Taking Exception

I read this article in the Post & Courier this morning about a Ridgeville, SC family who were recently reunited with their children after having them taken by DSS for alleged child sexual abuse. Often when I read articles about child sexual abuse, I’m frustrated by the failure to highlight prevention, or point to helpful resources, but when I read today’s article, I was infuriated by the insinuative tone of the author, and the blatant spin doctoring of local Charleston lawyer Andy Savage.

The article’s author, Glenn Smith, inexplicably, and inexcusably takes dead aim at the credibility of a 7 year old girl who, “told counselors that she saw she saw homemade porn films of her parents and watched them engage in a sexual threesome with a woman.”

Reality Check #1 – Let’s get real here: What 7-year-olds know about threesomes? What 7-year-olds know about homemade pornography? If a 7-year-old girl approached me and mentioned either of these topics, not only would I be shocked, but I would immediately report this to appropriate authorities.

Amazingly, Smith’s article does not point to this abnormal behavior as a red flag, rather he calls into question the girl’s credibility. Smith writes, “[According to the girl’s parents,] there was never a third party involved and no stash of porn in the house… The McGrews said the 7-year-old has a vivid imagination and has told other wild stories to counselors in previous interviews, including tales of a ghost living in the house and her mother having paranormal abilities.”

Reality Check #2 – I was 7 once. I watched X-Files and worried about ghosts. I thought maybe there’s an off chance that a monster was under my bed… I can tell you what I wasn’t thinking about: threesomes and porn tapes. Amazingly, Smith is questioning the credibility of a 7-year-old’s claims because she may believe in ghosts? So now anyone with an irrational fear is unreliable? What is reliable is the probability that a 7-year-old girl who knows about adult sexual realities is probably not growing up in the safest environment.

… It continues. Smith begins to subtly question the Dorchester Children’s Center’s credibility saying, “[The family] said the counselors at the DCC should have recognized the tall tales for what they were rather than alerting DSS officials, who, in turn called law enforcement.”

Reality Check #3 – Really? So your 7-year-old daughter tells you about threesomes and pornography, would you chalk it up to a “tall-tale?” If it were my niece, granddaughter, or student, I certainly wouldn’t assume her story to be a tall-tale. As I said, I would report what I had heard (just as DCC did), and hope that the authorities took the appropriate steps.

Now it gets really backwards. Smith writes, “The couple’s attorney, Andy Savage, said the case ‘exemplifies what is wrong with the level of proper evaluation and assessment of child-abuse allegations.’ Counselors are quick to rush to judgment and notify authorities without properly vetting claims that can tarnish reputations and ruin lives, he said.”

Reality Check #4 – HUH? Are Smith and Savage suggesting that we leave the child in the potentially abusive situation? We’re supposed to trust a family who is predictably saying, “we’re not molesting our daughter” over a child who has been exposed to sexual realities far beyond her developmental level? I contend that anyone who would leave a child in that situation is either exceptionally uninformed, or simply too scared to take the appropriate precautionary steps. I commend law-enforcement, DSS and the DCC for taking swift action.

Savage delivers the final blow saying, “I think that does a huge disservice to the child and the child’s family. And it takes away from the credibility of what the center is doing.”

Reality Check #5 – You’ve gone to far Mr. Savage. Disappointing that you’re questioning the credibility of a Child Advocacy Center for valuing a 7-year-old girl before a family being accused of sexual abuse. Rather than questioning the credibility of a CAC for removing a child from a potentially abusive situation, you should thank them for having the courage to deal with these cases day in and day out. Would you rather leave the kid in the potentially abusive household? Being proactive to protect a child’s innocence should never be questioned, and you should be embarrassed about this value judgment.

The truth is, children RARELY make up stories of sexual abuse. The fact is only 4 – 8 percent of child sexual abuse reports are fabricated. The fact is a 7-year-old shouldn’t know about threesomes and pornography. The fact is that a 7-year-old who knows about these behaviors had to learn about it from somewhere.

All in all, I’m sure Glenn Smith and Andy Savage were not thinking about the implications of their statements in this article. But the fact is, that questioning the credibility of a child in these circumstances, and damning authorities for taking precautionary actions, opens the door for our society to fail at protecting our children. The fact is, that a child’s innocence should ALWAYS come first, and to suggest anything else is simply inexcusable.

