It’s critical for writers to be unafraid; to be relentless and to not take “no” for an answer. Think outside the box and make certain your message travels nationwide and is heard loud and clear.
Aspart of my series about “How to write a book that sparks a movement” I had the great pleasure of interviewing Dean Tong.
Dean Tong is a noted American author, trial consultant and expert who concentrates in false and unfounded child abuse/domestic abuse court cases, nationally. He has written 3 books — Don’t Blame ME, Daddy (1992), Ashes to Ashes…Families to Dust (1997) and Elusive Innocence: Survival Guide for the Falsely Accused (2002). Tong has been a national media consultant in America for some of the country’s highest profile cases from JonBenet Ramsey to Elian Gonzalez to Kobe Bryant and to Michael Jackson, et al. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology with minors in Pre-Medicine and Psychology from Northeastern University and a Master of Science Degree in Psychology and the Law in Child Forensic Studies from the UK’s University of Portsmouth. He has worked high-conflict court cases from all 50 states either as a Consulting or Testimonial Expert and his work includes typically unfounded and false child sexual assault cases from family, criminal, juvenile, appellate, injunction and administrative courts. And he’s testified as an Expert Witness over 20 times in Court Cases from 15 States.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share the “backstory” about how you grew up?
I was born Dean Onigman and grew up an only child in Brookline and Hull, Massachusetts, and graduated high school in a small south shore town with a population of about 7,000 people. My parents divorced when I was just 3 years-old. I was a mama’s boy, which may have made me a little naïve to the outside world. Raised by my mother and maternal grandparents until almost age 10, I was legally adopted by my stepfather whom I would refer to as “Dad” the rest of my life. All who know me do so by my adopted name, Dean Tong.
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life?
When I was in my late 20’s, as I began my trials and tribulations in the mid-80’s, I read the book A Question of Innocenceby Lawrence Spiegel, Ph.D. which inspired and drove me to make the issue of false allegations of child sexual abuse, my life calling. It was my first-hand negative experience of being wrongly accused of child molestation that willed me onto the national stage.
What was the moment or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world?
In 1989, I was approached by future Florida State Senator John Ostalkiewicz who asked me to join him for a radio segment on Orlando’s WDBO to talk about the well-meaning but sometimes misguided Child Protective Services agency, HRS-DCF, and unfounded and false child abuse charges, et al. From there, I published my first bookDon’t Blame ME, Daddy(Hampton Roads, 1992). I became a national voice for two celebrities who found themselves walking in my shoes: Woody Allen and Michael Jackson.
What impact did you hope to make when you wrote this book?
Upon writing and publishing Don’t Blame ME, DaddyI hoped to bring visibility and awareness to the growing epidemic of unfounded and false child abuse charges. The book was America’s first that reached the bookstores on the issue of the rise in untrue child abuse claims in-the-midst-of-high-conflict divorces and child custody battles. It wasn’t until I wrote and published my other 2 books: Ashes to Ashes…Families to Dust(FamRights Press, 1997) and Elusive Innocence(Huntington House, 2002), that I sought to change Florida and national public policy and legislative changes; everything from Florida’s “Spanking Bill,” to F.S. 39.205(9) which made malicious false child abuse allegation reports a third degree felony punishable by prison time, to the Federal Laws CAPTA (Mondale Act of 1974), VAWA (1994) and ASFA (1997).
Did the actual results align with your expectations?
My books and work sparked ideas and the fruition of online parent’s rights groups and even national conferences and protests. But, due to the unpopular and politically incorrect nature of my work, and the operating maxim, children do not lie about abuse and are not mistaken about the same, America’s child protection system continues to err in cases of genuine child abuse as well as mistaken cases.
What moment let you know that your book had started a movement?
The moment I jumped onto the internet in 1996 and ignited my own website in 1997: www.abuse-excuse.com,it became clear to me that I was not alone on the issue of unfounded and false child abuse allegations cases. This was a ubiquitous issue and problem and was not going away anytime soon.
What kinds of things did you hear right away from readers? What are the most frequent things you hear from readers about your book now? Are they the same? Different?
Here’s an amazon review on my book — Elusive Innocence: “”If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed.” Thomas Jefferson. — “What happens when you have an Industry that systematically ruins our family’s? Dean Tong, in his book, with Factual science, was absolutely-mind-blowing Vital Life information! Critical for the world we live in today. MUST READ!!!” While some readers view my work as a how-to get off child abuse book and strategy, it is clear it is not. In fact, in my professional career I represent female victims and mothers who’ve lost child custody due to “coaching” allegations.
