COSA Casualties of Sexual Allegations Newsletter December 1997 Volume 4 No 10
Contents of this page:
Editorial: Peter Ellis and the Christchurch CrÃƒÂ¨che Case New details were revealed in a TV 20/20 documentary. Firstly two jurors in the case had relationships with people involved in the case which had not been disclosed to the court… Secondly the detective on the case, Colin Eade, admitted that he was mentally unwell during the investigation and that he later required treatment for depression. He subsequently formed sexual relationships with the mothers of two of the child complainants.
David Dougherty case Dougherty has claimed for compensation for wrongful imprisonment after DNA evidence established that the semen found on the girl’s underpants was not his. However Minister of Justice Doug Graham has turned down his bid for compensation following his rape acquittal on the grounds that Dougherty has not proven his innocence.
Courts: No penalty for false rape allegation
Adolescent girl makes false complaint
Woman claims that she repressed memories of anal intercourse with boy-friend
Patient alleges sexual assault by doctor (Canada).
Woman settles for $10.6 million in false memory claim Patricia Burgus was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder. Her treatment included drugs and frequent hypnosis, which left her believing she was a high priestess of a satanic cult. At one point Burgus was strapped down with leather restraints and forced to recall being sexually abused as a child. Burgus now says no abuse ever occurred. She also claimed she was led to believe she had participated in cannibalism, ritual murder and Satan worship.(USA)
Child abuse ‘expert’ sued for coercive interviewing Kathleen Faller claims to be an expert in sexual abuse and she was one of the authorities whom Ms Rosemary Smart referred to in the Christchurch City Council commissioned review of the Civic Childcare Centre. Since 1995 Larry Champney has been involved in suing Faller and her colleagues for professional malpractice, breach of contract, negligent performance of contract, fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress.(USA).
Therapists and hospital administrator face criminal charges of insurance fraud (USA).
Media: A suggestion that schizophrenia is caused by sexual abuse Recovered memory proponent John Read, Clinical Psychology Department, Auckland University, pre-released to the media the findings of a paper he had written suggesting that childhood abuse and schizophrenia might be causally related. DSAC President Selina Green wrote in praise of Dr Read’s research which found that when asked, many schizophrenic patients reported past sexual abuse.
… and a suggestion that diabetes is caused by sexual abuse
Judge Wood accused of covering up for prominent Australians involved in sex rings in his Royal Commission report.
Gender neutrality gone mad (Ireland).
False memories from recovered memory therapy in Scotland
Professor declared innocent of abusing young girls (Canada).
Literature: False rape allegations
When Child Protection Investigations Harm Children: The Wenatchee Sexual Abuse Cases. American Civil Liberties Union of Washington.
Write to the minister of ACC, Jenny Shipley.
Peter Ellis and the Christchurch CrÃƒÂ¨che Case
This is certainly the hot story for this month. Last year North & South magazine journalist David McLoughlin published an excellent exposÃ© about the inadequacies and injustices of the Christchurch Civic CrÃƒÂ¨che case. Details of this case have also been outlined regularly in COSA newsletters. On 16 November, TV3’s 20/20, screened Melanie Reid’s Special Report on the Christchurch Civic CrÃƒÂ¨che fiasco. These two great pieces of journalism have brought this case again to the public attention. There has always been a general unease about Ellis’ guilt by the public at large.
A worker in the crÃƒÂ¨che, Ellis, was found guilty in 1993 of 16 out of 25 charges of abusing children in his care. This was a sensational case, involving satanic ritual abuse allegations by a number of children, and accusations made also made against many of the women workers (four were also arrested but later discharged). Ellis has always maintained his innocence. He has nearly 4 years out of a 10 year sentence. In 1994 an appeal was rejected by the Court of Appeal, even though 3 charges were dismissed because one of the key witnesses had recanted.
New details were revealed in the 20/20 documentary. Firstly two jurors in the case had relationships with people involved in the case which had not been disclosed to the court. The jury foreman, a Christchurch clergyman, had been the marriage celebrant for the Crown prosecutor, Brent Stanaway, and another juror was the lesbian partner of a woman who shared a small office (at an adjoining desk) with the mother of one of the key complainants. Secondly the detective on the case, Colin Eade, admitted that he was mentally unwell during the investigation and that he later required treatment for depression. During the case he had made a sexual proposition to one of the mothers, who had objected and withdrawn her child from the case. He subsequently formed sexual relationships with the mothers of two of the child complainants. It was later also revealed that he also had a sexual relationship with one of the chief child investigators of the case.
It was also admitted that most or all of the children who made allegations against Ellis had withdrawn their accusations at various times in the past but that this was treated as a symptom of ‘denial’.
