COSA Casualties of Sexual Allegations Newsletter December 1994 Volume 1 No 8
Contents of this page:
Editorial: 1995 Glaxo Foundation Fellowship granted to Dr Goodyear-Smith to attend the conference on Memory and reality: scientific, clinical and legal issues of the false memory syndrome which is being organised jointly by the John Hopkins Medical Institutions and the FMS Foundation in Baltimore.
Dialogue with Ondra Williams, tutor for the Psychotherapy course, Auckland Institute of Technology.
Media: Treatment of offenders – an article describing the treatment programme for child molesters at the Te Piriti Unit, Paremoremo Prison. There is currently no research data demonstrating that use of these techniques is scientifically valid and not potentially harmful.
Select Committee rejects ACC rules on approval of sexual abuse counsellors.
Correspondence: From ‘Peter’
Recent events: N Z Sociology Conference, Massey University – panel presentation and workshop on Definition and prevalence of sexual abuse – Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith, Mr Ken McMasters and Constable Wendy Millar. Psychology Department Auckland University: Dr Harlene Hayne: Gone but not forgotten.
Coming Events: Judith Herman Seminars: Psychotherapy for patients with a history of childhood sexual abuse.
1995 Glaxo Foundation Fellowship
It is hard to believe that it is December already and the year has almost finished. My best news in the last month is that I have been awarded the 1995 Glaxo Foundation Fellowship. This Fellowship funds one New Zealand doctor a year to attend an approved overseas course and subsequently speak on the topic to post-graduate medical societies. I have been granted it to attend the conference on Memory and reality: scientific, clinical and legal issues of the false memory syndrome which is being organised jointly by the John Hopkins Medical Institutions and the FMS Foundation in Baltimore, Maryland 9-11 December 1994.
This important landmark conference will address the current status of scientific knowledge regarding false memory syndrome and offer ways to resolve the problems created by this condition. It will be addressed by over 40 professionals from North America and Britain, who are respected scholars and world-renowned experts in their fields. FMS is the most contentious issue affecting the psychiatric and psychological community today. This is the first time there has been the opportunity for clinicians and academics to explore the topic from different perspectives and develop strategies to redress some of the devastating problems which have arisen.
One of the best aspects of going to Baltimore is that I will be meeting with many of the key people in this field as well as the respective directors of the American FMS Foundation and the British FMS Society, Pamela Freyd and Roger Scotford.
I had already committed myself (and baby Judith) to attend the conference before receiving the award, and therefore we have decided to spend the money we had earmarked for this purpose on my husband John accompanying us to look after Judith. I am greatly relieved that he is coming too, as this will make it so much easier for me to get the best out of the sessions and make the personal contacts.
So, we leave for the United States next week, for what I am sure will be a very exciting and stimulating, if somewhat exhausting, experience.
Upon my return, one of my more urgent projects is the formalising of COSA into an Incorporated Society. We are operating on a shoestring but the costs of press releases, mailouts to prospective new members and free newsletters to key politicians and media people means that subs and donations are not covering costs. Incorporation means we can apply for funding and will vastly improve the scope of what we can do. I would welcome any comments and suggestions in this regard. In the meantime, I would like to encourage everyone who has not already done so, to support us by subscribing. The amount of material to cover means newsletters are often likely to be 10 or 12 pages, and the current $15 does not even cover 12 issues of 8 pages adequately. We are therefore thinking of increasing our subscription to $25 for the next financial year. Please let me know any thoughts on these issues.
Select Committees on child abuse
Child abuse has been the focus of 2 Parliamentary Select Committees in the last week (see media review), with vastly different outcomes.
The bad news is a committee calling for a return to the situation where ACC-registered sexual abuse counsellors do not require formal qualifications. They are also suggesting an increase from the $58 per hour already paid. The Labour spokesman, Mr Paul Swain, is introducing a private members bill calling to scrap the 1992 ACC regulations and introduce a "more flexible code of practice".
