COSA Casualties of Sexual Allegations Newsletter August 1997 Volume 4 No 7
Contents of this page:
Editorial: Making headway Since 1993 there has been a large amount of accurate information disseminated both by the media and in the professional literature, about the malleable nature of memory and how false memories can be created.
British Association of Counselling has issued a report to its 14,000 members saying that thousands of people may have suffered delusions of child sex abuse.
Royal College of Psychiatrists a 28 page report concluded that no recovered memories of child abuse have ever been proven.
British Psychological Society also recently issued a strong statement warning that the interrogation process, like the therapy process, can induce false memories in some people, and may result in false confession.
NZ Association of Psychotherapists Therapists "must recognise the level of unreliability of any technique used in psychotherapy.
Otago symposium covered research findings on the frequency and consequences of childhood sexual abuse and discussed clinical implications.
Mental Health Training Service considerable advances have been made in the Sexual Abuse Counselling Course since COSA pointed out this course’s deficiencies last year.
Police chief not guilty of incest (Canada)
Minister makes false confession (Canada)
George Franklin sues The first person convicted of murder on the basis of repressed-memory testimony, is now suing his daughter, her therapists and San Mateo County law enforcement officers.(USA)
Custody case acquittal (USA)
‘To be male is to beware’, by David McLoughlin, North & South.
Hammond calls for open season on academics & researchers Hammond is well-known for a paper known as the "Greenbaum Speech," which discussed the many satanic ritual abuse clients he had treated and his belief that mind control was introduced to the USA by the Nazis.(USA)
Literature: Health Care Analysis, 1997, 5 (2) The majority of this issue features a key article about memory recovery and repression, with editorial comment and invited commentaries from a number of academic an practitioners. Includes:
Memory recovery and repression: what is the evidence? Felicity Goodyear-Smith, Tannis Laidlaw & Robert Large, 99-111.
Recovered Memory: Conflict, confusion and the need to think things through David Seedhouse, 93-97.
Memory Repression and recovery: a postmodern problem Michael Loughlin, 112-113.
Memories of trauma: we need more research R Bryant, 113-117.
Repression and Dissociation: a comment on memory repression and recovery Ian Hacking, 117-120.
In the name of science: commentary on memory repression and recovery – what is the evidence? Nicola Gavey, 120-125.
The recovery of memory: does it help? Kevin McConkey & Amanda Barnier, 125-128.
Dichotomies which ignore complexity Warwick Middleton & Jeremy Butler, 128-132.
Evaluating Memory Harold Merskey, 132-135.
Cognitive and social factors in early deception, book edited by Stephen Ceci, Michele Leichtman & Mary Putnick. An important collection of research about children’s ability to deceive.
Feminism and the sexual abuse debate: a troubled response to Camille Guy by Annabel Cooper.
The following letter was received by one of our members earlier this year."To my mother…….. with all these mixed up stories and lies running thru my mind…….."
DSAC National Newsletter June 1997, mainly consists of 5 pages of "Guidelines for the treatment of adults abused or possibly abused as children with attention to issues of delayed/recovered memory" by visiting American clinical psychologist, Christine Courtois, who has made a tremendous shift in her view of this issue, many of these guidelines are very sensible recommendations.
We have come a long way. The first New Zealand media coverage of the problem of false allegations arising from memories recovered in therapy was in late 1993. Since then there has been a large amount of accurate information disseminated both by the media and in the professional literature, about the malleable nature of memory and how false memories can be created.
Although a number of clinicians continue to protest, denying that therapy either can or has caused significant problems of this nature, the professional bodies are taking the issue very seriously. As we have reported previously in this newsletter, over the past few years a number of professional organisations have issued guidelines on the topic.
British Association of Counselling
Recently the British Association of Counselling issued a report to its 14,000 members, cautioning against recovered memory techniques and saying that thousands of people may have suffered delusions of child sex abuse as a result of counselling.
Royal College of Psychiatrists
Also in June this year a 28 page report commissioned by the Royal College of Psychiatrists concluded that no recovered memories of child abuse have ever been proven.
The eminent working party (consisting of two psychotherapists, a forensic psychiatrist, a sexologist and a psychiatrist) which investigated recovered memory therapy condemned its techniques as ‘potentially dangerous methods of persuasion’.
Professor Sydney Brandon, retired Professor of Psychiatry at Leicester University, and his colleagues documented some of the tragic consequences of these unscientific practices. This therapy has destroyed hundreds of families, splitting parents and children in a welter of accusations and recriminations.
Because it has upset many clinicians, the College decided not to publish the full report but has issued guidelines warning its members about the dangers of recovered memory techniques. It warns against using "check lists" as indicators of abuse, and suggesting to clients that their symptoms might have been caused by past abuse.
It warns against using drugs to enhance memories. Other conclusions of the report include:
- "Like abduction by space travellers, the existing accounts of satanic abuse are not proven."
