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Let’s get right to it: CSAAS, or Child Sexual Assault Accommodation Syndrome, is such pure crap that it does not even deserve the label “junk science.” It is the pseudoscience of sexual molestation. It’s astrology disguised as valid psychological evidence. Its practitioners are like Ouija boards prosecutors use to spell out “C-O-N-V-I-C-T-I-O-N” and then point to the accused person.

CSAAS’s Goal is to Obtain Convictions

Some states — most recently New Jersey — have banned it for this reason. Kentucky’s Supreme Court has held:

Evidence of child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome (CSAAS) is not admissible because it lacks scientific acceptance.

Blount v. Commonwealth, 392 S.W.3d 393 (Ky. 2013)

California, perhaps unsurprisingly, allows CSAAS, stating unabashedly that it helps to obtain convictions. The actual wording in most cases is

Expert testimony on the common reactions of child molestation victims, known as CSAAS theory evidence, is admissible to rehabilitate such witness’s credibility when the defendant suggests that the child’s conduct after the incident—e.g., a delay in reporting—is inconsistent with his or her testimony claiming molestation.

— People v. Clotfelter, 65 Cal.App.5th 30, 64 (2021)(internal quotes & citations removed)

“To rehabilitate credibility.” In other words, if the defense gives the jury a reason to think the witness is lying, an “expert” is brought in to tell the jury, “here’s why she’s not lying.”

It’s like when your astrological forecast doesn’t pan out the way you read it, so an astrologer is needed to explain why you should keep believing.

The purpose of CSAAS “expert” testimony is to convince juries that if someone is on trial for allegedly molesting that child, the molestation did happen, and the person on trial did it.

It doesn’t matter what the child does, or doesn’t say, or what the child did, or didn’t do.

Child didn’t report the molestation for years? The CSAAS “expert” explains to the jury that this is evidence it really happened. Child reported the molestation immediately? This is totally normal, as any CSAAS “expert” can tell you. Child said it happened, and told wildly different stories about how it happened, and then retracted all their statements, and said it did not happen? CSAAS comes to the rescue.

Don’t consider any actual evidence. nor your own experience with children; just accept the opinion of the CSAAS “expert.”

Your horoscope is fine.

The McMartin Try-Outs

If CSAAS had not been such a new thing during the McMartin trials, everything would have turned out quite differently, I can assure you.

It’s not that McMartin didn’t have experts. They did. In fact, they even had the inventor of CSAAS. But these experts were not yet skilled with using CSAAS in the legal system. They saw CSAAS as

an explanatory tool to give clinicians, investigators, and courts an understanding of the coping behaviors of children who have been sexually abused, as well as to dispel myths and prejudice about the sexual abuse of children.

— Arthur H. Garrison, Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome: Issues of Admissibility in Criminal Trials, Institute for Psychological Therapies, vol. 10 (1998)

The problem is they had not yet learned how to warp reality. There was no mycelial network by which they could jump from arrest to conviction. They also lacked the years of propaganda that we have today.

Faced with helicopters, lions, satanic rituals, tunnels, and beheaded babies whose remains could not be found, etc., jurors had not yet been taught to ignore what every parent already knows about children, and lies, so that they could passively absorb CSAAS mythology. [1]And, yet, despite the fantastic claims — the mildest of which involved helicopters, lions, satanic rituals, tunnels, and beheaded babies — people were still charged with crimes in the McMartin cases. Thankfully, the juries did not buy it. CSAAS was still in its infancy.

Another juror [in the McMartin trial of Ray Buckey], Mark Bassett, singled out “experts” for blame: “I thought some of the expert testimony about the children told you more about the expert than the child.  I mean, if the expert says children are always 100% believable and then you have a child who is not believable, either the expert is extremely biased or they’ve never seen anything like that child before.”

— Doug Linder, UMKC School of Law, The McMartin Preschool Abuse Trial (1987–1990) (2003)

Developing the skills to maneuver through the legal system filled with jurors like this takes time. Even police officers, with their magical training and experience, sometimes have difficulty with it.

Where fantastic beasts such as the McMartin lions could not be found, it was only because we had not yet learned to trust CSAAS “experts” to tell us where to find them.

The CSAAS Pseudoscience Blindfold

CSAAS cannot thrive in the light. So it requires either the dark tunnels of McMartin — complete with lions to scare off questioners — or a blindfold on courts, counsel, and jurors, in order to do its dirty work.

Roland Summit, the inventor of CSAAS, warned of the danger involved if people were to question Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome.

Summit warned the community not to divide into separate factions of believers and nonbelievers. “Polarity of views . . . is destructive . . . There is a need to realize that more than one generation of kids has been damaged.” He added that without proper therapy, and a speedy court resolution of all rumors, i.e. quick guilty verdicts for the defendants, the community will be divided, justice is unlikely to prevail, and the Manhattan Beach community will rest on the brink of psychological disaster.

