Letters to Editors by Gordon Waugh 2000

To the Wanganui Chronicle, 4 January 2000

Candy Shepherd’s December 20 letter is an impressive example of the point I made earlier (December 15). Self-appointed sex abuse counsellors mislead the public, their clients and their funders, by laying hollow claim to special knowledge and employing belief systems drawn from pseudo-research.

She implies her Centre is at the forefront of empirical research and best practice, and claims to be "developing policies and conducting research whilst…keeping abreast of the latest global empirical findings". This has led, she claims, to a "scientific/practitioner model" – whatever that might mean. Those are pretentious claims. (Empirical: Based on the results of observation and experiment only. Research: A course of critical or scientific inquiry.)

The Wanganui Centre clings grimly to the outworn belief that sexual abuse affects almost one third of the population. Labelling Rohypnol a "rape drug" is sophistry. Exactly what evidence "reveals the techniques employed by those who rape boys and girls are becoming more sophisticated" and "continues to point to an increase in sexual violence"?

Earlier beliefs and theories (eg. repressed memories, multiple personality disorder) crumbled under scrutiny. Until they produce credible, testable evidence to support their claims, they will continue to face "constant challenges to their integrity". These are substantive challenges, not "indiscriminate pot shots at service providers." Ms Shepherd’s window-dressing does not alter the facts.

Gordon Waugh

Auckland

To the Herald, 3 February 2000

Your Editorial (Feb 3) on the Peter Ellis affair reflects very sound thinking with which I agree. However, one major issue was overlooked – that of corroboration.

Government removed in 1985 the time-honoured need for corroboration in sexual cases. That is the cause of many problems in these cases. If one is willing to make allegations, one must also provide justification for them by way of corroborative evidence. Far too many cases turn on "her word against his".

Children in the Ellis case claimed to have had all manner of vicious things done to them, including poking of sticks and needles into various places. These would undoubtedly have caused excruciating pain and required immediate medical treatment. None of the children complained of physical damage at the time of the alleged events.

Much of the evidence against Ellis was psychological in nature. However, as there are no psychological or behavioural symptoms specific or exclusive to sexual abuse, there is no place in investigations or trials for so-called expert interpretations of children’s behaviour.

Along with having a Royal Commission of Inquiry, the Government must also re-enact the rule of corroboration.

G, Waugh Whenuapai

To the Herald, 7 February 2000

Dr John Read’s comments (Feb 7) on the impossibility of Mr Ellis being able to clear his name were predictable. In his position, what else could he say?

It is a sad fact of life that trials and appeals are not about finding the truth. That is often revealed after convictions have been entered.

The essence of the Ellis affair is that he was convicted by little children and by the so-called experts who claim to have correctly interpreted their behaviour. Where was the medical evidence and scars of their physical injuries. Where were the tunnels, trapdoors, cages and weapons?

Many similar convictions occurred overseas. The McMartin case was a classic example. Fortunately, most have now been overturned on appeal because it was recognised that psychology had gone badly astray and its expert opinions were fanciful guesswork based on beliefs, not reality.

The truth behind the creche affair should be revealed by an Inquiry with wide Terms of Reference. But closed minds won’t help. A pardon for Mr Ellis is not at all unthinkable.

G. Waugh Whenuapai

To the Herald, 11 February 2000

Dr John Read’s University position does not confer immunity from criticism. The appearance of objective and dispassionate justice and the need for strict adherence to that principle is of paramount importance to our society. Similar rigorous ethical standards apply to the academic world. When one of its members fails to comply, criticism will ensue.

Dr Read (Feb 11) accused me of giving "blatantly false" information and also attacked another of his numerous critics, Kay Stead. Ad hominem attacks seek only to deflect debate on the core issues.

My information source on overseas cases, similar or identical to the Peter Ellis conviction, is impeccable – the findings of Appellate Courts in various countries. Dr Read is entitled to consider them to be "blatantly false". I support the many men who have been FALSELY accused of sexual abuse, mainly through the intervention of counsellors and psychologists purveying beliefs and assumptions drawn from pseudo-research.

Dr Read’s "research" and opinions will undoubtedly be treated by Government, the public and his fellow academics with the respect they deserve.

G. Waugh Whenuapai

To the Toronto Star, 29 February 2000

I write from New Zealand in response to the article "Instinct to deny ugly reality can be overwhelming" by Michelle Landsberg (Feb 5).

