The nightmare began in 1983 when a 39-year-old mother called the police department in Manhattan Beach, California and accused a teacher at the McMartin Preschool, Raymond Buckey, of molesting her two and a half-year old son.

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The Preschool Sex Abuse Case that Changed How Molestation is Investigated

Producer: Barbara Dury
Editor: Seth Bomse
Reporter: Sarah Weiser

Accusations soon led to reports that hundreds of children had been abused at the prominent preschool, and set in motion one of the longest and most expensive child molestation cases in U.S. history. It also fed a national panic about child sex abuse, satanic rituals and child pornography that enmeshed dozens of day care centers across the country.

This week’s Retro Report looks back at the McMartin case and the panic that followed. Using archival footage and interviews with investigators – including the lead prosecutor in the case and the agency that evaluated the alleged preschool victims – we examine how and why one accusation altered the lives of those caught in the eye of the storm forever.

Additional Resources:

“We Believe the Children: a Moral Panic in the 1980s” by Richard Beck


More on the Story

Producer Barbara Dury sits down with the Witch Hunt podcastWitch Hunt podcast
The Trial That Unleashed Child Abuse HysteriaThe Takeaway
Retro Report’s Barbara Dury: “McMartin Preschool: Anatomy of a Panic”Chris Riback's Conversations with Thinkers
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