How the Daycare Child Abuse Hysteria of the 1980s became a Witch Hunt

How the daycare child abuse hysteria of the 1980s became a witch hunt
By Maura Casey

TV news was no friend to those of us who had small children in the 1980s. Allegations of child sexual abuse in day-care centers swept the nation, with high-profile cases in California, North Carolina, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Minnesota and other states, leading to empty playgrounds, hyper-vigilant parents and the implication that behind every tree lurked a pedophile waiting to snatch our children. Sexual abuse is an awful crime, but the perpetrators are usually relatives or family friends, and fewer than 1 percent of cases take place in day-care centers. Nonetheless, 30 years ago America was described as experiencing an “epidemic” of sexual abuse in day care.

Richard Beck, an editor at N+1, does a herculean job of investigating why this happened in his absorbing book “We Believe the Children.” Beck makes the case that the sexual abuse trials of the 1980s yoked numerous undercurrents in American society: fear of crime; the decline of respect for traditional authority; homophobia (being gay helped send some day-care workers to prison); the conservative backlash against feminism, which had encouraged women to work outside the home (with its resultant need for day care); and the reality that the patriarchal nuclear family had not just changed, it had become “incoherent.” Conservative evangelicals had just helped elect President Ronald Reagan, and many of them believed that “porn, gays, and women had run amok.”

to read the rest of the story go to


WE BELIEVE THE CHILDREN  A Moral Panic in the 1980s
By Richard Beck

4 comments for “How the Daycare Child Abuse Hysteria of the 1980s became a Witch Hunt

  1. Don
    August 15, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    Dr. Richard Gardner (now deceased), of Columbia University, in studies of child sex abuses in the 1980’s, calls attention to a pattern he calls PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome), where one parent, usually the mother and also usually the real abuser, blames the other parent, usually the male/husband/stepfather, that one(or more) of her children were abused/molested by “him”. This generally is the predominant claim when the female wants a divorce. PAS is used to keep the other parent from seeing his children due to false claims of sex abuse and constant reinforcement to the children that they were abused. Dr. Gardner also likens the rash of cases in this time period as a Witch Hunt. Many fathers were sent to prison and afterwards labeled as sex offenders and never got to see their children again. Many of the children were never even a part of the accusations.

  2. kayt
    August 17, 2015 at 10:10 am

    I remember the scandals of the day care centers back in the day, seems that the 1980’s were about right. Back then I believed it as did nearly everyone else. Today I realize that there are so many false accusations and those false accusations are hard to fight. The general public tends to believe them and of course the social services, arms of the law and media pounces on these accusations. Why? Because these are no longer “people.” Once accused, the de-personification begins, the accusation becomes a “case” and a lot of people make money, it’s all a money game. The accuser should be held accountable.

    There should be laws for proof since these accusations are so serious.

  3. kayt
    August 17, 2015 at 10:10 am

    “Pounce” on these accusations

    • Scott
      September 15, 2015 at 5:16 pm

      it is way too easy to accuse someone of child abuse. I mean anyone can say anything nowadays and never think about how it could ruin a persons life forever especially when it’s a lie. Laws should be passed and pressed for purgery as to the seriousness of the alleged accusation that was lied about. This isn’t just some ordinary traffic infraction.

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