— Institute for Psychological Therapies, vol. 7, “Dr. Roland C. Summit” in “The Dark Truth About the ‘Dark Tunnels of McMartin'” (1995)

The reason for not questioning is that, by explaining everything, it explains nothing. By saying that X proves the child was molested, and not-X also proves the child was molested — and, also that both Y and not-Y, Z and not-Z, and pretty much everything else that the child does, or doesn’t do, says, or doesn’t say also proves it.

When you realize that this is nonsense you’re not supposed to question, you get that CSAAS boils down to “no matter what, do not remove your blindfold: Believe the Children.”

Believe the Children; Children Never Lie

Unless the court blocks such statements, CSAAS experts will tell you that you must believe the children. Children, they say, don’t lie. [2]Ironically, this isn’t true if they deny being molested. In that case, they’re lying.

If a child says they were molested, they were molested. If they say Uncle Frank, who the child saw only once at a family Thanksgiving dinner, when the child was 2 years old, stuck his penis in her two-year-old vagina while everyone was focused on the cranberry sauce, and she didn’t remember it until 20 years later, in therapy? Well, that’s what happened.

You must believe the children. Even if they are no longer children when they make the accusations.

Now, technically, the CSAAS “expert” is not allowed to baldy state this. Additionally,

The expert … may not give general testimony describing the components of the syndrome in such a way as to allow the jury to apply the syndrome to the facts of the case and conclude the child was sexually abused. Such testimony is inappropriate because jurors may not [be] sensitized … to the dangers of drawing predictive conclusions. The expert may be aware that although victims of child [sex] abuse generally exhibit a particular type of behavior, that behavior is also found in significant numbers of children who have not been molested. The jury may not be similarly cognizant.

People v. Garcia, No. F077721, 2020 Cal.App.Unpub. LEXIS 8139 at 22 (December 10, 2020)

In fact, in Garcia, the appropriately-named “Dr. Love,” did more than this. Dr. Love testified that there really are no “false” reports — in other words, children don’t lie — there are just cases that can’t be proven.

“So are there false reports? Truly there are. … But false is kind of not a good word. In our business of legalese of the State of California in child abuse, CPS can go out and find an unsubstantiated case. You don’t have enough information to do something. Didn’t say it didn’t happen.” The expert concluded the answer to this question by stating, “We wanted people to understand that we have tons of cases of kids who are probably truly molested, it’s just not enough to put together to make it work [i.e., to get a conviction], even though we see them in therapy.”

People v. Garcia, No. F077721, 2020 Cal.App.Unpub. LEXIS 8139 at 15-16 (December 10, 2020)

In essence, what Dr. Love said, is that we need to believe the children, because children never lie.

If you believe this, though, you’ve never been around children.

When the Moon is in Aquarius

Like astrology, CSAAS can be used to predict anything, and everything. Unlike astrology, CSAAS puts people in prison. Instead of arguing that the moon is in Aquarius, CSAAS argues that someone’s penis was in someone’s moon.

In Garcia, the court stated, in a surprisingly insightful statement, that “Love’s nonresponsive testimony spilled over into improper advocacy.”

I give credit to a lot of kids to be able to sit here in this scenario [that is, testifying].

All we wanted to say, please listen carefully. Don’t prejudge. And maybe use a little of this knowledge to better work through what you’ve heard to come to both an accurate and appropriate decision.”

People v. Garcia, No. F077721, 2020 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 8139, at *27-28 (Dec. 10, 2020)

The accurate and appropriate decision, of course, being conviction. Believing the children. Give them credit, like the “expert” does.

We must recognize the purpose of CSAAS testimony. Prosecutors don’t put CSAAS “experts” on the stand for fun. They don’t put them on the stand because they know anything about the facts of the case. Typically, they don’t. That’s not why they’re there.

CSAAS “experts” are there for one reason, and one reason only: to convince jurors that an “expert” has signed off for conviction. And so should the jury.

Remember, though: when the moon is in Aquarius, “everyday things are going badly.”

CSAAS is Ouija Board “Science”

Defense attorneys who take sex cases must make the case that CSAAS is unscientific. We must recognize that CSAAS experts talk out of both sides of their mouths. As the inventor of CSAAS himself noted,

There are infinite behavioral variations which can be subsumed under the five categories of CSAAS, any of which may be vital to understanding a victim’s dilemma.

— Roland C. Summit, M.D., Abuse of the Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome, Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 1:4, 153, 162 (1993)

Infinite behavioral variations. In other words, there is no limit to what kind of behavior can be used to show reports of molestation are true and accurate. The Ouija is never wrong.

