the child terror
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What did you  think of this FRONTLINE report on some of the famous child sexual abuse trials during the 1980s?  What meaning do you draw from these cases?


Thanks for a thoughtful, well organized and well presented program on one of the hottest issues in the US in the last 10-15 years. While there are true abuse cases, and I had worked with some, what we all need to focus on is the methodology of investigating the allegations of abuse and prosecuting the accused. We need to be that much more careful in view of the atmosphere of mass hysteria in the US. Frequently the mere accusation is taken as a verdict of guilt, no matter what the facts may be. Not behind every bush hides a child abuser. The investigation methods and the manner of conviction, frequently resembles the methods of Joe MacCarthy. The above comments are directed mainly at the mental health professionals who "find" abuse in too many instances. The result has become a massive industry centered on questionable abuse allegations, where the "therapists" involved stand to gain from the "discovery" of abuse and the free advertisement that comes with it. While most professionals are well intentioned, there are too many self proclaimed "experts" benefiting from the national witch hunt. The best way to protect the children from abuse is by education and by insuring that the methods used in "discovering" abuse are indeed clean and objective. We all need to become very familiar with the work of Dr. Ceci and his group, he is an objective and rational individual/professional

Ze'ev Bar-av, Ph.D.
madison, wi


Thank you, PBS, for this Frontline Program, too often in this society we decide that anyone, particulary if the accused is a man, accused of child sexual abuse is automatically guilty. After reading the transcripts of Dr. Braga's interviews, I can see how leading they really are. This little girl was so proud of herself because she had told some strange lady what she wanted to hear and she knew that this would please her parents. The worst abuse can come at the hands of over zealous police and prosecuters hell bent on destroying the lives of anyone who gets in the way of their agendas, once you've been picked as a target, they will do whatever they have to do to get you, whether or not you are guilty. I think the cases you profiled are perfect examples of this rampant problem in American society, and I applaud you for having the guts to tackle such a difficult and contraversial issue.

columbia, missouri


The Child Terror broadcast sounded a warning caution for children's rights and protection advocates like myself. Though the 'miami method' was sloppy and unprofessional, we can't become desensitized that child abuse is real. As a student in Christian child counseling, I would like to see interview and child abuse investigation guidelines developed by people like Dr. Stephen Ceci so I won't make the same mistakes and no one else will.

Mark Everett Sanders
marietta, georgia


When individuals in the 'truth' professions such as psychotherapy, prosecutioral law,politics and religious leadership enforce their beliefs through articulating the deepest fears of society; spellbinding them into believing 'the truth' at any price, any society will sacrifice even its children, to believe. Janet Reno sacrificed the children of Waco in order to believe them; Hitler sacrificed his Nation to reassure them of the 'evil' he envisioned in the Jews of Europe, and too many Prosecutors mangle too many lives to safeguard society. We are eating ourselves alive in the name of 'truth.' This is how the concentration camps are appearing in America - one scapgoated soul at a time. Thank you for this bold,dangerous and provocative document.

Dr.Ivan & Mrs.Harriett Diamond
st petersburg, florida


The program was excellent. It barely scratched the surface, however, of the phenomenon known as "recovered memory", now indicted as perhaps the blackest chapter in the history of psychology. More properly termed False Memory Syndrome, it has resulted in scores of specious accusations and unjust prosecutions and convictions. This must, and I pray will be, entirely exposed for the travesty it is. A goodly number of present and former prosecutors deserve investigation and criminal prosecution themselves.

canastota, ny


Shows like this really get me upset, and jolt me out of the secure complacency of routine life. I am encouraged to see Fijnje and Snowdon recieving some measure of vindication. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for Bobby's verdict (I did't recall the case). Frontline is so consistently on target. Thank you for bringing stories of substance to light. I cannot describe the mixture of anger and disdain I feel for the triumph of hysteria over reason displayed by the human race in the post Salem witch trial era.

Emily Lidie
shortsville, ny


Janet Reno and her truth prosecutors should scare the hell out of every American who salutes the flag before a ball game, or who stands erect when a judge enters the courtroom, or who sees Grant Snowden free from jail.

She and her reckless disregard for the law have been a disgrace to America. Bill and Hillary Clinton's choice of her as the Attorney General of the United States was a mistake. Waco was the predictable result. Oklahoma was the unpredictable tragedy. And now she is in the position of judging illegal campaign finance contributions. How pathetic. America deserves better. Simple competence seems so necessary.

