Supporting Justice - Protecting Children - Promoting Responsible Science
The Leadership Council is a non-profit scientific organization that seeks to intervene in the cycle of violence by educating society about the role of childhood maltreatment in the development of mental disorders and to support justice for victims of violence. Formed in 1999, the Leadership Council evolved from our deeply felt conviction that scientific advances and the improvement of the human condition are closely linked. Our advisory board contains over 40 internationally known respected researchers, clinicians, legal scholars, public policy analysts, and leaders in the fields of child maltreatment and interpersonal trauma.
The following are examples of the types of work that we do, along with some examples of the many projects that we have undertaken in our effort to protect children from abuse:
The Leadership Council sponsored research countering an organized effort to normalize child sexual abuse in psychology. The resulting scientific paper, "The effects of childhood sexual abuse: Comment on Rind, Tromovitch and Bauserman (1998)," by Dallam, Gleaves, Cepeda-Benito, Silberg, Kraemer and Spiegel, was published in November 2001 edition of psychology's premier scientific journal, the Psychological Bulletin .
Helped convene a national "think tank" that examined how to best protect abused children's interests in our nation's family courts. The think tank was co-sponsored with the Family Violence & Sexual Assault Institute, Children's Institute International and Our Children Our Future and included mental health professionals, attorneys, judges, and child advocates. (2000 and 2001)
Edited and contributed to a book titled: Misinformation Concerning Child Sexual Abuse and Adult Survivors . This book has been described as an invaluable resource for professionals and laypeople who want to understand how manipulation and misinformation can impede recognition and protection of current victims and place additional children at risk for abuse. (Published Spring 2002).
Several of members of the Leadership Council contributed to the policy statement "THE SCIENCE OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE" published by Science -- one of the world's leading scientific journals. The statement called recommended a series of international consensus panels on scientific and clinical practice issues related to CSA, and the creation of a new Institute of Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence within the NIH that would foster research on CSA and related conditions. (Apr. 22, 2005, p. 501)
Our President Dr. Paul Fink sent a commentary to Science supporting the objectives laid out in the policy statement noted above. It was the lead commentary published. (Aug. 19, 2005, p. 1182)
We are currently working on the development of collaborative partnerships with other child abuse organizations around the country with the goal of seeking to increase federal dollars for child sexual abuse research.
The Leadership Council sponsored a conference called: "Making the Best Decisions: Issues in Child Custody and Visitation Cases." The participants included social workers, CASA staff, family mediators, attorneys, GALs, and judges in Virginia Beach, Virginia (February 12, 2003)
Participated in several judicial training conferences on sexual abuse for Maryland family court judges. (2003)
Sponsored a conference in conjunction with Nova Southeastern University titled "Protecting our Children: Clinical, Legal, and Scientific Perspectives on Child Maltreatment" in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (March 6-7, 2004).
Provided a one-day training institute for lawyers and psychologists titled "Practical Strategies for Child Protection in a Hostile Climate" in San Diego, California (Sept. 18, 2004)
Sponsored professional trainings at the Family Violence Conference in San Diego on the following topics: treating traumatized children, performing ethical custody evaluations, treatment of adult survivors, forensic interviewing, and educating the media on child abuse. (Sept. 16-21, 2005)
The Leadership Council gave invited presentations to Congressional leaders and the leadership of the American Psychological Association concerning the considerable problems we found with the Rind study - a controversial study that sought to normalize certain forms of adult-child sex (June 1999)
Provided information to the Governor of Arizona concerning a bill being promoted by false memory proponents. The bill would have allowed anyone who claimed an interest (including alleged perpetrators) access to abuse victims' private therapy records, and would have allowed third-parties to sue therapists if they disagreed with any aspect of the treatment being rendered to the victim. The bill had passed both houses of the legislature and was sitting on the Governor's desk when she received our letter. The Governor vetoed the bill and referenced some of our concerns in her veto letter. (April 2000)
Advised the Ohio Attorney General's Office in its defense of the State against legal action for wrongful imprisonment brought by several men convicted of molesting numerous children. The State prevailed in a determination made September 1, 2000.
Sent letters to the Massachusetts Bar Association and the Criminal Justice Institute detailing our concerns with their co-sponsorship of a one-sided conference entitled "The Day Care Child Sexual Abuse Phenomenon: Prosecution, Persecution, and the Culture of Accusation." We advocated a more balanced appropriate. Although, the conference was not altered, we were able to dialogue with some of the sponsors about our concerns. (Nov. 1, 2000)
Sent a letter to Hon. Jane Swift, Governor of Massachusetts , concerning whether a convicted child molester should be released from jail before fulfilling his sentence. We asked her to speak to the victims, respect the decisions of the juries and the Supreme Judicial Court , and consider the limited application of "children's suggestibility" to the facts of the case as she contemplated her decision. She chose not to grant him early release. (July 17, 2001)
Commonwealth vs. Frangipane. Our brief convinced the Supreme Court of Massachusetts to alter its ruling in a case having to do with traumatic amnesia. As a result of this ruling, trauma victims do not have to undergo a lengthy and costly hearing before testifying about their injuries in court. (May 2001)
State of California v. Blanchard. Helped convince a court not to disqualify two highly qualified experts from testifying on behalf of an abused child. The defendant was accused of molesting a child. Although there was no evidence that the child had been coached into alleging abuse, the defense offered misleading and often inaccurate testimony to argue that children are so suggestible as to be unreliable witnesses. The defense also moved to strike the testimony of two expert witnesses who had done research with abused children showing that they are frequently truthful when disclosing abuse. Our declaration, which was successful, detailed the reasons why the testimony of these two well-qualified experts should not be stricken from the record. (July 11, 2001)
Danaipour v. McLarey. Helped convince the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit not to remove two young children from their mother and send them into the custody of their father in another country without first investigating the children's abuse claims against him. In a precedent setting ruling, the Court of Appeals quoted our amicus brief and required a full abuse evaluation be preformed before determining whether the children should be separated from their mother and returned to the custody of their alleged abuser in Sweden . (April 3, 2001 )
Submitted written testimony in a hearing concerning Texas bill (HB 1903). The bill sought to limit testimony regarding "parental alienation syndrome", a pseudoscientific theory which is widely used to discredit allegations of family violence during custody and divorce cases. Unfortunately, the bill died in committee.
