Discussion of the Rind meta-analysis
with a British journalist
By Tom O'Carroll
A JOURNALIST invited by Tom O'Carroll to read the famous Rind et
al. meta-analysis published in the Psychological Bulletin wrote back
with a number of criticisms of the paper and questions about it. The following
are extracts from Tom's response.
Introduction by Tom:
"The journalist, Christian Wolmar, had initially written to me in
connection with a planned book on alleged 'abuse' in British children's homes
and by the time Wolmar read the Rind paper an e-mail correspondence between us
had been going on for over six months. Despite attempts by Wolmar to disguise
the fact, it became clear to me very early on that the guy was hostile. The fact
that he had stated his intention of writing about PIE and my role in it
persuaded me that it would be better to engage him in debate rather than ignore
I did eventually manage to persuade him that current police methods in
Britain sometimes result in serious miscarriages of justice. This is the main
theme in Richard Webster's excellent short book The Great Children's Home
Panic, to which reference is made.
In a later email Wolmar congratulated me on my 'rigorous' approach to the
Rind findings – but then he
completely ignored Rind in his simplistic, shock-horror book! I found him a
hugely irritating person to deal with: ignorant, pig-headed and arrogant. The
fact that I was less than polite towards him in what follows (to put it mildly!)
simply reflects my increasing frustration after banging my head against the wall
of his stupidity for months on end."
Tom’s email to Wolmar:
You say the paper [the Rind et al meta-analysis] doesn't stand up because
"It is only about college students, and it only follows them into
adolescence, not adulthood."
On the college students issue I would say:
Alleged bias as compared with general populations does not hold up
statistically. CSA effect sizes are in line with national, community and
non-clinical samples derived from other studies. I note you say nothing about
these studies, of which details are given in the paper. It looks very much as
though you have not taken the trouble to consider the implications of the
effect size comparisons in question.
People too distressed and traumatised to make it to college as a result of
sexual abuse would be expected to show up in effect sizes from the community
etc samples if these people existed, but the evidence suggests they do not.
Traumatic cases turn up in clinical samples, but there is nothing to suggest
these are made up disproportionately of non-college goers.
Please read the following carefully, from the study: "Comparing the
college and national distributions indicates similar prevalence rates for
intercourse for women; SA college men, however, show a higher rate (33%) than
SA men in the general population (13%). Because intercourse is frequently
viewed as the most severe or serious type of CSA, these results imply that SA
college students, especially men, do not experience less severe CSA than SA
persons in the general population."
Similarly, it is shown that college students do not experience any less incest
(which is generally considered at the harmful end of CSA ) than the general
population, when compared with general population studies in the US, UK and
Spain (the three countries used in various college v national comparisons). In
terms of close family sex, college students experience more (16%) than the
general population (11%). The college v national figures are also quite
similar for those experiencing more than one episode of CSA (52% for college
students, 46% in national studies); the unweighted figures in this case were
identical at 49% for college and national.
In the authors' discussion of their results, the following is particularly
relevant: "Compared with SA persons in national samples, SA college
students experienced intercourse, close family CSA, and multiple incidents of
CSA just as often, and the overall prevalence of CSA was not lower in the
college samples. The magnitudes of CSA-adjustment relations in the college
samples and in the national samples meta-analyzed by Rind and
Tromovitch (1997) were identical: r u= ..07 for men, r u=
.10 for women. Thus, college students do not appear to present fewer symptoms,
experience less severe CSA, or show better coping."
Younger and older adults did not differ in CSA-adjustment relations in Neumann
et al.'s (1996) meta-analysis. sOne of the national studies referred to was a
British one, and therefore perhaps particularly relevant to your concerns.
This was Baker & Duncan (1985). They showed with their national sample
(i.e. sample of adults, not students) that lasting ill-effects of CSA are
rare: 13% for women; 4% for men.
