Aug. 17, 2012

“I’ve wondered how the prosecutors (in ritual-abuse day-care cases) could live with themselves.

“Says Debbie Nathan (coauthor of “Satan’s Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt”): ‘There was a time – and it lasted eight or nine years – when there was an entire body of expert opinion that these things could happen.’ It was a time, she says, when pseudoscience had raced ahead of science, when best-selling books that had yet to be contradicted asserted that the inability to remember a trauma was the strongest proof of it, when doctors trying to be helpful established as a baseline a model virginal hymen so perfectly smooth and shaped that it allowed any actual hymen to be construed as traumatized.

“ ‘Our culture is still really atavistic,’ says Nathan, ‘but there’s an overlay of science on it. Mix the totally primeval stuff with science and you’ve got this mix that can’t be beat.’ Prosecutors, she says, ‘are just as naive as anyone else, but they also know how to sway people. They have all the techniques down pat. “Suffer the little children.” “Innocence defiled.” “Worse than murder.” ‘

“But why, as science and truth become clearer, is it so hard for so many prosecutors to recant?…  ‘Maybe it’s because the whole process of constructing one of these innocent people as a really demonically evil sexual pervert who sadistically violates lots of kids – the whole process of constructing this character on a real person is torture. You have to be very invasive. It’s a very sadistic enterprise. You become like a torturer.’ ”

– From “Why Can’t They Admit They Were Wrong?” by John Conroy
in the Chicago Reader (Aug. 1, 2003)