- "There is a good deal of anecdotal clinical evidence that in repeated sessions, patients will eventually produce the material their therapist seeks, but this is often a product of fantasy." Instead, some therapists are swallowing the most bizarre memories, including the crucifixion of children in satanic abuse and the use of implements which would have caused grave, if not life-threatening, injuries.
- "False memories can and do occur and some memories are so incredible that most clinicians would regard them as evidently false."
- "The evidence does not support the view that memory enhancement techniques actually enhance real memory."
- "There is evidence to support the view that these are powerful and potentially dangerous methods of persuasion."
- That recovered memory therapy has not just been a fringe activity: The Courage To Heal has been a major influence on therapists and "the British Psychological Society survey revealed that 50% of respondents had at least one client recovering memories of some sort and 90% of these clinicians believed that such memories were essentially accurate. This suggests a major problem within the profession with serious implications for practice."
The report points out as evidence that ‘memories’ usually occur within the course of therapy undertaken for unrelated matters. "Within a few sessions, sometimes in the first, the therapist suggests that sexual abuse has occurred and memories must be recovered for treatment to be effective. Even when patients say they cannot remember being abused, their denial is taken as proof it happened because they are obviously suppressing the memory."
British Psychological Society
The Criminology and Legal Psychology Division of the British Psychological Society also recently issued a strong statement warning that the interrogation process, like the therapy process, can induce false memories in some people, and may result in false confession.
NZ Association of Psychotherapists
At a local level, the NZ Association of Psychotherapists has just published in its June 1997 Newsletter a discussion paper about recovered memories, reprinted from the British journal The Psychotherapist. This article offers sensible information and advice including the following:
- "There is no unambiguous connection between childhood sexual abuse and adult psychotherapy. There is no accurate checklist of symptoms of past abuse. The process of recall and the influence of the therapist may alter the nature of the memories produced.
- In the absence of independent corroborative evidence there is no way to distinguish conclusively between these possibilities."
- Therapists "must recognise the level of unreliability of any technique used in psychotherapy and therefore be alert to the possibility that any memory recovered may be historically true, metaphorically true, may be a product of the present psychic state of the client/patient or may be a result of suggestion from the psychotherapist".
At a recent Otago seminar which covered research findings on the frequency and consequences of childhood sexual abuse and discussed clinical implications, the following points were made:
- Keynote speaker Prof. Alayne Yates (Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Hawaii, Honolulu) emphasised that ‘symptoms’ of sexual abuse are not specific; they may also have a number of other causes.
- Prof. Sarah Romans from the Dunedin school of Medicine reported that about 75% of victims of even most severe child sex abuse show no long-term psychiatric problems; most of those with problems also had histories of family violence, emotional neglect etc as well. She believes that the effects of child sexual abuse have been exaggerated, and many victims have not had life-long trauma as a result.
- She said that it is important for patients to have comprehensive evaluation – she has seen women have months of ineffective counselling for sexual abuse history before assessment indicated depression, and once this was treated, worry about sexual abuse disappeared. The focus of therapy should be aimed on the wider contextual background of the client, not just sexual abuse and its assumed effects.
On a Radio NZ interview the following day, Dr Romans also stated that the definition of child sexual abuse has become too broad, inflating the prevalence figures. She put prevalence at about 12%, not the "one in three" commonly assumed.
Mental Health Training Service
The final item which indicates that we are making headway is the considerable advance that has been made in the Sexual Abuse Counselling Course run by the Mental Health Training Services since COSA pointed out this course’s deficiencies last year (see COSA Newsletters Jun 1996 3 (5) 1-2; Aug 1996 3 (7) 1-2; and Oct 1996 3 (9) 2). I have been actively involved in the revision of this course. I supplied the reference reprints and reading list for the students; I am a member of the monitoring panel for the course, and I give a lecture to the class dealing with issues such as metaphorical vs historical truth.
The first of these revised courses is currently running, and initial impressions are very favourable. The course participants were impressed with the comprehensive nature and the balance of the reading material provided to them. They also demonstrated a relatively high degree of critical thinking and understanding of basic issues such as the malleability of memories and the potential unreliability of recovered memories.
I am sure that the changes to this course are largely due to the concerns expressed by our members. Many thanks to all who registered their complaints – you have been an active part of the solution!
Man not guilty of intercourse with 12 year old
A Christchurch District Court jury found 44 year old taxi driver, Ateara Taiaroa, not guilty of having sexual intercourse with a 12 year old girl.
The girl had claimed that he had driven her to his home, parked the car in his garage, and had sex with her on a bed in there. Witnesses told the court that impossible to drive the car into the garage because the garage was full of junk, and that there had never been a bed in there.
(Christchurch Press, 2, 3 & 4 Jul 1997)
Man acquitted of rape
In June 1997 a 28 year old Nelson man was acquitted of rape of a 21 year old woman. It was an issue of whether the sex which had taken place between them was consensual or not. The woman had apparently invited the man to he bed but she had been under the influence of alcohol and illegal drugs at the time. It appears that when she subsequently woke she mistakenly assumed that she had not consented to sex at the time. The jury found him not guilty.
