Added: August 30, 2014 – Last updated: March 5, 2016
Author: Ross E. Cheit
Title: The Witch-Hunt Narrative
Subtitle: Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children
Place: Oxford and New York
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Keywords: Modern History: 20th Century | American History: U.S. History | Cases: Offenders / Margaret Kelly Michaels; Cases: Others / McMartin Preschool Case; Offenders: Teachers; Prosecution: False Accusations, Wrong Convictions; Types: Child Sexual Abuse
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»In the 1980s, a series of child sex abuse cases rocked the United States. The most famous case was the 1984 McMartin preschool case, but there were a number of others as well. By the latter part of the decade, the assumption was widespread that child sex abuse had become a serious problem in America. Yet within a few years, the concern about it died down considerably. The failure to convict anyone in the McMartin case and a widely publicized appellate decision in New Jersey that freed an accused molester had turned the dominant narrative on its head. In the early 1990s, a new narrative with remarkable staying power emerged: the child sex abuse cases were symptomatic of a 'moral panic' that had produced a witch hunt. A central claim in this new witch hunt narrative was that the children who testified were not reliable and easily swayed by prosecutorial suggestion. In time, the notion that child sex abuse was a product of sensationalized over-reporting and far less endemic than originally thought became the new common sense.
Cheit, Ross. »The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children.« 30th Annual University of Wisconsin-Madison Conference on Child Sexual Abuse. Madison 2014.
Cheit, Ross. »The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children.« 29th San Diego International Conference on Child and Family Maltreatment. San Diego 2015.
Bazelon, Emily. »Abuse Cases, and a Legacy of Skepticism: ‘The Witch-Hunt Narrative’: Are We Dismissing Real Victims?« The New York Times (June 9, 2014). – Full Text: The New York Times (Free Access)
Berry, Jaron. »How the ‘Witch Hunt’ Myth Undermined American Justice.« The Daily Beast (July 12, 2014). – Full Text: The Daily Beast (Free Access)
Bowman, Cynthia G. »The Legal System and Child Sex Abuse.« Law & Social Inquiry 41(1) (Winter 2016): 267-283. – Full Text: Wiley Online Library (Restricted Access)
Curcio-Alexander, Julia. The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 43(1) (March 2015): 123-124. – Full Text: Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law (Restricted Access)
Epstein, Helen. The Arts Fuse (September 27, 2014). – Full Text: The Arts Fuse (Free Access)
Grant, Anne. Providence Journal (April 27, 2014). – Full Text: Providence Journal (Free Access)
Johnson, K.C. »Revisionism Gone Wild.« Commentary (September 1, 2014). – Full Text: Commentary (Free Access)
Whitaker, Emilie. The Sociological Review 63(3) (August 2015): 738-740. – Full Text: Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law (Restricted Access)