In the past fortnight since the documentary screening, there has been a flurry of media activity about this case. The public appears to be strongly on the side of Ellis’s probable innocence. Every day a new story appears about the case in the newspapers, on radio or television. Very few commentators suggest that he really is guilty.
A rare exception is that of Robyn Fancourt, previous DSAC President and now in charge of an advocacy organisation called ‘Children’s Agenda’. Fancourt is complaining to the Broadcasting Standards Authority about the airing of the 20/20 programme because of ‘the hysteria’ that has resulted. In the past, Fancourt has been quoted as saying that she has ‘never known a false allegation get through’. Police Association president Greg O’Connor also is convinced of Ellis’ guilt, because ‘the conviction of Ellis as a paedophile was upheld on appeal’, and senior lecturer in clinical psychology at Auckland University, John Read, berated the TV programme as one-sided and an example of how people ‘ignore our children when they are brave enough to tell of their abuse’.
A number of politicians are speaking on Ellis’ behalf. These include Labour MP and Opposition Justice Spokesperson Phil Goff; NZ First chief whip Ron Mark, (a list MP from Christchurch); and Alliance list MP Rod Donald. Even John Banks, who has decried Ellis as a horrendous child abuser in the past, is now saying that he believes he is innocent.
The solicitor-general is reported to have ordered an investigation into the jury. Ellis’s counsel, Judith Ablett-Kerr, is to petition Governor-General Sir Michael Hardie Boys for a pardon. Police Commissioner Peter Doone has agreed to hold an inquiry into investigations that led to the conviction.
New Zealand First MP Rana Waitai, a former police commander of 31 years’ experience, and chairman of Parliament’s justice and law reform committee, backs the inquiry. Mr Waitai said that Ellis could be the victim of "an almost unbelievably bizarre abortion of justice"… If half of what was on the (20/20) programme is true, Peter Ellis must immediately be released and hugely compensated for the devastation that has been done to his life. The normal rules of evidence appear to have been suspended. The normal rules of investigation appear to have been suspended.
Had the full claims (regarding ritual abuse), by the children been put to the jury, they may have had a better insight into the claims. That the jury was denied this is an outrage to justice. And most damning of all we learned from the detective-in-charge (that) not only had a witness recanted their claim, but probably all seven of the final witnesses had also by now recanted their claim."
Another aspect of the trial that disturbed him was that medical evidence or corroboration was not sought by the police nor prosecution. At the time of the Ellis trial, a new "politically correct" attitude had arisen toward sexual abuse, he said. "This spawned what one could describe as a sexual abuse industry and that industry had certain tenets that were beyond examination.
- The first was: a child who complains of sexual molestation never lies, never mistakes the nature of what they’re talking about and must be believed totally.
- The second tenet was that all men are rapists and if they had not yet been caught it was just that they hadn’t.
At the same time, ritual abuse claims were made about several harmless organisations merely because they had elements of rituals in the way they operated. And the same people who made sexual abuse claims with such ferocity were also connected with ritual abuse claims. The children who claimed sexual molestation also claimed Peter Ellis had cooked kittens and a whole series of other bizarre ritual abuse. What was put forward was a sanitised version. Anyone with a passing familiarity with the law will know that is not good justice."
It is promising to hear a senior politician making these statements. While COSA is heartened that the TV3 documentary has roused a public response, it is important to recognise that the injustice in this case relates to a lot more important issues that whether the makeup of the jury was less than objective and that the investigating police offer had intimate relationships with a number of the key players.
Each of the concerning aspects of the Ellis case should not be evaluated in isolation. It is the sequence of events, the overall picture that is the key to understanding what has happened here. There is over-whelming evidence that justice was not served in this case, and that the investigative and judicial processes were neither objective nor competently performed.
Of particular concern is that children who did not initially disclose abuse began to do so in subsequent interviews by investigators who were committed to the belief that these children had been victims. Considerable contamination of testimony was likely, given the parents’ active support group and the questioning of their children over a long period of time, let alone the ongoing contact between the children excited by all the drama around them. Much of the interrogation of the children involved suggestive and leading questioning, and the highly suggestive ‘anatomical dolls’ were used. The allegations got progressively more bizarre and unlikely and some were clearly fantasy. This is an expected consequence of non-abused children undergoing repeated interviews by people in authority who believe the children have undergone sexual trauma that they are too scared to reveal.
Although some of the investigators seem to have believed everything the children said, even the most bizarre claims including those involving satanic ritual abuse and multiple perpetrators, the Crown prosecutor, Brent Stanaway, must had had some doubts, because he narrowed down the charges and the complainants to those appearing to be the most credible. The more incredible and bizarre stories were excluded as evidence, as these would have discredited the child witnesses immediately. However the bizarre claims came from the same interviews as the ‘more credible’ ones, a fact that must throw considerable doubt on the reliability of the latter.
