COSA Casualties of Sexual Allegations Newsletter January – February 1995 Volume 2 No 1
Contents of this page:
Editorial:Baltimore False Memory Syndrome Foundation Conference In early December I attended the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and FMS Foundation conference on Memory and reality: scientific, clinical and legal issues of the false memory syndrome in Baltimore as the Glaxo Foundation Fellow for 1995. It was great to meet with the respective co-ordinators of other False Memory organisations, Pamela Freyd of the American FMS Foundation; Roger Scotford of the British FM Society; and Ken and June Godwin of the Australian FM Association.
Courts:Jury dismisses charges based on recovered memories – some advice from the accused man for anyone facing charges arising from the "recovered memories".
Family destruction – grandmother accused of abuse.
Listener correspondence President of the NZ Psychological Society, Fred Seymour denies that false allegations commonly happen.
Controversy built on memories – Bunbury "satanic abuse" case (Australia).
Literature:Rape Survivors’ Legal Guide: a woman’s guide to the New Zealand court system – does not even pay lip-service to basic principles of justice.
Investigation of Memories of Childhood Abuse American Psychological Association (APA) report.
Hypnosis and Delayed Recall – special issue of the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis.
Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman (1992) – a true believer in the theory of memory repression.
Warriors of Truth by Kim McGregor (1993) – written by an Auckland sexual abuse counsellor, herself a "survivor" of childhood abuse.
Features:Correspondence – from a sister of a "recovered memory" victim.
Coming Events: National Conference on Child Abuse: childhood ideals – childhood realities, Recovered memories and the false memory syndrome, Proposed International Conference Regarding Parents Falsely Accused of Child Abuse.
Once were women? This poem is a contribution from a COSA member falsely accused of abusing his teenage daughter.
It has been 2 months since our last newsletter and things have moved steadily ahead. There is continuing media coverage and an outpouring of literature being published on various aspects of false allegations, some of which is reviewed in this newsletter. I have retired from General Practice as from 31 January, to free up my time for teaching, researching and writing in the sexual abuse field. Slowly the opportunities to give talks and lectures are developing, and I hope to be distributing the recovered memory survey through the Auckland Medical School Department of Psychiatry shortly (I am awaiting Ethics Committee approval).
Baltimore False Memory Syndrome Foundation Conference
In early December I attended the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and FMS Foundation conference on Memory and reality: scientific, clinical and legal issues of the false memory syndrome in Baltimore as the Glaxo Foundation Fellow for 1995.
I was accompanied by my husband John and baby daughter Judith, then 4 months. Judith proved a delight to travel with and made many friends at the conference. One of the most important aspects of being there was meeting with people working at the leading edge of research in this field. It was also great to meet with the respective co-ordinators of other False Memory organisations, Pamela Freyd of the American FMS Foundation; Roger Scotford of the British FM Society; and Ken and June Godwin of the Australian FM Association.
There was little really new material presented, but I felt my understanding of the issues and ways to present them was affirmed and consolidated. In his keynote address, Professor Paul McHugh, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said that "recovered memory therapy is a craze which is sweeping society. False memories often occur while patients are under hypnosis, a technique which makes them vulnerable to suggestion. If these practices become standard, then no family that has a member in psychotherapy is safe from persecution".
Professor Richard Ofshe, University of California, stated that recovered memory therapy is the "psychiatric quackery of the 20th century" and that "vast amounts of money are being used to create suffering". He added that this problem is 100% avoidable and should never happen.
In the USA there are now over 17,000 documented families devastated by allegations based on recovered memories. These techniques also lead to "recovered memories" of past lives, alien abductions, satanic ritual abuse and the development of "multiple personalties". Now some people are also claiming to "remember" being abused in the uterus!
A number of retractors were also present, whose stories told of pressure from therapists leading them to believe they had been horrendously abused by their families. These women went to therapy for unrelated problems such as eating disorders or depression which went untreated. They described getting sicker and sicker as the therapy progressed, being encouraged to break all contact with their families, developing "multiple personalities" and believing they had been involved in satanic rituals.
It was encouraging to meet retracting therapists who understand their techniques are likely to have convinced their patients that imagined abusive events really happened. These therapists are now contacting their ex-patients in an attempt to try and undo some of the damage and offer them help. Whilst this will not protect them from possible malpractice suits which many therapists now face (since the landmark Romana case, where the courts held therapists responsible for the effects of their practice), it demonstrates real professional integrity and concern.
The conference concluded that there is no known scientific basis for the idea of memory repression and subsequent "memory recovery" through therapy. The use of "memory recovery techniques" (such as age regression, guided imagery or hypnosis) is extremely likely to create false memories of having been abused and is a dangerous practice likely to cause enormous harm to both to patients and their families.
