COSA Casualties Of Sexual Allegations Newsletter August – September 1998 Vol 5 No 6
Contents of this page:
Editorials: 1997 Criminal prosecutions and convictions of sexual offences Recently the NZ public were subjected to a campaign lead by Rape Crisis which claimed that "Kiwi homes are plagued by incest" and that the most common offenders are fathers. Ministry of Justice figures for 1997 show during that year a total of 1328 people were charged with sexual offences, and 720 of these (54%) resulted in convictions. Of these, there were 5 cases of alleged incest, 4 of which led to convictions. It is not specified whether those convicted were fathers or other relatives
DSAC cautions therapists about abuse suddenly remembered in counselling. In the past, DSAC (Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care) have been strong supporters of the recovered memory movement. We know we have come a long way when they not only start to publicly acknowledge that care needs to be taken in interpreting memories recovered in therapy, but actually begin to take credit for bringing this issue to professional attention, as is evidenced in a recent Listener interview with DSAC president Selina Green.
The double standard in action When a woman does something, her intentions are seen as good; if she does commit a crime, she is not to be held responsible because circumstances beyond her control have caused it to happen. On the other hand, all, men are viewed as potential violent offenders and rapists, and a man’s behaviour is likely to be of malevolent intent. This ‘woman good; man bad’ philosophy was demonstrated clearly in a recent case involving he only male worker at a crÃƒÂ¨che.
Court cases: Sexual allegations used in blackmail
Alleged incest case (UK)
Media: Teacher rejects CYPFS limited apology and compensation offer regarding false abuse allegation
Literature: Hypnosis and Past-Life
Serpent In Paradise – Book
Correspondence: Teaching musical instruments
Statement by Professional and Scientific Advisory Board of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation
1997 Criminal prosecutions and convictions of sexual offences
Recently the NZ public were subjected to a campaign lead by Rape Crisis which claimed that "Kiwi homes are plagued by incest" and that the most common offenders are fathers (see COSA Newsletter June 1998, 5 (4), p8-9). They claimed that they averaged over 400 incest calls per year.
COSA has just received Ministry of Justice figures for 1997. During that year a total of 1328 people were charged with sexual offences, and 720 of these (54%) resulted in convictions. Of these, there were 5 cases of alleged incest, 4 of which led to convictions. It is not specified whether those convicted were fathers or other relatives of the victim. Rape allegations accounted for 318 of those charged, and 137 of these (43%) resulted in convictions. The most common charge was of indecent assault (548), of which 334 (61%) were convicted.
Rape Crisis figures exceed official statistics by a magnitude of one hundred. While COSA does not want to under-estimate the seriousness of the crime of incest, and while we also acknowledge that not all cases of incest will be reported to the police, despite Rape Crisis’ encouragement, the discrepancy between the figures from the Ministry of Justice and those from Rape Crisis suggests that the latter are grossly exaggerating the extent of the problem.
DSAC cautions therapists about abuse suddenly remembered in counselling
In the past, DSAC (Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care) have been strong supporters of the recovered memory movement. Over the past few years they have brought to NZ many of the key proponents of recovered memory theory and practice: John Briere, Jon Conte; Judith Herman; Christine Courtois; Roland Summit. They have been very critical of attempts to warn professionals and the public on the danger of memory recovery techniques creating false memories. We know we have come a long way when they not only start to publicly acknowledge that care needs to be taken in interpreting memories recovered in therapy, but actually begin to take credit for bringing this issue to professional attention, as is evidenced in a recent Listener interview with DSAC president Selina Green (4 Jul 1998, Doctor on call). Similarly, last month Dr Tannis Laidlaw, Associate Professor Robert Large and myself had the findings of our recovered memory family survey published in the New Zealand Medical Journal (Goodyear-Smith, Felicity; Laidlaw, Tannis; Large, Robert (26 Jun 1998). ‘Parents and other relatives accused of sexual abuse on the basis of recovered memories: a New Zealand family survey’, New Zealand Medical Journal, 111, 225-228). When asked for comment by a journalist, Green replied that "therapists should be cautious about abuse suddenly remembered in counselling".
While now expressing caution regarding recovered memories, Green does not go as far as to acknowledge that false allegations are a problem – in fact she says that DSAC doctors know this is not so. "Very often there’s not enough evidence to take a case forward, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen". Even when the police decide that the allegation is not true, Green believes that the complaint must have been genuine. "the police have rung us and said ‘No, she made it up’. But you know that, whatever happened, that woman went through a traumatic experience and for some reason now she’s recanting …Maybe because it’s just too hard."
The double standard in action
One of the main influences which drives false sexual allegations is the prevailing climate which attributes the blame for all our social ills on men. When a woman does something, her intentions are seen as good; if she does commit a crime, she is not to be held responsible because circumstances beyond her control have caused it to happen. On the other hand, all, men are viewed as potential violent offenders and rapists, and a man’s behaviour is likely to be of malevolent intent. This ‘woman good; man bad’ philosophy was demonstrated clearly in a case recently reported in the Christchurch Press (13 June 1998, CrÃƒÂ¨che case irks academic by Martin van Beynen).
The only male worker at a Christchurch crÃƒÂ¨che was investigated by the police child-abuse unit after they were approached by the crÃƒÂ¨che’s supervisor. A mother had tickled her son through a hole in a swing. The child told her that the male worker at his crÃƒÂ¨che did the same thing. She laid a complaint that the man had abused her child. The worker told the police that yes, he sometimes poked children through a drainage hole at the bottom of the crÃƒÂ¨che’s tyre swings when he was giving them a swing. He did not think that he had done anything wrong and even listed the children. The police decided not to prosecute the man after accepting that he had no criminal intent. However after pressure from management, the man resigned from his job at the crÃƒÂ¨che, which he had held for nearly 10 years.
It is revealing that an activity (tickling through a hole in the swing) that the mother clearly considered playful and harmless when performed by herself, she deemed abusive and of sexual intent when it was performed by a man.
Men and women have equal capacity for good and evil. COSA is working towards a society where men and women are treated equally; where they have equal rights and responsibilities; and where neither is seen to have a monopoly on virtues, nor on vices.