Your objection ignores, or fails to comprehend, the rationale for using
college student data. The rationale was that these studies comprise the
largest body of nonclinical research on CSA, that they are more representative
of CSA experiences in the general population than are clinical cases (because
some 50% of the population in the US has college experience), and they are
rich in family environment data, which are relevant to examining whether CSA
These points deal adequately with your objection, I believe, as you would
have realised if you had really thought about it and have at least a modest
grasp of the statistical considerations. Of course, if you still don't know your
r s from your elbow there may be no getting through to you.
[Tom adds for Ipce: This is a very British joke: r s sounds
like "arse" = person’s bottom. To say someone does not know his
arse from his elbow is a coarse but frequently used way of alleging
To be honest, I am myself finding it difficult to get a handle on your
mental capacity. My assumption until now has been that anyone capable of gaining
significant standing with the Independent, a grant from Rowntree etc,
must be pretty bright, and the railway articles I have read lend support to this
view. But the silly errors you made in your reading of Webster, and your failure
in misguidedly looking for "evidence" in a book where strength of
argument was the real point, led me to suppose that the problem was one of
purblindness arising from lack of intellectual integrity – in plain language,
refusing to see what doesn't suit you. Now I find myself once again wondering
whether you are really quite all there in the head: it's as though,
intellectually, you do have strong points but taken as a whole you somehow seem
one loco short of a train set.
If that's true, I suppose it could be considered unkind of me to spell it
out. Maybe I should patiently just lead you through everything as many times as
it takes until you have finally "got it". Without wishing to
aggrandise myself in any way (my own capacity for original ideas is sadly
slender) I find myself wondering whether it ever crossed Galileo's mind that the
pope must be a bit thick. If so, I guess he would quickly have dismissed the
thought, concluding instead that the pope was so sharp he could think of a
thousand reasons for avoiding a sensible, logical conclusion. Oh, well, if I
keep chipping away I might be able to reduce your own thousand reasons down to
about 997 or 996…
I put it this way because Rind et al have performed an amazingly impressive
intellectual feat and have been denounced by Congress for their pains. Why were
they singled out in this way? Think about it. Every day crap papers are being
produced. Does anyone bother to denounce them from on high? Of course not. They
simply fade into obscurity (but only after the authors have carved another notch
on their CV and, if they are saying something popular, pulled in a bit of loot
from chat shows etc). The only people worthy of denunciation are those with
something very powerful to reveal, something threatening to orthodox belief and
its entrenched interests.
Rind et al are firmly in this category and if you cannot understand the
quality of their work – the rigour of it is far, far above the often mediocre
standard in the social sciences – I imagine it is because you have not really
given it the attention you claim to have done. With Webster you tossed the thing
aside because there was no "evidence". With Rind you have evidence in
spades. Indeed you have ALL the evidence (from the 59 constituent studies, none
of which had been denounced in Congress; on the contrary, their findings were
the bedrock of orthodoxy) it was possible to consider in a meta-analytic
fashion, but still you are resolutely unimpressed.
Attempts to impress you remind me of attempts to amuse Queen Victoria.
"We are not amused!" was invariably the sniffy royal response. I don't
know if anyone ever had the balls to ask "Well, Your Majesty, what would
amuse you?" but I can ask something comparable: What would impress you? A
petition, perhaps, signed by a million mature, certified happily married adults
saying they had been unharmed by early sexual experience with a grown-up? A
march on Whitehall by legions of children carrying banners saying "We're up
for it" and "Lay off our adult lovers" ? There are good reasons
why it doesn’t work that way, and why "victims" (some genuine, some
not) tend to have the loudest voices.
In reality data have to be worked hard for, and it is entirely typical when
they deal with human matters that after being hauled with much sweat out of deep
and barely accessible data mines they emerge a bit messy and creased. Hence –
very carefully – you have to use recognised techniques to clean off as much
muck as possible and iron out the creases. That is what Rind et al have done and
your failure to understand the exceptional skill and care they have brought to
this process does you no credit. Worse, it is something that really ought to
have Rowntree worried about your suitability for the task they have given you.