ACC counsellors claim fees on behalf of their clients after 2 sessions. Most of these cases are historical, many of memories "recovered" during therapy (sometimes initially just a vague sense that they suffered abuse as children). In the absence of corroboration, there is no way a counsellor can know whether their client was really abused or not. Hopefully, NZ professional bodies will soon start responding to overseas trends (see Australian Psychological Society Guidelines) and instruct their members accordingly. Return to de-regulation of counsellors would therefore be a very retrograde step. I would urge COSA members to write to ACC Minister Bruce Cliffe and to their own MPs expressing their concerns about Mr Swain’s Accident Rehabilitation and Compensation Insurance Amendment Bill.
The good news is that a Bill advocating mandatory reporting has been rejected. It has been clearly demonstrated overseas that where there is compulsory reporting of any suspicion of child abuse, the number of false allegations sky-rockets.
As the year draws to a close, I think we can look back with satisfaction over 1994. Great headway has been made in raisng public awareness of false allegation issues, and slowly workers in the field are starting to take note. My expectation is that 1995 will see some very real and positive changes.
The best to you all for the festive season.
Dialogue with Ondra Williams
Tutor for the Psychotherapy course, Auckland Institute of Technology
Following our panel discussion at Professional Issues Forum for psychotherapists at the Auckland Institute of Technology on 27 October on the topic "Can memories be recovered in psychotherapy?", I contacted Ondra Williams for clarification of her beliefs. Specifically, I asked whether she agreed with the three most important statements in my presentation, namely:
- 1. There is currently no scientific proof of repression theory
- 2. Memory recovery techniques can create false memories
- 3. In the absence of external corroboration, therapists cannot know whether their client’s story of sexual abuse is accurate fact, believed-in confabulation or a distorted version of the literal truth.
Ondra replied that she does not agree with the first two statements.
In response to the first, she writes "There is and has always been much evidence clinically that memories are repressed".
In response to the 2nd (that false memories can be created by recovered memory techniques) she states "There is absolutely no.scientific evidence that this is so", although she also writes "I believe that it is possible for poor therapy to leave a client with the belief that something happened that had not happened".
However Ondra feels that where there is doubt, she prefers to err on the safe side, and therefore agrees with my 3rd statement, although adds that "this in no way precludes the possibility that such memories might contain a great deal of fact, eg that there was abuse, though not necessarily as described".
Ondra is anxious not to "fuel the polarising" which surrounds this debate, and she emphasises the need "to seek common ground, appreciate the needs of innocent people and find ways of knowing how to help professionally".
During her presentation, Ondra listed the qualities of a responsible sexual abuse therapist, which I feel are generally very sensible:
- aims for excellence in basic skills
- is aware of any personal bias and take it to supervision or therapy
- deals with own unhealed pain
- stays just behind the client, doesn’t lead or initiate direction, doesn’t make assumptions, doesn’t interpret dreams or symptoms, especially sexually
- de-centralises memory retrieval
- centralises functioning in daily life
- stays neutral regarding accuracy of recall (that dilemma must be resolved by the client)
- gets challenging not colluding supervision
- identifies transference and countertransference
- reads the research – both sides
- sees rage, revenge, blame and confrontation as issues to be dealt with in therapy, not in the courts
- facilitates a no-blame therapy
- respects the rights and needs of the accused, whilst maintaining clear boundaries around client confidentiality (the family is not the client)
- takes the client seriously but not necessarily literally
- learns to tolerate uncertainty and stays neutral.
Although Ondra and I disagree on my first 2 statements, it is very reassuring that we are in accord on the 3rd and most important one. This is further endorsed by the recent guidelines issued by the Australian Psychological Society which are summarised later in this newsletter.
My personal approach is to inform anyone who gives me a history of abuse that there is no way of determining whether this is an accurate memory of an actual event, an exaggerated or distorted memory of something that really happened, or a believed-in confabulation of something that never happened (unless there is independent corroboration).
If asked to fill in an ACC claim for a patient who gives a story of past abuse, all a practitioner can honestly write is "alleged abuse".
ACC takes no responsibilty for determining whether or not abuse has happened and relies on a 2 session report from a counsellor to confirm sexual abuse has occurred. It is on this basis that ACC pays for counselling. I fail to see how counsellors can confirm sexual abuse has happened in the absence of external corroboration.
