It Could Happen to You -- By: Norma McCauley

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 21:2 (Spring 2007)
Article: It Could Happen to You
Author: Norma McCauley

It Could Happen to You

Norma McCauley

NORMA McCAULEY was a teacher in Palos Verdes, California. After moving to Austin, Texas, she worked as a school librarian. She is now retired, taking care of her ninety-eight-year-old mother.

Christian caregivers are to be commended for seeking to provide assistance to the survivors of child sexual abuse. However, we must be aware of a potential danger: the accusations could be false.

I lived in Southern California in the 1980s when the McMartin preschool sexual abuse hysteria gripped our community. A popular bumper sticker at the time declared, “I Believe the Children.” But these well-meaning citizens proved to be wrong. No evidence ever corroborated the bizarre accusations (which proved to have been started by a mentally ill mother). After the longest and most expensive U.S. trial to date, no convictions were made and the charges were dropped—but by then it was too late. The careers and the lives of the accused had been ruined.

This is not to say that all, or even most, claims of sexual abuse are false.

In the McMartin case, the children were led by overzealous therapists who used repetitive interrogation techniques and anatomically correct dolls along with leading questions.

What about the cases where adults remember sexual abuse that happened when they were children? They may have only recently realized that what they experienced was abuse, or perhaps only now do they feel confident enough to confess it and work toward healing. However, if these are newly discovered memories, a caution flag should go up, especially if the person has other life problems for which he or she is seeking answers. The victim may be influenced by a convincing therapist, or by hearing celebrities on television describe their childhood abuse. All too often, the victim comes to believe that she was abused by reading a particular book with a misleading title: The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis. It has convinced thousands of troubled women that their current problems were caused by forgotten childhood sexual abuse. In some cases, rather than receiving healing, they get worse.

It was after my daughter read The Courage to Heal that she began to consider the possibility of having been sexually abused as a child. This idea grew as it was fed by a support group of other troubled women who shared horrendous details as they sought to fill in gaps in their supposed memories. The number of imagined abusers also increased with time. She cut off her relationship with all members of our family, following the book’s suggestion to leave one’s family of origin and form a family of choice. Not only did I lose a daughter, I also lost my grandchildren. It happened to me. It could happen to you.

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