Sample Affidavit on Dolls
Before me, the undersigned authority, on this day personally appeared
Ralph Underwager and Hollida Wakefield, known to me to be the persons whose
names are subscribed to the following instrument, and having been duly sworn,
upon their oaths, depose and state as follows:
I. We have prepared this affidavit at the request of Jane Doe, attorney
for John Roe. The issue is the use of anatomically detailed dolls in interviews
of children where there are allegations of sexual abuse.
II. (Updated biographical information added to support expertise and basis
for opinions. Current research is also added where relevant.)
IV. We have regularly published articles and books and given workshops and
presentations at professional conferences on the topics of sexuality, psychology
and law, sexual abuse allegations, and other professional issues. The curriculum
vitae for each of us is attached which lists our presentations, papers,
V. We have regularly conducted psychological evaluations of persons accused
of sexual offenses and have provided treatment for persons convicted of
sexual offenses and for children and their families who are victims of sexual
abuse. We have evaluated many children where there is an accusation of child
VI. Based upon our training, experience, knowledge of scientific literature,
viewing videotapes of several hundreds of hours of interviews using dolls,
and our research, it is our professional opinion that the use of the anatomical
dolls in the evaluation of a child or the investigation of an accusation
of sexual abuse is highly prejudicial. These dolls are teaching aids and
any behavior elicited by their use cannot be viewed as reflecting anything
other than the immediate environment of adult social influence guiding and
instructing the child.
VII. Although the anatomical dolls are widely used in the assessment of
cases of alleged child sexual abuse, they are controversial and they have
been severely criticized in the scientific community. There is no evidence
that the dolls can be used to gain reliable information about prior events.
VIII. The study of children's development of the ability to talk about past
events shows there is a mixture of fact and error. Children's statements
can be initiated and guided by adult questioning, and shaped by adult instruction
when the child has not experienced any real event. This vulnerability to
suggestion is enhanced when props such as dolls are used. The claim that
children can accurately demonstrate something they cannot talk about by
using dolls is not supported by research.
IX. White and her colleagues (White, Strom, & Santilli, 1986; White,
Strom, Santilli, & Halpin 1986) developed a structured protocol for
the use of the dolls, but this has not been validated or accepted in clinical
practice. Realmuto, Jensen, and Wescoe (1990) used this protocol and found
that their raters were unable to correctly classify the children as abused
or nonabused. Few researchers, however, attempt to use any kind of protocol.
X. The American Psychological Association (APA Council of Representatives,
1991) issued a statement concluding that there are no normative data for
the dolls and their use, and that there are no uniform standards for conducting
interviews with the dolls. But despite this, they are often used. Unfortunately,
the persons actually using the dolls are often untrained, unsophisticated,
and vary widely in their interpretation of children's behavior with the
dolls (Boat & Everson, 1988; Kendall-Tackett & Watson, 1992). Skinner,
Berry, and Giles (1992a, 1992b) observe that dolls users are likely to develop
personal norms based on their own experience and caution practitioners against
equating their own experience with scientific evidence.
XI. The use of the dolls can be a modeling and learning experience for a
child. Interviewers model handling the dolls, suggest that they be undressed
(or undress them for the child) and label them for the child. They ask the
child to show with the dolls what the accused did and may even place the
dolls in sexually explicit positions for the child. This is a teaching experience
for the child. Several studies suggest that some nonabused children engage
the dolls in sexual play (Dawson & Geddie, 1991; Dawson, Vaughan, &
Wagner, 1992; Everson & Boat, 1990; McIver, Wakefield, & Underwager,
XII. The rationale given for using the dolls is that it enables young children
who have difficulty verbalizing their abuse to demonstrate it. But there
are no data supporting the belief that a child who is unable to talk about
what happened can then accurately demonstrate the event using a doll. In
fact, a series of studies found decreased accuracy when young children
were asked to show on a doll where they were touched compared to being asked
to show on their own bodies. This is because very young children cannot
understand the basic self-doll relation assumed by interviewers who use
the dolls. They cannot use dolls as symbols or representations for themselves
and therefore cannot use the dolls to enact their own experiences (DeLoache,
1995). Ceci (1993) also reports that the use of dolls can increase error.
