Thursday, August 28, 2014

Book Beginning: The Witch-Hunt Narrative by Ross E. Cheit


Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author's name.

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Just as this book was being completed, the scandal that has come to be associated with Penn State took a definitive turn. Gerald "Jerry" Sandusky, the football team's defensive coordinator for many years, was convicted of forty-five counts of sexual crimes against children.

-- from the author's Preface to The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children by Ross E. Cheit.

Child sexual abuse emerged into public discourse in the United States in the early 1980s. A public opinion poll in 1983 indicated that almost all parents were aware of the problem and had seen a story about it in the media.

-- from the author's Introduction: "The Infamous Child Sexual Abuse Cases of the 1980s."

Chiet is a professor at Brown University whose study of criminal sex abuse cases is the basis of his new book.  He examined high-profile day-care abuse cases from the 1980s and undertook empirical studies of criminal sentencing in sex abuse cases to determine whether child sex abuse is a pervasive problem or a "witch-hunt" blown out of proportion by eager prosecutors and sensation-seeking reporters.

I got this book because of my work with child abuse survivors and it looks fascinating. It has gotten a lot of media coverage:

For a summary of his argument, see Cheit's piece on The Huffington Post: Mythical Numbers and Satanic Ritual Abuse

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