In new book, Brown University professor aims to discredit ‘witch-hunt narrative’ of child sexual-abuse cases

April 1, 2014 Comments Off on In new book, Brown University professor aims to discredit ‘witch-hunt narrative’ of child sexual-abuse cases

In new book, Brown University professor aims to discredit ‘witch-hunt narrative’ of child sexual-abuse cases
March 23, 2014
By Kate Bramson Journal Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE — For decades, a view has persisted that a series of child sexual-abuse cases connected with child-care centers during the 1980s were witch hunts, fueled by social hysteria, that ended in wrongful convictions of many innocent people.
A new book by Brown University professor Ross E. Cheit, “The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children,” explores the cases at the heart of that belief.
After 15 years of research into the history of child sexual-abuse cases, the political science and public policy professor seeks to discredit the “witch-hunt narrative.”
In an interview with The Providence Journal, Cheit said that those who believe this theory ignore even credible charges of child abuse and dismiss medical evidence that children were abused.
“I want to provoke discussion,” he said.
Much of the reason the witch-hunt narrative has prevailed, according to Cheit, is that it’s easier for people to believe that child sexual abuse doesn’t happen because the topic itself is taboo. Cheit cites the work of Dr. Suzanne M. Sgroi, who wrote in 1978 that “the sexual abuse of children is a crime that our society abhors in the abstract but tolerates in reality.”
Communities have been known to rally around people convicted of this crime, Cheit writes.
“We often minimize and deny so as to allow us to avoid seeing things we would rather not see. Turning a blind eye to the sexual abuse of children has a long history in this country.”
According to Cheit, the witch-hunt narrative often includes a “hero,” a journalist perhaps, who helps an innocent person escape a false conviction.
Unlearned Lessons of the McMartin Preschool case
It was the longest criminal trial in American history and it ended without a single conviction. Five people were charged with child sexual abuse based on extremely flimsy evidence. Some parents came to believe outlandish stories about ritual abuse and tunnels underneath the preschool. It is no wonder that the McMartin case, once labeled the largest “mass molestation” case in history, has come to be called a witch-hunt. In a commentary to a Retro Report earlier this month, Clyde Haberman, former Times reporter, repeated the view that the  case was a witch-hunt that spawned a wave of other cases of “dubious provenance.”
But does that description do justice to the facts?
A careful examination of court records reveals that the witch-hunt narrative about the McMartin case is a powerful but not entirely accurate story. For starters, critics have obscured the facts surrounding the origins of the case….recently asserted that the McMartin case began when Judy Johnson “went to the police” to allege that her child had been molested.
….But the Manhattan Beach Police did not begin this case on the word of Judy Johnson. Instead, they were moved by the medical evidence of anal trauma on her son. Johnson did not come to the police station on August 12; she went to her family doctor who, after examining her son, referred him to an Emergency Room. That doctor recommended that the boy be examined by a specialist. The pediatric specialist is the one who reported to the Manhattan Beach Police Department that “the victim’s anus was forcibly entered several days ago.”
Although Judy Johnson died of alcohol poisoning in 1986, making her an easy target for those promoting the witch-hunt narrative, there is no evidence that she was “psychotic” three years earlier. A profile in the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, published after Johnson died, made it clear that she was “strong and healthy” in 1983 and that she “jogged constantly and ate health food.” ….
The witch-hunt narrative has replaced any complicated truths about the McMartin case….It wasn’t all a witch-hunt….
http://blogs.brown.edu/rcheit/2014/03/31/unlearned-lessons-of-the-mcmartin-preschool-case/
https://blogs.brown.edu/rcheit/

Mexico finds 370 abandoned immigrant children, The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology and the Sexual Abuse of Children

March 30, 2014 Comments Off on Mexico finds 370 abandoned immigrant children, The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology and the Sexual Abuse of Children

Mexico finds 370 abandoned immigrant children
MEXICO CITY Sat Mar 29, 2014

(Reuters) – In one week, 370 immigrant children, most of them from Central America, were found abandoned in Mexico, after traffickers promised to take them to the United States but left them to their own devices after being paid thousands of dollars, authorities said.