Ms Landsberg states categorically that "recovered memories of incest do exist" and "the False Memory people…..are in the business of denying an ugly reality." In New Zealand, we witnessed the wretched birth and welcome demise of the "recovered memory" fad and its frivolous derivatives.

Those who believed in "recovered memories" were generally therapists paid to find abuse. They adopted, unearned, the cloak of superior knowledge. Notwithstanding there may be nothing to deny, denial was a clear indicator of guilt for them. They uncritically believed stories told by clients. They ignored evidence showing alleged acts were impossible.

Those who disbelieved are scientists, academics, professionals, common sense folk, juries, courts, and the many thousands of parents falsely accused by adult daughters attending therapy.

In the end, we were left to measure the believers from the neck upwards. Their theories, beliefs and practices crumbled under public and professional scrutiny. I am astonished that Ms Landsberg appears not to have applied the fundamental tests of credibility before writing her article. Her support for "recovered memories" implies a presumption of guilt.

New Zealand courts typically convict fewer than five men annually for incest. Are we really expected to believe that tens of thousands of ordinary New Zealand fathers raped their infant daughters and nieces, who then "repressed" such memories until they "recovered" them in therapy, years or decades later? I don’t think so !

Until credible, testable evidence of an ability for the human mind to "repress" knowledge of abuse becomes available, Ms Landsberg would serve the public better by keeping an open mind. When an allegation is made, it behoves us all to ask – before drawing conclusions – "What is the evidence both for and against it ?"

Gordon Waugh

Auckland

New Zealand

To the Sunday Star-Times, 13 March 2000

[A heading of your choice]

For someone with so little genuine knowledge of the Peter Ellis case, Sandra Coney has a lot to say about it. Her commentary (Mar 12) is ill-informed, emotive and misleading. It ignores the main issues.

Our judicial process is the heart of our community and we have an inherent right to examine it when it goes badly awry. Peter Ellis was convicted on the incomplete, imaginative and uncorroborated testimony of small children, and the opinions of so-called "experts".

Widespread public and professional concern resulted from suggestions of satanic ritual abuse, the dropping of charges against his co-workers, suggestions of process abuse, and the withholding of masses of critical evidence from jury scrutiny. A key child witness recanted her stories.

Where was the physical, medical and forensic evidence of injury, surgery, murder, mutilated carcasses, cages, tunnels, trapdoors, guns, needles, exploding children or sexual abuse?

The case was based on hysteria and fantasy. Methods used by those who excavated "evidence" from child witnesses were unscientific, unethical and unsafe, and so was the conviction. Years later, our concerns remain, heavily underscored by similar cases overseas. An inquiry, albeit a very limited one, will be held. We have a right to know.

Gordon Waugh Auckland

To the Herald, 5 May 2000

Rape Crisis reckons (May 2) that ACC compensation for rape victims is an insult. Counselling subsidies, it said, are "barely adequate" and that victims have to "fight for them".

ACC has in recent years received about 80,000 claims for sexual abuse and paid out hundreds of millions of dollars. Many claims were without credible evidence of abuse or mental injury. Belatedly realising its mistake, ACC tightened its rules to demand better evidence. Counselling fees are about $56 per hour, a very generous rate for an ineffective and inefficient talking cure.

Rape Crisis recently claimed (Dec 99), without justification or evidence, that "trauma resulting from rape and sexual abuse is different to that suffered from a broken leg – of course it will take longer." Trauma is not an automatic consequence of either event. In their eyes, perhaps healing broken-leg trauma needs only short talks, but sexual abuse trauma needs long talks and heaps of taxpayer money.

Talking-cure therapy is routinely given when claimants supply genuine evidence of a criminal sexual offence and consequential mental injury. Despite Rape Crisis sophistry, supplying those facts is an obligation and any compensation is beneficial.

G. Waugh Whenuapai

To the Sunday Star-Times, 11 May 2000

Your two reports (Apr 23 and 30) of a "bizarre sex abuse case" show a good dose of healthy scepticism is long overdue.

The case clearly has overtones of ritual abuse – laid on a table, red candle wax, adults dressed in black, oral sex before dinner, rapes galore. The mind boggles at such hysterical drivel !

The US National Centre for Child Abuse and Neglect studied some 12,000 ritual abuse cases and found not a jot of supportive evidence. Prof Jean la Fontaine did a similar study in the UK, with the same results.

After a decade of this sort of baloney, I’m astonished that police believed such absurd allegations strongly enough to lay 34 charges. Even the officer heading the case acknowledges it is bizarre and "certainly outside the square", so why on earth is it being pursued?

