COSA Casualties of Sexual Allegations Newsletter July 1997 Volume 4 No 6

Contents of this page:

Editorial: As an organisation COSA has grown rapidly in the past two years, and we now have two branches as well as a number of contact co-ordinators in regions through the country.

1997 AGM Report

Presentations at AGM: Bryan Rowe private investigator and former senior police officer, "Investigation of sexual allegations from the perspective of an ex-policeman"

Murray Gibson defence lawyer, "False rape charges: lessons to be learnt from the David Dougherty case"

Dr Tannis Laidlaw, clinical and research psychologist and hypnosis expert, "The truth, the part truth or anything but the truth"

Courts: Teacher falsely accused

Rugby player cleared of rape charges

Canadian teacher falsely accused

Sex ring allegations found to be completely false (Germany)

Rape claim in custody dispute (USA)

Convictions overturned at Wenatchee (USA)

Class action against social service (USA)

Media: Rape Crisis Statistics This Rape Crisis statistical report is hyperbole of the worst kind. They claim that only 1 in 10 rapes are reported; and of these 1 in 10 get to court, and only 10% of these result in convictions. These figures are at variance with police figures published last year which indicated that approximately 50% of complaints to them result in charges being laid, with about 50% of those going to court leading to convictions.

Peter Ellis case to go to Privy Council

GPs told to look for sexual abuse histories Therapist Cynthia Orme is reported as encouraging GPs to recognise the "warning signs" and ask their patients about sexual abuse histories when their patients show these signs. However large numbers of studies have failed to demonstrate that there is any causal relationship between childhood molestation and any specific childhood or adulthood psychological problem, including all those listed by Orme. GPs need to be very cautious about uncritically accepting whatever their patients say about their childhood as being true without question, or subscribing their current problems to past childhood sexual abuse.

The Broxtowe Satanic Ritual Abuse case and the suppressed JET report (UK)


Some additional light on the childhood sexual abuse-psychopathology axis

Feminism and sexual abuse: feminist activist Camille Guy expresses troubled thoughts on some New Zealand issues.

Can eye movements cure mental ailments?

Features: Newsletters recieved by COSA

The use of the Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome in evidence, a talk by Ian Freckleton, 12 Jun 1996 to the Human Rights Commission. Both prosecution and defence have recently begun using "syndromes" to explain why or why not a person has responded in a certain manner. Some of the syndromes used in this way are the Rape Trauma Syndrome ( a sub-set of PTSD); the Battered Woman Syndrome; Pre-Menstrual Tension Syndrome; Repressed memory Syndrome; and False Memory Syndrome. The most widely used syndrome over the past decade, however, has been the Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome (CSAAS).


As an organisation COSA has grown rapidly in the past two years, and we now have two branches as well as a number of contact co-ordinators in regions through the country. We encourage our members to speak out about their experiences of false allegations, including writing to newspapers, speaking on talk-back radio, and telling their stories on television documentaries. We are very happy for them to mention that they belong to COSA, and in fact this is one of the ways other people in need get to hear about our services. However, it must be emphasised that there is, and can only be, one spokesman for COSA. COSA is run along similar lines to the American False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF) and the British False Memory Society (BFMS). As Roger Scotford, Director of BFMS says, "it will not advance your cause to be seen speaking with a forked tongue".

It is also very important that all COSA contacts are processed through our national office in the first instance. This is for a number of reasons:

  • It allows us to keep an accurate database regarding new contacts;
  • It enables packages of information to be sent, including the COSA booklet outlining our aims and objectives;
  • It allows for consistency of initial information to be given.

The usual situation is that someone rings or writes to our national office; if they ring they receive initial assistance and information; and then are sent an information package by return mail. People who choose to sign as members will receive monthly newsletters, which gives them the contact details of the branch or contact co-ordinator for their area. When someone becomes a financial member and signs the form, they are agreeing to COSA’s objects. This means they accept that: "Sexual abuse does occur in our society, and this abhorrent practice is in no way accepted or condoned by COSA. COSA’s purpose is to foster and promote sound and reliable scientific knowledge concerning sexual abuse, to provide support for people involved in false allegations, and promote changes that will minimise the creation of wrongful accusations."

Members have been asked if they consent to their name, address and phone number being given to their nearest branch or a regional contact person. On occasion, the first contact to COSA may be via a branch or to a regional person. When this happens, it is vital that the person’s name and contact details are sent immediately to the national office, so that a co-ordinated response can occur, and the person can be sent the appropriate information.

One of the main criticisms of an organisation such as COSA is that we harbour paedophiles. We are asked "How can we know that all our members are innocent?" The answer is, of course, that we cannot know. In lots of instances, the issue is not relevant, as many of our members have not been accused themselves, but are professionals concerned about the issues, or are family or friends of someone they believe has been falsely accused. Where the accused is a member himself or herself, there are occasions when the evidence has inarguably demonstrated their innocence. In other situations however, proof of innocence might be lacking. The nature of sexual abuse is that often someone cannot prove his innocence. There are certain features such as the patterns of the allegation and its circumstances which make a false allegation extremely likely, but in the absence of corroboration we cannot know.

