarding “the abuse“? Would it be fair to say that part of the counselor’s role was investigative in nature? Did the counselor meet with either of the parents? When and where? Any notes, reports or recordings? Did the counselor speak to any relatives or friends of the parents? Did the counselor speak to any other counselors or professionals regarding the case? Any notes, reports or recordings?

[9] “During the course of ‘treatment’ the child ‘discloses’ that the father put his finger ‘inside’ her.” What are the exact details of this “report” that is being characterized as a “disclosure”? What does “inside her” mean? What are all the possible explanations for this alleged report? Exactly where did the father allegedly place his finger? Did the father bathe the child? Did the father ever administer a suppository on doctor’s orders? Did the counselor immediately make referral for physical examination upon hearing this “disclosure”? What is the written agency protocol regarding referral for physical evaluation? In the course of treatment, what reference might have been made to children having fingers placed “inside” them?

[10] “The formal allegation is made in the context of the divorce litigation as the protective service agency does not recommend criminal charges since the father poses no danger to the child at this time.” What is the agency’s written protocol for recommending a criminal indictment? Did the agency in fact “indicate”, or “validate” the allegations? What, if any, are the circumstances in which the agency would request criminal charges? Has the agency completed its investigation in the timeframe and manner mandated by law, state guidelines, county guidelines and written agency protocols? What is the agency’s written plan to normalize the relationship between the father and child? If no such plan exists, why not?

As you can see from the foregoing, the questions that emerge from even an initial review of the components of an allegation can be extensive. The sample I have presented is by no means exhaustive. I’m sure that as you reviewed them, probing questions came to your mind. The key in making this initial assessment is to create a solid foundation upon which your case is built. It will save hours of work as your case develops and prevents many “11th-hour” surprises.

[From False Allegations Of Child Sexual Abuse by Edward Nichols, MSW, LCSW -- Available for immediate download.]

posted by admin on Mar 4

A well presented case, like a well built home, must rest upon a solid foundation. Given what is often at stake in these kinds of cases, failure to carefully assess, at least on a preliminary basis, the factual, and legal obstacles involved in the case is bound to end in an unanticipated result. Moreover, when money is an issue, as it most often is, the attorney and the client must have a realistic view of the strategic possibilities within a limited budget.

Most often financial considerations will limit case activities. When these limitations seriously limit essential discovery or expert testimony, a yellow (if not red) light should flash. Therefore, organized, structured and directed case management is the first order of business. The alternative path (the “let’s do this and see what happens” method) is most likely to place the client and attorney in an unwanted position. Remember, most often the agency-sponsored “experts” have rather unlimited resources (tax-dollars) and are counting on little real resistance to their testimony

Effective case management should include: [1] An assessment of the accused; [2] An assessment of the allegations; [3] Initial discovery activities; [4] An assessment of expert testimony; and [5] The formulation of a budget.

[From False Allegations Of Child Sexual Abuse by Edward Nichols, MSW, LCSW -- Available for immediate download.]

posted by Edward Nichols, MSW, LCSW-R on Mar 3

Interviewing strategies and techniques have become controversial at a time when adults are increasingly attentive to the possibility of abuse.  Many of the children who are interviewed have not made explicit reports of sexual abuse but are instead evaluated because their behaviors or comments raise suspicions, because they have been in contact with potential abusers, or because they are considered “at risk” because physical abuse or neglect has been alleged.  The task of distinguishing between abused and nonabused children is complicated by a variety of factors that are beyond the control of investigative interviewers, including the increased exposure of children to sexual information, increases in the number of caretaking environments in which abuse might occur, and the possibility that conversations with concerned adults — primed by media coverage or their own life experiences –might have influenced or contaminated the children’s accounts.  Research on the impact of social influences, and the corresponding interviewing guidelines, reflect efforts to determine how such experiences might influence children’s answers to questions about abuse.

