Saturday, April 18, 2009

False Accusations do happen.

Did anybody catch this documentary on MSNBC? Witch Hunt is narrated by Sean Penn and is a sobering wake up call for those claiming to be child advocates and advocates for freedom and liberty.

I've blogged about the McMartin Pre-School trials during the early days of this blog. That was occurring when I first moved to California. There is no doubt that so-called repressed memory, social workers who were too enthusiastic, and political power junkies, worked together to undermine the name of Raymond Bucky.

This documentary centers on an overenthusiastic group of politcos and police in Bakersfield, California, who went hog wild with accusations of child molestation against several families in the area. Without any real scrap of evidence, police detectives barged into people's houses, arrested parents, and accused them of molesting their children.

I'll drop a spoiler alert right now because, by the end of the movie, we learn that the authorities hid evidence that the children were examined by doctors. Not one report indicated a child had been molested. In fact, the evidence proved the opposite. The children were never molested.

Years later, the children, now adults, admitted they had been co-erced by the authorities to testify against their parents.

On a personal note:

I once found myself on the wrong end of the convenience store check out stand and was robbed back in the early 1980's. The day after, police called me in to look at photos of those taken into custody.

Let me tell you, I got the feeling the police wanted to arrest me because I did not immediately finger anyone in the photos!

"Are you sure?"

The cop got gruff, acted angry, and gave the distinct impression he believed I was chickening out of fingering anyone for the crime against me. Fortunately, the last set of polaroids I looked at was of the two who robbed me. I was relieved, not because justice was about to be done, but because I could get this angry cop off my back.

I had the disturbing feeling if I had just fingered anyone, they would have jumped into prosecuting them, with or without any evidence at all.

Jacksonville justice.

Now, imagine that cop with a five year old kid, who can barely speak, going, "Did they tie you up? If you're not telling the truth, other children will be molested!"

Between the suppressed evidence, and the way the leading questions were asked, it was indeed a witch hunt in Bakersfield. Eventually, they brought in the good ole' standby of Satanic ritual abuse and their case began to fall apart. Yet, in order to protect their reps, those who were falsely accused still remained in jail.

When the children grew up, and told the truth, the prosecutor hounded them with accusations, disguised as questions: "WERE YOU LYING THEN OR ARE YOU LYING NOW?"

This is not good for child advocates. True, I'm throwing a wet blanket of a movie on you, but we need to realize that anytime the words 'child abuse' or 'child molestation' are thrown about, people are going to be arrested.

Guilty or not. Innocent or not.

In the case of Bob Gray, who inspired this blog, we have letters from Tom Messer apologizing for the wrongs that had been done to the victims. Why would he apologize if he did not believe Gray actually committed a wrong?

We have Bob Gray, on tape, admitting to have french kissed a minor. Although not a felony back in the seventies, today things have changed and you can go to the pokey for that. So, if he admitted to that, and you have Tom Messer writing letters apologizing for the wrong that was done, plus another tape recording, made by the husband of a victim, where Messer admits Gray was not forthcoming when he confronted the congregation about an infraction he committed that was 'neither sexual nor immoral', I don't see the Gray incident as a witch hunt.

I'd hate to be a Baptist minister these days. If anyone points a finger and says 'child molester', you're basically up a creek without a paddle.

These are the thoughts that were in my mind as I watched this movie.

I had to remember things like Messer's letters to the victims, and the tape recording made by the husband of the victim, and my own personal experiences at Trinity, just so I could reassure myself of the facts of Gray case.

I certainly would not want to be overzealous like the prosecutors in Bakersfield. That's the power of this movie!

Witch Hunt reminds us of the sobering reality that people's lives can be turned upside down by the mere accusation of child abuse, regardless of whether the charges are true. Children may not lie (according to the pop psychology that got the parents arrested in the first place), but adults can, and have, intimidated children into making false confessions.

It's telling that none of the prosecutors in the Bakersfield case have been held accountable for their witchhunt. Hopefully, this movie will set the record straight, and be a wake up call for child advocates not to be too quick on the trigger when accusing someone of molestation in public, be it on the web or television.

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