9. Conclusion

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The results of our reviews clearly show that the assumptions of most mental health professionals, legislators, law enforcement personnel, media workers, and the lay public that sexual relations defined as CSA cause intense harm pervasively for both boys and girls are vastly exaggerated. This exaggeration has been part and parcel of a new kind of black and white thinking that disallows shades of gray to enter. This thinking, in turn, potentiates hysterical reactions, which have been all too common in America, starting in the 1980s. One striking example involves the Satanic sex abuse hoax in child day care centers that spread across the U.S. 15 years ago. To understand the implications of a sex abuse hysteria based on vastly exaggerated beliefs about CSA, let's consider some examples.

In 1983 in Manhattan Beach, California, the mother of a two-year-old boy claimed that her son was sexually abused at the McMartin Preschool by Ray Buckey, a staff member and grandson of the owner. Over the span of the next few months, her accusations became increasingly bizarre. She claimed her son was flown in a plane to another city where there was a goatman. There, Ray Buckey flew in the air; his mother was dressed up as a witch and gave the two-year-old an enema. Staples were put into the two-year-old's ears, nipples, and tongue. Scissors were put into his eyes. Animals were chopped up; a baby's head was cut off, and the two-year-old had to drink the baby's blood.

The two year old's mother was delusional, but police and therapists showed little or no skepticism. Instead, they vigorously investigated whether other children were involved. Parents, frightened into suspecting that their children were also victims, questioned them repeatedly. Police and social workers interviewed 400 current or former McMartin children. All children denied any type of abuse initially. But the social workers pressed on until they got accusations from most of these children, which included wild stories of abduction by hooded figures, ritual mutilation of animals and babies, and sexual orgies in tunnels under the McMartin building. To evoke these accusations, the social workers made extensive use of disinformation, coercion, bribery, and modeling, among other techniques.

For examples of these techniques, and for powerful experimental evidence of their effectiveness in producing false memories, we refer you to a 1998 article by Garven and colleagues in the Journal of Applied Psychology (Vol. 83, 347-359). In the end, after two trials that lasted seven years and cost about 20 million dollars, making them America's longest and most expensive criminal trials in history, no convictions resulted. Nevertheless, Ray Buckey had to spend five years in jail before winning his freedom.

Consider these additional examples. In 1985 in New Jersey, Kelley Michaels was accused of assaulting her preschoolers with peanut butter, swords, bloodied tampons, urine, feces, and death threats. She was said to have committed these crimes against dozens of children daily, for seven months in a crowded facility without any adults seeing her and without leaving any physical evidence. The jury believed the charges; she was convicted and sentenced to nearly 50 years in prison. After spending five years in prison, her conviction was overturned.

Dale Akiki, a former San Diego Sunday-school teacher, was accused by young pupils of sacrificing rabbits, killing an elephant and a giraffe, sodomizing the children with a curling iron, putting them in a shower and altering the water between hot and cold until they vomited, sticking their heads in toilets, forcing them to ingest feces and urine, and killing a baby and making them drink its blood. As with Kelley Michaels, all this was supposed to have happened while other adults were nearby who noticed nothing. And, as with Kelley Michaels, not a scintilla of physical evidence was recovered. Yet, prosecutors put him on trial, with a conviction meaning a life sentence. He was fortunate--he was acquitted after spending only two and a half years in jail. Robert Kelly, co-owner of the Little Rascals Day Care Center in North Carolina was prosecuted on similar charges in that state's longest and most expensive criminal trial in history; he was convicted and sentenced to 12 consecutive life terms in prison. His conviction was overturned after he had spent five years in jail.

Let's consider this one last example, certainly relevant to a Dutch audience such as yourselves. One day in 1989, as he was preparing to go to work dressed up in his Burger King uniform, Bobby Fijnje--a Dutch citizen--was arrested at his home in southern Florida, accused of molesting and abusing in Satanic rituals young children for whom he baby-sat. What makes this case remarkable is that Bobby was only 14-years-old at the time--and a youngish 14-year-old at that, as revealed in photos of him at that age. In other words, Bobby was just a boy. Despite this, the police, the media, and prosecutors showed him no mercy. As Bobby later recounted, his arresting officer, Detective Martinez, told him as he was being escorted to the squad car, "Before I knew you, I knew you were guilty. But now that I see you, I definitely know that you're guilty."

