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Letter to APA

[To:] Raymond D. Fowler, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer,
Richard M. Suinn, Ph.D., President
Patrick H. DeLeon, Ph.D., J D., President-elect
American Psychological Association
750 First St., NE
Washington, D. C. 20002

[From: Leonore Tiefer, Ph.D.]

July 15, 1999


As a long-time APA member and a long-time sex researcher, I write to object in the strongest possible terms to the contemptible public position you have taken in response to the political furor over the Psychological Bulletin paper by Drs. Rind, Tromovitch, and Bauserman. I have been a great admirer of the clear-eyed and comprehensive work these authors have contributed to the murky and polemical field of child sexuality and child sexual abuse, and your failure to defend their approach and the policies and procedures of APA journals is unforgiveable.

As you surely must know, it is almost impossible to conduct research on child sexuality as a result of a chilling political climate, and that, as a consequence, important legislative, policy, and judicial decisions are made every day in the absence of the kind of reliable scientific evidence which we as a profession ought to be providing to guide these decisions.

Your response to the Congressional and conservative organizations' furor, as presented in The New York Times, seems to me to have been exactly the opposite of what was needed. You should have taken the opportunity to rush to the Hill to explain to Congress how peer review works and is an inviolable bulwark against prejudice and bias, to explain to Congress how meta-analysis is an excellent new tool in medicine and social science to overcome the vicissitudes of individual studies and present the current state of evidence, to explain to Congress that political interference with scientific processes is exactly what won't help children and won't help society understand complex and controversial issues, and to offer workshops on child sexuality and meta-analytic techniques to assist Congress in the future.

But, sadly, apparently none of those was your response. Instead, you fell for the ambush, you fell into the trap, and you responded defensively to insist that the APA condemns child sexual abuse, and that you would take steps to muzzle freedom of scientific process.

Whose interests are served by your failure to strongly defend Rind, Tromovitch, Bauserman, the editor of Psych. Bull., and its entire peer review process? Not mine, or the other members of the APA. Not psychologists or others struggling to conduct valid and reliable sex research. Not the public who needs information about child sexuality and about professional scientific methods. Not children, for whom you accomplished nothing. Whose interests did you serve? I'd like to know.

Obviously outraged,

Leonore Tiefer, Ph.D.

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