Day care sex abuse hysteria

Day care sex abuse hysteria

Day care sex abuse hysteria occurred in the 1980s and early 1990s. [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Parole Board recommends Amirault's commutation. |url= |format=courtesy link from Truth in Justice|quote=The Amiraults always insisted they were innocent, the victims of a sex abuse hysteria that swept the country in the 1980s and questionable testimony from child witnesses. |publisher=Associated Press |date=July 6, 2001 |accessdate=2007-10-31 ] This occurred in the United States, with cases in Canada and New Zealand. A prominent case in Kern County, California first brought the issue of day care sexual abuse to the fore in the public consciousness, and the issue figured prominently in news coverage for almost a decade. The Kern county case was followed by cases in California, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and European countries.

ignificant cases

Kern county child abuse cases

The Kern County child abuse case was the first prominent instance of accusations of ritualized sex abuse of children. In 1982 in Kern County, California, Debbie and Alvin McCuan were accused of abusing their own children. The initial charges were made by Mary Ann Barbour, the children's step-grandmother. Barbour had a history of mental illness. The authorities used coercive techniques to get the children to tell of abuse by their parents. In 1982, the girls further accused McCuan's defense witnesses: Scott Kniffen, his wife Brenda, and his mother. Mary Ann Barbour reported that the children had been used for prostitution, used in child pornography, tortured, made to watch snuff films. The McCuans and the Kniffens were each sentenced to over 240 years in prison in 1984. Their convictions were overturned in 1996. [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Who Was Abused? |url=|publisher=New York Times |date=September 19, 2004 |accessdate=2008-03-23 ]

McMartin preschool trial

The case started in August 1983 when Judy Johnson, the mother of a 2 1/2 year-old boy reported to the police that her son was abused by Raymond Buckey at the McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach, California. After seven years of criminal trials, no convictions were obtained, and all charges were dropped in 1990. As of 2006, it is the longest and most expensive trial in the history of the United States. The accusations involved hidden tunnels, killing animals, Satan worship, and orgies. [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Los Angeles Pressing Inquiry Into Sexual Abuse Of Children. |url= |quote= To the children at the Virginia McMartin Preschool, it was "The Hollywood Game" or "Naked Movie Star." Adults use more sophisticated terms to describe the sexual games the children were reported to have played with trusted teachers, such as pedophilia, felony child abuse, child pornography. Despite stricter laws against the sexual abuse of children, three cases pending in Los Angeles alone indicate that trafficking in children for pleasure or profit has not disappeared. Seven defendants, including 76-year-old Virginia McMartin, who founded the school in 1956; her daughter, granddaughter and grandson, are scheduled to be arraigned Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court. They face a total of 115 counts of having sexual relations with children as young as 2 years old at the preschool center in suburban Manhattan Beach. |publisher=Associated Press |date=April 1, 1984 |accessdate=2007-07-21 ] Judy Johnson was diagnosed with acute schizophreniacite news |last =Wilson | first =Mike |title =A Search For Victims Quest Search For The Truth In California Child Abuse Case Has Cost The Taxpayers Six Years, $15 Million. | pages =1C |publisher =Miami Herald |date =1989-11-13 |accessdate=2007-08-21] cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Child-Abuse Case Ends In 2 Acquittals Preschool Trial Lasted 32 Months. |publisher=Miami Herald |date=January 19, 1990 |accessdate=2007-08-21 ] and in 1986 was found dead in her home from complications of chronic alcoholism. [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Sex Case Accuser is Found Dead. |url= |publisher=New York Times |date=December 21, 1986 |accessdate=2007-08-21 ] Nine of 11 jurors at a press conference following the trial stated that they believed the children's testimony. These same jurors stated that they believed that the evidence did not allow them to state who had committed the abuse beyond a reasonable doubt. [cite news | coauthors = Tracy Wilkinson and James Rainey | title = Tapes of Children Decided the Case for Most Jurors | publisher= Los Angeles Times | quote= On Thursday, though, it was the jurors' turn. They acquitted Ray Buckey and his mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, on 52 counts of child molestation conspiracy, and then, in press conferences and private interviews, explained how they had sorted through the tangle of evidence to make their judgment. Juror Sally Cordova, 27, a cashier for Vons markets, said she voted guilty on 11 of the 13 counts that ended in deadlock. Twelve involved Ray Buckey and the 13th was a shared conspiracy count. Three of the counts involved an alleged victim whom Cordova believed. "I believed the statements that the girl first made on tape during the CII interview," Cordova said. "The first interview gave what I thought was concrete information when she accused Ray of molestation. I believed her on those three (early) counts. I believe that Ray did it." | url= | date = January 19, 1990] In 2005 one of the testifying children retracted his testimony and said he lied, to protect his younger siblings and to please his parents. [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=McMartin Preschool accuser recants. |url= |format=archive |quote=One of the 360 children who made accusations says he lied to protect his siblings and was never raped. ... Saying he lied to please his parents ... one of the children who claimed he was molested at the notorious McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach more than 20 years ago has recanted his original story. |publisher= Los Angeles Times Magazine|date= October 30, 2005 |accessdate=2007-10-31]