Recently a few COSA members have expressed concern that COSA will not tell people who contact us that we know they are innocent. They have said that people will not want to join an organisation if they feel they are not believed. Our response is that COSA is committed to a presumption of innocence, but unless we have definitive evidence, we cannot know in individual cases whether someone is definitely guilty or innocent. While we might examine the evidence that is available, it is not COSA’s role to decide whether someone is falsely accused or not. As executive director of FMSF, Dr Pamela Freyd says "it is not our job to determine who is guilty or not. We can only look at converging evidence and say that those accused deserve to be treated fairly". There may be no way to distinguish between someone who is telling the truth; someone who is sincerely but wrongly telling us something; or someone who is lying. This applies equally to those making the allegations and those refuting them. Telling someone we know they are innocent, or that we believe them because of the sincere and emotional way they tell us the story, is exactly the same as a therapist or social worker telling a client they know she was sexually abused because of what she says or how she behaves. It is these sort of assumptions, not based on evidence, against which COSA is speaking out.

For most of our members, this is not an issue. As Roger Scotford says "From my experience families don’t have this need to be believed like the recovered memory survivors do. They are mature people, confident of their own knowledge that they didn’t do these things, so they don’t worry about people ‘believing’ them." Pamela Freyd says something similar: "Since most of the people affected are pretty old, they seem to understand". One of the goals for organisations such as FMSF and COSA is "to help the accused move beyond the point where having someone "validate" their innocence is quite so important. It is the accusers who need to be validated".

COSA does not knowingly give support and comfort to paedophiles. While we accept that there may be members of COSA actually guilty of sexual crimes, we suspect that at our meetings it would be uncomfortable for the guilty to keep company with people who have been falsely charged and who abhor sexual abuse themselves. A guilty person would probably not come to such a meeting twice. The argument that an organisation such as COSA should not exist just in case a guilty person seeks refuge there, is the same ludicrous argument as suggesting that no-one who is a genuine victim should receive help, just in case a false claimant also seeks treatment.

Felicity Goodyear-Smith

1997 AGM Report

The 1997 Annual General Meeting of COSA, held on 15 June, was attended by 60 people (36 financial members). Apologies were received from members from different parts of the country, as well as a number of Auckland residents. The business side of the meeting was conducted in half an hour, as most reports had already been distributed to our members. Mr Arthur Simmonds, Chairman of COSA Canty, gave a brief report. All motions (previously advised) were passed. A number of these will allow COSA to seek status as a Charitable and/or Donee Organisation, and be eligible for tax exemption.

Nominated officers were all elected. The COSA national executive committee now consists of:

President Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith

Secretary Mrs Colleen Waugh

Treasurer Mr Robin Guy

Liaison Officer Mr Gordon Waugh

Development Officer Mr Paul Warder

Following the business meeting, we were privileged to hear from our three speakers, all of whom gave valuable and fascinating talks regarding false sexual allegations, from their own perspectives. Summaries of their presentations follow.


Bryan Rowe – private investigator and former senior police officer; "Investigation of sexual allegations from the perspective of an ex-policeman"

After 33½ years in the police (mostly as a senior position in the CIB), for the past few years Mr Rowe has been working as a private investigator for defence lawyers. He explained how he felt that the police had gone 1800 from when he was first a policeman when rape complainants were "given the third degree", to the current situation where they are treated with kid gloves, provided with counsellors and sympathetic victim support people, and not challenged on their testimony. He advocated finding the middle ground, where the rights of both complainant and defendant are respected.

Mr Rowe expressed concerns that the police these days are not carrying out sufficient inquiries or conducting an adequate investigation. The police should treat sexual cases the same as all other cases, requiring the same standards of proof. If after investigation, the police have doubts about a case, then they should not launch a prosecution. Similarly, prosecutors should "pull the plug" and withdraw a case during a trial if it becomes apparent that the allegations are false.

He was concerned that if police did not follow the rules with respect to investigation of allegations, they endangered the co-operation of the public. He felt that the police morale was at an all-time low; they are badly under-staffed and experienced policemen (especially the middle management people in supervisory roles) were leaving in droves.

With regard to sexual allegations, he said that complainants of a sexual nature were very easy to bring but very very difficult to refute, and this was 100 times more the case if the complaints are historical ones.

Juries face 3 possibilities. If they are quite sure a charge has been proven, then it is their duty to convict; if they are quite sure the charge is proved false, they must acquit; and if they are not sure, they must also acquit, because charges must be proved beyond reasonable doubt to convict. However he believes that these days juries often do not have the ability to assess complex testimony and make logical judgements, and he feels that mostly those charged with sexual offences would be better off with judge alone (although if he was accused himself, there are several judges whom he would not wish to hear his case!).

Murray Gibson defence lawyer, "False rape charges: lessons to be learnt from the David Dougherty case"

Murray was addressing the lessons to be learnt from the David Dougherty case, where David was found guilty despite the fact that the DNA evidence positively excluded him as a suspect. This case illustrated that there is something very wrong with the system. There has been an erosion of traditional safeguards, and not a week goes past that Mr Gibson is not contacted by someone from prison claiming false conviction.

One of the root causes of this problem was Parliament’s 1985 abolition of the need for corroboration. What this has lead to is a contest between the accused and the complainant as to who can be the most convincing in court. It was a sad day when justice is determined by whom can give the best performance, and of course the defendant has so much more to lose, that the stress of the situation puts him at great disadvantage.

