Does the Abel Assessment of Sexual Interest (AASI) meet the Daubert criteria for evidence?

The Daubert criteria for scientific evidence in the Courts list several specific points that must be met before evidence will be considered admissible. The Abel Assessment of Sexual Interest (AASI) has been accepted at trial 15 times as meeting Daubert, denied for specific flaws 4 times, excluded as not relevant once, and reversed on appeal twice because the lower court record was insufficient for a full review.

Many of the criticisms were leveled against the Abel Screen, an earlier instrument that was a different test than the AASI. The Abel Screen used a different set of slides and had no questionnaire. Some of these criticisms do not apply to the AASI. Other court cases examined the AASI in the first version, early in the use of the instrument. Some of the criticisms were accurate, and subsequently have been addressed.

US v. Whitehorse 2001, denied. This involved the earlier Abel Screen. Criticisms included: insufficient Native Americans in the samples; the false Negative rate of 25% wouldn’t assist the jury; the test did not meet general acceptance, citing the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA) guidelines (2001); the test excluded incest cases. Most of those issues either did not apply to the AASI specifically, or no longer apply to the current version.

US v. Birdsbill 2003, denied. Criticisms included: the AASI is intended for treatment, not diagnosis; the test doesn’t indicate a defendant’s tendency to abuse children; there was no adequate control group; there was no adequate peer review; the error rate is poor; the scientific community does not accept the AASI for the diagnosis of pedophilia. These criticisms either reflect a misunderstanding of the nature of the test, or they no longer apply to the current test.

Ready v. MA, 2002, 2006, denied. Criticisms included: there was inadequate testing of the technique; no studies on the questionnaire; no studies on test-retest reliability; the formula was not subject to rigorous scrutiny; there were no studies outside the close-knit world of ATSA; there were no pictures in the VRT (visual reaction time) of boys the specific age of the victims; the susceptibility of the test to manipulation was unknown. Some of these issues were true at the time, but subsequently have been rectified. Other issues suggest that some pertinent literature was not provided to the Court.