COSA [North] Casualties Of Sexual Allegations News & Views February-March 2000 Vol 2 Issue 1
Contents of this page:
Editorial: The Messenger and the Message Our Message is that unscientific, unethical and unsafe practices are unacceptable. Those who practice them must be challenged to expose their hollow claims to special knowledge and expertise.
NZ Association of Counsellors and other professional associations are examining their standards of practice in response to the debate on recovered memory.
Wanganui Sexual Abuse Healing Centre claims "current estimates were that one in three New Zealand girls were sexually abused, and the figure may be just as high for boys". They also warn of the increasing use of the ‘rape drug’ Rohypnol.
Causes of Sexual Abuse (CAUSEs) Newsletter In our work, we do not use personal attacks to denigrate or ridicule others – that is the preserve of people like the author(s) of this notice. Attempting to shoot the messenger reflects only on the incompetence and dishonesty of the author(s). They do it because they cannot justify their opinions and are afraid of reasoned debate. Intelligent feminists and sensible "child abuse prevention workers" ought to be ashamed to have colleagues who write such twaddle.
Hastings Police charge a 17-year-old woman with making false allegations of sexual abuse.
Minister of Justice Phil Goff intends to amend the Crimes Act to allow females to be charged with sexual assault of males.
Mr Goff’s support for an Inquiry into Peter Ellis. We urge him to make it a Royal Commission of Inquiry with wide Terms of Reference.
Peter Ellis has endured much unnecessary hardship as a result of junk-science, witch-hunting and a justice system gone awry.
Rape Crisis is lining itself up for yet another inane "rape awareness week".
Rape Crisis welcomes the reintroduction of entitlements to lump sum compensation.
International Society for the Study of Traumatic Stress (ISSTS) Many of the ideas about Repressed/Recovered Memory Therapy and similar junk-science have come from leaders in this organisation.
Accident Compensation Corp and its claims of Magic Since about 1991, in excess of 75,000 men have been accused of sexual abuse in claims made to ACC by its counsellors and their clients. ACC admits it ignores the legislation and chooses to believe untested, uncorroborated stories, told by disturbed/distressed clients to counsellors paid by ACC to decide, without investigation or credible evidence, whether a man they have never met is a sexual abuser.
The Messenger and the Message
COSA has always had the philosophy of using science, fact, reason and common sense to openly challenge the excesses of those who work in the sexual abuse field. We are Messengers. Our Message is that unscientific, unethical and unsafe practices are unacceptable. Those who practice them must be challenged to expose their hollow claims to special knowledge and expertise.
What matters is the message, not the messenger. Shooting messengers is pointless.
I know it is not always easy to accept criticism, but a mark of simple honesty is a willingness to undertake self-examination when confronted with credible evidence contrary to one’s current knowledge and understanding. When facts, evidence and logic prove us to be wrong, we must be honest enough to change our ways.
NZ Association of Counsellors
Some challenges have been taken up and resulted in beneficial changes. An example: No-one bothers to talk about the nonsense of "repressed memories" any longer. That belief, and many similar ones, crumbled under scientific and common sense scrutiny. A paper in the NZ Association of Counsellors Newsletter of December 1998, by the convenor of their Ethics Committee, John Winslade, said "The re-emergence of attention to sexual abuse in the 1980’s as a result of a resurgent women’s movement led to a degree of "technical experimentation" in the field of counselling." And, "Moreover, many professional associations are currently doing what we are doing and examining their standards of practice in response to the debate on this ["recovered memory"] subject." That’s at least some progress, but they haven’t gone nearly far enough yet.
But the beliefs held by some are deeply ingrained. Their ethics have been questioned. Their choice of belief and ignorance over science and knowledge has been tested and found wanting. Because "sex abuse workers" are not nationally trained or examined, regulated, licensed or accountable, their occupation is littered with all sorts of strange creatures and ideas. As a result, their ill-informed and biased comments mislead the public. To correct that situation, we challenge their thinking and beliefs.