[Tom adds: Wolmar’s planned book on children’s homes had been commissioned
by the prestigious Joseph Rowntree Foundation, who gave him a research grant of
I have spelled out the essentials in my numbered points above but I am
anxious you will still not grasp what I am ranting on about unless you really
come to grips with such things as what "community" and
"national" samples mean in this context and for that you need to read
the study carefully. For one thing, it means your complaint that the study
"only follows them into adolescence, not
adulthood" is weak. It is precisely to anticipate objections of this sort
that comparisons were made with adult groups (the community and national
samples). In any case, are you seriously suggesting that these mere
"adolescents" (all of them over 18, presumably, since they were at
state universities; we are not talking about high school kids) are not old
enough to know their own minds on matters of sexual choice? Maybe you would like
to see the age of consent raised to 28? Every last one of the students, I
suggest, would by that age be fully aware that legally they had been
"assaulted" and would be perfectly capable of indignation and anger
about it if the nature of the experience made such feelings appropriate. What's
more you know this. For heaven's sake, we live at a time when the gay age of
consent is being brought down to 16. For you to talk about
"adolescent" students, many of whom in America are in their twenties,
smacks almost comically of desperation.
There is a valid aspect to your point though. Arguably a percentage of these
young adults could face what we used to call "marital problems" later
on, and attribute these to doubts over their sexuality following CSA; this could
apply to young adults who had yet to have a sexual partner by the end of their
college years. However, this point is not ignored by the study and is, I would
say, very effectively met by the statistical comparisons already noted. To my
mind this puts the onus on potential detractors such as yourself to say why they
feel the stats are invalid. Being "unimpressed" just doesn't hack it.
You are of course right that a study following through into
"adulthood" would be useful, as I daresay Rind et al would be happy to
acknowledge but it is ridiculous to castigate them for not doing this. In the
context of a meta-analysis it may even have been considered rather out of place
to attempt it. The whole point of meta-analysis is to get a broad overview of
data that have already been gathered in. If you go off at a tangent adding your
own data it may actually begin to look as though you have some sort of axe to
grind. (By the way, I would prefer to speak of "full maturity" or
something of the sort: if young people are grown up enough to vote, drive, fight
for their country, drink, get married and have gay sex by 18 it looks a very
strained argument to deny them adult status in this particular context).
You also say: "More importantly, it seems to lump together
different types of sexual experience, some of which would be impossible to
define as abusive."
What leapt out at me here was your use of the phrase "seems to".
Well, does it or doesn't it? You don't really know, do you? And why don't you
know? Because you haven't read the paper carefully you great pillock, that's
why. The salient point here is that the Rind paper itself is not responsible for
lumping together varieties of CSA that would have been better considered
separately in the figures. Meta-analysis has tremendous strengths, which is why
it is increasingly being used in many contexts, but every technique also has
limitations. One of them in the case of meta-analysis is that inappropriate
"lumping" or other methodological flaws in any of the original studies
being meta-analysed has to be accepted. You are obliged to take the data as you
find them, not as you would wish them. You note the flaws and limitations you
find and you use standard techniques where possible to tease out genuine
information which will not be confounded by the flaw or limitation in question.
What all this means is that you are right in this respect: if some of the
data relate to behaviour so mild one could not (in your view) call it abusive,
then it would hardly be any surprise that students considered it not harmful to
them. Right? One might in passing pause to wonder why such so-called
"abuse" is ever included in studies. There is one reason that is
obvious to anyone who has been around the subject for a while: it is because the
original researcher(s) in question had an agenda, the aim being to include every
conceivable form of "abuse" in their definition so as to bump up the
overall abuse figures. They could then expect outcomes such as shock-horror
coverage of their report in the media, research grants for further work
following these "disturbing" findings, and advancement within the
child-abuse industry hierarchy. But where have the eagle-eyed expose reporters
been while all this fraudulence has been committed unhindered for the last
couple of decades? Climbing on the bandwagon, that's where. Either that or
simply being the bunch of boozy, myopic tossers so many of you are. (Sorry, I
should say so many of us: you may find it quite understandable that I
often feel a certain detachment from my own involvement in the scribbling
The important point though, is not that trivial "abuse" may be
included in the definitions of some researchers but that, if this is the case,
allowance is made for it in the meta-analysis. This can be done where the
appropriate data are available by analysing different kinds of abuse, with
different perceived levels of severity, for their effect size. And indeed, as we
shall see, this was very much undertaken by Rind et al.