The primary source of the error is the prevailing belief by those working in the sexual abuse field that first, sexual abuse is the most likely cause of an child or adult psychological problem; and second, that while women and children might be reluctant to ‘disclose’, they must always be believed when they make a sexual allegation. Over the past 13 years I have accumulated evidence which demonstrates how these beliefs have influenced practices, policies and legislation to operate on a presumption of guilt (every complainant is presumed to be genuine) leading to the generation of many false complaints. COSA now has on record dozens of cases where like Peter Ellis, men have been convicted on the basis of similar although less-sensational testimony, often obtained through coercive or suggestive interviewing and counselling practices. Many languish in prison with no means to obtain justice.
Evidence is over-whelming that Peter Ellis was not proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. He was convicted on the basis of uncorroborated testimony with the complicity of professionals who believe that women and children always tell the truth when they say they have been sexually abused. These professionals do not believe women and children if they say they have not been abused. To them, anyone who retracts an allegation must be "in denial".
In their defence, CYPS and the Police have recently said that in the past few years, they have considerably improved their interviewing practices; that anatomically correct dolls are no longer used; that care is taken to avoid leading questions; and that guidelines recommend only one evidential interview. While I agree that from the cases I have seen, there does appear to be improvement, I still see many cases where there is clear evidence of damage caused by the uncritical acceptance of allegations produced in the course of suggestive interviews or therapy. However the admission by the police and others that that the interviewing practices used in the CrÃƒÂ¨che case were seriously defective is a further indication that a miscarriage of justice has occurred.
The affair is not a case in isolation. Behind Peter Ellis stand many other innocent men and women, falsely accused under the same misguided policies and practices which fuelled the Christchurch CrÃƒÂ¨che case. If the authorities are admitting that those earlier practices were flawed, then all who have been charged and convicted on this basis should also have their cases re-examined. The rise in false sexual allegations that has occurred over the past one to two decades is the result of ideological-driven practices which believe that false allegations rarely if ever happen (all alleged victims should be uncritically believed) and that all men are potentially rapists.
There is widespread public unease regarding the CrÃƒÂ¨che case. Justice has not been seen to be done. Given this plus the facts of the case, a full Commission of Inquiry is required. Since this would involve assessment of the part the courts played in this case, such an Inquiry should be presided over by senior judge from overseas. This Inquiry should not focus solely on the Peter Ellis case but should examine the underlying processes and polices which have resulted in this case. COSA submits that this Inquiry should be conducted for all those convicted of sexual offences on the basis of uncorroborated testimony. The Inquiry should look into the role of police, CYPS social workers, ACC-accredited therapists and DSAC (Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care) doctors who operate from the assumption that false allegations rarely if ever happen, and hence do not approach cases from a place of neutrality. It also should examine the distorting effect of ACC providing large cash pay-outs (now discontinued) and state-funded counselling for anyone alleging past sexual abuse, with no corroboration required.
Should a more general commission of Inquiry be forthcoming, COSA would like to be able submit cases for consideration. As a initial step, we are asking our members to register with us if their case was based on uncorroborated testimony of the complainant and would like their names added to our list. This is merely a preliminary notice of intent. We are not going to show this list to anyone yet and we would contact you before doing so, but we would like to know who might be interested in having their case revisited by an Inquiry. A slip of paper for you to fill in and return should be enclosed with this newsletter. If not, please contact Mrs Waugh, our secretary.
David Dougherty case
The other major NZ case in the news is that of David Dougherty. David’s case has been covered in previous COSA newsletters. In 1993 was convicted of abducting and raping his 11-year old neighbour. He has always claimed his innocence.
DNA evidence indicated that the verdict was wrong and Dougherty won an appeal. He was freed this year after a retrial was ordered in which evidence was established that the semen found on the girl’s underpants could not have come from Dougherty. The jury in the second trial found him not guilty of the charges. He had spent three years in prison prior to his release.
The complainant still maintains that her attacker was Dougherty, despite the scientific evidence clearing him. Dougherty’s girl-friend has always claimed that she knew he was innocent because he was in bed with her the night that the rape took place.
Dougherty has claimed for compensation for wrongful imprisonment. However Minister of Justice Doug Graham has turned down his bid for compensation following his rape acquittal on the grounds that Dougherty has not proven his innocence. He gave as reasons:
- That the complainant has never retracted her allegation that Dougherty was the person who had abducted and sexually violated her.
- That the jury acquittal was more because the charges had not been proven rather than Dougherty was "truly an innocent man."
