Sex Abuse Hysteria - Salem Witch Trials Revisited

The Root Causes of a National Scandal


  • Psychological Social contributions to present sex-abuse hysteria
  • Normal childhood fantasies
  • Ubiquity of environmental sexual stimuli
  • Parental contributions to hysteria
  • Parental impact on child prior to first interview

In recent years we have witnessed what can only be described as mass hysteria with regard to child sex abuse. In some situations where the potential pedophile has the opportunity for ongoing contact with the child alone, it is probable that the actual prevalence of child sex abuse is quite high. In other situations, such as vicious child custody disputes (where the vengeance element and the opportunity for exclusion of a hated spouse is operative) and in the group environment of day-care centers and nursery schools, the prevalence is probably quite low. Again, accurate data in these areas would also be very difficult to obtain. In all these situations, however, the hysterical reactions surrounding the sex-abuse accusations have been formidable—sometimes resulting in the “validation” of sex abuse when the alleged perpetrator is innocent. In this atmosphere constitutional safeguards have been ignored and many have been found guilty and even incarcerated for sex crimes that were never committed.

In this book Dr. Gardner focuses upon: the normal “polymorphous perversity” of the child; sex-abuse prevention programs; sexual stimuli in the public media; psychodynamic factors operative in the parental contribution; child sex-abuse investigators and “validators”; the process of “validation”; and psychodynamic factors operative in children who provide false accusations. Last, he discusses the uncanny similarities between the Salem Witch Trials in 1692 and the present child sex-abuse hysteria. The focus throughout is primarily on the psychological and social factors operative in the day-care center/nursery school situation, although many observations also apply to the child custody litigation venue.

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