COSA Casualties of Sexual Allegations Newsletter July 1994 Volume 1 No 3
Contents of this page:
Editorial: The tide is turning Juliet Broadmore, the current DSAC President,writes in their latest newsletter that 20% of women have been sexually abused as children, and that false allegations are rare events. However, she admits that "children never lie" is a simplistic axiom, and that memory can be contaminated by misleading information.
Media: Hidden camera catches recovered memory therapist (Australia).
End Ritual Abuse – parents of children who had attended the Christchurch Civic Daycare centre have launched a newsletter.
The counselling supermarket -reviews the current fashion for people to seek psychotherapy and the vast range of qualified and unqualified therapists and counsellors working in this area.
False allegations on Oprah – two retractors plus Richard Ofshe and co-author of ‘Courage to Heal’, Ellen Bass.
Can child protection lead to a violation of human rights? Some reflections on the situation in the Netherlands.
Politicians: Lianne Dalziel – believes that the increase in sex offences…is a result of increased reporting as opposed to any other motivation.
Bruce Cliffe, Minister of ACC – appreciates that a significant responsibility is placed on counsellors and that there may be finanical incentives for counsellors to confirm that sexual abuse has occurred…
Wyatt Creech, Deputy Minister of Finance – "I am sure this sort of area is prone to fads. It always pays to have a healthy scepticism of those who make claims from years back…"
Helen Clark, Leader of the Opposition "I am concerned that false memories about abuse may be stimulated".
Correspondence: From a wife and mother
Recent events: Seminar on suggestibility and false memories Michael Yapko & Dr Dorothy Rowe (UK), Therapeutic and forensic implications of recovering memories Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith.
Coming events: International Conference on Memory and Reality: Reconciliation, Baltimore USA, Child Protection Seminar by Roland Summit, Therapy for Sexually Abused Children by Jon Conte.
The tide is turning
Until recently, the catch cries "believe the child" and "women and children never lie about abuse" were widespread amongst sexual abuse agencies and literature, both in NZ and overseas It was claimed that false allegations of sexual abuse rarely if ever happened. In October 1993, the then-president of DSAC (Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care) was quoted as saying "I have never known a false allegation get through".
However, there are glimmers of hope that the tide is turning. Whilst few sexual abuse workers are yet to admit that false allegations can and do happen, they are now acknowledging the processes that can produce them, and are cautioning therapists and investigators accordingly.
Juliet Broadmore, the current DSAC President, writes in their latest newsletter (No 21, March 1994) that 20% of women have been sexually abused as children, and that false allegations are rare events. However, she does admit that "children never lie" is a simplistic axiom, and that memory can be contaminated by misleading information, resulting in people believing they actually experienced the suggested events. She admits that false allegations can occur in custody disputes or be produced by processes of evaluation and therapy if personnel are inefficiently qualified or experienced.
Whilst the sexual abuse field is now preaching caution with regard to suggesting sexual abuse to clients, training continues as to the validity of recovered memories, and it is taught that if false allegations do occur, they are very rare events. The extent of the problem is not acknowledged, and professionals expressing their concern are still labelled as the "backlash".
Whilst trainers are prepared to promote their views in-house, they are extremely reluctant to engage in scientific debate about these issues. I published my book last year in some trepidation, expecting to counter extensive professional and public criticism and discussion of my evidence, although I also welcomed the opportunity to finally have this information addressed openly.
In fact, I have had no direct contact from sexual abuse workers with opposing views. I have heard my book is mentioned very disparagingly in the field, but many of those questioned admit they would not consider reading it. The Women’s Bookshop decided not to stock it on its release, again without having read it!
More frustrating is that in the past few months I have had a number of potential media appearances and speaking engagements thwarted because the organisers have been unable to get any worker in the area prepared to engage in academic debate on issues such as memory repression.
The latest of these is the cancellation of an after-dinner speech on recovered memories I was due to give to the Auckland Family Court Association in July. This was because they are unable to find anyone to "argue the other side" at such a forum, despite the fact that both local and international "experts" are still training our professionals in the validity of this phenomenon.
