Summit Defends MacFarlane's Interviews of the McMartin Children, Without Reviewing the Interviews
The decision outraged a group of 43 parents who asked the State Attorney General to investigate Reiner's handling of the
case.44 Their request (which was denied) coincided with a passionate defense, written for the Los Angeles Times by Dr. Roland C. Summit, of the CII child interrogations that Reiner considered to be severely flawed.45 In this article, Summit defends those methods, used in interviews with the McMartin children by and under the direction of CII director Kee MacFarlane, as
"state of the art" sexual abuse diagnostic techniques. That art, he explained:
. . . highly evolved, intensely specific and largely unknown outside the fledgling specialty of child-abuse-diagnosis is an amalgam of several roles. It combines the knowledge of a child development specialist to understand and translate toddler language, a therapist to guide and interpret interactive play, a police interrogator to develop evidentiary information and a child abuse specialist to recognize the distinctive and pathetic patterns of sexual victimization.
Those are high qualifications, indeed, for a person (unlicensed in the state of California at the time she began the interviews) who Summit had described two years earlier as a
"recycled social worker."46
Remarkably, at that time Summit said that the most advanced research on sexual abuse was not being published by research professionals with the most educational background and scientific training, but by the recycled social workers who were the
"recognize that children do not lie about being abused and to develop expertise at the clinical level." That kind of expertise, Summit implied, was necessary in order to realize that lack of proof is proof, i.e., that denial is diagnostic of sexual abuse.
"Kee has perfected a motherly, down-to-earth reassuring method that allows a child to trust her," Summit said,
"She teases the information out, while other therapists either discredit the child's assertion or assume it will come out
Contradicting his long recitation of MacFarlane's supposed multiplicity of talents, including her expertise in conducting police interrogations and developing evidentiary information, Summit admitted, in his Times commentary, that MacFarlane made a good faith attempt to investigate but, just like everyone else involved in the case (including, presumably, the higher stature professionals who Summit implies learned from her and other recycled social workers), she was
"handicapped with imperfect knowledge, inadequate resources and intolerable urgency."
Summit's article protested the "absurdity" of applying criminal justice standards to the
"multi-turf world of child sexual abuse." MacFarlane's goal, like most clinical child abuse diagnostic specialists, was to
find sexual abuse victims, Summit wrote, not to prosecute their perpetrators. Summit lamented that, as the charges against the McMartin teachers are dropped for lack of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, hundreds of children diagnosed by CII as sexually abused will be
"discarded by the criminal justice system," proving that "Any child who can't prove a charge beyond a reasonable doubt doesn't count." He advised that new sources of evidence should be considered in order to better understand a crime that leaves only subtle traces.
The process of videotaping interviews, Summit explained, originally intended to help streamline the investigative process for the benefit of the children, had been turned on its head in order to serve the
"broader interests" of society instead. Only a "few moments out of thousands of hours" of tapes were shown, mere fragments chosen by defense attorneys
"to make the process look corrupt." The whole story has not been told yet, Summit wrote, the wheat has been thrown out with the chaff, many taped records were waiting to be analyzed, and
"another, rational, clinical record" exists of out of state children who claimed to be molested at the McMartin preschool.
"Rather than decapitate the messenger," he concludes, "we might better take a second look at the message."
The strength of Summit's defense of MacFarlane was apparently unaffected by the fact that he had not viewed a single one of the 400 taped child interviews nor read any of the transcripts. A 1993 interview with the Canadian Broadcasting System reveals that fact in the following exchange:
Reporter: Did you review the tapes?
Summit: I have not reviewed the tapes.
Reporter: How can you comment on her ability in these interviews if you haven't even screened the tapes?
Summit: My comments in support of Kee MacFarlane's interview techniques were based on my knowledge of her and our discussions of what she was