- "Some uncertainty" about the key piece of evidence which led to a retrial – a DNA sample on the victim’s underwear which did not match Mr Dougherty’s DNA profile. A Crown forensic scientist, Dr Peta Stringer said it was possible the sample might not be semen.
- That even if Dougherty was not involved in the sexual violation, he might have been party to it or her abduction.
There are many flaws in this reasoning. Firstly the complaint might have either been lying or honestly mistaken. The jury heard her insist that her attacker was clean-shaven, whereas Dougherty has had a moustache all his adult life.
Secondly, all forensic scientists who gave evidence agreed that there was a seminal stain from someone else on her underclothing. Dougherty’s lawyer Murray Gibson said he found it incredible that the nature of the key DNA sample which excluded Mr Dougherty was now being questioned as something other than semen. That issue was not raised in the court cases and several scientists had conclusively tested it positive for semen. Dr Rebecca Reynolds, a forensic scientist from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research, has said publicly "there is no way he put that sperm on the 11 year old’s underwear and pyjamas. I think Dougherty is certainly innocent".
Thirdly, the girl has always maintained that there was only one attacker, and the prosecution never suggested otherwise. Mr Graham appears to be suggesting that even if Dougherty was not guilty of the abduction and rape, he was guilty of another offence – an outlandish claim for which there is no apparent evidence.
Primarily, though, it is alarming that Graham considers it necessary for Dougherty to prove his innocence. Detective Inspector Ron Cooper, head of the police inquiry team investigating the reopened case, has declared: "I now believe he is innocent." Graham dismisses this as "a view expressed by one police officer." He appears to assume Dougherty may well be guilty despite a not guilty verdict by the jury and police Inspector Cooper’s statement that he believes he is innocent. He says that if the Government paid Dougherty compensation, then it would have to compensate "all of those people who got off on a technicality". This is close to claiming that he believes Dougherty is a rapist.
A number of lawyers, academics, journalists and politicians have decried Graham’s stance, and are angry at the reversal of the concept of the presumption of innocence. Dougherty was convicted of a crime that the Crown cannot prove he committed. He should be compensated for the three years he spent in prison, for his loss of income, his legal expenses and for trauma.
Dougherty’s lawyer Murray Gibson is considering an expensive and lengthy civil suit, based on negligence grounds, but has not named parties which could be sued.
Private investigator Bryan Rowe, a former top policeman, has joined the defence team in a bid to find to find the real offender. Rowe said he wants to prove Dougherty’s innocence and to get the real rapist off the streets.
Season’s greetings to all
This is the final newsletter for 1997. As usual, there will not be an issue in January, but you can look forward to a combined January and February one the following month. We have seen considerable public shift in the past year, and there is hope on the horizon that many of the tragedies folk have suffered from the over-enthusiastic endorsement of false allegations may be averted in the future. We hope that there may be some redress and reparation for families damaged by these allegations in the past.
Have a wonderful summer, and may things change for the better in 1998.
No penalty for false allegation
Lohenet Zarmani, a 23 year old woman from Red Beach, made a false allegation that her husband had raped her. Police spend 40 hours investigating the complaint, including $450 medical examination, before she admitted that the claim was untrue.
North Shore District Court Judge Avinash Deobhakta discharged her without conviction.
(North Shore Times-Advertiser, 18 Nov 1997, ‘No penalty for wife’)
Adolescent girl makes false complaint
Brent Moore, a 32 year old fencing contractor from Christchurch, was falsely accused by a 13 year old girl he knew that he had sexually molested her. He was acquitted of all charges by a Christchurch District Court jury on 22 Oct 1997.
(Christchurch Press, 21 & 23 Oct 1997)
Woman claims that she repressed memories of anal intercourse with boy-friend
The Court of appeal has ruled that a woman wanting to sue her former boyfriend for damages because he forced anal intercourse on her in 1980 has left it too late. The Limitation Act says such civil suits must begin within two years of the incident. The woman said she suffered from repressed memory and did not realise the reason for psychiatric problems suffered since the incident. Court of Appeal president Sir Ivor Richardson said she knew at the time that she had been violated. For the time for beginning legal action to be extended, she would have to show that she had been of unsound mind, and hence lacked the capacity to sue. There was no evidence that post-traumatic stress disorder had affected her capacity.
(The Dominion, Wellington (7 Nov 1997). ‘Too late for woman to sue – Court’, p6)
Patient alleges sexual assault by doctor
A 33-year-old Ottawa woman, alleged that Dr Ibrahim Al-Aqeel assaulted her in her hospital bed in August 1996 by using both his hands to massage her vaginal and rectal areas. In more than 20 examples, her testimony was not corroborated by witnesses.
