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A City Possessed – The Christchurch Civic Creche Case

by Lynley Hood, Longacre 2001.

Lynley Hood

Information about the author: http://www.lynleyhood.org

The book was #1 on the Booksellers NZ bestsellers list for the two weeks up to 11 October 2001. Download flyer (PDF 61 KB)

click here to learn more about A City Possessed

Review by Bernard Robertson

The Evening Post 29th October 2001. The book is unusual because it takes in far more than just the story of the case. In particular Lynley Hood gives us an intelligent and astute criticism of changes made in 1989 to the rules of evidence for child sexual abuse cases and also of the limits, imposed by Parliament or by the court itself, to the Court of Appeal’s powers to review cases properly on appeal. This book has already received plenty of publicity and the question has been asked "how can Lynley Hood be right and a High Court judge and jury, three reviews and two Court of Appeal decisions be wrong?" The reader will find that is not a fair question. As Hood makes clear, each of the judicial hearings and inquiries suffered from limitations which destroyed its usefulness as a genuine inquiry into the case. More…

Review by Ian Freckelton Barrister, Melbourne

The New Zealand Law Journal October 2001. The responses likely to be elicited by A City Possessed have the potential to be both constructive and cleansing if they act as the catalyst for a reflective examination of how allegations of child sexual assault and in particular ritual sexual assault can most effectively be dealt with by the criminal justice system……The idea that a group of workers at a place where parents entrust their young children could have preyed upon them sexually is terrifying. So too is the potential that circumstances may have children having made extremely serious allegations against an innocent man. However, the allegations raised in Christchurch are of an ilk encountered in a number of countries previously. The benefit of hindsight and the work of writers such as Paul and Shirley Eberle (The Abuse of Innocence: the McMartin Preschool Trial, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, 1993) has exposed nearly all such cases as the product of moral panics, media hysteria and ill-executed investigations. The result has been immense damage not just to the persons directly involved but also to the reputation of child protection systems and confidence in the criminal justice system. More…

Lots more reviews and news items about ‘City Possessed’ at www.peterellis.org.nz

More information on this site about Peter Ellis and the Christchurch Creche Case

Justice Minister Phil Goff reportedly does not intend to read ‘A City Possessed’

I will not read that book by Hood

I will not, will not, say it’s good

I will just say the courts are right

I do not want to see the light

I will not read about that case

I am scared of losing face

I will not read it fast or slow

I want to keep the status quo

I will not read it, so I say

I wish that book would go away

I will not read that woman’s book

I will not even take a look

I will not read it, not a bit

In case I have to act on it

by David Hood

Excerpts from Chapter 2:

Sex, Sexism and the New Demonology.

Page 36 — 37

During the height of the witch panic, as increasing numbers of ordinary women (and a few men) were sent to the stake, all but the most outspoken critics fell silent and many discontented common folk seized the opportunity to make frivolous and vindictive accusations against people they disliked without fear of repercussions. The history of the late 20th-century sexual abuse scare shows a similar pattern.

It began in the 1970s, when a clamour of competing social movements, each with its own agenda and each with its own moral entrepreneurs, vied for public and political attention. Then, in the early ’80s, three major social streams – feminism, religious conservatism and the child protection movement – joined forces under the banner of combating child sexual abuse. The resulting coalition surged through the ’80s and beyond, gathering size and power along the way, sweeping over, around or away most of the obstacles in its path.

Page 38

The first New Zealand women’s liberation groups were formed in 1970. As of the decade progressed many feminist groups became established national organisations. Rape crisis centres, women’s refuges and the women’s studies courses proliferated. In 1972, 200 women attended the national women’s liberation conference in Wellington. United Women’s Conventions, held in other cities in 1973, 1975, 1977 and in 1979, drew over 1,000 participants each.

