Gordon Waugh’s presentation to AFMA

Australian False Memory Association

Saturday 2 Dec 00: Sydney, Australia

Mr Chairman, Ladies & Gentlemen…

It’s a pleasure to visit you again, and meet up with friends. The reason I’m here is that John Agnew and Roger Keller suggested it might be useful for you to compare notes about how we handled the "recovered memory" fad in New Zealand.

As far as we know, there were no reported cases of "recovered memory" in New Zealand before about 1990, but when the theory and practice of "Recovered Memory Therapy" was imported, there were suddenly thousands of cases – an epidemic by anyone’s standards. A decade later, they have virtually disappeared. As you know, our organisation COSA (North) Incorporated ceased operations on 30 October, after a lengthy period without any new cases.

The questions John and Roger put to me were essentially these:

  • What allowed the epidemic to flourish, and what caused its death?
  • What part did COSA play in its demise, and how did we manage it?

I’ll try to give you a clear picture to answer those questions. As I talk, please remember that the purpose of this address it not about telling you how to manage your affairs, but to share our experiences with you, in the hope they will assist you in your work

During my Military career, a requirement on our senior officer training courses was to learn a disciplined method for solving problems and conducting military operations. It can be applied to virtually any situation. It certainly worked well in my business career, and should therefore work for COSA. Its essence is embodied in the following 8 headings:

  • Define the problem
  • Select the aim
  • Gather data
  • Assess the factors
  • Draw and test conclusions
  • Develop a Plan
  • Allocate resources, and
  • Implement the Plan.

Within that general framework, I’ll give you a broad view of relevant history, comment on development of our strategy, and explain some of the finer detail of the tactics we employed and how we did certain jobs. I’ll finish with some suggestions you might find useful. That should take about 35 – 40 minutes, so there’ll be time for questions at the end.

Phase I: Learning The Nature of the Beast

Defining the problem is the most difficult part. If we don’t get that right, we end up helping no-one and wasting our time and resources.

The basic need was to understand the source, extent and purpose behind this devastating problem, and understand the climate which allowed it to flourish

In the 1970’s and beyond, "victimhood" became the new fashion – fuelled, of course, by millions of taxpayer dollars, masses of militant feminist propaganda, a moral panic about child abuse, and the sudden and massive growth of a new counselling industry.

As the story goes, women were politically, socially and economically dominated by the patriarchal society. They were emanicpated by suffragettes around the early 1900’s. About 60 years later, radical militant feminists entered the scene. They claimed women were emotional, physical and sexual victims, oppressed and manipulated by predatory, domineering males.

Amateur Self-help books flooded onto the market. Departments of Women’s Studies in Universities flourished. Psychotherapists, psychologists and psychiatrists, of the feminist and post-modern schools of thought joined the bandwagon, and produced all sorts of weird and wonderful theories. These included "recovered memories", MPD, Eye Wiggle Therapy (EMDR), Body Memories, Dream Interpretation etc. They welcomed these new theories on board, with far from adequate testing, but failed to listen to the voices of science, reason and common sense.

Women were suddenly powerless victims again. They needed counselling to unlock their pasts and begin to heal. They were told they needed to be liberated and empowered. But in doing so, the feminists took womanhood back to pre-suffragette days. Women are indeed being manipulated, controlled and dominated – but by women, not men.

Fascination with "victimhood", and the "psychologising" of almost every human experience, are fertile grounds for militant feminists. Their strategy here is plain and simple – create a climate of fear – cast doubt and blame – divide the family unit and conquer. And then the saviours come along, claiming to have the cure for this huge problem. This is an area for which "Recovered Memory Therapy" was tailor made.

In the 80’s and 90’s there was a huge amount of advocacy research being done – social engineering, if you prefer – resulting in claims of immense amounts of sexual abuse. In these studies, it became apparent that if you "Torture statistics long enough, they will confess". Anyone daring to question the claims was vilified, and was part of "the backlash".