(Christchurch Press, jury acquits man of rape, 18 Jun 1997)
Man wins costs but loses daughters
A 26 year old Auckland storeman was acquitted last year of sexually abusing his young daughter. The allegations had arisen in the context of a bitter custody dispute, and the only evidence for the case was a video interview with the daughter’s 5 year old daughter, saying that she could recall an episode of sexual abuse when she was just 2 years old. Throughout the interview, the girl said on several occasions that she knew this happened to her "because Nana told me". No medical evidence supported the allegation.
On 23 Jul 997 the man was awarded $35,000 costs. It is extremely rare for a person acquitted by a jury to be awarded costs. The man’s lawyer, Ms Marie Dyhrberg, said that this should serve as a warning to the police to carry out a thorough and objective investigation before putting a citizen through the anguish and expense of a trial.
In making the award, Justice Salmon of the Auckland High Court said that there was no evidence that strongly supported the allegation, and "an ongoing concern as to whether the complaint was originally entirely spontaneous". However he exonerated the police in persisting with the charges because "the public interest in stamping out child abuse might require prosecutions to be brought even when that evidence was not robust". However "that element of public interest imposes a burden on the accused person which might not always be present" (in other words, despite lack of any evidence, the falsely accused has to face a trial), and for this reason he awarded costs.
The man earns $440 after tax; he had to obtain a loan to cover his legal costs; and he is still $16,000 out of pocket.
Far worse, his relationship with his two daughters has been destroyed. They remain in the care of his ex-wife who supported the allegations; he has very limited supervised access to them, and he says ""They are unlikely now to believe that I never sexually offended against either of them".
(NZ Herald (24 Jul 1997). ‘Acquitted man awarded costs but father loses girls and $16,000)
Police chief not guilty of incest
Thomas Hallady, a police chief in Perth, Ontario, was charged with indecent assault, buggery and incest of his daughter and another woman over a 16-year span starting in 1963.
In June 1997 a jury found him not guilty on all charges. The allegations had arisen when his daughter claimed to have recalled them when undergoing psychotherapy in 1993. As well as alleging incidents about herself, she also claimed to have seen her father sexually touch the another victim, aged 15 months at the time.
(Police chief cleared of incest charges, The Record, Kitchener, Ontario)
Minister makes false confession
A Presbyterian minister from Toronto has been found not guilty of sexually abusing his daughter, even though he had at one point confessed to these crimes. After his 16 year old daughter first made the allegations, he had denied them, but later after praying, having dreams and therapy about the allegations, he had recovered memories of abusing his daughter; and also of himself being abused by multiple relatives, and participating in satanic rituals. He later doubted his flashbacks a being real, and after discussing the matter with his mother, he concluded that none of these events had actually happened.
(Man cleared of abuse in false memory twist, Toronto Star, 8 Jun 1997)
Colin Ross being sued for causing multiple personality disorder
Dr Colin Ross is a Canadian psychiatrist who has been teaching international clinical audiences to look for multiple personality disorder (caused by repressed childhood sexual abuse) in psychiatric patients. For the past 5 years he has been the director of the dissociative disorders unit in Dallas, Texas, where numerous cases of MPD are diagnosed.
He is now facing a civil case brought by the Bergen family from his home town of Winnipeg, where he was employed from 1985 to 1991. The family alleges that a fraudulent form of psychotherapy used by Ross and taught to another therapist, Tammy Schultz, caused the death of the children’s favourite aunt and baby-sitter in 1986, and then in 1993 left the children’s mother disabled. Ross and Schultz are accused of implanting false satanic cult abuse memories whereby the two sisters came to believe that they had been born into a satanic cult family and that the church they had attended in Manitoba had worshipped the devil.
If the case is successful, it is believed that 100s of other families will come forward and that this case will be viewed as a class action suit. Fourteen other people from Manitoba have signed sworn statements that Ross, Schultz and other therapists implanted false memories of incest and/or satanic cult abuse in their families, to account for their various emotional problems.
(Lawsuit against Colin A. Ross, MD, Winnipeg, Manitoba, May 9,1997 File No. CI 97-01-02334)
George Franklin sues
George Franklin, the first person convicted of murder on the basis of repressed-memory testimony, is now suing his daughter, her therapists and San Mateo County law enforcement officers. The suit accuses the defendants of conspiring to manufacture evidence and present false testimony to support Franklin’s adult daughter’s claim. In 1989 Eileen Franklin said she suddenly recalled a repressed childhood memory of her father raping and murdering her playmate, 8-year-old Susan Nason of Foster City, 20 years earlier. Franklin spent 6Ã‚Â½ years in prison before a judge overturned the conviction in 1995. He was released in July 1996.
