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Yager, Her Ilk Are No Friends To Children

By BETHE DUFRESNE
Day Staff Columnist
Published on 7/11/2003

So Bonnie Rubenstein, acquitted last month of custodial interference after five years on the run with her young son, wants to work with kids.

The former school psychologist told a Day reporter that once her family court battles are over, she hopes to resume her career, perhaps as a children's advocate.

If so, it's unlikely she'll list Georgia belle Faye Yager of the Children's Underground as a reference on her resume or use her as a role model. Yager helped Rubenstein to disappear and perhaps gave her up to settle a multimillion-dollar lawsuit.

Rubenstein didn't answer my request to talk to her about Yager. But several years ago I got a chance to see the two in tandem when a 1997 tape of Yager interviewing Rubenstein and her then 3-year-old son was provided to The Day.

As the child cringed, cried and screamed, Yager and Rubenstein, who held and patted her son, tried to cajole or trick him into saying his father had abused him, even menacing him with a big stuffed dinosaur.

“Is that Daddy?” asked Yager, shoving the toy at the boy, who naturally hit back. “Give him another one!” exhorted Yager. “Does that make you feel better when you bop Daddy?”

“Daddy's coming to get you!” intoned Rubenstein.

What I saw looked misguided and cruel. But for an informed opinion, I took the tape to experts in child abuse, who provided a list of do's and don'ts when interviewing a child. Among the major don'ts: Prompting. Threatening. Lying.

Suffice it to say that Yager and Rubenstein did them all. What struck me as most frightening, however, was the sense that both women, with their stern but silken voices, actually felt qualified to do what they were doing.

I don't believe professionals have all the answers. But what I saw on that tape, and later on another, violated professional ethics, common sense and human compassion.

The other tape was of Yager interviewing — or, more accurately interrogating — a 7-year-old boy and his 5-year-old sister.

“You know some things about your Daddy you're afraid to tell us, right?” Yager, in fancy dress and pearls, asked the weeping boy, clad only in shorts or underpants while seated on an elegant white Victorian couch. “Well, I want you to tell me.”

Yager tried to get the girl to implicate other males in the father's family, then helped her reconstruct a sordid degradation ritual. After prodding her into reciting how her Daddy had made her eat “poo-poo,” Yager asked if Daddy had made her eat anything else bad.

“Chinese food,” the distraught child replied.

Vicki Pierce, a mothers' advocate and National Organization for Women leader from Cobb County, Ga., who knew and became disillusioned with Yager, said Thursday claims of Satanism and other ritualistic abuse often surface where Yager is involved.

Pierce said she wasn't surprised to read that Rubenstein claimed to have found cuts around her son's penis, or that Dr. Charles Nord of Atlanta testified that the boy appeared to have been sexually abused. Nord, she says, is married to Yager's best friend.

Ironically, that Yager made tapes of her interviews suggests she thought they would justify her helping women flee the law. On tape, Rubenstein told her son it was “very, very important” that he tell how his father had hurt him.

No doubt some of Yager's clients really were in danger. But no one who has seen Yager's amateur, self-serving interrogations could call her a savior or a martyr, and anyone who follows her is no friend to children.

“We're going to show you how to tell the truth,” Yager told the 5-year-old girl, “and get folks to believe you.”

You don't have to be an expert to read the horror in those words.

This is the opinion of Bethe Dufresne. 
 

© The Day Publishing Co., 2003