In "The Devil in The Nursery" in 2001, Margaret Talbot for the New York Times summarized the case:

"When you once believed something that now strikes you as absurd, even unhinged, it can be almost impossible to summon that feeling of credulity again. Maybe that is why it is easier for most of us to forget, rather than to try and explain, the Satanic-abuse scare that gripped this country in the early 80's -- the myth that Devil-worshipers had set up shop in our day-care centers, where their clever adepts were raping and sodomizing children, practicing ritual sacrifice, shedding their clothes, drinking blood and eating feces, all unnoticed by parents, neighbors and the authorities."

David Hechler, author of "The Battle and the Backlash - The Child Sexual Abuse War," published in 1988 during the second year of the four year trial, states:

“What happened at the McMartin Preschool will be debated for a long time. Few aspects of the case are clear, but it requires no strain of credulity to believe that the children could have been abused at the facility without being diagnosed by a pediatrician.” [cite book |last= Hechler | first = David |title= The Battle and the Backlash - The Child Sexual Abuse War |year= 1988 |publisher= Lexington Books |location= Lexington, MA |isbn= 0-669-14097-x]

Dade County Day Care Center

Frank Fuster, the owner of the Country Walk Babysitting Service, was found guilty of 14 counts of abuse. He was sentenced to a prison sentence with a minimum of 165 years. Fuster's victims testified that his "unspeakable acts" included leading them in Satanic rituals and terrorizing them by forcing them to watch him mutilate birds, a lesson to children who might reveal the abuse.cite news | last =Collins | first =Glen | title =Nightmare in Country Walk | publisher =New York Times | date =1986-12-14 |quote=Mr. Fuster was convicted of molesting the children entrusted to his wife's care in their home in the middle-class Dade County suburb of Country Walk, a planned development that was intended to be an idyllic refuge from the anxieties of urban Miami. | url = | accessdate =2008-07-01] Fuster had been previously convicted for manslaughter and for fondling a 9 year old child. Over 50 children accused Fuster and Iliana (his wife) of child abuse and Fuster's own son was treated for gonorrhea of his throat. Iliana testified against her husband and confessed to her role in the crimes and received a ten-year sentence. [ Conviction List: Ritual Child Abuse] ]

Miami-Dade County, Florida state's attorney Janet Reno crafted a "children's rights" approach to the prosecution of several suspected child abusers during her reelection campaign in 1984. Hundreds of prosecutors nationwide patterned themselves after her systematic style, including some of the other examples listed here.

Starting in 1984, Reno used Joseph and Laurie Braga, two self-styled experts at interviewing children, to gain most of the "confessions" from the children. The Bragas coerced numerous children into confessions that were thrown out on appeal in both state and federal courts years later. One federal judge described the confessions as "fundamentally unfair." Some of the kids later admitted that they confessed only because they were told other children claimed abuse, and that they were tired of being told "I don't believe you," and "because I was getting tired ... [that] I told a lie." []

Fells Acres Day Care Center

The incident began in 1984, when a 5-year-old boy told a family member that ]