COSA to become Incorporated
After a meeting of interested people in December, a draft copy of the purpose, objects and rules of our proposed incorporated society has been written. These are currently being examined by a lawyer. Once he gives the go-ahead, copies will be sent to interested signatories and then further meetings called. We are planning on signatories from both the North and South Islands. Following this, an executive committee will be formed, and subcommittees set up with specific objects in mind. There are now many people who want to be part of the solution, but who have not known where to start. COSA offers a framework and focus to redress particular issues, and we hope to harness the energy and resources of the numerous people who contact us wanting to help.
We will also be establishing a Professional Advisory Board who will lend their expertise on specific matters.
1995 promises to be an interesting and productive year. Thanks to all those who send correspondence and other material – all contributions are gratefully received!
Jury dismisses charges based on recovered memories
A Christchurch jury found a man innocent on all charges of indecency which his 26 year old daughter alleged her committed on her between 1975 and 1980 when aged 6 to 12 years. The charges arose after the daughter had attended counselling for other problems.
The man, who has permanent name suppression, is a member of COSA. He writes "we have won the trial and lost a daughter. We have become better educated and can now see the incredible malice, and we can only hope that our daughter will also become better educated and move away from that malice and come back to the family".
He also offers the following advice for anyone facing charges arising from the "recovered memories" of their children:
* Do not rush to trial (you need time to collect evidence)
* Write down everything you can remember (it helps)
* Go to the library and look up newspapers from the times of the alleged offences for reference points
* Go through photos, cheque butts, bills or any papers of events during those years (to pin-point your family’s movements back then)
* Make up a time-chart with known facts and dates from the time of your child’s birth, and along the margins mark the police times of alleged offences (this shows up errors graphically)
* Brief your lawyer on everything to do with FMS and your family history
* Record any subsequent phonecalls from the plaintiff or her friends
* Be strong and fight (you have done no wrong)
Man imprisoned for alleged historic abuse
A 76 year old man, Nicholas Boyd, was found guilty of 10 charges of rape, sodomy and indecent assault of 4 girls then aged 9 to 13 years. The women claimed the events occurred between 1978 and 1984 when Mr Boyd allowed them to ride horses on his farm. Mr Boyd pleaded not guilty to all charges.
‘Horses a sex ploy: Crown’, NZ Herald 8 Dec 94
Ellis appealing to Privy Council
This article discusses some of the Christchurch Civic Creche case’s inconsistencies and uncorroborated evidence open to multiple interpretation which were subject of Ellis’ (unsuccessful) Appeal. It concludes that where the reliability of children’s testimony is so seriously in question, in our legal system the accused should, at the very least, be given the benefit of the doubt.
‘Ellis to take case to Privy Council, counsel confirms’, Martin van Beynen, Press, 9 Jan 95.
Sunday school teacher acquitted
In San Diego, a slightly retarded young man found himself the centre of numerous sexual abuse allegations from children he taught at Sunday School. Following the now-too-familiar pattern, the stories became more and more bizarre and complex as the interviewing of the children progressed, until they reached the realm of the improbable, or even impossible. After over 2 years in jail awaiting his trial, the man was found not guilty on all counts.
Reported on TV3 20/20, 8.30pm, 23 Jan 1995
Falsely accused father receives compensation from ACC
A 60 year old Christchurch man has been awarded $10,000 compensation for the pain and suffering he has undergone by being falsely accused of molesting his daughter. He was never criminally charged and has always maintained his innocence. The daughter has previously received a lump sum payment for ACC in compensation for the alleged abuse.
‘ACC payout "unusual"’, Christchurch Star, 11 Jan 1995
Tells the story of a COSA member who has suffered from false allegations. Acquitted by the High Court, she won has won her freedom but lost her grand-daughter.
‘Accused of abuse’, Cathrin Schaer, More, Feb 1995, 64-5.
In response to Noel O’Hare’s article about false memory syndrome in the 12 Nov Listener, President of the NZ Psychological Society, Fred Seymour wrote to the Editor (24 Dec) denying that false allegations commonly happen, denying that therapists contribute to the implanting of false memories, and supporting the theory of memory repression. Other correspondents also claimed that later recovery of repressed memories is common.
In reply, the Professor of Psychology at Auckland University, Michael Corballis wrote (14 Jan 1995) that "we have yet to see convincing scientific evidence for the repression of traumatic memories".
Falsely accused mother receives compensation
A British social worker who was wrongly sacked by Barnados after being accused of sexually abusing her daughter, has been awarded $NZ35,000 in compensation. The woman said her 23 year old daughter’s accusations followed her seeking psychiatric help for symptoms of depression.
