Do you like stories about determined individuals who struggle against long odds and unremitting opposition until they eventually win through to victory and vindication? So do I. Usually.
The Sacramento Bee carried a story on Friday, November 13, 2009, about a 29-year-old woman who finally succeeded in punishing the man who sexually abused her when she was a child. The man is her stepfather and he had refused to acknowledge any guilt. In fact, he strenuously denied that he had ever improperly touched his stepdaughter.
What else would you expect from a child molester?
The woman's mother had also denied that her husband had abused her daughter. She sided with her spouse in the court battle.
Well, what would you expect from an enabler in denial? Right?
Of course, that's also what you would expect if the stepfather were innocent and his wife was defending him against a delusional daughter. One presumes that the evidence must have been pretty strong to cause a Superior Court judge to award Jeanne Schreib a $1,345,645 judgment against her stepfather. Or maybe not.
The judge said he sided with the plaintiff based on “the uncontradicted expert testimony” from two therapists who said Schreib suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and that “the most likely cause is the abuse reported by the plaintiff.”Oh, oh.
I admit to being suspicious of the reliability of “expert” testimony in this context. In my mind, the real question it raises relates to the competency of the stepfather's legal counsel. Expert testimony is a commodity readily obtained for a price (although not necessarily a reasonable price). There is a counter-expert to any expert you care to name. Why didn't they have one or two?
The woman in question has a criminal record that she now blames on childhood trauma inflicted by her stepfather.
Schreib said she first sought help after her 2006 arrest in Placer County for embezzlement, for which she was later convicted, sentenced to probation and two weeks in jail, and ordered to pay $54,000 restitution.I can't tell from this report, but was Schreib saying that she had to figure out that she was molested in the past? Did she not recall the alleged incidents that she now insists occurred? If so, we're talking about recovered memory here, and that's an exceedingly slender reed on which to accuse a man of heinous crimes, even if it gives the supposed victim an exculpatory excuse for her later behavior.
She said her “past started to make sense to me” as a result of the therapy sessions and some additional reading.
She said she then approached her family about “the elephant in the room,” but they didn't want to talk about her abuse allegations.What did she think was going to occur when she started leveling accusations of child abuse? An apology and a big group hug?
“From the very beginning, even before I started meeting with the therapist, I reached out to them,” Schreib said.
I acknowledge the possibility that Schreib's story is true, but I also acknowledge the possibility that she is (probably inadvertently) making things up under the tutelage of therapists who want to help her find explanations for the way her life has gone off the rails.
The case is now on appeal and the end is not yet in sight. Whatever the end may be, I'm certain it won't be a happy one.