Sexual allegations used in blackmail
A 27 year old Wellington woman and her 31 year old husband blackmailed her uncle, claiming that if he did not pay them money, they would tell the police that he had sexually abused her as a child. They also wrote 2 forged letters which were made to appear to have come from a lawyer and from ACC to back up their claim. They obtained $5000 from him and then demanded a further $20,000, at which point he informed the police.
Both have now pleaded guilty to extortion and forgery. The woman was sentenced with a 6 months’ suspended sentence plus 100 hour community service, and her husband was given a 9 month prison sentence. They were given name suppression. They also have to repay the $5000 blackmail money they had already obtained.
(New Zealand Herald, 27 Jun 1998, Blackmail admitted)
Female aggressor blames elderly man
An elderly man, Arthur Lindsay (age 78) was assaulted in his car by Tui Williams, aged 26. During her trial she claimed that her actions were in response to his molesting her. Lindsay emphatically denied any impropriety and a Christchurch District Court jury supported his claim that he was the victim not the aggressor in this case. Williams was found guilty of assault and sentenced to 4 month periodic detention.
(Christchurch Press, 28 May 1998, Impropriety denied)
Teacher found guilty of indecent assault
Several girls who watched a Shortland Street episode in which a teacher kissed a school girl, talked about the programme amongst themselves. They then alleged that a male teacher at their previous primary school (when aged between 9 and 11) had done this to them when they were in his class in 1995 and 1996. He was said to be a popular teacher who used to hug and kiss his pupils, and the girls claimed that he touched them on their thighs, bottoms, chests and genitals, mostly in the classroom when he called them up to his desk, or on outings.
There was apparently no corroborative evidence in the way of other children witnessing these public events, and the judge told the jury that the case rested on whom they believed.
The jury chose to believe the girls and the 48 year old teacher has been convicted of indecent assault.
(NZ Herald, 2 Jun 1998, ‘Teacher showed only affection: defence’; 10 Jun 1998, ‘Lawyer links TV kiss to case’)
Another retractor holds therapist accountable
Penny Burnside initially consulted Dale Ault for treatment of depression in 1989. In 1990 or 1991, Ault attended a seminar MPD and he then started treating Penny for repressed memories of abuse, eventually diagnosing her as having over 60 personalities. Penny has subsequently retracted her allegations and took a suit against Ault for malpractice. He has recently settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
(Information forwarded by Paula Tyroler)
Man jailed for killing cats
Barry Herbeck, 37 year old Wisconsin man who admitted beating five cats to death was sentenced to 12 years in prison by Rock County Circuit Judge Richard Werner. The prosecutors had recommended a four-year sentence. Herbeck told investigators he took in cats and killed them to relieve anger built up from being abused as a child. About 200 animal-rights activists who packed the court cheered at the outcome. While the man may be disturbed, this sounds like an excessively severe penalty for killing cats.
(Associated Press, 7 Jul 1998)
Statute takes false allegations seriously
The State of Florida has introduced a Statute (SB 1024 – 1st Florida Statute Chapter 98-111) which increases malicious reports of abuse from a 2nd degree misdemeanour to a 3rd degree felony. This law also allows those falsely accused civil remedies; requires Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement to thoroughly investigate the cases and exercise their subjective discretion; mandates that DCFS notify FDLE with the name(s) of the accusers; and mandates DCFS report to the Legislature annually how many false reports were turned over to the FDLE for investigation purposes.
Renee Fredrickson settles malpractice suit out of court
Renee Fredrickson, a psychologist who wrote "Repressed Memories: a Journey to Recovery from Sexual Abuse", has settled a law suit out of court for $175,000. Mary Sommerfeld, and her husband James sued Fredrickson for malpractice. The lawsuit alleged Fredrickson used hypnosis, dream interpretation, guided imagery, suggestion and other methods to implant terrifying false memories of incest and ritual cult abuse. Christopher Barden, their lawyer, said that his clients accepted the settlement because Fredrickson’s total malpractice insurance coverage was capped at $200,000. Barden had successfully sued former St. Paul psychiatrist Dr Diane Humenansky in 2 false memory cases, receiving multi-million dollar jury awards in both cases.
The Sommerfelds have also filed a complaint against Fredrickson with the Minnesota Board of Psychology and that complaint is still under investigation.
(Press Release 19 June 1998, Barden & Associates)
Recovered memory charges against priest dismissed
John Ayon charged Denver Catholic priest Marshall Gourley with abusing him from 1981 to 1984. Gourley was suspended from his priestly functions and his position as pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church shortly after the suit was filed.
U.S. District Judge Daniel Sparr has dismissed the case on the grounds that Ayon waited too long to file charges. He did not accept Ayon’s explanation that he had not realised that he had been abused by the priest until 1997, when he began consulting psychologist James Shenk. Shenk said in his affidavit that Ayon remembered what had happened, but had repressed his knowledge of how it harmed him.
While relieved, Gournley also expresses regret that he has been denied his day in court "to prove these accusations to be fabricated and false."’
(Rocky Mountain News (Denver, Co.)17 Jul 1998, Lawsuit Was Filed Too Late; The Issue: Judge Dismisses Sexual-Abuse Case Against Priest; Our View: The Dismissal Was Appropriate, If Unsatisfying)
Yet another retractor sues her therapists
Susan Greene began counselling with psychologist Daphne Timmons in 1989 and with psychiatrist Scott Wallace in 1991. She sought their help for bulimia, depression and panic attacks. Timmons told her that she might be a victim of past sexual abuse, and interviewed her after giving her sodium amytal, (the so-called "truth serum") She was hypnotised by her therapists and developed 5 different personalities. She says that Timmons ‘continually demanded’ that she ‘remember she had been satanically, ritually and sexually abused by numerous individuals’. Greene was hospitalised 15 times during her consultations with the two therapists.
Greene is now suing her therapists for convincing her that she had repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse by her father and by satanic cult members through their use of mind-altering drugs, asking suggestive questions and hypnosis.