This represents a gross lack of accountability. More and more New Zealanders are suffering terrible damage from the beliefs and practices of many workers in the sexual abuse field, who respond to challenge by slinging personal and emotionally loaded arrows, but who are not prepared to publicly defend their beliefs.
I challenge anyone working with sexual abuse who denies that false allegations can and do occur frequently, and who believes childhood memories of abuse are actively and robustly repressed, to a rational and scientific debate on these issues at any appropriate professional or public forum.
Wellington Hospital creche worker Geoff Scott sentenced to 7 years
Wellington Hospital creche worker, Geoff Scott, was sentenced to 7 years in prison for convictions relating to 5 children who attended the creche in 1991 and 1992. This was a case where there was extensive talk amongst children and their parents about the allegations, disclosure interviews of the children and then pre-trial counselling. Investigators believe children’s denials that anything happened to them means they are too scared to tell, and such children come under considerable pressure to tell the adults what they want to hear. Giving a child sexual abuse counselling prior to a trial is a presumption of guilt on behalf of investigators, counsellors, parents and the children themselves.
Under such conditions, there is such a potential for distortion and contamination of the evidence which is eventually given at trial that it is impossible to establish what is fiction and what is fact. The uncorroborated testimony of young children is not reliable evidence, and this fact should be made very clear to a jury.
Any childcare workers who toilet or cuddle children in their care are at grave risk of finding themselves in a similar situation to Geoff Scott.
Leader of religious sect found guilty of sexual abuse
The 53 year old leader of a small religious sect found guilty of 3 counts of sexual abuse last month, was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment. Two of incidents, involving two of his daughters, were said to have occurred 17 and 20 years ago, and the other a young woman at the community in the 1980s. The jury had acquitted him of 16 other sexual charges, including six of rape.
NZ Herald 18 June 1994
Accused man faces third trial despite previous aquittals
Murray Griffin, a 55 year old ex-publican and taxi-driver, was acquitted by a Palmerston North High Court jury of 13 charges of sexually molesting 7 children under the age of 12, between 1981 to 1989. In 1991 he had similarly been cleared of allegedly sexually abusing an 11 year old boy. However, he remains in custody pending a 3rd trial.
Sunday News 26 June
Boy’s testimony influenced by coaching and suggestibility.
A Rotorua High Court jury took less than 3 minutes to find 52 year old businessman, Edward John Waterreus, not guilty of sodomising a six year old boy. They supported the defence’s case that it appeared that the boy’s testimony was influenced by coaching and suggestibility. Common sense showed that the alleged situations were not actually possible from a practical aspect. Moreover, the boy had not been taken to a doctor and there had been no medical examination, and no clear evidence that the boy’s behaviour had altered after these alleged incidents.
The counsel for the defence, Mr Harry Edward, told the court that he believed that "the court machine had taken over, the sexual abuse machine", and that "once interviewed, the boy had had things put in his mind".
Daily Post, Rotorua, 24 June 1994
Hidden camera catches recovered memory therapist
Recently screened was an episode of A Current Affair in which a reporter, Lisa Ryan, pretended to be a patient for 6 sessions of therapy with a Queensland psychologist. Despite Ryan reporting a happy family background, the psychologist used regression techniques to seek memories of violence and childhood sexual abuse by her father, naming these as possible causes of her presenting problem (which related to a relationship breakup). A formal complaint against the therapist has been laid to the Australian Psychological Society.
End Ritual Abuse
Parents of children who had attended the Christchurch Civic Daycare centre have launched a newsletter called End Ritual Abuse. Its purpose is to keep "the heinous crime of ritual abuse on the agenda". The authors claim that this type of abuse has existed for years here in new Zealand, as well as overseas.
The Dominion, 14 April 1994
The counselling supermarket
by Vincent Heeringa: Reviews the current fashion for people to seek psychotherapy and the vast range of qualified and unqualified therapists and counsellors working in this area. Dr Barry Kirkwood, Professor Dennis Dutton and psychologist Michael Marris are all quoted in criticising much of what is available, especially in the area of sexual abuse.
