Statement # 13
The research of the Rind et al. Team
Intergenerational intimacy: danger or chance?
Intimacy between children and adults is important. The more
intimacy the child has, the less chance there is for violence later on.
Nevertheless, there is a problem.
Research has shown that permanent harm is actually quite rare. Still there is resistance against the very idea of intergenerational intimacy.
In this section, we present the research of Dr Rind and his
team. We will also tell about the resistance against his report and the replies
to this resistance.
There has always been a fear of intimacy between men and boys: fear for homosexuality. Then, more fears entered the field.
The feminists have pointed out the oppression of women by men and the existence of rape within marriage. They also pointed out the existence of incest between father and daughter and the negative consequences of it. Analyzing the phenomena, the feminists used the same frame of reference: rape of a powerless and passive woman by a powerful and active man. They saw only a powerless passive female child and a powerful active man. Male sexuality was the culprit. The man is the predator, the woman and the child were only the victims.
For family relationships, this frame of reference can be correct in some cases. However, the feminists – and later on nearly everyone - used the same frame of reference to analyze intimate relationships outside the family, like teacher and pupil, coach and trainee, houseparent and child, neighbor and child next door, and every friendship between an adult and a child or youngster. People looked at these relationships through the feminists’ frame of reference : oppression by the man and his sexuality. People saw the one only as the predator and the other only as the victim. Intimacy is seen as sexual abuse. Automatically, the notion of permanent harm comes in mind.
Nowadays, most adults do not dare even to touch a child in any way. Frigidity has crept into the family, the school, the club and the children’s homes.
So, there is enough reason to investigate intimate intergenerational relationships: Will there actually be permanent harm? Is the frame of reference used, the predator & his victim, a correct one?
Meta-analysis: research on research reports
In 1997, Prof. Dr Bruce Rind and his team published a report. Before, research on Child sexual Abuse (CSA) was nearly always performed in a very limited population: mostly the samples were people from clinics and prisons. It’s there where one can expect to find cases of harm. However, the hypothesis ‘there will be harm’ was then used also for the population in general also: ‘there will always be harm for everybody’. However, Rind reviewed research using samples from the general people, national samples. Doing so, his conclusions were different from the 'always-harm' hypothesis.
In 1998, another publication followed. This time, research using college samples was reviewed. Again, the conclusions did not support the always-harm hypothesis.
The 1997 publication was never given much attention; on the other hand, the 1998 publication drew much attention.
In the "Read more" section, we present a 1997 article and the meta-analysis of 1998. For a first view, you can read the Rotterdam paper that gives the conclusions in an easier way. For a quick look, you can read the article of KOINOS and G. G.’s article. You can also see the article explaining the statistics.
Science and morality
Facts and norms can conflict with each other. Research tells us: "The earth’s milieu is in danger!" Nevertheless, government decides not to sign the Kyoto treaty. Other researchers say: "There is no danger" – milieu activists disguise the report.
"Science can tell us that it is healthy to eat meat; human beings can decide on moral grounds to not eat meat. Science can tell us that it is dangerous to drink alcohol; human beings can decide to permit each other to drink alcohol. Science can tell us that it is not dangerous to use cannabis in small portions now and then; human beings can, with draconian punishment, forbid each other to use or possess even a tiny portion." (Gieles in Science and Morality)
Just such a conflict arose concerning the research of the Rind et al. team. The team concluded that there was not as much harm as was previously thought. Half of the USA made a fuss. Half? Yes, the right wing half, the conservative half of society. In the end, the USA Congress did also.
Here is a quick recap of the story so far. Right wing people in the USA discovered the 1998 meta-analysis of Rind, Bauserman & Tromovitch about one year after publication. They wrote articles and spoke by radio and the Internet. Newspapers smelled the news and politicians awoke. In the end, the USA Congress condemned the study. One would expect such a condemnation in the former Soviet Union, but not in the ‘free world’. What happened, is quite unique.
You can read the reactions easily and in chronological order in Gieles’ article "Mister President…". Dr Gieles uses neutral terms to tell who the opponents are, but here, in this statement, we want to be more specific.
