One result of scientific endeavors is that deeply held assumptions can be shown to be incomplete or even false. Scientific progress has often come about when what was once thought to be true was proven not to be and new ways of understanding the natural world or human behavior evolved.
We share the concern of many that the controversy surrounding Rind et al. (1998) might discourage others from publishing unpopular but scientifically sound findings. A more insidious problem would be if researchers were deterred from examining complicated issues for fear that they would not be funded or published. For example, we believe it is a legitimate scientific question whether there are differential impacts of CSA experiences by gender or age, or when adolescents perceive themselves to have consented. It is unlikely that researchers would pursue this line of inquiry without trepidation in the current political climate.
In part through their willingness to question assumptions, we believe that Rind et al. (1998) have made contributions to the understanding of CSA (although we would interpret the findings differently). This is true most notably in their study of differences between men's and women's experiences of and responses to CSA, in the variability in outcome based on perceived consent, and in the resilience of many persons to sexual abuse in childhood. It is true that some have overstated the deleterious nature of CSA, and that this misinformation may have contributed to the distress of victims and their families. The fact that many CSA victims may be resilient and not doomed to long-term psychopathology or a stunted life is an important point of optimism that can contribute to the health and remediation of many.
Despite concerns with scientific freedom, we believe that the controversy over the Rind et al. (1998) article highlights the wisdom of the APA's recent assertion that social policy implications should be considered in the peer review process. This is especially true when conclusions pertain to sensitive topics of great public importance and enormous potential misuse. Considering public reactions, social policy implications, and the extent to which our own personal political, sexual, or philosophical views influence our work in no way implies that controversial data cannot or should not be published simply because they might be unpopular; neither, in our view, does it limit scientific freedom in any way. Unpopular data should never be cause for editorial concern; the inappropriate use of data for political or other extra-scientific purposes should be.