Friday, April 30, 2004

Current events

Today, Gerald Amirault was released from prison, after 18 years. He, along with his mother and sister, were convicted of molesting and raping children under their care in the infamous Fells Acres scandal. Why am I writing about this today?

Well, I am of the firm belief that child abuse does, of course, happen in the world. It's a tragic, evil act when it happens, and as the parent of a young son, it's something I will always be worried about whenever he's out of the hands of his parents. But there was a junk science trend in the mid-1980s that still pops up sometimes today. It's called the "recovered memories" movement.

This was something that therapists and some psychologists back in those days believed was valid. But unfortunately, the techniques used to elicit these "memories" was so crude as to often have the effect of implanting the very memories they believed they were recovering. The other big trend back then was the "satanic ritual abuse" myth. A lot of folks believed that this sort of abuse was actually common. And working from the assumption that it was common, their therapy and questioning was designed to elicit the desired response. Thankfully, today this has been almost entirely discredited in the mainstream and only is practiced on the fringes. But back in the '80s, people really believed in this pap.

The Amiraults got caught up in this convergence of quackery, and in two separate trials were shipped off to jail. Gerald's mother and sister were freed in the mid-'90s, but Gerald himself was kept locked up until today. And dozens of kids who were little more than toddlers at the time have been given the curse of memories of horrific events that never happened. No evidence backing any of the claims made was ever found other than the testimony of the children.

The saddest thing about this can really be summed up by this quote from the article above:

"I think people look at us as if he's the innocent person and we're the evildoers," said Harriet Dell'Anno, whose daughter, Jaime, testified against Amirault.

No, Mrs. Dell'Anno, you aren't the evildoers. But neither were the Amiraults. In the end, you were all victims, and the real evildoers are still practicing their quackery that they call "therapy".

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