Two activists in the child protection movement depict a giant conspiracy against moms and kids, and propose a federal...


THE HOSTAGE CHILD: Sex Abuse Allegations in Custody Disputes

Two activists in the child protection movement depict a giant conspiracy against moms and kids, and propose a federal program to end it. Rosen and Etlin contend that when mothers make allegations of child sexual abuse in custody battles, they are not believed and their children are not protected. Our child protection system, they say, ranks preserving the image of the family higher than protecting children. The authors include five cases to illustrate how social workers, judges, lawyers, and health professionals keep women from asserting their parental rights. In one, a judge allowed unsupervised visits by a stepfather who had previously been convicted of abusing his own daughter; in another, a father was awarded custody after a social worker, knowing of the parents' bitter custody dispute, refused to credit the child's account of abuse; in another, a dispute among physicians over physical evidence of abuse led the judge to charge the mother with misrepresenting her case and award custody to the father. Legal maneuvering drags out one case until the child is alienated from her mother and ends up in her apparently abusive father's custody. In the final case, a mother who believes that her son has been sodomized by his father loses her custody fight, kills the father, and goes to prison for life. Such scenarios occur, say Rosen and Etlin, because in our patriarchal society women's rights to their children are tenuous. Feminists, they assert, have ignored the issue of mothers' rights, opening the way for the fathers' rights lobby. Their solution: Separate custody and incest issues. Treat incest as a public health matter, rather than as a crime, by setting up a child-at-risk classification office within the US Public Health Service. Details of how this would operate conclude the text. Sure to be controversial, but too partisan to be persuasive.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996


Page Count: 225

Publisher: Indiana Univ.

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996