Wee Care Case Summary

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Introduction: In 1988 the Kelly Michaels case drew huge attention and started a debate on the issue of the interrogative methods used in cases of sexual abuse of young children. Kelly Michaels worked in the day care center at Wee Care Nursery School located in New Jersey. On 30th April, 1985, a little boy of four years of age of this school had his temperature taken by a thermometer inserted in his rectum and said that it was a regular occurrence. Thus started a case of investigation against Kelly and the main witnesses were the students of the school who were in the three to five year age group. Accusations were labeled against Kelly by parents, other teachers and administrators. Journalists added to the media frenzy. She was indicted on 115…show more content…
Anatomically Detailed (AD) dolls were suggested by Boat and Everson (1986) as a memory aid to interviewing young children to recollect their experience of abuse. Though helpful, this method cannot definitely prove whether abuse took place or not. These dolls were also used in the Wee Care School and this method can support the investigations but cannot conclusively prove if abuse occurred. A comprehensive interview technique was developed by Raskin and Esplin in 1991, known as “Statement Validity Analysis" (SVA). The interview is conducted in three stages. In the first stage, the child is asked to talk about his or her experience of sexual abuse by a therapist or interviewer who may ask probe or cue questions, apart from direct questions. No aids are used. In the second stage, CBCA or Criteria Based Content Analysis is used to study the statements recorded for content and motives. In the third stage, the Validity Checklist studies the psychology of the child being questioned; the interview process of the child and the therapist; the motivational issues in the case and the interview questions. The detailed analysis would help in removing bias or distortion of data. (Raskin and Esplin ,1991) In the Kelly Michaels…show more content…
Michaels case, the New Jersey Supreme Court arrived at a decision based primarily on evidence given by young children, their parents and teachers. During Kelly’s tenure of 7 months in Wee Care Nursery School, no one noticed or reported any instance of abuse. Regarding moral or ethical issues, popular opinion is always against the accused and this impedes a fair trial. In this particular case, several factors simultaneously contributed to a biased judgment, namely, repeated questioning of vulnerable children may have led them to distort the truth or interpret it in their own way as children are prone to do; peer pressure or telling a child that other children have already confirmed abuse; emotional questioning can lead a child to fabricate incidents even when he/she has no memory of it; misleading questions can really damage the testimony; interviewers were biased against the accused and seemed to gather evidence which would prove her guilt; comprehensive analysis was missing in this particular case; neither parents nor teachers crosschecked the evidence; moral issues led journalists to publicize the case so there was no scope for investigative journalism. In the 1980’s there was a strong movement against child abuse in the United States and Day Care Centers were often targeted.“Both from the scientific psychological community and from the legal community, serious concerns have been raised about the accuracy and reliability of testimony

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