The Bronx Five

In The Bronx, prosecutor Mario Merola convicted five men, including Nathaniel Grady, a 47 year-old Methodist minister, of sexually abusing children in day care centers throughout the Bronx. [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=20th-century witch hunt. |url= |quote=The Rev. Nathaniel Grady, a pious man and a fiery orator, was born to do the Lord's work. As a boy, he walked to Sunday school hand-in-hand with his mother and sister. As an adult, he became a Methodist minister, shepherding a devoted flock in the rugged East Bronx while fostering friendships with judges, bishops, police chiefs, an ex-governor. Yet, prosecutors ignored Nat Grady's past when he was accused in 1984 of sexually abusing a half-dozen ... |publisher=Associated Press |date=December 1, 1996 |accessdate=2007-10-31 ]

Praca Day Care

Three employees of a Bronx day-care center were arrested in August, 1984 on the charges of abusing at least ten children in their care. [cite news | last =Berger | first =J. | title =3 Seized in Child Abuse at Bronx Center | pages =1 | language =| publisher =New York Times | date =August 3, 1984 | url =
] Federal and city investigators then questioned dozens of children at the day care. They used 'dolls, gentle words and a quiet approach.' [cite news
last =McFadden | first =R. | title =Search For Witnesses Widens In Inquiry On Day-Care Center | language =| publisher =New York Times | date =August 5, 1984 | url =
] More children reported being sexually abused, raising the total to 30. [cite news | last =Purdum | first =T. | title =18 More Children Cite Sexual Abuse | language =| publisher =New York Times | date =August 7, 1984 | url =
] “Three more city-financed day care centers” also were investigated for sexual abuse. [cite news | last =Purdum | first =T. | title =Sexual Abuse Is Investigated At 3 More Day-Care Centers | language =
publisher =New York Times | date =August 9, 1984 | url =
] On August 11, 1984, it was reported that federal funds had been cut off to the Head Start preschool program at the Praca Day Care Center and now four employees had been arrested. [cite news | title =Bronx Day-Care Center Has U.S. Funds Cut Off | work =Associated Press | language =| publisher =New York Times | date =August 11, 1984 | url =
] In June, 1985 the day care center was reopened with new sponsorship. [cite news | last =Douglas | first =C. | title =Child Care Center Reopens, Burying the Tales of Abuse | language =| publisher =New York Times | date =June 1, 1985 | url =
] In January 1986, Albert Algarin, employed at the Praca Day Care center, was sentenced to 50 years in prison for 'raping and sexually abusing five children.' [cite news | title =Day Care Worker Gets 50 Years for Sex Crimes | work =Associated Press | language =| publisher =New York Times | date =January 16, 1986 | url = | accessdate=2008-03-23] It was reported in May 1986 that Jesus Torres, a former teacher’s aide at the Praca Day Care “was sentenced to 40 years in prison yesterday for sexually assaulting two boys at the center.' [cite news | title =Day-Care Sex Assaults Bring 30-Year Sentence. | language =| publisher =New York Times | date =May 2, 1986 | url =
] ”Franklin Beauchamp who had been 'convicted of nine counts of rape, sexual abuse and sodomy involving three children at Praca,' had his case overturned in New York state’s highest state court in May 1989. 'The State Court of Appeals ruled that the indictment used to obtain his 1986 conviction was "duplicitous," or not specific enough.' [cite news| title =Prosecutor Won't Seek New Abuse Charges | work =Associated Press
language =| publisher = New York Times | date =September 21, 1989 | url = | accessdate=2008-03-23
] On a web page from Frontline Innocence Lost Other Well-Known Cases PBS, it is stated that the "remaining defendants eventually had their convictions overturned as well."

