The Providence Journal has a more detailed account of the RI state investigator’s interviews with Prata, Arnold, and her daughter. Both adults freely volunteered that they did have sex many times with their daughter present, because they didn’t believe in hiding anything. They said she was often sitting on the bed watching when they had sex, but they did not include her in their activities and she was free to leave whenever she wanted to. Rebecca, the girl’s mom, also talked about how her first husband and mother in law made fun of her for not knowing much about sex when she was first married, and did not want her daughter to experience that.
The interview concluded with the investigator asking Prata if he understood that he had done psychological damage to the girl. “No,” Prata said.
While this is very unusual for modern day America, it used to be the norm in most cultures centuries ago, and still is in many places. Families would live together in small spaces, and sex would not be hidden from anyway. Why are we so sure that it causes “psychological damage?” Personally, I’m convinced that hiding is what causes the damage.
Then there’s the double standard when it comes to violence. Logically, I can’t see any reason why someone would argue that witnessing happy, consensual sex could possibly be worse than witnessing physical violence, but how often do parents “allow” their children to witness someone hitting someone else? How often do parents actually encourage their sons to fight? And how often do parents get charged with “child abuse” for it?
Arnold & Prata were arrested at the beginning of 2005, and have been barred from contact with Arnold’s daughter for the past two years. Now, they’ve been charged with neglect, and have pleaded Not Guilty.
The investigator interviewed the daughter, too. The girl said “she saw her mother and Prata having sex more than once and in different rooms.” She apparently at some point thought Prata was hurting her mother because of the sounds her mother made, so she “asked her mom if David was hurting her, and her mom told her no.”
The girl said her mother and Prata never touched her or tried to include her in their sexual activity, according to the report.
The girl told the investigator “she was afraid that her mom and David would go to jail and she did not want that to happen.” The interview ended when the girl picked up an Etch A Sketch and “would not engage further,” the investigator said.
From that snippet, which is all we have to go on, it sounds to me as though the girl is very troubled by the questioning, and by the prospect of the two going to jail, so much so that she froze up and didn’t want to continue. But what little information they provided about her conversation on the actual substance of the accusation suggests that she took a rather matter-of-fact attitude towards it, and did not seem troubled.
I’m not at all convinced that seeing sex is harmful, but there are some things that happened here that I am quite sure can be harmful to a young girl:
- Being cut off from one of her parents involuntarily.
- Being questioned by the state for evidence against her parent.
- Seeing the official spotlight shining on her home life.
- Being told by adults about how “wrong” this was, and that it should’ve been hidden from her.
- Seeing her parent go to jail and knowing it was partly through what she said.
These are extreme measures, justifiable only in situations of real abuse. So what I wonder is, will someone interview the state, and ask if they “understand that they have done psychological damage to the girl?”