Myths About the Country Walk Case
Ross E. Cheit David Mervis
The Country Walk case in Dade County, Florida was long considered a model for how to prosecute a multi-victim child sexual abuse case involving young children. In the past 10 years, however, a contrary view has emerged that the case was tainted by improper interviewing and was likely a false conviction. This is the first scholarly effort to assess the competing views of this case. Critics of this case advance three primary claims: (1) the positive STD test result from Frank Fuster’s son was unreliable; (2) highly suggestive interviewing produced the children’s claims; and (3) Frank Fuster’s wife, Ileana, was coerced into testifying against her husband. On close examination, all three claims prove to be false. This article documents the reasons why these claims constitute myths and why those findings are significant in the larger debate on children as witnesses.
Three major claims that have been advanced to challenge the conviction of Frank Fuster do not stand up to close factual scrutiny; they stand only as myths. As such, they inform us about our cultural fears and they alert us to our cultural blind spots. This is not an explication of all the evidence in the case. A longer version of this analysis, covering virtually every claim advanced at the trial and since, will be published as a chapter in a forthcoming book. This analysis covers enough of the evidence to generate a hypothesis about the previously unrecognized problem of disconfirmation bias. Ceci and Bruck (1995) “believe that the evolution of many of the mass-allegation day-care cases” are caused by the phenomenon of “interviewer’s bias,” also known as “confirmation bias” (p. 93). A close examination of the Country Walk case, however, reveals that a reverse kind of bias is apparently at work. Disconfirmation bias involves a selective examination of evidence with a predisposition toward the child-suggestibility defense.
The persistence of all three myths analyzed in this article seems to exemplify disconfirmation bias. These myths can be believed only by ignoring available evidence to the contrary. The exaggerated claim on error rates and STD testing can be uncovered by reading the sources cited in Whittington’s affidavit. So, too, the child-suggestibility defense can be debunked by reading the trial transcripts....
Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, Vol. 16(3) 2007
Ugandans drum alarms to rescue abducted children
Mon Jun 23, 2014
By Rodney Muhumuza AP Writer
BUIKWE, Uganda — When a child goes missing in this central Ugandan district, villagers beat drums into a pulsing rhythm that sends rescuers scampering through bushes. Others, riding motorcycles, try to block exit routes.
In response to the kidnappings and ritual killings of children here, the traumatized community has created a rudimentary but effective abduction alert system that has saved at least two children so far this year.
Although the problem of children being killed as human sacrifices is reported in several parts of Uganda, Buikwe has gained notoriety recently as the country’s witchcraft capital. One in three households here keeps a shrine — a thatched hut in which so-called witchdoctors can be consulted — a frightening statistic that explains the prevalence of superstitious practices that threaten the lives of many children and even adults....
Eight children have been abducted and ritualistically killed in Buikwe this year, their mutilated bodies dumped in bushes and sugarcane plantations, according to local officials.
Across Uganda, at least 729 children were abducted in 2013, according to a Ugandan police report that also cited a 39 percent increase in crimes against children over the previous year.....
India’s ‘Temple Slaves’ Struggle to Break Free
By Stella Paul Tuesday, June 24, 2014
NIZAMABAD, India, Jun 22 2014 (IPS) - At 32, Nalluri Poshani looks like an old woman. Squatting on the floor amidst piles of tobacco and tree leaves that she expertly transforms into ‘beedis’, a local cigarette, she tells IPS, “I feel dizzy. The tobacco gives me headaches and nausea.”
At the rate of two dollars for 1,000 cigarettes, she earns about 36 dollars a month. “I wish I could do some other job,” the young woman says longingly.
But no other jobs are open to her in the village of Vellpoor, located in the Nizamabad region of the southern Indian state of Telangana, because Poshani is no ordinary woman.
She is a former jogini, which translates loosely as a ‘temple slave’, one of thousands of young Dalit girls who are dedicated at a very young age to the village deity named Yellamma, based on the belief that their presence in the local temple will ward off evil spirits and usher in prosperity for all.
Poshani says she was just five years old when she went through the dedication ritual.
First she was bathed, dressed like a bride, and taken to the temple where a priest tied a ‘thali’ (a sacred thread symbolising marriage) around her neck. She was then brought outside where crowds of villagers were gathered, held up to their scrutiny and proclaimed the new jogini.
For several years she simply lived and worked in the temple, but when she reached puberty men from the village – usually from higher castes who otherwise consider her ‘untouchable’ – would visit her in the night and have sex with her.
Poshani says she was never a sex worker in the typical sense of the word, because she was never properly paid for her ‘services’. Rather, she was bound, by the dedication ritual and the villagers’ firm belief in her supernatural powers, to the temple....
According to official records, there are an estimated 30,000 joginis – also known as devdasis or matammas – in Telangana today. An additional 20,000 live in the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh.....