(Charlotte Observer 9 Jul 1998, `Repressed memory’ at issue in lawsuit against therapists by Eric Frazier)
Recovered memory therapist jailed
Geraldine Lamb, a 58 hypnotherapist, has been found guilty of charges of insurance fraud and practising psychology without a license, and has been sentenced to 30 months in prison. Former patients of Lamb told the court how they came to believe they had been sexually abused as children by members of Satanic cults after receiving her suggestive therapy. one patient testified that she came to believe that her father, grandfather, and brother had sexually abused her as part of a Satanic cult. She said that Lamb placed her in a choke hold during therapy and shouted instructions in her ear to renounce Satan. Another ex-patient said that Lamb suggested that she divorce her husband, a decision she regrets to this day.
Lamb has demonstrated no remorse for the damage she did to her patients, and still accuses some of them of being members of Satanic cults, despite their reactions.
(St Louis Post-Dispatch 26 Jun 1998, Hypnotherapist in fraud case is sentenced to prison by John Carlton)
Man suing therapists over recovered SRA memories
Douglas Linton, 47, in seeking more than $1.8 million in damages from Sophia Carr, a psychologist, and Robert Marrs, a licensed clinical social worker. He claims they caused the break-up of his marriage and ruined his life. Linton alleges that Carr and Marrs believed in an intergenerational satanic cult "which was engaged in ceremonial murder, torture and rape of adults and children." Carr used techniques such as hypnosis and dream work to help Linton "recover" memories of the alleged abuse. She believes that she herself was abused by a cult as a child. Carr surrendered her professional license under threat of revocation last month for her role in another repressed memory case involving client Jennifer Fultz. Fultz was in therapy with Carr from 1991 to 1994, the same period during which Linton saw Carr. Carr settled a malpractice lawsuit with Fultz in 1996 for an undisclosed amount.
While Carr was treating Linton, Marrs treated Linton’s wife, who during therapy also began uncovering childhood memories of abuse by a satanic cult. Carr and Marrs allegedly told Linton that he and his wife should divorce to help her heal. After their divorce Linton made a suicide attempt.
(The Oregonian, 18 Jul 1998, Man sues therapists over repressed memory counseling by Erin Hoover Barnett)
Man convicted on the basis of repressed memories
Dennis Warner, aged 41, has been found guilty of first-degree rape and causing a minor to pose for an obscene photograph and sentenced to 20 years in prison. The complainant, a girl now aged 18, alleged the assaults happened at age 12. She told counsellors of the abuses in 1997. She said she had repressed the memory of the events and recalled them only under intensive counselling.
(Daily Oklahoman 13 Jul 1998, Judge Sends Rapist Up for 20 Years)
Retraction not believed by District Attorney
In late 1994 Stacey Hoehmann, aged 16, was in strife with her parents and what she considered their over-strict discipline. When she hit her younger brother and gave him a blood nose, her father ordered her to find another place to live. Soon after, in Jan 1995, she told a friend, Patricia Sullivan, that her father had abused her. Sullivan told their church group leader Rev. Anthony Ventrano, and he questioned Stacey. She described 3 incidents that she said had occurred: the first in 1992, when she was 14, of her father her father showing her a pornographic video in his bedroom and then attempting to have sex with her but being interrupted by her mother’s knock; a second incident two years later in July 1994, and a third incident after Christmas 1994.
Despite her belief that he would not tell anyone, the priest told a guidance counsellor who brought in the county’s child protection agency and the police. When the case came to trial, Stacey’s sister, Gillian, and other relatives pointed out apparent flaws in her account, such as the presence of a video recorder in the living room, not the parents’ bedroom. They said she appeared cheerful the day after the second incident – and even jumped playfully on her father’s back in a pool. However at a nonjury trial, Judge Alfieri found Hoehmann guilty of third-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. He was sentenced to prison but is out on bail pending an appeal.
Stacey has subsequently retracted her allegations, which she says were all lies. She says her accusations grew out of a lie she told a friend in her simmering anger at her father’s strictness. That lie, she said, "spun out of control." Soon, she said, she felt compelled to invent lurid details so she would not be branded a liar. "They kept wanting more and more details," she said. "I didn’t know what they were looking for, so I made stuff up."
Judge Alfieri lifted a court order that had barred any contact between father and daughter and she is now reconciled with her parents. The District Attorney believes her recantation is a lie, and is proceeding with the case without a co-operating victim. Judge Alfieri will now be forced to decide whether he should throw out a conviction he himself handed down.
(New York Times, 10 Jul 1998 When a Daughter Recants a Charge of Abuse By Joseph Berger)
Recovered memory acquittal
A 52 year old man was found not guilty of abusing his daughter for more than a decade The 13 charges included rape and indecent assault. The court as told that that counsellors had suggested to his now grown-up daughter that she had been abused.
(The Times, 4 July 1998, False-memory verdict)
Alleged incest case
A 28 year old woman has charged her father of indecently assaulting and raping her as a child from the age of 3. The woman reported the attacks only after attending a counsellor when she found that she was unable to make love with her husband on their wedding night. She claims that she allowed her father to abuse her during her childhood because she thought he was acting as an "instrument of God". Her father, a member of a strict religious sect, The Tight Brethren, denies the allegations and claims his daughter is a victim of false memory syndrome.
(Daily Telegraph 30 Jun 1998, Child ‘was told that sex abuse was God’s will’ by Nigel Bunyan)
Teacher rejects CYPFS limited apology and compensation offer regarding false abuse allegation
In 1992 a male Christchurch High school teacher was alleged in 1992 to have touched a 13-year-old girl’s genitals. The girl was one of his pupils at the school’s special needs unit. She was under the care of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Service in a foster home.
In 1994 the teacher told the Press about the allegations, claiming that CYPFS had falsified information, mishandled its investigation into the alleged incident, and breached the Privacy Act in declining to provide him with information.
He had been able to produce corroboration from a colleague that he could not have committed the alleged offence at the time or place given. The CYPFS social worker involved had then changed the time of the alleged offences. For the past 6 years he has sought a fair hearing, an apology, and redress for the distress he and his family had suffered.