We submitted in an amicus letter and an amicus brief in the case of Taus v. Loftus pointing out the importance of holding professionals to ethical guidelines that respect rights of human research subjects. The case involved an abuse survivor whose private life was intruded upon without her consent by a prominent psychologist and member of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation who sought to discredit the young woman's testimony about her abuse at age six. (2005-2006)
The Leadership Council has served as a resource for prosecutors and plaintiff attorneys all over the country in difficult cases involving child abuse.
More information on amicus briefs
The Leadership Council developed extensive educational documents concerning the truth behind "Capturing the Friedmans," a misleading documentary that gained critical acclaim by casting doubt on the guilt of two confessed child molesters. Our efforts led to more balanced reporting of the case and allowed the victim's side of the story to be told. The story was carried on national and local TV shows, radio shows, and in over 30 newspapers. The movie, which was nominated for an Academy Award, did not win. Due to pressure from child advocates who had read our materials, the Academy allowed time for a special statement to be made about the serious problem of child sexual abuse in our society. (2004)
Our Paul Shanley trial blog provided the public with a scientific source of information regarding issues raised by the media in a former Catholic priest's trial on charges of child molestation. Our blog included information on traumatic memory, the sexual abuse of boys, and the credentials of the expert witnesses. (Jan. 30 - Feb. 16, 2005)
Our Michael Jackson trial blog provided scientific information about issues raised in the press and during testimony in the trial of Michael Jackson for child molestation. Our blog received favorable notice by US News & World Report and the Psychotherapy Networker. (Mar. 1 - Jun. 13, 2005)
Helped keep an offensive commercial off the air. We collaborated with Stop Family Violence and SNAP to call public attention to a Ford advertisement that promoted truck sales by capitalizing on the priest abuse scandal. Within 8 hours, our joint efforts resulted in the pulling of this controversial ad from the Superbowl advertising. (Feb. 2005)
We have provided scientific information on child abuse to numerous media outlets, including CNN, Dateline, Good Morning America, Primetime, Boston Magazine , USA Today , Family Therapy Networker, Time Magazine, The Washington Post, and US News and World Report, among others.
We provide an extensive website to inform the public about important issues affecting the welfare of victims of child maltreatment. http://www.leadershipcouncil.org )
Each year the Leadership Council joins with the Family Violence & Sexual Assault Institute to recognize outstanding media productions. The award is given each year to the individual(s) or lay organizations whose use of media during the preceding year has done the most to educate the public about the scope of childhood maltreatment in our society, its role in the development of mental disorders, and to support justice for abuse victims.
Past awardees include:
2001: Judging Amy for its realistic and sensitive portrayal of current issues concerning child maltreatment in family courts.
2002: Investigative reporter Kristen Lombardi and the Boston Phoenix for a ground-breaking series of articles that documented the scope of child sex abuse in the local Catholic Church community, and subsequent efforts by the church hierarchy to cover it up.
2002: The film "Close to Home" for sensitively documenting the pain and difficulty that both children and adult survivors of child sex abuse face in disclosing their histories. The film was produced by Vanessa Roth and Alexandra Dickson through the generosity of the Mark McGwire Foundation for Children.
2003: The film "Antowne Fisher" for its unflinching courage and accuracy in documenting the aftermath of the sexual abuse of a young boy.
2003: The documentary "Small Justice, Little Justice in America's Family Courts" for being the first film to document how family court systems often cover up incestuous abuse of children and punish the mothers who bring it to their attention.
2004: Abuse survivor and political activist Alison Arngrim (2004), who played Nellie Oleson on the TV show "Little House on the Prairie", for her candid and informative discussion of her abuse as a child by a relative on CNN's "Larry King Live" (air date: April 27, 2004) (transcript: http://www.protect.org/california/caNews.html )
2005: Abuse survivor and movie producer Angela Shelton was honored for her documentary "Searching for Angela Shelton." The movie has helped survivors deal with issues around disclosure and educated the general public about the pain that abuse can inflict. Angela maintains a website and has traveled all over North America using her documentary to educate the public about the prevalence and effects of abuse on the lives of women.
2005: Marilyn Van Derbur, a former Miss America, was honored for her book Miss America by Day (2003), and for her extensive history of speaking out about incest. In her book, Ms. Van Derbur tells the story of how she was sexually violated by her prominent, millionaire father from age 5 to age 18. Using her story as the scaffolding, she shares knowledge and insights she has gained through speaking personally with adult survivors of sexual abuse across the country. Marilyn has been in personal contact with more survivors than anyone in America . She has personally answered over 8,000 letters and spoken in 225 cities.
If you would like to assist us in continuing our efforts in this area, consider giving a tax-deductible donation to the LC.
updated March 2006