To demonstrate my point, let’s have a look at some of the astonishing stuff going on around New Zealand in recent weeks (apart from all the spin-doctoring surrounding the Peter Ellis affair – eg a father knew his 3 year old daughter had been sexually abused at the creche because of the pictures she drew! !!.)
Wanganui Sexual Abuse Healing Centre
On 3 Dec 1999, the Wanganui Chronicle quite rightly published an article calling for more information on sexual abuse. The Chronicle obtained comment from the Wanganui Sexual Abuse Healing Centre, which runs a program for the parents of sexually abused children. Those comments spoilt an otherwise useful article. The Centre claimed "current estimates were that one in three New Zealand girls were sexually abused". Its co-ordinator said "the figure may be just as high for boys".
The article continued on to say that "The feedback I’ve been getting is that there’s a huge need." The FIVE participating parents were enthusiastic about a trauma theory in which sexual abuse was lumped in with a range of traumas, such as war and accidents. The co-ordinator trumpeted "It’s a myth-busting, common sense model".
I challenged that nonsense in a letter to the Chronicle’s Editor. The public response from one of the Centre’s staff showed their belief in junk-science and gobbledegook, and how badly they misunderstand the skill of critical thinking and the rigours of scientific investigation.
The "1 in 3" claim is unbelievably outdated and long since disproved, but they still use it out of ignorance, or perhaps unwillingness to accept fact and reality. What is the origin and credibility of these "current estimates?" When were they done, and by whom? What definition of sexual abuse was used? Does the 1 in 3 figure mean annually, or accumulated whole-of-life events? What evidence corroborates that sexual abuse in fact occurred? How did the "estimates" account for anyone who suffered multiple abuse events? How many Wanganui children were genuinely sexually abused during 1999? How many men were convicted of those offences?
The Centre made the pretentious and misleading claim that it undertakes "empirical research" and has "developed and utilised a scientific/practitioner model and adapted it to the needs of our community." If indeed they did genuine empirical research, and developed such a wonderful model, the world would be beating a pathway to their door, but it is not.
Their expert also claimed "evidence continues to point to an increase in sexual violence, and reveals that the techniques employed by those who rape boys and girls are becoming more sophisticated. For example, the increasing use of the rape drug Rohypnol." That too, needs scrutiny.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but to the best of my knowledge, there have been no proven cases of Rohypnol being used in NZ during rapes, and it is not even listed in the pharmaceuticals register used by doctors. On what basis is it claimed that its use is "increasing"? To call it a "rape drug" is pure sophistry.
She also stated: "It is easy to sit on the fence in denial of sexual abuse and to take indiscriminate pot shots at service providers." If that was aimed at me, it missed by a mile. COSA knows and abhors the fact that sexual abuse does occur. We are concerned about false allegations and about the shonky methods used by some in the counselling trade. Besides, we are too busy challenging their integrity and beliefs to bother taking indiscriminate pot shots.
It really is time that these folks got their act together and joined the real world.
Causes of Sexual Abuse (CAUSEs) Newsletter
To indicate the mentality of some, I now draw your attention to a feminist posting which appeared on a common-room Notice-Board at Massey University, Palmerston North, only days ago. The author(s) were clearly attempting to ridicule COSA, but did not have the courage or honesty to identify themselves.
"Causes of Sexual Abuse (CAUSEs) Newsletter.
Felicity Goodyear-Blimp has burnt out, and Causes has split into two groups, one spreading its message of backlash and ad hominem abuse against child sexual abuse prevention workers in the south island, the other in the north. Remember, children always lie about being sexually abused, and parents are always innocent. Anyone who says otherwise is part of the giant Maori lesbian welfare dependent opponent of spanking conspiracy to undermine western civilization."
Real people will cringe at the sheer crassness of this unmitigated drivel. It reflects only the intellectual poverty of its author(s). Open, reasoned and informed debate is a hallmark of a mature community, but it is not possible to have that with people of this ilk.