Page 39

As the ’70s progressed, women at the cutting edge of feminism became increasingly radicalised and the United Women’s Conventions became increasingly disunited. By the end of the decade the inclusiveness had vanished. Conservative women turned their backs on the movement, women who saw themselves as moderates distanced themselves from women they saw as extremists and feminists at the core of the movement dissipated much of their energy on in-group upheavals over sexual politics, race and social class.

A cornerstone of the radicalisation of the women’s movement was the feminist analysis of rape. In October 1975, Broadsheet readers were told: ‘rape is part of a normal pattern of male behaviour. Males in this society are conditioned from birth to be sexual aggressors while females are conditioned to be passive and submissive – perfect victims……Every male is a potential rapist’.

Page 40 — 41

With the demonisation of men, the distinction made by women’s liberationists between ‘men we like’ and ‘male chauvinist pigs’ was abolished. All men were predatory bastards. They ceased to appear on the pages of Broadsheet, they were no longer welcome at feminist events, and their responsibility for the oppression of women was subject to further detailed analysis.

The outcome was a ‘political critique of the institution and ideology of hetrosexuality as a cornerstone of male supremacy’ that acclaimed sexual violence as ‘a constant threat and reminder of the power of men over women’, and ‘and ultimate expression of female oppression in a patriarchal society’.

Page 42

Throughout the ’70s, a major target of radical feminist criticism was the patriarchal family. In Broadsheet, the child rearing book most frequently cited was Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex. Like her sister theorists, Firestone regarded sexual oppression as a cornerstone of political oppression, and the patriarchal family as a cornerstone of the patriarchal society. Her solution was radical in the extreme: she called for the abolition of the family. In practice, this feminist utopia proved elusive. Though most feminist mothers interviewed by Broadsheet had thrown off the theoretical oppression of the patriarchal family, all they had replaced it with was the practical oppression of solo motherhood.

Page 42

By the end of the ’70s, disillusioned heterosexuals were abandoning the women’s liberation movement in droves, leaving lesbian radicals (and a few hetrosexual radicals) in control of the feminist high ground. Women who would have been regarded as extremists in the early ’70s (by their own unreconstructed selves as well as by the rest of society), became, in the ’80s, the core theorists and spokespeople of the movement. Among their number were two energetic, intelligent women who took the feminist analysis of rape from the political to the personal, and on to the professional. Both began the ’70s as hetrosexual wives and mothers and ended it as lesbian-feminist psychologists. They were Hilary Haines and Miriam Jackson.

Haines and Jackson encountered women’s liberation at Auckland University in the early ’70s. They joined feminist consciousness raising groups, became members of the Broadsheet collective, and reorientated their sexuality and ended their marriages during their student years. Jackson also fought one of her first political campaigns. ‘I drew graphs showing that we were turning people away from the [University] creche,’ she recalled in 1987. ‘They were quite distorted graphs, but successful politically in terms of getting an extension on the creche’. Using distorted statistics for political ends would bring Jackson further success in the years ahead.

Page 42

To feminist activists, rape statistics were an area where radical ideals and everyday reality clashed head-on. Despite a vigorous ‘believe the victim’ campaign and the establishment of rape crisis centres nationwide, rape continued to constitute less than 0.5% of recorded crime in New Zealand. Also, despite all the rhetoric about white, middle-class men being the chief perpetrators and beneficiaries of patriarchal privilege through rape and the threat of rape, those convicted of rape were usually poor men from racial minorities. In the light of this outcome, the theorists who argued that all men were rapists, and the rape crisis workers whose services lacked the anticipated demand, were faced with a dilemma: they could admit that their extravagant claims about the prevalence of rape and the identity of the rapists were suspect, or they could redefine the problem and repackage to the statistics to produce the results they wanted. In the decade ahead, many enterprising feminists chose the latter option.

