Sunday, November 15, 2009

An abuse of abuse?

The happy ending that isn't

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.

She said her “past started to make sense to me” as a result of the therapy sessions and some additional reading.
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 she then approached her family about “the elephant in the room,” but they didn't want to talk about her abuse allegations.

“From the very beginning, even before I started meeting with the therapist, I reached out to them,” Schreib said.
What did she think was going to occur when she started leveling accusations of child abuse? An apology and a big group hug?

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.


Anonymous said...

Another example is when a person makes similar accusations against a father who is now dead! Plus, gets on Oprah, to boot! Mackenzie Phillips, of course. I didn't follow the story after the headlines, but I'm hoping she had some real evidence to back up her accusations, given that her father isn't in a position to respond. If she had no evidence, then the world of American entertainment is working just like I thought it always did.

Kaleberg said...

There's a good book on this and the 1980s child abuse scandals, Satan's Silence. It's rather sad. You had distraught parents rummaging around the ruins of the McMartin day care center looking for the non-existent catacombs and planting evidence while child abuse experts shoved q-tips up the kids' anuses and claimed that this proved that they had been sodomized. Given the number of acquittals and failed retrials, the villains seem to be parental anxiety about day care in the 1980s when women were forced back into the work force by falling wages and the child abuse industry.

It looks like the scam is still around.

Anonymous said...

I think it's unfair to lay the blame at therapists' feet. While I suppose it's possible that she's being "led" by therapists, most therapists really don't want to talk about someone's past. They want to talk more about current feelings (perhaps about events in the past) and how they can be recognized and managed. It's been pretty well established that for most patients, rehashing old traumas is more harm than good. Once the data is on the table, it's not productive to go over it again and again.

The Ridger, FCD said...

There's a whole industry of recovered child abuse though. Sort of like Freud facing the fact that his theory meant *every man in Austria* was an abuser and realizing how insane that was.

There are therapists who haven't come to that realization yet.

Anonymous said...

@The Ridger

Absolutely fair point, and a real possibility, but I just think it's unfair to point to that as the most likely scenario. Especially when this woman was already convicted for embezzling, there's indications that she's got a loose definition of the "truth" as it is.

Anonymous said...

It could possibly be another manipulated money making plan- that worked!

Unknown said...

I'm the one that caught this woman embezzling funds from a company that hired me to replace her because she abruptly quit! She stole over $100k and was only ordered to pay $54k back. Then she sued her dad which I believe was her way to get out of having to go to jail!
On 3/7/14 she was arrested once again for stealing $18k!
She needs to rot in jail!