I hope to be meeting with Ondra and continuing our dialogue, which I plan to report in subsequent newsletters.
Australian Psychological Society – Guidelines Relating to Recovered Memories 27 October 1994
These guidelines are conclusions and recommendations designed to safegurad psychologists and clients who are dealing with reports of recovered memories. Some of the key points include:
- "Memories" that are reported either spontaneously or following the use of special procedures in therapy may be accurate, inaccurate, fabricated, or a mixture of these.
- The level of belief in memory or the emotion associated with the memory does not necessarily relate directly to the accuracy of the memory.
- The available scientific and clinical evidence does not allow accurate, inaccurate, and fabricated memories to be distinguished in the absence of independent corroboration.
- exercise special care in dealing with clients, their family members, and the wider community when allegations of past abuse are made;
- be alert to the ways they can shape the memories reported by clients through the expectations they convey, the comments they make, the questions they ask, and the responses they give to clients;
- be alert that clients are susceptible to subtle suggestions and reinforcements, whether those are intended or unintended;
- be aware of any possible contagion effects (eg self-help groups, popular books);
- be empathic and supportive of the reports of clients while ensuring that clients do not jump to conclusions about the truth or falsity of their recollections of the past;
- recognise that the context of therapy is as important as the content;
- inform any client who recovers a memory of abuse that it may be an accurate memory of an actual event, may be an altered or distorted memory of an actual event, or may be a false memory of an event that did not happen;
- explore the meaning and implications of the memory for the client, rather than focus solely on the content;
- guard against accepting approaches to abuse and therapy that are not based in scientific evvidence and appropriate clinical standards;
- recognise that their responsibilities are to the therapeutic needs of clients, and not to issues of legal action or revenge.
Teacher faces indecency charges dating back nearly 20 years
A school teacher is charged with 16 counts of indecency including sodomy alleged to have occurred with former pupils between from the 1970s to early 1980s.
One of the boys, now an adult, made a complaint last year. The man was told by police that a trial based totally on the evidence of one person would be difficult to win. The complainant then contacted others whom he thought might have been subject to abuse, and eventually other allegations were made. None of the boys had confirmed the others’ stories, nor was there any independent corrobortion, even though the alleged activities would have been aparent to others at the school.
The teacher denies all the allegations, and says he has only a hazy recollection of his accusers. He has been suspended from teaching since his arrest.
Teacher ‘cannot remember’ his accusers, NZ Herald, 28 Oct 1994.
70-year-old found guilty of 16 historic charges
A 70 year old man, William Metcalf, has been found guilty on 16 charges of sexually assaulting 6 girls between 1979 and 1985. Mr Metcalf has consistently denied all the allegations.
‘Guilty on 16 sex charges’, NZ Herald, 28 Nov 1994.
Treatment of offenders
This article describes the treatment programme for child molesters at the Te Piriti Unit, Paremoremo Prison. This course is based on a similar one which has been running at Kia Marama, Rolleston Prison, since 1989 and claims success in respect to reduced re-offending.
Justice Department psychologist Hans Laven believes that "anybody could allow their sexuality to turn in a deviant direction but abusers allow it to happen, it is "a willed act" which they choose not to stop.
The courses teach assertiveness and other social skills aimed at improving their human relationships, and also techniques on how to avoid high-risk situations where re-offending is more likely. These aspects of the training are likely to be very beneficial to the participants.
The potentially contentious aspect of the treatment, the "orgasmic reconditioning exercises" is however kept secret and only alluded to in the article. To my knowledge, there is currently no research data demonstrating that use of these techniques is scientifically valid and not potentially harmful.
My other area of concern is the confrontational approach of the therapists, which is augmented by the other members of the group. Whilst offenders may deny or minimise their offenses, and may have abused a number of times, this may not always be the case. The article describes an offender who confesses to one abuse but claims he never did it again. The psychologist tells him she does not believe him and in fact she might be right. However clearly the possibility is not considered that he may be telling the truth and that she cannot really know what he has or has not done. Treatment that coerces group members to confess to crimes they have not committed is likely to have negative repercussions, especially if participants believe that their parole might be influenced by their performance in the course.
‘The nature of the beast’, Anthony Hubbard, The Listener, 5 Nov 1994, 32-8.
