The ideal for which the family stands is liberty. It is the only institution that is at once necessary and voluntary. It is the only check on the state that is bound to renew itself as eternally as the state, and more naturally than the state.
G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
When families fail, society fails. The anarchy and lack of structure in our inner cities are testament to how quickly civilization falls apart when the family foundation cracks. Children need love and discipline. They need mother and father. It is from parents that children learn how to believe in society....Among families headed by married couples today, there is a poverty rate of 5.7%. But 33.4% of families headed by a single mother are in poverty today....It doesn’t help matters when prime time TV has Murphy Brown—a character who supposedly epitomizes today’s intelligent, highly paid, professional woman—mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another “lifestyle choice”....It’s time to talk again about family, hard work, integrity, and personal responsibility.
Vice President Dan Quayle
San Francisco, May 19, 1992
An unsavory but very important cultural war that cannot be ignored by physicians is currently being waged in America. The battle lines of this war have been drawn almost incipiently, as if not wanting to arouse the rest of us. The ostensible cause of this war is the most repugnant and egregious crime—that of alleged child abuse by parents and close relatives. The stakes, nevertheless, are far too high for the order of battle to be ignored, for what is really at stake is the integrity of the most sacred and fundamental institution of American life—the traditional family.
Citizens must examine this issue fairly and objectively and carefully consider its profound ramifications. I am convinced that the issue of child abuse has been and is being used more and more as part of an overall relentless offensive of the ever-growing government authority vis-à-vis the last check on that authority—Chesterton’s eternal traditional family.
It is no secret that government, in its insatiable thirst for power, aims at nothing less than the arrogation of the traditional family’s role as the centerpiece of American life. Let me explain.
Under the guise of all-out war against the alleged crime of child abuse, many observers, as we shall see, believe the government is waging a cultural war against the traditional family. Yes, child abuse, unfortunately, has always occurred, continues to occur and will likely occur in the future in a small segment of society. The question therefore is: does it deserve the coverage allotted and the damage that this coverage inflicts upon the institution of the family?
Many astute observers have come to believe that the crime of child abuse has been deliberately placed at the forefront of the social justice debate for ulterior political reasons. They point out that close examination of the fine print between the published facts and statistics shows that frequently the figures have been misused and the problem overstated. One wonders why this is so, and whether one of the reasons might just be the justification and the perpetuation of government agencies, hosts of social workers, psychologists, lawyers and welfare bureaucrats—those who partake of the payroll in the myriad of agencies involved in the investigation of child abuse cases.
We as physicians, as always, must look at the problem with truth and objectivity before we become involved and used as unwitting pawns in what may be a sinister socio-political affair.
The tragedy of all this is that child abuse does exist, that there are truly dedicated individuals combating this malady and that truly guilty individuals are not punished commensurate with their crimes. Frequently, convicted individuals instead of being given jail terms are used in the bureaucratic game of numbers, figures and budgets, and given probation and plenty of “therapy” usually at taxpayers’ expense.(1)
William Norman Grigg, author of The Gospel of Revolt: Feminism Versus Family Values (Northwest books), asserts that given today’s moral declivity, freedom of sexual expression, and the modern ethos of immediate gratification (reminiscent of Joseph Campbell’s “follow your bliss” philosophy) where “personal fulfillment for adults,” according to Grigg, supersedes the “fulfillment of family responsibilities,” we should not be surprised to note an increase in abuse and neglect of children.(2) How else can one explain the well-publicized incident of the couple who went on vacation to Mexico leaving their young children home alone?
The concept of the family has been weakened, not only by the new ethos and new morality but also tangibly by U.S. tax policies. In particular, by tax code provisions that favor couples living together outside of marriage. Yes, tax laws favor cohabitation over marriage and this fact is referred to as the “marriage penalty.”
Allow me to share with you some specifics. In citing a March 15 issue of The Washington Times, Grigg elucidates the fact that if two working people making $12,000 a year each were to get married, given the progressive loss of the standard deductions for families with children over the years and the total marriage penalty—which includes increased taxation and loss of benefits—the loss would add up to more than $3,500; for some low-income families, this loss could mean the necessity “to turn their children over to the state.”(1)
But let us return to the issue of child abuse and categorically put some blame where it belongs. Those parents who are genuinely abusive should be held accountable for their criminal acts and prosecuted. If duly convicted, they should serve time and their children placed in carefully investigated foster homes or considered for adoption. Instead, what seems to be happening is that society shares the blame, the guilty parties are not held fully accountable, and the entrenched bureaucracy perpetuates itself.
