Customer Reviews: No Crueler Tyrannies: Accusation, False Witness, and Other Terrors of Our Times (Wall Street Journal Book)
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on April 23, 2003
The very hint of being a child molester can destroy the life of even the most virtuous among us. Dorothy Rabinowitz has witnessed first hand the persecution and imprisonment of those who were almost certainly wrongly convicted of this vile crime. Perhaps not since the Salem witch trials has such a miscarriage of justice occurred within the United States. These unfortunate victims have been arrested, tried, and convicted, on evidence so weak that it defies common sense. A Saturday Night Live and Monty Python comedy skit could easily be created out of these court cases. A cynic is indeed tempted to burst out laughing at the utter madness of it all. Isn't our system of justice premised upon the concept that one's guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt? If so, how does a rational adult take seriously a child's claim that a knife had been jammed into her rectum when there wasn't even the slightest bit of physical evidence to support the charge? Pseudo educated psychologists were able to present junk science theories to juries that should have never been allowed into the courtroom. Heck, in most cases, the initial suspicions concerning the suspects should have been dismissed by the police after no more than a few hours investigative work. The accused were, however, intractably caught in a Catch 22 predicament. "The rule of thumb guiding child interviewers in these cases was a simple one," declares Rabinowitz, "if children said they had been molested, they were telling the truth; those who denied they had been abused were not telling the truth and were described as `not ready to disclose...'" The suspects were obviously doomed the very first moment when their nightmare began.
The author strongly suggests that the citizens of Massachusetts should feel a particular sense of shame. The prosecutors and governors of this once formally great State have thoroughly disgraced themselves. Gerald Amirault currently remains in prison due to their treachery and cowardliness. Rabinowitz astutely asserts that there is no crueler tyranny than to be unfairly jailed by the government which is suppose to protect your rights. This book will enrage those possessing even the slightest bit of moral decency. It should then prompt you to advocate for Mr. Amirault's freedom---and make sure that no other American citizen again spends time incarcerated for a crime they never committed. Lastly, we should demand our universities explain why such shabbily trained mental health processionals obtained credentials from their institutions.
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on April 30, 2003
I just finished reading the sections of the book about The Amiraults. It's just heartbreaking. Thank you so much documenting forever the The Cruel tryannies that the Massachusetts "Elite Therapeutocracy" impose on people like the Amiraults who can't defend themselves.
The parellels between this episode and the Salem Witchcraft hysteria are sickening considering how we should have learned from that experience: Child Witnesses; zero corroborating physical evidence, financial gain for the accusers at the expense of the accused. Sadly the one parellel that does not exist is that within several years the Salem accusers and prosecuters admitted they were wrong and asked the forgiveness of those they had accused and ruined. Harsbarger, O'Reilly and the others have yet to do that and persist in torturing what's left of the Amiraults everytime they attempt to make the world recognize their innocence. I guess Harshbarger's Harvard experience must have inbued him with the same elite arrogance that Cotton Mather (Witchcraft judges' advisor) must have picked up there 350 years ago! Mather ended up being spit upon on the streets of Boston and reviled by history once the Salem hysteria subsided. Harshbarger and the others deserve a worse fate. People should know better by now!
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on April 28, 2003
I have the greatest respect for Dorothy Rabinowitz and the work she did reporting on these stories; I credit her as much as anyone with the Amirault women being freed from jail. However, since I had read the articles she originally wrote about these cases, I found very little new in this book. I would have liked to have learned much more about the parents of the 'abused' children, the prosecutors bringing these cases, and particularly about the 'expert' witnesses who brain-washed the supposed child victims into making the accusations.
I believe this is an important book, a permanent record of truly heinous prosecutorial misconduct. It could have been more, however, and I hope that the rest of this story will eventually be told.
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on June 22, 2003
The negative reviews to this book seem to be saying that, if we ever say that someone is falsely accused of child molestation, then we're pretending that molestation doesn't exist. This is *precisely* the twisted logic that rainroaded innocent people into jail for crimes that never took place.
Rabinowitz has to claim early on in her book things that are so obvious that it hurts to read them. *Of course* child molestation is a horrific crime which merits society's strongest possible response. That does not, however, mean that every accusation is true, and that normal stadards of evidence and logic can be discarded if the charge is sufficiently evil.
