Monday, June 30, 2008

Psychics: What's the Harm?

There is a girl named Victoria who lives in Barrie, Ontario. Victoria has a severe form of autism, and is nonverbal. It can be extremely difficult to raise an autistic child, even at the best of times. I work with autistic people, I know this. Their brains work in a very different way, making meaningful communication next to impossible, even for verbal people. Victoria lives in a completely alien world.

One day Victoria's mother got a phone call from the school. She went for a meeting, where she was told that they had reason to believe Victoria was being sexually abused.

"That's when I got sick to my stomach," [Victoria's mother] said. "I was shocked the whole meeting."
That's one of the most devastating things a parent can hear, particularly a parent of such a vulnerable child. Even if completely untrue, such a claim can have a terrible emotional effect on the whole family. So you'd think the school would be a little bit cautious about tossing around such dire allegations.

Yeah, you'd think.

Turns out the suspicion of abuse was raised by Victoria's educational assistant - you know, the person in charge of protecting and watching over her when her parents cannot - who had visited a psychic who told her that a child with a 'V' name was being abused.

That's it, that's the evidence of abuse the school went on when they called the Children's Aid Society, which is obligated to investigate any possible abuse case, although mercifully they acknowledged that the whole psychic thing is completely ludicrous.

Even though the claims are absolutely baseless, and Victoria was certainly not abused, this kind of thing causes harm. The emotional stress on the family, the level of trust in the educational aids and the school, the waste of resources spent investigating, and the lingering suspicion that the community will have for years to come are all very real harmful side effects.

The next time someone asks "what's the harm" of going to a psychic, tell them about Victoria.

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