Almost half of them, 163 children under the age of 18, were found traveling alone, Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM) said in a statement.

Each month, thousands of immigrants, mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, attempt to emigrate to the United States, crossing several borders in the process, despite the threat from drug gangs that kidnap, murder and rape women.

The children told federal migration agents that their ‘guides’ abandoned them after accepting $3,000 to $5,000 in payments, INM said….

In the week the children were found, a total of 1,895 immigrants from various countries were detected in Mexico from countries as far away as Somalia, Japan and Syria, among others.
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/29/us-mexico-immigration-idUSBREA2S0KE20140329
Panel Discussion: The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology and the Sexual Abuse of Children

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 – 4:00pm – 5:30pm Discussion: The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology and the Sexual Abuse of Children

A discussion with Brown professor Ross Cheit, author of The Witch Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children. Cheit’s book, released this month by Oxford University Press, examines a series of high-profile child sex abuse cases in the 1980s empirically challenges the view that these cases were hoaxes. The book shows how a narrative based on empirically thin evidence became a theory with real social force, and how that theory stood at odds with the reality of child sexual abuse
http://www.brown.edu/academics/taubman-center/events/panel-discussion-witch-hunt-narrative-politics-psychology-and-sexual-abuse-children

Unlearned lessons from the McMartin Preschool case, The Witch-Hunt Narrative Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children, 4,900 youth death records, Collapsed economy linked to abuse of women and children

March 28, 2014 Comments Off on Unlearned lessons from the McMartin Preschool case, The Witch-Hunt Narrative Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children, 4,900 youth death records, Collapsed economy linked to abuse of women and children

– Unlearned lessons from the McMartin Preschool case
– The Witch-Hunt Narrative
Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children
– B.C. to hand over 4,900 youth death records to TRC
– Collapsed economy linked to abuse of women and children

Unlearned lessons from the McMartin Preschool case
Thursday, March 27th, 2014 By Ross E. Cheit

….Judy Johnson did not bring her suspicions to the police; she brought them to her family doctor who, after examining the boy, referred him to an Emergency Room. That doctor recommended that the boy be examined by a child-abuse specialist. The pediatric specialist is the one who reported to the Manhattan Beach Police Department that “the victim’s anus was forcibly entered several days ago.”

Although Judy Johnson died of alcohol poisoning in 1986, making her an easy target for those promoting the witch-hunt narrative, there is no evidence that she was “psychotic” three years earlier. A profile in the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, published after Johnson died, made it clear that she was “strong and healthy” in 1983 and that she “jogged constantly and ate health food.” The case did not begin with a mythical crazy woman.

….But defense lawyer Danny Davis allowed that the genital injuries on one girl were “serious and convincing.” (His primary argument to the jury was that much of the time that this girl attended McMartin was outside the statute of limitations.) The vaginal injuries on another girl, one of the three involved in both McMartin trials, were described by a pediatrician as proving sexual abuse “to a medical certainty.”

….As it turns out, there are credible reasons that jurors in both trials voted in favor of a guilty verdict on some counts. Those facts do not fit the witch-hunt narrative. Instead, they portray the reality of a complicated case….
http://blog.oup.com/2014/03/unlearned-lessons-mcmartin-preschool-child-abuse-case/

The Witch-Hunt Narrative
Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children
Ross E. Cheit Oxford University Press

Empirically challenges the view that a series of high-profile cases in the 1980s and early 1990s were hoaxes
Shows how a narrative based on empirically thin evidence became a theory with real social force, and how that theory stood at odds with the reality of child sexual abuse