A key defendant is University of California repressed-memory theorist Lenore Terr, whose testimony at the 1990 trial put her in the national spotlight. Psychologist Terr, author of "Unchained Memories," a book which was written about the case, is accused of conspiring with Deputy District Attorney Elaine Tipton to present false testimony about the accuracy of recovered memory, "without any basis in social science research," Franklin’s attorney, Dennis Riordan said.
(Franklin alleges trial conspiracy, seeks damages, by Daniel Vasquez, San Jose Mercury News, 1 Jul 1997)
Repressed memory therapy banned in California courtrooms
In April 1994, 25-year-old Russell Engstom filed a suit against his father, Frank Engstrom, for injuries allegedly caused by childhood sex abuse and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Russell asserted that between approximately 1973 and 1976, his father had engaged in a pattern of sexually offensive touchings, including sodomy, oral copulation and acts of sexual sadism. Russell had purportedly repressed all memories of this abuse until about October I992. A California court pre-trial hearing had ruled against Russell, precluding his evidence on the grounds that the admission of any evidence concerning repressed memories, repression or dissociation evidence would be inadmissible. The ruling stated that "The phenomenon of "memory repression" (defined.. as a mental mechanism whereby an individual, suffering serious, repeated traumas, automatically and completely represses the memory of said trauma until years later when they are retrieved through the process of therapy), is not generally accepted as valid and reliable by respectable majority of the pertinent scientific community and .. the techniques and procedures utilized in the retrieval process have not gained general acceptance in the field of psychology and psychiatry. Under such circumstances the proffered evidence of [appellant] and his expert witness does not meet the standard required in the state of California pursuant to.. the Kelly-Fry rule."
Russell appealed but the Court Of Appeal (State of California) affirmed the decision, effectively ruling that repressed memory therapy is banned in California courtrooms.
(Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellant District, Division Two Russell W. Engstom, B098146 Plaintiff And Appellant, Super.Ct.No. Vc016157 V. Court Of Appeal – Second Dist. Frank Mccarney Engstom, Filed Defendant And Respondent, 18 June 1997)
..and repressed memory therapy banned in New Hampshire courtrooms
This month the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled on an appeal by state prosecutors against the lower court decision that memories recovered through therapy do not meet the standards of evidence in New Hampshire. This meant that the Court has upheld the Goff decision (see COSA Newsletter, 2 (5), Jun 1995) that recalled memories of sexual abuse cannot be admitted as evidence. In one case, a New Hampshire woman alleged that she had been assaulted by her father (Joel Hungerford). In the other case, a woman claimed to have been raped by her seventh grade teacher (John Morahan) nearly a decade before. Both women were able to recall details of the attacks after undergoing psychological treatment for the so-called Repressed Memory Syndrome. State prosecutors sought to enter those memories in evidence.
However, the Supreme Court, upholding the lower court, said there was not enough scientific evidence of Repressed Memory Syndrome to allow recovered memories to be considered reliable.
(The Supreme Court Of New Hampshire, Hillsborough-Northern Judicial District No. 95-429: the State of New Hampshire V Joel Hungerford and the State of New Hampshire V John Morahan, 1 July 1997)
Custody case acquittal
In early July 1997, a 35 year old security professional, James Yerger, was found not guilty on 2372 counts of child sexual abuse in a criminal trial held in Chester County, Pennsylvania, Common Pleas Court. Facing decades in prison if convicted, this case drew national attention because of the pro-bono involvement of Howard Fishman (a mental health educator and advocate for child protection reform) and John Frank Gibson, Jr (a prominent Arkansas criminal defense attorney). Drs Richard and Lillian Dunsmore of Coatesville, PA, served as the team’s pro-bono medical experts.
The charges against Yerger grew out of a divorce and child custody dispute gone wrong.
President Judge Thomas Gavin ruled that a significant portion of the testimony offered by a prosecution child abuse expert should be stricken from the record and ignored by the jury. The judge found that Dr. Allan DeJong, a pediatrician at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia and Dupont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware, used hearsay to describe the sexual abuse of Mr. Yerger’s son. In his report to the court DeJong also indicted that his findings were consistent with sexual abuse of the daughter who he never examined. Judge Gavin also ruled that the jury should ignore portions of prosecutor Daria Tecco’s closing argument as being prejudicial.
Police review exonerates police handling of Collier case
COSA readers may recall the case of Alan Collier (see COSA Newsletter Jan/Feb 1997, 4 (1), 1-3 here), released on Appeal after new evidence showed he must be innocent of the alleged rape for which he was serving 5 years imprisonment. The evidence presented was gathered by 3 of his friends and included:
- police officers with whom the complainant and her mother claimed to have laid the rape complaint denied all knowledge of the matter;
- rent records showed that the complainant had moved from her flat several weeks before the alleged rape;
- Ministry of Works and Development records showed Collier was at work at the time of the alleged rape;
- a 1.8m high corrugated iron fence would have blocked her alleged escape route;
- the complainant claimed her rapist was a 40 year old man, but Collier would have been 28 at the time;
- she was a known drug user.
