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?


I thoroughly enjoyed your broadcast: "The Child Terror". It's not often that the public is provided with the opportunity to experience the injustice that often accompanies legal cases blindly driven by public hysteria. How are those wrongly accused of child abuse compensated for their pain and suffering (keeping in mind that their reputation is forever tarnished as an "accused child molester")? The situation is frighteningly similar to the Salem Witch Trials. Have we learned anything from this piece of our history after more than three hundred years?

David Bausmith
manahawkin, nj


The Braggs may have been leading the children, but were there children that they interviewed that denied anything happening to them? At the end of the program it veered from the subject of sexual abuse cases against children and turned into a politically motivated Janet Reno bashing. You never interviewed her to present her side. It felt to me that this whole issue was just an excuse to put down Janet Reno because the election is coming up shortly. I am surprised at Frontline. I felt like I watched a clever politcal commercial.

Judith Skiff
ann arbor, mi


I am disappointed that you chose in this story to focus solely on cases where people were falsely accused. I find it hard to believe that there were no people who were justly prosecuted for child sexual abuse by the Miami prosecuter's office during this period of time.

I am a 30-year-old survivor of childhood physical and sexual abuse. At one point in my childhood Children's Services became involved but failed to interview me. They spoke to my parents and my brother about abuse that had been carried out against me, but I was considered too young to bother with. Given the era and the place of my parents in the community, such behavior was probably common practice.

When I began disclosing my abuse 10 years ago, the strongest defense of my perpetrators was the possibility that my memories were induced by a therapist. Multiple children from my extended family have corroborating memories, arrived at separately with separate therapists, but the relatives who perpetrated our abuse use shows such as yours as evidence that we have been brainwashed into believing we were abused. To some extent this would be true whether or not you had balanced this story between positive and negative portrayals of prosecutions of child abuse, but in this case you had no positive portrayals of prosecutions.

I enjoy Frontline in general, and I respect the typical quality of the journalism your show produces. Please in future keep in mind that people such as I are watching your show, and honor us by acknowledging that in many cases, the criminal justice system does indeed serve the interests of the children. Responsible criticism of the justice system will lead to a more effective system for children and adults alike; demonization of prosecutors and child psychologists can only lead to ever-larger numbers of children going unheard and unhelped.

dublin, oh


The Reno method, I'm sure has sent innocent people to prison. In the case of child molestation, the accused is usually judged guilty. It is up to his lawyers to prove his innocence at great expense. This is justice?

bloomington, indiana


The Frontline program, The Child Terror failed to focus on the damage done to the children who were not sexually abused but had parents, caretakers or counselors who thought they were. The stigma of being sexually abused is hard enough to carry through life. It is a worse crime to place it upon a child who did not have anything done to him or her. I will work with anyone who feels their children or grand children have become victims of over zealous, prosecutors, counselors, or child protective agencies.

Ted Villella
waterford, mi


I think that this is a major travisty of justice. I think that if the parents suspected that there was foul play in a number of cases this man obviously molested these children without penitration and he is guilty by moral stands. If we continue to let cases like this go on we are saying that Sexual abuse of children is OK and it is not. This is wrong and it is contributing to the moral decay of American Society.

Andrew Patterson
whitney point, ny


A modern day Salem's tale. Same settings. A court house, officials, dissonant adults, young girls pressed by historical demons : attention and group pressure. Result : character assassination and female child perversion.

Pierre Coulombe
valleyfield, quebec


I thought it was an excellent view of what went on in the 80s, as a mother I know how easy it is to get the answer you want from your child and to me that was plain to see in the child interviews. There are obviously many sexually abused children, i feel that always being open with your child and letting them know frequently that they can talk to you about anything is very important in this day and age. Child abuse in any shape or form is the worst possible crime to me and i hope that with the developement of DNA testing etc we can stop more of these thieves of childhood. We should all be more aware of the signs of abuse in our children too.

maria butler
cambridge, ontario


KUDOS to pbs for airing this important topic - I only wish you had had time to include a discussion of the treatment of the people of Wenachie and the Armitrout family of Massachusetts - who are still being persecuted by Scott Harshburger - our candidate for governor

andover, massachusetts


This is typical of career-hungry prosecutors, police and media officials. A witch hunt of gargantuan proportions, by hysterical mothers and fathers, public officials and the federal government. The bromide of the 90's, "Let's protect the children" takes on a chilling meaning.

Kim Bakke
milwaukee, wi

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