Case # 2
This case began when Mrs. Smith contacted social services
concerning her 5-year-
old son, Tommy. Tommy had long had serious behavior
problems and Mrs. Smith had
asked for help before, but when she found Tommy engaged
in sex play with his 3-
year-old brother, Billy, she asked to have Tommy placed
in a foster home since she
felt she could not control him.
The case records suggest that Tommy had most likely
been exposed to sexual
behavior. A year before Mrs. Smith reported that he
had been sexually abused by his
Uncle Joe, who now lived in another state. (The allegations
concerning Uncle Joe
were never investigated.) Mrs. Smith also reported an
incident of sex play with
another child when the family was living in another
state. Tommy also may have
observed his parents having intercourse when all were
sleeping in one room prior to
the arrival of their furniture after they moved.
Following the report that Tommy had engaged Billy in
sex play, Tommy was
interviewed by the child protection worker. This interview
was not audio- or
videotaped. Anatomical dolls were used in the interview.
Tommy spoke of sex play
with two other children when the family was living in
another state, demonstrated his
parents having sex with the dolls, and talked about
the sex play with Billy. When he
was asked if anyone did that to him other than Billy,
he said his dad.
This interview was then repeated on the same day in
the presence of a police
detective. The report from the CPS worker states that
Tommy "shared with (the police
detective) the fact that he knows about sex and has
had sex with his brother in the
closet and that he's aware of sex between his parents."
He also talked a "a little bit"
about Uncle Joe. This interview was not recorded. Billy
Smith was also interviewed on
this day but provided no information.
Following these interviews, Tommy was placed in the
first of several foster homes and
was put into therapy. The documents indicate that sex
and sexual behavior were
discussed with him by his foster parents. (Often foster
parents are instructed to
continue interrogations and to record what a child says.
When this is done, the foster
parent functions as another agent of the state and law
enforcement agencies.) Tommy
was then interviewed again by the social worker. This
interview was not recorded.
Tommy was next interviewed by a psychologist, Dr. Crawford,
on two occasions.
These interviews were not taped, but the reports suggest
that the interviews were
leading and suggestive. Tommy described the sexual behavior
between himself and
Billy, and in response to the question of who taught
him about bad and secret touch,
answered, "Sue and Bill" (Tommy's parents).
Drawings and anatomical dolls were
used. There is no acknowledgement in the reports of
the possible effects of the earlier
Next, Tommy, Billy, and the youngest child, Anna, were
scheduled to be interviewed
by Dr. Crawford. The night before, the social worker
drove the three children to the
town where Dr. Crawford practiced. Since the town was
some distance away, the plan
was for the three children to stay in a motel and then
see Dr. Crawford the next
morning. The social worker's case notes indicate lengthy
conversations between the
social worker and the children about the alleged abuse.
The next day, Dr. Crawford interviewed Tommy, Billy,
and Anna. The interviews were
not taped and the anatomical dolls were again used.
In her report, Dr. Crawford
stressed the similarity of the stories between Tommy
and Billy but did not mention the
fact that the social worker and the children had been
discussing the alleged events at
length on the day before. The allegations were that
the abuse occurred in a "dog pile"
with the parents and both boys engaging in sexual penetration
in various orifices
while on top of one another in a pile of four people.
(Anna gave no information about
abuse.) The reports from Dr. Crawford resulted in Tommy
and Anna also being
removed from home and placed in foster care.
The various logs and reports indicate that the children
were talked to repeatedly about
the alleged events by foster parents, social workers,
and therapists. The three children
had regular visits with one another.
Evaluations of the parents showed inadequacies in parenting
and coping skills but the
therapists for the parents judged them to be capable
of learning and improving and
did not find serious psychopathology in either. The
therapists for the parents did not
believe that the parents had sexually abused their children.
Tommy's behavior problems that had led his parents to
voluntarily place him in foster
care continued and his foster parents could not cope
with him. Following several
unsuccessful foster home placements, Tommy was placed
in an inpatient children's
treatment center. The records from the treatment center
indicate that Tommy was
encouraged and reinforced for talking about sexual abuse.