It would seem that if his friends could accrue such evidence, the police, with their vastly greater resources, should have been able to obtain this information before bringing him to trial.
Apparently the regional commander, Assistant Commissioner Bruce Scott, who called for an internal police review into their investigation, does not agree. The report exonerates the police, claiming that "they did their best in difficult circumstances, investigating something in the mid-1990s that occurred 16 years earlier".
(Review clears Collier rape probe officers, New Zealand Herald, 8 Jul 1997.)
‘To be male is to beware’, by David McLoughlin, North & South, Aug 1997
An excellent comprehensive article documenting the case histories of several recent high-profile cases of men falsely accused of sexual crimes. McLoughlin covers the story of the Tauranga teacher acquitted last month of indecently assaulting a pupil in front of his entire class (see COSA newsletter Jul 1997 4 (6) 5-6 here).
McLoughlin identifies some of the key points causing the problem:
- The law change allowing men accused of sexual crimes to be convicted on the uncorroborated word of women and children;
- That complainants cannot be questioned in court about their sexual histories (including a history of making previous false allegations);
- That the police operate on the premise that all complainants are genuine, which means a resumption of guilt and a lack of objective investigation;
- That the police should be absolutely sure of their case before bringing a prosecution, not delegate the job of whom to believe to a jury.
French child pornography hysteria
In a massive sweep in June, French police seized 1000s of pornographic videotapes and pictures involving children. They questioned more than 800 people and placed 209 of them under formal investigation, one step short of charging them.
However, after 3 suspects hanged themselves and a 4th jumped off a bridge, French authorities are questioning whether a highly publicised national crackdown on paedophilia has gone too far, and describing the high media coverage investigation a witch-hunt.
The family of a 39-year-old schoolteacher in Bordeaux who committed suicide by jumping off a bridge accused authorities of over-zealousness. They demanded an inquiry into police methods and an alleged leak of confidential legal information, said their lawyer, Benoit Ducos-Ader. Ducos-Ader said he will sue, claiming "violation of the presumption of innocence and putting others in danger.. Nothing justifies throwing a man into the jaws of public opinion before a trial takes place in full respect of his rights". According to Ducos-Ader, the schoolteacher had no connection with the traffic of pornographic videos. The pictures found at his home were taken among nudists.
(EDT (24 June 1997). ‘Suicides by pedophile suspects raises concern about fairness of probe’, by Cecile Roux)
Hammond calls for open season on academics & researchers
D Corydon Hammond is well-known for a paper he presented originally entitled "Hypnosis in MPD: Ritual Abuse," but now usually known as the "Greenbaum Speech," at the 4th Annual Eastern Regional Conference on Abuse and Multiple Personality, 25 Jun 1992. This lecture discusses the many satanic ritual abuse clients he had treated and his belief that mind control was introduced to the USA by the Nazis. He claimed that at the end of World War II, members of the US Intelligence brought Nazi doctors who had been doing mind-control research in the camps to the United States, along with a teenage boy who had been raised in a Hasidic Jewish tradition and a background of Cabalistic mysticism. The Nazis were Satanists who started doing mind-control research for US Military Intelligence in military hospitals. Hammond says that the boy Americanised his name, obtained an MD degree, became a physician and continued this work that appears to be at the center of Cult Programming today.
Hammond clearly believes that memory repression, multiple personality disorder and satanic ritual abuse are all prevalent, mostly due to the CIA involvement in mind control experiments.
In the beginning of Jul 1997, Hammond gave a speech at the International Society of Hypnosis meeting in San Diego which concluded:
"In closing, I want to say that I’m an academic, and a clinician. I’m a full professor. But you know, it’s been open season on clinicians with the false memory movement. I think it’s time somebody called for an open season on academicians and researchers. In the United States and Canada in particular, things have become so extreme with academics supporting extreme false memory positions, so I think it’s time for clinicians to begin bringing ethics charges for scientific malpractice against researchers, and journal editors — most of whom, I would point out, don’t have malpractice coverage — when they grossly over- generalise, overstate, and selectively review research. And it’s time to begin bringing ethics charges and bringing them before the ADA, State Associations, and any other organizations and ethics committees that they belong to, and holding them accountable for their behavior, and some of the over-generalizations and extreme things that they say. False memory extremists must not dictate the directions of the field of clinical hypnosis."
All offenders of sexual misdemeanours face life-time public notification & registration
In the 1950s a San Diego sailor was arrested for having oral sex in a parked car with a fellow sailor. Now 63, a closeted homosexual, his life was shattered when a neighbour opened a letter meant for him from the State of California ordering him to be photographed, fingerprinted and registered as a sex offender.
A Southern California youth counsellor, convicted of having consensual sex with a teen-ager, had served his sentence and was trying to make a new life with his family when the local authorities, checking up on the whereabouts of known sex offenders, arrived on his doorstep accompanied by journalists and his picture appeared in the local newspaper.