Prior to the trial, she had told the Ottawa-Carleto police that she was prepared to do anything to see the charges laid and intended to proceed with a civil lawsuit if the doctor was found guilty. The potential suit would likely have included both the doctor and the hospital. Judge Poulin, who began the proceedings by declaring Dr Al-Aqeel not guilty, took an hour to detail the absurdity of the charge. He said that while the effects of medication and the complainant’s apparent anger at the medical team at the hospital during her stay there could have been the motivation behind the lies, he suggested a statement she made to police may be the real reason behind the fabrication of the events, one of lust for financial gain. The judge went far beyond finding Dr Al-Aqeel not guilty, apologising to him on behalf of the court and wondering how the doctor’s solid reputation could be fully re-established.
(The Ottawa Citizen (22 Oct 1997). ‘Sex assault ‘simply didn’t happen’: Judge acquits MD; calls allegations ‘false, outrageous’, by Don Campbell)
Woman settles for $10.6 million in false memory claim
In 1982 suburban Chicago woman Patricia Burgus was suffering from depression. She attended the Rush- Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center where she was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder. Her treatment included drugs and frequent hypnosis, which left her believing she was a high priestess of a satanic cult. She said she was committed to the hospital for two years and her children for three beginning in 1986. The children are now 15 and 17.
Burgus says her family is still recovering from the ordeal: ”Our family was tortured for years at Rush. No amount of money can make up for what we went through.” Court documents indicate that at one point Burgus was strapped down with leather restraints and forced to recall being sexually abused as a child. Burgus now says no abuse ever occurred. She also claimed she was led to believe she had participated in cannibalism, ritual murder and Satan worship.
Since 1991, Burgus has been taking legal action against her psychiatrist, Bennett Braun, and the hospital. Braun has been one of the key figures in the USA and internationally promoting the idea that satanic ritual abuse is rife and diagnosing patients with multiple personality disorder. After a 6 year court battle, in November this year Burgus settled with the hospital and Braun for $10.6 million. Her lawyer, Christopher Barden, who is also a psychologist, has been involved in about 20 similar cases across the USA. "Psychologists have known for 100 years that false memories can be implanted using hypnosis," Barden said.
(The Chicago Daily Herald (4 Nov 1997); Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald (4 Nov 1997), ‘Woman wins $10 M in false memory suit’)
Child abuse ‘expert’ sued for coercive interviewing
Kathleen Faller claims to be an expert in sexual abuse and she was one of the authorities whom Ms Rosemary Smart referred to in the Christchurch City Council commissioned review of the Civic Childcare Centre. Faller has helped evaluate more than 1,000 children at the University of Michigan’s Family Assessment Clinic, which she co-founded in 1978 as a place to develop better techniques for interviewing children about abuse.
Larry Champney, a 36-year-old engineer, claims that Jane Mildred, an interviewer at Faller’s clinic, emotionally abused his now 8-year-old daughter in 1992 by repeatedly trying to get her to say something bad about her father. Faller supervised Mildred, and wrote the final report that said the sexual-abuse allegation against Champney appeared to be true. Child Protective Services had referred the child, then 3, to Faller’s clinic because the agency could not verify the mother’s claims that Champney had molested his daughter. While authorities agree that the most truthful disclosures about abuse come from children who are away from their parents, Mildred enlisted the help of the girl’s mother during the session. According to a transcript of the videotaped interview, Mildred used anatomical dolls, a drawing of a nude girl and questions such as these to ask about abuse: "Did daddy do something he shouldn’t to you?" and "Did he touch you with his butt like this?" The girl, who answered mostly "no" or "don’t know", at one point pushed away a male doll. "We can’t just get rid of Daddy by pushing him away like that," her mother said. "Daddy keeps coming back." Mildred then instructed the girl to remove a female doll’s clothes and "show me where the baby is hurt, what Daddy did." The girl pushed her finger into the doll’s vagina.
Champney said that after his daughter’s birth, his wife began displaying bizarre, paranoid behaviour, accusing him of having illicit affairs and incestuous relationships with relatives and, finally, of sexually abusing their daughter. The mother fled to a women’s refuge with her daughter and reported Champney to Child Protective Services. But investigators couldn’t verify sexual abuse and turned to Faller’s clinic for help.
In her report, Faller wrote that the child "can describe and demonstrate explicit sexual acts," that the mother’s personality "does not indicate the mother is overprotective" and that Champney "appears to be a suspicious person." She also wrote that the child’s "presentation and description of sexual abuse was consistent with a true allegation."
Faller’s clinic billed Champney’s insurance company and listed paedophilia as his diagnosis. The company passed the information to his employer and he had to leave his job.
