Witch hunts and child sexual abuse

I recently stumbled on an striking guest post on The Agitator web log by William L. Anderson, a citizen-journalist who takes it upon himself to look into abuses of civil liberty in sex crime accusations.  Here are some highlights.

People of our present era like to believe that they are sophisticated, intelligent, and incapable of engaging in the kind of witch hunts that made Salem, Massachusetts, famous, yet in the past 30 years American law enforcement and prosecutors have pursued what only could be described as witch hunts, as they have railroaded innocent people into prison for crimes that clearly have not occurred.  There are the more famous witch hunts, such as the McMartin and Kern County cases in California, the Little Rascals Case in North Carolina, the Grant Snowden case in Florida, the witch hunt of Wenatchee, Washington, and many more.

In each of these cases, people have been accused of the most sordid and horrible kinds of child molestation, from outright rape to shoving swords into the rectums of children (and, amazingly, leaving absolutely no trace of injury), cooking babies in microwave ovens, engaging in Satanic rituals in the middle of the day at day care centers, throwing children into shark-infested waters, and more.  We would like to think that there at least would be some physical or corroborating evidence for such actions, but these “crimes” were pursued even though nothing seemed changed about the children.

Anderson pointed out that none of the prosecutors in such cases suffered in their careers for wrongful conviction of the innocent.

… One only has to think of Janet Reno, Ed Jaegels, Scott Harshbarger (who prosecuted the notorious Fells Acres Case in Massachusetts), and Gary A. Riesen, the Chelan County, Washington, district attorney who was re-elected until his retirement last year by voters despite his “witch hunt” prosecutions.  Reno rode her wrongful convictions to the position of U.S. Attorney General, Jaegels has been a conservative icon in California, and Harshbarger rose to prominence in national Democratic Party circles.

Nancy Lamb, who pursued the Little Rascals Case — the most expensive criminal case in the history of North Carolina — was lionized in the media and even now, according to North Carolina’s Judicial District 1 website, remains as a prosecutor who “specializes in child abuse.”  In all of these cases, the individual prosecutors benefited from prosecuting innocent people. None had to face lawsuits, and none were brought up before their various state bars for discipline.

Their actions wasted millions of dollars, destroyed individual lives and families, and unnecessarily created real victims.  None paid anything resembling a personal price. Likewise, those employed by the various Child Protective Services agencies and the Children’s Advocacy Centers — all of which were created by federal legislation — are immune from lawsuits and face almost no legal scrutiny for their aggressive questioning that literally demands that children “disclose” abuse, even when the children being questioned vociferously deny that any abuse even happened.

via The Agitator

\We as a society are still paralyzed by fear of child sexual abuse, and of being accused of sexual abuse.  School teachers and Sunday school teachers dare not take a crying child into their arms to comfort them, lest they be accused of inappropriate touching.  These  days parents fear to let their children out of their sight because of the pedophile menace.

Recently a man I know was falsely accused of sexual abuse of a child, based on a report of something that had happened 10 years before.   The case dragged out for two years—was once dismissed, then was reinstated and finally has been dismissed again.  He refused a plea bargain because he was innocent.  Yet in the process he lost his house, went heavily into debt and might have been forced to plead guilty in return for no prison time if friends hadn’t chipped in to pay for his defense.

On the other hand, people affiliated with powerful institutions—certain Roman Catholic dioceses or Pennsylvania State University—have molested children for years and gotten away with it for years.

Sexual abuse of children is something that we should deal with as any other crime, by making judgments based on reason and evidence, regardless of the status of the accuser or accused.

Click on Costs and Benefits of Modern “Sex Crime” Witch Hunts for Anderson’s complete post on Radley Balko’s The Agitator web log.

Click on Day-care sex-abuse hysteria for Wikipedia’s roundup of the more notorious false accusations of child sexual abuse of the late 1980s and the 1990s.

Click on Looking at the Evidence Tonya Craft Acquitted: Prosecutorial Misconduct, Judicial Misconduct and Did Grudges Lead to Child Molestation Witch Hunt? for reports on Tonya Craft, a Georgia kindergarten teacher who was falsely accused of molesting three pre-school girls.

Click on Why the Mainstream Media Never Learns Any Lessons of History and “Bleed ‘Em, Plead ‘Em and Lie for reports on the ongoing case of Robert Adams, headmaster of a private school in California.

Click on William L. Anderson for his web log.

IWilliam L. Anderson’s day job is professor of economics at Frostburg State University in western Maryland.  It’s a small world.  My parents met there as students in the 1920s, when it was Maryland Normal School No. 2.

In the comment thread on Anderson’s The Agitator post, a private investigator recalled this conversation from the 1990s.

I’d been referred a domestic case by a therapist, who often acted as an intermediary.  We’d done some surveillance to no particular effect, when suddenly a friend of the client disclosed to the therapist that the client’s husband was, in fact, a Satanist baby-killer. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “Well, we have to proceed carefully.  After all, just an accusation of something like this can ruin a person’s life.”

Therapist: “Well, I know that there are Satanists active in our area.  Not long ago, my son and his friends found an animal they sacrificed!”

Me: “Doesn’t it make you wonder how they can make a baby disappear without a trace, but they can’t seem to dispose of what’s left of a cat or dog?”

Therapist: “Satan worshipers are extremely intelligent.”

Me: “I wonder why that is.  Do they just recruit really smart people, or is there a test?  Have you ever met a smart person who was asked to become a Satanist, but declined, or someone who wanted to become a Satanist, but failed the test?”

Therapist: “Do you think you could refer me to a more open-minded investigator?”

via The Agitator.

[8/26/12]  Click on The Lancashire Witches 1612 for a report on literal witchcraft trials and the role of manipulated testimony of children.  Hat tip to The Browser.

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