Supreme Court allows indirect testimony of children in abuse cases
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The Supreme Court ruled recently that the indirect testimonies of children can be used in abuse cases, specifically conversations teachers have with young children who are too young to testify.
The decision, which reversed an Ohio Supreme Court ruling, came in the case of Darius Clark of Cleveland, who was convicted of abusing two children, when teachers of one of the children were allowed to testify about what the child told them, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Preschool teachers testified that the alleged victim, a 3-year-old, told them Clark was responsible for his bruises and abrasions. Clark, a boyfriend of the child's mother, was sentenced to 28 years in prison.
The Supreme Court rejected Clark's argument that not allowing him to cross-examine the child violated his Sixth Amendment right to confront his accusers, according to The Washington Post.
"The case had attracted close scrutiny. Teacher groups, child advocates and more than 40 states signed onto briefs supporting Ohio prosecutors, warning an adverse ruling could have impeded child-abuse prosecutions nationwide and traumatized children if they were required to testify," the Journal reported.
Children are considered too unreliable to testify at trial in most states. But teachers are a group of professionals who are required to report suspected child abuse to authorities, according to the Journal.
The ruling ensures abused children have their day in court.
“Mandatory reporting laws (for teachers) aren’t about prosecuting crimes, but are there to protect abused or neglected children and to ensure those children and their families get the help and support they deserve,” National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García told the Post.
Four in every 10 children in the U.S. were exposed to some kind of abuse or violence in the last year, a statistic discovered by recent data from the National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence.
"Children are the most victimized segment of the population. The full burden of this tends to be missed because many national crime indicators either do not include the experience of all children or don't look at the big picture and include all the kinds of violence to which children are exposed," said David Finkelhor of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, according to Newsmax.
Violence rates seem to be stable, compared to 2011, although certain kinds of violence exposure may be decreasing, Finkelhor said, according to the data collected from phone-based surveying with 4,000 children age 17 and younger.
Interviewers asked about "conventional crime, child maltreatment, peer and sibling abuse, sexual assault, indirect exposure to violence and witnessing violence to others and Internet violence," as well as who committed the violence, and if weapons or injuries were involved.
Researchers found that about 37 percent of children had been physically assaulted in the last year, and almost 10 percent of those were injured as a result. Two percent of girls reported being sexually assaulted or abused, including 4 percent of girls ages 14 to 17.
“Violence and abuse in childhood are big drivers behind many of our most serious health and social problems. They are associated with later drug abuse, suicide, criminal behavior, mental illness and chronic disease like diabetes,” Finkelhor said.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the Administration for Children & Families provide resources to help prevent child abuse and neglect.
However, children's exposure to violence is just as prominent a problem, with the high likelihood of children being more exposed to violence than adults, reported ChildTrends.org.
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