‘Abuse-case compensation’, The Press, Wendy Holden, 12 Jan 1995.
Controversy built on memories
Article about the recent Bunbury "satanic abuse" case. ‘To charge someone with sexual abuse purely on the basis of repressed memory means operating on highly contentious grounds…’
Memories on trial, Bettina Arndt, The Weekend Australian, 3-4 Dec 1994, 24 & 29.
Rape Survivors’ Legal Guide: a woman’s guide to the New Zealand court system
This guide was written by women involved with the Wellington South Community Law Office, the National Women’s Refuge Collective, Wellington Rape Crisis and HELP Centres, Wellington City Council Community Development Department and the Lower Hutt Women’s Centre.
It was funded by the 1993 Suffrage Centennial Trust, Victims Task Force, Roy McKenzie Foundation and the Wellington City Council.
This is an extremely politically correct document. Whilst it offers some useful information to rape victims, I am appalled that public money has been used to publish a guide which has a clear presumption of guilt of alleged offenders from the outset, and does not even pay lip-service to basic principles of justice.
The guide starts:
"This guide has been written using the word rapist and not the legal term the accused. The word rapist empowers and supports women who have been raped by being honest to them.
We won’t question their integrity by using the word accused. We believe women’s stories and we believe women need the truth."
It specifies that even if it happened a long time ago as a child it is still rape. It in no way addresses the problems of childhood "memories" being distorted or confabulated by intervening processes including memory recovery techniques. Predictably, the book at the top of the recommended reading list is Courage to Heal!
Investigation of Memories of Childhood Abuse
American Psychological Association (APA) interim report from its six-member Working Group
This group, composed of equal numbers of practicing and research psychologists, has reviewed the relevant literature and have offered this report on 11 Nov 1994, emphasising that it represents a group consensus but is not an official APA policy statement.
They stress that "controversies regarding adult recollections should not be allowed to obscure the fact that child sexual abuse is a complex and pervasive problem in America that has historically gone unacknowledged".
They conclude that:
- "Most people who were sexually abused as children remember all or part of what happened to them.
- However, it is possible for memories of abuse that have been forgotten for a long time be remembered. The mechanism(s) by which delayed recall occur(s) is/are not currently well understood.
- It is also possible to construct convincing pseudomemories for events that never occurred. The mechanism(s) by which these pseudomemories occur(s) is/are not currently well understood.
- There are gaps in our knowledge about the processes that lead to accurate or inaccurate recollection of childhood sexual abuse."
The APA Board of Directors approves this initial report and offers the following guide-lines:
- "There is no single set of symptoms which automatically means that a person was a victim of sexual abuse.
- All therapists must approach questions of childhood abuse from a neutral position.
- The public should be wary of two kinds of therapists: those who offer instant child abuse diagnoses, and those who dismiss claims or reports of sexual abuse without exploration.
- When seeking psychotherapy, the public is advised to see a licensed practitioner with training and experience in the issues for which treatment is sought."
This report does not address the theory of memory repression nor differentiate between other ways of "not remembering" such as simple forgetting, not thinking about something for a long period of time or deliberate avoidance of painful memories. Whilst acknowledging that pseudomemories can be constructed, it sidesteps the topic of robust memory repression and the validity of "memory recovery" techniques. Hopefully, its final report, due for release in Feb 1995, will deal with this subject.
Hypnosis and Delayed Recall: Part 1.
International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Oct 1994, XLII (4).
This Journal is devoting two special issues to the subject of "delayed memory recall". The April 1995 issue will cover Part 2.
The October issue includes the following articles, as well as reprinting the 1993 "Statement on memories of Sexual Abuse" issued by the American Psychiatric Association. All are recommended reading for people with specific interests in these topics.
Satanic ritual abuse, and multiple personality disorder: a sociohistorical perspective, Sherill Mulhern, 265-88.
Narrative truth and putative child abuse, Donald Spence, 289-303.
The possible role of source misattributions in the creation of false beliefs among preschoolers, Stephen Ceci, Elizabeth Loftus, Michele Leichman and Maggie Bruck, 304-20.
The concept of flashbacks in historical perspective, Fred Frankel, 321-36.
Hypnosis, delayed recall, and the principles of memory, John Kihlstrom, 337-45.
Memory distortion and sexual trauma: the problem of false negatives and false positives, Michael Nash, 346-62.
Pseudomemories without hypnosis, Maryanne Garry and Elizabeth Loftus, 363-78.
Hypnotic hypermnesia: the empty set of hypermnesia, Matthew Erdelyi, 379-90.
