Thursday, March 19, 2015

Dorothy Rabinowitz :Why your friends,psychologists and rabbis want to believe clearly impossible false accusations of child abuse - and why so few see that the Emperor has no clothes

Commentary Magazine   review of  No Crueler Tyrannies by Dorothy Rabinowitz Wall Street Journal reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner

[O]ne might have thought that the country’s most prominent progressives would have leaped to the bars, benches, and barricades to defend the falsely accused when allegations of mass sexual abuse against children erupted in the 1980’s and 1990’s. These were cases, after all, in which outlandish, ever-escalating charges were leveled at totally innocent people, in which gross violations of due process and constitutional rights were committed, and in which terribly wrongful convictions were obtained.

But one would have been wrong. Instead, it was left to a single reporter, the heroic Dorothy Rabinowitz, to undertake in-depth investigations of the worst of these cases and to bring their horrifying transgressions of justice to the attention of a wider public. Eventually, her work helped to secure the legal and financial assistance necessary to free most of the victims—but not before lives were shattered, livelihoods lost, savings exhausted, families destroyed, and miserable years passed in prison.

Even now, while some unfortunates still languish in jail, and contrived sexual-abuse charges remain toxically potent weapons, no new Arthur Miller has emerged to write a play or produce so much as a movie of the week. But we do have Rabinowitz’s riveting new book, No Crueler Tyrannies, based on the brilliant investigative articles, mostly for the Wall Street Journal, that helped earn her a Pulitzer Prize in 2001. And that is quite enough for the present.

[...] The ordeal of sixty-year-old Violet Amirault and her adult children, Gerald and Cheryl, began in 1984. Worried about the behavior of her young son, a mother at the Fells Acres Day School, which the Amiraults had successfully operated together for many years, prodded the boy to tell of anything strange that might have been done to him. The child dimly recalled an instance in which Gerald had changed his underwear (as it would later emerge, the child had wet himself). Then, after months of questioning, the boy began to talk about sexual acts.

The mother called the child-abuse hotline. In short order, the police arrested Gerald, closed down the school, and began coaching parents on how to elicit charges of molestation from their children, instructing them not to accept denials and to see such ordinary problems as bed-wetting and loss of appetite as signs of abuse. Charges began pouring forth, and Violet and Cheryl were also arrested.

The district attorney and prosecutors enlisted the help of therapists, social workers, and abuse experts, who spent months interviewing the three-, four-, and five-year-old children and preparing them to testify. Tapes and transcripts of the sessions reveal that the tykes did their best to hold on to the truth, but that their implacable inquisitors eventually managed to break them down. A pediatric nurse, Susan Kelley, was especially gifted in these techniques, promising rewards and telling children that they were “helping” the adults by making charges. Armed with anatomically correct dolls and puppets, Kelley refused to rest until weary tots finally pointed to a penis, vagina, or rectum.

The Amiraults were accused of preposterous violations of the children in their care—shoving pencils, sticks, and knives into their orifices (while leaving no signs of injury), tying them naked to trees in broad daylight in front of the other teachers, forcing them to watch the killing and dismemberment of animals, and making them drink urine. They were accused of taking the children to a “magic room” in which clowns wielding wands undressed and assaulted them and took their pictures. At trial, the children (now between the ages of six and eight) were permitted to testify while looking away from the defendants, in violation of both the Massachusetts and U.S. constitutions. In the proceedings against Violet and Cheryl, the judge permitted the prosecution to intimate, without any evidence whatsoever, that they were somehow involved in child pornography.[...]

It is not that the cases lack heroes [...]But the hall of shame is much larger. In the Amirault case alone, the villains include the obsessed, unappeasable district attorneys and prosecutors of Middlesex County; the disgraceful dolts of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, who frustrated at least a half-dozen attempts to exonerate or free the Amiraults; and Jane Swift, who as acting governor of Massachusetts yielded to obscure political pressure and turned down the recommendation of the notoriously tough Massachusetts parole board to release Gerald Amirault and put an end to this dreadful case.

One hungers to know more about the larger forces that permitted these outrages to occur. Rabinowitz lays some of the blame, in passing, on “advanced political opinion,” which has created an aura of piety around claims of violation made by women and children. On this view, as Rabinowitz writes, to side with the falsely accused would have been “to undermine the battle against child abuse; it was to betray children and all other victims of sexual predators.” Even to raise questions about these cases would have been tantamount, in the opinion of one of the Amiraults’ tormentors, to victimizing the children all over again.

One might also point an accusing finger at our schools of law and social work, where whole cadres of professionals have been trained to survey every social setting for evidence of “oppression” and victimization. As if to prove the point, the experts involved in winning the original conviction against the Amiraults met afterward to congratulate themselves in a seminar titled “The Fells Acres Day School Case: A Model Multidisciplinary Response.”


  1. With apologies to any Zombies out there:

    "When Moral Relativism reigns, the unthinking will walk the Earth."

  2. I read her first book on this subject, and it is accurate, and good. And we should acknowledge that in the post-Lanner (2001), post-Kolko (2006) era of rooting out child sex abuse in the Jewish community - there is only a tiny number of false allegations. Those tiny few were made by sole, misguided accusers, and not orchestrated by any activists, therapists, lawyers. Not one remotely approaches the horrible fiascoes uncovered by Dorothy Rabinowitz. I do not know of any innocent people sent to jail. Seems like a z'chus for us. From her first book, I don't recall any false Catholic cases, and I don't know whether any of the cases in this second book involves the Catholic situation, but I also don't recall reading anywhere about any gross miscarriages of justice involving false claims of child sex abuse in the Catholic world. I recall a Chicago Cardinal being publicly accused, he denied it, and the accuser retracted. No arrest, no prosecution. Unless I'm wrong, seems like a z'chus for the Catholics as well. I like the fact that she refers to the Mass. judges as "dolts". Yes, there are some real idiots out there.

  3. I look forward to reading Rabinowitz's book. I've always admired her writing and courage.

  4. You state 'there is only a tiny number of false allegations. Those tiny few were
    made by sole, misguided accusers, and not orchestrated by any activists,
    therapists, lawyers. Not one remotely approaches the horrible fiascoes
    uncovered by Dorothy Rabinowitz'.
    Apparently, you did not hear about Nachlaot. According to the article in the Tablet, at least 60 people were accused. These accusations were accompanied with plenty of cooperation from activists, Rabbis, therapists, and lawyers. (and may I add bloggers, Knesset committees and a few very unstable individuals)
    What is going on now in many neighborhoods in Jerusalem is a continuation of what transpired in Nachlaot.

  5. True enough. I was thinking America. These Israel reports seem to be in flux. Just reading an article about it once in a while doesn't give me or anyone the full picture. We'll see what happens.

  6. Yet people assume this chicago case involved a $ettlement, instead of real innocence. Whether true or not.

  7. rooting out child sex abuse in the Jewish community - there is only a
    tiny number of false allegations. Those tiny few were made by sole,
    misguided accusers, and not orchestrated by any activists, therapists,

    How would you know that? You know the details and true facts of every claim? Hard to believe.


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