And so it goes with political zealotry mixing it up with law.

san antonio, tx


Excellent report. While I had once wanted to be a prosecuting attorney "to put the bad guys away," I see that prosecutors can be overzealous in their attempts for convictions. Also, the use of expert witnesses such as the Bragas can have a powerful effect on juries.

lisa sherrin
brookville, ny


These have been excellent programs that I hope serve as cautionary warnings against mass hysteria, which I am increasingly convinced occurred in most if not all of the more sensational trials on this subject around the country. In fact, one of the first, the Georgian Hills Day Care case, happened here in the mid eighties. I am an attorney, a Republican County Commissioner, and a father of a two year old, so I am hardly anti law enforcement. By the way, my father, Harry Wellford, was one of the judges on the 11th Circuit panel that granted habeus relief in the Snowden case. I can assure you that the cases in which he has voted in favor of granting such extraordinary relief since his appointment to the appellate bench in 1982 are few and far between.

buckner wellford
memphis, tenn


Excellent show! The mistakes made since the 1980's in wrongly convicting innocent people of child sexual abuse need to be exposed. False allegations are especially rampant in divorce/custody cases & overzealous prosecutors help these false accusers to get away with great harm. It results in a new kind of child abuse -- making a child believe that abuse occurred when it never did! Thank you for having such reputable experts as Dr. Stephen Ceci on your show.

baltimore, md


How did our society get to the point where protection of children depends on the "interview techniques" of so-called therapists. Anybody who deals with young (not limited to day care) must be scared to death about false accusations of child abuse. It's not the legal system thats at stake here, its society in general. and a return to some measure of civility in how we deal with one another.

Rich Marshall
rensselaer, ny


shows like this really get me upset, and jolt me out of the secure complacency of routine life. i am encouraged to see Fijnje and Snowdon recieving some measure of vindication. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for Bobby's verdict (I did't recall the case). Frontline is so consistently on target... Thank you for bringing stories of substance to light. I cannot describe the mixture of anger and disdain I feel for the triumph of hysteria over reason displayed by the human race in the post Salem witch trial era.

emily lidie
shortsville, ny


Thank you for the soul-searing presentation, "The Child Terror." I hope that those who see this investigative report will reflect well on the quick and often unjust condemnations that are often weilded against innocent people. The justice systems of all times have sought in earnest to provide a ready solution and fair disposition of provable and sometimes questionable charges brought against alledged perpetrators of offenses and crimes against society. Your telecast, "The Child Terror," offers a penetration look into the flaws, faults and errors of this often over-zealous facility of the state; that has affected the rights and freedoms of some seemingly innocent people...people who's remaining lives will suffer immeasurably because of errors and misunderstandings wrought by and through the justice system. Perhaps your very well produced telecast will motivate and inspire those who are in positions of power, judgment and authority to reassess the processes and means that are used for the incriminating and condemning of others; and to be just as zealous in their efforts and attempts to search for and discover the real truths about such cases where very questionable and uncertain charges and convictions are brought. It can be accepted as fact that many people have been convicted and sentenced for crimes that they did not commit; incarcerated and serving time somewhere, right now. It can also be accepted that human judgment, being as fickle and frail as it often proves to be, will convict and sentence more innocent people again. Maybe, just maybe, this telecast will be instrumental in motivating someone, somewhere to take another look...a closer look...a fairer look at all the real facts; and just maybe, some other innocent person might be set free. It is the "Frontlines" of the world, in whatever form or media they might exist, that will be a nagging prod that will drive and impel us all to be better, fairer, and hopefully wiser in the ways we deal with and judge each other. It is the "Frontlines" of the world that cast the light of fair examination on so very many topics of human interest and concern. Again, I thank you for this, and all the other wonderful, and educational offerings that you bring to the world...and I sincerely hope that your presentations help to make a very real difference for all of us!

Chauncey Black
kansas city, missouri


Frontline seems to have it in for Janet Reno. How many succesful prosecutions of guilty child molesters in Dade Co. in the '80's and early 90's did you ignore or downplay in order to produce a show highlighting what seem to be two unusual cases. Also, that last comment, injecting the Waco seige into a discussion about child abuse is a stretch. You seem to assume that the presence of children was the critical factor in Reno authorizing the Waco takeover. Where is the evidence of that?

George Simms, III


I've just read Paul Johnsons' "History of the American People". There seems to be a quality unique to us that seeks out witches. It's interesting that the Magistrates that prosecuted the Salem trials were later reprimanded by reviewers. Our Justice system has great faults, reflections of the quest for power that is sadly common among those that seek public office.Thank you, Frontline, for your wonderful in-depth research into the fundemental questions about who we are and what we are about. The Enlightenment is unfinished, but it is your spitit of inquiry that represents its' spirit.

Ed Collins
indianapolis, in

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