In our work, we do not use personal attacks to denigrate or ridicule others – that is the preserve of people like the author(s) of the notice.
Attempting to shoot the messenger reflects only on the incompetence and dishonesty of the author(s). They do it because they cannot justify their opinions and are afraid of reasoned debate. Intelligent feminists and sensible "child abuse prevention workers" ought to be ashamed to have colleagues who write such twaddle. They should ostracize them.
If this is the best of their work, then COSA members, past and present, have done our jobs well. We will continue to spread our message of common sense, reason, fact and science. And we will continue to expose and challenge excesses and shonky practices.
The next major challenge is the Commission of Inquiry into the wrongful conviction of Peter Ellis.
Gordon Waugh. Editor
Bouquets & Brickbats
Bouquet. Hastings Police
…are to be congratulated for having the courage, common sense and healthy skepticism to charge a 17-year-old woman with making false allegations of sexual abuse. She reported the alleged incident on Jan 1. Police inquiries established that the complaint was false and the woman was charged.
Bouquet. Minister of Justice Phil Goff
Attracts a bouquet for stating his intention to amend the Crimes Act to allow females to be charged with sexual assault of males. Such an amendment will certainly remove a long-standing anomaly in the law. But the Minister must also balance this by giving his urgent attention to the matter of re-introducing the rule of corroboration in sexual cases. Sexual crimes carry very severe penalties. Far too many cases turn only on witness credibility. "Her word against His" – and even "His word against Hers" – is just not good enough when the penalty could be many years imprisonment. Complainants MUST be required to corroborate their allegations.
Bouquet. Mr Goff’s initial support for an Inquiry into the Peter Ellis affair
This is wonderful news. He is prudently waiting for a report from the Ministry of Justice. We urge him to make it a Royal Commission of Inquiry with wide Terms of Reference. A more limited Ministerial Inquiry is unlikely to properly distill the depth and extent of the damage done to families and the wider community by sex abuse counsellors, social workers and some psychologists, or expose their unscientific, unethical, unsafe and downright dishonest and shonky beliefs and methods. For the public good and the health of the wider community, Peter Ellis must be exonerated through this Inquiry. As outlined in my December Editorial, there are many other essential outcomes.
Which reminds me – HAVE YOU WRITTEN A LETTER TO YOUR MP SUPPORTING THE NEED FOR AN INQUIRY ??? IF NOT, DO IT NOW.
Bouquet. Peter Ellis
Ellis deserves a bouquet on his release from prison. He has endured much unnecessary hardship as a result of junk-science, witch-hunting and a justice system gone awry. (more on Peter Ellis)
Brickbats. Rape Crisis is lining itself up for yet another inane "rape awareness week".
They haven’t been able to convince anyone of a crisis, so they are back into trying to create more misinformation. According to their leaflets, they are "putting together a collection of personal experiences of abuse." Contributions can be anonymous! ! Of course, that does a lot for their credibility.
But worse is to come. They now want to get children into their clutches. Their Palmerston North group offers a 10-week programme (VOYAGE) for children who have experienced abuse.
They claim "the programme allows young people to address fears, thoughts and feelings that they may hold because of HEARING or WITNESSING ABUSE. "Voyage", [they claim], "builds on children’s self-esteem, confidence and fostering trust with healthy relationships." Parents should not allow their children within a bull’s roar of Rape Crisis.
Another Brickbat for Rape Crisis.
A December Press Release by Rape Crisis included:
Rape Crisis welcomes the planned improvements to accident compensation, particularly the reintroduction of entitlements to lump sum compensation.
"Until 1992 survivors of sexual abuse were eligible for lump sum compensation of $10,000 and counselling costs for around 20 sessions," said Ms Benson. "The change to the law slashed the compensation that had enabled so many survivors to heal their lives. While counselling costs remain, we have seen this erode over the last seven years to a level that many survivors would consider not worth bothering about."