Mr Gibson expressed concern that the police tend to pre-judge the issue, to decide that someone is guilty and only seek evidence which confirms their assumptions. They provide selective evidence to get a conviction; tell witnesses what to say and not to say; and withhold evidence which might indicate the defendant’s innocence. He was also alarmed by the way the complainant may get to sit behind a screen holding the hand of a support person, which lends an aura of guilt on the accused.

Mr Gibson felt that many of the problems would be solved if:

  1. There was a return to a requirement of corroboration;
  2. There was automatic payment of substantial compensation to anyone acquitted or where it is established that the complaint was false;
  3. There was return to the requirement of recent complaint obligation (that the complainant had told someone else soon after the event), a requirement that has been eroded to the point that it is now defunct;
  4. A Statute of Limitations (preferably 5 years) was established;
  5. Those accused of sexual crimes had the right to elect judge alone.

Dr Tannis Laidlaw, clinical and research psychologist and hypnosis expert, "The truth, the part truth or anything but the truth"

"When a false allegation is made, we ask:

  • "How could they?"
  • "How can people make allegations of sexual misconduct?"
  • "What’s with these people?"
  • "Who ARE these people?"

These are the questions that I am about to address. What I have to say is speculation, because the people involved have not presented themselves to me or to other researchers to have their psyche’s examined. I would dearly love to do so, of course, and if anyone can plan out a methodology that is perfectly ethical, I would love to hear your ideas.

When an allegation is made there are several possibilities:

  1. It is true or it is false?
  2. If true, how true?
  3. If false, is it lying?
  4. Why do people lie?

What if they are not lying? What is going on? What we do know from the research that Felicity Goodyear-Smith, Bob Large and I did, and corroborated by research since done in the UK, is that allegations denied by the accused families are people who are largely:

  • female
  • middle class or above
  • with good to excellent educational backgrounds
  • often from larger families
  • older daughters rather than younger ones
  • often fussy or perfectionistic
  • troubled, as evidenced by their seeking psychological help for one problem or another.

Although there is no evidence that it is possible to recover memories in adulthood of events that have not been remembered since they supposedly happened, the so-called "robust repression", we have to say that it, like any speculation, is a possibility. Possibilities abound, and medicine, psychology along with all the sciences have fads. For instance, we once had an active industry in attempting to find bumps on the heads of people to see if it portended potential criminality. That quasi-scientific episode, called phrenology, lasted from the Victorian 19th century till the last issue of its journal in the 1960’s. There are probably still people lurking who want to get their fingers on your head!

The word ‘repression’ has lasted even longer without scientific evidence that it is a real phenomenon, but it has changed meaning in the 100 or so years of its existence. It originally meant, according to Freud who invented it, an unconscious mechanism that gets rid of feelings, that is, buries the unacceptable desires, unacceptable wishes or unacceptable urges (not memories of the events themselves). These feelings were experienced as so outside of normal or personally acceptable as to be intolerable. So it is the feelings that get buried, not the events that spark them off. "Robust repression" as the term is used by the recovered memory enthusiasts, is taken to mean a total wiping out of any memories of the events as well. That position is now fading a bit it appears and now New Zealand is seeing an upsurge of "I have never forgotten it but I am now getting more and more of the details of my memories back.." This is the new fad. However, scientists have to say the repression argument in whatever form, is unlikely and not proven.

However, we do forget things, and some events occurred well before our memory mechanisms are very efficient. Also, some events are indistinguishable from normal life – to take a mundane example: what is the difference to the child between a mum or dad cleaning their child after toileting (perhaps with some distaste) and a mum or dad doing exactly the same thing with some sexual pleasure?

The two partial truth possibilities are really better considered to have the same mechanisms as the false allegations. However, I think that we must not forget the changing mores of the times. Most people in their 20’s and 30’s do not understand the social climate of encouragement for freedom of, and fairly profound changes in child-rearing, for touching, skin to skin contact, nudity, bathing together, and general push to get rid of ‘Victorian morality’, especially for us educated, middle-class young parents of that generation. Sexual expression was another issue but it was a far broader social change than just the sexual. A colleague of mine, a psychologist in his 30’s, talks with some disapproval of ‘boundaries’ that were broken in those times. At the time, we felt we were right to get rid of the silly constrictions imposed upon us by previous generations. It was all great, modern, with-it stuff – young Dads were getting involved in child-care, mums could work at their chosen professions and not be the frustrated cabbages of New Zealand suburbia; demand feeding was in vogue for our babies and we returned with great enthusiasm to breast-feeding. Natural was the order of the day. Lots of us remember it with pleasure. We thought we were very lucky indeed to be parents in those days of enlightenment.

Now let us consider the False side of the argument: First, why do some people lie? We know they do, because some people who now have recanted their accusations, have told us. The police know, as they do not pursue many of the accusations that come to them. You all know that that is possible to be the victim of an unfair investigation or an investigation that the police does not pursue. In my private practice, I have had to deal with several accusations that never made it past the initial investigation by the police. That does not mean that families do not suffer. The police do not control whispering and the intra-family devastation.