A section on ACC and sexual abuse counsellors discusses the reacreditation processes and quotes DSAC president Juliet Broadmore that the requirement for counsellors to reapply had lead to turning clients away "with devastating effects".
COSA is briefly mentioned but unfortunately no contact details are given.
Metro, July 1994 page 66-73.
False allegations on Oprah
Having done many shows about child sexual abuse, Oprah is now addressing the possibility of false allegations. This show featured two retractors (women who "changed their minds about being abused") and other people involved in the recovered memory debate.
Melodie, one of the retractors, said that although she went to therapy for a completely different problem, her therapist told her it must be due to repressed childhood sexual abuse, and this became the focus of her therapy. She was placed in a therapy group in which all the women were trying to remember sexual abuse.
"I was starting to feel left out. Ultimately I felt so pressured I had to come up with something. I said I think I’ve been raped by my father, and then I started to get a ‘body memory’ of it. The therapist kept inferring over and over that sexual abuse was the cause of all my problems. I slowly began to believe it over next few weeks The therapist wanted me to write down details. They were telling me these must have happened. It was coming from my imagination but I didn’t know that. By the time I got out of the treatment centre I believed it."
The other retractor, Heidi, attended a therapist for an eating disorder:
"He said you must have been sexually abused. This explains why you are this way now. It started with memories of my brother but this wasn’t bad enough trauma, he kept digging and digging and digging until there was more, and I had memories of being abused by my mother, father and brother, and then I finally got in this group and all these women had very very vivid sexual abuse stories".
Melody: "I read the book ‘Courage to Heal’ and that made me believe I had more repressed memories so I sought out hypnosis. I relived being sodmised by my father, watching my brother being sodmised, it seemed very real The recovered memory women in my group outnumbered the real incest survivors 3 to 1 and their stories were getting more and more bizarre. As we continued with hyponotherapy I started to doubt. The women in my group were all getting worse."
Heidi: "8 out of 10 in my group decided their parents were in cults. I decided I’ve got to get out of here but my therapist threw me in hospital first and said I couldn’t get out until I had flashbacks of satanic abuse and admited my parents were in a cult. After 8 weeks I made up flashbacks and I was out in a week and I’ve never seen him again.
We were told in group if we got upset about someone talking about satanic abuse it meant it had happened to us."
Melody: "I read a scientific book by a neuroscientist on how memory works, I started to think and doubt. I had to sort out what was real from what hadn’t happened. I had confronted my parents and their health declined. I started to sue my father because I read in ‘Courage to Heal’ to get strong by sueing. It devastated my family."
Heidi: "I never confronted them but by the time I took my memories back I was at the point of suicide because I didn’t think there was any way I could fix what I had done."
The show continued with an elderly couple who were destraught after their daughter had alleged childhood sexual abuse by her father on the basis of recovered memories, and then there were 2 women who claimed their memories were real, although in both cases they appeared to have always had memories of the abuse.
Finally there was discussion between psychologist Richard Ofshe and co-author of ‘Courage to Heal’, Ellen Bass.
Ofshe: "Therapists drive the system that they created until it goes to its limit. It comes up with stuff that is absolutely beyond belief. We are talking about beliefs rather than memories. There is a great difference between someone who always knows it’s happened to them and someone who becomes convinced that this happened to them by their therapist, by your book, by all of that pressure. We’re talking about people who’ve been manipulated by this epidemic of bad psychotherapy."
Bass: "It is very important that survivors who do not have continuous memories be validated and not insulted or discredited". She quotes the Linda Meyer Williams study as ‘proof’ of repressed memories. "There are 30 million survivors of child sexual abuse in this country."
Oprah Winfrey Show – screened in NZ 29 June 1994
Hypnosis, delayed recall and the principles of memory
John Kihlstrom, International Journal of Clinical & Experimental Hypnosis (in press).
