||Nursery Crimes: Sexual Abuse in Day Care
||David Finkelhor and Linda Meyer Williams with Nanci Burns
||SAGE Publications © 1989
SAGE Publications, Inc.
2111 West Hillcrest Dr.
Newbury Park, CA 91320
$38.00 (c) I $18.95 (p)
This soft-cover book of 272 pages discusses 270 cases of alleged sexual abuse
in day care settings. Following an introductory chapter on how their data
were collected, the authors then attempt to construct typologies on both
perpetrators and victims. Succeeding chapters discuss "dynamics of
abuse," "disclosure and detection," "victim impact,"
"program risk factors," "investigation,"
"licensing," and "community impact." The authors
conclude with recommendations for increased education to teach parents and staff
how to recognize warning signs, as well as greater emphasis on a team approach
to investigations. Greater use of mental health services as well as
increased public awareness of ritualistic abuse is urged.
This is a truly remarkable book, primarily because of
the monumental irresponsibility of the authors, who have taken public
monies from the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, the National
Institute of Mental Health and the state of New Hampshire and used it to
compile statistics based on nothing more than opinions of a few
beleaguered investigators. The wasted money will be the least of
it, however, for this book promises to do much harm.
First, however, an explanation of the authors'
astounding methodology is essential. They write, "we required
the sexual abuse allegation to have been 'substantiated.' This,
however, was a problematic issue."
How do the authors resolve this dilemma?
"Unfortunately, we were not in a position to conduct our own
independent inquiry." Instead, they simply telephoned some of
those involved in each case studied, and asked what happened. But
not just anyone involved; they called only those who insisted that abuse
had taken place, ignoring those who disagreed. Let's call Ford, in
other words, and find out if the Pinto really was a dangerous car.
Even if the case fell apart, was rejected by the
police or prosecutors, or failed to bring a single conviction, the case
was nonetheless a "substantiated" case as long as anyone still
believed. "If at least one of the local investigating
agencies had decided that abuse had occurred ... then we considered the
case substantiated. "Thus, readers with even a passing
acquaintance of the many absurd day care cases of recent years will
quickly recognize that this book has nothing to teach about sexual abuse
in day care. The authors, had they decided to pick a sampling of
cases and conduct their own independent inquiry of investigation
techniques, might have furthered our understanding of how and why such
cases have so regularly failed to provide any evidence to support the
Instead, there is little doubt that those refusing to
acknowledge the magnitude of false allegations of sexual abuse, and
refusing to recognize how this drains away our ability to protect
children in a more effective way, will use this book to good
advantage. I have already seen an example.
The Siskiyou County, California Grand Jury recently
accused the District Attorney of being derelict in his duty by failing
to prosecute enough cases of child sexual abuse. In support of
this accusation, they wrote "Recently, the University of New
Hampshire family researchers studied 270 cases of substantiated child
abuse ... prosecutors ... are unnecessarily pessimistic. ..."
This will not be the last time that this
irresponsible book will be used in this way. It will become a
mainstay in what is clearly unfolding as a long term, desperate effort
to deny the reality of our nation's wave of false sexual abuse
Reviewed by Lee Coleman, M.D., 1889 Yosemite Road,
Berkeley, CA 94707.