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'Child-Abuse Bandwagon'

May 10, 1985

Kinsley's offensive and ill-informed article on child sexual abuse contains so much tasteless language and so many inaccuracies that I believe it establishes a new standard of journalistic incompetence.

First, no one is trying "heroically" to prove an increase in the prevalence of child sexual abuse. The phenomenon is not new, just newly recognized.

Second, the "lurid tales of pedophilic orgies in a small Minnesota town" did indeed occur, according to the physicians and social workers who visited there. Children almost never lie about sexual abuse, but they often falsely recant their stories when they see the horrified reaction of adults around them.

Third, Kinsley's statistic that 1 out of 100 children suffer abuse or neglect is preposterous. A recent study interviewing 930 adult women found 28% had been sexually abused by age 14 (this does not include cases of exhibitionism) and two-thirds of these reports involved violence or the threat of violence.

We may be raising children to be more fearful, but child sexual abuse is a tragic fact of life, just like rape, assault and robbery. We adults fear these things and take precautions against them. Children deserve the same protection.

These are but a few of the many factual errors, however the worst aspect of your article is its insulting and reckless language. Using "friendly" and "overenthusiastic" as synonyms for sexual abuse is tasteless, as is calling this problem "the nation's most fashionable social pathology." Kinsley writes about child molestation with tongue-in-cheek, as if it were all some sort of joke. He calls concern for abused children a "mock exercise of civic virtue." Well, academic and humanitarian giants have devoted their lives to this problem, perhaps the most tragic and horrific in modern society.


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