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2001 – 2002:
Read now, but attacked and defended again 

1) Spiegel, David, Real effects of real child sexual abuse,

Sexuality & Culture 4(2), 2000, pp 99-105.
< http://www.ipce.info/library_3/files/spie_real.htm  >
 

Spiegel again: “I read every word of their article before I wrote mine.” Spiegel repeats his objections: thus use of data from college students, the elite, and the broad definitions of ‘abuse’. Again, the will of the child comes into the debate:

”Can a Child be "Willing" to Engage in Sex with an Adult?

The most disturbing portion of Rind et al.'s rebuttal is their unblinking assertion that it is possible for a child to give (or withhold) "simple consent" (p. 108) to sexual abuse. They try to distinguish this from "informed consent," a term usually reserved for adult agreement to participation in medical procedures or research. There is no vantage point, clinical, moral, or legal, from which a child can give or withhold consent to sexual activity with an adult.”
”In retrospect some may come to believe that they were "willing" participants, but the fact is that they are not. [..]
 No child can consent to sexual abuse.

One might consider that Rind et al. were merely making the observation that those who were more likely to think in retrospect that they had "willingly" engaged in sexual activity as children were less distressed in adulthood, even though such consent is not possible. […] They [..] take seriously the notion that a child could give or withhold consent to sexual contact with an adult. They clearly believe that a college student's retrospective report that the episode was willingly entered into means that in fact it was. They therefore go beyond observation to advocacy of normalization of sexual contact between adults and children: […] A retrospective report of "willingness" or harmfulness by a young adult in college is hardly a sufficient criterion for determining whether or not an adult sexual interaction with a child was in fact entered into willingly, was harmful, or was abusive.” 

2) Special issue of APA’s Psychological Bulletin, November 2001: twelve critics and three defenders 

a) Ondersma, S.J., Chaffin, M., Berliner, L., Cordon, I., Goodman, G.S. & Barnett, D., Sex With Children Is Abuse: Comment on Rind, Tromovitch, and Bauserman (1998);

Psychologican Bulletin, 127, 6, 707-714, 2001.
< http://www.ipce.info/library_3/files/abuse.htm  >
 

A clear title. The crux of the article is that the authors “argue for the appropriateness of the term abuse and for scientific terminology that reflects rather than contradicts consensual public morality.” 

The authors place the meta-analyse in an historical context. The see it as a part of the flood of reaction to all attention to CSA, which reactions frequently speak about a witch hunt, false accusations and a belief that every sexual experience in childhood should always cause pervasive harm. But most of the professionals are far more nuanced than the Rind team says. 

In the meta-analysis, data about harm come from retrospective interviews with college students. Doing so, one only can see the harm that is mentioned many years afterwards. So, one cannot see the harm on short-term. Typically for the brave attitude of male college students is to deny problems and victim hood.

Even a low effect size can be important. The effect size of aspirin preventing a heart attack is only 0.3%. Yet, it can safe thousands of humans. If the  effect size of CSA is low, there are still thousands of clients having problems.  

A comparison with masturbation is invalid, because masturbation is not harmful, but CSA is harmful, according to the opinion of APA, professionals, the lawmakers and the lay public. These opinions are empirical facts and form a solid basis for scientific research – more solid than the belief of some minority groups like NAMBLA that CSA is not harmful. The same holds for the general opinion that “willingness” of children to have CSA experiences cannot exist. Science should follow and reflect these general beliefs instead of contradicting them.
Moreover, one should not define ‘harm’ as ‘proved harm only’. For ‘abuse’ as well as for ‘harm, science should use [no empirical, but] sociological definitions according to how society defines these terms. 


b) Dallam, S.J., Gleaves, D.H., Cepeda-Benito, A., Silberg, J.L., Kraemer, H.C. & Spiegel, D., The Effects of Child Sexual Abuse: Comment on Rind, Tromovitch, and Bauserman (1998); Psychologican Bulletin, 127, 6, 715-733, 2001

< http://www.ipce.info/library_3/files/dal.htm  > 

Five of these authors are members of the Research Counsil for the…, already mentioned. Again, we see David Spiegel among them. It stroke me that the tone of this article differs from the former ones. The difference is that the authors have read the meta-analysis carefully and take the authors, the data and the conclusions far more serious. The seven authors mention many statistical issues – too much to mention here all. Their conclusions are even moderate: “[…] attempts to use their study to argue that an individual has not been harmed by sexual abuse constitute a serious misapplication of its findings.” Their conclusions are, with a tone of matter of fact, put in a table. Partly, the agree with the Rind team, partly they do not, and partly they don’t know because they did no new research about some topics.
Remarkably is also the angle of the authors: not the moral one, but the statistical and scientific angle. 

“Although we agree with Rind et al. (1998) that CSA does not inevitably lead to intense and pervasive harm in all individuals, our conclusions [..] differ from those of Rind et al. in almost every other area.

It is also important to note that although the results of Rind et al.'s meta-analysis support those of previous reviews that show that extreme long-term effects from CSA are not inevitable [..], their findings also demonstrate a significant association between acknowledging a history of such abuse and an increased vulnerability to a wide range of mental health and social problems in adult life.
The fact that many of these associations were small should not be considered surprising given that the use of correlations coupled with attenuation problems served to minimize the appearance of meaningful effects. In addition, it should be remembered that Rind et al. studied a healthy sample and that the meta-analysis tapped a very broad range of sexual experiences, many of which involved no physical contact. It is well recognized that heterogeneity in abuse severity can distort estimates of the consequences of CSA, as the lack of measurable consequences for the majority who experienced milder forms of abuse are likely to obscure the significant consequences experienced by the smaller number of people who experienced more severe forms of CSA.”
 