An 18-year-old Wisconsin man, convicted of sexual assault after his 15-year-old girlfriend (whom he wants to marry) became pregnant, has to register with local police every year for the next 15 years as a convicted sex offender.
These men are all the victims of the new laws requiring registration of sex offenders and allowing public notification of their whereabouts following the 1994 Megan Kanka murder in Hamilton Township, New Jersey (called the Megan Law). This law poses dangerous intrusions into privacy by sweeping a wide array of past offenders into a permanent group of stigmatised, second-class citizens. Clearly such public exposure will drive the most dangerous offenders further underground and decrease the possibility that others can be rehabilitated through a stable life.
(New York Times (1 Jul 1997) ‘The Real Victims Of Megan’s Law’ by Todd Purdum)
Health Care Analysis, 1997, 5 (2)
This majority of this issue features a key article about memory recovery and repression, with editorial comment and invited commentaries from a number of academic an practitioners:
Memory recovery and repression: what is the evidence?
Felicity Goodyear-Smith, Tannis Laidlaw & Robert Large, 99-111.
Concludes that memories recalled during therapy may be treated as metaphorical, but, in the absence of corroborative evidence, should not be considered factually true.
Recovered Memory: Conflict, confusion and the need to think things through
David Seedhouse, 93-97
Editorial for this issue; mentions the negative reactions received by some clinicians asked to write a commentary; also includes an excellent discussion of problems associated with defining such terms as "trauma" and "sexual abuse".
Memory Repression and recovery: a postmodern problem
Michael Loughlin, 112-113.
Support Goodyear-Smith et al.’s suggestion that "a flirtation with postmodernism lies behind the apparent lack of concern for objective evidence" of psychotherapists.
Memories of trauma: we need more research
R Bryant, 113-117.
Argues that while this is not yet strong evidence supporting the notion of repressed memory, "trauma" memories are different from "non-trauma" memories, and further more research may offer support to repression theory.
Repression and Dissociation: a comment on memory repression and recovery
by Ian Hacking, 117-120.
A philosophical critique in support of the Goodyear-Smith et al. paper.
In the name of science: commentary on memory repression and recovery – what is the evidence?
Nicola Gavey, 120-125.
Auckland university psychologist who accuses Goodyear-Smith et al. of "ideological motivations". Argues that "there is enough evidence of various kinds to suggest that repression is possible, even though it may be a relatively rare event".
The recovery of memory: does it help?
by Kevin McConkey & Amanda Barnier, 125-128.
Report that since there have been no controlled studies demonstrating any beneficial effect of the use of recovered memory therapy, it should be seriously considered "whether a focus on the past is any real value in addressing the problems of the present".
Dichotomies which ignore complexity
by Warwick Middleton & Jeremy Butler, 128-132.
These authors effectively argue that the theory of memory repression is scientifically substantiated and that both sexual and nonsexual trauma memories can be repressed.
by Harold Merskey, 132-135.
States that ‘recovered memory’ therapeutic practices; the over-emphasis by clinicians on minor degrees of sexual abuse; and the trend to over-attribute cause to past sexual abuse, is responsible for genuine victims less likely to be believed than before.
Cognitive and social factors in early deception
edited by Stephen Ceci, Michele Leichtman & Mary Putnick, 1992, Lawrence Erlbaum associates, New Jersey.
An important collection of research about children’s ability to deceive. Some of the findings include:
- children’s ability to lie successfully improves with age;
- children’s ability to distinguish between truthful statements & lies improves with age;
- Children are more likely to lie if sternly requested by an adult, especially a parent, to do so;
- Children can provide false reports if they are coached in the lie by a parent.
Recovered memories of trauma: transferring the present to the past
C Brooks Brenneis, 1997, International Universities Press, Connecticut.
Using a wide range of clinical and research data, Brenneis reviews the current state of knowledge about trauma memory. He concludes: "While one cannot rule out the possibility that some recovered memories are valid, as yet, the impartial evidence to support this validity, and the process of recovery is virtually non-existent."
Feminism and the sexual abuse debate: a troubled response to Camille Guy
by Annabel Cooper, Women’s Studies Journal, Autumn 1997, 13 (1), 125-146.
In last month’s COSA newsletter (here) we reviewed Guy, Camille (Spring 1996). ‘Feminism and sexual abuse: troubled thoughts on some New Zealand issues’, Feminist Review, 52: 154-168. This paper is a reply to Guy, although in fact the bulk of the paper is a critical review of First Do No Harm.
While it is reassuring to have a feminist journal acknowledge the existence of the book, Cooper focuses on what she sees as its errors and lack of scholarship, and hence totally avoids addressing the issues raised by First Do No Harm (ie that in our attempts to identify and deal with genuine sexual assault, we have implemented practices, policies and legislation which generate a parallel problem – that of false sexual allegations).