This paper examines the principles involved in encoding, storage and retrieval of memory and the limitations these place on attempts to recover long-forgotten memories. He concludes that where there is no independent corroboration, there is no "litmus test" that can reliably distinguish true from false memories, and that clinicians should use great caution when using hypnosis or any other technique to facilitate delayed recall.
The extent and nature of organised and ritual abuse: research findings
Professor Jean La Fountaine, 1994, HMSO, London.
Comprehensive study of 84 cases of alleged satanic abuse of children in Britain which concludes that there is no evidence that any of these has taken place.
Can child protection lead to a violation of human rights? Some reflections on the situation in the Netherlands
by Jan Wind, Mentalities, 9 (1), 1994.
Discusses how a network of agencies has evolved which allow the courts to take over all rights and duties of parents should child abuse be suspected following information supplied by any citizen (anonymously or not). The judge functions both as the head of a team of protectionists (such as social workers and psychologists) but also as a judge, leaving the parents and child completely at her mercy. This violates a basic rule of internationally accepted law, where there is a neutral court with no tie to either party.
Discusses how residential treatment (‘legal kidnapping’) of children by social workers, losing one’s children, and even more, losing one’s parents, causes traumas that virtually nobody will be able to cope with.
Is there evidence of repression? Doubtful
Holmes, David, Harvard Mental Health Letter, June 1994, 10 (12), 4-6.
Defines repression as the involuntary selective removal from consciousness of anxiety-provoking memories, which are stored in the unconscious but capable of returning to consciousness if the associated anxiety is eliminated. Researchers have not been able to find objective evidence that the process actually occurs.
Concludes: "Given the current trend towards truth in packaging, it may be appropriate for psychotherapists who insist on the significance of repression to issue the following warning: since there is no objective evidence for this concept, use of it may be hazardous to your health".
Ritual abuse: information for health and welfare professionals
NSW Sexual Assault Committee (1993), Information booklet no 1.
Despite the fact that extensive investigations in both the United States and Britain have revealed no substantiated cases of satanic ritual abuse, this astounding 26 page booklet ‘marks the first official recognition of ritual abuse within Australia’ similar to ‘recorded cases around the world’. The Committee contains representatives from a number of government organisations including the Departments of Health, Police, Community Services, School Education, Courts Administration, Public Prosecutions, and Attorney-General, and non-government agencies including Sexual Assault Services, Sydney Rape Crisis Centre, Child Protection Council and other community services.
It bases its evidence on a questionnaire distributed at the end of a 1992 seminar in Melbourne attended by counsellors, health and welfare professionals, police and ‘survivors’. The questionnaire "identified 65 counsellors who between them had worked with over 400 ritual abuse survivors". Abusers are said to operate within orthodox churches, scout and children’s camps and daycare centres, and to be "dressed as judges, police, doctors or other authority figures".
Counsellors are told to believe the victims’ stories even if they involve "accounts which are hard or impossible to believe, ..even sound like fantasies or delusions. This may be because, as children, the victims have been duped or deluded, or because they have been drugged or hypnotised during the abuse". The report denies the possibility that such accounts may be created by the interview or therapy processes.
Regarding women claiming permanent disability allowance for alleged sexual abuse, now that lump sum compensation is unavailable: "I personally believe that the increase in sex offences…is a result of increased reporting as opposed to any other motivation. Not all sexual abuse victims claim lump sum compensation…Women do not need an ongoing constant reminder of what has happened to them, and I suspect that none would want a small cheque in the mail every three months."
Lianne Dalziel, MP for Christchurch Central July 1991.
Bruce Cliffe, Minister of ACC
"The Accident Rehabilitation and Compensation Insurance (ARCI) Act 1992 allows for ACC to assist claimants who have cover under the Act with the costs of counselling…no external corroborative evidence on behalf of the victim is required. If a claimant cannot provide ACC with physical verification of their abuse then ACC requires a 2 session report from a counsellor following a visit to a General Practitioner to confirm that sexual abuse has occurred. ACC appreciates that a significant responsibility is placed on counsellors and that there may be finanical incentives for counsellors to confirm that sexual abuse has occurred…
The ARCI (Counselling Costs) Regulations 1992…specify strict criteria which must be met before a counsellor becomes ACC approved…training requirements include specified educational requirements and courses of education; not less than one year’s supervised practical experience; an understanding of cultural and gender issues; and belong to a counselling organisation approved by the Counsellors Approval Committee."
