When a child describes being abused by an adult in the family, the typical response is to accept their accounts as candid and honest descriptions of what took place. The one exception to this is within the context of custody disputes. As many as one-fourth or more of such allegations of sexual abuse are “unfounded” because of serious concerns for inconsistencies, discrepancies with other known facts, or evidence of coaching. Even though cases may be considered false allegations of sexual abuse the judges hearing such cases often remain concerned to protect the child from possible abuses.

Many of these situations involve allegations by one parent that the child was sexually molested by the other parent. Other concerns are that one parent has deviant sexual interests, or excessive use of pornography, or similar problems that might exert an unhealthy influence on the developing child. This most often-- but not always-- is an accusation by the mother that the father has such problems. These cases lack sufficient evidence to lead to criminal charges, but the concerns linger because we know that many actual cases of abuse are not taken to trial.

I have been asked many times by the Court or by the advisors to the court to assist in determining if the accused parent has sexual attraction to children, particularly children of the age and gender of the child in question. Psychosexual evaluations consist of an extensive life history interview, psychological testing to detect or to rule out the presence of problematic mental health issues, and psychosexual testing to screen for problematic sexual interests and behaviors. Sometimes both parties are required to undergo similar evaluations in a sense of fairness to both sides. While no procedure can establish with total certainty if someone has committed acts of abuse, nor whether they have deviant interests, the evaluations are sufficiently accurate to be accepted by many courts.