By Andrew Sullivan

There should be a more forceful effort to defend people with professional careers. When doctors and lawyers and other professions start talking about freedom ideas, they give the freedom more credibility. At the same time, many professions are coming under attack from government when they need to be defended.

On July 12 of this year, the dark ages arrived. Remember when the Pope excommunicatedCopernicus for saying the Earth revolved around the Sun? The U. S. Congress took the time to condemn a little known research report from the American Psychological Association (APA), an organization representing 159,000 clinicians, researchers and educators. The vote was unanimous. Considering the amount of junk science Congress has accepted as fact, Congress should have stayed silent.

The study was about sexual contact between adults and minors (those under age 18) and found that in some cases, there was little or no negative impact from the sexual contact. Such a study was too much for Judith Reisman, columnist for WorldNetDaily, an Internet publication. Reisman went on a rampage attacking the report as promoting pedophilia using words in a vague manner without definition; "child", "sex" and "abuse". Reisman is joined by other "cultural conservatives" such as the Family Research Council.

Unfortunately, Reisman and other criticsof the APA are doing more to harm victims of sexual abuse by allowing juvenile delinquents to get away with unacceptable behavior by claiming "victim" status. The public is being put into a state of hysteria about child sexual abuse because Reisman has essentially doubled the amount of people whom she thinks should be classified as victims. The critics of the APA want to gloss over the details of consent, of puberty and the force and cost of the law. The critics think if you're under 18 and have sex with an adult, you're a victim and if you are older than 18 and have sex with someone under 18, you are a child rapist. The critics can get away with it, because psychology is a soft science and not a hard science like math or chemistry.

Check your papers. Take a look around. Are there stories of sexual molestation, about rape and incest? Does the story mention a teen-ager or small child? Was the sex forced? What I find is not small girls nailing their bedroom door shut to keep daddy away, but many teen-agers engaged in sexually delinquent behavior with adults. Often the delinquents are teen-age boys but sometimes they are teen-age girls.

I found several cases where a 14 year old boy impregnated a considerably older woman. I also found a few cases where gay teenage boys sought out men. In one case, a man was sentenced to 2 years in jail for a one-second fondling of the genitals of a teen-age boy who expressed sexual interest in the man. Such teen-agers must be held accountable for their actions and should not be allowed to claim victim status. Nor should the adults involved be labeled sexual predators. This does not even begin to take into consideration the errors that are appearing in sex offender registration lists.

Worse yet, over the years the APA and the mental health profession have had to adjust the way they council patients and the way they define mental health because the Courts are making the same failed mistakes of glossing over important details between abuse which produces a victim and sexual delinquency which is irresponsible behavior. Today, a mental healthprofessional no longer has doctor-patient privacy. If the patient admits to any crime of sexual contact between an adult and a minor, the therapist has to report it to police. The result is that most sexual predators will most likely have to be caught by the police before they ever seek help.

The APA has responded, stating sexual abuse is wrong and subject to criminal penalties. Wary of Congress and the impact of the law on the APA, the organization has now gone "child friendly", warning that children are spending too much time alone. Will the APA throw out science out of fear of losing Congressional funding for other studies? For the first time in APA's 107-year history of publishing, it has sought independent expert evaluation of the scientific quality of the article that has come under attack.

People who love freedom may be tempted to ignore the issue as too controversial, but I don't think it can be avoided. The hysteria over child sexual abuse is leading to massive lawsuits, need for liability insurance, invasive background checks and a paranoid public where many people simply refuse to baby-sit or assist children. The amount of professionals impacted by the hysteria is great. From teachers to doctors to social workers, all must deal with children at some point and the amount of hysteria over "child sexual abuse" has made it difficult to help children at all, while expanding very expensive actions to attack child sexual abuse which often is not abuse but sexual delinquency.

The attack on science and the exploitation of science for the purpose of politics is dangerous. If we don't speak out now, when? Will we wait for children to sue the sugar industry for creating tooth cavities? Will we allow a teen-ager who holds up a store with a gun to sue the store for offering tempting products he can not afford? If the tobacco industry can be sued for offering tobacco and the gun industry for selling guns, you can bet the trend will spread.

[This article originally appeared in the September/October 1999 issue of THE THOUGHT.]