In over half of the case studies described in chapter 2 (Old Cutler, Little Rascals, Michaels, Country Walk), children were in counseling for months or even years prior to testifying. Trial testimony and therapy records, where they exist, document repeated imagery inductions, enjoinders to think hard, and repeated encouragement to enact events with props (e.g., dressing a doll as a witch to represent the defendant). Some therapists asked the children to do "homework" or journal writing. These children were encouraged to go home and try to think "very hard" about some of the things that were difficult to talk about. Some therapists played games with the children. For example, one therapist assumed the role of the perpetrator and encouraged the child to assume the role of a policeman. In one session, the therapist touched the genital area of a doll, so that the child could arrest her; the therapist then insisted that she did not do anything, and had the child respond to this remark. This same therapist played another game with another child: According to her trial testimony, she asked him if she should play the "pee game." The child assented and then instructed her to have the dolls (representing the children) pee in the pot and then put it in their mouths. The therapist stated that she did this several times until the child "arrested" her. Several months later, the therapist suggested that they switch roles. Now the child played the "pee game" and the therapist arrested him. According to the therapist, the child was willing to have the dolls pee in the pot and then to have the dolls drink from the pot, but he became very anxious after he was arrested.

There is another element present in many of the day-care cases that could also lead to reality monitoring and source monitoring errors. This involves parents' reading books with abuse themes to their children. These books typically depict situations in which a fantasy character had a "bad" secret that he was afraid to tell. But once he disclosed his bad secret, he felt better. When children had not made disclosures, some therapists gave parents one or more of these books and instructed them to read these to their children.

One story called "Fuzzy the Rabbit" was read to some of the children in the Little Rascals case. The story was about a little rabbit called Fuzzy, who lived with his mother and father in a village of rabbits. The mother and father rabbit had to leave home to find food for the family. During this time Fuzzy was sent to a school for little rabbits. At the school there was one rabbit who was not nice because he started telling secrets, things that the little rabbits at school had never heard at home, secret songs, secret touches on their tummies and bottoms, and secret words. Some of the little rabbits thought it was fun at first to have secrets and some didn't know. Then the nice grownup rabbit did something very bad. He said, "Don't tell your mommy and daddy about the secret or bad things will happen to you."

Fuzzy felt very bad about this because he liked coming home from school and telling his parents about what he had done at school. He had funny feelings inside and began to have problems sleeping. He even began to wonder if he was a bad rabbit. So, One night ... he was thinking about the scary things ... at school. And the beautiful fairy appeared to him [and] showed him how the pretend grown-up rabbit was really a mean witch ... who had tried to trick him. . . . The fairy said the way to break the power of the witch and to make him go away was talking ... to Mommy and Daddy. The fairy sprinkled magic power on Fuzzy. She told Fuzzy ... he would become stronger and more powerful. Fuzzy went to sleep feeling at peace at last.

The next morning Fuzzy ... felt very, very powerful.... Fuzzy told his mommy and daddy all about the bad things.... After he talked to Mommy and Daddy and the other grown-up rabbits, the witch disappeared and Fuzzy felt stronger and more powerful.... He found that talking to his mommy and daddy so they would protect and help him was the answer to his problems. So he told them everything about the wicked witch . . . the more he talked, the better he felt. Fuzzy was happy to discover the sound of his voice had made the witch disappear.

We are concerned about this technique on several grounds. First, the results of the Poole and Lindsay (i.e., "Mr. Science") study that we have just described indicate that when suggestions are couched in books that parents read to their children, some of the children may eventually come to believe that the suggested information actually happened to them. However, there is an imperfect correlation between the conditions of their study and the conditions under which parents read these books to children suspected of having been abused. In the case studies, the books were intentionally given to the parents so that they could talk to their children about the themes of the book and to encourage the children to think about whether these same things had happened to themselves. Children were asked whether there were any bad people that they knew and whether they had any secrets. And sometimes these books prompted the parents to directly ask their children about abuse.

When one book was unsuccessful in prompting a disclosure, parents were given another "brand" to try. One Little Rascals family had two children in therapy for suspected abuse. After the first assessment session, the therapist gave the mother a book called Patti the Rabbit (this was the same story as "Fuzzy the Rabbit"; the former was written for little girls, the latter for little boys) and told her to read it to the girls nightly. The next week, the therapist gave the mother Tillie the Kitty. And the third week the therapists therapist read Boots to one of the children. The mother was also given Boots and was asked to read it to her children. One night soon after, the mother took each child, one at a time, and read them Patti the Rabbit and, then Tillie the Kitty. The children started to make disclosures of abuse that night.

We do not think that the books alone prompted these disclosure because the children were also visiting their therapists and being questioned by parents and police during the same time period. Perhaps these books served as a catalyst to promote disclosures that were seeded by these other sources. A recent decision by the Supreme Court of Minnesota (State V. Huss, 1993) reflects a more extremist view about the potential influences of reading such books to young children.

From: Jeopardy in the Courtroom-A Scientific Analysis of Children's Testimony by Stephen J. Cecil and Maggie Bruck, American Psychological Association, 1995.

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