The media barrage attacking Bobby was unceasing. Soon the media were telling viewers that Bobby's parents were members of an international pornography ring and that Bobby had been leading children in ghastly rituals, which involved cooking and devouring a baby. Prosecutors charged him as an adult, meaning that if he were convicted on just one of the seven charges against him, he would be sentenced to life in a maximum security prison, never eligible for parole. During the trial, prosecutors tried their best to make a monster of the boy. Their dogged determination to ensure that this boy would die of old age in prison is amply shown by the fact that they spent 3 million dollars on this trial, making it Florida's most expensive criminal trial ever.

In the end, after spending nearly two years in jail, and after enduring a trial that lasted 3 months, Bobby was acquitted of all charges. Crucial to this outcome was the testimony of Dr. Stephen Ceci, a Cornell University developmental psychologist, who did ground-breaking research demonstrating how overzealous questioners can implant false memories in children, thereby eliciting false accusations of abuse. His research since has formed the basis for reversing numerous child abuse convictions involving daycare workers around the U.S.

Responsible for this merciless assault on Bobby was Janet Reno, the chief prosecutor in southern Florida then. She was a self-styled crusader for children, who was especially concerned to prosecute sex abuse cases, believing sex abuse to be the ultimate evil and believing that children never lie about sex abuse. Her "Miami method," as it came to be called and emulated by prosecutors around the country, involved the kind of aggressive interviewing used in the McMartin case. Reno's method, however, was more apt to plant "ominous seeds in the minds of children," as a recent New York Times article was entitled, than to elicit veridical memories.

Reno personally oversaw Bobby Fijnje's prosecution. When the jury reached a verdict, Bobby had to wait a nerve-racking two and a half hours to hear it so that Reno could be present in the courtroom, presumably to take the credit for his conviction. Thanks to Ceci's testimony showing how the "child abuse experts" had corrupted the children's testimonies, Reno's trip to the courthouse that day was wasted. In a recent interview with Bobby (who is now in his 20s) shown on American television in October this year, Bobby was asked what he would say to Reno today, if he had the chance to speak with her. His answer was:

Why did you spend so much money trying to convict a 14-year-old kid? Why even try to place a kid who's 14 in a maximum security prison? Why would you even think of doing something like that, if you're a crusader for children?

Reno has never apologized for this aggressive prosecution, or even acknowledged that it was improper in any way. Her reward for her inquisitorial zeal was to become U.S. Attorney General, the highest ranking law enforcement official in America. One month after taking this office in 1993, Reno ordered a tank and tear gas attack on a religious cult near Waco, Texas, after hearing from the FBI that sex between adults and under-aged girls was occurring. All these girls, as well as all the other cult members, died in this attack. In the end, by the way, it turned out that these FBI reports of abuse were unfounded. Reno's zeal to "save" the children yet again produced disaster.

These cases of daycare madness are just a few among many more such cases that spread throughout the U.S. in the 1980s and eventually spread to other parts of the world, including Holland. This madness centered on the vastly exaggerated view that CSA is so destructive that caution need not apply in rooting out this "evil." This hysteria was not confined to day care centers; in the later 1980s the recovered memory movement gained strength, based on the belief that CSA is so traumatic that children repress these memories in order to cope. Many therapists began probing aggressively into their patients' childhood, searching for hidden memories of CSA, that they believed were the cause of all their patients' psychological problems. Using the same coercive techniques used in the day care center investigations, these therapists implanted false memories in many a vulnerable patient. Adult patients then turned around and accused and then often sued their parents, ripping families apart. As it turns out, there is no science behind the recovered memory idea, just passion driven by exaggerated beliefs about CSA.

From a psychological perspective, it is documented that children in the day care centers in whom false memories of being raped in tunnels and sodomized by curling irons were implanted developed various pathological symptoms in the clinical range after, not before, the interrogations by the child protection workers began. It is also well documented that many a patient in recovered memory therapy got worse, not better, after this treatment began. These pathological responses in the interrogated children and the patients in treatment clearly reflect the effects of the intervention. What makes matters even worse is that researchers in the child abuse industry have seized upon these newly developed symptoms as further evidence for the pathogenicity of CSA.

In closing, we want to emphasize that our presentation should not be taken to advocate behaviors labeled as CSA. But we also want to emphasize that exaggeration of the nature of CSA is unacceptable, because it can and has substantially aggravated the problem. It is imperative that social discourse on behaviors labeled CSA be rationally based, rather than emotionally driven. Otherwise, problems of the types just discussed may continue to occur. As the social critic Goya observed in one of his sketches, "El sueño de la razon produce monstruos," or, "The sleep of reason produces monsters."


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