Before coming to that, however, I would be interested to know what exactly
you have in mind when you say "different types of sexual experience, some
of which would be impossible to define as abusive". The 59 studies examined
by Rind have a lot of faults, and some of the authors may be "agenda
driven", but they are all fully academic studies and it would be unwise to
write-off their definitions in a cavalier way. The details must be considered.
This is most probably the passage from Rind that inspired your comment:
"Twenty one (35.6%) of the 59 studies contained a breakdown of the types
of CSA that occurred along with their frequencies. Types listed varied from
study to study, including acts such as an invitation to do something sexual,
exhibitionism, fondling, masturbation, oral sex, attempted intercourse,
and completed intercourse. Many authors referred to this increasing level of
sexual intimacy as "severity" or "seriousness." Using the
reported prevalence rates of the various types of CSA from these studies, we
estimated the distribution of four basic types of CSA in the college population:
exhibitionism, fondling, oral sex, and intercourse. For exhibitionism, we
included reports of being shown or showing sex organs in a sexual context.
Researchers assessed exhibitionism by asking participants if someone had shown,
exhibited, or exposed to them his or her sex organs, or if they had shown,
exhibited, or exposed their sex organs to the other person at the other person's
request. For fondling, we included reports of sexual touching and masturbation.
Researchers assessed fondling usually by asking participants if they had
experienced fondling or genital touching; occasionally they included
nongenital touching as examples of fondling."
Would I be right in thinking that the items to which I have given italics are
what you had in mind as non-abusive? If not, then can I ask what you are in fact
talking about? Assuming I am more or less right, let's consider these items:
An invitation to do something sexual.
Ask your pal Francis Wheen about this one. He has devoted more than one column
to publicly humiliating a (named) former teacher of his for apparently doing
nothing more than what in an adult context would be called "making a
pass". If Wheen did not think he had been abused, why was he banging on
about it so much? If you think his complaint was trivial you might have an
interesting discussion with him about this.
Exhibitionism. I would guess that whether it is traumatic depends very much
on the circumstances. Who can doubt, though, that for a little girl suddenly
to be confronted with a naked man leaping out from the bushes would be
extremely frightening. Trivial? Non-abusive? Hardly.
Non-genital touching. One would have to see the original study to be
certain what this means. However, I think we can rule out a
"fatherly" hand on the shoulder over clothing, or anything of that
sort. What is meant, probably, is fondling a girl's breasts, or touching
children of either sex on their bare backside or under their clothing in the
same region, or the upper thighs. If you regard these activities as
non-abusive, I suggest you imagine trying to argue the point in front of a
roomful of heavy abuse pundits like Beatrix Campbell and Andrea Dworkin. I
doubt if you'd get out of the place in one piece!
So, if all these activities are indeed abusive where does that leave the
strength of your point? Arguably, perhaps, you could say they are abusive but
not at the more traumatic end of the scale. I say "arguably" but
thanks to the careful work of Rind et al we do not need to argue about it: they
have carefully analysed the data on such "moderators" as "level
of contact", a fact that has evidently passed you by entirely. Correlations
were made for three factors possibly influencing effects. These were "level
of contact" (both noncontact and contact sex as opposed to contact sex only
), "level of consent" (both willing and unwanted sex as opposed to
unwanted sex only ), and gender (male as opposed to female).
