Monday, August 17 at 7PM
discussing & signing
We Believe the Children: A Moral Panic in the 1980's
with special guests
JORDAN SMITH & DEBORAH ESQUENAZI
Join us for an engaging evening of conversation as we host a discussion between two journalists and a documentarian on the topic of child abuse in the 80's and the rash of false accusations that occured and sent hundreds of innocent people to prison. Beck's book, We Believe the Children is the impetus for bringing them together, an exhaustively researched account of a number of those involved and the coercive practices employed by social workers and detectives that led children to tell them what they wanted to hear.
ABOUT RICHARD BECK
Richard Beck is an editor at n+1 magazine and lives in Brooklyn, NY.
ABOUT WE BELIEVE THE CHILDREN
During the 1980s in California, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Massachusetts, Florida, Tennessee, Texas, Ohio, and elsewhere, day care workers were arrested, charged, tried, and convicted of committing horrible sexual crimes against the children they cared for. These crimes, social workers and prosecutors said, had gone undetected for years, and they consisted of a brutality and sadism that defied all imagining. The dangers of babysitting services and day care centers became a national news media fixation. Of the many hundreds of people who were investigated in connection with day care and ritual abuse cases around the country, some 190 were formally charged with crimes, leading to more than 80 convictions.
It would take years for people to realize what the defendants had said all along—that these prosecutions were the product of a decade-long outbreak of collective hysteria on par with the Salem witch trials. Social workers and detectives employed coercive interviewing techniques that led children to tell them what they wanted to hear. Local and national journalists fanned the flames by promoting the stories’ salacious aspects, while aggressive prosecutors sought to make their careers by unearthing an unspeakable evil where parents feared it most.
Using extensive archival research and drawing on dozens of interviews conducted with the hysteria’s major figures, n+1 editor Richard Beck shows how a group of legislators, doctors, lawyers, and parents—most working with the best of intentions—set the stage for a cultural disaster. The climate of fear that surrounded these cases influenced a whole series of arguments about women, children, and sex. It also drove a right-wing cultural resurgence that, in many respects, continues to this day.
ABOUT JORDAN SMITH
Jordan Smith is a state and national award-winning investigative journalist. She has covered criminal justice issues and reproductive health for The Austin Chronicle for more than 13 years. During her time with the Chronicle, Jordan developed a reputation as a resourceful and dogged reporter with a talent for analyzing complex social and legal issues, and is regarded as one of the best investigative reporters in Texas. Her work has also appeared in The Nation, The Crime Report, and Salon, among other places.
ABOUT DEBORAH ESQUENAZI
Deborah S. Esquenazi is an Austin, Texas-based documentary film and radio producer, instructor, and video artist. She was a Sundance Documentary Film Fellow at the Sundance Festival in 2014. Esquenazi is the former Project Director of Stories From Deep in the Heart, a program generously funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, and which works with underserved populations of teens to produce radio documentaries about their lives. Her own work has appeared in print and on the radio, from the Village Voice to Jerusalem Post to several NPR affiliates through her work at Stories. Esquenazi was awarded the Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media from The Funding Exchange in 2008. She also received the Cesar E. Chavez ‘Si Se Puede’ award for Leadership from P.O.D.E.R. in 2013.