Page 44

In most respects the antithesis of ’70s feminism was ’70s religious conservatism. Conservatives favoured a God-fearing society in which men ruled the world and women knew their place. They were opposed to abortion, homosexuality, pornography, sex education, extra marital sex and working mothers. All that authoritarian conservatives appeared to have in common with authoritarian feminists was an intense interest in what people did in the privacy of their own bedrooms and a tight-lipped disappointment with the creator for making hetrosexual intercourse necessary for the continuation of the species. During the permissive ’60s the protests of religious conservatives were trampled underfoot in the headlong communal rush to enjoy the fruits of the sexual revolution. But, during the ’70s, conservatives returned to the public arena with a vengeance.

Patricia Bartlett, ex-nun and indefatigable anti-pornography activist, founded the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards in 1970, and went on to picket, petition, survey, review, debate and lobby with unrelenting vigour but little success for the next 25 years. Another conservative movement of the ’70s, the Society for Protection of the Unborn Child, persuaded Parliament to tighten the laws on legalised abortion. But, despite this success, religious conservatism ended the decade still struggling to be taken seriously in the face of ongoing criticism from civil libertarians over issues of censorship, and ridicule from the general public for its busybody purience.

The most spectacularly successful social force of the 1970s, the child protection movement, began early in the previous decade. In a 1962 paper, Denver paediatrician Henry Kemp coined the term ‘the battered-child syndrome’ to remind doctors that not all childhood injuries were accidental. Kemp claimed that this ‘unrecognised trauma’ was ‘a frequent cause of permanent injury or death’, and ‘one of the most serious concerns facing society’.

Henry Kemp was a man of vision, determination and charisma. Between the publication of his ground-breaking paper in 1962 and the first edition of The Battered Child in 1967, he persuaded all 50 American states to pass child abuse reported laws. The following year, two articles in scholarly journals cast doubt on his alarmist claims but failed to slow his momentum. Following the first article (which reported that only a minority of physically ill-treated children showed frank symptoms of the battered-child syndrome), Kemp expanded his frontiers and renamed his territory ‘child abuse’. The second article (which concluded that sensational reports had greatly exaggerated the importance of the problem) appears to have been ignored.

Page 45 – 46

But while the prevalence of non-accidental childhood injuries in the United States remained uninvestigated, New Zealand Department of Social Welfare researchers analysed information on all cases of suspected or alleged child abuse bought to to the attention of the Child Welfare Division of the Department in 1967… The researchers concluded:

‘…..child abuse is not a problem of major social importance in New Zealand. During the survey year fewer than three children in every 10,000 in the 0-16 age group came to the attention of the Child Welfare Division for incidents in which there was evidence of abuse. Even the high risk (under 1year old) group the incidents was only 4.5 per 10,000 children. Further, the bulk of incidents… involved only relatively minor injuries, and of the 255 abused children only 44 were hospitalised as a consequence of abuse. By way of comparison, in the same year 2,041 children in the 0 — 14 age group were admitted to hospital suffering from the effects of road accidents and further 2,131 from accidental poisonings in the home.’

This finding may have been good news for New Zealand children. But scientific reality is one thing and social reality is something else again, and the social reality was that child abuse was an idea whose time had come.

Page 47

The momentum continued with the establishment of the journal Child Abuse and Neglect in 1977. But, by the time the second International Congress was held in London in 1978, change was in the wind.

Along with a successes (more abuse reports, more funding, more media attention) had come problems. From 1976, US statistics were collected annually by the American Humane Association. The news showed that the astronomical rise in suspected child abuse cases was accompanied by an equally astronomical rise in false allegations. Yet, throughout the period, the number of children who died at the hands of caregivers each year stayed virtually constant. These points did not go unnoticed by the media. Some articles damned child protection workers for tearing innocent families apart, others damned then for leaving guilty families intact.

By the late ’70s that child protection movement was also drawing the wrath of feminists and religious conservatives. Feminists took exception to claim that most physical child abuse was perpetrated by women (and, all too often, by poor women from racial minorities); while religious conservatives took exception to the movement’s wish to deny parents their divine right to hit their own children.

