Who has more rights in the American judicial system—a man accused of murder or one accused of child abuse? The accused murderer is guaranteed the good old English right of trial by jury; he’s presumed innocent until proved guilty. He may even demand a court-appointed lawyer (if he can’t afford his own). The accused child abuser is tried by French law: He’s presumed guilty until proved innocent and may even lose his children without so much as a court hearing. Mary Pride drives home the disturbing contrast between the accused murderer and the accused child abuser as one of the many points in her hard-hitting expose on the crusading “childsavers.”

After poking holes in the vastly inflated and self-serving child-abuse statistics that bureaucrats and journalists bandy about, she shows how therapeutic professionals have turned public sympathy for the abused child into a blank check for their own agencies. Few things are sadder than the rare cases of genuine child abuse, but media hysteria and licensed childsnatching can only make things worse. Pride recounts instances of social workers dragging screaming children away from parents later proved to be innocent of everything but moving next to busybodies. Other guiltless families have suffered financial ruin because of the court costs of fighting anonymous accusers and groundless charges. In Seattle, 1,500 families falsely accused of child abuse have filed a $1.5 billion class-action suit against the State of Washington for unjustly seizing their children and disrupting their families.

But besides collecting horror stories, Pride has compiled all of the childabuse laws, state by state, in a useful appendix. (If the vagueness of these statutes doesn’t scare you, just consider that those accused can argue their case before a jury only in the state of Utah—everywhere else, a single social worker or judge may hand down the verdict. Here in Illinois, the Chicago Tribune recently reported that officials once encouraged state “investigators” simply to classify all reports of child abuse as “true” and pass them along to case workers.) In her conclusion, Pride outlines a sensible agenda of things average people can do to help change a deplorable situation. Footnotes and an excellent bibliography attest to painstaking research. Too bad that in deciding not to do an index, the publisher limited the book’s value as a reference book and so reduced the number of libraries likely to buy it. 


[The Child Abuse Industry: Outrageous Facts & Everyday Rebellions Against a System that Threatens Every North American Family, by Mary Pride (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books) $8.95]