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J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2007;35(2):211-8.

"He said--she said": the role of the forensic evaluator in determining credibility of plaintiffs who allege sexual exploitation and boundary violations.

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  • 1Psychiatry and Law Program, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA.


The authors present civil cases that involved allegations of boundary violations or sexual assault in which there was no corroborating evidence. In these cases, the alleged perpetrators denied any wrongdoing. Both plaintiff and defense attorneys were interested in the credibility of their clients. The authors point out that it is always the trier of fact (the judge or jury) who determines what actually happened between two individuals who give different accounts of an interaction. Nevertheless, forensic experts can give information to attorneys and to the trier of fact that will help with the determination. For example, alternative explanations for the plaintiff's account of events can be ruled in or out. In addition, the authors discuss how, from a clinical perspective, perceptions of being harmed can lead to psychological signs and symptoms, but without corroborating evidence, the presence of such phenomena are not dispositive of whether a given event actually meets legal definitions of rape or boundary violations.

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