I am alarmed by the out-of-control wildfires of conspiracy theories about child abuse and pedophilia. Many of the vile fabricated stories are flames fanned by the politically driven conspiracy movement QAnon. Epitomized by prominent member and Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene — known for anti-LGBTQ rhetoric — she recently declared, “The Democrats are a party of pedophiles.”

Other Republicans have added fuel to the fire with reckless accusations that Democratic colleagues who support trans and gay rights are gaining kids' trust to set them up to be abused, what’s known as sexual grooming. And while Congresswoman Greene is a documented fire starter, the embers of her nasty unproven attacks have traveled far and wide on the high winds of character assassination.

In an email fundraising campaign, Michigan Republican state senator Lana Theis accused her Democratic colleague Mallory McMorrow of wanting to “groom” and “sexualize” kindergartners. State Senator McMorrow’s heated response on the floor of the Michigan statehouse went viral. She said, “I am a straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom” who wants “every child in this state to feel seen, heard and supported — not marginalized and targeted because they are not straight, white and Christian.”

It angers me that these politically motivated false charges of child abuse and pedophilia are tossed about casually when there are actual incidents of child sexual abuse that should command our attention. A couple of recent local cases are a reminder of how real child victims have suffered. Two weeks ago, the Boston School Committee voted to shut down the Mission Hill School because of documented abuse of children as young as five. Boston Public School Superintendent Brenda Cassellius called for the school’s closing, citing a nearly 200-page report describing ongoing abuse and bullying and confirming many with knowledge of the problems looked the other way for years. The report notes written evidence of more than “100 discrete events involving alleged sexually inappropriate behaviors by Mission Hill students” over seven years. I’m glad the school is closing, but the reality is that the sparks of emotional and psychological damage are not easily stamped out.

Patrick Rose cried in the courtroom last month while listening to the statements of his young victims from his more than two decades as a serial child abuser. The Boston Globe uncovered much of his sleazy history. Rose was a Boston police officer, at one time the head of the Boston Police Patrolman’s Association. Behind the blue wall, he kept his job even after a 1995 internal investigation into a criminal complaint of child abuse concluded that he’d probably committed the abuse. Finally arrested in 2020 after six victims between the ages of 7 and 16 came forward, Rose vigorously denied the accusations until pleading guilty in a plea deal to avoid a trial. One of his victims asked this question of him, saying, “Your job as a cop protecting people? ... That’s really quite ironic isn’t it?” It’s disgustingly ironic since the full record of his pedophilia remains hidden behind a firewall of city and police administrative bureaucracy.

It burns me to hear the very real horror of child sexual abuse is covered up even as made-up cases are used as a political weapon. It needs to stop now.