Wee Care Nursery School

It started in Maplewood, New Jersey in April 1985. Margaret Kelly Michaels was indicted for 299 offenses in connection with the sexual assault of 33 children. [cite news | title =Day-Care Worker Held In Assaults On Children | language =| publisher =New York Times | date =December 8, 1985 | url =
accessdate=2008-03-23 |quote=An employee of a day-care center in Maplewood, N.J., has been indicted for 229 offenses in connection with the sexual assault of 33 children between 3 and 6 years of age over a 6-month period.
] Michaels denied the charges. cite news | last = Narvaez| first =A. | title =Former Day-Care Teacher Denies Sexually Abusing Schoolchildren | language =| publisher =New York Times | date=February 28, 1988 | url= |accessdate=2008-03-23 |quote= A former day-care center teacher being tried on charges of sexually abusing 20 children in her care testified in her defense this week and denied ever having had sexual contact with the 3- 4- and 5-year-old youngsters.] "The prosecution produced expert witnesses who said that almost all the children displayed symptoms of sexual abuse."cite news |last =Narvaez| first =A. | title =Legal Arguments End in Jersey Child-Abuse Trial | language=| publisher=New York Times | date =March 29, 1988 | url = | accessdate=2008-03-23 |quote=Legal arguments in the nine-month trial of a day-care teacher accused of sexually abusing 20 children at a center in Maplewood ended here today.] Prosecution witnesses testified that the children "had regressed into such behavior as bed-wetting and defecating in their clothing. The witnesses said the children became afraid to be left alone or to stay in the dark." Some of the other teachers testified against her. "The defense argued that Miss Michaels did not have the time or opportunity to go to a location where all the activities could have taken place without someone seeing her." Michaels was sentenced to 47 years in the "sex case."cite news | last =Rangel | first =J. | title =Ex-Preschool Teacher Sentenced To 47 Years in Sex Case in Jersey | language =| publisher=New York Times |date =August 3, 1988 | url = | accessdate=2008-03-23|quote=A former preschool teacher was sentenced today to 47 years in prison for sexually assaulting 19 children and endangering the welfare of another child in a day-care center in Maplewood] Michaels "told the judge that she was confident her conviction would be overturned on appeal." After five years in prison her appeal was successful and sentence was overturned by a New Jersey appeals court. The New Jersey Supreme Court upheld the lower court's decision and declared "the interviews of the children were highly improper and utilized coercive and unduly suggestive methods." [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Recovered Reputations. |url= |publisher=New York Times |date=April 6, 2003 | |accessdate=2007-09-25 ] A three judge panel ruled she had been denied a fair trial, because "the prosecution of the case had relied on testimony that should have been excluded because it improperly used an expert's theory, called the child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome, to establish guilt."cite news | last =Fiason | first =F. | title =Child-Abuse Conviction Of Woman Is Overturned | language =| publisher =New York Times | date =March 27, 1993 | url = | accessdate=2008-03-23 |quote=A New Jersey appeals court yesterday overturned the conviction of Margaret Kelly Michaels, who was accused of sexually abusing 19 children at a day-care center in Maplewood, and who was sentenced to 47 years in prison after a celebrated trial in 1988.] The original judge was also criticized "for the way in which he allowed the children to give televised testimony from his chambers."

Glendale Montessori

In 1989, James Toward, owner of Glendale Montessori School in Stuart, Florida, entered an Alford plea to child sexual abuse charges and received a 27-year sentence. While technically maintaining his innocence, he allowed a guilty plea to be entered against him, convicting him of molesting or kidnapping six boys. cite article |title=Headmaster's evil lives on in 20-year-old abuse case | |date=2008-03-01 |author=Jill Taylor |quote=Little children, lots of little children, were raped and defiled in unspeakable ways by a man some of the smartest and richest people in the community had trusted to care for their sons and daughters.] His office manager, Brenda Williams, 30, was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison. She pled no contest to sex and attempted kidnapping charges involving five boys and she was released from prison in 1993 after serving five years. The psychotherapist Jeanne Ralicki, who treated many of the victims stated "There's this whole underbelly of evil here that just oozes...Who wants to think that that exists in the world?" James Toward is still being held in Civil Commitment due to the Jimmy Ryce Act. Children described being threatened with guns and knives, photographed for pornographic purposes, and forced to participate in sadistic rituals. (Miami Herald, June 15, 1989). Toward and Williams were accused of kidnapping and sexually abusing six boys who attended Glendale as preschoolers in 1986 and 1987. Investigators knew about up to 60 victims, mostly from the ages 2 to 5. Hearsay testimony was admitted at trial, and although he maintained his innocence, Toward plea-bargained using the Alford plea to avoid an almost certain life sentence. (Palm Beach Post, June 15, 1989). The information in the case was considered too graphic to repeat in news accounts and it was so disturbing that the judge who presided in the case stated that he was very nearly physically ill after listening to some of the testimony. Many parents and former co-workers supported Toward's assertions of innocence. One parent's statement in the Martin Circuit Court regarding the defense interview of her child: "I think he felt that he was being called a liar through most of the deposition." (Palm Beach Post, February 7, 1989). As a result of this case, Florida passed a law in 1993, extending the state's statute of limitations to allow victims of child abuse more time to file claims with the state's Victim's Compensation Fund for money to help pay for counseling and other needed treatment. (Palm Beach Post, February 5, 1993). The doctor of several of the child victims in the case, including the first, was named Dr. Alan Tesson. Also, at the time, the mother of the first child to make a complaint was Dr. Tesson's secretary. Dr. Alan Tesson was sued in 1996 for $650,000 for implanting false memories of satanic ritual abuse and child pornography in an adult patient. (Palm Beach Post, February 6, 2000). During this lawsuit it was proven that Dr. Tesson frequently consulted with self-proclaimed experts in satanic ritual abuse (SRA) (Corydon Hammond, Catherine Gould and Judianne Denson Gerber) on the subject of SRA mind control [FMSF Newsletter, Vol. 6 No. 2, February 1, 1997] . As of 2008, Tesson has not been held accountable for his involvement in the Glendale Montessori case, and Toward is still being held in Civil Commitment under the Jimmy Ryce Act.Ralicki thinks she will be called to testify at an upcoming Jimmy Ryce hearing. She stated that she does not doubt that Toward still poses a threat to children. She can never forget what he did to the 20 or so children she treated.