Rind et al. wrote: "The college data were completely consistent with data from national samples." (p. 22)”. Dallam et al. conclude: “Equivocal. Men were more likely to report neutral or positive reactions; however, they tended to experience less serious abuse. Men's subjective perceptions often did not correlate with objective outcomes.”

Rind et al. wrote: “The negative potential of CSA for most individuals who have experienced it has been overstated." (p. 42). Dallam et al. concluded: “Not supported. Despite the preponderance of mild experiences, a significant percentage of both men and woman indicated that the abuse continued to exert a negative effect on their life.” 

The effect sizes of CSA may be low, but are still important. The effect size of smoking on cancer is only 0.17%. Still, it concerns thousands of died humans. an effect size may be low on average, but for many humans still very high and important. 

Again, the “willingness” (as the authors consequently mention it) of children comes into the debate. This “willingness” has never been proved empirically and objectively.  

Science and morality

Here we see that the critics have acknowledged the difference between a debate about science and one about morality. They have chosen to criticize the scientific validity of the meta-analysis, instead of preaching again their moral values and opinions. They combat the facts that fund their moral view on CSA as being harmful. New facts can threat a moral opinion. But the critics acknowledge that facts and morality ask for two different kinds of debate or discourses, just like the Rind team did. Congress did not and mixed both debates. Now, critics want to look at the facts. Will this change their moral opinions? A discourse about morality goes its own way and is not predictable.  

c) Rind, B., Tromovitch, Ph., & Bauserman, R.,  The Validity and Appropriateness of Methods, Analyses, and Conclusions in Rind et al. (1998): A Rebuttal of Victimological Critique From Ondersma et al. (2001) and Dallam et al. (2001); Psychological Bulletin, 127, 6, 734-758, 2001.  < http://www.ipce.info/library_3/files/rbtval.htm  >  

“The authors show all these claims to be invalid. To the contrary, they demonstrate frequent bias in Dallam et al.'s criticisms. S. J. Ondersma et al. (2001) claimed that Rind et al.'s study is part of a backlash against psychotherapists, that its suggestions regarding CSA definitions were extra-scientific, and that the moral standard is needed to understand CSA scientifically. The authors show their suggestions to have been scientific and argue that it is Ondersma et al.'s issue-framing and moral standard that are extra-scientific. This reply supports the original methods, analyses, recommendations, and conclusions of Rind et al.” 

The statistical topics are too much to mention here. The authors ask to excuse them for the flood of statistical details given in their article. The authors reply all the critical remarks easily, and clearly with a good knowledge of the literature. They blame Dallam et al. for being very selectively in their quotes from literature. They quote if it matches their arguments, they do not quote the same or comparable sources if it does not mach.  

The too broad definition of “abuse” is not to blame to the authors, but to the authors of the 59 analysed reports. Indeed, the definition should be sharper, as should be the definition of ‘harm’. Now, ‘harm’ refers to an incident that was not pretty for a while, as well to a real traumatic event. This kind of overstatement should be avoided. It prevents a clear view on the real traumatic cases.

Some critics have bases themselves on assumptions like ‘there is always harm, if you don’t see it, it still exists’ or ‘’willingness cannot exist; if someone says that he or she was “willing”, willingness still cannot exist’. These people break Popper’s rule that falsification must be possible in scientific research.  

[This rule says that one must formulate any hypothesis or conclusion in a way that confirmation as well as falsification will be possible. This is not possible in the assumptions mentioned here above, thus these assumptions are unscientific.] 

Again, the authors explain that “willingness” refers to ‘simple consent’, not to ‘informed consent’. The first kind of consent is, defined as it is in dictionaries, widely acknowledged in society. Well known researchers in sexualibus acknowledge it also as a fact. Only some scientists claim its non-existence, but they do it according to a stand beforehand; they say that consent may not exist, this it cannot not exist. This is morally firm, but scientifically wrong.  

Informed consent has never been studied scientifically, but fully accepted in society… except in sexual matters. Children should not be able to give informed consent, because they are not informed – in the US culture where sex education is nearly forbidden. However, in other countries this is quite different. To study this kind of consent, especially if it concerns sexuality, one should look to other countries and cultures. 

Cross-cultural research is not unscientific. It is surely not scientific to follow, as Ondersma et al. suggest, society here and now as the only source for definitions, especially if it concerns sexuality. More than other issues, sexuality is influenced by cultural influences and fluctuations. 

Anyway, the argument ‘the law says…’ is not correct, because laws differ by state and by country, by period and by subject, and often contradict each other. A minor is allowed to give consent to many decisions, except sexual relationships. The same law that prohibits this assumes the capacity to consent in may other aspects of fife. Even the APA has said that even young teenagers are capable to give consent in many aspects op life, according to developmental psychological research. Thus, it is not logical to call every sexual contact of adolescents ‘abuse’.  

“[..] the victimological perspective has dominated almost all research in this area for the past quarter-century. Victimology has its place but contains a heavy degree of ideology. Researchers should not feel obligated to restrict design, analysis, and interpretation to a victimological perspective, but rather they should consider other models. All of these approaches can help move research on CSA and its correlates beyond the current paradigm in this field.”

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