Chart entries suggest that
abuse was discussed daily. Puppets and drawings about
abuse were part of the
therapy and one of the written treatment goals was for
Tommy to talk about the abuse.
Tommy was also placed in a sex education group and the
case notes document how
Tommy was sexually aroused by the talk about sexual
behavior and sexual abuse.
Tommy's behavior deteriorated during this placement.
As a result of the continual reinforcement for talking
about the abuse, the allegations
by Tommy grew to include more people and more bizarre
behaviors. The allegations
eventually included urine, feces, costumes and masks,
sadism, murder of animals, and devil worship at a satanic
church (this was in a small
city in a rural area). A sample of the entries from
the children's treatment center:
November: The family had sex together. Mom threw Anna
out the window and Tommy
caught her. She was hurt and taken to the hospital.
December: Two older children abused Tommy in the firehouse
in the presence of the
parents. A dog had to lick the father's private parts.
January: The neighborhood children pulled Tommy's clothes
off during a parade and
a 17-year-old neighbor girl put her mouth on his penis.
February: Mom, Dad, Grandma, Billy, and Anna pooped
on the floor and dad put his
privates into Tommy.
March: Dad stabbed Tommy in the head with a knife and
pulled it out. There was
blood on the knife.
April: Grandpa bit his penis.
May: The grandparents were at the fire station with
girls who licked Tommy's privates.
The grandparents wore masks and red, black, and green
clothes and the grandmother
was dressed like a witch. They killed his dog with a
green knife and a sword.
June: Dad urinated in his mouth.
July: Tommy was abused by his mom, his dad, and his
uncle and had to eat a
cigarette, a match, and the inside of batteries.
August: Tommy's parents were involved in ceremonies
that include devil worship.
(The therapist's notes indicate that the therapist first
drew the devil sign, a pentagram,
himself and showed it to Tommy.)
September: Tommy told about being afraid of the devil
and talked about God and the
devil. He said his mom and dad went to a church that
worshiped the devil. He
described a devil worshiping sign (the therapist had
drawn this sign for him previously
as described in the August notes).
October: Tommy was photographed doing sexual things
with another female child
along with his parents. The pictures were to be sent
around the world.
There is no indication in the case notes that the veracity
of these statements were
questioned by the therapist.
During the time Anna and Billy were in foster homes,
they were seen regularly by the
social worker, and were also talked to about abuse.
When the children were to be
evaluated by a new psychologist, the social worker rehearsed
the accounts of the
alleged abuse with the children in the car while driving
to the appointment. The foster
parents were expected to note and attend to any behaviors
or statements that
suggested abuse. The two younger children had regular
visits with Tommy in the
treatment center, including one visit where a prevention
movie was shown to all three
children and was discussed by the social worker and
Several months later, the children were interviewed
again by the child protection
worker as part of the county's attempt to terminate
the parent's parental rights. The
reasoning of the county was that since the parents would
not admit the sexual abuse,
they were untreatable sexual molesters and hence their
parental rights should be
terminated. The children's stories now included grandma
and grandpa as well as
mom and dad. Drawings were used in which the task for
the child was to mark on the
drawing where the child was touched. The interviews
were not recorded.
During this period, the children had been interviewed
repeatedly by social workers,
therapists, and foster parents who believed that the
abuse was real. The parents were
only able to see them in a supervised situation. As
a result, the statements about
abuse now included the grandparents and others and involved
ritualistic abuse. None of the interviews is this case
(Child protection succeeded in having the parental rights
of these parents terminated
because they would not admit the abuse and hence were
determined to be
untreatable. We became involved in the case when the
parents had a new baby and
child protection removed this child also, claiming that
the Smiths would sexually
molest the new baby. At this point, several other professionals
were involved who had
grave concerns about the validity of the original allegations
against the Smiths, but the
older children remained in foster care and the parental
rights remained terminated.
The new baby was eventually returned home by court order
despite the strenuous
objects of social services.)