NARTH is the National Association on Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. Here, one views homosexuality as an illness and want to cure it. One of the leading members is the Dutch Gerard van den Aardweg, known here to be very conservative. Actually, NARTH does not cure, but combats homosexuality and wants to protect 'family values'.
"Dr" Laura Schlessinger is not a PhD at all, at least not in psychology. She hosts a radio show with many listeners. She is a fundamentalist Jewish believer. She constantly combats homosexuality. Several owners of radio or TV stations will not carry her program because of protest from the gay movement.
FRC is the Family Research Council, a group of conservative Christians who defend conservative family values. There is no research, as far as we know, done by them.
The Leadership Council for Mental Health, Justice and the Media is a group of therapists who believe in recovered memories, especially of sexual abuse in childhood. This ‘council’ started soon after the first lawsuits by women who claimed a victim’s compensation from their ‘therapists’, who clearly had lead them to those ‘recovered memories' concerning abuse which never existed. So, the group has financial interests, as have many of the therapists who earn their living by the harm, supposedly caused by CSA. Dr Fink is the main speaker of the group.
Thus, most opponents were conservative Christian right-wing people and politicians.
Well, it’s everybody’s right to oppose, but the point is: how to oppose?
The style of opposing
As before, Dr Gieles chose words as neutral as possible, but here we may tell you how the opponents styled their opposition: very dishonest and disgusting, as you can read in the original documents.
The most serious bias is that, clearly, most of the opponents have not read the article at all – or at least have not understood it. People give words and ‘quotes’ – the one takes the words from the other – that simply are not written in the article at all. People oppose issues that are already dealt with in the article. Frequently, the indignation is very selective.
More serious is the attacking of the person instead of the ideas. There was a six hour radio show broadcast right in front of Dr Rind’s office. All students who walked into the building were asked very insinuating questions. The authors have feared for their reputations, their jobs and even for their lives. They were suspected of being involved in all kinds of suspicious activity. The language of the opponents was mostly insinuating and ‘rhetoric’ in the bad sense of the word: not ‘speaking well’, but speaking smut.
In short: there was no correct discussion. Science and morality were mixed indiscriminately. We want to think a while about this topic.
According to Habermas, a discourse is a special kind of discussion in which people search for consensus about what is true, correct, authentic and clear. This consensus is the criterion of the validity of statements. The validity exists until there is a new consensus, for example founded on new facts.
There are rules for a good discourse. Just as researchers try to create the best possible constellation for measuring things, so one should try to reach the best possible interview constellation. This is: dialogue without any use of power. By this kind of dialogue, one can reach the aim: shared understanding or agreement.
There is not only one kind of discourse: there are four. Here above, we have already written the four core words: "true, correct, authentic and clear". Each kind of discourse has it’s own rules.
Type a: What is true?
This is the empirical-theoretical discourse.
Type b: What is correct?
This is the practical discourse.
Type c: What is authentic?
This is the therapeutic discourse.
Type d: What is clear?
This is the basic condition that is necessary for every discourse.
Thus, it is good to be conscious of which type of discourse one is speaking in, thus which kind of test and which kind of criteria for validity one should use and which attitude is required.
This is exactly the aspect in which the opponents against the Rind et al. team were inaccurate.
The Rind et al. discourse
Considering this discourse, the authors have correctly followed the rules of discourse type a, the discourse of searching for the truth. They have given statements of facts and have used the test of agreement between statement and the observation of reality. Their attitude was objectivity. They were conscious of their speaking in this type of discourse. Regularly, they used words like ‘We only report the facts, we do not speak in moral or juridical ways.’ Or: ‘this concept is scientifically valid, because this factor discriminates and predicts. We do not speak here about the moral or juridical correctness or validity. That’s another kind of discussion.’ The authors’ statements were well considered and clear.
The opponents, however, did not act along the rules of the correct discourse. Their statements were far from clear, not well speaking but insinuating. Their aim was not to reach shared understanding or agreement, but to maintain their own beliefs. Their attitude was not communicative but aggressive. Many statements did not agree with reality. Their argumentation was far from rational. The agreement between their words and actions failed by being very selectively indignant and by using non-existent ‘quotes’ from an article clearly not read by them.
The list of the RBT files gives links to the original articles, to some explanatory articles, to the discussions and to some other related documents: