The Important Thing Is Convicting Child Abusers and Helping Abused Kids
Mark Ells' response to Paul Craig Roberts' explanation of "how child protection can turn abusive" requires correction ("Do we want to go back to the bad old days of `see no evil, hear no evil'?" Oct. 8). Mr. Ells declares that there is "absolutely no data" to support Mr. Roberts' statement that the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) has "resulted in more innocent than guilty people being convicted of child abuse." A Gallup Poll, Mr. Ells says, shows that "more than 3 million children in the United States were physically abused by their parents and another 1 million were sexually abused in one year." He does not tell you that these figures are based on telephone interviews with 1,000 parents in a poll conducted over a one-month period in 1995. It is not incredible that pollsters are able to determine that 4 million children have been sexually and/or physically abused simply by calling 1,000 parents and asking, "Did you abuse your child today?"
Nor does Mr. Ells tell you that the government's own data on child maltreatment, based on reports submitted annually by the states, support Mr. Roberts' statements. The latest figures available show that only 32.9 percent of the 9.3 million reports of abuse over the five-year period, from 1990-1994 were substantiated. Of this 3.1 million over a five-year period, only 13.8 percent (.4 million) involved sexual maltreatment. The point of this analysis is not to condone the physical and sexual abuse of children, but to invite comparison with the exaggerated claims of child-abuse professionals.
Mr. Ells explains the Gestapo-like tactics of child-abuse prosecutors as an attempt to "balance the scales [of justice] for children," who have traditionally received "less than equal treatment under the law." This was the argument Rep. Bud Cramer used to convince lawmakers in 1986 that an accused person's constitutional rights to confront his accuser were outweighed by the need to protect children against the trauma of such confrontation in and out of the courtroom.
Under the Children's Justice Act, which was passed that year, the U. …