It would be a terrible mistake, however, to underestimate the intelligence and skill of the people driving this sort of stuff. It requires a very significant engine-room to actually produce and market the figures, so there is good organisation underscoring their propaganda.

Recognising these factors as a main cause, the aim is clearly to beat them at their own game by publicly exposing the fallacies on which their claims are built. We had to work out exactly how to do that.

Phase II: Developing the Strategy

We didn’t just sit around a coffee table and say "Let’s form an Association". We had to develop a strategy. Objectives had to be very carefully set, and the organisation and activities tailored to meet them.

We had to estimate the extent of the problem. [Gather data]. Define what we needed to do, and why. [Select the Aim]. Specify our targets and decide how best to attack them, and with what weapons. [Assess the Factors]. And then look at the resources needed to do this work, what we had, and what else we required [Resource Allocation]. We needed to decide a plan of action, and how best to implement it. [Plan & Implement].

We held Strategy Meetings to tackle this work, using the formal technique of "brainstorming", guided by the Problem Solving Method I mentioned. Without taking you through the whole nine yards, the factors which dropped out of our sessions were along these lines:

  • We needed a clear, accurate and achievable set of aims and objectives.
  • A national body which could speak with one voice for all of us
  • We needed support from credible and reliable professionals – a Professional Advisory Board was indicated
  • Intellectual capacity to research and study the scientific and practical aspects, keep abreast of developments, and dissect advocacy claims, theories and methods.
  • Numeracy and literacy skills in order to clearly communicate and express the issues
  • We needed to create and sustain public debate on the issues, and to inform and educate the public, the professionals and the politicians
  • Identify of a lynch-pin case or situation which involved the public interest and fired its imagination and sense of justice
  • Organised and disciplined people-power to actually do the work involved
  • Communications between members
  • Equipment and consumables, such as computers, fax machines, telephones
  • Finance to pay for the things we needed.
  • Support from concerned members of the public who did not necessarily want membership of our Association.
  • We needed an agreement on the intangible factors, such as the will and determination to not give up, and the courage to lay our heads and reputations squarely on the block.
  • And finally, we had to be seen as a calm, unemotional, professional, science-based, compassionate body. We would not be sabre-rattlers. We would debate with facts and science, and with reason, logic and common sense.

We initially formed COSA into an unregistered Association, and Incorporation followed about a year later, in 1995.

Phase III: Business Plan Implementation

The next phase was to establish and execute a Business Plan. This is where the real work began.

I want to try and explain the actual workings and thinking process involved, so I’ll go through some items in depth, and then reduce down to summaries of other topics. What I want you to realise, is that each of the topics needs deep thought and consideration. Skimping will not achieve the aim. The attack we had to mount and sustain, was on a wide frontage, but it was focused on a small number of key issues.

Organisation: Analysis of all the factors listed in the Strategy has direct control over the shape of the organisation required to implement the plan. It describes the work content of the organisation, its ethics and it principles. Using the standard hierarchy of the WHAT WHY HOW & WHEN thinking, we set ourselves three very positive primary objectives :

1. Assist in eliminating sexual abuse from our community by fostering and promoting sound, reliable scientific knowledge and education about sexual abuse,

2. Provide support for people involved in false allegations of sexual abuse. (These two tasks are totally different in natur5e, needing very different skills).

3. Promote changes at all levels that will minimise the creation of wrongful accusations in the future – process of persuasion.

Those objectives are the WHAT statements. From those stemmed the HOW statements. Its not a case of Lip Service to fancy words. For example, how do we actually "promote reliable scientific knowledge"? We do it by "disseminating accurate and reliable information"

We had therefore imposed on ourselves a strict requirement to ensure that whatever we disseminated was indeed "accurate and reliable". That needs a lot of technical and professional skill, and the penalty, if we failed and got it wrong, was that the people we were trying to persuade would write us off as a bunch of rabble-rousers.