 

18 Responses to Taking Exception

  • Deborah LaRoche says:

    THANK YOU for articulating my rage so well. The article itself and the callous approach of Andy Savage (surprise, surprise) was beyond reprehensible and the Post and Courier certainly should have addressed the factual inaccuracies and slanted point of view long before it went to press. My prayers are with both children still living in this household.

    Deborah LaRoche

  • Elizabeth says:

    WELL DONE!! Children should NOT have knowledge of certain things – Porn and threesomes are on the top of that list. Children should be busy being children. Children at 7 years of age should Not know about sexual matters. Sadly, I was one of those children who knew far more than any child should ever know about sex and certain activities when I was 6 years old.
    Thank You for saying it like it is. Our children Must be protected at ALL Costs!!

  • Andrew J Savage says:

    You exemplify the very essence of my comments. As a charter board member and long time supporter of the Dee Norton ( my son the pediatrician’s God Mother)Lowcountry Children”s Center I am perplexed by the the lack of objectivity and lack of use of hard science or even common sense by some so called, typically self annointed child advocates. They are no Libby Ralston or Sarah Schuh. Advocates yes, child advocates no. What was done in this case was child abuse in its most horrendous form. Not by parents, not by anyone in the life of this child, rather by misnomered professionals. They traumatized the child, her siblings and her parents all for their self aggrandizement. Not all child protective advocates are in accord with these dogmatic extremists. DSS in this matter worked hard, with integrity to assure that the best interest of the child was protected. We supported their effort throughout their investigation….an investigation which called upon multiple case workers, their supervisors and their legal counsel. Oh yes along with the oversight of a dedicated GAL and of course the Family Court. Unfortunately there are those like you that see constant threats and evil lurking behind every turn in the road. As a father of four children and ten precious grandchiildren I am not a drum beater for those who actually engage in child sexual abuse. I am not however a fan of ideologues as you exemplify that see red, turn off their ability to think or be rational, show any interest in considering or even listening to alternative information/conclusions from authorities who have spent a lifetime in child protective services when they hear the words: child, abuse, sex spoken at one time.

    I do not know much about Glenn Smith and his employer. But I have read many of his articles and have the highest respect for his integrity. He actually listens to all points of view. You should emulate him. You will find that you will sleep better. Knowing more than anyone else must be a tremendous burden to suffer. It would keep me from sleeping too. I do know that the P& C in previous front page articles severly damaged the reputation of two hard working, loving parents, whose children are getting the very best care including a loving clean home, adequate clothing, good nutrition, proper medical care, educational encouragement ( go ask their pediatrician, neighbors or teachers) that these undereducated, undersocialized, under financed, unsophisticated parents offer.

    It’s time for you and your supporters to go back to your Country Club and pat each other on the back knowing you are using your time and resources to condem others without knowing anything about the facts of the situation. Soon enough you will have another opportunity to gather with your chosen Hollywood celebrities, under the tents in Marion Square drinking champagne and exuding in your moral righteousness. May God bless you and forgive you. Deborah, thank you for your prayers. As a fellow Christian I share your belief that everyone benefits by a prayer.

    • Carrie Mitchell says:

      Mr. Savage, I will say that I believe that you believe what you are saying. You sound like you have a great deal of conviction behind your opinions, but it also sounds as though you have a great deal of lack of experience in dealing with child sexual abuse. I hope it is true that you and your family haven’t been touched by the great evil that is child sexual abuse. If that is not the case and your family has been affected by it, I hope that you have been able to heal.
      Those of us who have had sexual abuse occur in our families realize the long-reaching, terrible consequences that result from child sexual abuse… it lays waste to generations. And those of us who have had the unfortunate experience of watching a loved one implode from the long held secrets of child sexual abuse appreciate that cases like this are being thoroughly investigated to prevent the child(ren) involved from having to endure greater suffering. The case was thoroughly investigated and the children returned to their parents. Yes, I’m certain it was hard on all the family members, but I imagine they will recover. What would be a travesty is if this case was not reported and/or not investigated by the proper authorities and children who were actually being abused continued to suffer. That is exactly what happened at Penn State… adults ignored reality and more children were molested. No one is suggesting that this isn’t hard on a family who is not guilty of molesting their kids, but we are suggesting that a family being wrongly accused is the lesser of two evils. That may offend your sense of justice, but hopefully you can appreciate that the individuals who reported a suspected case of child abuse to the authorities did the right thing. Suggesting otherwise is frankly irresponsible.