Survivors of sexual abuse are currently eligible for an initial ten sessions of counselling that must be taken within ten weeks. Rape Crisis believes this is not conducive to the therapeutic process and has been imposed to suit bureaucratic purposes. The cost for each counselling session has only increased from $50 to $55 in the last seven years, leading to experienced counsellors leaving to practice in more lucrative areas.
"The trauma resulting from rape and sexual abuse is different to that suffered from a broken leg – of course it will take longer," said Ms Benson, "Many survivors need long-term well-funded therapy. Often they have had their education hindered and opportunities in life taken away from them by the sexual abuse – lump sum compensation can give them back choices."
[As usual, rape crisis is showing its bias and dishing out a dollop of emotional claptrap. For example, there is no evidence to suggest that lump sum compensation "had enabled so many survivors to heal their lives" or "can give them back their choices". And what about credible evidence to support ACC claims? Remember their idiotic "incest campaign"? I’ll leave readers to form their own views as to the credibility of Rape Crisis – Ed]
A Brickbat for the International Society for the Study of Traumatic Stress (ISSTS)
Many of the ideas about Repressed/Recovered Memory Therapy and similar junk-science have come from leaders in the ISSTS such as Onno van der Hart and Bessel van der Kolk. Their organization will have its third conference in Melbourne, Australia, March 16-19 2000. Some "experts" from New Zealand will be attending this talkfest. This ISSTS conference is similar to the ISPCAN Conference held in Auckland in September 1998. Many of the same people will attend.
Concurrent symposia will be programmed throughout Friday 17 and Saturday 18. Major streams will include:
- Culture and Trauma,
- The Developmental Impact of Trauma,
- Combat-related Issues,
- An overview of the Holocaust Studies,
- Therapeutic Approaches and Processes,
- Creative Arts in Trauma Therapy,
- Biological Issues (including interrelationships of trauma and physical illness),
- Phenomenology of post-traumatic responses and co-morbid conditions
- The long-term follow-up of major Disasters around the world.
- Intrafamilial Abuse,
- Memory, Existential and Spiritual dimensions of trauma,
- Survival Strategies,
- Madness and Society,
- Medicolegal perspectives,
- Vicarious and Secondary Traumatisation,
- Working within an Ethically Flawed System and
- Trauma in an Emergency Medicine setting, to highlight only a few.
A huge Brickbat for ACC and its claims of Magic:
[Since about 1991, in excess of 75,000 men have been accused of sexual abuse in claims made to ACC by its counsellors and their clients. This article might be of great interest to you. Gordon.]
I recently asked ACC to explain what criteria it uses to establish that, under the new Accident Insurance Act 1998, (and its predecessor, the Accident Rehabilitation & Compensation Insurance Act 1992), a claimant for sexual abuse is entitled to cover for treatment and compensation.
My first letter detailed 10 questions. They were answered by Mr Eric Medcalf, who has the title "Clinical Advisor – Sensitive Claims – Special Claims Unit." Those two letters are each several pages long, and really only lay down the parameters of the discussion, so I won’t repeat them here.
Question to ACC
Based on the comments he made, I wrote again to him on 11 November 1999 with one final question:
"Given that the legislation is clearly framed around "criminal sexual offences"; that there are no sets of psychological or behavioural symptoms specific to sexual abuse, and; that ACC’s counsellors handle (rarely with external evidence) some ten times more cases than the Courts convict, on what basis does ACC accept that the interpretation by counsellors, of apparent psychological symptoms they claim to see in their clients, is sufficient proof of abuse to warrant the expenditure of large amounts of public resource on compensation and treatment of alleged sexual abuse?"
His answer to this question explains how ACC and its counsellors have managed to label, since 1992, in excess of 75,000 men as sexual abusers. At the time of writing, the best available information was that ACC was typically receiving new claims at the rate of almost 8,000 each year over the last three years.
