Officer Toppin's 2-hour interview, when Carl was asked to show on the
doll how Mr. Bob played "doctor," he inserted his finger in the doll's anus
and pulled on the doll's penis (the interpretation of these behaviors is
covered in chapter 12). After demonstrations on the doll, the investigators
asked him to show on his own body "what playing doctor was." According
to Toppin's trial testimony, Carl grabbed his penis "and took his hand like
he was inserting his finger in his rectum...... But when asked "how Mr. Bob
played doctor," he replied,
"I don't think he does it anymore." According to Toppin's recollections of
this unrecorded interview, Carl initially stated that this happened only to two
of his friends, but not
to him; later in the interview, he also said it happened to him. None of the
other children made
similar claims in their first interviews.
Parents in the Little Rascals case also interviewed their children.
When the first allegations became public, many parents refused to believe
them; they remained loyal to the Kellys. However, as more and more chil-
dren made allegations, even the faithful began to have their doubts. Some
parents admitted to
relentlessly questioning their children until they finally gave sway and
admitted to abuse.
According to some parents, this process took more than 10 months. The
testimony of one of the
mothers illustrates how some of these children may have been questioned at
home, prior to
any of the investigative interviews, and how allegations of sexual abuse
may emerge when young children are repeatedly questioned by their parents.
[According to this mother, Officer Toppin interviewed Dick in the
evening. After the interview, Toppin told the mother that although Dick had
not made any allegations of a sexual nature, she felt that he would feel
more comfortable with his mother in the room. When the mother asked him
questions, Dick did not assent to the allegations of sexual abuse.]
Mother: First time I questioned him, we were laying on my bed and
was just, you know, "Do you like Mr. Bob," "Do you like
Ms. Betsy," um, "Has Mr. Bob ever done anything bad to
you", "Has Mr. Bob ever spanked you," and as we were
talking I got more specific with him; I asked him, "Had
Mr. Bob ever touched his privates," I didn't feel like he
really knew what his privates were called that, and so I
asked him has Mr. Bob ever touched your pee-bug," "Has
Mr. Bob ever touched your hiney," "Has he ever put his
finger in your hiney." I was using very specific questioning.
Attorney: And what were his responses?
Mother: He thought it was funny. He was laughing at me when we
were just talking in general. . . . He was so young. He
wasn't even three years old then.
Attorney: Was that the only time you questioned him?
Mother: No, it went on. When I was asking him that first time if
Mr. Bob had ever spanked him he kept on saying, "No,"
and I kept on asking him, "Has he ever touched your pee-
bug," and finally he took his hand and he slapped it on
his privates like that (indicating), and he said, "He did
that." And I asked him about a rope, did anybody ever tie
him up with a rope.... and he said, "No." And then he
said they played a bonkey game, at the day care. And I
said, "Well, who do you play the bonkey game with?" And
he played the bonkey game with Anthony and Mr. Bob,
and, um, they used a rope when they played the game. So
I got a tie belt out of the dresser drawer, and, you know, I
told him to show me how he was tied up with that rope.
And he tied it around his feet with the rope. And when I
relayed this conversation to Sally (her best friend), then there was a
lot of concern . Sally felt like I needed to and listening to the rumors
and all, I did proceed to question him further.
[Attorney then asks why she asked him about the rope and being tied
Mother: I don't know. Everything I was getting I was getting from Eleanor
(parent of non indicting child), but I couldn't tell you for sure that I
heard that from her. I don't know. I heard it from somebody...
. Attorney: Now, tell me how that developed that you began to get
statements from him that raised a question in your mind of sexual abuse.
Mother: Dick was being questioned a lot from that first time on (i.e., the
end of January), quite often. And then that last week then it was probably
a few hours every day thing. And on that Friday (the end of April), I got a
response out of him...Um, he told me that Mr. Bob had put his penis in his
mouth and peed on him.
Attorney: Now, are those things that he just came up with on his own?
Mother: No, sir, he did not.
Attorney: How did he come up with those kind of statements?
Mother: Because I asked him...he had been hearing it at least once a week
since I first started questioning him and then that last week he was hearing
it every day.
Attorney: Now, the questions you asked him about...whether or not Bob had
put [his] penis in his mouth and peed on him and that kind of thing, was
that part of the information you had been receiving as types of allegations
that had been made?
Attorney: Now, up to this point in your questioning of Dick you said that
you had been fairly specific in your statements to him about asking him
whether or not Bob did this or whether or not Bob did that; did you name
specific acts to him?
Mother: Yes sir, "Did Bob put his finger in your hiney," things like that,
yes, sir, I did.
Attorney: And did some of the time you get no answer to those questions?
Mother: It was "no" the majority of the time,...most of the time he didn't
know what I was talking about.
[After this child assented to his mother's questions, she called Brenda
Toppin, the police officer, to make a report.]
Attorney: Did you tell her (Officer Brenda Toppin) that basically you had
just gotten answers in response to your questions, yes or no type answers?
Or did you relate it as a story coming from Dick?
Mother: As a story coming from Dick...I don't really think I told her
anything he was asked. I just told her the major part of what he said, that
Mr. Bob had put his penis in Dick's mouth and had peed on him right there.
Attorney: Now, in spite of the fact that Mrs. Toppin told you that he had
made no statement to her about sexual abuse at that time, did she offer any
opinion to you as to whether or not Dick had been abused?
Mother: I asked her if she thought Dick had been abused, and she said, "On
the record I can't tell you; off the record, I would say yes," and there's a
whole lot more to come.
The above testimony from the Little Rascals case makes clear the lack of
information available to the court about the style and frequency of the non
recorded interviews. Because none of the original law enforcement or
therapeutic interviews appear to have been taped (or if they had been, none
reached the courtroom), it is impossible to evaluate their suggestiveness. All
that is known for sure is that although the children initially denied the
abuse, they eventually admitted to it--usually after many months and
Similarly, there is also scanty information concerning the style and frequency
of the interviews in the Michaels case. Importantly, to our knowledge, there
are no electronically preserved copies of the initial interviews with the
children, nor with their parents. Several weeks into the interviewing of the
children, the prosecutor's office decided that the investigators should audio
tape their interview. The team began to record those children who had not
fully divulged their disclosures. Although there are some examples of taped
interview in which there seem to be few leading questions and in which the
child gave a coherent report of abuse, these were not the initial interviews,
and thus it is impossible to evaluate their validity without knowing about the
details of the prior interviews.