Police should use common sense and drop the charges, thus saving themselves from a liberal application of egg on their faces, and saving the taxpayer and the accused a million or so dollars.

This case reinforces the need for a statute of limitation on stale and patently false sex abuse allegations.

Gordon Waugh Auckland

The Sunday Star-Times, 11 June 2000, Page A10.

Letter to the Editor

Title: Medical checks

Sandra Coney (Jun 4) is now bewailing the effects of the Dr Morgan Fahey case. She insists on confusing evidence with belief. Her brand of thinking is quite tiresome.

Her dismissal of chaperones completely ignores the ways of the world. With a mandatory chaperone present, she says "during intimate often embarrassing procedures, women have to put up with the audience of a stranger." If that is objectionable, women would never go to specialists.

The formidable power of righteousness – commendable only sometimes – demands checks and balances of equal power. She says "the concept of the chaperone implies distrust." Of course it does. Doctors also need protection from patients who might – and do – make false allegations.

The very few women who feel unsafe with a particular doctor have a range of options. For Heaven’s sake, take their own chaperone. Trust the professionalism of the practice nurse. Go to another doctor. Go only to female doctors.

I seriously doubt the medical profession has "a culture of tolerance towards abusers". That Fahey pleaded guilty does not mean every GP is likely to abuse patients or has "rape on his mind."

Gordon Waugh Auckland

Sandra Coney

As Adriaan Mak so neatly put it, "The Boston Globe has its Eileen McNamara, The Toronto Star has its Michele Landsberg, The Daily Mail has Bernice Andrews and you have to contend with Sandra Coney."

Sandra Coney’s column in the Sunday Star-Times (Jun 11, 2000) was IMO a gem of ignorance and gender bias. She wrote more drivel about the conviction of Dr Morgan Fahey and about his victims.

She included such comments as: "Only a man could argue that the net sum of Fahey’s career amounted to a contribution."

"The sentence [6 years] which is less than half what the Crown sought, makes a mockery of the pain, stress and embarrassment women have suffered in bringing this forward."

"One of the most unpleasant aspects of the Fahey case is the exposure of the culture of male dominance."

"Indeed, some of the attitudes towards Fahey seem to be that he let the club down."

"His worst sin may be that he hoodwinked men rather than that he raped women."

I’ve sent the following to the Editor, in the hope he might publish it.

Cheers, Gordon

The Editor, Sunday Star-Times June 12, 2000

feedback@star-times.co.nz

[A heading of your choice]

Sandra Coney (Jun 11) put her hackneyed gender politics on full display. She prattled on about Fahey’s sentence making a mockery of victims’ pain, stress and embarrassment, and women’s difficulties in reporting sexual crimes. As usual, her comments ignore history, precedent and reality.

Women successfully lobbied to change the Evidence Act to help minimise the trauma of re-living abuse at trial. Ms Coney should study this Act and all its Amendments. Fahey’s guilty plea saved his victims the embarrassment of public testimony. The nation also thought it appropriate for guilty pleas to attract lesser sentences. His 6-year sentence is a resounding victory for them.

Women demanded compensation and counselling for sexual abuse. ACC legislation was amended to meet that perceived need. Perhaps Ms Coney forgets that ACC provides superbly effective counselling – given by registered professionals trained to identify and treat cases of sexual abuse – as well as monetary compensation.

She should point Fahey’s victims towards ACC treatment. Pain, suffering and embarrassment, or the difficulties faced in reporting sexual crimes, did not stop about 80,000 others from making recent ACC claims for sexual abuse.

Gordon Waugh, Auckland

Ms Leoine Myers

There has been quite a bit of correspondence in the newspapers about the case of Dr Morgan Fahey in Christchurch. After strenuous earlier denials, he later admitted guilt in the Christchurch High Court. Ms Leoine Myers wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Star-Times, in which she made a blatant and scurrilous attack on COSA. COSA had not written or said anything about this case. Fahey has never contacted us. Cheers, Gordon.

The Sunday Star-Times, 18 June 2000, Page A8 A Letter to the Editor by Leonie Myers, Auckland:

"Fahey’s denial" (This concerns the public denial of sexual abuse by Dr Morgan Fahey, and his later admission of guilt in the Christchurch High Court.)

Sarah McGill (June 11) comments the case of Morgan Fahey shows denial "is often a somewhat less enduring trait of the guilty". I would ask, if 30 years of denial is not an enduring trait, what would be?