CYPS has finally offered a deed of settlement. Under the terms of the deed, CYPFS would apologise for its handling of the investigation, acknowledging it had not managed the process well and had caused distress. CYPFS would pay the teacher $5000 for the distress he had suffered and the costs he had incurred. The settlement would require him to maintain confidentiality over the issue.
The man has rejected the offer, saying that he cannot agree with the need for confidentiality; that the apology failed to detail individual faults in the handling of the case or to show that the CYPFS had identified and rectified failings in its service.
He has a number of documents to support his claim. The police said they would not lay charges against him. The Privacy Commissioner acknowledged the CYPFS had breached the Privacy Act. The Ombudsman said the teacher had "established a clear unfairness on the part of the Department of Social Welfare personnel dealing with an unfounded allegation". CYPFS acknowledged discrepancies in its documentation of the alleged offence. They claim that since that case occurred, new protocols for handling sex-abuse allegations against teachers have been established.
The teacher’s wife supports his claim and says that CYPFS staff were "teaching kids that they can lie and not only get away with it but that they will be backed up".
(The Press Christchurch, 18 Jul 1998. sex charge stalemate for teacher by Mike Crean)
Peter Ellis documentary deemed fair and unbiased
The Broadcasting Standards Authority has rejected a complaint made to it last November that a TV3 20/20 programme about Peter Ellis was biased and unfair. The Child Advocacy Trust (headed by ex-DSAC President Robyn Fancourt) had made the complaint, alleging that there was further "corroborative and physical evidence" that Ellis was guilty, beyond the children’s statements. However the Trust was unable to satisfactorily provide such evidence.
The Authority did not accept the Trust’s claim that the programme about the crÃƒÂ¨che case ‘created a climate in which it would be harder for children to disclose sexual abuse for fear of not being believed’. The Trust complained that the programme undermined children as credible witnesses by giving a persistent impression that professionals had driven the children to fabricate stories, but the Authority found that the programme focused on the means by which the professionals gathered their statements, rather than the credibility of the children per se. In response to the Trust’s complaint that ‘the programme lacked balance because it failed to deal appropriately with the dynamics of the disclosure process’, the Authority found that it was legitimate to scrutinise the methods used by the professionals in getting the children’s testimonies. The programme stated clearly that the trial had occurred in a climate where ‘children’s testimony was paramount, unquestioned and not required to be corroborated, and where children were seen as needing active encouragement for full disclosure’.
Other Trust complaints rejected by the Authority were that it was unfair in its treatment of Detective Colin Eade (the Authority ruled it reasonable to ask him about his relationships with women involved in the case, because he was publicly accountable) and that the programme was biased because it presented anecdotal evidence about juror connections with the prosecutor and with a person closed associated with the prosecution case (the Authority ruled that it was acceptable to explore issues relating to a possibly unsafe verdict).
(The Dominion (Wellington) 29 July 1998, Authority rejects complaint about Ellis programme, p5)
Accountability of women’s groups called for
Men’s groups across Canada are developing a class-action lawsuit against the federal government for gender bias under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Last year the government last year gave more than $8 million to hundreds of women’s groups. This included $2.3 million given to groups involved in issues related to violence; and grants for abused lesbians; a conference on women and the Internet and assistance to help women become foresters. Multiculturalism-Status of Women Canada has an annual budget of $17 million.
No such assistance is available for men. There is also a call for audits of how the money has been spent.
One such beneficiary, the Barrie and District Rape Crisis Centre, recently underwent a financial audit. This has resulted in provincial government ministries deciding to stop funding the Centre. The police are now investigating the Centre’s handling of funds awarded to them by the community and social services, solicitor-general and health ministries . The centre’s executive director, Anne Marie Aikins, has been convicted of fraud for misuse of an agency credit card.
(Toronto Star 14 Jul 1998 Rape crisis centre in Barrie under police investigation, Provincial bodies halt funding after audit by Kellie Hudson; Halifax Daily News 14 Jul 1998, "Reformers want women’s funds probed" by Chris Cobb)
Numbers of falsely accused in the thousands
The Justice Committee in San Diego has 2,000 persons on file, many of whom are parents, who have been wrongfully convicted of sexually abusing children. In most of these, the ‘evidence’ consists of ‘words put in the mouths of children by "therapists" who coax, bribe and threaten the children until they say what the "therapist" wants.’
This article concludes ‘The difficulty of overturning false convictions is one reason for society’s traditional aversion to convicting the innocent. In a cynical society where prosecutors serve careers over justice, strict rules of evidence must be enforced by judges or false convictions will multiply. Trusting prosecutors is no longer an option.’
(Scripps Howard Newspapers Press Journal (Vero Beach, Florida). 20 June 1998, Politics now decide cases by Paul Craig Roberts, Cato Institute)
Update on war veteran ‘nerve gas’ recovered memory story
Cable News Network (CNN) has admitted that its claim that nerve gas was used on suspected American defectors in Vietnam is not supported by the facts. The basis of their sensational claim was the recovered memory of a former Army lieutenant. Not only is there no evidence that nerve gas was ever used; there is not even any evidence that any American GIs defected to fight for the Viet Cong.
(New York Times 5 Jul 1998 CNN’s embarrassment)
‘Hypnosis and Past-Life’
PhD Doctoral Dissertation Young D. Pyun from Seoul National University
Pyun conducted an experiment correlating the hypnotisability of 240 normal adult males (aged 21-23) with their production of past lives using past-lives regression. The result of this experiment showed that past-lives memories in hypnosis are produced according to suggestions and are significantly related to both imaginative involvement and fantasy proneness. This result also supports the medical hypnosis perspective that alleged memories of past-lives are not real memories but fantasies. The author concludes that past-lives memories are products of suggestion and cannot be evidence of the existence of past-lives.