The next level is "who are we going to disseminate it to?" The natural drop-out answer is "To government and its agencies, the professions, and the wider community." It’s then as easy job to work out the WHEN, WHERE and BY WHOM factors.

That process was followed throughout.

We needed Professional Skill & the Time to do technical and administrative work. A vital task was to understand Advocacy Research and learn how to dissect and demolish it. That is a professional task.

Let me put it to you this way. If objective scientific research is the legitimate currency of knowledge and understanding, then advocacy or subjective research, is bogus coin. Advocacy research uses the same general framework as objective research, it looks the same, but underneath, its very different. It is very persuasive, because it plays on people’s fears, and appears to give substance to myth and legend.

Some of its hallmarks are fairly obvious:

  1. They measure a problem so broadly, and use the widest possible definitions, so that almost any human difficulty can be taken into account,
  2. They measure a very small sample-group known to have the problem, and then make sweeping generalisations to project the findings to society-at-large,
  3. They use unverified events and assumptions as facts
  4. They ignore the standard range of errors, and
  5. They assert that a number of other studies and reports, with different definitions, varying quality, and often dramatic results, form a cumulative block of evidence in support of current claims.

The touchstone of this sort of material is the final statement which warns that "this is just the tip of the iceberg".

In the guise of social science, advocacy studies vastly inflate the size of problems to support ideological causes, attract funds, and create power-bases. They are used to influence society and to bombard the public and the policy-makers with horrifying "statistics", for example about sexual abuse or domestic violence. They lionise "victimhood", and create a climate of fear, particularly for women and children.

We were extremely lucky to have Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith as our President. She is a highly skilled and well qualified medical practitioner, researcher and author, very experienced in the field of sexual abuse. She did much of the intellectual and professional work involved in unravelling the Gordian Knot tied by the advocates.

My wife, Colleen, is widely experienced and knowledgeable in the Secretarial and Administration fields. I had a few skills myself, and fell naturally into the role of planning, letter-writing, liaison and finance.

We realised the job could not be done on a part-time basis, and it was going to take years, not months. For we three, Colleen, Felicity, and myself, COSA became a full-time dedicated occupation.

On a part-time basis, other people contributed their not inconsiderable talents and skills, covering a wide range of work across the country. We found that a mixture of full-time and part-time workers met most of our needs quite well.

Communications: We established a communications network by arranging for about 20 outlying members to be our Regional representatives, to field initial calls for help, and pass them on to us. They also took on the task of distributing leaflets in their cities and towns. Our telephone and Fax bills were huge.

We found it useful to talk on a very regular basis. Sometimes, Colleen and I would simply ring around a number of members each week, just to keep in contact. We also had a standard "telephone tree" which works like a chain letter. When important news broke, the tree was triggered by making two or three calls to contacts, who then called two or three others, and so on. It got the news around very quickly without repetition.

It is absolutely necessary to maintain Operational Records. On the basis of "People before Process" we had a primary task of helping those affected by the epidemic. That is quite different to the technical work we had to do. Between us, we were taking new calls for help at the rate of at least one per day, sometimes several a day. Felicity taught us how to deal with the people who sought help.

To form a knowledge-base and derive data we could present in our various papers and submissions, we needed to collect specific data on each case – their locations by city, the type, source, nature and impact of the accusations, historical timing, information on the accuser, the accused and their relationship, as well as counselling information, criminal charges (if any), and so on.

Felicity set up a Confidential Database for that purpose. If the client decided to join COSA, the name and address details were added to my Administrative Database for membership, subscriptions, general administration, and newsletter purposes.

In a few cases, our Regional Contacts gave wrong advice to clients, so we instituted a regime where that advice should come from the central office. We had to ensure and promise absolute confidentiality and privacy for people who called us.

We developed a basic Operational Guide for our Regional Contacts – nothing too flash – and a simple Client Contact Form for them to fill out and Fax to us. That way, everything was kept on the rails, and all the data got logged onto Felicity’s Database. An information package was sent to every caller. An off-shoot of this method was the collection of data on our activities – for example, how many calls we fielded in particular periods from each city.

