A Salt Lake social worker believes the verdict is still out on child sexual abuse in Utah.
"The question is who is going to call it - special interest groups or citizens who say children are our best resource and need to be protected?" Dr. Barbara Snow asked Friday.Snow, in private practice in Salt Lake, has been the focus of media attention since last December, when a jury of eight men and women convicted Allan B. Hadfield in one of the most complex and emotional child sexual abuse cases in Utah.
Snow was the messenger - the therapist who gave the disturbing message from the children: "My father touched me."
Hadfield was convicted of sodomizing and sexually molesting his son and daughter. He spent six months in jail and is undergoing court-ordered treatment for child sex abusers, although he has never admitted any wrongdoing.
Snow, who faced the wrath of an emotional and tense Lehi community for months, had chosen not to respond to her critic's allegations, to protect other Lehi children whose cases may have gone to trial.
That changed Friday.
The Utah attorney general's office announced on Thursday that it is dropping its long-term investigation into claims of widespread child sexual abuse in Hadfield's former Lehi neighborhood.
Following the public announcement, Snow gave her first interview Friday. Her motive, she told the Deseret News, is to challenge Utahns to "learn from what didn't happen (in Lehi), as well as what did."
"Are we going to honestly look at what happened in this case, or are we going to be subject to intimidation, misinformation and a type of propaganda that is typical of the backlash that comes nationwide when these cases are exposed?"
Snow said what happened is that a number of Lehi residents spearheaded a campaign to protect "their own." Events to raise money for Hadfield's defense were attended by hundreds of citizens, including Utah legislators, who refused to believe that the well-established father of three could commit such unspeakable crimes.
A major part of their campaign, Snow said, was designed to convince the public that she was a renegade therapist who brainwashed the kids into reporting and accusing all sorts of people of all sorts of crimes.
"It was more comfortable for people to accept that Lehi was an isolated incident created by a single therapist who acted irresponsibly," said Snow, who was accused of everything from not reporting the case, to not keeping notes, to using shock therapy and showing the children shocking pornographic material.
None of the allegations have been substantiated.
But Snow believes the damage done by the precendent-setting case can only be alleviated if Utahns react.
"Until the system becomes less punishing for children, we cannot in good conscience tell them to come forth and talk about child sexual abuse," she said. "Can we legitimately say things will be better for you if you tell the truth? Not while what the offender warns the children (about) begin to materialize - people not believing them, loss of their home, separation, ridicule and embarrass-ment."
"It's a self-fulfilling prophecy," she said. "These children are not seeing the benefit of having come forward. They are seeing travesty, and that has to change."
Snow insists that people who molest and sexually abuse children use power, control and intimidation. "If we expect that young children alone can combat that, we are badly mistaken," she said. "We can't have children be the sole substance of a criminal case."
Snow is urging Utahns to devote more public resources and education specifically to combat child sexual abuse.
She also wants more public advocacy for children.
"There are a lot of therapists who are not willing to treat sexually abused children because of the tremendous liabilities," she said. "The Hadfield case highlighted those liabilities. We can't have it both ways. We can't on one hand, have the public asking, `Why didn't anyone protect that abused child?' and on the other hand, have the public discredit children and therapists who are faced with incredible opposition.
"We can't attack advocates for children and then ask why no one came forward to protect the sexually abused child."
Finally, Snow wants Utah legislators to be aware of the motives of special interest groups and individuals, and responsibly pass laws that are dedicated to protecting the rights of children.
"Agencies and individuals that take the kudos for representing our children must also be willing to take the risks and the responsibility," she said.