In April 1995 he was awarded custody of his daughter. It was revealed that his paranoid wife was so anxious about sexual abuse that she examined her daughter’s vagina and sniffed her every day for signs of semen.
Since 1995 Champney has been involved in suing Faller, Mildred and other clinic staff for professional malpractice, breach of contract, negligent performance of contract, fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Faller and her university clinic’s lawyers have asked the County Circuit Judge Donald Shelton several times to dismiss the case, citing Faller’s and her staff’s right to immunity as state employees and other reasons. Shelton has rejected all immunity claims and the state Court of Appeals denied the university’s request to take the case away from Shelton. The case will soon go to jury trial.
This is not the first action against her. Judge Edward Bielaska is also suing Faller for what he says she has done to him and his family by creating memories in the minds of little girls. In 1990 Elissa Benedek, a former president of the American Psychiatric Association, testified before three Court of Appeal judges that Faller did not meet the standard for unbiased interviewing in sexual abuse cases after reviewing a videotaped interview of a child by Faller. Benedek stated that Faller’s interview was "replete with leading questions, and that Dr. Faller engaged in repeated questioning while giving the child rare opportunity to tell her story." The judges concluded that "there were numerous inaccuracies and deficiencies in Faller’s group work."
In a different case, Benedek stated in a 1990 deposition that Faller is a biased investigator. "Kathleen Faller began the interview with an agenda to prove sex abuse," Benedek stated. "Faller was not satisfied with ‘No,’ and asked the same question repetitively. Faller is coercive, and puts words in the child’s mouth. She suggests her own ideas, thoughts and feelings to the child repetitively."
(Detroit Free Press (3 Nov 1997) ‘Expert and her methods on trial’, by Jack Kresnak; Detroit Free Press (5 Nov 1997) ‘Trial under way to decide if child abuse experts at clinic were negligent’ by Liz Cobbs; The Michigan Daily ‘U’ prof. faces trial on charges of improperly interviewing a child’, by Stephanie Hepburn)
More on Kathleen Faller here
Therapists and hospital administrator face criminal charges of insurance fraud
Former hospital administrator of Spring Shadows Glen Hospital, George Mueck, psychiatrists Richard Seward and Gloria Keraga; and therapist Sylvia Davis and psychologist Judith Peterson currently face criminal charges of criminal insurance fraud, mail fraud, and other unknown charges. If found guilty, a prison sentence is mandatory.
A Houston federal grand jury was told that these 5 people collected millions of dollars in fraudulent insurance payments by convincing patients that they had been involved in ritual abuse. The defendants sought to document false diagnoses of multiple personality disorder in patients with large or unlimited insurance policies, the indictment said.
hypnosis, drugs, isolation and unnecessary restraints are alleged to have been used by the defendants to convince patients that their mental illness resulted from abuse suffered during involvement in a satanic cult. Patients treated at the hospital in 1992 and 1993 claimed to have "recovered" bizarre memories of cannibalism, torture and human sacrifices.
The charges are based on medical records and insurance billings involving 7 former Spring Shadows Glen patients.
Although dozens of former psychiatric patients have filed civil lawsuits nation-wide in the USA, alleging that their therapists implanted false memories of sexual abuse, this may be the first case in which mental-health professionals face criminal charges in connection with patients’ false memories.
(Press release, ISSD (previously known as the ISSMP&D, the International Society for the Study of Multiple Personality and Dissociation), 29 Oct 1997; Houston Chronicle 29 Oct 1997, ‘5 psychiatric workers charged in scam: Insurance allegedly collected after patients linked to ritual abuse’, by Mark Smith)
A suggestion that schizophrenia is caused by sexual abuse
Recovered memory proponent John Read, Clinical Psychology Department, Auckland University, pre-released to the media the findings of a paper he had written suggesting that childhood abuse and schizophrenia might be causally related. This created some media attention and Letters to the Editor. DSAC President Selina Green wrote in praise of Dr Read’s research which found that when asked, many schizophrenic patients reported past sexual abuse. Drs Read and Green assumed that this means sexual abuse causes schizophrenia, a flawed assumption.
While not denying that some schizophrenic patients will have been exposed to sexual abuse in the past, it is wrong to infer that this is the cause of their condition. Just because two things appear to occur together (have some association) it cannot be concluded that there is a causal relationship. For example: You are looking for the cause of nits in school children. You examine a class and separate those with nits from those without. You find that most of those with nits are wearing hair ties. You conclude that hair ties can cause nits and that the way to get rid of nits is to stop wearing hair ties. This is faulty logic. In fact, nits and hair ties are only associated because both are more likely to occur in children who have long hair. Long hair is called a confounding factor and in fact there is no causal relationship between hair ties and nits.
