Dan Hillman’s repeated insistence in his June 17 guest column (“Why media – and we – don’t grasp scope of abuse”) – that every “suspicion” of child abuse be reported instantly and that we should “be ready to believe what (we) hear” from the mouths of children – is a frightening aspect of our societal obsession with child abuse.
No one would deny the seriousness of this problem, or our need to be vigilant in preventing harm to children and thwart the real perpetrators of abuse. But as any parent will tell you, a young child’s veracity requires constant scrutiny. And there are adults who will use the voice of a child to further their own, sometimes evil, agenda.
Witness Brian Banks, a young, promising California high-school athlete who spent five years in prison for rape before accuser Wanetta Gibson recanted her story, admitting that her mother concocted the tale to successfully sue the school, where the alleged crime happened, for $1.5 million.
It was the voices of children that sent people to prison and the gallows in Salem, Mass., in 1692-93. The Innocence Project found recently in its exoneration directory that most false convictions in sex-offense cases are about crimes that never happened.
Other examples abound. As responsible adults, we must be vigilant about our children’s welfare, but also strive to verify truth. Acting hastily on mere “suspicion,” as Hillman would have us do, is a police-state tactic that can have its own dire consequences.