The iiRcstigntors, however, have duly aeeepted tliese fantasiesrnand brought appropriate ehargcs in court.rnSome child witnesses have also eliarged that babies wererntortured or killed, gi’ing rise to a whole subindustry of “ritualrnabuse” experts, anxious to prove a Satanie conspiracy againstrnAmerica’s children. Since McMartin, there have been hundredsrnof mass or ritual abuse eases across the eouirtry, as wellrnas countless lesser affairs that have receixed only local attention.rnAnd while some cases have more or less collapsed, therernarc now man’ people imprisoned for their fictitious misdeeds.rnhi describing the situation of parents or teachers implicatedrnin such cases, we might be tempted to use terms likern”Kafkacsc|ue,” but this would be to impose too much rationalit.rnAlice in Wonderland might offer a better literary analog,rnas well as an appropriate warning about the standards ofrne idence and belief emploed in this thought-world; for this isrna terrih)r’ far removed from an traditional assumptions ofrnAnglo-American law. In this worid, the primary beliefs arernsummarized in the slogan “Believe the Children”: childrenrnneer lie about matters of sexual abuse. This docs not meanrnthat the- alwa’s tell the truth, as their denials of abuse arernalmost invariably fictitious. In fact, denial of abuse is a pceuliarhrnvicious pathology, usually indicating that the childrenrnare too afraid or ashamed to admit their victimization.rnDenials that a crime has occurred must therefore be rejected;rnbut once children admit the fact of abuse, this fact mustrnbe accepted and affirmed with absolute tenacity. HeadsrnI win. . . .rnIf a child’s story appears fantastic, this may be overcome inrnscxcral ways. First, it might be argued that the falsehoodsrnare harmless frills, irrele’ant to the substance of the accusation.rnIIowecr, the nonsensical quality of the talcs might indicaternthat we are dealing with particularly clever or sinister abusers,rnwho dcliberatch” commit their crimes in fantastic settings, sornthat subsequent accounts will not be believed. An abuserrnmight for example tell a child that his name is Fred Flintstonernor George Bush or fake an incident about placing arnchild in a “microwave o’en.” In this sense, the more fantasticrnand improbable the story, the more likely it indicates the realitrnof serious and organized abuse . . . so tails ()u lose.rnThe idea of “Belicning the Children” in such circumstancesrnhas rather complex roots, but there arc several key elements.rnThe feminist movement must receive a good deal ofrnthe credit for this legal revolution, and insistence on the absoluterncredibility of a child victim is in large part an offshoot ofrnthe antirape campaigns of the 1970’s. Women, wc were told,rndid not lie about rape; the’ would never risk the traumaticrnand sordid experience of a court appearance if they did notrngenuincK believe they were victims of a savage assault. Andrnjust as rape was one manifestation of the enforcement of patriarchalrnpower, so was incest, as were the other forms of sexualrnassault daiK inflicted on millions of children within thernmale-dominated liomc. lb challenge the credibility of a childrnw itness or an “incest survivor” was cxaetK akin to doubting therneracit of a “rape sur’iyor,” to suggesting that pediaps the victimrnhad “asked for it.” Seeking corroboration was a particuladyrnunacceptable manifestation of this brutal skepticism.rnIn demanding the rigorous detection and prosecution ofrnchild abuse, feminists place themselves on the ideologicalrnhigh ground of asserting the rights of innocent and voicelessrnchildren. And when cases come to court, defeat is impossible.rnConviction proves that the prosecution was justified and confirmsrnthat known cases represent a tiny tip of a huge iceberg.rnIf a suspect is acquitted, this shows that the courts serve patriarchalrninterests rather than the interests of women and children.rnEven when charges have been disproed as preposterousrnfabrications (again, as in the McMartin or Jordan cases), therninevitable rhetoric asserts that “this shows once more that wernlive in a society that doesn’t believe children.”rnParallel to the feminist legal onslaught, we find changesrnwithin the therapeutic community, such as the growth of professionalsrnwhose whole raison d’etre involves the exposure andrntreatment of childhood abuse. Since the eady I980’s, therernhas appeared a x’astly profitable industry of psychiatric “experts”rnwith noel theories and techniques that thc’ are desperatelyrnanxious to validate. Once established, the newrn”straightencrs” stand to reap rich rewards in the form of heftyrnfees for treatment and for expert testimony in the courtroom.rnThese professionals offer a very complete service. Not only willrnthey diagnose and treat sexual abuse in children, they will alsornanalyze and cure a bewildering variety of adult conditionsrninfallibly traced to childhood victimization. These conditionsrnmay be physical in nature, but they also include sloth,rnunhappy relationships, self-doubt, or lack of confidence, stigmatarnthat a saner age would have attributed to moral failingsrnor else demonic influence. (In fact, the symptoms commonlyrnlisted bear an uncanny resemblance to the traditional SevenrnDeadly Sins.) Such problems require not only the “couragernto heal,” but many, mam” ears of lucrative treatment. Therapistsrne en offer explanations for the pernicious “syndromes”rnthat cause children to deny that abuse has occurred—andrneven, in some cases, to fail to recall the horrors yvrought onrnthem by their parents! Allied with the neyv abuse therapistsrnare pediatricians, who have in the last decade claimed to diagnosernthe 20th-century equivalent of the witch-mark, thosernmild but significant malformations of a child’s anus or genitalsrnthat indicate a record of sexual exploitation.rnIn such an intellectual environment, it would be almostrnunthinkable for therapists and pediatricians to examine arnsample of children without concluding that a majorit- of themrnhad been the victims of abuse, the exact form of assault dependingrnon the vogue of the moment (allegations of anal rapernare quite fashionable today, but tastes in accusation changernrapidly). This is wonderful news for some in our litigious society,rnwho hax’c discovered a whole neyv range of grievances torntake before a jury. Perhaps the richest harvest of all lies inrnrecovering damages for the adult “survivors” of abuse, whornarc only now recalling under therapy the wrongs inflicted uponrnthem many years previously.rnIt yvill pediaps come as no surprise that it is the state ofrnCalifornia that has taken the lead in legislating these newrntrends. A 1990 law permits alleged victims of abuse to launchrncivil suits mam’ years after the supposed incident, demandingrnonly that action be taken within three years after the abuse isrn”recalled.” The measure naturally raises golden istas both forrntherapists and for the lawyers who fee them. In less accommodatingrnstates, proof that a parent has abused a child has becomerna common weapon in divorce proceedings and custodyrnfights, and there are usually therapists and abuse experts tornserve as hired guns for one side or the other. Child abuse hasrnbeen the largest single tool in restoring the “fault” to no-faultrndivorce.rnAcademies, feminist theorists, therapists, pediatricians, chillANUARVrn1993/21rnrnrn