But back to lying… There are two syndromes that involve the deliberate telling of lies. First we will consider Munchausen Syndrome or Factitious Disorder which is the deliberate feigning of illness in order to be seen as sick and to receive treatment from professionals. The person will go to great lengths to maintain the sick role. Mostly these people have assumed or manufactured physical illness. It is not a disorder that is easy to understand. One colleague of mine was extremely upset because a patient of hers was deliberately doing things to a leg that looked as if it would result in an amputation. This is a psychiatric disorder and it is serious.

One of the more recent manifestations of Munchausen’s Syndrome is the feigning of psychiatric symptoms for the same reason – to be cared for by professionals and to be seen as sick and as a victim. Pretending that one has been sexually abused as a child deliberately, with full knowledge that it never happened, is Munchausen’s Syndrome, done with the expectation that they will be treated in the sick role, as a victim and treated as interesting by professionals. These people will have treatment, will enter in-patient facilities even, will alienate family – all for the attention of the professionals that believe in her.

Munchausen’s syndrome is distinguished from the other problem involving deliberate lying by their different motivations. Malingering always has some gain involved – money – while Munchausen’s is for the purpose of attention seeking. With the ACC changes in disallowing lump payments, I presume that malingering has died a quiet death. Perhaps the same changes have inadvertently encouraged Munchausen’s with the ACC paying for therapy of a therapist of choice.

Now we come to arguably the most interesting of the categories of people who falsely accuse a person of child sexual abuse. It appears to me that many of the accusers fall into the category of sincerely believing that the memories that they are now experiencing are true records of what happened when they were children.

So how can an intelligent adult come to believe that they have been sexually abused, often with horrific tales that rival the most bizarre and terrible that television can throw at us, when they have not?

What is "high hypnotisability"?

Hypnotisability is the talent for entering into a trance. It need not be formal – we all go in and out of trance-like states all day long and some or us are better at it than others.

What are the signs that you might be highly hypnotisable?

  1. You can get really involved in books or movies -you find it hard to put down a book once it grabs your attention.
  2. You can really concentrate on things that are fascinating – creative things, planning out activities, even work. People sometimes say, "You are not listening to me!" and you weren’t.
  3. You sometimes catch yourself doing things automatically while your mind is on other things – like the day I put my homework in the bin and carried the garbage to school. You find yourself taking the turn back to where you used to live, or you arrive home to find you cannot remember the last kilometre or so that you drove.
  4. You have always had a good imagination.
  5. You really have to watch yourself when someone makes a sales pitch to stay a step back so your natural enthusiasm won’t get caught up in the pitch OR – you have really regretted some spontaneous decision to buy something once away from the presentation.
  6. You take measures to control your natural suggestibility – like making a list before going to the supermarket, or only having a certain amount of money so you cannot spend it without considered thought.

We can measure hypnotisability. It appears to be a mixture of concentration abilities to become absorbed in what you are seeing or doing, suggestibility and with a good capacity for imagination. Mostly it is a nice set of abilities to have. Those of us who do have them, take any opportunity to become absorbed or to go into trance. These are the people who love meditation, or playing the piano for hours lost in their own worlds, or run or paint, or read or watch the clouds drift by… Hypnotisability is continuous. It ranges from those with none to those with heaps. Now with this in mind, what about the councillors or therapists in all of this?

First, they can be highly educated – some are psychiatrists, some clinical psychologists, many are less well trained psychotherapists, nurses and social workers, some ill trained people who do night school courses, or take 3 weeks of training as some so-called hypnotherapists do (by the way, there is a hypnotherapy school in California which awards a huge diploma proclaiming that the recipient is a Master Hypnotist, after a 6 week live-in course – and its owner travels to New Zealand regularly to promote it – I know a couple of people who are "graduates" of this school.)

They all seem to follow a psychological model that is based upon clinical experience, not scientific research. For instance, a survey of British and American psychologists showed an impressive percentage that accepted the theory that going back in time to sort out causal mechanisms for present day distress is valid for at least some of their clients. Surveys were only analysed for those clinicians who reported conducting therapy sessions with 10 or more adult women in previous two years (145 American and 57 British psychologists).

The vast majority of respondents (85%) reported at least some cases of memory recovery amongst clients who initially claimed to have no sexual abuse history, and nearly three quarters of the clinicians reported that they used one or more memory recovery techniques (such as hypnosis or dream analysis). Slightly less than half the clinicians (42%) had treated clients with alleged satanic ritual abuse, but most of these cases were seen by very few of the psychologists – one claimed to have seen up to 60 cases. Only 8% believed that ritualistic abuse "probably does not occur" but most did not accept that all satanic ritual reports are true – only 7% claimed that "virtually all reports are valid".

Now this concerns me very much. Psychology as a profession was set up as a discipline composed of scientific practitioners. Almost all psychologists have to do some research – here it is a master’s degree for most, a PhD rarely, and a BA or BSc with no research requirement with a 2 year apprenticeship for a few."