The flip side of the coin is the plight of those parents falsely accused of child abuse who are made to live through the unspeakable and shocking nightmare of such an accusation. Yes, while there are plenty of accusers in a system that is easily defensible on emotional grounds by the public, nurtured by politicians in the cult of political-expediency and propagated by special interests for their ulterior motives, a mounting number of reputations and lives have been and are being ruined, and an increasing number of families are being torn asunder by bogus accusations. And what is even more devastating is that many of these false allegations have been found to be malicious from the start.(2)
Seth Farber, a psychologist and author of Madness, Heresy and the Rumor of Angels (Open Court Press) writes: “Under the guise of providing therapy, social workers and mutual health personnel have prevented criminals from receiving just punishment for their crimes, at the same time, they remove children from good and loving parents.”(3)
According to a 1990 Department of Health and Human Services study conducted in 44 states, of 2.7 million reported cases of child abuse or neglect, 75% were not substantiated.(4) Richard Wexler, author of Wounded Innocents, a book that documents the torment and pain of parents falsely accused of child abuse estimates that child abuse allegations range from 58% false charges, 21% neglect (because of poverty) and 8% minor or unspecified physical abuse to 6% sexual abuse and 1% major physical abuse.(5) Guess which figures make the headlines? Just last week my local newspaper’s headlines read: “Report Reveals ‘Frightening’ Child Abuse Figures” and expressed dismay at this crime in which, seemingly, just about every family in America is engaged.(6)
Acts of child abuse, especially severe physical, emotional, or sexual abuse are despicable acts against human nature and society that should be severely punished when it occurs and is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. But, due process must always be given accused parents and they must be considered innocent until proven guilty.
According to Farber, this is how the U.S. Child-Welfare System works today: “The welfare state bureaucracy seeks above all to perpetuate its own existence. It is a monstrous social parasite where the overriding objective—no matter how well intentioned its individual staff member—is to make captive vulnerable individuals, transform them into its clients, foist its ‘services’ upon them, undermine their autonomy, and ultimately incorporate them into its own parasitic body.”(3)
K.L. Billingsley in his article, “Families in Crisis,” seems to bolster this dim view of the system. He affirms, “On the flimsiest grounds, social workers can seize children, an action known in the trade as parentectomy. The children are then farmed out to pliable therapists and foster parents.” He minces no words in describing the child protection system “as corrupt, incompetent, and motivated by anti-family zealotry.”(7)
Douglas Besharov, director of the National Center on Child Abuse between 1975 and 1979 is also critical of the sensational statistics, and he elucidates that of “the more than two million reported incidents of child abuse per year, at least 60% are utterly baseless,” and of the remaining 40%, the abuse consists of “emotional or developmental harm that pose no physical danger” to children in 80% of those cases.(8) Moreover, many of the “substantiated” accusations are deliberately directed against home schooling parents—as documented in Missouri by home school advocate Laura Roger—who are anonymously accused of child abuse and threatened by child protection social workers for their home schooling practices, so as to coerce them back into the system.(8)
And there is more, Lowry and Samuelson explain that even after the fight to take the children away from their parents is “won” by the government’s social workers, the lot of the children is not likely to improve in the hands of the state. They cite a study in Baltimore by the head of the Department of Research at New York University School of Social Work that “found that 28% of the children in foster care had been abused while in the system.”(4) Even the liberal ACLU Children’s Project admits “that a child in the care of the state is ten times more likely to be abused than one in the care of his parents.”(4) The message is clear then, unless culpability is proven beyond a reasonable doubt, children are better off in their own homes with their biological or adoptive parents within the fabric of the traditional family.
In the article, “The Politics of Child Abuse,” Grigg documents a catalogue of cases of falsely-accused parents and the resultant denial of justice: family bankruptcies filed by parents burdened with legal debts and foster care bills incurred in their own defense, a defense mounted by parents against a state which has unlimited wealth (shouldered by taxpayers) and power to prosecute with impunity.(2) It goes without saying that cases in which parents are falsely accused or there is a shadow of a doubt—publicity and usurpation of the presumption of being considered innocent until proven guilty, trampling upon due-process rights, psychological torment undergone by parents served with these malicious accusations, not to mention the irreparable disruption and destruction of families—represents a diabolical travesty of justice.
