'Finding Truth in Child Abuse'

Two of the letters (Feb. 20), "Finding Truth in Child Abuse," contained false information about the interview procedures used by Children's Institute International with children from the McMartin Preschool.

Eveline E. Harman wrote: "Children's Institute International has allowed the parents to see only a few well-chosen fragments of their child's videotape interview." This is not true.

The videotapes of the children's interviews were always completely available to parents to view in their entirety. One of the primary benefits of videotaping is to allow the parents to see and hear what their children may be too frightened or ashamed to tell them in person.

The letter by Jackie Starmer speaks of the taped interviews . . . "showing the children being questioned and badgered hour after hour." Children were not questioned "hour after hour." The average interview was one to two hours with the first half filled with activities like drawing to put the child at ease.

The interviews were videotaped to prevent lengthy and repeated questioning of the children by different persons, which often occurs in child abuse cases. The children were not "badgered" at Children's Institute, as will be attested to by all the parents and therapists who have viewed these tapes.

Starmer is a friend of one of the original defendants in the McMartin case. In numerous letters to the editor throughout the Los Angeles area she has presented the defense attorney's point of view on this case.

Children's Institute International is a child welfare agency and licensed community mental health clinic that has served children in Los Angeles for 80 years. Our services for abused children are specifically designed to be sensitive to their needs and developmental levels.


Los Angeles

Emmons is executive director of Children's Institute International.

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