Sept. 8, 2015

“Jennifer (a pseudonym) reached out to me after seeing an interview I gave about the McMartin Preschool trial…. She said she had been involved in a similar case as a child and that her experiences with the police, the judicial system, and a series of therapists mirrored those of the McMartin children. Now an adult with a career and family of her own, she agreed to speak with me about her experiences during the trial and in the decades since….

“Jennifer’s experiences illustrate the consequences of the misguided ‘belief’ in children that so many therapists, parents, and cops professed during the 1980s….”

– From “Moral Panic and the Myth of Recovered Memory” by Richard Beck at Literary Hub (Aug. 18) 

Although Beck presents more as a historian than a journalist, his interview with Jennifer is a significant addition to the sparse roster of recanting (or not) child-witnesses. Not surprisingly, her account offers numerous parallels not only to McMartin but also to Little Rascals:

  • “lots of phone conversations and meetings” among parents
  • an interviewer with “anatomically correct dolls”
  • her initial insistence that “nothing had happened”
  • “a tour of the jail” arranged by the therapist to assure her that the supposed molester was safely behind bars
  • her capitulation in the face of endless therapy sessions, leading her to “finally just start… making stuff up.”
  • the eventual overturning of her day-care teacher’s conviction

Might Jennifer’s coming forward, however tentatively, lead the way to more recantations by child-witnesses?