Bruce Cliffe, Minister of ACC, March 1994.
Dr Goodyear-Smith’s Response: May 1994:
Therapists deal with client’s perceptions of what might have happened, they have to accept uncertainty, with not knowing whether images recalled during memory work are accurate or not…despite growing body of reputable research demonstrating that memories "recovered" during therapy of childhood sexual abuse not previously remembered (said to have been "repressed") are highly unlikely to be accurate recall of events which really happened, belief in this phenomenon is still widespread in New Zealand amongst many professionals…Because this misinformation is so prevalent within our professional teaching institutions, I believe that the ACC introduction of more regulated guidelines and requirements that counsellors be trained, supervised and registered does not address the basic problem.
Wyatt Creech, Deputy Minister of Finance
"I am sure this sort of area is prone to fads. It always pays to have a healthy scepticism of those who make claims from years back…We have had to appropriate about $80 million extra of taxpayers money to ACC to cover the surge of lump sum claims by adults, many in middle age, for compensation for sexual abuse that happened to them as children.
The floodgates of ACC costs really opened once the High Court ruled that ACC must pay out for psychological as well as physical damage. Some of the claimants were unquestionably driven by the money, although how receiving $10,000 makes any improvement to the "damage" in these kinds of cases when the "damage” occurred many years ago beats me…The cost blowout of ACC finally drove the 1991 reform which saw lump sums replaced by weekly compensation that was not a fixed sum, but went on only as long as such a payment was needed. In the 4 years up to 1991, the cost of compensation, much of it lump sum payments, increased by 25% per year each year. Had the reforms not been done, the scheme would have very soon been completely unaffordable…
I have no difficulty in accepting the notion that ("false memory syndrome") exists. I suppose it is the manifestation of the old saying about "the mind playing tricks on a person"."
Wyatt Creech, Deputy Minister of Finance, May 1994.
Helen Clark, Leader of the Opposition
"I am concerned that false memories about abuse may be stimulated, and about the damage which that would do to individuals, those around them, and society at large"
Helen Clark, Leader of the Opposition, May 1994.
From a wife and mother
"Six years ago we were a united family: since, it has been a nightmare… In 1989 our youngest daughter "disclosed" an idea implanted by hypnotherapy… and she (later) influenced (our middle daughter). There was nothing specifically stated about the abuse, and obviously nothing more in their minds at that stage and we had no idea about the dangers of counselling. After years and much counselling their stories grew and their attitudes, to the point where they complained to the police… I have been appalled by many aspects of the law, and its implications since (my husband) was charged. In these cases it seems a case of guilty until proven innocent."
‘Bill’ – charged after daughters recovered memories
"I am to attend a jury trial at the High Court, charged with sexual abuse. There is no basis at all for the charges, no evidence, only the recovered "memories" of three of my daughters; how can there be, I honestly never laid a hand on any of them, or made any obscene suggestion.
My legal costs will be in excess of $120,000, this being half my equity after a lifetime of hard work. The lawyer says if convicted, I could expect to serve 7 years – a life sentence as I’m nearly 59. So I hired a QC.
When I received a letter from a daughter I’d had a good father-daughter friendship with, saying she now remembered being abused as a tiny child, I was stunned. Thinking maybe a mental breakdown was involved, I called on her mother (we’d parted 9 years ago) and was told that the others also alleged sexual abuse, but would not tell their mother any details, saying "if I say I’ve been sexually abused, I have".
They had accused her of complicity: she had been a full-time care giver, devoted to her kids – she said it was like a kick in the guts. Puzzled, hurt, I tried to find the reason for this: hatred from kids I would have died for.
