The first time a person reports an allegation of abuse in a child molestation case is often referred to as an outcry. There are many different types of outcries and the nature of the outcry can have an impact on the case. Below is a discussion of some of the different types of outcries commonly seen in cases where child molestation is being alleged.
One important factor to consider in conceptualizing what type of outcry has occurred in your case is to identify when the person disclosed the abuse in relation to when the abuse allegedly occurred. If a child reports the abuse right away it is typically referred to as an immediate outcry. For example, a child comes into the room crying and reports to her mother that her adult cousin just touched her vagina. This is an example of an immediate outcry. If a person does not tell anyone about the alleged abuse until an extended period of time has passed (typically months or even years) this type of outcry is often termed a delayed disclosure. For example, an adult woman attending therapy reports that she was molested by her uncle as a child. This would be a delayed disclosure. Whether an alleged outcry is immediate or delayed has many implications when defending or prosecuting allegations of child molestation.
Another important factor to consider in thinking about an outcry is how much information is disclosed during the outcry. For example, a child may initially say that she was “touched” by her perpetrator and it only happened a few times. Later, further discussion with the child reveals that the molestation was extensive, including detailed descriptions of years of penetrative rape or aggravated child molestation. The initial incomplete disclosure is often termed a partial outcry.
Partial outcries may occur because the alleged victim is uncomfortable disclosing all of the details of the abuse. This can occur because the victim is embarrassed, scarred, traumatized or simply unsure how the information will be received by the person they are disclosing to. Prosecutors often argue that a partial disclosure may result because the alleged victim was merely testing the waters before fully committing to disclosing the entire extent of the abuse.
A partial alleged outcry can present many opportunities to an attorney defending against allegations of child molestation. Depending on the facts and circumstances of the case, what the district attorney terms a partial outcry may arguably be an indication the alleged victim has made false allegations that have changed drastically over time. The credibility of the accuser is often an issue in child molestation cases, especially if there is no physical evidence. If an alleged victim started out saying she was only touched, but that story eventually morphs into something totally different, this can be an indicator that the allegations are false.
It is also important to inquire whether the outcry was purposeful or accidental. An accidental outcry occurs when a person who has been abused does not mean to reveal the abuse but their behavior, an STD or age inappropriate knowledge reveals that something is not right and leads to discovery of the abuse. A witness unexpectedly walking in on the abuse is sometimes termed an accidental outcry. This is because the child did not mean to disclose the abuse, rather factors outside the victim’s control lead to the discovery of the molestation. If an outcry is accidental, it can be very difficult to argue that there was any motive or intent to falsify allegations of child abuse. However, each case is different. If you or a loved one has been accused of child molestation, you should consult with an attorney, like an experienced Decatur criminal lawyer, immediately.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Andrew R. Lynch, P.C. for their insight into delayed disclosure in a child molestation case.