An interviewer may use the drawing
and say, "Well,
tell me about this . . . " or "Tell me about this person," to
elicit the child's conversation. But the interviewer cannot
look at any particular drawing and say, "Oh yes, this is a diagnostic
a particular problem" or "That is a clear indication of whatever."
There is, however, validated research on children's developmental level. So we can look at what a five-year-older or a six-year-older or a ten-year-older will draw, see that the child has put eyes or toes or belts or hair on the drawing of the human figure, and say, "This is probably a retarded child" or "This child is probably an advanced child for its age." In other words, if a ten-year-older's drawing resembles that which a five-year-older can draw, a qualified professional can say that that child is probably retarded. There are data to make that kind of diagnosis.
BUT we do not have the data to be able to look at a drawing and say this is diagnostic of sexual abuse. We cannot do this. Yet, there are cases in which that some prosecutors have tried to make that leap.
Some members of the prosecution team have asserted that if a child who is a suspected abuse victim draws a picture of a child without a mouth, the picture is evidence that the child has been a victim of oral sex. The rationale: The child found giving oral sex unpleasant. Therefore, by drawing a self-portrait without a mouth, the child cannot be made to perform oral sex.
Social worker and/or therapists generally save all drawings of the children who are suspected abuse victims. Often you will see annotations written on these drawings in the file. For example, "Heidi told me, `This is a picture of mommy drunk.'" "This picture shows that Heidi is regressing." Regression is allegedly an indication that the child has been sexually abused.
Because suspected abuse victims are generally given so-called anatomically detailed or anatomically correct dolls with which to play, the children often draw physically matured figures.
These figures are devoured as manna by mental health professionals, complaining spouses, the complaining spouses' divorce attorneys.
So be sure to subpoena the entire file of the mental health professionals: including the child's therapist and the supervisor(s) of visitation. The drawings of the child will be in those files . . . even if you thought you saw the drawing in the wastebasket before you left the visitation. The drawings may never be used, but you cannot afford to go forward unaware of their existence.
If no drawings are produced by the mental health professionals, even after the drawings were targeted by subpoenas, be sure you get in writing that there are not only no such drawings in their custody, possession, or control, but that none was given to anyone else for "safekeeping."