Stop the Real Abuse
Society rightfully places a high priority on sheltering victims of abuse, offering ample public and private resources for those who wish to report domestic violence, or physical or sexual child abuse. These efforts have, unfortunately, resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of false and unfounded claims of abuse. Each year, forensic legal consultant and author Dean Tong consults with hundreds of parents and attorneys on issues related to divorce and child custody issues. When it comes to divorce and allegations of abuse, Dean Tong says it is important for child welfare advocates to know the most common types of abuse and their chief characteristics.
Victims of Divorce: How innocent children suffer when warring parents divorce Even when parents make every effort to limit their children’s exposure to the effects of their divorce, children oftentimes suffer from the loss of an intact household. The symptoms may include any of the following:
Separation anxiety. Children of divorce may fear separation from their parent(s).
Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). Parents may poison their children against their former spouse by criticizing them and encouraging a child to “pick sides.”
Poor school performance. Drug experimentation and/or abuse Children whose parents divorce are more likely than their peers to experiment with or use drugs.
Criminal activity. The largest federally funded longitudinal study of divorce found that children who do not live with their fathers are more likely to commit crimes and face incarceration than their peers from intact homes.
Teen pregnancy. Teens who grow up with absent fathers are more likely to engage in premarital sex and become pregnant than their classmates who have actively engaged fathers.
Each year, law enforcement officials receive more than 3 million reports of physical or sexual child abuse. More than 60 to 70 percent of these complaints turn out to be false or unfounded. In such cases, innocent people find their names tarnished by allegations that they committed the most unspeakable of crimes. Here are some of the reasons behind the unacceptably high rate of false and unfounded reports:
Anonymous reporting encourages false reports. Confidential and anonymous reporting allows grudge-bearers and people who lack evidence to file false and unfounded allegations of child abuse.
Not requiring proof or evidence of abuse encourages false and malicious allegations.
Use of “anatomically correct” dolls with exaggerated attributes. So-called “anatomically correct dolls” with exaggerated attributes prompt children to make statements that are misconstrued as indicative of abuse. The dolls are not standardized or used by the American Psychological Association. More important, the dolls don’t represent actual people in the child’s life.
Source misattribution errors. Child welfare officials frequently misattribute the source of a child’s statement as being indicative of abuse when, in fact, nothing improper has occurred. For example, “daddy” is really a stepfather, a child calls a pencil “pee pee,” or a child calls “my belly button” — which Daddy tickled — “my bottom.” More than 60 percent of all child abuse allegations are due to source misattribution errors.