New Zealand

Teacher falsely accused

A primary school teacher was found not guilty of indecently assaulting a 10 year old pupil. Six months after the event, she had claimed that he had touched her on the chest and between the legs. This was supposed to have happened in the classroom in front of 36 other students, none of whom noticed or commented on it. The incident as said to have occurred during discussion of clothing to be worn in a swimming sports race involving swimming with clothes on. The girl was assisting in the sports and standing in front of the class about 1.5 metres from the seated pupils. The teacher had told the pupils that the clothes the girl wore (T-shirt and shorts) were appropriate, and he says that he might have gestured with his pen, but could not recall touching her. A Tauranga District Court judge said she found it inconceivable that the incident that the girl alleged could have happened in font of 36 pupils without there being any other witnesses. He dismissed the charges.

The teacher had been forced to resign from his job by his School Board when the charges were laid and is now seeking alternative employment.

Bay of Plenty Time (14 Jun 1997), ‘Ex-teacher cleared of indecent assault’

Rugby player cleared of rape charges

Hurricanes rugby player Roger Randle was falsely accused of raping a South African woman, Charlene Donaldson, while on tour in South Africa last month. The woman had spent the night with Randle’s room-mate, Potu Leavasa. In the morning, with Leavasa gone, Randle asked the woman to leave the room, as he did not want to leave her alone with their valuables. She then went to the police and claimed that Randle had raped her. Both the complainant and Randle underwent DNA testing, and the woman subsequently dropped her charges.

NZ Herald (29 May 97) ‘Randle seeks Rugby Union help with huge legal bill’


Canadian teacher falsely accused

In January 1997 John Cox, a 57 year old teacher in Toronto, Canada, was accused of having sexually abused a student 18 years before. The first he heard of this was when his principal was advised by phone and told him he must leave the school property immediately. The allegations did not involve children at his current school.

By the time Mr Cox’s ordeal ended, 129 days later, his name had been splashed in the national media; a five-member team of psychologists and social workers had gone into every classroom of his current school; every parent had received a letter naming him as an accused child molester, and the police had called a press conference calling on other "victims" to come forward.

His 2 adult children, his ex-wife, his friends and parents of some of his students stood by him.

In May this year, the Crown attorney withdrew the charges. The 26 year old woman who had made the allegations about Mr. Cox subsequently accused three other professionals, and police failed to find any corroborating evidence. No other past or present students came forward with any allegations.

Mr Cox has yet to return to work. He is still suspended on pay while the Toronto Board of Education conducts its own investigation, despite the fact that the case has been cleared the courts.

Globe and Mail (24 May 1997). ‘Accused teacher gets education of his life’, by Jan Wong


Sex ring allegations found to be completely false

All twenty-four adults charged with abusing 16 children between 6 months and 8 years old in the German town of Worms in the early 1990s have all been cleared. The Mainz court dismissed prosecution accusations of widespread abuse by the final 11 suspects in the last of 3 interrelated trials which began three years ago. "Mass abuse in Worms never took place. That is the clear conclusion," Judge Hans Lorenz told the court. He accused one of the members of a child protection group which gathered evidence for the case, of generating misleading information by her highly suggestive questioning of the children. "There is no question that these children are victims. They are victims of this trial and they are victims of those who meant well but acted badly,” he said.

All the suspects (accused of abuse, organising child prostitution and filming their crimes) were acquitted, in many instances because their innocence was conclusively proved.

Reuters, Mainz, Germany (17 Jun 1997) ‘No convictions in biggest German child sex trial’


Rape claim in custody dispute

An Australian businessman David Steber was found not guilty by a Californian jury of raping his wife Robin while he was in the US attending a hearing to seek return of his 2 children to Australia. She had apparently made advances towards him then screamed "rape" in an effort to win custody.

Star-Times (25 May 1997) ‘Rape Set-up’

Convictions overturned at Wenatchee

Last year saw the arrests of dozens of citizens of Wenatchee, Washington, charged with sex ring cases involving alleged child abuse orgies in a Pentecostal church and various houses all over town. Those charges were laid by sex crimes investigator Robert Perez, assisted by zealous Child Protective Services staff, and the allegations were made mainly by the investigator’s own foster daughters, who appeared in court holding large teddy bears as they supplied data about mass assaults supposedly committed against them at the church altar. In the light of other trials similarly involving outlandish claims and coached child witnesses, Wenatchee convictions are being overturned.

A few weeks ago, the Washington State Court of Appeals threw out the 1994 conviction of Connie Cunningham (sentenced to 46 years). now they have also overturned the conviction of Linda Miller. It was on Linda Miller’s confession that prosecutors based virtually their entire scenario, with claims of adult predators and sex circles operating all over town. Written by the detective Perez himself and presented as a summary of what the accused told him, the confession traced an elaborate link of connections to alleged predators all over Wenatchee. Ms. Miller almost immediately recanted this fantastical confession, and which, she charged, she had agreed to make, under threat by Detective Perez, that she would never see her children again.

The Wenatchee story is still far from over. Some 20 people who accepted plea bargains in place of the huge terms with which they were threatened remain incarcerated.

The Wall Street Journal (19 Jun1997). ‘Review & Outlook Wenatchee Overturned’

Class action against social service

Eleven plaintiffs have filed a class action suit in a US federal district court alleging that the Illinois’ child abuse and neglect reporting system is unconstitutional. The plaintiffs claim that the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has unfairly named all of them or their minor children as "perpetrators" of child abuse or neglect in the absence of any adequate evidence.