Reports of past abuse are not the same as proven events. False reports may be deliberate or the result of suggestive questioning. Furthermore, contrary to Dr Read’s claims, people suffering from acute psychosis are more likely than the average person to claim events that did not happen. Delusions and being out of touch with reality are hallmarks of this condition. Workers dealing with acutely psychotic people have long recognised that many such patients have preoccupation with sex and may be prone to intense, often violent sexual fantasies and make wild accusations. When they are well again, these patients will often recognise that their allegations were about imaginary events.
Further, schizophrenic delusions are often influenced by what is considered to be the enemy in contemporary society. During the McCarthy era in USA in the 1950s, many people in psychiatric institutions believed they were being persecuted by communist. Today they believe they are victims of sex offenders.
Far more women are sexually abused than men – According to Dr Read, about 30% of women and 10% of men have been sexually abused. Yet schizophrenia affects about 0.5% of the population, and women are not more likely to be affected than men.
While causes of schizophrenia are unknown, evidence indicates that there may be a number of components, including heredity, viral illness and birth trauma. Claiming sexual abuse as a major cause unjustly blames distressed families, who are often struggling to care for their ill family member.
(Sunday Star-Times (26 Oct 1997). ‘study links mental illness to sex abuse’; NZ Herald (22 Oct 1997). ‘Psychotic disorders linked to childhood abuses’)
… and a suggestion that diabetes is caused by sexual abuse
The ACC Appeal Authority has ruled that a woman who claims that she was sexually abused many times in the 1970s (no corroboration is required) is 70% disabled because of this, and should be compensated accordingly. A doctor has claimed that she currently suffers from diabetes, substance abuse, suicidal tendencies and post-traumatic stress disorder as a consequence of the abuse. Linking diabetes to sexual abuse two decades ago is a novel claim.
(NZ Herald (13 Oct 1997). ‘Abuse victim wins compo fight’)
Judge Wood accused of covering up for prominent Australians involved in sex rings in his Royal Commission report
Upper House MP Mrs Franca Arena has been claiming that many prominent Australians are part of a paedophile ring that she accuses Justice Wood and political leaders of protecting. On 16 October he was going to table her evidence in Parliament but became unwell and ended up in hospital. However one of her supporters, Ms Kate Wentworth, before 25 lawyers and a handful of vocal Arena supporters in the upstairs public gallery, blurted out the name of a senior judge she claimed was mentioned in the final paedophile report by Justice James Wood, the Royal Commissioner. She declared "I am informant A in the Wood commission report and the judicial officer who is mentioned in that report is …" When Mr Nader told Ms Wentworth she was not to raise names, she replied: "I already have." He then ordered the name suppressed from publication.
Ms Wentworth was among several lawyers and others who sought leave to appear at the inquiry, claiming that she had "a right" to appear. This was because she had provided "certain documentary material" to Mrs Arena and a statutory declaration to the former Wood Royal Commission into the NSW Police Service about alleged "paedophilic activity in respect of certain judges" which had formed part of his final report. (The final report found there was no adverse inference to be found against the unnamed judicial officer against whom allegations made by an informant called "A" in 1986 were not properly investigated by NSW police.)
(Sydney Morning Herald (17 Oct 1997) ‘No name-dropping as Arena takes ill under the strain’, by David Humphries & Jennifer Cooke)
Gender neutrality gone mad
The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland is introducing an educational programme and campaign to prevent discrimination against one-parent families. Instead of teachers talking about children’s mothers and fathers when speaking to four-and five-year-olds, they are encouraged to use phrases such as ‘the adults who live in your house’ or ‘the people who look after you’.
(The Wall Street Journal 21 Oct 1997)
False memories from recovered memory therapy in Scotland
Five Scottish families are calling for an inquiry into recovered memory therapy given by psychiatrists at Murray Royal Hospital in Perth. They are backing Jim Fairlie who has begun legal proceedings against the hospital and social services after his daughter said he abused her. Katrina Fairlie, who was treated with RMT at the hospital, also accused her father, a former deputy leader of the Scottish National Party, of being the leader of a paedophile ring. She accused 17 other men, including two MPs, and also claimed that her father had beaten a six-year-old girl to death in front of her. A police investigation quickly established that there was no truth in the allegations.
Katrina was admitted to the psychiatric annexe of the hospital in 1994 with symptoms of presumed psychosomatic pain. She received a number of medications as well as RMT and by April 1995 she was hallucinating and making allegations of abuse. She became anorexic and bulimic, with her weight dropping to six-and-a-half stones. At one stage, she tried to hang herself.
When her father eventually heard of the claims, he was able to disprove them. His daughter was transferred o a different hospital.
