To the editor:
Since its founding in April of 2002, I have served as executive director of the National Center for Reason and Justice, an advocacy group for people falsely accused or wrongfully convicted of crimes against children.
A friend recently forwarded to me a flyer for an exhibit at Salem’s Peabody-Essex Museum, titled “The Salem Witch Trials 1692.” The flyer concludes:
“The victims of the Salem witch trials had complex emotions, fears, and doubts just like we do,” said Dan Lipcan, head librarian at Peabody Essex Museum’s Phillips Library. “To empathize and understand their experience emboldens us to speak out against injustice and cruelty in our own time.”
Sadly, the Peabody-Essex has not always boldly “spoken out against injustice and cruelty in our own time.”
The “Daycare Panic” of the 80s and 90s was in many ways a replay of the Salem witch hysteria. In January of 1997, Carol Hopkins of the Justice Committee had arranged a seminal two-day conference, Day of Contrition, that was to take place at Peabody-Essex. Presenters included District Attorney (now Judge) Alan Rubenstein of Bucks County, Pennsylvania; internationally renowned psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Loftus; journalist Debbie Nathan, the first to write critically about the hysteria; author Mark Pendergrast; professor Frederick Crews of the University of California, Berkeley; Donald Connery, author and former Time-Life correspondent’ Dr. Richard Leo, the leading expert on false confessions; and (by videotape) playwright Arthur Miller and author William Styron. Also attending were many victims of the hysteria.
Unfortunately, word got out and true believers in daycare sexual abuse complained to Peabody-Essex. Their response was far from bold. At the last minute, they told Carol Hopkins she and her presenters were not welcome at Peabody-Essex.
Fortunately, the Hawthorne Hotel stepped up and the conference went on. Alliances were formed and many of us are still fighting for justice. The National Center for Reason and Justice, for example, grew out of discussions that occurred at that conference.
We appreciate that Mr. Lipcan has worked for Peabody-Essex for less than two years. We are optimistic that he means what he says about speaking out against cruelty and injustice and we wish him success.
Robert B. Chatelle
National Center for Reason and Justice