False allegations of child abuse/neglect became a national problem starting in the early 1980’s.
Since that time, several significant books and scientific research articles have been published concerning this phenomenon. By 1989, the wave of child abuse hysteria that had engulfed this country put a person accused of child abuse in a “sure-to-lose” situation. Very few people knew then how an innocent person could appear to be guilty. Over the next several years, researchers in the fields of memory, child suggestibility, coercion, interviewing, and so on started providing scientific evidence concerning how innocent people could be both accused and convicted of the most horrible, vile allegations of child abuse. Many day-care prosecutions and convictions started unraveling. Alleged sex-ring cases that had resulted in convictions, as well as some individual cases, were overturned by appellate Courts. The “backlash” against the child abuse hysteria of the 1980’s seemed to be bringing some much needed balance to the Justice System.
Unfortunately, however, a “backlash” against the “backlash” started to take place. Various states passed legislation designed to limit the defendant in obtaining favorable evidence. Most State Supreme Courts have since allowed for “propensity evidence” to some degree, such as evidence that a person has traits or habits that might make him or her appear as suspicious of being a pedophile. Sexual predator legislation has been be enacted in several states, and has been determined to be constitutional by the United States Supreme Court. Public relations departments of social services agencies, in conjunction with the mainstream media, have somewhat successfully twisted the exoneration of innocent people into the myth that guilty people were “getting off”, and that children were not being adequately protected. Even in clear-cut cases of innocence, social services and police fabrication, along with prosecutorial misconduct, have convinced many people in society to choose to accept injustice as necessary to protect “the children”. A recent Harris poll showed that a majority of Americans believe that it is acceptable to put limits or infringe upon the constitutional rights of the accused, and to imprison innocent people if necessary, in order to make sure that the guilty are caught and punished. They feel that this is an acceptable trade-off. I’m sure their beliefs would change quickly if they themselves, or one of their loved ones, were wrongly accused.