These credible and solid research programs show that the dolls cannot be
used as a demonstrative aid without introducing large but indeterminate
amounts of error into the accounts. As suggestive as they are, the dolls
may also be destructive. If a young, innocent child has not been abused
but is questioned with the dolls and asked about behaviors such as anal
intercourse, this may well teach a young child about deviant sexual behaviors
that they had no knowledge of previously. Young children do not need and
cannot benefit from such knowledge.
XIII. Another rationalization offered is that the dolls enable an interviewer
to go through a body parts naming procedure and learn the child's idiosyncratic
terms for the genitals. This is often done early in the interview. When
the questioning about body parts ends with the identification of the genitalia,
as it often does, the child has likely been taught that the purpose of the
interview is to talk about sexuality. There is no evidence to support the
efficacy of this procedure. An interviewer does not need dolls to talk to
children about sexuality or to learn the child's vocabulary. If there is
a desire to know the child's names for body parts, all you have to do is
ask. They will tell you what they call them. The only thing the body parts
inquiry seen in almost every interview can do is to teach the child that
the adult is interested in sex. Props are not used to talk to children about
anger, violence, play, kindness, or any other behavior about which they
may have a unique, individualized vocabulary.
XIV. Specific research studies in the use of the dolls with children have
failed to produce evidence for any validity or reliability of their use.
It is not possible to use the dolls to tell the difference between abused
and non-abused children. Several studies, including our own (McIver, Wakefield,
& Underwager, 1989), demonstrate that some non-abused children will
produce behaviors that are supposed to show abuse and some abused children
do not produce such behaviors.
XV. In summary, there is no evidence that doll interviews are a reliable
method for getting accurate information about sexual abuse. The studies
that claim to show differences between the responses of sexually abused
and nonabused children have major methodological shortcomings which limit
any conclusions that can be drawn from them (Ceci & Bruck, 1993; Underwager
& Wakefield, 1990, Wakefield & Underwager, 1991, 1994; Wolfner,
Faust, & Dawes, 1993). In a recent review of the empirical research,
Skinner, et al. (1992) conclude that distinct patterns of play of abused
versus nonabused children have not been identified and that the lack of
norms calls into question the forensic use of the dolls. Wolfner et al.
(1993) assert that there is no scientific evidence to justify clinical or
forensic diagnosis of sexual abuse on the basis of doll play and maintain
that their use violates the ethical principles for psychologists. They demonstrate
that the use of the dolls has no incremental validity, that is, they do
not produce any knowledge not already available. Levy (1989) argues in a
legal analysis that any statement by a child that is the product of a doll-aided
evaluation should be inadmissible as evidence.
XVI. The probability that the use of the dolls may produce false and unreliable
information is so high as to make their acceptance as evidence likely to
introduce error, bias, and confusion into the deliberations. At the same
time finders of fact in the justice system who are not knowledgeable about
the scientific status of the dolls are likely to be susceptible to an erroneous
presentation of them as valid and reliable instruments and thus be unduly
influenced by information based upon the use of the dolls.
XVII. The use of the dolls as assessment or investigatory techniques is
not accepted within the scientific community (Levy, 1989; Ceci & Bruck,
1993). The September 30, 1986 Federal Registry called for research proposals
on the use of the dolls, saying that although their use has widely proliferated,
there is no evidence, no research to support their efficacy. The most recent
scientific literature describes the use of the dolls as potentially suggestive
and non-supported by empirical research. Skinner & Berry (1993) and
Skinner, Berry, & Giles (1992a, 1992b) demonstrate that there is no
acceptable validity or reliability for their use, no acceptable standardization,
and no appropriate norms. They also show there is not scientific data showing
acceptable support for either construct or criterion validity. Lewis (1992)
describes the sources of invalidity and shows they lead to false positive
(concluding there is abuse when there is no abuse) conclusions in four types
of legal proceedings.
