Child abuse has gained worldwide attention in the past few decades. Scientific studies have been conducted to unveil the true magnitude of the problem, including the rates, motivations of the perpetrator, consequences on the child, and how to manage this global issue (Stoltenborgh et al., 2011; Pereda et al., 2009; Kenny & McEachern, 2000; Finkelhor, 1994). One of the largest studies that settled a strong link between bad childhood experiences and future physical and psychological derangements of the abused child is the adverse childhood experiences (ACE) study (Varese et al., 2012). This study was conducted in several countries and in Saudi Arabia it revealed that ACE increased the risk to hypertension, diabetes mellitus, psychological disease, and dysfunctional lives (Almuneef et al., 2014).
Sexual abuse was found to have more influence on the victim, one reason being that this is mostly a hidden crime that is kept undisclosed throughout the victim’s life (Bottoms et al., 2002). Having this secrecy makes it even more difficult for the legal system to investigate and unless hard evidence (physical evidence, eyewitness or perpetrator confession) was present, any decision on the case will depend solely on the child’s account. The process of forensically interviewing the child to get information related to the assault was investigated and evaluated over time and several experiments were conducted to examine the child’s memory to find the best way of eliciting reliable and accurate information. It was found that age of the child, language, reasoning, knowledge, and emotional maturity all affect responses to adults’ questions (Saywitz & Camparo, 1998). While no single forensic interview is considered perfect, efforts were made to set rules of forensic interviews in a single protocol with the aim of increasing reliability of information. Many protocols were constructed and studied; however, the National Institute of Child Health and human Development (NICHD) protocol increased the reliability in decisions made by investigators and hence led to more assurance of delivery of justice (Hershkowitz et al., 1996).
NICHD protocol is a stepwise forensic interviewing protocol that enhances free-recall memory while minimizing eliciting information from recognition memory. It uses cued invitations, time segmentation, anchoring, and facilitations to increase free disclosure of accurate details of the event (Orbach et al., 2000; Lamb et al., 2007; Dion & Cyr, 2008). In spite of efforts to get accurate information, children tend to mix events they have experienced with those seen on TV, heard in a story, or even introduced by others while questioning about the event. Source monitoring error is the error in tagging information to its source and is a problem faced when interviewing very young children and when the child repeatedly rehearse a false event (Roberts & Powel, 2001). Participation of the child in the event increases accuracy of free recalled information and decreases suggestibility (Tobey & Goodman, 2010).
In Saudi Arabia, laws have been enacted to require all professionals to report any case of suspected child abuse or neglect and programs were initiated to educate professionals about this issue (Al Eissa & Almuneef, n.d.; Pietrantonio et al., 2013). Parallel to this, awareness programs were initiated and were distributed widely to educate families about the consequences of child sexual abuse and the available facilities to seek if needed. These programs took part in social campaigns at malls, schools, and in the media. Educating children about self protection was mandated in schools and those programs increased at an accelerated rate with many professionals taking part in these programs. Parents became more aware of the problem and concerned parents even took part in educating their children about self protection. Schools in Saudi Arabia are deficient in education programs about sexual health and teaching self protection from sexual assault might be the first introduction to the children about this issue (AlQuaiz et al., 2012; AlQuaiz et al., 2013). This way of educating children about self protection from sexual abuse could lead to adverse effects if not given in the proper way from well-experienced persons.
In this paper, the authors present two cases of sexual abuse allegations that raised the issue of source monitoring errors in children with over-concerned mothers who gave extensively detailed teaching to their girls about the problem of sexual abuse.