….But did the new witch hunt narrative accurately represent reality? As Ross Cheit demonstrates in his exhaustive account of child sex abuse cases in the past two and a half decades, purveyors of the witch hunt narrative never did the hard work of examining court records in the many cases that reached the courts throughout the nation. Instead, they treated a couple of cases as representative and concluded that the issue was blown far out of proportion. Drawing on years of research into cases in a number of states, Cheit shows that the issue had not been blown out of proportion at all. In fact, child sex abuse convictions were regular occurrences, and the crime occurred far more frequently than conventional wisdom would have us believe. Cheit’s aim is not to simply prove the narrative wrong, however. He also shows how a narrative based on empirically thin evidence became a theory with real social force, and how that theory stood at odds with a far more grim reality. The belief that the charge of child sex abuse was typically a hoax also left us unprepared to deal with the far greater scandal of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church, which, incidentally, has served to substantiate Cheit’s thesis about the pervasiveness of the problem. In sum, The Witch-Hunt Narrative is a magisterial and empirically powerful account of the social dynamics that led to the denial of widespread human tragedy.
http://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-witch-hunt-narrative-9780199931224

B.C. to hand over 4,900 youth death records to TRC
27. Mar, 2014 by APTN National News
EDMONTON–The British Columbia government is expected Friday to give the Truth and Reconciliation Commission 4,900 death certificates of First Nations youth aged from four to 19 who died between 1870 and 1984.

The data, held in a portable digital storage device, will be handed over during a ceremony in Edmonton where the TRC is holding its final national event. Peter Cunningham, B.C.’s assistant deputy minister of partnership and community renewal, will be giving the data to the TRC

The TRC is currently trying to tally the exact number of First Nation children who died in residential schools. So far the TRC has identified 4,100 children as part of its Missing Children Project.

The TRC will sift through B.C.’s data to determine which of the deaths happened in a residential school….
http://aptn.ca/news/2014/03/27/b-c-hand-4900-death-records-trc/
Collapsed economy linked to abuse of women and children
By Nomalanga Moyo SW Radio Africa 27 March 2014

The deteriorating economic situation in Zimbabwe is exacerbating violence against women and children, leading historian Pathisa Nyathi has said.

In recent months there have been several reported cases across the country, highlighting the brutalisation of women and children through rape or ritualistic killings.

Last week three men from Gwanda appeared in court charged with murdering four women and cutting off some of their body parts for ritual purposes.

ZANU PF activist Lillian Kandemiri was recently jailed for offering her 15-year-old grand-daughter as payment for a $40,000 debt.

This week Tuesday, the Supreme Court ordered the State to compensate Mildred Mapingure who was denied an abortion after she was gang-raped in her home eight years ago.

On Wednesday President Robert Mugabe said he receives “disturbing child sexual abuse statistics” and went on to call for a campaign against the rape “epidemic” saying stiffer penalties alone will not help….

Nyathi said…that ritual murderers carry out their crimes in the misinformed hope that body parts that are associated with fertility will help improve their financial status….
http://www.swradioafrica.com/2014/03/27/zimbabwe-collapsed-economy-linked-to-abuse-of-women-and-children/

The witch-hunt narrative challenged, McMartin Preschool trial, Child abuse/ritual abuse podcasts

March 12, 2014 Comments Off on The witch-hunt narrative challenged, McMartin Preschool trial, Child abuse/ritual abuse podcasts

Oxford University Press to Publish Book
by Professor Ross Cheit
February 5, 2014

Longtime Taubman professor Ross Cheit will discuss his new book and the contributions of his many undergraduate research assistants….

What is your book about? The witch-hunt narrative claims that there was a series of child sexual abuse cases in the 1980s and 1990s that were hoaxes and that children are highly suggestible when questioned about possible sexual abuse. The idea that children are highly suggestible is still with us, and the people who believe that use these cases as the evidence….

In the book you reference your own experience with sexual abuse at a camp for the San Francisco Boys’ Chorus. How do you avoid bias? The way I’ve designed my research, it forces me to confront the best arguments that support the witch-hunt narrative.  The McMartin Preschool case….I knew that case was going to be the most flawed. After spending weeks reviewing the original transcript of the case, I concluded that there were plenty of reasons for jurors to conclude that the original defendant, Ray Buckey, was guilty. The rest of the case was deeply flawed, and I lay that out in my book. The book is documented to the max. I don’t make any claims that aren’t documented….

