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Dean Tong's new book is called:
Elusive Innocence: Survival Guide for The Falsely Accused

Dean Tong

To Err is Human, Especially in Child Abuse Cases

Dean Tong: Expert dentifying false accusations

Nobody likes a child abuser and with good reason. We have seen some horrific cases over the past several years, from Polly Klaus to Megan Kanka (Megan's Law) to JonBenet Ramsay and now to Danielle Van Dam from San Diego. Whether it is a parent or a stranger who kidnaps, harms, molests and/or kills a child, Siberia is too good for that individual.

Yet over the past 30 odd years, since the fruition of the Mondale Act (Child Abuse Prevention & Treatment Act), we've seen an actual backlash in child abuse cases. What does this mean?

This means that since 1963, when there were only 163,000 reports of alleged child abuse or neglect, to 1995 when there were over 3.2 million reports of alleged child abuse or neglect, we've witnessed an approximate 2,000 percent increase in the number of reports of alleged child abuse or neglect in America.

So, you want to talk about heightened awareness of an issue?

The point is that the astronomical increase in the number of reports does not automatically mean there's a substantial problem with child abuse in America. A quick phone call to 1-800-FYI-3366 (National Center on Child Abuse & Neglect) will show that 55 percent to 75 percent of all alleged child abuse and neglect reports are unfounded.

Of the same, about 8 percent are false, made with deliberate, premeditated forethought to "get" someone. For every four reports of alleged child abuse in America today, one is confirmed. That one case is unacceptable, of course, but what happens to the other three wounded innocents caught up in the throes of the system?

This writer was wrongly accused of molesting his 3-year-old daughter in 1985. Although the state of Florida dropped criminal charges against me and I took countless tests to prove my innocence, I was denied normal contact with my children by the family courts. And, because social workers and therapists planted a seed that I "must have done something," my now-20-year-old daughter still has her doubts.

Here's a case in point: Four-year-old Amber told a social worker and police sex crimes detective that her Daddy put his pee pee on her pee pee. When I received a call on the case, the father had been arrested for GSI (Gross Sexual Imposition) and was in jail.

After the defense hired a forensic expert in linguistics and suggestibility who interviewed Amber in a structured fashion, they gleaned that what Amber meant was that her Daddy urinated on top of her urine in the commode she forgot to flush.

In psychology, this is called a "source misattributions" error. In other words, the child's statements were taken out of context and actually meant something else. Well-meaning, well-intentioned social workers will interview young children allegedly molested, using guided imagery, stereotype induction, scripting, confirmatory bias and even anatomically exaggerated dolls.

These same children will give, over time, the desired responses the interviewers are seeking.

Doctors misdiagnose rashes and urinary tract infections for child sexual abuse. As mandated reporters under the Mondale Act, they often call social services from hospital emergency rooms if they're in doubt about the cause of a child's injuries.

Here's a case in point: Little 5-year old-Johnny fell from a pine tree and broke his tibia (lower leg). The parents rushed Johnny to their local emergency room, in their angst forgetting to tell the doctor that Johnny suffered from OI (osteogenesis imperfecta), a condition known to exacerbate broken bones. Need I say more?

What we don't know in alleged child physical and sexual abuse cases is coming back to haunt us. Social workers, police officers, therapists, guardians-ad-litem, lawyers, judges, teachers and legislators need a wake-up call that all is not well in America's child protection system. And the errors committed are hurting the very individuals we are trying to save from harm, our children!

Dean Tong, forensic consultant in the Elian Gonzalez case and author of the new book "Elusive Innocence: Survival Guide for the Falsely Accused" (Huntington House, 2002), has been retained by parents and lawyers in 32 states across America in abuse and custody cases. His website is