July 11, 2012

“And what did Doctor (Mark) Everson say what to look for? A coherent package that’s consistent. You look at the behavior and what the child says…. He talked about sexual acting out, coaxing sexual behavior, masturbation, fears, and anxieties. New fears that come up that aren’t developmentally appropriate for a child that age, such as a fear of men or a particular man, changes in their personality caused by stress like regressive behavior, bed wetting, clinginess, thumb sucking.

“And as I name these, I hope that you are sitting there remembering how many of these children so far have had these kinds of behaviors.”

– From prosecutor Nancy Lamb’s closing argument in the trial of Bob Kelly

“… What could be expected for ritually abused children? That vexing question prompted everyone involved in the McMartin Preschool case to look for symptoms, and in their urgency, to mistake normal developmentally-based behaviors, quirky idiosyncrasies and even the iatrogenic effects of intimidating interviews for sequelae of ritual abuse. In this nascent moral panic, the widely circulated ‘symptom lists‘ transformed messy subjectivity into embodied and interpretable texts….”

– From “The Day Care Ritual Abuse Moral Panic” by Mary DeYoung (2004)

To day-care ritual-abuse prosecutors, what Nancy Lamb called “these kinds of behaviors” embraced everything from bed-wetting to hyperactivity to eating disorders. No dot went unconnected.

Contrary to such handy lists, however, numerous studies have found no “coherent package” of symptoms of child sexual abuse.