COSA Casualties of Sexual Allegations Newsletter February 1996 Volume 3 No 1
Contents of this page:
Editorial: Rape crisis counsellor locked up for refusing to produce notes (Australia). New Zealand National Rape Crisis spokeswoman Toni Allwood was reported as responding that many counsellors would refuse to hand over their notes and used a numbering system so that counsellor’ names were not on their clients’ files.
Counsellor refuses court her notes (Australia).
Wenatchee verdict (USA).
Literature: Dying to Live: near-death experiences
Recovered Memory Syndrome v false memory syndrome or in repression and revenge, where resides justice? Nigel Hampton QC calls for reforms to "stop any further increase in the number of, I believe, wrongfully convicted persons (ie of convicted of sexual offences) in our prisons."
Fostered child writes to the newspaper a heart-rending account of a 14-yr-old being taken from her family and put in a foster-home because a conversation with the health nurse led the latter to believe that the girl was being sexually abused at home.
Correspondence from a prisoner, and a falsely accused father.
Family Survey Many thanks to all who co-operated in this survey.
Rape crisis counsellor locked up for refusing to produce notes
The Sydney Morning Herald recently reported the story of a rape crisis counsellor who was locked up for 4 hours for refusing to produce notes of her sessions with her client for her alleged rapist to use at his trial. New Zealand National Rape Crisis spokeswoman Toni Allwood was reported as responding (Otago Daily Times) that many counsellors would refuse to hand over their notes and used a numbering system so that counsellor’ names were not on their clients’ files. Canadian counsellors have responded to such demands to shredding their clients’ notes, a practice which has also occurred in NZ.
The refusal to hand over notes is said to protect the clients’ confidentiality. However, once allegations have moved from the therapeutic environment of the consulting room to the forensic court situation, the matter is now in the public arena and the right to confidentiality should be forfeited in the interests of justice. The judge can make a decision to suppress names and identifying details of those involved.
It is often the case that, especially when the accusations are of long distant rape, the allegations may have only arisen during psychotherapy. In a number of cases, the use of memory recovery techniques have resulted in clients coming to sincerely believe in events that never occurred. Allegations of sexual offences happening 10, 20, 30 or more years ago are extremely hard to defend. These are very serious charges and examination of properly-kept counselling notes should be able to reveal whether these memories of abuse were present before the therapy started, and whether any techniques which can create pseudomemories (such as relaxation exercises, visualisations, age regression or dream analysis) were used.
A significant number of sexual allegations are in fact historical offences. The latest Ministry of Justice figures (reported in NZ Herald 11 Dec 1995) showed that more than a third of all convictions for sex offences in the past year were for offences prior to 1990. 75% of all sex offences involved alleged victims 16 years or less, and nearly 50% under the age of 13.
The successful defence of several cases known to COSA has hinged on obtaining access to the counselling notes of the complainants, which have revealed that they had no knowledge of having been sexually abused until memories "surfaced" while undergoing therapy such as hypnosis or other "recovery techniques". The women concerned subsequently came to sincerely believe in their abuse memories, and sometimes even to believe that actually they had always remembered the abuse (even though the documentation proved that that was false).
One of the reforms called for by Nigel Hampton QC in his recent NZ Law Journal paper (see review later in this newsletter) is a proper regime of discovery/disclosure to enable the defence to get adequate access to relevant material such as counselling and interviewing records.
The Privacy Commissioner Bruce Slane recently approved release of information from an alleged sex abuse victim to her alleged abuser. The woman claimed she was abused as a child but her alleged attacker had not been charged by the police. The accused man has demanded information from her file and Mr Shane has said it should be released to him. However the Police are refusing to hand it over and are challenging the Privacy Commissioner’s decision. The Accident Compensation Corporation has also been directed by the Commissioner that it should release any details regarding alleged abusers, if directly approached by that person.
It is understood that ACC is seeking legal clarification over what it considers a conflict between client confidentiality and the Privacy Act. ACC client services manager Fred Cockram is reported as saying (Sunday Star-Times, 24 Dec 1995) that if requested, they released a very limited amount of information.
