ther”), the means by which the alleged facts are produced arernprofoundly suspect.rnConsider, for example, one case of the late 1970’s, whichrnhappens to have been studied in great detail. (Though thernevent took place some years ago, little has changed in ternrs ofrntherapeutic orthodoxies; if anything, therapists have becomerneven more credulous.) When Kenneth Bianchi was first arrestedrnfor his role in the “Hillside Strangler” murders in LosrnAngeles, news reports stated that he was a striking case of MPD,rna classic Jekyll-and-Hyde pattern. While “Ken” seemed arnpleasant and peaceful individual, this superficial personalit}’rnwas occasionally replaced by another, a brutal killer, and thernkillings had been the work of this alternative part of the psychern—another “alter,” in the jargon of the trade. Bianchi’s personalityrnsplit could be traced back to childhood unhappinessrnand abuse. Two eminent psychiatrists vouched for this interpretation;rnthe only problem was that it was a flagrant ruse tornavoid first-degree murder charges. A third psychiatrist provedrnthis by inducing Bianchi to invent more fake personalitiesrnwhile on camera. Minutes after being told that it was unusualrnfor true multiples to have only one extra personality, Bianchirnwas speaking in a silly, childlike voice, and another alter wasrnborn. It makes for riveting television, and if the circumstancesrnwere not so tragic, it would be very funny.rnBianchi’s motives in this situation were clear enough, and itrnis staggering fliat the first psychiatrists on the scene could havernbeen so naive about what was at stake. One psychiatrist later recantedrnhis diagnosis of Bianchi after he took a job in a prisonrnand found to his astonishment that convicts and criminalsrnspend their lives lying and seeking to manipulate others. Thisrnfact is already familiar to most of the lay public, who do not possessrnthe benefit of psychiatric qualifications.rnA similar gulf between popular and expert views became obviousrna decade later in the trial of Arthur Shawcross, who hadrnkilled a dozen prostitutes. His defense was that he sufferedrnfrom MPD, and one of his alters was a 15th-century cannibal.rnAs reported by a well-regarded flierapist, Shawcross’s unfortunaternsituation resulted from his extreme sufferings while beingrnabused as a child. On cross-examination, the therapist appearedrnshocked when asked whether she had ever thought tiiatrnShawcross might have ulterior motives for reporting abuse orrnfeigning MPD; she declared, no doubt with total sincerit}-, thatrnsuch a thought had never crossed her mind. Shawcross describedrnhis feelings and experiences, and she faithfully reportedrnthem to the court. (The psychiatrist’s televised appearancesrnbecame so outrageous that a local radio station greeted themrnwith a jingle based on an old rock song: “Yakkit)’-yak, Dorothy’srnBack.”) The stories of Bianchi and Shawcross have been repeatedrnin a tiiousand other eases, and in most, the therapists involvedrncome across as equally naive and just as determined tornuse the eases to prove their cherished theories.rnCriminals, killers, and molesters very often report sufferingrnsevere childhood abuse, and maybe some of them didrnhave such awful experiences—though virtually nobody seeksrnexternal confirmation of the alleged events. Having said this,rnanyone finding himself in peril before the justice system knowsrnthat there are certain obvious ways to improve his situation, andrnone of these is to lessen responsibility for his actions. The abusernexcuse is invaluable in sentencing hearings, and downright essentialrnbefore a parole board. Indeed, the childhood traumarntheory is so deeply embedded in our expectations that a failurernto produce adequate horror stories is a sure symptom that therndefendant is suffering from denial and has not taken the firstrnsteps to recover)’. Doesn’t everyone know, as surely as the nightrnfollows the day, that sex offenders do what tiiey do as part of thernongoing cycle of abuse? The medical authorities expect, evenrndemand, tales of abuse, and of course they get them; in turn,rnthese tales confirm and expand the initial expectations.rnEver since parole boards were invented in the 19th centur)’,rnit has been a prison tnusm that the way out of the institution isrnto find the nostrum for crime currenfly in vogue and to cite itrnwith all passion as the reason for one’s life of wrongdoing. Inrnthe 19th centur’, tiie usual explanation was the demon rum,rnand convicts and defendants invoked this enemy as the forcerndriving them from the straight and narrow. For much of thernmid-20th century, Freud held sway, and legions of inmatesrnstood before the board members asserting how much they detestedrntheir possessive mothers. (Inmates would privately regretrntelling such dreadful lies about beloved parents, but the circumstancesrnforbade honesty.) About 1980, child abuse becamernthe obligator}’ explanation, the approved formula for creatingrncriminals and monsters.rnWhen psychiatrists appeared before lay audiences, theyrncould quite genuinely say that they had heard tiie same storiesrna thousand times before, that all their cases had reported similarrntales of torture and abuse. Being surrounded by so great arncloud of wihiesses, ft was incredible that anyone could doubtrnthe pen’asivc natvire of rape and torture in flie American family.rnThe therapists never asked themselves whether the criminalsrnin question had any option about telling tiie tales they did,rnor whether they would have been believed if they had deniedrnbeing abused. The questioners knew exactly what answers theyrnwere going to get, and of course, they got them. Of such are orthodoxiesrnborn.rnTo say that the plethora of modern-day abuse tales are dubiousrndoes not, of course, mean that the behavior docs not exist:rnSome parents do torture their children, physically, sexually,rnand emotionally. However, an historical perspective mightrnraise doubts about the exact effects of violence suffered inrnchildhood: For most of Western histor)’, severe corporal punishmentrnhas been the normal experience of virtually all boysrnand most girls. If the modern consensus is correct in seeing thisrnt)’pe of behavior as abusive, then presmnably it should havernhad obvious aftereffects in the form of high rates of violencernand sex crime. Crime rates do change over time, but there isrnnot the slightest evidence of correlation with strict child-rearingrnpractices. In fact, it is the recent, post-Spoek generations —rnwhich grew up largely without corporal punishment—thatrnhave recorded the most spectacular increases in crime and violence.rnThis is a troubling observation, because if we deny the socialrnimpact of childhood conditions, we have subverted a very largernpart of the justification for the therapeutic professions, to sayrnnothing of the rationale for state intervention. If the claimsrnabout the vast effects of abuse are hokum, how do we justify thernhuge edifice of social-work agencies and overpaid therapistsrnwhich we have constructed to deal with the supposed problem?rnEven worse, witiiout the explanation of family abuse and maltreatiuent,rnhow do we explain criminal behavior itself? Wernmight even be driven to explanations based on personal moralit)’,rnon tiie notion of evil, and we could not have that, could we?rnIt is so much easier to invoke that familiar whipping boy, the institutionrnof the family, crnMAY 1999/23rnrnrn