Little Rascals Day Care Center

In April 1989 in Edenton, North Carolina, Robert Kelley was arrested and charged with child sexual abuse. "Robert F. Kelly Jr....face(d) 187 counts, including having sexual intercourse with children and with other adults in front of them. His wife, Betsy, 36, and five other adults face(d) similar charges." [cite news | last =Smothers | first =R. | title =Child-Abuse Case Is Ordeal for a Town | language =| publisher =New York Times | date =August 19, 1991 |url= |quote=Not since the McMartin Preschool case in Los Angeles have there been so many charges of abuse involving so many children. Robert F. Kelly Jr., the 43-year-old former co-owner of the Little Rascals Day Care Center, faces 187 counts, including having sexual intercourse with children and with other adults in front of them. His wife, Betsy, 36, and five other adults face similar charges. | accessdate=2008-03-23] By the end of the investigation 6 other people were charged, including a woman who was in a child custody case with her police officer husband, who had no connection to the facility or the Kelleys. The children testified that they were forced to have sex and their parents testified that "their children exhibited abnormal behavior."cite news |last=Rosenfeld | first =M. | title =Child Abuse Conviction in Day Care Case;N.C. Man Was Subject of Sympathetic Documentary | publisher =Washington Post | date =April 23, 1992 |quote=The children testified that Kelly forced them to have oral and anal sex, made them have sex with each other while pictures were taken and engaged them in other sex acts. Children also said Kelly had sex with other adults in front of them. But prosecutors said they didn't find any pictures. Parents testified that their children exhibited abnormal behavior, such as fear of going into bathrooms, masturbating in front of adults and night terrors. Kelly's ex-wife, Janey Kelly, who has since changed her name to Kelli de Sante, also testified, saying she found child pornography addressed to Kelly in a post office box. Kelly, who denied all the charges against him, also took the stand. He testified that he liked adult pornography, but not anything to do with children. |url= | accessdate=2008-03-23] "Robert Kelly Jr. was convicted of 99 of 100 counts of rape and related crimes against children." cite news | last=Mayfield | first=M. | title=Man convicted in N.C. child sex abuse case | publisher=USA Today | date=April 23, 1992 |url= |quote=Robert Kelly Jr. was convicted of 99 of 100 counts of rape and related crimes against children - ending a key phase of North Carolina's protracted Little Rascals day-care case. National child-abuse groups called the verdict in the case a landmark victory, particularly for its testimony from children. 'We've come a long way ... in the meticulous way in which everything was handled,' said Deborah Daro of the National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse. 'We've learned how to interview children more effectively, how to elicit responses without leading them on."|accessdate=2008-03-23] The jury believed the children on the witness stand. One juror stated “the children were convincing.” Kelly and his supporters believed he was innocent. On May 23, 1997, the prosecution dropped all charges related to the Little Rascals case against Bob Kelley and his wife. [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Day-Care Owner Is Convicted of Child Molesting. |url= |quote=The longest and costliest criminal trial ever held in North Carolina ended today when the owner of a day-care center was convicted on 99 of 100 charges of sexually abusing 12 children there. After 14 days of deliberating, a Pitt County Superior Court jury found the 44-year-old defendant, Robert F. Kelly Jr., guilty of 4 counts of rape, 46 of taking indecent liberties, 36 of first-degree sexual offense and 13 crimes against nature. He was acquitted only of a single charge of taking indecent liberties with one of the 12 children. |publisher=New York Times |date=April 23, 1992 |accessdate=2007-08-21 ] cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Innocence Lost, The Plea. |url= |quote=The McMartin Preschool case was one of the earliest and largest child sexual abuse cases in this country. Although none of those charged were ever convicted, the 28-month trial was the longest and costliest criminal prosecution in U.S. history. This case is often cited as triggering the wave of pre-school sexual abuse cases during the mid-1980s. |publisher=Frontline |date= |accessdate=2007-10-31 ]

