120514FallerMay 14, 2012

Mary De Young’s engrossing bibliography “The Ritual Abuse Controversy” lists page after page of books and journal articles that accept wholeheartedly the existence of an epidemic of ritual abuse in day cares during the ’80s and early ’90s.

Roland Summit, Ann Burgess, Susan Kelley, David Finkelhor, etc., all used their professional credentials to support and spread the panic. But who among them has since acknowledged that it was all baloney? And that it left behind hundreds of profoundly damaged child-witnesses, families and defendants?

When I asked Dr. Finkelhor about the now-discredited foundation of “Nursery Crimes,” he replied that “This was a while ago, and I have not revisited the case. Our research did not conduct any independent review of the evidence, but simply coded the conclusion of the investigator we interviewed. I was neither an authority about the validity of claims at the time or at the present.”

Am I wrong to expect a higher level of professional accountability?

Mostly, by the turn of the latest century the alarmists had simply withdrawn from the arena. Like Dr. Finkelhor, they had moved on to other topics and “not revisited the case.”

One exception is Kathleen Coulborn Faller, professor of children and families in the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan.

In “Understanding and Assessing Child Sexual Maltreatment” (second edition, 2003), Dr. Faller writes, “Though others’ perceptions of the problems of sexual abuse in day care have changed, mine essentially have not.” Minimizing the work of next-generation researchers such as Ceci and Bruck, she cites approvingly such works as Kelley’s “Parental Stress Response to Sexual Abuse and Ritualistic Abuse in Day-Care Centers.”

Might Dr. Faller have changed her mind over the past decade?

Last week I asked her. So far she hasn’t replied.