One woman was asked by the Service to foster a child who had been diagnosed as "failing to thrive". When the child’s weight remained below average DCFS then accused her of child neglect. The woman has been fighting for 2 years to regain custody of the child and to erase the neglect charge, with the support of a paediatrician who is also named as a plaintiff. She says, "To DCFS, I’m guilty until proven innocent, but it won’t even give me a hearing to let me prove I’m innocent".

United Press International (11 Jun 1997). ‘DCFS sued for neglect reporting’, Chicago.


New Zealand

Rape Crisis Statistics

Rape Crisis has published figures claiming that most sexual abuse goes unreported. They have published their 1992-1996 statistics in a summary entitled "Rape & Sexual Abuse in New Zealand". They claim that only 1 in 10 rapes are reported; and of these 1 in 10 get to court, and only 10% of these result in convictions. These figures are at variance with police figures published last year which indicated that approximately 50% of complaints to them result in charges being laid, with about 50% of those going to court leading to convictions.

From the media report of the publication, it appears that Rape Crisis assume that everyone who makes an allegation about sexual abuse to them is a genuine victim, and they do not appear to acknowledge the problem of those who knowingly make false complaints, and those who sincerely but wrongly claim they have been abused.

Hamilton Press (18 Jun 1997) ‘Most sexual abuse left unreported, says Rape Crisis figures.


This Rape Crisis statistical report is hyperbole of the worst kind. The annual Ministry of Justice report "Convicting and Sentencing of Offenders" is the definitive document on prosecution and conviction realities. During the 1992-96 years, there were about 7,300 prosecutions nation-wide for all forms of sexual crime, resulting in about 4,200 convictions.

Rape Crisis say that it is a generally accepted estimate that only one in ten rapes is reported. Accepted by whom? Rape Crisis would have us believe that only 10% of 10% of 10% of rape and sexual abuse cases result in convictions. A simple test of that "logic" is to apply it to factual data.

The actual number of convictions (4,200) represents in Rape Crisis terms, 10% of those which got to court. Therefore 42,000 went to court. But these are only 10% of the reported crimes, therefore 420,000 were reported. Nine out of ten cases go unreported, they claim. Therefore the total number of incidents in that brief period is over four million.

Applying Rape Crisis figures solely to rape cases, claimed incidents in the 1992-96 period would be then be about 750,000 rapes. Mmmm!

Peter Ellis case to go to Privy Council

In a comprehensive article about the inconsistencies and injustices in the Peter Ellis case (where the former child care worker was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in 1993 on the basis of pre-school children making allegations including satanic ritual abuse by him and 13 other crèche workers), Frank Haden has outlined the grounds for his appeal to the Privy Council. These are that:

  • The evidence on which he was convicted is incapable of belief;
  • The exclusion of some videotapes of evidence meant that vital evidence relating to the credibility of the children was withheld from the jury, denying them the opportunity to make an informed judgement;
  • The jurors had copies of prosecution videotape transcripts with them in the jury room but no evidence of their cross-examination;
  • The domino effect that should have followed the recanting by the eldest and most credible complainant.

QC Judith Ablett-Kerr is to take his case to a privy council hearing in October in the hope of having his convictions overturned or at least reconsidered by the NZ Court of Appeal.

Sunday-Star Times (22 Jun 1997). ‘How on earth can this abuse case have happened?’ Frank Haden, C1-2.

GPs told to look for sexual abuse histories

Therapist Cynthia Orme is reported (NZ Doctor, ‘Sexually abused people need GPs willing to talk’, by Robin Sinclair, 11 June 1997, p 13) as encouraging GPs to recognise the "warning signs" and ask their patients about sexual abuse histories when their patients show these signs. Some of the signs she identifies are depression, self-destructive and suicidal behaviour, sleep and appetite disorders, anxiety attacks, phobias, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating and having distressing recurrent dreams. In children she identifies bed-wetting, soiling, anxiety or a general fear of people as "pretty blatant warning signs" of sexual abuse. She tells about a patient diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome by her doctor but "she had not talked to him about the real reason for her problems" [ie sexual abuse].


While it is agreed that it is important that patients feel comfortable in talking to their GPs about any number of personal issues, including past sexual molestation, GPs need to be cautious about assuming that the above warning signs (or others, with the obvious exceptions of markers of past sexual activity such as pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases) indicate a likely past history of sexual abuse.

Clearly adverse events in childhood can result in emotional problems as an adult. However large numbers of studies have failed to demonstrate that there is any causal relationship between childhood molestation and any specific childhood or adulthood psychological problem, including all those listed above. Sexual abuse does not invariably occur in isolation from other forms of child abuse, including physical and emotional abuse and neglect. Studies have shown that psychopathology appears to be more a consequence of being raised in a dysfunctional family environment rather than the result of any specific form of maltreatment. In one recent survey looking at five different forms of maltreatment of children and adolescents (physical abuse; physical neglect; verbal abuse; emotional neglect and sexual abuse), sexual abuse appeared to have the least effect on psychopathology, whereas emotional abuse had the worst effect. A review of the literature shows that not all sexually abused children appear to suffer either short-term or long-term harm (although this in no way condones such behaviour). Some people are hardy and demonstrate resilience; others are vulnerable and develop a wide range of problems, but their response is idiosyncratic and unpredictable.

