Case # 2

This case began when Mrs. Smith contacted social services concerning her 5-year- old son, Tommy. Tommy had long had serious behavior problems and Mrs. Smith had asked for help before, but when she found Tommy engaged in sex play with his 3- year-old brother, Billy, she asked to have Tommy placed in a foster home since she felt she could not control him.

The case records suggest that Tommy had most likely been exposed to sexual behavior. A year before Mrs. Smith reported that he had been sexually abused by his Uncle Joe, who now lived in another state. (The allegations concerning Uncle Joe were never investigated.) Mrs. Smith also reported an incident of sex play with another child when the family was living in another state. Tommy also may have observed his parents having intercourse when all were sleeping in one room prior to the arrival of their furniture after they moved.

Following the report that Tommy had engaged Billy in sex play, Tommy was interviewed by the child protection worker. This interview was not audio- or videotaped. Anatomical dolls were used in the interview. Tommy spoke of sex play with two other children when the family was living in another state, demonstrated his parents having sex with the dolls, and talked about the sex play with Billy. When he was asked if anyone did that to him other than Billy, he said his dad.

This interview was then repeated on the same day in the presence of a police detective. The report from the CPS worker states that Tommy "shared with (the police detective) the fact that he knows about sex and has had sex with his brother in the closet and that he's aware of sex between his parents." He also talked a "a little bit" about Uncle Joe. This interview was not recorded. Billy Smith was also interviewed on this day but provided no information.

Following these interviews, Tommy was placed in the first of several foster homes and was put into therapy. The documents indicate that sex and sexual behavior were discussed with him by his foster parents. (Often foster parents are instructed to continue interrogations and to record what a child says. When this is done, the foster parent functions as another agent of the state and law enforcement agencies.) Tommy was then interviewed again by the social worker. This interview was not recorded.

Tommy was next interviewed by a psychologist, Dr. Crawford, on two occasions. These interviews were not taped, but the reports suggest that the interviews were leading and suggestive. Tommy described the sexual behavior between himself and Billy, and in response to the question of who taught him about bad and secret touch, answered, "Sue and Bill" (Tommy's parents). Drawings and anatomical dolls were used. There is no acknowledgement in the reports of the possible effects of the earlier interviews.

Next, Tommy, Billy, and the youngest child, Anna, were scheduled to be interviewed by Dr. Crawford. The night before, the social worker drove the three children to the town where Dr. Crawford practiced. Since the town was some distance away, the plan was for the three children to stay in a motel and then see Dr. Crawford the next morning. The social worker's case notes indicate lengthy conversations between the social worker and the children about the alleged abuse.

The next day, Dr. Crawford interviewed Tommy, Billy, and Anna. The interviews were not taped and the anatomical dolls were again used. In her report, Dr. Crawford stressed the similarity of the stories between Tommy and Billy but did not mention the fact that the social worker and the children had been discussing the alleged events at length on the day before. The allegations were that the abuse occurred in a "dog pile" with the parents and both boys engaging in sexual penetration in various orifices while on top of one another in a pile of four people. (Anna gave no information about abuse.) The reports from Dr. Crawford resulted in Tommy and Anna also being removed from home and placed in foster care.

The various logs and reports indicate that the children were talked to repeatedly about the alleged events by foster parents, social workers, and therapists. The three children had regular visits with one another.

Evaluations of the parents showed inadequacies in parenting and coping skills but the therapists for the parents judged them to be capable of learning and improving and did not find serious psychopathology in either. The therapists for the parents did not believe that the parents had sexually abused their children.

Tommy's behavior problems that had led his parents to voluntarily place him in foster care continued and his foster parents could not cope with him. Following several unsuccessful foster home placements, Tommy was placed in an inpatient children's treatment center. The records from the treatment center indicate that Tommy was encouraged and reinforced for talking about sexual abuse. Chart entries suggest that abuse was discussed daily. Puppets and drawings about abuse were part of the therapy and one of the written treatment goals was for Tommy to talk about the abuse. Tommy was also placed in a sex education group and the case notes document how Tommy was sexually aroused by the talk about sexual behavior and sexual abuse. Tommy's behavior deteriorated during this placement.

As a result of the continual reinforcement for talking about the abuse, the allegations by Tommy grew to include more people and more bizarre behaviors. The allegations eventually included urine, feces, costumes and masks, commercial pornography, sadism, murder of animals, and devil worship at a satanic church (this was in a small city in a rural area). A sample of the entries from the children's treatment center:

November: The family had sex together. Mom threw Anna out the window and Tommy caught her. She was hurt and taken to the hospital.

December: Two older children abused Tommy in the firehouse in the presence of the parents. A dog had to lick the father's private parts.

January: The neighborhood children pulled Tommy's clothes off during a parade and a 17-year-old neighbor girl put her mouth on his penis.

February: Mom, Dad, Grandma, Billy, and Anna pooped on the floor and dad put his privates into Tommy.

March: Dad stabbed Tommy in the head with a knife and pulled it out. There was blood on the knife.

April: Grandpa bit his penis.

May: The grandparents were at the fire station with girls who licked Tommy's privates. The grandparents wore masks and red, black, and green clothes and the grandmother was dressed like a witch. They killed his dog with a green knife and a sword.

June: Dad urinated in his mouth.

July: Tommy was abused by his mom, his dad, and his uncle and had to eat a cigarette, a match, and the inside of batteries.

August: Tommy's parents were involved in ceremonies that include devil worship. (The therapist's notes indicate that the therapist first drew the devil sign, a pentagram, himself and showed it to Tommy.)

September: Tommy told about being afraid of the devil and talked about God and the devil. He said his mom and dad went to a church that worshiped the devil. He described a devil worshiping sign (the therapist had drawn this sign for him previously as described in the August notes).

October: Tommy was photographed doing sexual things with another female child along with his parents. The pictures were to be sent around the world.

There is no indication in the case notes that the veracity of these statements were questioned by the therapist.

During the time Anna and Billy were in foster homes, they were seen regularly by the social worker, and were also talked to about abuse. When the children were to be evaluated by a new psychologist, the social worker rehearsed the accounts of the alleged abuse with the children in the car while driving to the appointment. The foster parents were expected to note and attend to any behaviors or statements that suggested abuse. The two younger children had regular visits with Tommy in the treatment center, including one visit where a prevention movie was shown to all three children and was discussed by the social worker and Tommy's therapist.

Several months later, the children were interviewed again by the child protection worker as part of the county's attempt to terminate the parent's parental rights. The reasoning of the county was that since the parents would not admit the sexual abuse, they were untreatable sexual molesters and hence their parental rights should be terminated. The children's stories now included grandma and grandpa as well as mom and dad. Drawings were used in which the task for the child was to mark on the drawing where the child was touched. The interviews were not recorded.

During this period, the children had been interviewed repeatedly by social workers, therapists, and foster parents who believed that the abuse was real. The parents were only able to see them in a supervised situation. As a result, the statements about abuse now included the grandparents and others and involved satanic, sadistic, ritualistic abuse. None of the interviews is this case were taped.

(Child protection succeeded in having the parental rights of these parents terminated because they would not admit the abuse and hence were determined to be untreatable. We became involved in the case when the parents had a new baby and child protection removed this child also, claiming that the Smiths would sexually molest the new baby. At this point, several other professionals were involved who had grave concerns about the validity of the original allegations against the Smiths, but the older children remained in foster care and the parental rights remained terminated. The new baby was eventually returned home by court order despite the strenuous objects of social services.)

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