Ironically, Summit wrote this article because he thought CSAAS was being “abused.” Reading the paper, I’m unclear what he meant by that. On the one hand, he states,

some criticism has been a legitimate defense against improper use by prosecutors and expert witnesses called by the prosecution. There has been some tendency to use the CSAAS as an offer of proof that a child has been abused.

— Roland C. Summit, M.D., Abuse of the Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome, Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 1:4, 153, 159 (1993)

On the other hand, the real thrust of the paper seems to be to take umbrage at those who would doubt its claims, or try to discredit it just because it is “opinion,” and “not scientific evidence.” Abuse of the Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome at 161.

The problem, as CSAAS argues, is “not with improper use of expert testimony.” It is “our continuing reluctance” to “allow an honest view.” The question CSAAS asks is, why aren’t we willing as a society to prohibit the sexual abuse of children? Abuse of the Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome, at 163.

Just as astrologers can accurately predict your future, so does CSAAS accurately predict who has been molested, and who has molested them. All we need to do is hand a Ouija board to the gifted individual, the CSAAS “expert.” The “expert” will then put hands on the pointer, which will miraculously point out the truthfulness of the victim, and then spell out the name of the abuser.

The accuracy of the method will only be doubted by those who do not believe.

What Can We Do About This?

Given that California allows CSAAS testimony, despite its undeniable resemblance to mystical incantation, what do defense attorneys do when we know it will be admitted?

Argue that it is not valid. Work to limit it. Stop the more outrageous abuses. Object.

Remember these Ouija board operators, these astrologers in psychology-degree clothing, are not there to testify about the case. The courts have at least said this much. In another unpublished “David Love” case [3]Unpublished cases should not be ignored just because California doesn’t want you relying on them. Many will contain useful arguments, and will themselves cite authorities for those arguments. We can incorporate that into our arguments without needing to cite the uncitable., the 5th District, pointed out that,

[I]t was one thing to say child abuse victims often exhibit certain characteristics or behavior not inconsistent with a child being molested, and quite another to conclude that where a child meets certain criteria, it can be predicted with a reasonable degree of certainty the child was abused.

People v. Hernandez, F073652, at 13 (5th DCA 2018)

And if the CSAAS “expert” gets too specific about “facts” — especially facts similar to those in the case where they testify — that is improper expert testimony.

…Love’s testimony involved facts “obviously similar” to those at issue. He recited irrelevant and prejudicial statistics and anecdotes. And he improperly advocated on behalf of victims. These improprieties resulted in a “predictive index” within which the jury could “pigeonhole the facts … and conclude abuse had occurred.” Accordingly, we find the testimony crossed the line from a permissible use into an impermissible use of accommodation syndrome evidence.

People v. Garcia, No. F077721, 2020 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 8139, at *28 (Dec. 10, 2020)(internal citations & quotations deleted)

The Courts Have Taken a Hypocritic Oath

As quoted above, the Fifth District Court of Appeal in California has said,

The expert … may not give general testimony describing the components of the syndrome in such a way as to allow the jury to apply the syndrome to the facts of the case and conclude the child was sexually abused.

People v. Garcia, No. F077721, 2020 Cal.App.Unpub. LEXIS 8139 at 22 (December 10, 2020)

And, yet, greater specificity is okay.

Expert testimony … known as CSAAS theory evidence, is admissible to rehabilitate such witness’s credibility when the defendant suggests that the child’s conduct after the incident—e.g., a delay in reporting—is inconsistent with his or her testimony claiming molestation.

— People v. Clotfelter, 65 Cal.App.5th 30, 64 (2021)

This will happen any time the defense calls the witness’s credibility into issue. But isn’t that what a trial is about? A witness accuses someone of something, that person denies it, and so we have a trial.

I don’t know how to read these judicial statements as harmonious, with a straight face. I really don’t. Don’t use the Ouija board to say the witness was sexually abused. But the astrologer may “rehabilitate” the child’s credibility so that you’ll believe her when she says she was sexually abused.

You either have to be a true believer, an advocate for convictions at all costs to the innocent, or both.


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Footnotes

Footnotes
1 And, yet, despite the fantastic claims — the mildest of which involved helicopters, lions, satanic rituals, tunnels, and beheaded babies — people were still charged with crimes in the McMartin cases. Thankfully, the juries did not buy it. CSAAS was still in its infancy.
2 Ironically, this isn’t true if they deny being molested. In that case, they’re lying.
3 Unpublished cases should not be ignored just because California doesn’t want you relying on them. Many will contain useful arguments, and will themselves cite authorities for those arguments. We can incorporate that into our arguments without needing to cite the uncitable.

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