Saturday, March 15, 2014

No Crueler Tyrannies by Dorothy Rabinowitz

No Crueler Tyrannies: Accusation, False Witness, and Other Terrors of Our Times, Dorothy Rabinowitz. New York: Free Press, 2003.  e-book, 145 pps.

[N.B. This book is a series of  previously published articles from The Wall Street Journal.]

    Some folks may recall the allegations of sexual abuse at Fells Acre Day Care in Massachusetts in the 1980s. It was part of a general mass hysteria that turned children into victims of abuse at the hands of over-eager interviewers. The lives of the Amiraults were forever changed. Rabinowitz has four separate articles on the Amiraults in the book.

     Rabinowitz also covers Grant Snowden in Dade County, Florida. He was a police officer who was falsely accused of sexually abusing children who were being babysat in his home. Janet Reno was the state attorney then. She was gung ho for slamming alleged sexual abusers of children against the wall. Nursery schools were being closed regularly. Grant Snowden fell victim to an alleged expert in childhood sexual abuse who had interviewed the child "using dolls and 'let's pretend' games and, as the interview records showed, exhortations and explicit sexual suggestions." (page 40)

     Then there was the mass hysteria and Satanic Panic that happened in Wenachee in Washington State. Parents allegedly raped children in their homes, orgies were happening in a church, and all sorts of things. Folks lost custody of their kids and were carted off to prison.

     The one case that Rabinowitz covered of an adult accusing another adult of sexual abuse was during a colonoscopy. A woman who was upset that the doctor would not support her lawsuit against a prior landlord [she claimed that she was having stomach pains from the stress of eviction and this messed up her life] then accused him of having oral sex with her during the procedure. She sued the doctor later on for a large sum of money.

sapphoq reviews says: To those who are genuine survivors of sexual abuse, please note that I do understand that there are some evil and demented people in this world. Anything that I write about those who falsely accuse others is not directed at you who-- like me-- have had to live through stuff that others haven't even had to think about. Much respect. Keep striving. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

     I don't particularly miss the 1980s as a decade. The cases described in No Crueler Tyrannies were aided forward by a host of ambitious prosecutors, prejudicial judges, supposedly expert child sexual abuse interviewers, and a willing public frenzy to feed off of sensational media reports. [Rabinowitz does not make it clear that there was a police officer who led the pack in the Wenachee accusations]. People went to prison for things they did not do. Even after acquittals [most re-trials on appeals are not won], it was difficult to impossible to get back the life that was had before.
     People in this decade [here I guess it is "usually men" although I have no evidence to back up my guess] continue to be falsely accused of sex crimes that they did not commit. I do feel a certain relief that it is no longer a parade of toddlers and preschoolers. But my relief is uneasy at best. Because innocent people continue to have their lives torn apart by those who false accuse them and then by copycat accusers who are then compelled to come forward. These things happen.
     Where is the justice when someone is forced to plea guilty to something he or she also did not do in order to avoid trial on trumped up charges by overly-ambitious state agencies anxious to prove that they are committed to the protection of people? Especially when there is a multitude of charges brought? Getting tough on crime is good for the headlines. Innocent people having to serve time in prison, endure premature career endings and unjust lawsuits where the standard of proof is lower than in a criminal case, and the cost of competent legal assistance are things that a public addicted to yellow journalism is not interested in.
     Sexual abuse and sexual assaults do happen. There is no doubt about that. But a system that is set up to automatically believe the accuser is a system that is faulty. Innocents are bound to be convicted by such a system before even seeing the inside of a courtroom.
     We need more sane voices like Dorothy Rabinowitz. No Crueler Tyrannies is highly recommended.


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