Felicity kept a list of our public activities. For example, the number of local and overseas conferences, symposiums and meetings attended, presentations given, radio talks, articles and papers published, and so on.

It is absolutely vital to have all that sort of data to enable us to argue from a position of strength, credible data and genuine knowledge.

Funding: We needed funds, but it takes time to organise that. Initially, Colleen, Felicity and I decided to put in private funds to get COSA up and running, and began charging an Annual Subscription for members.

We investigated how best to get grants. In NZ there are a wide range of bodies set up as Charitable Trusts. Most operate only inside their own Province, and a small number cover the whole country. They are quite limited as to what activities they will fund. Because COSA at that time was a national body, we were restricted to the national funds providers.

But we also had to battle disbelief. Hundreds, thousands of cases of false allegations of sexual abuse? Don’t be silly, that just can’t happen! But with the facts and data we had collected, and dogged persistence, we did persuade them. We didn’t get all we wanted by any means, but we got enough to function reasonably well. [Here is a sample on one such funding application – LGB]

We arranged a Bequest Form to enable people to donate parts of their estate to COSA. Another fundraising activity was registration as a Donee Organisation, for taxation purposes, to allow people to make tax-deductible cash donations. Roughly one-third of our annual income was by way of donations.

To further boost our income, we decided to offer a "Subscriber" Category. Some people wanted our information and our Newsletter, but to preserve their professional neutrality, did not want to join COSA. The Subscriber category incurred the same annual subscription as for members, but did not confer membership. This attracted a number of lawyers, psychologists, psychotherapists, and concerned citizens.

Newsletters: Monthly Newsletters formed our primary communications instrument and our main public voice. They had to reflect our professionalism. Felicity was the Editor, and with her expertise, she would put in 40 or more hours a month drafting and assembling them. Printing and postage was a major consumer of funds, as they were sent to politicians, news media, professionals, our members and our Subscribers, and a host of other people. At the peak, we were doing close to 500 a month.

Data & History: Gathering and sorting statistical and claims-making data was an essential and routine activity. We built up a history by collecting boxes and boxes of newspaper reports. We got data from ACC’s Annual Reports to Parliament, as well as from its Minister and the Corporation itself. We got crime data from Justice Dept., the Police, and other government agencies. And also Population data.

Public & Professional Awareness: We had to raise public and professional awareness of the issues, by talking, writing and sending out information. It was important to have just one spokesperson, so that the right messages were always sent. We agreed that was a job for Felicity. This persuasion was aimed at re-balancing the climate created by the earlier misinformation.

However, there was also a need for members to become involved by writing Letters to Editors to debate in public the issues being raised. Anyone can do that, provided they make certain the facts are right and no emotive language is used. I fell into the habit of getting Colleen and Felicity to proof read my drafts.

We sent copies of our Leaflets to every General Practitioner (around 3,000 of New Zealand’s 11,000 registered medical practitioners.)

We sent leaflets to as many criminal lawyers as we could find. We contacted the Head Office of the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and arranged for a listing in all their 96 offices throughout the country, and supplied and kept re-supplying them, with our Leaflets.

Members up and down the country put Leaflets in public places eg Courtrooms, public libraries, supermarkets, local noticeboards, Churches, community rooms, service clubs, sports clubs, and anywhere they could find.

To have a very direct presence, we three core members gave presentations to various community groups, went on National Radio and Talkbacks, as well as on TV documentaries and current affairs programs. They are very powerful media. We had various articles published in magazines and newspapers. Felicity continued to be published in professional journals at home and abroad. The aim was to inform and educate the public. An informed public will become better jurors.

Letter-writing campaigns: The mass writing of letters by COSA members to Government Ministers, Members of Parliament and Senior Officials was a key tactic. Using this method, we challenged them on a number of issues. When their Departments gave out misinformation, we criticised their knowledge, their standards and the outcomes. And we were instrumental in getting the Mental Health Training Service shut down – it was teaching appalling rubbish to counsellors. But we were always careful to ensure our letters were factual, not emotive.