Dale Akiki

Akiki, 36, in 1991 had Noonan's syndrome. He was recently married and was arrested in May 1991. He and his wife were volunteer baby-sitters at Faith Chapel in Spring Valley, California. On each Sunday, they would keep an eye on the children while their parents were attending services in the church next door. The accusations started when a young girl told her mother that "He [Akiki] showed me him's penis." The mother contacted the police. After interviews, nine other children accused Akiki of killing animals and drinking their blood in front of the children. He was found innocent of the 35 counts of child abuse and kidnapping in his 1993 trial.

Christchurch Civic Crèche

Peter Ellis, a child-care worker at the Christchurch Civic Crèche in New Zealand, was found guilty on 16 counts of sexual abuse against children in 1992 and served seven years in jail. Parents of the alleged abuse victims were entitled to claim NZ$10,000 in compensation for each allegation from the Accident Compensation Corporation, regardless of whether the allegations were proved or not. Many victims' families made multiple allegations. Peter Ellis has consistently denied any abuse, and the case is still considered controversial by many New Zealanders.

Martensville Satanic sex scandal

In 1992, a mother in Martensville, Saskatchewan, Canada alleged that a local woman who ran a babysitting service and day care center in her home had sexually abused her child. Police began an investigation and allegations began to snowball. More than a dozen persons, including five police officers from two different forces, ultimately faced over 100 charges connected with running a Satanic cult called 'The Brotherhood of The Ram' which allegedly practiced ritualized sexual abuse of numerous children at a 'Devil Church'. The first person (a male youth offender) tried was found guilty, but after that the cases began to unravel. The Department of Justice eventually decided not to prosecute any more of these cases, and the local police force was investigated by the RCMP and disbanded. Ultimately, only the conviction of the babysitter's son for fondling and touching two of the children was upheld on appeal. [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Satanic Sex Scandal |url= |quote= |publisher=CBC |date= |accessdate=2007-10-31 ] In 2003, defendants sued for wrongful prosecution. [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink=|coauthors= |title=Wrongly accused in ritual abuse case launch $10 million suit |url= |quote=|publisher=CBC |date=2003-09-09 |accessdate=2008-9-29 ] In 2004, they settled for $100,000 each. [cite news|title=Settlement details released for Sask. couple accused of child abuse||publisher=CBC|date=2004-11-19|accessdate=2008-10-03]