Efficacy of treatment for victims of child sexual abuse
Beutler L; Williams R & Zetzer H (1994). The Future of Children, 4 (20: 156-175.
Report that a "comprehensive review of 45 empirical studies on the impact of sexual abuse on children reported that about 20% to 50% of the children studied were asymptomatic at the initial assessment" and that "only 10% to 15% of victims actually became worse over a two-year period following their victimization". There is currently no way to identify which children will develop problems.
Furthermore, most interventions currently offered have not been subjected to scientific scrutiny, and unfortunately, no relationship has been found between treatment for child sexual abuse and outcome. The authors therefore conclude that counselling should not be automatically offered in cases of sexual abuse; that clinicians should not teat the event, but rather deal with any symptoms that may later develop.
Letter to COSA from sexual abuse author Charlotte Vale Allen
6th July 97
I’ve been thinking for quite a while about what I wanted to say to you (and your members) and what keeps coming back at me has to do with what I perceive to be the differences between those with continuing memories and those with "recovered" memories.
I’ve been talking with sexually abused people for almost forty years, having decided very early on that once I’d broken my silence it could only work to the good to keep on talking. My feeling was that the worst thing that could happen to me had already happened, so, aside from the possibility of some mad person murdering me, nothing more terrible could result from my telling people about my childhood.
I say this in order to illustrate that I have spent most of my life talking to men, women, and children about our experiences of incest; often I was the first person ever to speak openly to these people about the matter. And through time a certain fundamental sameness in our behaviours began to come clear to me. I will outline the aspects of that sameness in order to contrast them to the differences I’ve perceived in the recent crop of "new" victims.
I have noticed that the "old" victims are angry people but our anger is directed primarily at ourselves. Invariably we hold ourselves responsible for the incest. Something about us, our bodies, our eyes, our mannerisms, our sauciness, something we said or did or thought caused the incest to happen. Because we were children and therefore powerless to protect ourselves, we obeyed. Because the adult in question refused to acknowledge that what was happening was wrong, and we, too, knew it was wrong, our only alternative was to believe that because we obeyed despite our knowledge of the wrongness, we were, therefore, somehow complicitous. While we had anger toward the offending party, the bulk of our anger was strenuously, often violently, directed at ourselves. I’ve met a number of "cutters" and "slashers," people who repeatedly injured themselves–creating pain to deal with the pain.
The "new" victims, on the other hand, do not blame themselves. Rather, they blame anyone and everyone else. This failure to hold themselves responsible all but shouts at me. It is in defiance of everything I’ve come to know about sexually abused people.
We "old" victims spend much, if not all, of our lives drowning in shame–for the reasons I’ve stated above. The "new" ones seem, if anything, proud of their status as victims. They like to beat people up with their victimhood, raging loudly about it while we "old" ones spoke/still speak in hushed, shameful, choked tones about what we’d experienced. We take no pride in having lived through an experience that deprived us of everything from our privacy to any respect for our own bodies.
We "old" victims wanted at best an apology, an acknowledgement of the truth of our experiences and open acceptance of our reality by our families; we want to be loved because we have felt unloved/unlovely. The "new" ones want vengeance; they blame everyone indiscriminately, wanting public recognition, money, trials, and complete severance from their families. They want to be elevated by their new status, to be within their lifetimes enshrined as victims. We "old" ones wish as few people as possible to know of our horrible experiences. We don’t want anyone to know what we allowed to be done to us.
"New" victims are loud, proud, and massively contentious. They don’t demonstrate any of the fears and phobias I still, to this day, experience. I think this can only be because their suffering has all been imagined, implanted. Only people who have experienced long-term subjugation and gradual loss of self can truly know and feel the lengthy roster of secret fears we spend the remainder of our lives trying to overcome. And no book, no therapist, no one can successfully coach another into true victim status. It’s somewhat of an intangible, I grant. But I have no difficulty recognizing my fellow victims; there is something in our eyes, in our manner, in our very bodies when we prepare to broach the subject. And the "new" victims cannot act out these behaviours because they, and their therapists, are simply unaware of the codes we "old" ones have implanted in our brains that allow us to know each other. There is no "Aha!" when talking to someone with recovered memories. Yet it’s always there when I talk to someone whose memories are, for want of a better word, intact.
Perhaps, after all, as the clichÃ© goes, it takes one to know one. And that’s kind of an arrogant-sounding statement to make. But for decades now I’ve been able to know the ones around me. I can pick it out of the air around people, almost like an electric current or an aura. We exude a certain hurt that is almost tangible. There’s a lot in life that can be faked; and a lot of fakes manage to pass muster. But I keep wondering what, in all of this horror of imagined history, is being accomplished. Who benefits? As far as I can see, no one at all, except some so-called therapists who are reaping cash rewards for convincing gullible people that black is white.
I hope this is of some help or consolation to your members. I wish you, and them, well.
My best regards, Charlotte.
The following letter was received by one of our members earlier this year.