Fading reveries: repressed-memory madness in the UK
Lipian, MS (6 Jun 1998) Lancet, 351 (9117): 1673-1674
Lipian discusses the healthy scepticism with which ‘repressed-memory madness’ is now being regarded professionally. Many of those who recover memories suffer from borderline, narcissistic or histrionic personality disorders which are characteristically featured by a poor sense of identity. At a time of crisis (such as teenage years, first time away from home; marriage or starting a new job), these people seek therapy, for reasons which are often vague. In America in the 1980s and 1990s many such patients found themselves in situations where everything can be seen as someone else’s fault All they had to do was " to "remember" the bad thing that led to the symptoms and all the troubles will melt away. Better yet, a powerful therapist will do most of the dirty work, with quasi-mystical techniques such as hypnosis, use of truth serum, age- regression. The patient finally is "special", with an identity ("survivor", "repressed- memory victim"), a community (fellow "victims"), and a purpose. Most importantly, there is a simple, concrete "answer"." Lipian notes that "Contrary to theory and prediction, non-specific symptoms attributed to "repressed memories of abuse" more often get worse rather than better as therapy proceeds and hidden traumatic "memories" surge forth."
Serpent In Paradise
Dea Birkett (1998), Picador Books, England
Birkett writes about victimism – the cult of the victim – which she says is the new religion of the late 1990s. There are many benefits. ‘No one is more sacred than the victim, no one more immune to criticism, no one more difficult to confront and question. You are a hero, not for anything you have achieved, but simply because of what has happened to you.’ She says it is time to exorcise the victim cult. People should not celebrate that they have been abused; they should not define themselves by a single set of adverse incidents in their past. Despite what has happened to me, I am not a victim. I will not be wearing my "I’ve been abused too" badge with pride. We should praise both ‘former victims and perpetrators who overcome, rather than are overcome by, their past.’
(Guardian Weekly, 7 Jun 1998 Is victimisation the new religion? The new apostles of suffering would have us believe so, says Dea Birkett)
Manitoba Risk Estimation System Reference Manual
Version 4.8, May 1996, E Sigurdson & G Reid, Manitoba.
This document consists of a set of scales which assess the characteristics of parents and their provision of care to their children. It is used in cases where there has been established abuse or neglect of a child, to assess the vulnerability of the child; estimate the risk that there might be a reoccurrence of maltreatment; and the estimate of future severity of possible maltreatment. This system has been adapted by CYPS (CYPS Risk Management Project, Version 1) to produce Guidelines for risk estimation with whanau, hapu and iwi, and also Guidelines for risk estimation with Pacific Island families and communities
The psychology of confession evidence
Saul Kassin, American Psychologist, March 1997, 52 (3): 221-233
This is an important reference paper on the subject of false confessions. False confessions may be voluntary (motives include protecting someone else; pathological need for fame, acceptance, recognition or self-punishment). For example, 200 people all falsely confessed to stealing Charles Linbergh’s baby. People may also falsely confess though coercion. These might be compliant, where the suspect confesses to avoid an aversive interrogation or gain a promised reward, even though the suspect privately knows that he or she is truly innocent. There are also coerced-internalised confessions, when an innocent person who is tired, anxious, confused and subjected to highly suggestive methods of interrogation, actually comes to believe that he or she committed the allege crime. This is a phenomenon akin to ‘recovered memories’ from suggestive psychotherapy. A number of such cases have been documented.
False confessions have been elicited in experiments. These are influenced by the vulnerability of the subject (the degree of certainty they have concerning their own actions) and particularly by the introduction of false incriminating evidence (a tactic frequently used by police).
The author identifies 3 major dangers currently associated with confession evidence:
1.) The police often use deception, trickery and psychologically coercive methods of interrogation;;
2.) These methods, at times, cause innocent people to confess to crimes they did not commit;
3.) When coerced confessions are presented in the courtroom, juries do not sufficiently discount the information in reaching a verdict.
Juries in Criminal Trials Discussion Paper
The Law Commission has recently prepared a discussion paper on Juries in Criminal Trials (Preliminary Paper 32, Part 1). This 131 page document discusses issues relating to juries and poses questions for further consideration. Copies are available at a purchase price of $25.75 including postage from Tim Brewer, Commissioner, Law Commission, PO Box 2590, Wellington 6001 Tel 04 473 3453; Fax 04 471 0959. Submissions or comments are invited and can be sent to the above address or e-mailed to Susan Potter, Senior Researcher, SPotter@lawcom.govt.nz
Nigel and Fiona – Case history
Names and details of case histories are changed to avoid identification of those involved. Please contact the Editor if you would like to have your case presented.
Nigel and Fiona were both in their early 20s in 1979 when they married in Australia, Fiona’s homeland. Nigel was raised in NZ where most of his family still live. Nigel is a highly educated professional man who had a high-paying job. The couple had three children: Jeremy born in 1982; Helen born in 1985 and Sasha born in 1987.
The marriage lasted 10 years, but in 1989 Fiona left Nigel, taking the children with her. Nigel was distressed by the marriage breakdown and the loss of his children. From the outset, he tried to maintain contact with his son and daughters. Within a few months Fiona had applied for and been granted an ex-parte (‘one side only’) order for interim custody and a non-molestation injunction. There had been no suggestion that Nigel had ever been violent towards his family, and in 1994 a judge noted that there was no reason for this to have been made ex parte and that Nigel had good reason to feel aggrieved. Nigel was granted daytime access during the weekends, and managed to spend time with his children regularly, although from the beginning, Fiona was not happy about him seeing them. She kept a dairy relating to the access and comments made by the children and by Nigel, and admitted that she only wrote negative comments in the book. During 1991 Nigel kept up all access visits despite Fiona’s opposition.
In November 1991 Fiona spoke to an ‘expert’ on child sexual abuse. That evening she asked her two girls a series of leading questions, which started with "Has daddy ever touched you in a way that you don’t like?". The girls were in the bath at the time. Helen indicated that he had touched her bottom with his hand but denied that he had touched her vagina. Sasha pointed to the area of her vagina, and when her mother asked "does he put his wee-wee down there?" the girl supposedly said yes. Fiona immediately contacted the police. A medical examination was arranged by the Child Protection Services Unit and the children were examined by a paediatrician.
On examination of 4 year old Amy, he found no scarring or other abnormality except on the hymen which he said was irregular and thinned with a horizontal opening of 5 mm. He concluded that this was physical evidence of interference.