Criminal Matters: For those members unfortunate enough to have been arrested and charged, we helped assemble their defence material. Analysis of complainant’s statements. Time Lines. Family documentation. Witnesses. Photographs. School and medical reports. Diaries. Floor plans of houses. Layout maps of farms. Accounting records. Job histories. Driving Logs. Passports. And in one case, even weather records and tide tables.

We exposed inconsistencies in the allegations and descriptions of alleged events. Felicity added medical evidence. We didn’t always win of course, and some of our members were convicted. We developed Help Kits to guide people.

Complaints: If complaints to professional bodies are not made, the people doing the damage can rightly sit back and say "We’re OK, Jack." When they are made, the organisation receiving them has obligations to respond. That puts them to time, trouble and expense. It absorbs some of their capacity, and it makes them aware of outrage in the wider community. Imagine the outcome if hundreds of complaints were lodged!

We found it useful to obtain Complaints Procedures from the Ombudsman, the Privacy Commissioner, the Health & Disability Commissioner and the Human Rights Commissioner, and others. We also got copies of the Complaints Procedures and Codes of Ethics from Counselling Associations, psychologists, and other bodies involved in sexual abuse matters. We encouraged our members to use those procedures to make complaints.

Making criminal complaints to police is an option. Alleging fraud or false accusations, by counsellors and their clients, is a truly potent weapon, but I think I’m the only one who has done that in New Zealand. And we advised some members to enter civil claims against their accusers for defamation. That worked a treat!

Suggestions: I think that is probably enough detail to give you a clear idea of the amount of work necessary to get the job done. The rest is a list of suggestions for you to think about, without the detail:

There is strength in numbers. You might want to do a membership drive, and adopt the idea of having a subscriber category.

Your much bigger country probably makes communications more difficult. You could look at E-mail, Video conferences, or Phone conferences.

Advertise widely and often. You might also consider borrowing tactics from the opposition, by holding an annual Awareness Week – a la the Rape Crisis "Rape Awareness Week" etc.

Investigate and debate school programs such as "Keeping Ourselves Safe".

Do the same with prison programs which claim to cure men of sexual abuse tendencies. If prisoners admit to the crimes, they’ll get out earlier. But if they denied it at trial, and later admit it in these prison programs, they could be charged with perjury. Conversely, their liberty is conditional on making false admissions of guilt.

With the help of lawyers, develop a series of Help Kits for members and the public, similar to ours perhaps, but tailored to suit your laws and conditions.

If you want to win, dig in for the long haul. Establish unity of purpose. One voice. One spokesperson. One source of info. Give a lots of attention to funding.

Above all, ensure your organisation is suitable for its task, and flexible enough to cater for change. As well as the administrative positions of President, Secretary etc, there is a need for an engine-room with more intellectual grunt than that of the opposition. Perhaps you could look at the special aspects of:

  • A Professional or Research Officer to dissect and expose the fallacies in various claims, and comment to professional bodies.
  • A Media Monitor to collect, categorise and analyse what is being said publicly (these two feed into the PR person)
  • A Public Relations or Education Officer to inform and educate the public
  • A Liaison Officer to tackle Govt and organisations
  • A Complaints Officer to help members make complaints to professional and counselling bodies. His aim is to flood the market with complaints!
  • A Case Manager to help people assemble their information to defend criminal and/or civil defence cases, and to organise the warmth and comfort aspects of hurt families.

If necessary, you might even look at revising your Constitution to embody some of these suggestions.


Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for listening to my comments and suggestions. I trust you will find them useful in your efforts to tackle this dreadful nonsense.

I would also like to thank Roger and John, and very especially Grahame & Elaine Forrest for billeting me during my visit. They are wonderful hosts.

If you have any questions, I’d be happy to try to answer them.

Gordon Waugh

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