Jan. 8, 2018

“Because [this movement] was about sex and children, hysteria was not far behind. Before long, an industry of feminist and Christian therapists and self-help writers were claiming that virtually every behavioral quirk or emotional trouble could be traced to sexual abuse, even if – especially if – the alleged victim did not remember it. ‘If you think you were abused and your life shows the symptoms, then you were,’ wrote poet Ellen Bass and journalist Laura Davis in their massive bestseller The Courage to Heal  (1988). The symptom checklists in it and similar books include everything from arthritis to feeling ugly. Bass’s book launched a battery of unscientific ‘therapeutic’ and forensic interviewing techniques to extract false and ‘recovered’ memories of sexual depredation. …

“A new crusade marched under the banner ‘Believe the Children.’ With the sketchiest of evidence or none at all, child protective agencies removed kids from their parents. Credulous juries sent day-care workers to prison on charges of ‘satanic ritual abuse.’ Adults denounced their aging parents, guilty of nothing more than imperfect love, as sadistic rapists. It took only one accusation to ruin a person’s life. Bus drivers, babysitters, divorcing fathers, and boyfriends at the wrong end of a grudge lost jobs, families, and reputations with one accusation, one newspaper item. In its review of exonerations from 1989 to 2012, the National Registry of Exonerations reported that among convictions for crimes that never occurred, over half involved child sexual abuse: ‘Two-thirds of these cases were generated in a wave of child sexual abuse hysteria that swept the country three decades ago.”

– From “Will Feminism’s Past Mistakes Haunt #MeToo?” (Dec. 8) by Judith Levine in Boston Review