"To my mother,
With all these mixed up stories and lies running thru my mind – I suddenly realised that I had to tell you a couple of lies that I’ve told in my lifetime. …Whatever you believe, please try and realise that I did it as a matter of survival – whether that’s an excuse or not – I don’t know, but it’s the truth.
Anyway – when I had all that counselling – it started at school. Nobody could work out what was wrong. I wouldn’t talk to them – I didn’t want their help. That was another instance where they said I was like you. Apparently you’ve had counselling offered, and didn’t take it. I didn’t want it either and got told that I was arrogant because of that. Anyway – after school counselling – I agreed to go to Jo White [not the real name] – a counsellor/ psychologist in town. I hated it. Every time I went home after it – my [foster] parents would want o know what I ‘d talked about – and I could never tell them – because nothing significant was ever talked about. Then the Garry [not his real name] event happened. What happened was – there was this guy called Garry who I really liked. One night at a party down on the beach we went for a walk and he ended up forcing himself on me. When my [foster parents] found out [my foster mum] wanted to know why I hadn’t pushed him off. I was a big girl – I’d done self-defence – I knew what was right and wrong. Why hadn’t I screamed? I had no answer for her. The truth is – at the time I just froze. I could have done something – I know that… With all the questions – I felt as if it was my fault. Now – I’m not dumb – I know that what happened was not my fault. But [my foster-parents] kept questioning me – wanting ‘the whole story’. Because I wouldn’t tell them – they told me I was sneaky – and I couldn’t handle being called that. So the next time I went to see Jo I told the whole story of Garry. ..Anyway- after I told this -.. the issue of sexual abuse came up – and I said yes that I had been. I have never been sexually abused,. Anyway, I got ACC funding for the counselling – and things got easier at home because I was ‘starting to talk’. The lie got bigger and bigger and I eventually changed counsellor. I thought I could start again – and tell the truth this time. However [my foster parents] said it was running away – and said they wanted Jo’s notes to be forwarded to [the new counsellor]. ..Again I left – pleading ‘it’s my life’ when I got shit about it at home. This lie has eaten away at me since I told it and not one person knows the truth. You’re the first person I’ve told. ..
Love now and always, [your daughter]"
The mother who received this letter is complaining to ACC that "Sexual abuse counsellors assisted by the foster parents applied an inordinate amount of pressure to secure a false admission of sexual abuse. With an extorted admission from a child under pressure, and without supporting evidence, a counsellor has secured funding from ACC to pay for expertise that was not wanted, needed or justified. I am confident that without the false admission, payment for sessions with my daughter would not have proceeded.
I am concerned that counsellors are able to slight and slur innocent individuals who are deemed guilty of heinous acts against children without a shred of evidence. Surely such a practice is not only fraught with dangers, but carries with it serious implications when considering the funds us to support such cowardice is coming from the taxpayer."
The mother calls for an investigation into the counsellors concerned in "their role in manipulating a false allegation of sexual abuse by a child".
Newsletters received by COSA
FMS Foundation Newsletter Jul/Aug 1997, 6 (7)
This newsletter includes a list of published since 1992 based on sound scientific information and dealing with false allegations. A copy of this list can be obtained from the COSA secretary on request. COSA hods a number of these books.
COSA offers a service to members of sending copies of FMSF newsletter at a cost of $30 per year (including postage).
DSAC National Newsletter June 1997, 33
This newsletter mainly consists of 5 pages of "Guidelines for the treatment of adults abused or possibly abused as children with attention to issues of delayed/recovered memory" by visiting American clinical psychologist, Christine Courtois.
Although not acknowledging her prior stand, Courtois has made a tremendous shift in her view of this issue, and much of these guidelines are very sensible recommendations.
For example, in the past she wrote: "A number of women who have been incestuously abused enter therapy without an awareness of having been abused. This non-awareness is due to the use of various ego defenses and denial/numbing mechanisms used to contain the trauma, most notably repression, amnesia and dissociation". She advocated therapy which focuses on "the recollection, exploration and abreacting of the traumatic material through the adult context" and states that "the survivor might have to get worse before she gets better". She supported the view that "memory can return in many forms, including dreams and nightmares, flashbacks" and that an integral part of the healing process is the client moving from denial and dissociation to believing that this remembered abuse really happened.
Her current guideline states that "hypnosis (or any similar technique) should not be used to uncover, discover, or re-work delayed memories of abuse".
She has said that because sexual abuse memories are "so often hidden, dissociated or repressed", if a client has symptoms "suggestive of an abuse history the therapist must raise the issue with the client" and even if the abuse is denied, therapists who continue to have suspicions must "continue to explore its possibility and.. connect abuse with its associated symptoms".
She now suggests that therapists should recognise that a significant number of individuals do not disclose because they have not been sexually abused; and that "there is no one symptom or set of symptoms.. pathonomonic of childhood sexual abuse and so the practitioner should not automatically.. assume an abuse history due to particular symptoms".