Page 48 – 49

So there they were, approaching the end of the decade, three separate social movements — feminism, religious conservatism and the child protection movement — each seething with mutual hostility, frustrated ambitions and unrealised potential, and the about to discover an exciting new cause: child sexual abuse.

The upsurge of interest in child sexual abuse had its origins in feminist scholarship. Nothing annoyed ’70s feminists more than having their arguments dismissed as the work of hysterical woman. Hysterical! they protested. Who says we’re hysterical? The answer was: Sigmund Freud.

When they re-examined the work of Freud, feminist scholars discovered that, between 1895 and 1897, the father of modern psychoanalysis believed that sexual abuse in early childhood was the root cause of the mental disorders he observed in his adult patients. Then, in 1897, he changed his mind. In An Autobiographical Study (1925) he wrote:

‘Under the influence of the technical procedure which I used at that time, the majority of my patients reproduced from their childhood scenes in which they were sexually seduced by some grown-up person. With female patients the part of seducer was almost always assigned to their father. I believed these stories…. however, I was at last obliged to recognise that these scenes of seduction had never taken place, and that they were only fantasies which my patients had made up or which I myself had perhaps forced on them.’

By claiming that Freud had got it right the first time, feminist scholars were able to discount the notion that women were inherently hysterical, reinforce the notion that men were inherently depraved and extend the theory of male oppression to include, along with the victimisation of women, the victimisation of children.

The bracketing of women and children as victims of male sexual violence bought three great benefits to feminism. First, because children were seen as innocent, vulnerable and dependent, women could be seen that way too (this perception allowed women to demand, and receive, special treatment rather than the quality). Second, it supplied the rape crisis movement, which was initially concerned only with contemporary rape cases, with a major new category of clients: adults and children who had been sexually assaulted some time in the past. Further, it created a window of opportunity for which the label ‘rapist’ could be flying at all the white middle-class men who had breezed through the ’70s largely untouched by feminist anger.

During the ’80s, retrospective cases came to dominate the rape crisis movement. According to a Statistics New Zealand report, by 1993 ninety percent of new contacts made by groups dealing with sexual assaults were related to incidents which had occurred years earlier. Compared to contemporary rape allegations, these historic allegations were much more likely to involve white, middle-class victims and white, middle-class perpetrators. Also, because any physical evidence would have long-since disappeared, the alleged victims had to be taken at their word. These factors gave the modest contemporary rape statistics a great boost, and, when added to previously unrecognised cases covered by the late-’70’s redefinition of rape (which included wolf-whistles, sexual humour, underwear advertisements and consensual sex) and when combined with extravagant estimates of the levels of unreported rape, the resulting statistics made the claim ‘all men are rapists’ much easier to argue.

The feminist reinterpretation of Freud burst into the public arena in a May 1977 cover story in MS magazine, ‘Incest: Child Abuse Begins at Home’, and the child protection movement wasted no time in joining the crusade. In 1978, Henry Kemp told delegates to the Second International Congress on Child Abuse and Neglect in London, "the frequency of incest is very large and the reported number is now fully equal to that of physical abuse at our centre".

Page 50 – 52

As it happened, among those present to hear Kemp’s address to the 1978 Congress were two people who would go on to become leading New Zealand sexual abuse experts. They were paediatrician Dr David Geddis, Medical Director of The Royal New Zealand Society for the Health of Women and Children (the Plunket Society), and child psychiatrist Dr Karen Zelas, director of the Christchurch Child Health Clinic (and, in 1993, expert witness for the prosecution in the Christchurch Civic Creche case).

In September 1979, psychologist Miriam Jackson bought the child sexual abuse issue to a wider audience with a questionaire in the New Zealand Women’s Weekly headed: ‘Can you help? Your answers to this questionaire will aid research into a shocking social ill — the sexual abuse of children’. The questionaire was designed for sexual abuse victims who had suffered deep and lasting trauma. There were no questions for readers who had not been abused, or for readers who had been abused but had got over it.