Wenatchee sex ring

In Wenatchee, Washington in 1994 and 1995 police and state social workers undertook what was then called the nation's most extensive child sex-abuse investigation. Forty-three adults were arrested on 29,726 charges of child sex abuse involving 60 children. Parents, Sunday school teachers and a pastor were charged and many were convicted of abusing their own children or the children of others in the community. Dr. Deborah Harper testified in the trial "One girl showed definite medical signs of sexual abuse and it could not be ruled out for two others." [cite news | publisher=Associated Press | title = Doctor confirms abuse in sex-ring case. | format= scanned reprint | url= | quote=One girl showed definite medical signs of sexual abuse and it could not be ruled for two others, a defense witness testified (Dr Deborah Harper) the child rape and molestation trial of a Pentecostal preacher and his wife ... Prosecutors allege unordained pastor Robert "Roby" Roberson and his wife, Connie, has sex with children at the East Wenatchee Pentecostal Church of God House and Prayer and at their home. | language = | | date= December 5, 1996] However, prosecutors were unable to provide any physical evidence to support the charges. The main witness was the 13-year-old foster daughter of a police officer, Robert Perez, who had investigated the cases. [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Pastor and Wife Are Acquitted on All Charges in Sex-Abuse Case. |url= |publisher=New York Times |date=December 12, 1995 |accessdate=2007-07-21 ] A consultant, retired Bellevue Police Chief D.P. Van Blaricom, hired by a city insurer who looked into how the Wenatchee police ran the child abuse investigations stated that the cases were handled properly. A Justice Department investigation also found that was no evidence of civil rights violations. [cite news | title = Consultant finds no fault in sex ring probe | pages = A7 | format= scanned reprint | url= |work=Associated Press | publisher = Tri-City Herald | quote=A consultant hired by the city's insurer to look into the way Wenatchee police conducted child sex-abuse investigations said Wednesday the cases were properly handled. | date= February 221996] However, a jury found the city of Wenatchee and Douglas County, Washington negligent in the 1994-1995 investigations. They awarded $3 million to the couple who had been wrongly accused in the inquiry. cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Jury finds city, county negligent in child sex ring case. |url= |quote=A Spokane County jury yesterday found the city of Wenatchee and Douglas County negligent in the now-discredited 1994-1995 Wenatchee child sex ring investigations, awarding $3 million to a couple who had been wrongly accused in the inquiry. |publisher=Seattle Post-Intelligencer |date=Wednesday, August 1, 2001 |accessdate=2007-11-26 ]



In the late 1970s and early 1980s, more and more mothers were working outside of the home, resulting in the opening of large numbers of day-care centers. Anxiety and guilt over leaving young children with strangers may have created a climate of fear and readiness to believe false accusations. [cite book |last=Pendergrast |first=Mark |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Victims of Memory: Sex Abuse Accusations and Shattered Lives |year= |publisher= |quote="It seems [the day-care sex- abuse hysteria] had something to do with this fear that we'd turned our kids over to total strangers," sociologist Catherine Beckett says ... |isbn=0942679180 ]

In "The Devil in The Nursery", Margaret Talbot for the New York Times writes:

Our willingness to believe in ritual abuse was grounded in anxiety about putting children in day care at a time when mothers were entering the work force in unprecedented numbers. It was as though there were some dark, self-defeating relief in trading niggling everyday doubts about our children's care for our absolute worst fears -- for a story with monsters, not just human beings who didn't always treat our kids exactly as we would like; for a fate so horrific and bizarre that no parent, no matter how vigilant, could have ever prevented it.cite news |first=Margaret |last=Talbot |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=The Lives They Lived: 01-07-01: Peggy McMartin Buckey, b. 1926; The Devil in The Nursery. |url= |format=reprint from New America|quote=Buckey's ordeal began in 1983, when the mother of a 2 1/2-year-old who attended the McMartin preschool in Manhattan Beach, California, called the police to report that her son had been sodomized there. It didn't matter that the woman was eventually found to be a paranoid schizophrenic, and that the accusations she made -- of teachers who took children on airplane rides to Palm Springs and lured them into a labyrinth of underground tunnels where the accused "flew in the air" and others were "all dressed up as witches" ... |publisher=New York Times |date=January 7, 2001 |accessdate=2007-07-21 ]

False allegations when interviewing children

While it was not fully understood at the time of these cases, subsequent research has shed light on the inherent difficulty associated with child testimony. John Myers, a Professor of Law at McGeorge Law School states:

"At the time McMartin and Michaels began, there was very little awareness of the special issues that arise in questioning children about abuse....When it comes to credibility, children are no different than adults. There are credible children and credible adults. By the same token, there are incredible adults and incredible children. It is clear from the literature on child development that by the time most children are four years old, they possess the moral, cognitive, and linguistic capacity to be credible witnesses in court." [cite news |author = John Myers |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=The Child terror | quote = During the first six decades of the 20th Century, the level of doubt and skepticism about allegations of CSA were at unrealistic and destructively high levels. During the late 1970s and 1980s, however, society was much more accepting of the fact that CSA is a serious social problem. Beginning in the early 1990s, a backlash of sorts emerged against the child protection system. Although this backlash has not substantially undermined efforts by the child protection and legal systems to investigate and prosecute CSA, it [is] my belief that the level of doubt about children's credibility and about the prevalence of CSA is once again on the rise, and could return to levels that are sufficiently high to undermine efforts to protect children. |url= |publisher=Frontline |date= |accessdate=2007-10-31 ]