What are the policy implications of the book? What’s most worrisome to me is that the witch-hunt narrative unfairly impugns children. The ongoing challenge in this field is, if you ask children a series of open-ended questions about the alleged abuse and don’t get anywhere, then what do you do? I think there are people who are too worried about being criticized for asking leading questions or interviewing a child a second time.

What that leads to are abused kids who don’t disclose. I’ve seen almost no concern or acknowledgement of that issue in the psychology literature, but a lot of people are worried about false convictions. There is also a claim that there are economic motives to find abuse and that federal programs create the incentive to find abuse. I think this is completely wrong-headed. I worry that there are political forces that want to weaken the Child Abuse Prevention and Training Act, get rid of mandatory reporting, and undermine the credibility of front-line professionals, from pediatricians to forensic interviewers, who serve and protect children….
http://www.brown.edu/academics/taubman-center/news/2014/02/oxford-university-press-publish-book-professor-ross-cheit

Smart-Talks Podcast Blog
This is a collection of talks given at the annual SMART conference in Connecticut. Speakers present to tell their stories of their experiences with ritual abuse and/or mind control, their experiences treating patients with such backgrounds, or to raise awareness of the various issues surrounding recovery from ritual abuse/mind control of efforts made to raise awareness with the general public of this issue.
http://smart-talkspodcastblog.blogspot.com/

Witch-hunt narrative of child sexual abuse – many cases had substantial evidence of abuse, Footballer arrested for ritual murder attempt

February 28, 2014 Comments Off on Witch-hunt narrative of child sexual abuse – many cases had substantial evidence of abuse, Footballer arrested for ritual murder attempt

“The witch-hunt narrative is a really popular story that goes like this: Lots of people were falsely convicted of child sexual abuse in the 1980s and early 1990s. And they were all victims of a witch-hunt. It just doesn’t happen to line up with the facts when you actually look at the cases themselves in detail….many of those cases had substantial evidence of abuse. The witch-hunt narrative is that these were all gross injustices to the defendant. In fact, what it looks like in retrospect is the injustices were much more often to children.”

Undergrad work integral to prof’s new book
Ross Cheit will talk Thursday on ‘love letter’ to student researchers who helped with book  By Gabrielle Dee Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 26, 2014  UNIVERSITY NEWS

Ross Cheit, professor of public policy and political science, will discuss the 15-year process of compiling his new book, “The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology and the Sexual Abuse of Children” in a talk Thursday at the Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions. Cheit sat down with The Herald to discuss the release of his book, the methods and challenges of trial court research and how the collective efforts of Brown undergraduates helped him compile his publication….

The title of the talk is “The Amazing True Story of How 81 Brown Undergraduates Helped Give ‘Extreme Research’ Its Name.” What exactly do you mean by extreme research?

What my book involves is original court trial research. So we are trying to go to trial courts and get documents, often transcripts, but a whole range of documents connected to criminal trials that were in the 1980s and early 1990s. And the cases are all highly contested child sexual abuse cases. So it turns out that because these are not in the computer era, and because they are child sexual abuse cases, in many cases protective orders and statutory protections on identity make these cases sealed. The cases were also enormous. It turns out the ability to just go find and copy the record in these cases takes enormous effort. In some instances, it’s almost heroic, what it takes to put together, this many years later, all the materials. And so at some point, we started calling it extreme research, when a student would work for six months to get a document that becomes one footnote in the book….

What do you mean by “Witch-Hunt” in the title of your book?

The witch-hunt narrative is a really popular story that goes like this: Lots of people were falsely convicted of child sexual abuse in the 1980s and early 1990s. And they were all victims of a witch-hunt. It just doesn’t happen to line up with the facts when you actually look at the cases themselves in detail. But it’s a really popular narrative — I think it’s absolutely fair to say that’s the conventional wisdom. It’s what most people now think is the uncontested truth, and those cases had no basis in fact. And what 15 years of painstaking trial court research (says) is that that’s not a very fair description of those cases, and in fact many of those cases had substantial evidence of abuse. The witch-hunt narrative is that these were all gross injustices to the defendant. In fact, what it looks like in retrospect is the injustices were much more often to children….
http://newsle.com/article/0/126585716/

Footballer in police grips for ritual murder attempt
By Daily Guide Ghana  Thu, Feb 27th, 2014

A 22-year-old division two footballer who plays for Rex Football Club, Dansoman, has been arrested by the police for attempting to murder his biological mother for a money-making ritual.