The original studies were inconsistent in providing statistics on aspects of
the CSA experience (e.g., force, penetration) that might affect adjustment . The
authors examined all studies to search for such moderators and found five types
that were reported in at least two studies: force, penetration, duration,
frequency, and incest. The authors meta-analysed separately the effect of these
factors (a) as self-reported by the participants and (b) in producing symptoms
of poor adjustment as measured by standard indicators.
One of the most interesting findings is that there is no relationship between
the level of contact and the degree of harm resulting. A mere touch that offends
can perfectly well result in more resentment and perceived harm than full
intercourse that is willingly engaged in. As the authors say: "The
near-zero correlation between penetration and outcome is consistent with the
multiple regression analysis finding that contact sex did not moderate
adjustment. This result provides empirical support for Finkelhor's (1979, p.
103) observation that our society's view of intercourse as the most damaging
form of CSA is "a well-ingrained prejudice" unsupported by
David Finkelhor, be it noted, is no hippy libertarian freak. On the contrary,
as you should know by now, he is one of the leading academic lights of the CSA
industry. Incidentally, you might also care to note that Finkelhor's work and
mine are compared together by C K Li in Children's sexual encounters with
adults (C. Li, D. West, & T. Woodhouse; New York; Prometheus.).
The above points ought to be convincing enough but what follows is a
logically incontrovertible clincher. We can slice the Rind findings another way
to demonstrate that the conclusions would hold good even if the original studies
that include "lesser" abuse such as non-contact and non-genital
fondling were excluded. The 59 original studies almost all showed only a small
association between CSA and poorer adjustment. Thus if the studies including
non-contact and other "lesser" abuse had been excluded, an analysis of
the remaining studies would have produced similar results (eg, if you average
ten studies with effect sizes that range from about .04 to about .13, you get a
result of about .09; if you average 59 studies with a similar range, you still
get an overall effect size of about .09). QED.
The issue of consent
Right, this completes my response to your negative points about Rind but I
think it would help before closing to make a couple of positive ones of my own.
If I can find the time to deal with your non-Rind remarks it will be in a
separate message sent later. My points are these:
(1) If you can see the strength of what I have said so far I hope you will
see that the Rind conclusions are indeed worth looking at carefully. I would
remind you that "level of contact" was not the only moderator
examined and I would draw particular attention to one of the other analyses,
namely "level of consent".
(2) Rind et al have attracted condemnation because they have not only come
up with strong data analysis but have also stated radical conclusions. These
conclusions follow logically from the analysis but their bold and
uncompromising statement has been like a red rag to a bull in conservative
quarters. What may pass unnoticed unless I bring it to your attention is that
this does not mean these authors can be disregarded as mavericks disowned by
their peers. Far from it. If you pay careful attention you will see that Rind
et al cite a number of other studies that support their findings in key
On the consent moderator, Rind et al came up with findings that should really
surprise nobody but which nevertheless are very important and politically
dynamite. They did not prove anything conclusively (because the original studies
were not constructed in a way that allowed for unambiguous conclusions), and
they stated their findings in properly cautious terms, but their data strongly
suggested that children are unlikely to be harmed by sexual activities in which
they were willing participants.
This leaves those people who say children can never validly consent to
anything sexual with some explaining to do. If children's willingness at the
time of a sexual event cannot be taken as an important indicator, how come this
willingness emerges from the figures as a strong guide both to their future
perception of whether they have been harmed and to their objectively measured
level of adjustment?
My main reason for raising the consent issue, however, is not to make this
point but to let you know there has been an interesting development. In response
to criticism of their handling of the consent issue and other matters, the
authors gave a talk presented at the 1999 Joint Annual meeting of the Society
for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS) and the American Association of Sex
Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) on 6 November 1999 at St Louis,
Missouri. In this talk, the authors discussed their consent findings and also
pointed out a recent British study which they say "cleanly" analysed
outcome data as a function of consent. This is the relevant part of what was
said at St Louis:
Many studies in our review distinguished between consenting and forced acts.
