Differences between accounts provided by witnesses and alleged victims of child sexual abuse

Michael E. Lamb, Kathleen J. Sternberg, Yael Orbach, Irit Hershkowitz, Dvora Horowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: To determine whether child witnesses of sexual abuse were more or less informative about the alleged incidents than alleged victims when interviewed similarly. Method: Twenty-six alleged victims of child sexual abuse (aged 5 to 14 years; M=9.8 years) and 26 children who had witnessed but not experienced similar events were interviewed by experienced youth investigators about the alleged abuse. Children in the two groups were matched with respect to their age, relationships with the alleged perpetrator, and seriousness of the alleged offenses. All children were interviewed using the NICHD investigative interview protocol. Results: Witnesses and victims provided similar amounts of information about the incidents of abuse. Interviewers used more open-ended invitations and elicited more information using open-ended prompts from witnesses than from victims, whereas they used more risky (including suggestive) prompts when interviewing victims. Discussion: These results confirm that young children can be informative witnesses about events that they have either experienced or witnessed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1019-1031
Number of pages13
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2003


  • Alleged victims' accounts
  • Child sexual abuse
  • Witness accounts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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