The suspect, Enoch Adjei, currently in police custody, allegedly lured his 50-year-old sick mother from Jasikan in the Volta Region to Kasoa in the Central Region for the supposed sacrifice when the police accosted him.

He also had in his hand, a bag meant for the money, a pot to collect the mother’s blood and a sharp knife, which was to be used for the killing for the sacrifice. He was heading towards the shrine of the supposed spiritualist with the mother, when the police arrested them at Tetteh Quarshie roundabout, yesterday….

The suspect had confessed to the act and added that life had been difficult for the family, which was why he wanted to sacrifice the mother who is currently sick to save the rest of the family from a biting poverty.

The suspect is currently in police custody awaiting trial.
http://www.spyghana.com/footballer-in-police-grips-for-ritual-murder-attempt/

Four arrested for ritual killing, The Witch-Hunt Narrative Untrue, Loftus Misrepresents Important Case

October 27, 2013 Comments Off on Four arrested for ritual killing, The Witch-Hunt Narrative Untrue, Loftus Misrepresents Important Case

Four arrested for ritual killing of five-year-old in Nigeria  Africa  Saturday 26 October 2013

KANO – Four people were arrested in south-eastern Nigeria in the ritual killing of a five-year-old boy whose body was mutilated before being dumped in a water tank, police said Saturday….

Kidnappings for ritual killings are rampant in Nigeria, particularly during election campaigns….
http://www.enca.com/africa/four-arrested-ritual-killing-5-year-old-nigeria

The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children Hardcover – February 13, 2014
by Ross E. Cheit

In the 1980s, a series of child sex abuse cases rocked the United States….In the early 1990s, a new narrative with remarkable staying power emerged: the child sex abuse cases were symptomatic of a ‘moral panic’ that had produced a witch hunt. A central claim in this new witch hunt narrative was that the children who testified were not reliable and easily swayed by prosecutorial suggestion. In time, the notion that child sex abuse was a product of sensationalized over-reporting and far less endemic than originally thought became the new common sense.

But did the new witch hunt narrative accurately represent reality? As Ross Cheit demonstrates in his exhaustive account of child sex abuse cases in the past two and a half decades, purveyors of the witch hunt narrative never did the hard work of examining court records in the many cases that reached the courts throughout the nation. Instead, they treated a couple of cases as representative and concluded that the issue was blown far out of proportion. Drawing on years of research into cases in a number of states, Cheit shows that the issue had not been blown out of proportion at all. In fact, child sex abuse convictions were regular occurrences, and the crime occurred far more frequently than conventional wisdom would have us believe….
http://www.amazon.com/The-Witch-Hunt-Narrative-Politics-Psychology/dp/0199931224

Loftus Misrepresents Important Case
September 26th, 2013
In a recent TED talk about memory, psychology professor Elizabeth Loftus misrepresented the basic facts of a case study that led her to hire a private investigator and write an article that caused the subject of the case study to sue her for invasion of privacy. Loftus has mentioned the civil suit frequently in recent appearances and told audiences how terribly unfair it was that she was sued. Given the importance of these events to Professor Loftus, one wonders why she misrepresented the basic facts of the underlying case.

Loftus said the case was about a women who “accused her mother of sexual abuse based on a repressed memory” (See the 13-minute mark of this talk). That is not true. The accusation against her mother came in an evaluation when the child was 6 years old! What makes the underlying case so important is that the girl forgot the details, which had been videotaped at the time, and recalled them spontaneously at age 17….
http://blogs.brown.edu/recoveredmemory/2013/09/26/loftus-misrepresents-important-case/

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