What this amounts to is that secret police and ACC files are prepared and held on an individual alleging that he has committed a heinous crime. These files are the basis of substantial compensation and counselling payouts to the accuser. Because there is often no evidence for the police to lay charges, if the alleged offender is unable to have access to this file, he has no way to know what he is reported to have done on these documents, and absolutely no way to clear his name. This situation might be common in repressive police states but is an anathema in a just democratic society such as ours.
Ironically, if there is evidence for the police to proceed, the accused has more chance of gaining access to these documents through the discovery process prior to trial.
Taranaki man found not guilty of sexual assault
A New Plymouth jury found a 52 year old man not guilty of indecently assaulting a boy aged between 12 and 16 years. The boy had claimed that the man touched his penis and testicles.
False rape complaint punished
A 50 year old woman, Leonie Clairemont, was convicted by the Warkworth District of deliberately making a false rape complaint to the police. She was fined $100.
Counsellor refuses court her notes
A Canberra Rape Crisis counsellor, Ms Di Lucas, was jailed for 4 hours after she refused to produce notes of her sessions to a court of law. Her client had laid a complaint of rape and the defendant requested the counsellors’s record of her therapy.
Psychiatrist guilty of malpractice
In the second in a series of malpractice suits filed against psychiatrist Dr Diane Humenansky, a St Paul jury has awarded 42.5 million to Minnesota woman Elizabeth Carson and her family for injuries suffered as a result of negligent psychotherapy to recover so-called "repressed" memories.
Humenansky was previously found guilty of malpractice on this basis in Aug 1995 and Vynette Hamanne and her family were awarded $2.67 million in that claim.
In both trials, Humenansky and her defence experts claimed that hypnosis, drugs, coercion, group pressure and suggestion could not create horrific and believed-in false memories. The jury however believed the testimony of Elizabeth Loftus that the theory of "repressed memory" is a myth unsubstantiated by scientific evidence and that of Richard Ofshe that "recovered memory therapy" is the "worst form of psychiatric quackery in the 20th century. …reckless and dangerous therapists have destroyed thousands of American families".
The third trial against Humenansky is due to start this June.
Pastor Robert Roberson and his wife Connie were acquitted of all 16 charges of child rape and molestation against them. They had been accused of being the centre of a sex ring in which children were ritualistically raped and abused by the Pastor and dozens of his congregation. There was no physical evidence to support the charges, and the main witness was the 13 year old foster daughter of the investigating police officer, Mr Perez. The foster daughter has previously named 23 other adults she claims have sexually abused her or other children.
The Roberson’s 5 year old daughter was taken into care at the time of their arrest last year. She was named as one of the abused children. However during her parents’ trial she told the court that no abuse had ever taken place.
The only adult to testify against Mr Roberson was Gary Filbeck, a convicted child rapist whose testimony was the result of plea bargaining. He had multiple counts of first-degree rape reduced to misdemeanors in exchange for testifying that he saw Mr Roberson abuse 2 girls near the church altar.
The jury were alarmed that neither the police nor prosecutors appeared to have troubled to investigate the actual merits of the accusations made against the Robersons.
Decade-old convictions to be re-examined
On 13 Feb Jenny Wilcox and Robert Aldridge will have the charges which sent then to prison in 1985 reheard in the Ohio court.
The two were found guilty of engaging in a wide variety of sexual acts with 6 children in 1984. The 3 key witnesses have now come forward to describe how police coerced them into making false accusations against the accused. The boys (brothers then aged 12, 10 and 8 ) repeatedly denied to the investigator that they had been sexually abused by Wilcox or Aldridge. The police investigators then handcuffed the 12 year old boy and detained him in a juvenile detention centre for refusing to "co-operate". He was told he had to stay there until he made his accusation. His 10 year old brother was put in a holding cell in the police station and told he would be placed in the detention centre if he did not provide an accusation. The 8 year old was similarly threatened that he would meet the same fate as his brothers if he continued to "deny" the abuse. All 3 ultimately made accusations which resulted in the conviction and incarceration of Wilcox and Aldridge.