The cases that Rabinowitz recounts are not just of innocent people convicted of crimes they didn't commit. Her stories are about innocent people convicted of crimes that weren't commited by *anyone*. The only child molesters in these stories are the "helping professionals" who have psychologically maimed children by brainwashing them into believing that they were sexually violated.
I give Rabinowitz credit for her determination. I have quibbles with her writing style, but her work is a powerful resource.
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on April 7, 2003
in our increasingly pc culture, dorothy rabinowitz's exploration of how false abuse accusations can, and often do, ruin lives is a fascinating and hearbreaking reality that we all must face. this is a brilliant, moving book from a talented modern journalist
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In Malden, Massachusetts, for twenty years the Fells Acres Day School increasingly became the place parents wanted their children to attend. It was founded by Violet Amirault and run also by her daughter Cheryl and son Gerald, all of whom were well respected within the community. There was a waiting list for attendance. But in 1984, horrific charges were lodged against the school and incredible descriptions of abuse were spread. In 1986, Gerald was found guilty of rapes and indecent assaults and given a sentence of thirty to forty years. The next year, Violet and Cheryl were sent to prison for similar charges. As documented in _No Crueler Tyrannies: Accusation, False Witness, and Other Terrors of Our Times_ (Wall Street Journal Books) by Dorothy Rabinowitz, the three were not only innocent of the offenses; the offenses never even occurred, except in the minds of prosecutors, of so-called experts on child abuse, and of coached children. While this is material that will be familiar to those who have read about bogus satanic scares and incidents such as the more famous McMartin preschool case, Rabinowitz offers impassioned but reasonable histories of the Amirault case and others that raise serious questions about the functioning of our legal system.
The Amiraults' troubles seem to have begun when Gerald changed a boy's underpants. After that, the mother started worrying about the boy's bedwetting and other problems; bedwetting, according to a rash of media stories at the time, was a symptom of child abuse. Gerald was arrested, the school was closed, and charges grew. Other children began to report that they had been forced to drink urine and had been raped with knives and sticks, assaulted by a man in a clown suit, and tied naked to a schoolyard tree in front of the teachers and students. These atrocities had supposedly been happening for the past two years with no previous complaints, and no parents dropping in at the school had noticed anything out of the ordinary. There was never any physical evidence; how the children might have been probed with knives without physical result was never explained. The similar accusations within schools which had turned out to be fraudulent never made investigators or prosecutors doubt the rightness of their crusades. The officials involved never had to bear any penalty for ruining the lives of the falsely accused.
In many of the stories, reason eventually triumphed, and the miscarriages were rectified, although sometimes after long stretches in prison. Rabinowitz first reported on the Amiraults in the _Wall Street Journal_ in 1995, and readers who could easily see how stupidly the courts were carrying on donated thousands of dollars for their legal fees. One reader paid for the college tuition of Gerald's daughters. Gerald himself could not have paid. With eventual general public and legal agreement that he had been profoundly mistreated by the courts, his case became a political football. The usually unforgiving Governor's Board of Pardons ruled unanimously in 2001 that his sentence should be commuted. His mother and sister had previously been cleared of the identical charges. The Governor of Massachusetts at the time knew what a liability being "soft on crime" and allowing a child abuser to go free would be for future political support, and inexplicably connected the case to that of a real child abuser who had been easily convicted because of videotapes and other physical evidence leading to a confession. Gerald Amirault remains in prison. Rabinowitz's title for this clear and troubling book comes from a quotation from the Baron de Montesquieu, who in 1742 wrote, "There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of law and in the name of justice." We are not yet free of these tyrannies.
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on September 24, 2003
Americans tend to put great faith in their justice system but, despite the legal doctrine of the presumption of innocence, they also tend to assume that persons accused of crimes are in fact guilty. This book deals with the power of accusations, in combination with dubious expert testimony, to undermine a person's right to a fair hearing and result in the incarceration of innocent individuals. It focuses on some of the most public sex abuse prosecutions during the 1980's and 1990's and shows how justice was subverted by a combination of overzealous "experts," unfair limitations on the defendants' ability to present exculpatory evidence, and the vagaries of the appeals process. These cases, and particularly the Wenatchee prosecutions, are about as close as American justice has come to the Kangaroo courts of the former Soviet Union.