Recovered memories in NZ
Excellent article telling the stories of several NZ families who have family members alleging sexual abuse on the basis of recovered memories.
‘Accused!’ by Noel O’Hare, Listener, 12 Nov 1994, 17-24.
Ritual abuse ‘survivors’ group gets funding
The End Ritual Abuse society (ERA) was awarded $1300 from the Lottery Board. ERA promotes the belief that there exists an international network of satanists practising heinous crimes of ritual abuse. COSA, FACADE, and the MP for Selwyn, David Carter, were all reported as expressing their outrage that public money should be wasted on such a group.
‘Funding for ritual abuse group raises anger’, Anna Dunbar, The Press, 12 Nov 1994
Select Committee rejects ACC rules
A multi-party select committee unanimously rejected the 1992 ACC rules covering the approval of sexual abuse counsellors. They called for a rule review and increased fee reimbursements.
The Labour spokesman on ACC, Mr Paul Swain, is calling for scrapping the new regulations which requires ACC-registered counsellors to be more stringently trained and supervised in accordance with relevant professional body requirements. Labour wishes to return to the staus-quo, which approved counsellors for ACC-paid work without any formal academic qualifications.
‘Swain forcing move on compo’, NZ Herald, 24 Nov 1994
Mandatory reporting of child abuse rejected
Parliament has voted against introducing mandatory reporting of child abuse. Although initially some of the members of the parliamentary select committee were in favour of mandatory reporting, their opinions were changed by submissions which pointed out the pitfalls in the proposed regulations.
‘MPs say no to abuse move’, NZ Herald, 1 Dec 1994
British social workers promote belief in satanic ritual abuse
Clapton, Gary (1993). The Satanic Abuse Controversy, University of North London Press.
In this brief but readable account Gary Clapton – himself a trained social worker who is now involved in social work education – shows how the scenario of satanic abuse was spread among British social workers from 1989 onwards.
In particular, he shows how the child abuse agenda, based on the fairly clear perception that child sexual absue happened in the home and was overwhelmingly perpetrated by men, was obscured. Based on no research evidence, social work journals began to assert that mothers and women were involved, and that ritual abuse was the ‘worst’ form of child sexual abuse, relegating ‘ordinary’ sexual abuse to secondary staus, and eclipsing physical abuse as a cause for intervention.
While calling for special treatment for this new and horrendous form of abuse, the theme ‘simply believe’ was frequently reiterated in the social work journals, and the alleged danger from determined satanists which confronted social workers themselves was amplified. The author details some of the fantastic images and illustrations contained in the literature read by social workers, as well as highlighting the role of key claim-makers such as Tim Tate. The latter – whose influence now extends to a group of True believers at the Tavistock Clinic – is subjected to critical appraisal in an appendix, where his book Children for the Devil is robustly reviewed.
As one reads the extracts from journals such as Community Care, Social Work today, and Nursing Times, it is impossible not to wonder at the incredulity of those making such claims. However, as Clapton emphasises, the scenario has become sufficiently embedded to nullify any attempt to redfine the terms of reference: ‘The nature of the satanic abuse discourse has ensured that, like the bad penny, the term satanic abuse, as an actual reality, continues to reassert itself throughout all efforts to alter the name of what is under discussion’. The NZ experience would appear to confirm this dismal prognosis.
Reviewed by Michael Hill, Professor of Sociology, Victoria University of Wellington.
Undesirable behaviours defined as mental illnesses
Szasz, Thomas (1994). Diagnoses are not diseases: a skeptical analysis of psychiatry, Skeptic, 2 (3), 86-9.
Most psychiatric diagnoses are 20th century inventions. Mental disorders which are the names of (mis)behaviours (for example, multiple personality disorder, kleptomania, premenstual syndrome), are behaviours, not diseases.
Diseases occur naturally and are identified by pathological findings of the body. Diagnoses are artifacts, made for non-medical (economic, personal, legal, political and social) reasons. They are social constructions to control behaviour deemed too extreme or unusual.
Travis, Carol (1994). The illusion of science in psychiatry, Skeptic, 2 (3), 77-85.