  • Debbie Randol says:

    Another couragous writer helps tear down the myths that keep our children in grave danger! Thanks for your candid remarks. The author of that article has alot to learn and has contributed to the harm of an inocent child.

  • Joy Hayden Fugate says:

    I would like to see what these children say once they’re adults no longer needing the “care” of the parents. Which ever side is incorrect in this matter, I hope you are ready to compensate these children.

  • James Bright says:

    No 7 year old should know about threesomes and homemade pornography. This does nolt pass my smell test and I predict that CPS will be back. This will continue until something even worse happens. These people need a good dose of common sense.

  • Lucas Ritter says:

    Well said, Tyler Gilliam. The myth of children having sexual fantasies on their own needs to be exposed for what it is: a load of bunk.

    This reminds me of a scene from Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.” Peter Teleborian, a psychiatrist with a penchant for children, is attempting to rationalize away Lisbeth Salander’s claims that she was raped. Teleborian says: “It is a classic example of the sort of grotesque fantasy that children are capable of. There are plenty of parallel examples from familial incest cases in which the child gives an account which falls through due to its utter improbability, and for which there is no forensic evidence. These are erotic fantasies which even children of a very young age can have …”

    Young children do NOT have erotic fantasies under normal, healthy circumstances. They do not have grotesque imaginations.

    The simple fact is that abusers love to hide behind these kind of lies.

    Lucas

  • Teresa says:

    I am appalled by the lack of empathy by the writer of the article….not only does he say the child is lying, he simply has no regard for the child’s well-being. How sad that so many adults still need to be educated regarding child sexual abuse. I applaud Tyler Gilliam for writing such a well thought out, clear article, completely debunking the author’s statements. We need to take a stand against abusers and their enablers. Time to put CHILDREN FIRST!!!

  • Angela Simon says:

    I applaud D2L for this blog piece. This is a deeply disturning situation. It seems to me that the lawyer is the one who has the vivid imagination. It takes a lot of creativity and gifts of persuasion to convince a judge that it’s acceptable for a 7 year old to know about threesomes and porn, and that her descriptions of such things are “tall-tales.” Now the child will truly never want speak out due to fear of being called a liar. It’s nice that someone protected the parents. Who is protecting the child?

  • Mr. Savage,

    There is nothing about the Mr. Gilliam’s comments that proclaim in any way to “know more than anyone else” it is merely an opinion and a good one at that. Maybe Mr. Gilliam isn’t as educated as you, maybe he is, but he is certainly more educated on this topic than you because his points make sense and are backed by research. While you, for an educated man, particularly on the law, seem to miss several key points.

    First, the parents’ reputation is of no concern when a decision is being made about whether to report suspicions of abuse or whether to arrest them. As in any criminal case, the arrest takes place based upon reasonable suspicion or evidence and the person’s reputation is often damaged whether they are guilty or not. Even if they are innocent until proven guilty, they are still arrested if there is suspicion they committed a crime and in this instance, apparently there was.

    And, Mr. Gilliam is correct, if you review the normal sexual development of a 7 year old, the concepts the child reported are not typical knowledge or fantasy material for a 7 year old and if she witnessed that at home, it is at a minimum, child neglect and therefore warranted a report. I do not have access to the case file, but I would think this information played a key role in the DCF determination. Additionally if you research abuse reports, there is a very low number of false reports, under the age of 11, I believe it is around 2% and only goes up to about 5% over the age of 11.

    Second, it is irrelevant if the parents are the greatest citizens or the best parents. They may provide perfectly for their children, love them, care for them, help them with homework, drive them to their sporting events. They can even win parent of the year awards and they can still be guilty of child sexual abuse as defined by law. 90% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows well and trusts. Therefore, the fact that you say the child is getting the very best care in their home does not in any way preclude her from also being sexually abused or exposed to sexually abusive behavior in the same home.

    Lastly, and to this point, I can only speak for myself, but do I see the constant threat of evil lurking? Well, yes! With the high number of children sexually abused and exploited in this country every day, evil lurks just about everywhere, and sadly, behind the perfectly normal faces of people just like these. But I sleep just fine, that is until I start thinking about all the parents and “normal” people out there that get away with the horrendous crimes against children perpetrated in this country on such a large scale. However, maybe if I could come to Marion Square this year and celebrate under the tents with all of the phenomenal child advocates who fight with me every day to end this tragic crisis in our country, to celebrate with those who protect not only our children but your children and grandchildren as well, well then maybe I would sleep better. We’ll see… Maybe you should join us there, you might learn a thing or two from Mr. Gilliam and the other “child advocates”!

