Two Experts Testify in Grandfather’s Child Molestation Trial

By Darling Gonzalez and Catherine Hamilton

RIVERSIDE, CA- In somewhat detailed testimony, components of child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome were explained by an expert during *****’s felony child sexual abuse trial here in Riverside County Superior Court this week. ***** is the alleged victim’s grandfather.

Other testimony was given by a forensic interviewer who talked with the 10-year-old victim.

NOTE: The Vanguard is not revealing the true name of the defendant to protect the identity of the victim.

The prosecution began by questioning Dr. Veronica Thomas, an independent licensed psychologist, about her experience working with child abuse cases.

Dr. Thomas stated that she had been a psychologist for 34 years, had taught abnormal psychology at UC Irvine for 18 years, and currently worked for her own independent practice. She had also testified in court about 200 times.

When asked by the prosecution about what types of cases she had testified in she mentioned her experience with criminal and civil litigation, cases involving sexual abuse, and cases where someone has had a mental illness and committed a crime.

Dr. Thomas said she was prepared to testify about “how it is that people who have been sexually abused in the course of a relationship with an abuser may give discrepant delayed reports of their experience, and I say ‘may’ because nobody knows.”

Dr. Thomas referred to child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome in a study by Dr. Roland Summit that involved a compilation of father-daughter incest victims’ anecdotal findings.

Dr. Summit and his team developed five different components in child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome, but Dr. Thomas clarified that the study was not a controlled scientific study and what they found was not a syndrome.

The five components in the child sexual abuse accommodation study were listed as secrecy, helplessness, entrapment and accommodation, disclosure, and recantation.

Dr. Thomas then stated that a misconception about child sexual abuse was that it was only done by strangers, and that was something Dr. Summit showed was not true in his study for child abuse accommodation syndrome.

“Since then the department of justice and other more scientific studies have shown that sexual assault is not mostly done by strangers, it’s mostly done by people who know the victim,” the doctor said.

During the cross-examination, the defense attorney questioned Dr. Thomas about one of the components of the child sexual abuse accommodation known as “secrecy.”

“Secrecy is whatever it takes for the relationship and the behavior that is going on to be unique between those two people. It can be verbal instruction, ‘Now I’m giving you these gifts but you can’t say why, we have special touches and that’s why you get these things but you can’t tell anybody.’ So, that would be one way.”

The defense attorney then proceeded to ask, “So if I give my son a gift would you characterize that as secrecy?”

Dr. Thomas then replied saying that that wasn’t secrecy because people give children gifts all the time to show love, it was only when a sexual exchange is made unique through the use of gifts that the term secrecy would be applied.

The second witness the prosecution called to the stand was Barbara Castro, a forensic interviewer that had met with the victim Oct. 18, 2019. Castro has been working as a forensic interviewer for four years, with a previous ten years in social services.

Forensic interviewers deal with children who have been sexually abused or have experienced maltreatment.

The prosecution played a 50-minute excerpt of the first conversation between Castro and the victim, aged 10 at the time of the interview, for the jury. ***** is the victim’s maternal grandfather.

In their conversation, the victim replayed the assaults, which started when she was six years old, and ended right before she turned eight years old. The assaults happened frequently but not every time she saw her grandfather, the victim said, totaling about 20 times.

During the recording, the victim said that, while she was playing, her grandfather would either tell her to come to the master bedroom or grab her hand and take her there.

Over the course of the assaults, the victim “felt like something was wrong,” but also didn’t think anything was because ***** would show no emotion. The last time ***** assaulted her, he said that he couldn’t do it anymore because she was getting older.

The cross-examination involved the defense attorney asking for more details about how Castro and forensic interviewers in general conduct their interviewers. She spoke of how they don’t ask leading or suggestive questions, and it is ideal that the children speak more in the interview.

When the victim told her parents, her father kept reminding her that “it was not [her] fault.”

The jury trial is set to reconvene this week.

About The Author

Darling is an incoming junior at UCLA, majoring in English and Political Science with an interest in law. She is originally from Bell Gardens, California.

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