Dr Phil Discredits Child's Disclosure

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On June 12 & 13, 2018, a Dr Phil show aired (for a second time) and acted out a huge disservice for children across the U.S. Mr McGraw discredited a child’s disclosure of sexual abuse. Quote: “ You are leaning heavily on what the child says,” he said to the grandmother of the child. While the mother and grandmother were scrutinized by Mr McGraw, the alleged abuser sat across from them hatefully sneering at them. The mother's eyes clearly showed trauma, and in a world where child sexual abuse is rampant our only response should be to believe the child.

Mr. McGraw pointed out the two incidents when the mother agreed to send the child to the father after the child disclosed. It’s important to understand that many parents who have withheld their children from the reported abuser are considered to be the "uncooperative parent" and in contempt of court if there is a custody order. They risk losing their parenting time, custody, sanctions, and even jail. If there isn’t a custody order, the reported abuser can use these actions to gain custody and it works.

 It’s also important to understand that in a custody litigation situation, when there are reports of abuse of children, the legal process that follows lacks expertise in domestic abuse and child abuse. Even when there is a forensic interview, and in cases when a child has disclosed during an interview at a Child Advocacy Center, it is left to legal professionals with no expertise to weigh in and decide the next step. Statistically, 70 to 81% of children end up in the custody of their abusive parents. 

 This was a disturbing show because of it’s lack of empirical research details that should have been included. Even in the small percentile of false allegations it is reckless to omit information concerning how often substantiated sexual abuse of children is discredited. Those studies (empirical research) include, but are not limited to, the Saunder Study - commissioned by the Justice Department, the Leadership Council, Mapping Gender -Shedding Empirical Light on Family Courts’ Treatment of Cases Involving Abuse and Alienation - Dr. Joan Meier and Dr. Sean Dickson. Even the National Association of Family & Juvenile Court Judges has published a manual that, for all intents and purposes, support the findings of these three studies and more. But civil court judges have failed to catch up and apply these findings. Evidently television "problem solvers" haven't caught up either.

 The social message is believe the child, and there’s a reason for that. Less the ten percent of child sexual abuse ever sees the light, and much less than that sees justice. The above studies have found that less than 1% of sexual abuse claims by children are false. One study noted by the Leadership Council states that, “Of female-initiated allegations (meaning moms), just 1.3% were deemed intentionally false.”  Similar numbers are supported by other research.v We should rejoice when a child discloses and we have the opportunity to protect them.

In the commonwealth of Pennsylvania 22 children have been murdered as the result of a custody order since 2008 according to the Center for Judicial Excellence, and thousands live with abuse. This does not account for children who have committed suicide because no one believed them.

At the end of the day, do we really want to support those who disbelieve a child’s disclosure?

We want Fox network to remedy this issue.

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