The “Child Protection” program suspects all parents who are brought to their attention by zealous social workers. Dr. Dean Edell, a syndicated radio talk-show host physician, recently aired studies that show how easily young children are persuaded to “create evidence” by mere suggestions and leading questions by authority figures, such as social workers, psychologists, and by extension, any child protection agency worker. The recent discovery of the False Memory Syndrome whereby therapists treating susceptible individuals, who have sought treatment for depression or some other psychological problems, have been impregnated with false recollections is most frightening. Yes, adults seeking counseling for sundry psychological disorders have been and are being inculcated or implanted with perverse ideas or false memories that their present problems (or their own life shortcomings) stem from their having been abused or molested as children by one of their parents or close relatives—all through the coaching of determined and overzealous social workers or psychologists.(1,2)
To counteract the growing trend of such “tardy discovery of child abuse,” groups of genuinely concerned child protection workers, psychologists, and accused parents have founded support groups such as The False Memory Foundation. With their newsletters and education programs, they hope to counteract the “disreputable therapeutic practices and ideological prejudices” of the Child Abuse Survivor Movement—but the members of these support groups have their hands full. The NOW Legal Defense Fund has put together a Legal Resource Kit—catering to adults who have “suddenly discovered” that they were abused as children, and are referred to as “survivors.” Those who are interested are invited to file “survivor” lawsuits. One (usually the father) or both of the now aging parents are then sued for damages. Grigg calls attention to the fact that under the provisions enumerated by child abuse activists, such as feminists Ellen Bass and Laura Davis in their book, The Courage to Heal: “...If you are unable to remember any specific instances of abuse like the ones mentioned above but still have a feeling that something happened to you, it probably did...if you think you were abused and your life shows the symptoms, then you were.”(9)
Not surprisingly, these authors who are not psychologists urge lawsuits as a vehicle for “raising society’s consciousness about adult recovery” from childhood abuse.
There is no question that the child abuse theme, as a front of the cultural war being waged in America, is an explosive issue which, if lost, not only would undermine the right to privacy for individuals falsely accused, but would result in the net loss of due-process, equal protection under the law, and other constitutional safeguards, such as the basic American legal premise of being considered innocent until proven guilty. Meanwhile, attorney-litigators have drilled into another moneymaking oil well of opportunity, while prosecutors gain fame and a step up the ladder of political aspiration.
Uncontested and unchallenged this issue could tear asunder the fundamental and sacred concept of the traditional family. Do we want to break down and eliminate the traditional family and give our children to the state as in ancient Sparta?
According to the Greek historian and biographer Plutarch (A.D. 46—c. A.D. 120), in the ancient Greek city-state of Sparta, King Lycurgus (fl. 9th Century B.C.) abolished the family, and the children were made the property of the militaristic Spartan state. The statist collectivist system of Sparta was set up to rear strong-bodied obedient soldiers; the unfortunate weaklings were eliminated without reservation. Families lost their children and society was totally subordinate and subservient to government, a totalitarian militaristic state.(10)
As we physicians know well, the family structure is an integral component of society, necessary for the psychological and physical nurturing and healing of patients. Family support is basic to healing and essential to health: Let us fortify not destroy it.
Physicians must look at both sides of the dilemma, examine the data and make objective assessments before jumping onto another bandwagon of political expediency. Even with the reality of the existence of genuine child abuse cases, it becomes self-evident that the rearing of children by parents within the concept of the traditional family strengthens society and must be preserved, and should not be allowed to be supplanted by another dangerous, unenumerated power of the state.
In May of 1994, jurors sent a clear message when they found that two therapists conjured up false memories of child abuse in a patient whose “recovered memory” alleged her father had raped her as a child.
The jury awarded $500,000 to Mr. Gary Ramona, aged 50, whose life was wrecked by his daughter’s allegations. As a result of the accusations, Mr. Ramona was divorced by his wife and lost his $400,000-a-year marketing job as a winery executive.
Mr. Ramona’s attorney, Richard Harrington, was quoted by the Associated Press (May 15, 1994) as calling the trial “a warning to psychotherapists who carelessly use the concept of recovered memories.” The verdict was expected to have and is having a profound effect in tempering unsubstantiated accusations of child abuse by “recovered memories,” by sending the signal that the use of repressed memories (false memory syndrome) to destroy the family unit will result in legal repercussions.
1. Grigg WN. The war against the family. The New American 1993; 9 (10):73-74.
2. Grigg WN. The politics of child abuse. The New American 1992; 8 (18):23-30.
3. Farber S. The real abuse. National Review 1993; 45 (7):44-50.
4. Lowry R, Samuelson R. How many battered children? National Review 1993; 45 (7):46.
5. Wexler R. Wounded innocents. Cited by Lowry R, and Samuelson R, op. cit., p. 46.
6. The Associated Press, The Macon Telegraph, August 4, 1993.
7. Billingsley KL. Families in crisis. Reason 1992, cited by Grigg WN, The politics of child abuse, op. cit., p. 25.
8. Besharov D. Cited by Grigg WN, The war against the family, op. cit., pp. 73-74.
9. Bass E, Davis E. The courage to heal. Cited by Grigg WN, The
politics of child abuse, op. cit., p. 26.
10. Plutarch’s Lives. The Dryden Translation;Random House, The Modern Library, New York,1984;pp.49-74.
Written by Dr. Miguel Faria
This article, which originally appeared in the October 1993 issue of the Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia as Dr. Faria's "Editor's Corner," was subsequently updated and re-published as Chapter 6 in Medical Warrior — Fighting Corporate Socialized Medicine (1997). It has been posted here and is now accessible on this website for the benefit of our readers.
Copyright ©1992-2012 Miguel A. Faria, Jr., MD