Contested Issues in the Evaluation of Child Sexual Abuse Allegations: Why Consensus on Best Practice Remains Elusive
Sometimes unintended consequences are more valuable than intended consequences. Such is the case, we believe, for a recent edited volume by Kathryn Kuehnle and Mary Connell, The Evaluation of Child Sexual Abuse
Allegations: A Comprehensive Guide to Assessment and Testimony (2009). In the preface, the two editors succinctly describe as their objective to assist child forensic evaluators in improving their practice. Toward this end, Kuehnle and Connell assembled a group of noted experts from a variety of relevant specialties to share their perspectives on the assessment of child sexual abuse allegations. Many forensic evaluators approach such a book as an opportunity to compare the assessment methodology they use in their everyday practice against the latest recommendations from the experts. Their goal is to update their current “good practice” to best practice standards. An evaluator seeking such assistance from the Kuehnle and Connell book may be dismayed and discouraged. Several chapters in the Kuehnle and Connell volume challenge, if not condemn, the validity of established forensic methodology-the very methodology likely employed by the evaluator. The book raises questions about the acceptability of what has long been considered to be appropriate practice. From the forensic evaluator’s perspective, the goal posts marking best practice have not merely been shifted. Shifting is expected. They have been moved to a different field altogether.