Dying to Live: near-death experiences
Susan Blackmore, 1993, Prometheus Books, New York.
Whilst not specifically about sexual abuse memories, this book provides a very interesting angle on how human beings construct their reality.
Blackmore provides convincing evidence to support her theory that near-death experiences (NDEs) are caused by ) failing biochemical and neurological systems and not a glimpse of the after-life. NDEs have been described around the world throughout history and include the sensation of life review (‘my whole life flashed before me’), travelling down a tunnel towards a golden light, and having out-of-body experiences. Blackmore explains how these sensations can be produced by meditation, certain drugs, temporal lobe disturbance and hypoxia.
The processes she describes of the brain under stress reconstructing events and "filling in the gaps" sounds remarkably similar to the process of creating pseudomemories during psychotherapy. Whenever the human brain is subjected to unusual mental or physical stresses and strains, it responds neurochemically with hallucinatory defensive reactions (misperceptions). These are coloured with a person’s individual religious beliefs, folklore, hopes and fears.
She explains that the brain’s major problem is to decide which of the things it has to confront are real and which imaginary. From the outset, processing of information from the eyes and ear gets mixed up with information from memory and can commonly lead to false perceptions. Blackmore suggests that the psychological processes of remembering and imagining are identical.
Hypnosis, memory and amnesia
John Kihlstrom. Paper presented at 75th annual meeting of Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Disease, "Biological and Psychological person Memory and memory Disorders", New York, Dec 1995.
Excellent review about current state of knowledge regarding hypnosis and memory. Concludes "Although hypnosis appears to be incapable of enhancing memory, hypnotic suggestion can impair memory in at least two ways… Because the risks of distortion vastly outweigh the chances of obtaining any useful information, forensic investigators and clinical practitioners should avoid hypnosis as a technique for enhancing recollection.
Recovered Memory Syndrome v false memory syndrome or in repression and revenge, where resides justice?
Nigel Hampton QC, New Zealand Law Journal, May 1995, 154-7.
A call for reforms to "stop any further increase in the number of, I believe, wrongfully convicted persons (ie of convicted of sexual offences) in our prisons". Explains how he has been hearing an increasing number of anecdotal stories from prison officers and parole boards of men completing their sentence maintaining their innocence (even if it means they do not get earlier parole) – a situation which seldom happened in the past, when once convicted, men tended to admit their guilt.
Reforms should include:
- Re-enactment of the rule about corroboration;
- proper regime of discovery/disclosure, so that defence gets adequate access to important files, memoranda, notes etc of external agencies other than police, such as counselling and interviewing records;
- Seven year statute of limitations, after which criminal charges cannot be made.
First of all, do no harm: a recovered memory therapist recants
Skeptic, 3 (4), 1995, 36-41.
A Christian therapist from Texas, who used to conduct guided imagery to help clients unlock horrible secrets from their subconscious, has now realised that rather than contributing to their healing, she was causing untold harm. One by one, she is seeking former patients, hoping to undo the damage.
Discovering new memories in psychotherapy – childhood revisited, fantasy or both?
Frankel, Fred (31 Aug 1995), New England Journal of Medicine, 333 (9), 591-4.
This excellent commentary published in one of the world’s leading medical journals finds the scientific evidence supporting the theory of repressed or dissociated memory is lacking. He concludes: "In the absence of compelling evidence for a powerful and common process described as dissociation, clinicians bear a heavy responsibility to do no harm. The desire to help the victims of childhood abuse heal is more than justified, but clinicians are urged to reflect also on the damage done by false accusations. Accepting the truth of long-forgotten memories elicited by therapy without corroboration can seriously injury and disrupt the lives of innocent people".
Lump sums to cost ACC $15 million more
Winding down of the lump-sum payments is expected to cost ACC a further $15 million.
A rush to pick up lump sums has already cost ACC $830 million in the 3 years to 30 Jun 1995. A further 2387 payouts totalling $8.1 million, have been made since the June cut-off date.
