Controversial Study Defending Child Molesters Is Debunked
Leading Mental Health Experts Charge that "Bad" Science is being used to Justify Exploiting Children
NOV. 29, 2001 -Shock waves reverberated through the public, political and scientific community two years ago, when a controversial study claimed that consenting children aren't harmed by sex with adults. Now this conclusion, along with the methods of its authors, has been debunked by a new scientific critique published this week in Psychological Bulletin.
Described by one member of Congress as the emancipation proclamation of pedophiles, the paper by authors Bruce Rind, Robert Bauserman and Phillip Tromovitch, published in the July 1998 issue of Psychological Bulletin, launched a firestorm of public debate. Rinds paper has been cited by fringe groups like the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) as providing support for their efforts to decriminalize sex between adults and "consenting" children. Child molesters have also used the paper to argue that they shouldnt be held legally accountable for abusing children.
The newly published scientific critique shows that the study conducted by Rind contains fundamental flaws that are an embarrassment to science, according to a team of researchers from Stanford University, Texas A&M University, and the Leadership Council, a scientific organization comprised of leaders in the fields of psychology and psychiatry. Rind's paper was a stacked deck of poor population and study selection, misreported data, and misrepresented findings that inevitably led to the wrong conclusions," says Dr. David Spiegel , co-author of the new study. Spiegel is the Associate Chair of the Stanford University School of Medicines Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences.
Rind, Tromovitch and Bausermans 1998 paper, called A Meta-Analytic Examination of Assumed Properties of Child Sexual Abuse, examined 59 studies of college students. The authors concluded that the harmful effects from sexual abuse have been overstated. In fact, they argued that being molested can be positive for willing children -- especially boys. They also advocated less judgmental terminology. For example, a willing encounter with positive reactions involving a 9-year-old boy and an adult male, would no longer be considered sexual abuse; instead it would simply be called adult-child sex, a more value neutral term.
Concerned that it would be used to normalize pedophilia, Rinds paper became the first study to be formally denounced by Congress. In July 1999, Congress unanimously passed a resolution that condemns and denounces all suggestions in the article... that indicate that sexual relationships between adults and willing children are less harmful than believed and might be positive for willing children.
Many psychologists rushed to the defense of the controversial paper, charging Congress with launching a McCarthyesque assault on scientific freedom. Dr Spiegel and his team of researchers, on the other hand, examined Rind, Tromovitch and Bausermans data scientifically and found it wanting.
"We conducted an independent scientific review of Rinds work. says Stephanie Dallam, RN, MS, FNP, lead author of the scientific critique and researcher for the Leadership Council. Our review uncovered numerous of errors in reporting and analyzing data. Almost every error served to minimize the finding of harmful effects of sexual abuse."
"The most troublesome finding from a scientific point of view was the one most celebrated by pedophiles," says co-author Joyanna Silberg, PhD, a psychologist at Sheppard Pratt Hospital in Baltimore . In their 1998 article, Rind, Tromovitch and Bauserman claimed that consenting boys arent harmed by sex with adults. But what Dr. Silberg finds astounding, is that this conclusion has absolutely no data to support it. "They never had a group of males who reported having consented to sex with adults during childhood. They simply grouped subjects under an arbitrary label that they called consent and then acted like these subjects actually had consented." According to Silberg, this so-called "consent" group was actually comprised of a wide variety of subjects including victims of forced assaults and intrafamilial incest -- none of whom were ever asked whether or not they participated "willingly" in their abuse.
"From a purely scientific standpoint, this is a very serious misrepresentation," says Dallam, RN, MS, FNP. "However, from a public health standpoint it is potentially very dangerous." She notes that Rind and Bauserman went on to present as scientific fact their controversial findings at a December 1998 conference in Rotterdam , Netherlands . The conference, titled "The Other Side of the Coin," was organized by a pedophile advocacy group expressly to "throw light on the more positive side" of "sexual experiences between young people and adults"; Rind and Bauserman were the keynote speakers.
Dallam also points to a 1999 Arizona case where a gym teacher convicted of molesting five young boys cited Rinds findings in a bid for leniency from the court. Although the boys' parents testified that their children were suffering, the molester argued for a lighter sentence claiming Rinds study shows children arent harmed by being molested.
Rind, Tromovitch and Bauserman have stated they stand behind their findings and claim to be victims of political persecution.
The Leadership Council is a non-profit scientific organization headed by Paul Fink, MD, a past president of the American Psychiatric Association. Members of the Council are dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of children and other vulnerable populations. More information can be found on their website at: www.leadershipcouncil.org
Copyright 2001, all rights reserved by author