The article by Camille Guy in the NZ Herald (30 Oct 1993) was the first time I’d heard about false memory syndrome. I read Felicity’s book. It all added up.
I’d like to thank Dr Goodyear-Smith for her work; also Dr Dennis Dutton, and all the members of the support group, whose support has helped my wife and I to survive – sure we’re under great stress, but no longer alone. Indeed, feel strong enough to support others worse off. Congratulations to the kindy lady on her acquittal with costs, and to John on his acquittal. Hope he now gets access to his son, and can rebuild his life.
What of the police role in all this? I guess they are not accountable, don’t have to worry about the waste of it, are very quick to arrest if the charge is abuse, and having done so are concerned only with obtaining a conviction.
At the deposition hearing, of the 2 sexual abuse counsellors produced as police witnesses, one had shredded her notes, and the other had kept only a few cryptic sentences she couldn’t interpret, and neither can remember ANYTHING! except that the symptoms were of sexual abuse— The police made a solemn undertaking to make available the ACC statements of the complainants.
At the first call-over, this had not been done, and the Crown agreed to a deferment to allow for these documents to be produced; at the second call-over they said they would now contest the discovery of the said ACC documents. What possible motive could they have not to give out information that could lead to the truth? Perhaps the facts might hinder a conviction.
The main problem with being accused of sexual abuse is that you can’t enlist public opinion. I’ve told all my friends and relatives, but have a 7 year old son who often has friends to visit. I’d like to expose what is happening, to fight the counsellors who think that every client must have suffered sexual abuse as a child, and who are so adept at creating false memories: but would my son have his social life spoiled?
Thanks again COSA, see you at the meeting.
(name withheld on request)
Wife of prisoner who has consistently maintained his innocence
"(My husband) comes up again for for national parole in Sept. Still he remains steadfast on his innocence. He remains quiet and caring – they can’t stand him, they had hoped to break his spirit. He’s treated very badly really and they say he’s still a risk. So again Sept will come. It will cost the taxpayer another $20,000 plus and no change and they will hold him until 6 months. His full sentence is Dec 95 (7 years). We have concreted in our minds and emotions that that will be his release date. Anything else will be a bonus."
Seminar on suggestibility and false memories
At a seminar on suggestibility and false memories held at the Royal Society of Medicine in London, 1 June 1994, American clinical psychologist and hypnosis expert Michael Yapko reported results of a survey of 1000 professional therapists. This study had found that a "startling proportion" of therapists unwittingly lead their patients to believe they were victims of sexual abuse in their childhood when they were not.
A British-based clinical psychologist, Dr Dorothy Rowe, told the seminar that some therapists were motivated by money. "The ‘recovered memory’ movement is all about telling the patient you can never grow up and be an independent person because you are fatally flawed. The recovery movement is a great money spinner because no one in the movement ever recovers".
Therapeutic and forensic implications of recovering memories
Felicity Goodyear-Smith ran a seminar on Therapeutic and forensic implications of recovering memories for a group of psychotherapists at the Institute of Psychosynthesis, 16 June 1994. Intelligent and interactive discussion ensued, and the topic was well received.
International Conference on Memory and Reality: Reconciliation, Baltimore, 9-11 Dec 1994.
Co-sponsored by John Hopkins Continuing Education Program and FMSF.
Scientific, clinical and legal issues of false memory syndrome.
Child Protection Seminar by Roland Summit.
1-5 pm, 23 Sept 1994, Auckland, $60.
Organised by DSAC to "anticipate and prevent opposition to child protection work".
Sexual Abuse Therapy by Roland Summit
Auckland, Sept 1994.
Organised by DSAC – includes False Memory Syndrome and Memory Repression.
2-day workshops on Therapy for Sexually Abused Children by Jon Conte
4 workshops (Auckland, Pahia, Napier, Dunedin) in October 1994.
Organised by DSAC – addresses:
- Validating allegations of childhood sexual abuse
- New concepts in the treatment of sexual victimization
- Counter transference in child abuse treatment
- Child abuse ethics
- An overview of issues facing professionals working in the area of child sexual abuse.