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Editor's Note:

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By Tom Shroder
Sunday, February 22, 2009

In the Jan. 25 issue of the Magazine, we ran an essay in the XX Files headlined "Suspended Disbelief." The author was writing about the dilemma she felt when a friend's husband was sent to jail for molesting a young girl, despite his protestations of innocence. In the end, she discovered that even though she wanted to believe her friend's husband, she couldn't quite do it.

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The column had factual errors, and editors in the Magazine, including me, failed to catch them. The author wrote that the man had been talked into accepting a plea agreement, and implied that there had been only one accuser. In fact, the man had turned down the plea offer, and had been tried and convicted. Also, more than one girl made accusations. The inescapable conclusion is that the man's guilt was not as ambiguous as presented. No names were used, but the families of the victims only too readily recognized the circumstances and were understandably upset by the implication of the story. Today, I want to apologize for our errors and publish a letter from a victim's grandmother:

[The article's author] did the right thing when she instinctively shielded her daughter from a convicted child molester. Even though the "facts" she reports are far from accurate, they provide sufficient detail for the case to be recognized by those of us affected by it. Denial may well be a survival tool for the molester's wife and sons. However, the families of the children molested by this man could not then, and can not now, afford denial.

These parents listened with growing horror when their daughters told what happened while watching movies with this trusted family friend and his children. They berated themselves over and over again for being so gullible--why did they not suspect the repeated invitations for movie afternoons? They saw their reputation and credibility destroyed by friends of this "affable" seeming man. [The author should] please tell her daughter that not all bad guys look like bad guys!

I am the proud grandmother of one of the young girls who had the courage to tell her story to detectives and social workers; to stand alone, without the comfort of a parent, in front of a grand jury; and, in a crowded court-room to testify and be cross-examined in the presence of the man who molested her. This man was convicted.

I understand why the molester and his wife wanted this story written. I do not understand why the Post saw fit to print it. It can only reopen barely healed wounds.

***

Tom Shroder can be reached at shrodert@washpost.com.


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