State v. Black, 223 N.C. App. 137 (Oct. 16, 2012)

Although the trial court erred by allowing the State’s expert to testify that the child victim had been sexually abused, the error did not rise to the level of plain error. Responding to a question about the child’s treatment, the expert, a licensed clinical social worker, said: "For a child, that means . . . being able to, um, come to terms with all the issues that are consistent with someone that has been sexually abused." She also testified several times to her conclusion that the sexual abuse experienced by the victim started at a young age, perhaps age seven, and continued until she was removed from the home. When asked why the victim lashed out at a family member, the expert said that the behavior was "part of a history of a child that goes through sexual abuse." With respect to her concerns about the adequacy of a family member’s care, the expert testified: "She had every opportunity to get the education and the information to become an informed parent about a child that is sexually abused." And, when asked if it was reasonable for a family member to have doubt about the victim’s story given that she had recanted, the expert responded: "With me, there was no uncertainty." The testimony was indistinguishable from that found to be error in State v. Towe, 366 N.C. 56 (June 14, 2012) (expert's testimony was improper when she stated that the victim fell into the category of children who had been sexually abused but showed no physical symptoms of such abuse). Here, it was error for the expert to “effectively assert[]” that the victim was a sexually abused child absent physical evidence of abuse.