  • Mr Gilliam,
    Its a hell of a lot easier to talk the talk than walk the Walk and you sir are full of B/S. Having been in Law Enforcement and private investigations for over 40 years, I can tell you that you don’t have a clue about what you are talking about. As far as a child’s development goes, have you ever seen a child 7 years old use a computer,an ipad, or a cell phone. Those child development expectations are probably so far out of date that third world countries are lauging at us.Children are constantly being exposed to sexual fantancies through TV,Movies,internet,and other children every day, and for you to say with conviction that they wouldn’t have knowledge of these activities, Give me a break. You need to sober up !

  • This is exactly the same attitudes that has resulted in my oldest daughter not being believed in the allegations she made against her father. Unfortunately it was CYAC, the GAL, FRC & CPS who stated that she was too young to contain such knowledge, following her disclosures, so I got falsely accused of “coaching”. Now my two young daughters have been forced to live with him on the FALSE CLAIM of PAS. The corruption is undeniable, as I have so much evidence to prove it all. It floors me to see how the agencies employed to protect children of abuse, have been instead protecting the abusers! Thank you for shining a light on this issue!

  • I also wanted to add this about societal/medial influence… I was a stay at home mom for my daughters’ entire lives. No babysitters, relatives, daycare, etc. I was VERY strict p/t what they witnessed on TV and being in the presence of “others”. Baby’s 1st TV was ALL my children EVER viewed. So please forget the blame on outside influences.. No other influence exists!

  • Nancy Weinzetl says:

    Wow, does this story hit home…where to begin? Long ago when I was about the age of the child in this case, I too found myself struggling to find a way to verbalize to the outside world the shame, terror, and pain I was experiencing at the hands of the people who provided for me quite well. In fact, the first DCS worker I encountered had 2 things to say to me; the first being the explanation provided to him by my abusers (who had been given 72 hours notice of his visit), which I of course neither agreed nor disagreed with at the time), and the second being how lovely my room was. The end result was that I learned quite early how most people just could not comprehend how ugly things could happen in pretty places, and although DCS was involved at other points throughout my childhood, it would take me many, many years and a great deal of further damage before I would dare to dream that anyone might help me out of that hell I was experiencing.

    So, as I think about that child I once was and the parent I am now, I believe without a doubt that DCS and DSS acted in the best interest of this child. As Tyler Gilliam stated, it is not the norm for a 7-year-old to be familiar with the concept of homemade porn or threesomes. Of course, there is always a possibility that a parent is not guilty, but the child must be our first priority, not the adult. As a parent myself, it would break my heart to have my children removed from my home, but I assure you I would be far more worried about the effect it was having on them and the events that led to that action in the first place than what the neighbors thought about me or my “tarnished reputation.” In a perfect world, there would be no need for DCS or DSS. In a near perfect world, there would be enough workers to investigate adequately and quickly enough that no child would need to be removed unnecessarily as well as enough foster homes to place the children in need so none would be left in dangerous environments due to lack of space. But since that is not the case, I for one would rather see folks error on the side of caution and have the followup story read “child returned to home after parents cleared of any wrongdoing,” than “child hospitalized (or worse) following DCS failure to remove child after report of abuse.”

    With that said, I have tried to look at this from every possible angle to find something positive to say about the parents, but I am afraid I cannot. I see nothing but red flags – bloody red flags – and it breaks my heart. Despite some people’s claim that 7-year-olds can access television, the Internet, other children, etc., and could indeed have knowledge of sexual fantasies, I still maintain it is not the norm, nor is it age appropriate. It is the job of parents to protect our children from exposure to things beyond their comprehension, so if this child is indeed simply trolling the net, watching R-rated movies, or discussing threesomes with others at age 7, then someone needs to step up to the plate and start being a parent. Also as a parent, if I truly was innocent of having homemade porn and/or engaging in threesomes in my house, I would be most concerned as to why my child thought this was the case and I can guarantee that I would absolutely not allow any attorney working for me to attack my child’s credibility or to suggest that it was all in her head, which is basically what he did. I cannot help but feel, given the child’s age and the actions of the parents and their attorney, that someone has indeed exposed this young girl to pornography and sexual situations and, given my experience, it would seem she is being groomed to do more than simply watch…and as a result of her interaction with the system this time, it will be that much easier for her abuser to achieve his/her goal. The question remains now whether she will be brave enough to reach out for help again and whether the hands at the other end will pull her up or push her down. I sure hope Andy Savage and Glen Smith can sleep at night because I certainly will be losing sleep over a little girl in Ridgeville, SC, as I wonder just how much more she will have to suffer and whether or not she will ever be able to able to begin her journey the healing.