We merely compiled the relevant data and examined the value of consent as a
predictor of outcomes. It had utility, it did discriminate, and it was
therefore scientifically valid to use as a construct. The studies we reviewed
generally defined CSA either as a child or adolescent’s sexual experience
that was unwanted regardless of partner’s age, or as wanted or unwanted
experiences with someone older—typically, at least 5 years older. We merely
contrasted study effects from these two groups to examine the value of
"consent" as a predictor of outcomes. This analysis clearly
demonstrated the utility of distinguishing unwanted from wanted (i.e.,
consenting) experiences in terms of predicting outcome.
The procedure that we used, however, was not completely satisfactory, because
the second category (which included both wanted and unwanted experiences)
overlapped with the first (which only included unwanted experiences).
Unfortunately, researchers almost never analyzed outcome data as a function of
consent. The first and only study that we are aware of that has cleanly done
this was published earlier this year in BMJ (formerly The British
Coxell and his colleagues, all abuse researchers, examined a nonclinical
sample of nearly 2,500 men in Great Britain, recruited from general medical
practices. They were interested in psychological correlates of non-consenting
sexual experiences, but also inquired about sexual things the men had done
prior to age 16 with someone at least 5 years older that they had wanted to
do, so as not to miss these "abusive" experiences. Throughout their
paper they distinguished repeatedly between consensual sex and non-consensual
sex — their terms. They found that 5.3% of the men had had non-consenting
sex prior to age 16 (with peers or persons significantly older), but that 7.7%
had had consensual sex prior to age 16 with persons significantly older.
We examined the findings reported for their key dependent measure, which was
whether the men had reported a psychological problem of at least two weeks
duration sometime in their life. We compared their results for three groups of
men on this measure: those with no CSA prior to age 16, those with consensual
CSA, and those with non-consenting CSA. The results were that the consenting
group had no more problems than the control group, with a very small effect
size (r = .02). However, the non-consenting group had significantly
more problems than either of these groups, with an effect size of r =
.10 when compared to the control group and a somewhat larger effect size when
compared to the consenting group (r = .15). These results, obtained by
abuse researchers using a huge nonclinical sample where consent served as an
explicit key moderating variable, provide very strong support for the utility
of the simple consent construct.
So, what are you going to do now? Rubbish this "unimpressive"
finding by a bunch of weirdos in some trashy foreign rag called The British
Medical Journal ? [Tom adds for IPCE: In an earlier email my correspondent
had expressed suspicion of research published outside the UK. My comment here is
of course sarcastic. I do not share his prejudice against "foreign"
journals.] This of course leads into the second of my two points above, namely
that Rind et al are not alone in their findings. Studies by Eckenrode et al, for
instance, and by Ney et al, support Rind (with non-college data) on family
environment being more important than CSA:
The finding that family environment is more important than CSA in accounting
for current adjustment in the college population is consistent with the results
of several recent studies using participants from noncollege populations (e.g.,
Eckenrode et al., 1993 ; Ney et al., 1994 ). Eckenrode et al. categorized
children and adolescents obtained from a large representative community sample
in a small-sized city in New York state into six groups: not abused, CSA,
physical abuse, neglect, CSA and neglect, and physical abuse and neglect. They
found that SA children and adolescents performed as well in school as nonabused
controls in all areas measured, including standardized test scores, school
performance, and behavior. Neglect and physical abuse, on the other hand, were
associated with poorer performance and more behavior problems. Ney et al. (1994)
separated their mostly clinical sample of children and adolescents into
categories of CSA, physical abuse, physical neglect, verbal abuse, emotional
neglect, and combinations of these. They found that the combination of abuse
that correlated most strongly with adjustment problems was physical abuse,
physical neglect, and verbal abuse. In the top 10 worst combinations, verbal
abuse appeared seven times, physical neglect six times, physical abuse and
emotional neglect five times each, whereas CSA appeared only once.