What can be deduced from this, however, is that there is no way to work back from a symptom or condition and predict its cause. At best, a past history of sexual abuse may form part of a list of differential diagnoses. There is no way to know whether the irritable bowel syndrome in the patient which Ms Orme describes was caused by childhood molestation or not.

Research indicates that memories of childhood events may be extremely unreliable, and effected by a number of influences including the context in which they are recalled, and the effects of currents beliefs and attitudes . GPs need to be very cautious about uncritically accepting whatever their patients say about their childhood as being true without question, or subscribing their current problems to past childhood sexual abuse. The stories patients tell and the interpretations clinicians offer may provide insights into the meaning of an individual’s experience, but meaning should not be confused with history Whether someone was truly molested as a child, or the images they are describing are a metaphor for the powerlessness, vulnerability or violation they currently experience, their feelings are just as real. Clinicians can validate patients’ feelings but not the content of their narratives, except in those instances where there exists some independent corroboration of what they say.

Going to look for unsolicited claims that patients were sexually abused as children carries significant dangers for them and their families. Certainly GPs should be open to whatever patients want to talk to them about, but they must take care not to make assumptions about the cause of their current psychological complaints.


The Broxtowe case and the JET report

The 1988 Broxtowe case was one that involved allegations of "satanic ritual abuse" surrounding a case of multi-generational incestual abuse allegations in an extended family living on the Broxtowe Estate in the English Midlands city of Nottingham. Stories of weird rituals first appeared soon after the arrest of 10 members of an extended family on the estate, who were later jailed for incest, sexual abuse and assault. Their children were placed in the care of foster parents who, at the request of local social workers, began to keep diaries of the children’s ‘memories’. The diaries included bizarre allegations of witchcraft parties, human sacrifice, cannibalism, children being turned into frogs, and much more besides. Some of the stories were obviously ludicrous ("my mummy flies on a broomstick… I was murdered when I was a baby… I’m Superman and I kill the witches"). Nevertheless, social workers insisted that "the children must be believed". Several children gave detailed descriptions of tunnels underneath a local hall, in which satanic rituals had allegedly taken place. No such tunnels existed. The evidence of adults from the extended family was little better: one identified a house which supposedly had a butler, a secret passage and a cellar with 4 bodies in it. Police investigators visited the property and found that the story was a complete fabrication.

A Joint Enquiry Team consisting of police officers and social workers investigated the allegations and in 1989 produced a report written for the Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Constabulary and the Director of Nottinghamshire Social Services (known as the JET report). The report found no evidence of satanic ritual abuse and was sharply critical of the social workers and therapists who had handled the case. Although apparently intended for public release, the report was suppressed, apparently because of internal politics between police and social workers in the council.

In a book by Tim Tate, entitled "Children for the Devil: Ritual Abuse and Satanic Crime", the senior Nottingham police officer who headed the JET inquiry, Detective Superintendent Peter Coles, was accused of deliberately concealing evidence that wealthy individuals had been involved in the satanic ritual abuse of children. Tate accused Detective Coles of conducting a campaign against the social workers involved in the case and wrote that Cole’s actions had resulted in children remaining trapped in the misery of ritual abuse. In 1992 Detective Coles took the author and publishers to court for libel. Mr Tate and publishers The Octopus Group accepted that their grave allegations were "utterly without foundation". They retracted the allegations completely, apologised unreservedly and agreed to pay "very substantial damages" and all the officer’s legal costs.

Last month, three British journalists, David Hebditch, Nick Anning and Margaret Jervis, published an abbreviated version of the JET report on the Internet. All three had worked on the Nottingham case a decade ago. They decided on their action, which risked possible imprisonment, because a new British TV documentary series was revisiting the ritual abuse cases and claiming that children in these cases had been victims of satanic ritual abuse despite official findings to the contrary. This included a documentary "The Death of Childhood" on the Cleveland child abuse case produced by Tim Tate, which claimed that the Cleveland children really were sexually abused. The journalists knew they were breaking the law in posting the report on the Net but they did so to try and prevent a new wave of satanic panic from sweeping Britain.

The Nottinghamshire County Council claimed copyright infringement and won a court order requiring the reporters to remove the report from the Internet. By then several non-English sites had picked up the report, which had also been disseminated in New Zealand. The Nottinghamshire County Council also threatened the owner of a ‘mirror’ site in Canada with an injunction if they did not remove the report within 24 hours.

The journalists are claiming in their defence that large sections of the report had already been leaked by members of the police force and social workers. They claim that they have received the support of all of the members of the Joint Enquiry Team and are bringing in ‘high powered witnesses’ to bolster their case in their forthcoming court hearing.