If it hadn’t been for a very brave and very angry lady equipped with a well-concealed camera, Fahey would probably be a committee member of Casualties of Sexual Allegations.

His conscience did not get the better of him, even after 30 years. The newspapers, TV3 and the courage of his victims achieved his conviction. Give credit where credit is due.

Leonie Myers Auckland

John Lindsay is the Chairman of COSA South, based in the city of Christchurch. John and I both wrote Letters to the Editor of the Sunday Star-Times in reply to the slur which its correspondent, Leonie Myers, had made about the convicted Dr Morgan Fahey, a Christchurch resident and former Deputy Mayor "probably becoming a Committee Member of COSA". Fahey pleaded guilty to a large number of sexual crimes he committed on his female patients. John’s letter was published in this morning’s edition. The one I sent in was not. It seems more appropriate for John’s letter to have been published, as Fahey and COSA South are based in Christchurch.

Gordon’s Letter (not published)

The Editor, Sunday Star-Times 19 June 2000

RIGHT OF REPLY

In your Sunday, June 18 Edition, you published a Letter to the Editor by Ms Leonie Myers (Page A8, "Fahey’s denial".) In her second paragraph, she wrote:

"If it hadn’t been for a very brave and very angry lady equipped with a well-concealed camera, Fahey would probably be a committee member of Casualties of Sexual Allegations."

Casualties Of Sexual Allegations [COSA] is a bona fide registered Incorporated Society whose aims and objectives have been well-publicised:

1. Assist in eliminating sexual abuse from our community by fostering and promoting sound, reliable scientific knowledge and education about sexual abuse. 2. Provide support for people involved in false allegations of sexual abuse, and 3. Promote changes at all levels that will minimise the creation of wrongful accusations in the future.

Ms Myers clear implication is that our Committee Members are as guilty of sexual crimes as those to which Dr Morgan Fahey admitted. To say the least, that is an unconscionable slur on our organisation, our members and our committee. No member of COSA’s committee is guilty of any sexual crime. Fahey did not apply for COSA membership or contact us in any way. We categorically reject Ms Myers implications.

In these circumstances, we rely on your sense of fair play to give us a right of reply to clear the air on this matter. Accordingly, would you please publish the following 182-word Letter to the Editor, in a prominent position in your next edition on Sunday 25 June 2000.

Yours sincerely,

Gordon Waugh, COSA Liaison Officer

My "Right of Reply" Letter rejected for publication:

Leonie Myers letter, ("Fahey’s denial", Jun 18) suggested that "Fahey would probably be a committee member of Casualties Of Sexual Allegations [COSA]". COSA members utterly reject her absurd and vulgar implications.

It is a matter of public record that COSA was formed in 1994 by professionals and individuals concerned or affected by the (then) large and growing number of false allegations of sexual abuse created by unscientific, misguided and ill-informed counselling practices.

Our well known and resounding success, in combating the phenomenon of "recovered memory therapy" and its derivatives, stemmed from science, facts and evidence.

Many of our members, past or present, have never been accused of sexual abuse. Fahey did not seek COSA membership – our experience is that guilty people usually don’t. Allegations or denials don’t prove guilt. Some guilty people do deny guilt, but so do all the truly innocent. The difference lies in corroborated facts, credible evidence and admissions. Ms Myers does not appear to know that.

COSA’s services, knowledge and information are freely available to the public. Ms Myers would be much better informed by using them.

Gordon Waugh, COSA Liaison Officer, Auckland

Letter to the Editor by John Lindsay, Chairman of COSA South, Christchurch.

Fahey and COSA

Leonie Myers appears to imply the despicable behaviour of Dr Fahey could be camouflaged by his plausible charade of respectability and somehow penetrate the vigilant and very experienced judgement of the support group Casualties Of Sexual Allegations (June 18).

Absolutely no way could he have succeeded. COSA is resolute in its condemnation of occurrences of sexual abuse which we find abhorrent. Along with the problem of genuine abuse, society is however afflicted by a parallel problem of false and unfounded accusations. These have very serious and adverse effects on individuals, families and the greater community.

COSA resources are directed to these cases of injustice while striving to facilitate a reduction in such destructive falsehoods. We are committed to uphold the principles of justice, scientific knowledge and valid professional practice as false allegations are often reinforced by misguided investigative and therapeutic intervention.

COSA South is a transparent, inclusive organisation interested only in minimising trauma and tragedy arising from false allegations of a sexual nature.

John Lindsay, Chairman, COSA South, Christchurch.

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