[For more on the factors that lead to false allegations of child sexual abuse see the Child Sexual Abuse Litigation Library which is available for immediate download.]

posted by Edward Nichols, MSW, LCSW-R on Feb 24

Research has show that when children make false allegations of sexual abuse one or more of these factors may be involved. (Kathryn Kuehnle, Assessing Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse, 1996)

  1. The child is not a victim of sexual abuse and is credible but has misperceived an innocent interaction.
  2. The child is not a victim of sexual abuse but has been unintentionally contaminated by a concerned or hypervigilant caretaker or authority figure.
  3. The child is not a victim of sexual abuse but has been intentionally manipulated by a caretaker or authority figure into believing that he or she has been abuse.
  4. The child is not a victim of sexual abuse by knowingly falsely accuses someone of sexual abuse because of pressure by caretakers or authority figures who believe the child has been abuse.
  5. The child is not a victim of sexual abuse but knowingly falsely accuses someone of sexual abuse for reasons of personal aggrandizement or revenge.

[What's your question?  Nichols Consulting has established a 24/7 hotline at 800-400-8886.  Callers to this hotline will have their calls returned by Mr. Nichols as soon as possible, usually within the same day.  You may also follow Mr. Nichols on Twitter @falseabuse.]

posted by Edward Nichols, MSW, LCSW-R on Feb 23

Although under some conditions very young children may be poor sources of information, young children’s memories may be as accurate as adults’ memories under some conditions.  Research indicates that the following factors influence the child’s responses and, as such impact the accuracy of the child’s statements.

  • age of the child
  • verbal rehearsal of an event
  • specificity of details
  • the amount of information that a child has about an event
  • interviewer’s position of authority and interviewer’s style
  • structure of the questions i.e., repeated questions; grammatical construction and word choice
  • sociocultural influences
  • personality factors

[What's your question?  Nichols Consulting has established a 24/7 hotline at 800-400-8886.  Callers to this hotline will have their calls returned by Mr. Nichols as soon as possible, usually within the same day.  You may also follow Mr. Nichols on Twitter @falseabuse.]

    posted by Edward Nichols, MSW, LCSW-R on Feb 22

    A caller from Kentucky asks, “Can I sue my child’s therapist for the incompetent work she performed on my child causing me great harm?” She explained that the case involved “recovered memories” of child sexual abuse.

    The answer is, “Perhaps”. This is an emerging area of the law, particularly in the case of therapists participating in treatment involving so-called “recovered memories”.  A landmark case in New Hampshire, Hungerford v. Jones, 722 A.2d 478 (N.H. 1998), explicates the issues.

    In Hungerford the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that a mental health professional owed a duty of care to the father of the therapist’s adult client.  In his lawsuit against the therapist, the non-client father alleged that the therapist (a) lacked the training and experience needed to work with recovered memories of abuse, (b) incorrectly represented herself as qualified to treat such issues, (c) failed to inform the client of the controversy regarding repressed memories and the uncertainty of some of the therapeutic techniques employed to uncover such memories, (e) encouraged the client to cut off contact with the father, and (f) communicated with the police to validate the daughter’s accusations against her father.

    In concluding that the therapist owed a duty of care to the non-client father, the court emphasized the harm caused by false accusations of child sexual abuse:

    It is indisputable that “being labeled a child abuser [is] one of the most loathsome labels in society” and most often results in grave physical, emotional, professional, and personal ramifications  This is particularly so where a parent has been identified as the perpetrator.  Even when such an accusation is proven to be false, it is unlikely that social stigma, damage to personal relationships, and emotional turmoil can be avoided.  In fact, the harm caused by misdiagnosis often extends beyond the accused parent and devastates the entire family. (Hungerford, p.480)

    The court ruled that the likelihood of harm to the accused increases when the accused is the client’s parent, when the therapist lacks proper qualifications, when the therapist uses techniques that are not generlly accepted as reliable, and when the accusations are made public:

    The likelihood of harm to an accused parent is exponentially compounded when treating therapists take public action based on false accusations of sexual abuse or encourage their patients to do so.  Public action encompasses any effort to make the allegations common knowledge in the community.  In this situation, the foreseeability of the harm is so great that pubic policy weighs in favor of imposing on the therapists a duty of care to the accused parent throughout the therapeutic process. (Hungerford, p.481)

    Other courts have agreed and disagreed with the Hungerford court thus making lawsuits against mental health professionals by non-clients an open question.  I have consulted on cases involving false recovered memories with successful results relying on Hungerford and similar cases.

    [What's your question?  Nichols Consulting has established a 24/7 hotline at 800-400-8886.  Callers to this hotline will have their calls returned by Mr. Nichols as soon as possible, usually within the same day.  You may also follow Mr. Nichols on Twitter @falseabuse.]

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