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Are their stories reliable?
Are memories implanted?

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bullet "[The case represents] a closed system of thought: denials, recantations and failure to remember are categorized as manifestations of repression and fear and thus stand as confirmations of actual abuse." Dan Finneran, lawyer for Gerald Amirault, falsely accused of ritual abuse in the Fells Acre day care center. 1
bullet "If no means yes, and yes means yes, how do you say no?" Katha Pollitt, The Nation Magazine. 1

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Child sexual molestation is widespread. Data on the incidence of child sexual abuse varies greatly. Some studies, which investigate actual molestation of young children indicate that about 1% of children are victimized by their fathers, and about another 1% are victimized by their step-fathers. Still others are abused by other family members and unrelated perpetrators. Other, more broadly based surveys include as child sexual abuse such items as a male youth attempting to kiss an unwilling 17 year-old young woman on a date. The latter surveys report assault rates on the order of 25% for women victims.

Ritual abuse on young children is a more serious form of abuse because of its repetitive nature, and the very serious nature of the physical, sexual, spiritual and emotional battering involved. No reliable data is available on its incidence. Some researchers have suggested that it does not exist. However, hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of children believe themselves to have been ritually abused and have testified convincingly in court. Some advocates defend the children's memories tenaciously. Others suspect that the "memories" were implanted during interviews, and are unrelated to real events.

The reliability of the testimony of young children is the topic of this section of the web site.

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Topics covered in this section:

bullet Young children as witnesses; introduction
bullet Do children tell the truth? The danger of implanting memories
bullet Research studies into interview methods
bullet Conclusions
bullet Information sources

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Recently published book on the failed justice system:

Dorothy Rabinowitz, "No Crueler Tyrannies: Accusation, False Witness, and Other Terrors of Our Times" Wall Street Journal Books, (2003). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store

"Her harrowing book describes a series of sensational cases of mass child abuse from the 1980s and  '90s that raise troubling questions about our legal system while reminding us that we are not so far removed from the hysteria that  gripped our ancestors during the Salem witch trials." 2

"...her stories helped reverse the convictions of five people, which in turn helped her win the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. She writes clearly and for the most part resists melodrama, letting the facts speak eloquently for themselves." 3

"No reporter is braver, more tenacious, and more effective than Dorothy Rabinowitz -- as her compelling book No Crueler Tyrannies vividly demonstrates. On each of these stories, she started alone, sometimes in personal danger, and eventually, most of the rest of the national press followed her lead." 4

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Related essays at this site:

bullet Description of over 40 MVMO cases
bullet How children disclose sexual abuse
bullet The magic tunnels under McMartin

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  1. Katha Pollitt, "Justice, not so swift," The Nation Magazine: Subject to Debate, 2002-MAR-18. Online at:
  2. J. Peder Zane, "A dark chapter that still hasn't ended," book review, The News & Observer, Raleigh, NC, 2003-MAR-23.
  3. Publishers Weekly book review, posted on
  4. Nat Hentoff, Village Voice, posted on

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Site navigation: Home page > Religious violence  > here

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Copyright 1997 and 1999 to 2004 incl., by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2004-JUL-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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