I read this article in the Post & Courier this morning about a Ridgeville, SC family who were recently reunited with their children after having them taken by DSS for alleged child sexual abuse. Often when I read articles about child sexual abuse, I’m frustrated by the failure to highlight prevention, or point to helpful resources, but when I read today’s article, I was infuriated by the insinuative tone of the author, and the blatant spin doctoring of local Charleston lawyer Andy Savage.
The article’s author, Glenn Smith, inexplicably, and inexcusably takes dead aim at the credibility of a 7 year old girl who, “told counselors that she saw she saw homemade porn films of her parents and watched them engage in a sexual threesome with a woman.”
Reality Check #1 – Let’s get real here: What 7-year-olds know about threesomes? What 7-year-olds know about homemade pornography? If a 7-year-old girl approached me and mentioned either of these topics, not only would I be shocked, but I would immediately report this to appropriate authorities.
Amazingly, Smith’s article does not point to this abnormal behavior as a red flag, rather he calls into question the girl’s credibility. Smith writes, “[According to the girl’s parents,] there was never a third party involved and no stash of porn in the house… The McGrews said the 7-year-old has a vivid imagination and has told other wild stories to counselors in previous interviews, including tales of a ghost living in the house and her mother having paranormal abilities.”
Reality Check #2 – I was 7 once. I watched X-Files and worried about ghosts. I thought maybe there’s an off chance that a monster was under my bed… I can tell you what I wasn’t thinking about: threesomes and porn tapes. Amazingly, Smith is questioning the credibility of a 7-year-old’s claims because she may believe in ghosts? So now anyone with an irrational fear is unreliable? What is reliable is the probability that a 7-year-old girl who knows about adult sexual realities is probably not growing up in the safest environment.
… It continues. Smith begins to subtly question the Dorchester Children’s Center’s credibility saying, “[The family] said the counselors at the DCC should have recognized the tall tales for what they were rather than alerting DSS officials, who, in turn called law enforcement.”
Reality Check #3 – Really? So your 7-year-old daughter tells you about threesomes and pornography, would you chalk it up to a “tall-tale?” If it were my niece, granddaughter, or student, I certainly wouldn’t assume her story to be a tall-tale. As I said, I would report what I had heard (just as DCC did), and hope that the authorities took the appropriate steps.
Now it gets really backwards. Smith writes, “The couple’s attorney, Andy Savage, said the case ‘exemplifies what is wrong with the level of proper evaluation and assessment of child-abuse allegations.’ Counselors are quick to rush to judgment and notify authorities without properly vetting claims that can tarnish reputations and ruin lives, he said.”
Reality Check #4 – HUH? Are Smith and Savage suggesting that we leave the child in the potentially abusive situation? We’re supposed to trust a family who is predictably saying, “we’re not molesting our daughter” over a child who has been exposed to sexual realities far beyond her developmental level? I contend that anyone who would leave a child in that situation is either exceptionally uninformed, or simply too scared to take the appropriate precautionary steps. I commend law-enforcement, DSS and the DCC for taking swift action.
Savage delivers the final blow saying, “I think that does a huge disservice to the child and the child’s family. And it takes away from the credibility of what the center is doing.”
Reality Check #5 – You’ve gone to far Mr. Savage. Disappointing that you’re questioning the credibility of a Child Advocacy Center for valuing a 7-year-old girl before a family being accused of sexual abuse. Rather than questioning the credibility of a CAC for removing a child from a potentially abusive situation, you should thank them for having the courage to deal with these cases day in and day out. Would you rather leave the kid in the potentially abusive household? Being proactive to protect a child’s innocence should never be questioned, and you should be embarrassed about this value judgment.
The truth is, children RARELY make up stories of sexual abuse. The fact is only 4 – 8 percent of child sexual abuse reports are fabricated. The fact is a 7-year-old shouldn’t know about threesomes and pornography. The fact is that a 7-year-old who knows about these behaviors had to learn about it from somewhere.
All in all, I’m sure Glenn Smith and Andy Savage were not thinking about the implications of their statements in this article. But the fact is, that questioning the credibility of a child in these circumstances, and damning authorities for taking precautionary actions, opens the door for our society to fail at protecting our children. The fact is, that a child’s innocence should ALWAYS come first, and to suggest anything else is simply inexcusable.