That was quite a bombastic attack by Edwin Yoder on those he perceives to be violating his constitutional rights {"Child Abuse and an Abuse of Basic Rights," op-ed, July 3}. He seemed to be aided well by his Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles.

Mr. Yoder evidently perceives an erosion of the Constitution. I understand his fear. He believes rights are being violated. Imagine the intense fear and confusion felt by a child who cannot interpret constitutional law, cannot debate the applications of the Bill of Rights -- a child who has been physically and emotionally violated and knows something "bad" has happened to him. Imagine his fear and sense of personal violation when he must publicly undercut the perpetrator while under the intense scrutiny of the accused, who likely in the course of his sick actions threatened the child's life or well-being.

Children are not adults. The law, and likely Mr. Yoder's dictionary, agree. They are not considered by the legal system to be "reasonable," and they are generally incapable of understanding that the threats against them in the course of abuse will not happen. The accused who closely watches them in a courtroom is their nemesis. It is intimidating to many adults to undergo such scrutiny. To a child it is likely to be overwhelming and legally counterproductive.

We owe it to our children to be able to speak freely without intimidation or fear for their lives, especially in a court of law. We owe it to them more than we owe the accused the right to face his accuser. The chain of abuse will not stop until children are empowered to fight back. They will be better served, as will we all, if the courts do as Justice O'Connor has stated and use videotaped testimony in child abuse cases.

JULIA B. STAMPLER Sterling