The treatment of child sexual abuse victim/witnesses in the Manitoba Criminal Court System

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Caine, Patricia Diane
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Many Canadian children are victims of sexual abuse. When these crimes against children are reported and processed in the criminal justice system, the child victims are often required to be witnesses. As witnesses children have special needs, due to their age, inexperience and developmental level. The theoretical framework of this study is cognitive-developmental theory. The effect of the physical environment is also included in the theoretical discussion. This study assessed if the court system in Manitoba treated child witnesses in accordance with their special needs. A comparison was made of the treatment of children in the specialized Family Violence Court and the non-specialized Court of Queen's Bench. The data that was used for this comparison was from the Family Violence Research project, a two year project that assessed the impact of the Family Violence Court. Specific features of the two courts were compared. This study established that child witnesses were treated better in the Family Violence Court. The environment of the Family Violence Court was more child-sensitive and child witnesses testified for shorter periods of time to more supportive personnel who treated them in a more age-appropriate manner. As well, cases were processed much more quickly in Family Violence Court. Overall, the Family Violence Court provided a milieu that was more child-sensitive than did the Court of Queen's Bench.