What is the most moving or fulfilling experience you’ve had as a result of writing this book?
In 2005, my story was featured on Fox News Channel by Martha MacCallum as part of the Michael Jackson saga. And I was one of Court-TV’s commentators at Jackson’s trial in April 2005. My book, Elusive Innocence: Survival Guide for the Falsely Accusedwas peer-reviewed in The May/June 2006 issue of The American Journal of Family therapy in an article titled Parentectomy in the Crossfire. It is noteworthy that Parental Alienation, a form of psychological, mental, or emotional child abuse, which can surface from the reporting of false child abuse accusations, has been recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) and published in its ICD-11. I am hopeful that Parental Alienation will be further studied and earmarked as an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE), which was first researched by the CDC and Kaiser Permanente.
Have you experienced anything negative? Do you feel there are drawbacks to writing a book that starts such colossal conversation and change?
I have read virulent and inaccurate information published online about my work; information that wreaks of ideology and emotions and confirmatory bias such as this 2002 article: — https://www.salon.com/2002/05/22/molestation/
Clearly, when one writes about an issue that bucks Uncle Sam and the manner in which the Government conducts its business; in this case where Child Protective services is charged by the Legislature to protect kids-at-risk and in harms way, there is bound to be a David v. Goliath rebuke. I am revered by my colleagues, but reviled by my dissenters.
Can you articulate why you think books in particular have the power to create movements, revolutions, and true change?
I think works of non-fiction that are written out of the context of social issues; e.g. losing your children to Child Protective Services or the Government such as ICE in alleged illegal immigration cases, can inspire and spurn social, public policy and legislative changes. If a celebrity backs your book’s position or Hollywood raises its eyebrows, it can lead to a made-for-TV-movie or documentary.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a bestselling writer?
It’s critical for writers to be unafraid; to be relentless and to not take “no” for an answer. Think outside the box and make certain your message travels nationwide and is heard loud and clear. In my case, I presented seminars at bookstores about my book(s) and work and was oftentimes met with resistance by ACES and NOW. Yet, that never stopped me from fighting the good fight. My pursuit of what is right, what is wrong, what is truth and what is justice carved a niche for me, and I am now respected by my peers and naysayers.
What challenge or failure did you learn the most from in your writing career?
I learned you’re not going to become Stephen King or John Grisham and break the bank in this profession. That was and is crystal clear. But that wasn’t my objective in the first place. My purpose was to write about a problem and offer solutions on how to fix it. And nobody can argue with one’s purpose when it comes to protecting our most precious resource — its children. And I articulated why it’s essential child protectors and courts of law not “err” on the side of caution when such mistakes could further exacerbate the mental and physical states of children. I hammered home the published research on the inimical effects of therapy upon non-abused children. I hammered home the published research on poorly conducted forensic interviews of children who were allegedly abused.
Many aspiring authors would love to make an impact similar to what you have done. What are the 5 things writers needs to know if they want to spark a movement with a book?
- Aspire to effect change on an issue and preferably a social issue.An example is Elizabeth Taylor’s book A Passion for Lifeand her work as an AIDS humanitarian.
- Conduct research on that issue and books that have been written on that topic.I researched A Question of Innocenceby Dr. Spiegel, Mary Pride’s book The Child Abuse Industryand others before I set out to first write Don’t Blame ME, Daddy in 1992.
- Conduct research on marketing your book and make certain you can sell 5,000 books in its first print run. Research ASJA, LMP and The Writer’s Market, among others.
- Research Literary Agents and professionals who are “niche sellers.” I sought help from the Publishers Marketing Association (PMA) and others like John Kremer who knew more than I did in the business area of marketing books.
- Research niche book publishing houses and “niche buyers.” It’s possible you can land a publishing contract without an agent at all. And, the author must be skilled in communicating queries and write a saleable proposal. Research your competition. I did that. You must do the same. I was turned down by some 50 publishers or so before I inked a contract with Hampton Roads Publishing in late 1991. A few months later in early 1992 my first book was born — Don’t Blame ME, Daddy: A Hidden National Tragedy.
The world, of course, needs progress in many areas. What movement do you hope someone (or you!) starts next?
I am cautiously optimistic changes in public policy and the law will come to fruition relative to child protection, et al. The old saying — It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks — is the one obstacle that gets in the way of change in my area of expertise. Changes and repeal of Federal Laws such as CAPTA (1974), VAWA (1994) and ASFA (1997), et al are necessary and because of political correctness and the amount of money that’s involved in these issues, it may never come to fruition during my lifetime.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/deantongTwitter — @DeanTong
Thank you so much for these insights!