These studies support Rind. What's more, the findings have intuitive appeal,
do they not? They do not in the least put under strain the commonsense view that
what really hurts and damages youngsters is indications that they are hated, or
regarded merely as a nuisance or of zero importance. While sexuality can be
expressed in a hateful way, as with rape, it is crazy to lose sight of the fact
that love and affection are much more salient factors in the way people wish to
be intimate. Other studies point in the same direction:
The greater importance of nonsexual negative childhood experiences in
explaining later adjustment was clearly demonstrated in a study of a large,
representative sample of female college students throughout the United States.
Wisniewski (1990) used path analyses to assess the relative contributions of CSA
and family environment to current adjustment. She concluded that the data did
not support CSA "as a specific explanation of current emotional distress
[but instead are] best interpreted as supportive of other factors such as family
violence . . . as having the greatest impact" (p. 258). Other researchers
who used college samples and used statistical control reached similar
conclusions regarding the role of family violence, rather than CSA, in
explaining current adjustment problems (e.g., Higgins & McCabe, 1994 ;
Pallotta, 1992 ).
We have seen that it is when "deconfounding" procedures are used
that underlying truths begin to emerge. This point is put succinctly in relation
to Brubaker's work:
Brubaker (1991) imposed control by separating her participants into mutually
exclusive categories (i.e., no abuse, CSA only, psychological abuse only,
physical abuse only, followed by combinations of these abuse types). This
deconfounding procedure has been used recently by other researchers examining
noncollege samples, who have shown that when CSA is isolated, its negative
correlates tend to shrink considerably or disappear (e.g., Eckenrode, Laird,
& Doris, 1993 ; Ney et al., 1994 ).
Finally, there are other authors whose work has led them to, like Rind et al,
to question their assumptions about CSA, such as whether encounters should
really always be described as "victimisation" simply because there is
an age discrepancy of more than so many years:
Some researchers have questioned their original definitions of sexual abuse
after assessing their results. For example, Fishman (1991) borrowed from
Finkelhor's (1979) definition to classify sexual abuse of boys mostly on the
basis of age discrepancies (i.e., sex between a boy of 12 or less and someone at
least 5 years older, or between a boy aged 13 to 16 with someone at least 10
years older), stating that age differences implied sufficient discrepancy in
developmental maturity and knowledge to indicate victimization. He found that SA
men in his study did not differ from controls on measures of adjustment and
reported a wide range of reactions to and effects from their CSA experiences
(mostly positive or neutral). In-depth interviews confirmed and elaborated the
quantitative findings, leading Fishman to question his original assumptions.
So, you will begin to understand from this that the Rind findings are part of
a developing body of mutually consistent research. There has been no outcry
against their work in the academic world; far from it, they have enjoyed peer
support. The attack on Rind and his colleagues in the US was initiated by an
anti-gay group and the battle cry was taken up by right-wing Christian
fundamentalists with strong political ties – the kind of people who also mount
similar noisy, populist lobbies against Darwin being taught in schools.
And if you can begin to accept that this is indeed genuine research, then you
need to start considering its implications for your book. Briefly, I would
suggest it means not that CSA in the children's homes is unimportant or should
be swept under the carpet. Far from it. I don't like the idea of children being
imposed upon sexually any more than you do or the general public does.
But the evidence from Rind (and many other places, but we'll stick to Rind
here) is that children will be helped most if the focus of the attack on abuse
is sharpened, and directed towards behaviour that is clearly unwanted and
damaging. What comes immediately to my mind is the brutal, intimidating
atmosphere that is well documented in the case of the Christian Brothers,
especially in Ireland. It makes the clearest sense to investigate and prosecute
cases in which sexual approaches and contact have been accompanied by
intimidation, threats and sheer force. Prevention is better than force, though,
and this thought brings in the question of how a bad institutional culture
develops in the first place. A bit more from me on that subject soon, I hope.
For now, I will finish here.