Recovered-memory therapy and robust repression: influence and pseudo-memories, Richard Ofshe and Margaret Singer, 391-410.
Dissociated or fabricated? Psychiatric aspects of repressed memory in criminal and civil cases, David Spiegel and Alan Scheflin, 411-432.
Past-life identities, UFO abductions, and satanic ritual abuse: the social construction of memories, Nicholas Spandos, Cheryl Burgess, and Melissa Burgess, 433-46.
Recent books on recovered memories
Richard Ofshe and Ethan Watters (1994), Making Monsters: false memories, psychotherapy, and sexual hysteria, Charles Scibner’s Sons, New York.
Ralph Underwager and Hollida Wakefield (1994). Return of the furies; analysis of recovered memory therapy, Open Court Publishing Company, Chicago.
Mark Pendergrast (1995). Victims of memory: incest accusations and shattered lives, Upper access Books, Vermont.
Along with Elizabeth Loftus’ The myth of repressed memories, reviewed in a previous COSA newsletter, these are all excellent books discussing aspects of memory "repression" and "recovery".
Lawrence Wright (1994). Remembering Satan – recovered memory and the shattering of a family, Serpent’s Tail.
This book deals with the specific case of Paul Ingram and his family. When confronted with allegations from daughters who had "recovered" memories of childhood abuse by him, Ingram was sure they would not lie and therefore came to believe he must have "repressed" his memories of abusing them. He subsequently "recovered" memories through hypnosis and "confessed" to crimes he did not commit. This was clearly demonstrated when a psychologist suspicious of his confessions presented Ingram’s with so-called allegations from his daughters which the psychologist had in fact fabricated. Ingram then "recovered" memories of having committed these made-up crimes. He later realised that his memories of these offences were confabulations, but unfortunately he had already pleaded guilty and was convicted on this basis. He is still in prison.
Terr, Lenore (1994). Unchained memories: true memories of traumatic memories, lost and found, Basic Books, New York.
This is a book of case stories written in a popular press style. These are anecdotes alleging "recovery" of robustly repressed memories and are presented as evidence that this phenomenon is real.
Trauma and Recovery
Herman, Judith (1992). Basic Books, New York.
"The ordinary response to atrocities is to ban them from consciousness. Certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to utter aloud: this is the meaning of the word unspeakable".
Herman is a true believer in the theory of memory repression and in memory recovery therapy. She is believes that multiple personality disorder is a common sequela of childhood trauma, although "the majority of patients with MPD conceal their symptoms, and even after the clinician has arrived at a presumptive diagnosis it is not at all unusual for the patient to reject the diagnosis."
Herman encourages therapists to tell patients if they suspect they have hidden memories of childhood abuse.
Warriors of Truth
McGregor, Kim (1993), University of Otago Press, Dunedin.
Warriors of Truth is a self-help book for "sexual abuse survivors" written by an Auckland sexual abuse counsellor, herself a "survivor" of childhood abuse. She was assisted in writing it by grants from the McKenzie Foundation and Ministry of Women’s Affairs. The book is of very similar ilk to Courage to Heal (which McGregor highly recommends), and other books of this type from the United States.
McGregor believes that memories of childhood sexual trauma may be totally blocked and later retrieved in therapy, including hypnosis, and through dreams and "flashbacks". She advocates always believing the victim, claiming that expressing any doubt is denial and may retraumatise the victim. Women can go for therapy whether they have any memories or not, they may accumulate a "knowing" they have been sexually abused but may never find out who the perpetrator was or what he did.
Until they retrieve their memories, many women may have been pretending to themselves that they had a wonderful family who loved them. She warns these women that their alleged offenders and other family members may turn against them and deny the events if confronted. When confronting an "offender", she recommends controlling the situation so that he is given no opportunity to respond. She emphasises that victims have a right to their anger, which she describes as a "positive energy", and does not advocate forgiveness. Many women may find it necessary to break all contact with their "family of origin" and form a "chosen family" of supportive friends. She also suggests telling (even anonymously) the alleged offender’s family, friends, employer and colleagues about the abuse.
Whilst some of McGregor’s advice may be helpful to genuine incest victims, she does not appear to consider the possibility that some women’s memories may not represent actual events, and that unchallenging belief and encouragement may contribute to the generation of false memories. This is particularly likely given her endorsement of "memory retrieval" therapists and her literal interpretation of dreams and "flashbacks". None of the substantial literature and research on memory recall and hypnosis is discussed or referenced.
Much of McGregor’s information and advice is likely to contribute to the generation of false memories by vulnerable women who may read this book. It is not recommended.