It is believed that children are very vulnerable to outside influences that lead to fabrication of testimony. [Sherrie Bourg Carter, Children in the Courtroom (2005) thereinafter “Carter”), p.21.] Such testimony can be influenced in a variety of ways.Some studies suggest that children incorporate aspects of the interviewer’s questions into their answers in an attempt to tell the interviewer what the child believes is being sought. cite book |last=Ceci |first=Stephen J. |authorlink= |coauthors=Maggie Bruck |title=Jeopardy in the Courtroom: A Scientific Analysis of Children’s Testimony |year=1995 |publisher= |quote= |isbn=1557986320 ] This contention has been disputed, however. [Ceci and Bruck, p.78.] Studies also show that when adults ask children questions that do not make sense (such as “Is milk bigger than water?” or “Is red heavier than yellow?”), most children will offer an answer, believing that there is an answer to be given (rather than understand the absurdity of the question). [Lucy S. McGough, Child Witnesses: Fragile Voices in the American Legal System (1994), p.72.] Furthermore, repeated questioning of children causes them to change their answers. This is because the children perceive the repeated questioning as a sign that they did not give the “correct” answer previously. [Ceci and Bruck, p.79.] Children are also especially susceptible to leading and suggestive questions. [Carter, p.21.]

Interviewer bias also plays a role in shaping child testimony. When an interviewer has a preconceived notion as to the truth of the matter being investigated, the questioning is conducted in a manner to extract statements that support these beliefs. [Ceci and Bruck, p.79.] As a result, evidence that could disprove the belief is never sought by the interviewer. Additionally, positive reinforcement by the interviewer can taint child testimony. Often such reinforcement is given to encourage a spirit of cooperation by the child, but the impartial tone can quickly disappear as the interviewer nods, smiles, or offers verbal encouragement to “helpful” statements. [Ceci and Bruck, p.81.] Some studies show that when interviewers make reassuring statements to child witnesses, the children are more likely to fabricate stories of past events that never occurred. [Ceci and Bruck, p.140.]

Peer pressure also influences children to fabricate stories. Studies show that when a child witness is told that his or her friends have already testified that certain events occurred, the child witness was more likely to create a matching story. [Ceci and Bruck, p.146-47.] The status of the interviewer can also influence a child’s testimony – the more authority an interviewer has (such as a police officer), the more likely a child is to comply with that person’s agenda. [Ceci and Bruck, p.152.]

Finally, while there are supporters of the use of anatomically correct dolls in questioning victims of sexual abuse/molestation, there are also critics of this practice.Ceci and Bruck, p.162.] Critics argue that because of the novelty of the dolls, children will act out sexually explicit acts with the dolls even if the child has not been sexually abused. Another criticism is that because the studies that compare the differences between how abused and non-abused children play with these dolls are conflicting (some studies suggest that sexually abused children play with anatomically correct dolls in a more sexually explicit manner than non-abused children, while other studies suggest that there is no correlation), it is impossible to interpret what is meant by how a child plays with these dolls.


*1982 Kern county child abuse case
*1983 McMartin preschool trial in California
*1984 Fells Acres Day Care Center
*1985 Wee Care Nursery School in New Jersey in April
*1987 Cleveland child abuse scandal in England
*1989 Glendale Montessori sexual abuse case in Stuart, Florida
*1989 Little Rascals Day Care Center scandal in Edenton, North Carolina
*1990 All charges dropped in McMartin preschool trial
*1991 Christchurch Civic Creche
*1992 Martensville Scandal, Martensville, Saskatchewan, Canada
*1994 start of Wenatchee Sex Rings case
*1996 Convictions in the Kern county child abuse case overturned

ee also

*False allegation of child sexual abuse
*Child sexual abuse
*Repressed memory
*False memories
*Moral panic
*Salem witch trials
*Satanic ritual abuse


Further reading


External links

* [ Child abuse and neglect] at New York Times

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