Case Study: Sexual Abuse Validation through Lie Detector Testing

It is very unusual for a client to be late for a polygraph appointment but last week I sat watching the clock roll past the appointment time. I rang the client but no one picked up, so I assumed she had changed her mind.

Later that evening the client Amanda (not her real name) telephoned and apologised for not attending. She had wanted a polygraph test to prove she had been sexually assaulted when she was a child. She had told her mother at the time but she was not believed and her mother’s new partner was the abuser, so nothing was done about it and she had to continue to suffer.

Amanda explained that as she approached the office she saw and worse still, smelt the new tarmac being laid on the road, directly outside our office. The abuser had always worked “on the roads” and came home smelling of tarmac. He would get in the bath after work and invite her to wash his back, whilst her mother was downstairs preparing the evening meal. What seemed like harmless play, soon turned into sexual abuse.

Apologising profusely she said the smell just overpowered her emotions, causing her to freeze in the street and eventually she turned back for home, unable even to make a call to cancel the appointment. As a child she developed an avoidance strategy, so she would not be at home when he returned from work.

A fellow pupil had been arrested for shoplifting makeup and had told her that as long as

you were polite to the police, didn’t try to run away and admitted the offence, she would be simply “told off” and released after a few hours. She didn’t disclose the abuse to her friend but she did decide to shoplift, in fact, she decided to be the world’s worst shoplifter and she would always make sure she was seen and detained by the security staff.

The strategy worked, she was arrested and interviewed by the police, always admitting the offence and for the first two or three occasions everything worked out as she planned. Her mother would come to the station and act as her “Appropriate Adult” in the interviews and then take her home, where she would be sent directly to bed without her evening meal, as punishment. It was after the third arrest that her plans fell apart. By now she had come to the attention of Social Services who were working with the police to address juvenile offending.

Much, much worse was the fact her mother decided she had had enough of being called out to the police station to an ungrateful child. On this occasion, instead of her mother attending the station, he (the partner/abuser) came instead. So, now he was going to give her a lift home, a journey with country lane detours and more unwitnessed abuse.

Being concerned for her welfare, I suggested that I could refer her to a professional councillor or support group. She thanked me but declined, saying, “I didn’t let it spoil my life, I qualified as a social worker, so I know about the support. He died a while ago and I just want to be able to prove to my mom, that I was telling the truth”.

Amanda was insistent on having a test, so we agreed that we would book an office away from our own location and conduct the test there. Amanda attended the new appointment and passed the test.

If you have been the victim of sexual abuse then please contact one of the organisations below, who are there to help and support you. You are not to blame, it was not your fault. A child cannot consent to abuse. You WILL be believed.

The Survivors Trust. 0808 801 0818

NSPCC 0808 800 5000

Childline. 0800 1111.


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