  • Nancy Weinzetl says:

    (corrected/edited comment – please disregard previous post if possible)
    Wow, does this story hit home…where to begin? Long ago when I was about the age of the child in this case, I too found myself struggling to find a way to verbalize to the outside world the shame, terror, and pain I was experiencing at the hands of the people who otherwise seemingly provided for me quite well. In fact, the first DCS worker I encountered had 2 things to say to me; the first being the explanation provided to him by my abusers (who had been given 72 hours to prepare for his visit), which I of course neither agreed nor disagreed with at the time), and the second being how lovely he thought my room was. The end result was that I learned quite early how most people just could not comprehend that ugly things could happen in pretty places, and although DCS was involved at other points throughout my childhood, it would take me many, many years and a great deal of further damage before I would dare to dream that anyone might actually believe me and help me out of the hell I was experiencing.

    So, as I think about both the child I once was and the parent I am now, I believe without a doubt that DCS and DSS acted in the best interest of this child. As Tyler Gilliam stated, it is not the norm for a 7-year-old to be familiar with the concept of homemade porn or threesomes. Of course, there is always a possibility that a parent is not guilty, but the child must be our first priority, not the adult. As a parent myself, it would break my heart to have my children removed from my home even for a brief time, but I assure you I would be far more worried about the effect it was having on them and the events that led to that action in the first place than what the neighbors thought about me or my “tarnished reputation.” In a perfect world, there would be no need for DCS or DSS. In a near perfect world, there would be enough workers to investigate adequately and quickly enough that no child would need to be removed unnecessarily, as well as enough foster homes to place the children in need so that no child would be left in a dangerous environment due to lack of space. However, since that is not the case, I for one would rather see folks error on the side of caution and have the followup story read “child returned to home after parents cleared of any wrongdoing,” than “child hospitalized (or worse) following DCS failure to remove child after report of abuse.”

    With that said, I have tried to look at this from every possible angle to find something positive to say about the parents, but I am afraid I cannot find anything. I see nothing but red flags – bloody red flags – and it breaks my heart. Despite some people’s claim that a 7-year-old can access television, the Internet, other children, etc., and could indeed have knowledge of sexual fantasies, I still maintain it is not the norm, nor is it age appropriate. It is the job of parents to protect our children from exposure to things beyond their comprehension, so if this child is indeed simply trolling the net, watching R-rated movies, or discussing threesomes with others at age 7, then someone needs to step up to the plate and start being a parent. Also from a parent’s standpoint, if I truly was innocent of having homemade porn and/or engaging in threesomes in my home, I would be most concerned as to why my child thought this was the case and I can guarantee that I would absolutely not allow any attorney working for me to attack my child’s credibility or to suggest that it was all in her head, which is basically what the parents in this case permitted their attorney to do. I cannot help but feel given this child’s age and the actions of the parents and their attorney that someone has indeed exposed this young girl to pornography and sexual situations as she stated and, given my personal experience, it would seem she is being groomed to do far more than simply watch. Sadly, as a result of her interaction with the system this time, I feel it will be that much easier for her abuser(s) to achieve his/her/their goal. The question remains now whether she will be brave enough to reach out for help again and whether the hands at the other end will pull her up or push her down. I sure hope Andy Savage and Glen Smith can sleep at night because I certainly will be losing sleep over a little girl in Ridgeville, SC, as I wonder just how much more she will have to suffer and whether or not she will ever find the strength and support to begin her journey toward healing.

  • Mark Glover says:

    As the morals and values of this country continue to fall to the wayside ,our society gets further in the gutter. Eventually you will smell the stinch. It’s all tabloid news,there are no real newspapers anymore .

  • carol derry says:

    what a well wrote blog. this is the very victim blaming society that allows child abuse it all its forms to continue and flourish down the generations of a family. as always the law is an ass

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