At the time, 220,000 copies of the Women’s Weekly were sold each week. In statistical terms, those predominantly-female purchasers comprised the sample. It was a large sample by any standards. But, insofar as it excluded the one million New Zealand women who did not by the Women’s Weekly, it was an unrepresentative one.

Of the 220,000 questionnaires distributed, only 315 were returned. This represents a response rate of 0.14 percent. But the possibility that a small response to a biased questionnaire distributed to an unrepresentative sample of New Zealand women would yield meaningless results did not deter Miriam Jackson. As her writings at the time indicated, she held strong views about the prevalence and effects of sexual abuse, and it was the views that mattered.

In fact, so keen was Jackson to publicise her views that she burst into print four months before the results of the questionnaire had been analysed. ‘IS SHE SAFE WITH HER FATHER? INCEST — THE LAST TABOO’ screamed the cover of the November 1979 Broadsheet. The article began with one women’s harrowing account of childhood incest. Then, on the basis of that story, Jackson went on to generalise and theorise. The father in the article, whom Truth readers would have regarded as a disgusting pervert, was to Jackson a normal man, engaging in normal male behaviour: ‘Incest is the example of the extent to which male domination in the patriarchal family can go…. while the fear of rape controls all women, incest is the method of social control that works in the home’.

Four months later, using figures that proported to be accurate to the second decimal place (‘ Nearly half – 44.77 percent – were victimised by relatives and nearly a quarter of women by fathers or stepfathers’), Jackson presented her findings in the Women’s Weekly. She claimed that,’ the incidence of child molestation and rape – particularly incest – is more widespread than had been thought’ and ‘small girls are at most risk from friends [and] family’. In a follow-up article in Broadsheet, she added that ‘the men were nearly always white (90 percent) and usually married’. She also endorsed the advice of a respondent concerning ‘the need for parents to protect their children and keep them away from adult males’.

At that time, Jackson’s findings had little impact on the prevailing view that fathers were, on the whole, benign figures; protectors, providers and loving dads who cuddled, toileted and bathed their children as an everyday part of family life, but her toxic message of sexual anxiety and distrust towards men was promoted vigorously throughout the ’80s. By the end of the decade her agonising question (‘ Is she safe with her father?’) and her misanthropic answer (that children should be kept away from adult males), had soaked deep into the fabric of New Zealand society.

Jackson’s campaign received a major boost in 1981 when her Women’s Weekly survey results appeared in book form. The Sexual Abuse of Children – authored under Jackson’s new name Miriam Saphira – was published with assistance from the Mental Health Foundation (the organisation for which Hilary Haines was Research Officer). The book’s aim was ‘to break the silence and dispel the myths surrounding sexual abuse’.

The book opens with a list of ‘myths’ and ‘facts’ about child sexual abuse. First came the claim that ‘It does not happen’ is a ‘common myth’ (a statement reminiscent of the epigram on the title page of the Malleus Malificarium: ‘to disbelieve in witchcraft is the greatest of heresies’). This claim is a red herring. The debate is not about whether sexual abuse happens. The debate is about the prevalence of sexual abuse and the damage it causes. In the course of my research I have encountered no one, in print or in person, who believes that sexual abuse does not happen.

Fifteen hundred copies of Saphira’s book were given to the Department of Social Welfare, and the author embarked on a Mental Health Foundation-sponsored lecture tour of New Zealand. Her main message was:’ one out of four girls will be molested before she turns eighteen’. As a result, within a few years Saphira’s ‘one in four’ claim became widely accepted as a reliable estimate of the prevalence of sexual abuse in New Zealand.

