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'Child-Abuse Bandwagon'

May 10, 1985

As a psychotherapist working with adults who were sexually abused as children, and having formerly worked directly with abused children and their families, I am dismayed at Kinsley's trivialization of the child-abuse (primarily sexual abuse) issue, in particular his assertion that child abuse is not a systemic problem.

Sexual abuse of children has always existed and has been systematically condoned and sanctioned by society through silence and denial. Kinsley's attitude only further perpetuates the myth that sexual abuse is rare and is committed by perverts. Very ordinary men sexually abuse children. Men whom we know and trust and often love. A recent study revealed that 80% of children in juvenile halls had been sexually abused; 70% of all young prostitutes; 80% of female drug addicts. Secrecy is assured since the victims are totally dependent upon their perpetrators for love and sustenance.

If there is disclosure, judges are notoriously reluctant to send incesting fathers to prison. They have no qualms about incarcerating embezzlers, draft resisters or nuclear protesters. But when it comes to child abuse, then they protect the perpetrator under the guise of "family sanctity." The message is clear both to the victim and the abuser: Incest is no big deal.

Only when society accepts that sexual abuse of children is pervasive, systemic and will not go away without action, and when we are willing to make children's rights a national priority, will the next generation have the chance to grow up safely and without the fear that has permeated the lives of so many present and former children.

SHELA ANDERSEN

Los Angeles

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