On examination of 6 year old Helen, he recorded some redness and a slight amount of discharge. Her hymen measured 7-8 mm horizontally and appeared thin along its bottom edge. He concluded that this was also medical evidence of interference. He suspected that the discharge was caused by the sexually transmitted disease Chlamydia, and gave both girls antibiotic treatment for this infection. However the results of swabs he took showed no evidence of any disease, including Chlamydia.
Sasha underwent 4 interviews by a Child Protection Service social worker, only one of which was observed and recorded by a police officer. Details of how the allegations had arisen and a transcript of the videotaped interview was examined some years later by a well-respected psychiatrist. He expressed grave concerns about the flawed nature of the initial disclosures and the strong possibility that the mother’s questioning and subsequent conduct had contaminated the girl’s testimony. He was also gravely concerned about the suggestive nature of the interview. In 1994 a judge agreed that the social worker who interviewed Sasha ‘repeatedly focused her attention on her father and what he might have done to her. The repetitive nature of the questioning was excessive to the extent of being badgering’. Although Fiona claimed that Sasha had said yes to her question "does he put his wee-wee down there?" Sasha never made that allegation in any of her interviews, and the vague claims she did make involved genital touching were in response to leading and suggestive interrogation.
Jeremy was interviewed twice by this social worker. Helen was interviewed twice by a senior clinical psychologist, with her second interview recorded by a police officer. Neither Jeremy nor Helen at any point made any allegations that they had been sexually abused. When told that the examination showed that she had been sexually interfered with, Helen said "the doctors are lying". Her denial was attributed to Roland Summit’s ‘child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome’ and she was not believed by the health care professionals involved in the case.
On the basis of the medical findings, it was decided that the girls must have been raped. In March 1992 Nigel was arrested and charged with unlawful sexual intercourse and indecent assault of both his daughters. He denied and has always continued to deny any sexual offending.
All access was stopped. He had no contact with his children either supervised or unsupervised during 1992, despite his applications to the courts. After a year on bail awaiting trial, in early 1993 the Crown entered a Nole Proseque (‘refuse to pursue’) to each of the counts which he had been charged. They did not give any reasons for dropping all the charges, but the denial by both girls that their father had raped them is likely to be a factor.
Nigel immediately set about trying to re-establish contact with his children. The Family Court issued an interim order allowing an hour of access once a month supervised by a church pastor. Each member of the family was then interviewed by a court-appointed clinical psychologist. She found that although Helen and Sasha were now convinced that Nigel had sexually abused him, they still wanted access with him. She recommended that the supervised access with all three children present at the same time be continued.
A year later she interviewed the family again. Helen repeated her belief that her father had sexually abused her, but she loved him and wanted to see him very much. Sasha was now doubtful that he had ever abused her and said "I have been telling Mum that I lied". She said she could not remember any incidents in the past but she was sure that her father had not hurt her. Again the psychologist recommended that access be limited to regular but brief (1 to 2 hours only) access of the 3 children together in a room under supervision of a pastor.
A year after all criminal charges against him had been dropped, Nigel sought to have unsupervised access to his children on alternate weekends. His application was considered in a 5 day hearing. Nigel had by now exhausted both his funds and his confidence in lawyers and so represented himself. He challenged the methodology used by the Child Protection Services Unit and the doctors’ evidence that he had sexually abused his children. A psychiatrist testified that the children’s stories were potentially contaminated by the actions of their mother and through the leading interviewing by the authorities.
The judge agreed that the psychiatrist’s criticisms were valid. However he concluded that the medical evidence indicated that the children must have been sexually abused. He found that on the balance of probabilities Nigel had not committed this abuse, although he noted that there was no evidence that anyone else had had the opportunity to do this. Despite this, in a rather contradictory fashion he decided that ‘there is an unacceptable risk of sexual abuse of the children if unsupervised access is granted at the present time’.
The court-appointed psychologist demonstrated clear bias against Nigel. She claimed that he put his needs before the children, and said that this was demonstrated by the videotape recordings he had made of a supervised access meeting for the court. The judge considered this was hypercritical of her. She gave as an example of him putting his own needs first his asking Jeremy to enquire of his mother as to whether he (Nigel) could come to watch Jeremy play in a forthcoming cricket match. The judge felt that ‘it is an entirely natural thing for a father to take an interest in his son’s sporting activities and for a son to want a parent to be there watching him. …What possible objection could there be to have her husband discreetly watching his son play cricket?" The psychologist thought this was a selfish request by Nigel. Another example she gave of Nigel putting his own needs first was his entertaining his children by playing guitar to them for a short period of time (he is an accomplished player). The judge felt that it was quite acceptable for him to play his children some music. In fact the judge noted that the conditions of access (three children of different ages and interests all being confined to a room with no outings allowable) made it challenging to keep their attention, and he gave Nigel credit for the variety of ways he managed to maintain their interest, which the psychologist appeared to discount.
Despite his recognition of the difficulties and limitations imposed by such access, the judge ordered that it continue unchanged, because there was an unacceptable risk that Nigel might abuse his daughters. He did not even allow Nigel to have unsupervised access with his son Ben, about who there had never been the slightest allegation of abuse. Six months later, in December 1995 Fiona applied for and was granted sole guardianship of the children. She would not accept as suitable any of the supervisors put forward by Nigel. The last time he was able to see his children was March 1997.
The decision that there was an unacceptable risk that Nigel might abuse his daughters was based on the medical evidence said to indicate that past abuse had occurred. In 1983 the medical literature reported that a horizontal hymen size greater than 4 mm in a girl aged under 13 years was an indicator of sexual abuse. Doctors used this study as the basis for statements that children they examined with hymenal openings larger than 4 mm must have been interfered with.
More recent examination of the study this claim was based on has revealed that it is seriously flawed. These days a horizontal hymenal opening of 5 mm in a 4 year old and 7-8 mm in a 6 year old is considered to be a normal finding. There is a great degree of variation with regard to the shape of hymen opening(s), and the irregularity and attenuation described is quite possibly a natural variation on normal. Similarly, redness is frequently found in this region for a number of reasons, and a finding of some inflammation is not confirmation of "previous interference". In other words, the medical findings described by the paediatrician do not indicate a past history of rape after all.