Almost 110,000 claims were paid out during a transitional period after the lump-sum compensation was abolished in the 1992 Accident Rehabilitation and Compensation Insurance Act. Claimants who had received injuries (frequently alleged long-distant sexual abuse) before the act came into effect on 1 Jul 1995 were allowed to register for lump-sum payouts during a 3 year transitional period. Although many claims were already before ACC at the time the new act was passed, a further 63,000 were later lodged.
ACC fights compensation payout
In 1974 a 25 year old beneficiary consulted a psychotherapist (reported as having no recognised qualifications). This therapist believed that all mental illness stemmed from sexual abuse and insisted the woman had been sexually abused as a child. She underwent 10 years of treatment from this man, from 1974 to 1984. He has since died.
The woman suffers from schizophrenia and psychiatrist Peter McGeorge says it is likely that such false claims exacerbated her mental condition.
In 1992 the woman claimed that the therapist had sexually abused her in 1979. She lodged a claim from accident compensation in September 1992 and was awarded $5000 for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. She has appealed the decision and the ACC Appeal Authority awarded her a further $5000 ($10,000 is the usual payout in such cases) but ACC are still contesting the amount, claiming that under the 1972 Act, she should only be entitled to $2800.
There is no evidence given that her allegation is corroborated by ACC however (they usually rely on the opinion of a complainant’s ACC-registered counsellor that he or she believes the complaint and pay 98% of the claims made). The woman has a known history of schizophrenia; had 10 years therapy where she was falsely lead to believe that she had been sexually abused by her parents; continued going to therapy for 5 more years after the alleged sexual abuse by her therapist; and only made a claim to ACC in 1992 (just before the cutoff time for compensation) presumably while attending an ACC-registered counsellor. These factors should suggest that ACC should be questioning the credibility of such claims, not the amount of compensation due, in such cases.
Woman sex victim in ACC row, NZ Herald 16 Jan 1996
CYPS granted extra $2.2 million
Children and Young Persons’ Service have been given a further $2.2 million by the government because of pressures they are under due to "growth and workload increases". This is in addition to the $10 million provided in the budget. A further $100,000 has been given to community-based sex-offender programmes in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
Fostered child writes to the newspaper
A 14 year old girl wrote a heart-rending account of being taken from her family and put in a foster-home because a conversation with the health nurse led the latter to believe that the girl was being sexually abused at home. She writes: "The 2 and half months I have been away from my family have been awful. I have missed my birthday and Christmas was not the best. I cry myself to sleep every night because of the pain and anger I am going through. I have asked that woman from CYPS if I can go home heaps of times, but she makes up some stupid excuse and they make my family sound like criminals, but they are not. Why will they not listen and take notice of what I want, say and need, and stop doing what they feel is right – but is wrong?"
Letter to editor, Otago Daily Times, 11 Jan 1996
Newsletters received by COSA
Peoples Equality Network(PEN), Vol 1 No 3 Spring 1994.
Newsletter from an Australian group with concerns of equality for all people.
PEN’s philosophy is:
- Issues and concerns of men and women are of equal importance and therefore deserve equal consideration and respect.
- Needs of men and women are not contradictory but complimentary.
- It is in both gender’s interests to clearly articulate the issues which concern them and for each to listen to the other with empathy, compassion an understanding.
- It is vital that the concerns of each gender be presented with honesty and integrity by the media, politicians and academics, so that informed decisions can be made.
PEN can be contacted at PO Box 777 Kew VIC 3101, Australia.
FMS Foundation Newsletter 1 Jan 1996, 5 (1)
Includes a critical look at 3 recent papers which appear to indicate that it is possible to develop psychogenic amnesia for traumatic childhood events such as sexual abuse; a in depth review of Colin Ross’ book "Satanic ritual abuse: principles of treatment"; and summaries of a number of recent court findings.
Vancouver and Lower Mainland FMS Newsletter, Nov 1995
Summary of some Canadian events and perspectives.
AMFA Newsletter, Dec 1995, Vol 2 issue 4.