Like Szasz, Travis discusses the proliferation of mental illness disorders this century. In 1952, the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical manual of Mental Disorders) contained 60 categories of mental illness. In 1968, DSM-II had 145 categories; DSM-III in 1980 had 230, and the revised DSM-III-R in 1987 listed over 300 disorders.
Although the addition of new categories are supposed to be supported by empirical data from well-conducted researh studies, this data has generally been lacking. Travis discusses how modern roles can mascquerade as mental illness.
Cycles of social hysteria
Shermer, Michael (1994). An epidemic of accusation: the chaos of witch crazes and their modern descendants, Skeptic, 2 (3), 52-6.
Discusses historical themes which occur again and again. We can learn about witch crazes of the 16th and 17th centuries by studying New Age social movements and mass hysterias such as alien abductions, repressed memories, moral panics over satanic-cult abuse and facilitated communication. For such movements to iterate there must be a universal principle inherent in them.
Outbreaks of witchcraft mania have generally taken place in societies which are experiencing a shift of religious focus. The current epidemic arises from socioeconomic stresses secondary to the rapid social change and disorganisation that began in the 1960s, and that caused a deep cultural crisis of values and authority.
Judge J Wright on the reliabilty of repressed memory claims
From the November FMS Foundation Newsletter
Ault v Jasko, 70 Ohio St 3d 114; 637 NE 2d 870; 1994. Judge J Wright for the dissent. Ohio LEXIS 1840 (Ohio Supreme Court, 1994)
"Psychotherapists who engage in recovered memory methods are considered either forensic or clinical. Each group uses different techniques in attempting to retrieve a repressed memory because each is attempting to accomplish something fundamentally different. The forensic psychotherapist is typically trying to elicit infornmation that will be admissible at trial and, therefore, will not ‘prepare’ the patient, make suggestions, or ask leading questions during therapy. The clinician’s purpose, however, is completely different. The clinician’s role is rehabilitation. The treatment program is provided solely to benefit the patient. If a patient’s rehabilitation can be accomplished by assisting that patient to recall a traumatic memory heretofore repressed, whether the memory is fact or fantasy, the clinician will encourage the patient to recall that memory in whatever form. For it is not necessarily the recalling of an accurate memory with which the clinician is concerned, but with the patient’s overall rehabilitation. For example, in attempting to rehabilitate patients by helping them to recall a traumatic memory, clinicians may reveal their own expectations before the session about the information they expect to recover, ask leading questions, and encourage patients to use their imagination. None of these techniques is appropriate in the forensic setting…The practice of memory recovery is fraught with unreliability and, when used in the judicial system, should receive… skepticism and critical examination."
"August 8 this year marked the 6th anniversary of the time when my world caved in as a result of being accused of sexually abusing my (then) 7 year old son. The accusation of course was false but it took me exactly 22 months to prove this, and the judge (in April 1990) declared I had not abused my son.
Shortly after this deeply traumatising period in my life, my 3 children (2 older girls and my son) voluntarily came into my care and I obtained legal custody and guardianship of all three.
Because my life has been turned upside-down, and having avowed to seek some accountability, I have made it my mission over the past 2 years to get to the bottom of exactly what happened and why and how it occurred…
I now have the evidence to enable me to challenge all those involved, and challenge them I intend to. For a long time I thought maybe my situation was an isolated case (in 1988 there were no support groups or recorded cases of false allegations) and I felt very alone, however I now realise that very many guys (families) are going through very similar shattering experiences.
Upon attending my 1st COSA meeting, imagine my surprise to see at least 20 people all telling the same or very similar story to mine, a real cross-section of society, old, young, maybe wealthy, maybe not so wealthy. And obviously many more out there who had not come to the meeting I was at.
For 2 years I was acting from a position of complete powerlessness, I was constantly reacting to situations which were beyond my control. Events would happen and I would respond, letters would arrive and I would respond. Always on the back foot, on the defensive. Now things are different – I’m asking the questions, writing the letters, demanding the action, and believe me it makes a big difference.
The problem is here, it’s not going to go away, that so many families are being affected by false allegations is a scandal… There are some serious flaws in the system, unfairness, inequality and injustice. There are people who have their own hidden agenda (sometimes not so hidden), and yes there are many people earning huge amounts of money from the abuse industry.