(MSN NEWS ‘Council threatens Canadian ‘mirror’ site with legal action over publication of child abuse report’, by Ilsa Godlovitch; NZ Herald (10 Jun 1996) ‘Reporters risk jail over satanic panic’, by Camille Guy; British Press Association Newsfile, July 13, 1992, Libel Damages For Abuse Inquiry Chief; Observer (25 May 1997) Cleveland children ‘were sexually abused’. news Page 8, by Richard Brooks; Private Eye (13 Jun 1997), No 926, ‘Satanic Abuse Special’ by Roger Scotford)

More details in an introduction to the JET Report (link)

The suppressed JET Report (link)


Some additional light on the childhood sexual abuse-psychopathology axis

Levitt E; Pinnell C (Apr 1995). International Journal of Clinical & Experimental Hypnosis, XLIII (2), 145-162.

Excellent paper which explores:

  1. Problems associated with estimating the extent of child sexual abuse;
  2. Evidence indicating that not all victims are emotionally damaged;
  3. That recall of childhood events especially sexual abuse is vulnerable to distortion;
  4. That there is a lack of evidence supporting the belief that reliving childhood trauma is beneficial.

Feminism and sexual abuse: troubled thoughts on some New Zealand issues

Guy, Camille (Spring 1996). Feminist Review, 52: 154-168

Journalist, psychology graduate and early feminist activist Camille Guy has written a challenging paper which identifies, amongst other things, how the feminism in the 1970s and 1980s erroneously promoted the concept of women’s moral superiority; the denigration of rational thought as male and therefore flawed, and the representation of women as powerless victims of men. While feminism has served to bring the abuse problem into the open, she discusses how this faulty thinking has also "contributed to false allegations and over-zealous interventions which have destroyed lives just as cruelly as has abuse".

Can eye movements cure mental ailments?

Rosen G & Lohr J (Mar 1997), Skeptical Briefs, 12.

A critical appraisal of the use of EMDR therapy, concluding that the claims for this benefits of this treatment should only be advanced once acceptable levels of proof (not yet available) have been achieved.

Newsletters received by COSA

FMS Foundation Newsletter (June 1997) Vol 6 (6)

Reports a breakthrough in legislation in the US. In the state of Indiana mental health providers are now required to inform their patients about the risks and benefits of treatments. This means that therapists using memory-recovery techniques must tell their clients about a potential dangers of such treatment.

COSA offers a service to members of sending copies of FMSF newsletter at a cost of $30 per year (including postage).

FMS False Memory Support Groups Newsletter Canadian Coast to Coast May 1997 4 (6)

Includes an interview with COSA President Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith; an article by Dr Paula Tyroler and a reprint of Charlotte Vale Allen’s open letter, which was also published in the June 97 COSA newsletter.(here)

The use of the Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome in evidence, a talk by Ian Freckleton, 12 Jun 1996, Human Rights Commission.

Freckleton opened by explaining how both prosecution and defence have recently begun using "syndromes" to explain why or why not a person has responded in a certain manner. Some of the syndromes used in this way are the Rape Trauma Syndrome ( a sub-set of PTSD); the Battered Woman Syndrome; Pre-Menstrual Tension Syndrome; Repressed memory syndrome; and False Memory Syndrome. For example, the defence might use the Battered Woman or PMT syndrome to explain why a woman might murder her partner in cold blood but still argue that she is not responsible for his death; or use Rape Trauma Syndrome to explain why she told no-one about an alleged sexual attack until 30 years after it happened, but then tries to pursue a conviction.

The most widely used syndrome over the past decade, however, has been the Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome (CSAAS). This was first described by Roland Summit in 1983. Summit claimed that sexually abused children typically exhibited this syndrome. It required the pre-conditions of helplessness and secrecy about the abuse, and he claimed that the characteristic sequelae are children who accommodate to the abuse; make delayed, conflicting and unconvincing disclosures and later retract these.

This ‘syndrome’ became known to the courts in the late 1980s, and was used by the prosecution to explain why a child who made contradictory illogical allegations about long distant events and then later said it had never happened, should still be considered to have been abused. In NZ when psychologists first started giving evidence that such behaviour in a child supported the allegation of abuse, several judgements were made that considered that such evidence was inadmissible because it was covert evidence supporting the child’s credibility (something that was supposed to be left for the jury to decide). However, despite these judgements, legislation was passed through intense political lobbying, in the form of the amended Sect 23g, that allows a professional (eg psychologist or psychiatrist) to give evidence that such behaviour is consistent with abuse, even if this is counter-intuitive to what might be expected. Without such evidence, a jury might assume that it is likely that a child who temporarily has made allegations of long-ago sexual abuse but given contradictory confusing testimony, and then has said that actually nothing ever happened, has indeed never been abused.

In Australia, the Appeal Court went the other way from NZ, and has said that significance cannot necessarily be attached to the fact that the child has made a delayed disclosure and later retracted.

It is of interest that the inventor of the CASAAS, Roland Summit, became increasingly alarmed by the use of his syndrome in courts throughout the English-speaking world. In 1992 he retracted his syndrome, admitting that it was based solely on his clinical impressions and was not empirically research-based. He said that it should not be used in diagnosis, and that it was not a syndrome but rather a pattern he had observed, and that although it might be useful therapeutically it should not be transported into a forensic setting. There is no unique pattern of the effects of sexual abuse, and behaviours cannot be easily referable to the occurrence or non-occurrence of past abuse.

Unfortunately, it appears entrenched in the legal system and Freckleton observed that while CSAAS was often used in court, he had never come across a case where Summit’s retraction was mentioned.

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