There is increasing consensus among researchers and professionals that children with disabilities are more likely to witness or experience abuse than those without disabilities. They are seen as easy targets, not only because they may have difficulty defending themselves or reporting the abuse, but also because their accounts are often dismissed by the professionals conducting criminal investigations or adjudicating allegations. When children with disabilities come into contact with the legal system as either victims or witnesses, the primary goal is typically to obtain as much information as possible about the alleged crime via thorough investigative interviews. In many criminal investigations, physical evidence of the abuse does not exist, and the outcomes of the case rely on children's eyewitness testimony. It is thus important that professionals are able to obtain accurate and reliable reports of experienced or experienced events from them. In addition to the learning, behavioral, social or communication difficulties, children with disabilities have a particular pattern of strengths and weaknesses in the domain of memory that can also affect their participation in legal contexts. The combination of these developmental characteristics can constitute important challenges for professionals seeking their testimony. It is critical to understand their ability to describe past experiences and identify the best ways to interview them, developing interviewing strategies that complement their unique memory and behavioral characteristics.
Professor Telma Sousa Almeida
Assistant Professor at ISPA – University Institute
Specialist in child development, psychological assessment and forensic interview of especially vulnerable witnesses.
PhD in Psychology, University of Cambridge, UK
Postgraduate in Forensic Medicine and Forensic Psychological Assessment
His most recent project, developed at the University of Cambridge, focused on the study of memory and testimony of particularly vulnerable populations.
He was part of several research teams in the field of child abuse, forensic and developmental psychology and juvenile delinquency, namely an international research team by the Northern Delegation of the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences, dedicated to exploring the way in which Portuguese children are victims or witnesses of crimes are interviewed during Statements for Future Memory proceedings
Department of Psychology