His version of logic is astonishing and describes the magical process they use. When reading this, note that Section 40 of the ACC legislation bears the title "Cover for mental injury caused by certain criminal acts", and that Schedule 3 lists the headings of the Crimes Act sections on sexual abuse. Using his headings and adding my own emphasis in red italics, the most relevant quotations from his letter are:
[Begin quotation of correspondance from Mr Eric Medcalf, who has the title "Clinical Advisor – Sensitive Claims – Special Claims Unit."]
"Crimes", accidents and third party evidence:
For Section 40 claims (mainly sexual abuse) the basis for ACC cover is not an accident but an event which is "within the description of an offence listed in Schedule 3"
Although Schedule 3 lists crimes, the Act does not require that a crime must have been committed, just that the event fits the description of that crime. The Act also states that "it is irrelevant that – (a) no person can be, or has been, charged with or convicted of the offence; or (b) The alleged offender is incapable of forming criminal intent.
The report to the police, or prosecution, of such events as crimes is therefore irrelevant; and ACC need only be satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that the event occurred.
This has a direct parallel with physical injuries where ACC will accept claims on the basis that the injury is consistent with the accident as described by the claimant. Rarely would ACC require third party evidence of the nature of the accident.
The investigation of the truth, or otherwise, of each claimant’s description of their accident (or Schedule 3 event) would be a significant drain on public resources.
The links between sexual abuse and psychological dysfunction:
As I said in my last letter to you, the important factor is the consistency of the injury with the reported event(s). Whilst I said that there are no sets of symptoms that are specific (i.e. exclusive) to sexual abuse (see Gutman J. in Journal of Law and Medicine, May 1997), our knowledge of reactions to trauma and psychological dysfunction is such that we can identify situations where the diagnosed dysfunction fits or does not fit the described abuse, either in its form or its severity.
Counsellors do not diagnose sexual abuse from reported symptoms. In order for a claim to be accepted by ACC, there must be a disclosure from the claimant, or evidence from a third party (police evidential, prosecution, confession, medical examination) that the abuse occurred. This must be a description of what happened, not just "sexual abuse". Whilst counsellors may suspect that abuse has occurred, in the absence of disclosure they would be unwise to infer its existence from a set of psychological or behavioural symptoms.
Whilst physical injuries will often be diagnosable via physical signs, psychological dysfunction is diagnosed via self report and observation. There are very few measures that are totally free of subjectivity. Counsellors must therefore rely on their clients’ description of symptoms, which may be obtained through careful questioning, perhaps some standardised psychometric instrument, and their observation of their client in the consulting room (depressed mood etc.)
A professional’s judgement will be based on training and experience and will be as objective as possible, yet there must always be an element of trust that the self report is true. This is no different from the common presentation to a General Practitioner of an experience of pain without other sign or symptom.
[End of quotation from Medcalf].
So I wrote to him again on 1 December 1999 to express my conclusions. My comments included:
[Quote from Gordon Waugh’s reply]:
You further noted that "….there must always be an element of trust that the self report [by the claimant] is true." , and, "Counsellors must therefore rely on their clients’ description of symptoms…..(depressed mood etc)."
This pre-supposes that counsellors have skills which enable them to determine, without external investigation or verification, that (to use your example) "depressed mood" has a singular cause in a particular case. The method and philosophy you describe seems to entirely ignore the likelihood that many, if not all, of the "indicators" used by counsellors could be caused by a multitude of other events in the claimant’s life, not the least of which are the consequences of actions-of-choice by the client, or a wide variety of medical and other conditions.
It is a matter of serious question as to how this belief-based process can possibly provide sufficient evidence to justify cover for a mental injury supposedly caused by an alleged, but unproven, criminal act. That ACC has, since 1988, dealt with in excess of 76,000 sexual abuse claims, when the Courts have convicted fewer than one-tenth of that number, is a cause of much concern. Specifically, that ACC has in the last year [1998/99] categorised almost 3,000 claims (2,988 being 43./4% of recent claims) as "rape" is, in the light of the mere 180 or so rape convictions in the same period, quite astounding.