In another case, a 51-year-old mother of five girls said that one of her daughters accused her father of abuse after she underwent RMT. The matter is now in the hands of the police, but the 28-year-old daughter is desperate to withdraw charges. The woman said her daughter was suffering from post-natal depression but within weeks of entering the clinic she was labelled psychotic. ‘She then accused her father of the most awful things. But the hospital refuses to speak to us.’
(Mail on Sunday (19 Oct 1997) p15 ‘Families to fight clinic on false memory slurs’, by Fidelma Cook; The Scotsman (15 Oct 1997) ‘Father vows to clear his name over abuse claim’ by Suzanne O’Shea, p9)
Professor declared innocent of abusing young girls
Nearly 5 years ago Robert Ross, a psychologist and professor at the University of Ottawa, was accused of having molested teenage girls in the 1970s at a school in Ontario. After a long court battle, Ross is now officially an innocent man. The charges have been dropped or disproved, since Ross was not present during the alleged events, and in some cases, his accusers have been shown to have made up stories. It has cost him his job, his money and his health.
Ross is one of 8 men charged with sexual offences on the basis of allegations made by the former female inmates of the Grandview Training School for Girls. Widespread media coverage ran stories of the girls being sex slaves to the guards, beaten and having some of their companions killed by the guards. Millions of dollars and a lengthy investigation later has determined that there were no deaths; that one of the accusers considered ‘the Courage to Heal’ her bible, and had recalled details shown to be imaginary, and one complainant had never actually been resident at the school (although she had a friend who had).
(The Ottawa Citizen 17 Oct 1997, Letters)
False rape allegations
Kanin E (1994). Archives of Sexual Behavior, 23 (1), 81-92.
This paper reports a study of 45 consecutive, disposed false rape charges in a small US city. These cases represented 41% of all rape charges (n = 109) reported during this period. These cases were not unfounded (ie insufficient evidence to proceed) but those actually demonstrated to be false. The reasons suggested for the complainant making the false complaint were to provide an alibi; seeking revenge; or obtaining sympathy and support.
When Child Protection Investigations Harm Children: The Wenatchee Sexual Abuse Cases
American Civil Liberties Union of Washington , Oct 1997
When do child protection investigations harm children? When the state’s child protection system, instead of serving the child’s best interest:
- allows forced incarceration in an out-of-state mental hospital until sexual abuse allegations are produced;
- allows the lead police investigator for the sexual abuse case involving the child to serve as the child’s foster parent;
- allows the police to dictate when a child’s relationship with a therapy agency should be abruptly terminated;
- allows records of interviews with child witnesses to be destroyed;
- fails to require that child witness interviews be well-documented;
- allows coercive child interview methods to be used and fails to require minimum standards for such interviews;
- fails to clarify proper roles of law enforcement and CPS in conduct of child interviews;
- fails to provide an effective mechanism for quality control and accountability in child protection investigations.
This report discusses the above 8 problems in Washington state’s child protection system, which the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington (ACLU-W) has identified as harmful to children in sexual abuse investigations. These systemic problems are illustrated by allegations which arose from the child sexual abuse cases in Wenatchee in 1994 and 1995.
Newsletters received by COSA
FMS False Memory Groups, Canada (Sep 1997) Vol 6, no 10.
News and views from the FMS group in Canada
FMS Foundation Newsletter (Oct 1997). 6 (9) and (Nov 1997), 6 (10)
Outline a number of cases where false allegations are being redressed. The November issue reprints in full the British Royal College of Psychiatrists report covered in the November COSA newsletter.
Write to the minister of ACC, Jenny Shipley
IMPORTANT Please help us help you.
Last month we asked our members to write the minister of ACC, Jenny Shipley, if you had any concerns about ACC funded sexual abuse counselling. Many thanks to all those who responded. If you intend to but have not got around to it, or if you have hesitated because of Shipley’s new status as our next Prime Minister, we ask you to please WRITE NOW. Should another Minister be assigned to the ACC portfolio, we will ensure that that person is made acquainted with the correspondence. Send your letter as son as possible to The Hon Jennifer Shipley, Minister for ARCI, Parliament Buildings, Wellington. No stamp is needed (letters to politicians are free). You may wish just to send a brief note stating your concerns about ACC-funded sexual abuse counselling, or how such counselling has affected you, or you may wish to explain your own case in detail. Points to make might include:
- who was accused by whom
- the nature of the allegations
- how the allegations came about
- whether there was any opportunity to challenge the allegations
- whether lump sum payments or disability allowance is involved
- the role you believe ACC-funded counselling has played.
If necessary, you may wish to keep names and identifying details confidential, or you may like to give names to Shipley but request that she keep them confidential. If possible, please send a copy of your letter to the COSA secretary or president, or at least let us know that you have written to Shipley.