XVIII. The California Appeals court, in the case of in re Amber B,
ruled that the use of the dolls did not meet the Frye standard for
admissibility. The Iowa (1983) Appeals court ruled that admitting the testimony
of a psychologist interpreting a child's behavior with dolls as showing
sexual abuse had occurred was reversible error. The Kansas Supreme Court
(Kansas v. Bratt) analyzed a case on the basis of the U.S. Supreme
Court Idaho v. Wright ruling and concluded the use of the dolls was
inadmissible. The Supreme Court of Utah (Utah v. Rimmasch, 1989)
included the use of the dolls in techniques not accepted in the scientific
community which cannot be used to bolster the truth of a witness's testimony.
The U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit (United States of America v.
Gillespie, 1988), held it was reversible error to admit expert testimony
based on the use of the dolls without evidence for their scientific reliability.
The highest court in Holland ruled that no testimony based upon the use
of anatomical dolls is admissible unless the judge can demonstrate that
their use meets the objections raised by our Dutch colleagues and us. Coolbear
(1992) finds that although mental health professionals are aware that the
dolls have no demonstrated reliability nor validity, the legal professions
do not know or understand this.
XIX. The use of the dolls as an assessment or investigatory technique is
not generally accepted within the scientific community and would not meet
the Frye test. Rather, their use remains highly controversial and
the scientists quoted above who have carefully reviewed the body of research
on the dolls recommend that they not be used. For the reasons discussed
by Skinner and Berry (1993) and Wolfner et al. (1993) they also fail to
meet Daubert. The use of the dolls has been falsified (Wolfner et
al. 1993); there is no replication of any positive outcomes; the level of
error is unacceptable; and their use has not been accepted in the scientific
XX. It is our opinion that dolls must not be used in the courtroom or in
the process of a child giving testimony. Such use risks introducing error,
suggesting and leading a child to demonstrations that are highly prejudicial,
lacks any probative value, and makes any cross-examination aimed at eliciting
reliable statements impossible.
We declare that the foregoing is true and correct.
Executed this _______ day of _________, 19____ in Northfield, Minnesota.
Hollida Wakefield, M.A. Ralph Underwager,
Licensed Psychologist Licensed Psychologist
Subscribed and sworn to before me by Hollida Wakefield and Ralph Underwager
on this _______ day of _________, 19___ to certify which witness my hand
and seal of office.
APA Council of Representatives (1991, February 8). Statement on the use
of anatomically detailed dolls in forensic evaluations. Washington: DC:
American Psychological Association.
Boat, B. W. & Everson, M. D. (1988). Use of anatomical dolls among professionals
in sexual abuse evaluations.
Child Abuse & Neglect, 12(2), 171-179.
Ceci, S. J. (1993, August). Cognitive and social factors in children's
testimony. Presentation at the 101th Annual Convention of the American
Psychological Association, Toronto, Ontario.
Ceci, S. J., & Bruck, M. 1993). The suggestibility of the child witness:
A historical review and synthesis. Psychological Bulletin., 113,
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Assessment strategies of legal and human service professionals. Canadian
Psychology, 33(2), 151-164.
Dawson, B., & Geddie, L. (1991, August). Low income, minority preschoolers'
behavior with sexually anatomically detailed dolls. Paper presented
at the American Psychological Association in San Francisco, CA.
Dawson, B., Vaughan, A. R., & Wagner, W. G. (1992). Normal responses
to sexually anatomically detailed dolls.
Journal of Family Violence,
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meeting of the American Psychological Association, Washington , DC.
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McIver, W., Wakefield, H., & Underwager, R. (1989). Behavior of abused
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detailed dolls: The lack of normative play patterns for validation interviews.
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American Psychological Society,
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sexual abuse assessments: Validity issues of anatomically detailed dolls.
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detailed dolls in sexual abuse evaluations: The state of the science. Applied
& Preventive Psychology, 2, 1-11.
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young sexual abuse victims with anatomically correct dolls. Paper presented
at the 32nd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry,
San Antonio, Texas.
White, S., Strom, G. S., Santilli, G., & Halpin, B. M. (1986). Interviewing
young sexual abuse victims with anatomically correct dolls.
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