Nigel has tried many avenues to get this flawed medical evidence reconsidered. However no court will accept jurisdiction to hear new evidence. The Magistrates Court, the High Court and the Appeal Court of the Family Court all have refused to review the decision. The file was said to be officially closed. The Attorney-General, Australian Human Rights Commission, the Ombudsman and the Governor-General have said they cannot help.
To date, Nigel has been involved in 99 court hearings with respect to this matter. He is not prepared to walk away from his children. He has even spent time in prison for contacts with his children which breach court orders. For example, just after Fiona was appointed sole guardian of the children, Nigel went to their home when they were out and left three packets of ‘pebbles’ sweets and 3 fifty cent coins on the front verandah with some sea shells arranged to spell the words ‘Daddy was here’. This was considered a breach of the Summary Protection Order issued by his ex-wife which specifies that he should be restrained from approaching her in any way. When contacted and interviewed by the police, Nigel admitted that he had gone to the premises to give his children some presents. He was aware of the Protection Order against his wife but he believed his family court access rights overrode this, as it was the children he was communicating with, not her. Never-the-less, he was arrested and imprisoned for this action.
By November 1997 Nigel had exhausted all possible domestic remedies. He therefore petitioned to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, on the grounds that that Australia had violated Articles 14 and 23 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by their court actions regarding his children. Article 14 states that everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and to be tried without due delay. Article 23 deals with the protection of the family. Nigel explained to them that he is a victim of the violation because he has suffered false allegations of rape which have resulted in his children being denied contact with him by the family court. It appears that this petition has resulted in a communication between the UN and the Australian government, because the file has been re-opened, and a date has set in late 1998 for a further hearing, presumably regarding the children having access to their father.
We wait to hear the outcome of the 100th hearing in Nigel’s continuing fight to father his children.
Fatherhood in the 1990s: what 21st Century fall-out?
We were fortunate to be addressed at our 1998 COSA AGM (Sunday 2 August) by prominent barrister Mr Rob Harrison. In a well-researched, insightful and sobering presentation, Rob drew the parallels between the witch hunts of the Middle Ages and the sexual abuse hysteria of today. The comparisons include:
- the targets of these crusades (witches then; men today);
- the generous awards gained by those doing the hunting (witch hunters then; sexual abuse counsellors and interrogators now);
- the flawed methods used to identify that witchcraft or sexual abuse has occurred;
- the legislative changes made to allow uncorroborated accusations to be made;
- the unquestioning believing of children who point the finger;
- the fact that the phenomenon was real (there were witches selling curses then, and there are sexual offenders today) but that the problem is so inflated that almost anyone can have their finger pointed at them;
- that when these allegations are made, they are almost impossible to refute. In Europe, accused witches were burned alive if they denied the allegation, and hanged then burnt if they confessed.
Rob also spoke of the consequences of such hysterias. One of the hypothesised effects of the witch hunts is that the slaughter of cats that accompanied it (because cats were seen as witches’ ‘familiars’) lead to a rise in the rat population which significantly contributed to the spread of the Black Plague.
One of the effects of the sexual abuse hysteria is the distancing of men from children. Men today restrict interactions with children; they avoid contacts once considered part of normal healthy family intimacy for fear of molestation accusations. There is the huge rise in the number of solo mothers; there is the loss of adult men as mentors in children’s lives by their disappearance from roles such as teachers and scout masters. Fathers may avoid bathing their children; ever being alone with them or ensuring that they are never alone with their children’s friends. He spoke of the pain of so many men denied access to their children by a system hopelessly weighted against them, and the tragedy this inflicts on their children. A generation is growing up many of whom have little or no contact with men in their formative years. The impact of this loss of fatherly contact and healthy male role-models is likely to be detrimental to generations of children to come.
This presentation has been professionally audio-taped by Peter Cornwall, Myraim Tape Ministries, 10 Park Ave, Northcote, Auckland, Tel / fax 09 418 3428. Duplicate copies may be purchased for $5 directly from him, or alternatively, several copies are available from our COSA Secretary for the same price.
Talk by Dr Denis Dutton, COSA Canterbury meeting 29 June 1998
Denis addressed the topic of victimology, a late 20th century western phenomenon which we imported from the US.
The 15th century honoured saints, the 19th century honoured heroes, the early 20th century honoured scientists such as Edison and Einstein but the late 20th century honours victims.
Victimhood gives power, including emotional bribery of those who are blamed; it relieves everyone of responsibility for their deeds and the notion of victim is so extended it has become trivialised. This is epitomised in popular media TV shows such as Oprah Winfrey and the Holmes show, which indulge in non-stop whinge. The media is full of stories of tragedies and traumas (a plane crash; an inadvertent swapping of babies in a hospital) and the emphasis is on the need for therapy, for counselling, not only for the casualties, but even for witnesses. If you are not aware you are a victim, that just goes to show all the more that you need a therapist.
It used to be that reporters would first ask – "What Happened?" and second – "Why?". Now the first question is "Who is the Victim?" That is how to cover the story: find someone who is hurt, make sure you get the standpoint of someone hurt.
An associated feature of victimology is Political Correctness – the notion that it is morally wrong or forbidden that anyone should be offended. This has had serious impact on University teaching. Course evaluations want to know whether a course is sensitive to issues of gender, race, culture. There are many different sensitivities in University education – gender, race, sexual orientation, even tastes in art. Denis teaches the History or the Philosophy of Art – this topic involves every kind of art human beings have ever had. There is no way to determine in advance the topics about which people may be thin-skinned. The idea of adjusting what is taught to save someone’s potential offence is ridiculous. It negates the value of robust debate, yet no one is hurt by this; to actually say what you think in a way that is forthright and honest is part of what education is.
In this atmosphere of Victimhood, in the University, various classes of victim compete with each other to see who is most deserving of the term ‘victim’.
There is a desire to extend the concept of Victimhood – to find more and more victims, and this is mixed in with the notion of offence being morally wrong. However the greatest teachers are all offensive to some degree.