One of the book's strong points is its explanations of how so called experts spend weeks coercing children to accuse adults that they had been sexually abused relying on the principle that a child who denies such events occurred is necessarily repressing their memory and a child that makes the accusation is telling the truth. In such a case, no accused person can ever be cleared. Readers interested in this issue might also want to look at Whores of the Court by Margaret Hagen. It also shows how prosecutors used the experts to present testimony that what the children said was true and how judges limited cross-examination and rebuttal evidence on the grounds that it was bad for the children. The book also offers some eye-opening detail on the limits of the appeals process to correct injustices.
The book could have been better had it gone into more depth on the viewpoints of the prosecutors and their experts. It also could have benefitted from a more detailed discussion of the kinds of testimony that occurs in bona fide sexual abuse cases. However, these shortcomings do not detract significantly from the major premise that in some cases the political and social weight given to an accusation can deprive patently innocent people of their right to justice.
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If you think witch hunts died out with Salem, you need only read this book to realize they continue on. We no longer call them witches or burn people at the stake. However, the singleminded pursuit by so-called experts easily creates the same type of mass hysteria found in witch hunts.

In the mid '80s, I was a new mother living in my home state of Massachusetts when the nursery school sexual abuse epidemics began. One of the worst cases took place at Fells Acres Day School in Malden, Massachusetts. Being local, we were besieged with news of this scandal. I remember thinking how absurd the whole thing sounded. Now, reading the details we weren't given back then, I find it not only absurd but horrifying. This was a modern day witch hunt at its best.

This book takes on that case and several more. In no way does the author trivialize child abuse or make claims that child sex abuse never happens. But these sensationalized cases not only trivialized the truth, they destroyed the lives of innocent adults and the children these experts were supposed to protect.
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on January 30, 2010
All but one of the reviewers saw these cases for what they were and that one reviewer
felt that the children were victims. In the 1980's there were Hollywood Actresses
that came forth and accused their fathers and mothers of sexually molesting them.
There wasn't a week when several such persons appeared on Television to talk about their
horrible childhood experiences. Reviews in the Medical Journels talked
about "Implanted Memories". Actually, the techniques are well publisized from the
returning American Prisoners of War from the Korean War. Sorry to say, almost every
person can be brainwashed and broken. If you have any doubts, go to the literature
and read about it. A skillful "interrogator" or "questioner" can convince a person
to believe events happened that never happened. It might take many months, but a
skillful operator can do it almost all the time. Again, go to the literature and read about it. These young and easily influenced children minds are especially
vulnerable to such manipulation. Yes, it is appropriate to have Psychiatrists interview these children, but not non physicians with no expertise in these matters. Also there should be discrete observation of the process to make sure
no suggestions of abuse are being instilled into the memories of the subjects, because these instilled or implanted memories may take much therapy later to
remove them from these victims of "implanted memories" who will suffer as though
these things really happened.
I read about the work that Ms. Dorothy Rabinowitz did and wrote about when Scott Brown was running for the Senator Seat in Massachusetts against an Attorney
who was involved in one of the cases written about in this book. Since you read the book, you know who I am talking about in the subject matter. I was lead to this book due to having seen Attorney - Author Dorothy Rabinowitz name mentioned
when I went to look up Bibliography information about the rival of Scott Brown.
The book was an easy read and was completed in two hours. It was refreshing to
read that many highly educated and well rounded attorneys,took these unpopular
cases and many for free, to see that Justice was rendered to the innocent who would have rotted in prison for the rest of their lives, unjustly accused,unable to be set free in shame and disgrace, because they would not confess to a horrible crime they did not do.
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on April 12, 2014
This is a clearly written, persuasive treatment of false abuse accusations. It is particularly persuasive in that the author simply presents the facts and let's the data speak for itself. These stories of injustice are certainly infuriating. It would be a mistake, however, to presume that witch hunting is over. Egregious political correctness still tilts in favor of overzealous, self-righteous investigations attempting to affirm rather than objectively evaluate all manner of sexual abuse claims. This is particularly true of that bastion of self-proclaimed objectivity, the university, where the ridiculous claim continues to be promoted that one in four female students will during the college years will be raped.

Why only four stars? I thought that just occasionally the writing was slightly cumbersome. Not a contract breaker, but overall just not as finely polished as I think deserving of a five star.
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