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The research and the debate concern possible harm by child sexual abuse, as the authors politically consequent call it. The debate concerns two topics, which are often entangled, but which I want to distinct sharply: facts and morality. 

Research on the facts shows that sexual experiences in childhood not always result in harm, thus, these experiences should not always called abuse. Critics do not accept this. They combat the facts, but this is difficult. Then, morality comes into the debate – and so the debate changes. A discussion about facts is another type of discourse than a discussion about norms. Both discussions differ in subject, in type of statements and in criteria for truth. 

The crux in the debate is the free will of youths who have had sexual experiences. Some participants in the debate have the opinion that that free will cannot exist, may not exist, and thus does not exist. Research that shows its existence is flawed or biased.  

Such kind of research usually works with interviews or questionnaires. One asks people to look back to certain experiences and to tell about them. If there are enough people who say that they were willing to have those experiences and felt positively or neutral about them, one accepts this as true. However, some people who use to say “Belief the children!” don’t accept this. They belief the children only as long as they say to be forced into a negative experience; they don’t belief the respondents who say something else. These respondents must be mislead or must have repressed their true feelings.  

In this Newsletter, we have already seen some articles about this debate: the issues E4 (both attachments), E6 {‘Mister President…’), and E7 (Science & Morality; explanation of statistics). The debate went on.  

In this article, I will start with a look back to three articles published in 1997 by the Rind team. These articles have had few reactions. In 1998, the Meta-Analysis was published. I suppose that the reader knows this article, so I will only give a very short summary. In 1999, the public discovered the meta-analysis and a heated discussion started. I have described this in my article “Mister President…”. That article ended with the mentioning of the condemnation by the US Congress. In this article, I will take up the thread.  

It turned out that that condemnation was in fact a free advertisement for the meta-analysis. The article is read worldwide since. If I look to the debate in a bird’s eye view, I see some phases.

In the first phase, 1997 & 1998, there were no or only a few reactions in scientific circles.

In the second phase, 1999, there were vehement reactions – mostly from people who had not read the meta-analysis at all, or who at least have not understood it. It was the phase of “quotes”, which were not written at all in the article. It was the phase in which people said that the Rind team had condoned pedophilia, although this word does not appears at all in the meta-analysis.

In the third phase, 2000 & 2001, several articles were published: defending articles by the authors, and supporting articles by others.

In the fourth phase, 2001 & 2002, I see a different intonation in the debate, a more serious one, based on factually reading and studying the meta-analysis instead of condemning it before reading it. The article and its authors are taken more seriously and their findings, analyses and conclusions are debated more accurately.   


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