Page 54

At the time of the publication of Saphira’s The Sexual Abuse of Children in 1981, Kinsey’s 30-year-old American study was the only major source of statistical information on human sexual behaviour available. But, with the escalation of interest in child sexual abuse, new surveys – concerned with sexual abuse rather than sexual behaviour -soon proliferated.

None of the recent surveys is compatible with the Kinsey report, or with each other. They vary in their definitions of ‘child’ and ‘sexual abuse’, in the populations studied, in the research methods used and in the analysis of the data. One of the most frequently cited recent American surveys was conducted by Dr Diana Russell in 1978. Like Saphira, Russell was a radical feminist. Prior to her survey, she authored The Politics of Rape (1975) and edited the Proceedings of the International Tribunal on Crimes against Women (1976). In Mental Health News, Hilary Haines hailed Russell’s survey as the first major random sample survey since Kinsey. However, on closer examination, Russell’s face-to-face questionnaire seemed designed to uphold, rather than to test, her radical feminist view of male sexuality. Of the 50 percent of Russell’s sample who agreed to be interviewed, 38 percent (1 in 2.6) reported sexual abuse before the age of 18. As Haines pointed out, Russell achieved this startling result despite the definition of abuse being limited to direct physical contact. But (as Haines failed to point out) Russell’s definition included everyday aspects of family life like unwanted hugs and kisses. Also, in contrast to Kinsey’s age based on definition of adult-child sexual contacts, Russell’s definition included ‘sexual abuse by peers and other children’. In one instance Russell classified ‘unwanted but non-forceful kissing by a cousin’ as sexual abuse.

Though she found that child sexual abuse was alarmingly common, Russell suspected the true figure was higher still. ‘There may be a significant number of women who have repressed such experiences from their conscious memories’, she wrote in 1983. Russell provided no scientific support for that claim, but, thanks to the early-’80s proliferation of recovered memory stories, none was needed. Michelle Remembers (1980), and the books and articles that followed in its wake, persuaded feminist therapists and their clients that, if they kept up the therapy for long enough, memories of sexual abuse were bound to surface. Michelle Remembers – which was later shown to be a hoax – also revived a belief that had fallen into disrepute in the wake of the great witch-hunts: that children could be brutally molested as part of Satanic rituals.

Gender politics and feminist and are were powerful influences on the early ’80s expansion of the repressed memory movement. In a 1983 anthology of writings about incest edited by councillor Ellen Bass, a contributor who had recovered incest memories during therapy wrote, ‘My healing began with my simultaneous decision to accept myself as a lesbian and enter therapy’. Another councillor wrote of her recovered memory experience, ‘I have met and loved my rage’.

Page 55 – 56

In the early ’80s, the public learnt about the sensational side of the repressed memory debate, and about local initiatives in the field of child sexual abuse, through the popular media. Driving the initiatives was a loose coalition of feminists (led by Saphira and Haines), child protectionists (led by Zelas and Geddis) and anti-pornography activists of religious-conservative and feminist persuasions. In theory, the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards was concerned with depictions of nudity and sexual acts, while Women against Pornography was concerned with the exploitation of women, but in practice both groups campaigned against the same sexually-explicit magazines and videos, and are both groups were subjected to the same hostility and derision from the same disrespectful sections of the community.

When the anti-pornography groups turned their attention to child pornography, the hostility and derision evaporated. Not only was child pornography totally unacceptable to the general public, it offered sexual abuse campaigners a welcome answer to some troubling questions like: why were so many men with no histories of mental illness or crime apparently molesting their own and other people’s children? How were they getting away with it? Why was there are so little physical evidence when, (if the flood of recovered memories was to be believed) child sexual abuse was widespread and had been going on for years? To these questions the anti-pornographers ultimate fantasy (an ultra-secret, international, multi-million-dollar, kid-porn conspiracy orchestrated by Satan-worshippers provided the answer. To everyone who believed that men were black-hearted predators, and that child sexual abuse was rampant, it made perfect sense.

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