Teaching musical instruments
Teaching of most musical instruments including voice, can only be successfully done on a one-to-one basis. This is particularly true in the teaching of voice production. Most people that take voice lessons have already self-taught themselves singing techniques which are some times faulty. An over developed technique is just as harmful as an underdeveloped one. For example, were a student with a well developed vocal "focus", to be subjected to a concentrated application of focus developing exercises that persons voice would become exceptionally harsh. Same applies to breathing, support etc. Too much can be every bit as harmful as not enough. Teaching two or more at the same time will always result in too much emphases in one area for some students and not enough in another for other students.
Group teaching can also present other problems. Younger children are quite eager to learn and apply a new technique. Being in a group doesn’t seem to affect them. Older children, college students, can be OK in a one-to-one situation but seem to be offended in a group situation if singled out for instruction. Like being directed to do a "thing" which they are unable to do or don’t feel is "right". Things like standing properly erect. Holding the arms properly. Holding the pick properly. Breathing properly. Singing in tune, etc. I am quite sure that many college students that have started with me and dropped, did so because they lacked the ability to put my teaching into practice. Having a student appear to be offended is not uncommon. Following today’s trends to blame others for a failing and to attribute that failing to "being abused" it is only a matter of luck that I have escaped being so accused.
I have never lost patience with a student for not being able to apply my technique. I know several ways to tackle most problems and keep trying different ones until I find something that works. I have, however, gotten cross on two different occasions with students that "sassed" me, both were boys. Both times with groups of students around. It could just as easily have been girls with no one around and I would have been digging up $10,000 to try to keep from going to jail.
Some of the phrasing needed to describe vocal production techniques can be quite crude. Example. The only truly descriptive term to describe "Support" is to tell the student to strain as though constipated. One a couple occasions I have heard a female voice teacher use the phrase "breath through your vagina". (I never did know what she meant). I’m sure there are others equally colourful and equally provocative to the wrong people. I use a video of the vocal chord’s function viewed by a camera inserted through the nose. My college students referred to it as "Yucky". Reflecting back on "The Courage to Heal" and in view of the outrageous charges I’ve come to know about I’m quite sure some of today’s sexual abuse counsellors could see a sinister purpose in showing this video.
Most private music teaching involves some hands on direction. Diaphragmatic breathing technique for example, can only be described and understood by a person that has experienced the sensation of diaphragmatic breathing. Various techniques have been developed to teach diaphragmatic breathing. They require a great deal of time and sometimes might not ever work. Five or ten minutes of hands-on instruction will get the student started breathing properly and from that time on the teacher’s verbal instruction will be readily understood.
I have recently been told that school children are now being shown a video titled "Keep ourselves safe". I understand it is supplied and shown by the police. I have not seen it but I do know of at least one accusation that occurred from it being shown. The results are similar to that caused by "Courage to Heal". Children are being guided into seeking an action that can be interpreted as sexual abuse. Teachers are not being given similar guidance in how to avoid such accusations. Tragedies are guaranteed.
I wish I were so courageous that I could sign my real name to the above message but I have personally experienced the sexual abuse industry in action. I have read "Courage to Heal". Three times. I fully understand just how destructive these people can be. Having my name published would expose me as a target to be attacked and destroyed. I must insist you not use my name.
Sincerely, a retiring music teacher
Newsletters received by COSA
FMS Support Groups Newsletter Canada Vol 5 Nos. 6 & 7 June/July 1998
This issue includes an article by Tana Dineen published in the Ottawa Citizen (4 Jul 1998) taking the psychology industry to task for using recovered memory therapy; for not yet admitting that that recovered memory theory and therapy is untested, unproven and unsafe; and for avoiding any accountability for past actions. While the Canadian Psychological Association is calling for a special inquiry into convictions based on recovered memories because ‘the state of our knowledge about repressed or recovered memories suggests that such memories, if they exist, may not be sufficiently reliable to serve as the sole basis for a criminal conviction’, the psychology industry is avoiding any mention of its own role in the possible wrongful convictions. It expresses no remorse for those people wrongly serving jail terms or for their accusers, who see themselves as victims and are tormented by horrible ‘memories’ of events which may never have happened.
FMS Foundation Newsletter July / Aug 1998 7 (6)
This issue includes the following statement from the Professional and Scientific Advisory Board of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 1998).
Because of the continuing misuse of trust, power and authority in some forms of mental health treatment, and because of our sense of social responsibility to the victims of these treatments, we, the assembled members of the Professional and Scientific Advisory Board of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation , unanimously agree to the following:
1.) We endorse the major conclusions of the Working Group on reported Recovered Memories of Child Sexual Abuse of the Royal College of Psychiatrists that "there is no reliable means of distinguishing a true memory from an illusionary one other than by external corroboration. There are, of course. Some memories do bizarre or impossible that they are not credible. If something could not happen, it did not happen." (British Journal of Psychiatry, 1998, 172, p304)
2.) We also endorse their conclusion that "Evidence does not support the existence of ‘robust repression’". We add that because exactly what is meant by ‘repression’ and ‘dissociation’ is far from clear, their use had become idiosyncratic, metaphoric, and arbitrary.
3.) Moreover, we find no credible evidence that procedures based on assumptions of the historic accuracy of ‘recovered memories’ of childhood sexual abuse benefit distressed individuals.
4.) In contrast, we find increasing evidence that such procedures can severely harm patients and their families.
5.) Despite growing awareness of these concerns in public and professional circles, no major United States mental health professional association has acted decisively to prevent its members from contributing to this public health problem.
Therefore, we recommend the following goals for the Foundation:
a.) The Foundation should continue its mission of assisting patients and families, providing scientific and legal information, and educating the community.
b.) The Foundation should seek to dissuade mental health professionals and the public from the practices and beliefs that promote false allegations and ineffective and potentially harmful treatment.
c.) The Foundation’s activities should include education of mental health professionals in all disciplines, their respective professional organisations, and the private and public institutions supporting their work.
d.) The Foundation should also direct it educational efforts towards related professionals, such as judges and attorneys, and those in social services and law enforcement.
e.) Finally, the Foundation should strongly encourage further rigorous scientific research in all those disciplines bearing on these issues.
COSA offers a service to members of sending copies of FMSF Newsletter at a cost of $30 per year (including postage)