Society gives the image of sexual violators as weird, ugly, anti-social, alcoholics. Society gives the impression that violators kidnap children are out of their homes and take them to some wooded area and abandon them after the violation. Society gives the impression that everyone hates people who violate children. If all of these myths were true, healing would not be as challenging as it is. Half of our healing is about the actual abuse. The other half is about how survivors fit into society in the face of the myths that people hold in order to make themselves feel safe. The truth is that 80% of childhood sexual abuse is perpetrated by family members. Yet we rarely hear the word “incest”. The word is too ugly and the truth is too scary. Think about what would happen if we ran a campaign to end incest instead of childhood sexual abuse. The number one place that children should know they are safe is in their homes. As it stands, as long as violators keep sexual abuse within the family, the chances of repercussion by anyone is pretty low. Wives won’t leave violating husbands, mothers won’t kick their violating children out of the home, and violating grandparents still get invited to holiday dinners. It is time to start cleaning house. If we stop incest first, then we will strengthen our cause against all sexual abuse.

~ Rosenna Bakari

interview from Ross E. Cheit about The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children (Oxford University Press, February 2014).In the foreword to your book you mention a book titled Satan’s Silence was the catalyst for your research. Tell us about that. Cheit: Debbie Nathan and Michael Snedeker solidified the witch-hunt narrative in their 1995 book, Satan’s Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt, which included some of these cases. I was initially skeptical of the book’s argument for personal reasons. It seemed implausible to me that we had overreacted to child abuse because everything in my own personal history said we hadn’t. When I read the book closely, my skepticism increased. Satan’s Silence has been widely reviewed as meticulously researched. As someone with legal training, I looked for how many citations referred to the trial transcripts. The answer was almost none. Readers were also persuaded by long list of [presumably innocent] convicted sex offenders to whom they dedicated the book. If I’m dedicating a book to fifty-four people, all of whom I think have been falsely convicted, I’m going to mention every one of these cases somewhere in the book. Most weren’t mentioned at all beyond that dedication. The witch-hunt narrative is so sparsely documented that it’s shocking.

~ Ross Cheit