Crisis In The Family Courts

Forensic psychologist testifies as expert witness in Barbarino trial

Posted in domestic law by abatteredmother on February 17, 2010

 

 

http://www.northjersey.com/news/021610_Doctor_testifies_as_expert_witness_in_Barbarino_trial.html

Forensic psychologist testifies as expert witness in Barbarino trial

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Last updated: Wednesday February 17, 2010, 7:52 AM

BY KIBRET MARKOS

The Record

STAFF WRITER

Children often give varying accounts, offer piecemeal disclosures or even clam up for good about sexual abuse, a forensic psychologist testified Tuesday.

Known as “Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome,” such behavior should not be seen as inconsistency, but may actually be a sign of abuse, Dr. Anthony D’Urso said.

D’Urso’s was testifying in Superior Court in Hackensack in the trial of Joseph Barbarino of Lodi, who is accused of sexually assaulting a relative when she was under the age of 13.

Barbarino was arrested in 2006 and charged with murdering his 6-year-old brother in 1972. Bergen County prosecutors said that while investigating that murder, they found a letter in which Barbarino described a sexual encounter with the child.

When interviewed by detectives in November 2006, the alleged victim said Barbarino molested her years earlier, prosecutors said.

As the most crucial witness in the trial, she testified last week that Barbarino, 53, molested her and had intercourse with her. Barbarino’s attorney, however, challenged her credibility, saying she gave inconsistent accounts every time she spoke about the incidents.

D’Urso was called as an expert witness by Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Wayne Mello, who told jurors during his opening remarks that inconsistency does not always equal to untruthfulness in the case of child victims.

D’Urso, who is the supervisor of psychology at the Audrey Hepburn Children’s House in Hackensack, testified Tuesday that children tend to be secretive about sexual abuse. When the abuse involves a family member, the victim fears that disclosure might ruin the family or may experience shame and guilt, he said.

Victims may, therefore, never share an abuse that they endured, and when they do, they might be half-hearted about their disclosures or may even recant their allegations if adults do not support them, he said.

He said that once child victims come forward, they speak to physicians, psychologists, detectives, prosecutors and child-welfare workers – all of whom have different roles and ask differing sets of questions.

“Kids don’t necessarily tell all these people the same thing,” D’Urso said. “That is not to be seen as inconsistency.”

Defense attorney Ray Beam had said during his opening remarks that “Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome” basically says that if a child doesn’t say anything about sexual abuse, then that might be a sign of sexual assault.

“You don’t have to put your common sense away when you hear the doctor testify,” he told jurors.

During cross-examination on Tuesday, Beam pointed out that an untruthful accuser could be secretive, change his or her story or completely recant the accusation – displaying the same pattern of behavior that researchers cite as a sign of sexual abuse.

“So how do you tell a lie from the truth?” Beam asked D’Urso.

“That’s why we are having this trial,” D’Urso replied.

Children often give varying accounts, offer piecemeal disclosures or even clam up for good about sexual abuse, a forensic psychologist testified Tuesday.

Joseph Barbarino, left, with his attorney Ray Beam, is accused of sexually assaulting a relative when she was under the age of 13.

DAVID BERGELAND / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Joseph Barbarino, left, with his attorney Ray Beam, is accused of sexually assaulting a relative when she was under the age of 13.

Known as “Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome,” such behavior should not be seen as inconsistency, but may actually be a sign of abuse, Dr. Anthony D’Urso said.

D’Urso’s was testifying in Superior Court in Hackensack in the trial of Joseph Barbarino of Lodi, who is accused of sexually assaulting a relative when she was under the age of 13.

Barbarino was arrested in 2006 and charged with murdering his 6-year-old brother in 1972. Bergen County prosecutors said that while investigating that murder, they found a letter in which Barbarino described a sexual encounter with the child.

When interviewed by detectives in November 2006, the alleged victim said Barbarino molested her years earlier, prosecutors said.

As the most crucial witness in the trial, she testified last week that Barbarino, 53, molested her and had intercourse with her. Barbarino’s attorney, however, challenged her credibility, saying she gave inconsistent accounts every time she spoke about the incidents.

D’Urso was called as an expert witness by Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Wayne Mello, who told jurors during his opening remarks that inconsistency does not always equal to untruthfulness in the case of child victims.

D’Urso, who is the supervisor of psychology at the Audrey Hepburn Children’s House in Hackensack, testified Tuesday that children tend to be secretive about sexual abuse. When the abuse involves a family member, the victim fears that disclosure might ruin the family or may experience shame and guilt, he said.

Victims may, therefore, never share an abuse that they endured, and when they do, they might be half-hearted about their disclosures or may even recant their allegations if adults do not support them, he said.

He said that once child victims come forward, they speak to physicians, psychologists, detectives, prosecutors and child-welfare workers – all of whom have different roles and ask differing sets of questions.

“Kids don’t necessarily tell all these people the same thing,” D’Urso said. “That is not to be seen as inconsistency.”

Defense attorney Ray Beam had said during his opening remarks that “Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome” basically says that if a child doesn’t say anything about sexual abuse, then that might be a sign of sexual assault.

“You don’t have to put your common sense away when you hear the doctor testify,” he told jurors.

During cross-examination on Tuesday, Beam pointed out that an untruthful accuser could be secretive, change his or her story or completely recant the accusation – displaying the same pattern of behavior that researchers cite as a sign of sexual abuse.

“So how do you tell a lie from the truth?” Beam asked D’Urso.

“That’s why we are having this trial,” D’Urso replied.

E-mail: markos@northjersey.com

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