Details of activities of Australian False Memory Association, including suggested guidelines for working towards reconciliation of affected families.
British False Memory Society Newsletter, Dec 1995, Vol 3, No 2.
Details of developments regarding FMS in Britain, including an excellent address given by psychologist Dr Ray Aldridge-Morris to the 1995 Annual Conference of the British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies entitled "Memories of Abuse or Abuse of Memories?".
"My case went the wrong way [in court] but we have never stopped fighting and never will until the truth is out. It has amazed me the amount of people in jail in the same position and talking to the officers it is staggering the amount they see coming through.
It is so easy for someone that has a dislike of someone to have him put in jail. In my case it was my word against hers. No other evidence. She couldn’t even pin incidents down. There was no medical evidence, no corroborative evidence. [My new lawyer] says that it looks to him the jury in my case worked on emotions not evidence. But that doesn’t help heal my life that has been torn to shreds by false allegations. But we will win in the end."
"Just thought your members would like to know that I managed to win a substantial claim against ACC for trauma and stress due to being falsely accused of sexual abuse. My ex won a $10,000 claim for my daughter naming me as the perpetrator and won a lump sum even though ACC was aware of my claim at the same office.
[I am still having difficulty] regarding access despite the court order giving access 2 days a week."
Falsely accused father
We received 73 completed questionnaires where a family member had accused another member of sexually abusing her (him) as child, based on recovered memories. The information collected included family demographics, characteristics of the accuser, family life, events surrounding and leading up to the accusations, consequences of the accusations and details of the accuser’s current life situation.
Many thanks to all who co-operated in this survey. The information you provided has been collated and analysed and the first of several papers written on the results. This has been submitted to a journal for consideration of publication. We are unable to release details of our results prior to publication (this is a condition of the journal) but as soon as possible, the study findings will be published in the COSA newsletter.
Again, I wish to say how much we appreciate the time and energy spent by respondents in completing the questionnaires, which were also often accompanied by detailed letters.
Please notify COSA if you know of any recent or coming workshops, seminars and other relevant events.
Wellington COSA meeting 28 March
Felicity Goodyear-Smith will conduct an evening meeting for all interested COSA members when she is in Wellington next month.
DSAC Multi-disciplinary Conference: Rape: 10 years’ progress?
Wellington 27-30 March
Topics include: A survivor’s perspective; Maori perspective; Marae justice; a look at reforms in the last 10 years – are the scales of justice fairly balanced?
NATO International Scientific Meeting Recollections of trauma: Scientific research and clinical practice
June 16-26, 1996 Port de Bourgenay, France
The Scientific Affairs Division of NATO is sponsoring an international meeting on the topic of trauma: memories and treatment. The conference, called an Advanced Study Institute, will provide, over an 11-day period, in-depth lectures by internationally recognised researchers and practitioners as well as a series of other oral and poster presentations and working sessions.
The goals of the institute are:
- to provide an integrated treatment of the topics of trauma memory, techniques for interviewing suspected adult victims of childhood sexual abuse, and the use of memory recovery techniques;
- to develop an agenda for future scientific research on trauma memory of children and adults;
- to lay the groundwork for guidelines for working with adults suspected of having non-remembered abuse histories.
Attendance is by invitation only of 100 researchers and practitioners who have considerable experience and expertise in areas related to memory for trauma.
I have been invited to attend this conference, which should be a wonderful forum for recovered memory issues to be academically aired. Participants include researchers and clinicians on both sides of the debate, for example Beth Loftus, Stephen Ceci, John Briere.
Request to members: distribute brochures
Included with this newsletter should be several COSA brochures. Last month we mailed out brochures to libraries, CABs and General Practitioners nation-wide, and we have had a steady flow of referrals and contacts from these sources ever since.
To further increase the sources for people to find out about us, we ask that you distribute these brochures to appropriate places in your local area.
- community centres and notice-boards
- supermarket notice-boards
- doctors’ waiting rooms
- other venues you think suitable.
You are welcome to make photocopies; otherwise contact the secretary if you want more supplies.