"My sister has recently revealed to me and others that she believes her father sexually abused her when she was young and that the memories have "returned" to her in recent times… My sister has cut off our parents completely saying that Dad will deny her accusations until the day he dies. She has decided not to take legal action as my mother is very ill and she says she would not put her through this. However I feel that there are other reasons involved…
She had thought something was wrong for sometime and that when she described incidents, she was told by the therapist that it was sexual abuse. She alleges that there were incidents where myself and other sister were present. We have no recollection of these and I am sure I am not in denial."
Sister of a "recovered memory" victim
DSAC and Recovered Memories
In the past year, Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care (DSAC) have sponsored a number of visiting American teachers to run seminars in NZ for our health professionals. All these speakers have been firm believers in memory repression theory and the validity of recovered memories. DSAC also run a journal club to which I subscribe. This club sends out copies of journal articles selected monthly from medline searches. With very few exceptions, the material I receive fails to address the problem of false allegations, and does not reveal that memory repression and recovery is a theory without scientific substantiation.
Professionals attending DSAC seminars and relying on the journal club for their education might not realise that repressed memory theory is not supported by the vast majority of the academic and scientific community.
In June 1994 I wrote a letter to the editor of the DSAC quarterly newsletter with my concerns. I explained the current state of knowledge in this area, and expressed my alarm that DSAC had brought John Briere to teach NZ professionals. Furthermore I was concerned that Jon Conte and Roland Summit were to visit. I offered to supply DSAC with a list of oveaseas experts who might offer a counter-view to that of their guests, to at least provide a balance.
At the end of August I received a note from DSAC acknowledging receipt of my letter. It did not appear in the September issue but I then received a note that it was being considered for the December newsletter. This meant that it would appear after Conte and Summit had visited!
My December newsletter did not arrive so I rang DSAC in late January. I was told that the newsletter had been printed but then recalled (reasons not given). It was to be reprinted and distributed with the March edition.
DSAC have also contacted the Auckland Institute of Technology and other institutions advising them not to allow me to lecture to their audiences, as this would give credence to my stand on recovered memories. The AIT, at least, chose to ignore their warnings.
DSAC are now bringing yet another "recovered memory" expert to NZ, Dr Judith Herman. She will be running seminars on Psychotherapy for patients with a history of childhood sexual abuse in Wellington (1-18 March 1995), Auckland (23-24) and Christchurch (28-29).
If you are concerned about DSAC’s actions in this regard, you might consider letting them know. The President of DSAC is Dr Juliet Broadmore, Building 43, Auckland Hospital, PB 92024, Auckland; tel 09 379 7440 ext 6788; fax 09 307 0599.
National Conference on Child Abuse: childhood ideals – childhood realities.
14-17 February, Lincoln University, Christchurch.
Organised by multi-disciplinary group including New Zealand Police.
Conference to "update people on recent research and liaise with other professionals in allied fields of work."
Visiting American expert in "profile of and treatment of sex offenders", Dr Anna Salter, will address the conference.
Recovered memories and the false memory syndrome
Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith
University of Auckland Continuing Education Programme (#G1.145)
7.30-9.30 pm, Tues 11 April, room 029, Old Arts Bldg, 22 Princes St ($15)
Summarises the latest evidence about the nature of memory, and the arguments for and against recovered memory theory and therapy. Discusses the phenomenon which gives rise to previously "forgotten" stories, as well as bizarre tales of satanic rituals, cannibalism, alien abduction and past lives.
Proposed International Conference Regarding Parents Falsely Accused of Child Abuse
Utrecht, Netherlands, July 1995.
A joint venture proposed which would involve, amongst others, the Dutch group Ouders voor Kinderen (Parents for Children), the British False Memory Society and PAIN, German organisations SEM and Dialog zum Wohle des Kindes, the American False Memory Syndrome Foundation and VOCAL, the Australian False Memory Society and COSA from New Zealand.
The formation of a collaborative International organisation is proposed.
Once were women?
This poem is a contribution from John, a COSA member accused of abusing his teenage daughter, even though she strongly supported him and maintained his innocence!
Once were women?
Bending gender role
In every male soul.
Masculine is violent –
Born in baby boys!
Fostered by their fathers
And angry plastic toys?
Don’t trust a man with children
You know they’re all the same.
No child needs a father
Every man’s to blame.
Judicial Torquemada –
Guilty – no redress!
Denying means you’re lying,
Save your soul – confess!
Leave the world to women
(Such lovely gentle folk)
Breed men in captivity
For girls who need a bloke.
Or listen to your anger
And find out where it feeds:
Do you need your enemy
To hide your own misdeeds?