Article by: Lindsay Gochnour

43 PEPP. L. REV. 417 (2016)

Child abuse is an undeniably prevalent problem throughout the United States, and studies show that instances of abuse are occurring at a rampant pace. While physical child abuse has been recognized in this country for decades, psychological child abuse has just recently begun to receive legal, medical, and social attention.  Despite growing recognition and concern, victims of child abuse whose injuries are psychological, are emotional, or do not result in a “traumatic condition,” do not have the same legal protections in a courtroom as a child who was strangled or physically beaten.

As the law presently stands in California, only prior acts of child abuse resulting in a “traumatic condition” are admissible in a subsequent child abuse trial.  While this is a step in the right direction, the extremely narrow limitations of this statute leave thousands of psychologically abused children behind without the same legal recourse as other victims.  Unfortunately, this means that even if these children are brave enough to report their abuse and miraculously receive the outside support necessary to prosecute their case, their chances of receiving any form of justice, or even seeing their perpetrator prosecuted, are horribly low.

This Comment seeks to explore the effect that the admissibility of prior bad acts evidence would have on child maltreatment cases and the benefits that would be afforded to child abuse victims if they were provided the same legal protections as victims of other crimes.  This Comment argues that expanding the California Evidence Code to allow the admission of prior acts of psychological and emotional child maltreatment would make great progress for the protection of child abuse victims and the prosecution of their (often losing) cases.

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