I feel sure you are aware of the common belief held by many in the counselling occupations that "most victims never disclose their rape or abuse". ACC’s categorisation of almost 3,000 claims for rape would therefore imply that many thousands of other, undisclosed, cases exist.
I am left to draw the conclusions firstly, that as the legislation is clearly framed around criminal offences, conditions precedent for claimants to qualify for cover under the Act are that genuine evidence of an actual criminal offence, as well as genuine evidence of any associated mental injury, must be made available to ACC by counsellors and claimants. The Minister of ACC, Hon Murray McCully, agrees with this view.
Secondly, very few of the almost 8,000 new claims each year are tested in Court, or by other evidential procedures. We agree that no specific psychopathology for sexual abuse exists. In the majority of cases, ACC is reliant on untested self-reports by claimants, which are assumed by ACC and its counsellors to be true accounts of actual events.
Further, ACC relies heavily on the belief that counsellors (despite that fact that no syndrome exists) actually have the skills to define whether a client’s presenting psychological and/or behavioural condition is attributable to sexual abuse. As you noted, counsellors must rely on the clients’ description of symptoms. Counsellors therefore subjectively interpret symptoms as being those related to sexual abuse. This procedure cannot be considered evidential. It is fair then, to conclude that the tenuous and questionable beliefs and procedures you outlined are those which form the basis of the justification for public (taxpayer’s) expenditure on the structure and operation of the Sensitive Claims Unit.
[End of quotation from Waugh].
To summarise all that, ACC admits it ignores the legislation and chooses to believe untested, uncorroborated stories, told by disturbed/distressed clients to counsellors paid by ACC to decide, without investigation or credible evidence, whether a man they have never met is a sexual abuser. They surely have some powerful magic!
Come on ACC, at least try to get it right. The legislation calls for genuine evidence of criminal offences and credible evidence of a resultant mental injury. Guesswork, belief and trust are inadequate grounds for dishing out taxpayer dollars to counsellors and claimants.
Items of Interest
Enclosed [with the print version ] was a Flyer carrying an excellent two-part article by Carl Strock, a journalist. He attended a psychology conference, much of it about the wonders of the junk-science artifact called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprogramming), otherwise known as "eye-wiggle therapy". His observations and insights make good reading.
COSA (North) Housekeeping & Notices
Donations & Subscriptions
COSA is a non-profit organisation. We fund our operations by way of subscriptions and donations. Distributing our Newsletter is a major cost and we send copies to a wide range of people. We make available a "Subscriber’s Rate" so that people who want to receive our Newsletters can do so without membership. In the case of professionals, this maintains their neutrality. We encourage members of the public, the professions and media to make donations and to sign up for the Subscriber’s Rate.
We hold a public meeting in conjunction with the North Shore Men’s Centre at 7.30 pm on the second Monday of each month. Everyone is welcome. The venue is the Onepoto Community Rooms, Pearn Crescent, Northcote. If you want to attend but are unsure of the exact location, give them a call on 415 0049.
The Men’s Centre North Shore carries all the COSA material including all the old newsletters on its website. For those of you with computers, visit the site at: www.menz.org.nz/cosa There is much material on other related topics as well.
Positive Partners Strong Families
This is a course on communication and conflict resolution for couples, run by two trained Facilitators. For more information, contact Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith at the Department of General Practice & Primary Health Care, University of Auckland, PB 92019 Auckland. firstname.lastname@example.org
The next course starts on Wednesday 15th March 2000. (more on PPSF)
Contributions to the Newsletter
Many thanks to Bill from Wanganui for sending me the articles and letters from the Wanganui Chronicle. Please keep an eye on your local newspapers for articles which clearly give misleading information on sexual abuse to the public. We would also like to receive items on court cases. When sending cuttings, please ensure you mark them with the name of the newspaper and the date of publication.
Editor – Gordon Waugh
Opinions expressed in this newsletter are the responsibility of the individual writer and are not necessarily endorsed by COSA [North].