Aug. 10, 2012
“After the McMartin trial in 1986, I wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times about research that had been done on how to interview children in sex abuse cases. Evidence at the time suggested that sometimes you have to ask children leading questions or they will not tell you they have been molested.
“For example, if you interviewed a child after a genital examination and you asked her just to tell what the doctor did, almost no child would volunteer that the doctor touched her genitals. But if you asked a leading question, such as, ‘The doctor touched your private parts, didn’t he?’ the children would say ‘yes.’ The L.A. Times headlined this article, ‘Do Children Lie? Not About This.’
“Of course that was preposterous. Of course children lie ‘about this’ and lots of other things. But my essay, although based on research at the time, helped support the child advocates who were on a rampage against child molesters, and who were running around saying ‘children never lie’ and selling bumper stickers that said ‘Believe the Children.’’ I didn’t foresee that prosecutors and therapists would use these same studies to coerce the hell out of kids.
“When I think of my own embarrassment about that little article, and how hard it was to say, ‘Boy, was I wrong about that research,’ I realize how difficult it must be for all those ‘believe the children’ people to acknowledge they were wrong, too. In fact, most of them haven’t. They are more entrenched than ever in their pernicious beliefs.”
– From “The Measure of a Woman: An Interview with Social Scientist Carol Tavris”
in Skeptic magazine (Feb. 9, 2011)