We can fight back, get organised, write letters, demand our right to be heard, demand our day in court, demand justice. If you love your kids, if you have done nothing wrong, don’t want to get trampled on, don’t want to go to jail, if you believe in yourself and know you are right, then fight back.Lets help ourselves and each other. I for one wouldn’t want anyone to have to go through what I went through. It appears 100s are going to have to.
If 1994 has been year of the family, lets make 1995 the year when Casualties of Sexual Allegations started fighting back."
From an accused father
"My wife separated from me about 6 years ago and my youngest children went to live with her. My youngest daughter had a nervous complaint… My wife used to take her to psychologists, counsellors etc. When she finally took her to a hypnotherapist..the regained memory came along and they accused me of all the most hideous sexual things I could do to her when she was about 16 years old. Most of the family turned against me… Nothing has ever gone to court (so far).
All my life the worst sin I thought that a person could commit was incest and then I get accused of it myself. I’ve talked to a few people about my situation but I can’t see any way of proving myself innocent."
From a convicted father
"I am currently serving 12 years in prison… The awful thing is that it is left to the accused to try and prove their innocence, and anyone who speaks out or casts doubts is immediately labelled as condoning child abuse or worse… No-one could ever comprehend what it is really like to be found guilty of something you know you haven’t done.
As an old man, the younger inmates really make life hell at times and mostly you just wish that there was some way that you could end your lot…No-one in these prisons gives a damn about people of my age group. We are just left to walk up and down a small hallway day after day. Believe me, I would sooner be dead and out of it, than like we are in here.
These supposed allegations were meant to have happened between 1961 to 1965. It’s an impossible position to be in…25 to 30 years down the track, people that once knew our family had either shifted away – or passed away….
I just didn’t believe that anything could possibly happen to me but however it did happen in the end! I suppose we all like to feel comfortable in the belief that if we do nothing wrong then we can’t be charged with anything and should have nothing to fear.
I have lost my wife, my home and my freedom.
Day by day I just sit or walk up and down, no visitors or friends any more. All I can do is just hope and pray each night".
Father whose daughters "recovered" memories
From Chris, Lizzie and the children
"To COSA and all families, our thoughts are with you all as the Christmas season approaches. For so many of you there will be a vacuum as we try to come to grips with the "whys". I do enough questioning for us all. My prayers for you all are for reconciliation and peace. Keep up your excellent work and be encouraged. You are breaking down walls and ordinary folk are re-thinking the whole issue of allegations. Together there is strength. Bless you all and have a peaceful Christmas. Kind regards"
Chris, Lizzie and the children
N Z Sociology Conference, Massey University, Palmerston North: panel presentation and workshop on Definition and prevalence of sexual abuse, 27 Nov 1994
The panel consisted of Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith, Mr Ken McMasters and Constable Wendy Millar. The panelists were unanimous that there is no consistent definition of sexual abuse, and therefore interpretation of prevalence statistics is virtually meaningless.
Psychology Department Auckland University: Dr Harlene Hayne: Gone but not forgotten 9 Nov 1994
Dr Hayne described a series of behavioural experiments performed at Otago University testing infant memory development. In general, forgetting occurs very rapidly in babies. Using an operant response of a foot kick to make a mobile move, these experiments look at conditions and cues which can influence the forgetting and retrieval times for this task.
Judith Herman Seminars: Psychotherapy for patients with a history of childhood sexual abuse.
Wellington (1-18 March 1995), Auckland (23-24) and Christchurch (28-29).
Workshops will "review the long-term sequelae of sexual abuse and delineate symptoms frequently seen in patients with a traumatic history". Psychotherapy, group therapy self-help and social action will then be covered.
The advertised programme includes:
- limit-setting with the family of origin
- reconstructing a narrative of a traumatic event
- specialised techniques for recovery of memories.
Workshop costs $196 ($168 if paid before 1 Feb 1995) and prospective participants are asked to indicate if they do not want their names to appear on a registrants’ list (I wonder why psychotherapists would require their attendance at such a seminar kept secret?).