COSA Casualties Of Sexual Allegations Newsletter July 1998 Vol 5 No 5
Contents of this page:
Editorial: Woman claims sexual violation by masseuse – unbeknown to her, a videotape still existed of her session.
Courts: No time limit for awarding costs
Man not guilty of rape and kidnapping
Intern recovers memories of abuse by specialist doctor (Canada)
Fraudulent child sexual abuse victim compensation claims (Canada)
Recovered memory lawsuit against father dismissed (USA)
Update on the Wenatchee case (USA)
Amirault case update (USA)
Souza update (USA)
Media: Virtual reality identification – memory experts Maryanne Garry and Alex Hudson at Victoria University, Wellington are developing a system of 3D computerised ‘line-ups’.
Children memory research $1.1 million funding
Prime Minister warns against exaggerating rape risk
Support group for male teachers
War veteran recovers memory of nerve gas use
Sportsmen are targets for false allegations
Literature: The price of bad memories Elizabeth Loftus
Convictions based solely on recovered memories Canadian Psychological Association Policy Statement June 1998
Case history: Jeremy and Tracey
COSA Annual General Meeting notice
A case was reported recently where a man was accused of sexually violating a woman (Listener, 30 May 1998, act of violation, by Tim Watkin). Common to so many cases these days, it was his word against hers, and at the start of the trial, Judge Robertson carefully instructed the jury not only to listen carefully to the evidence, but also to make a judgement of the credibility of the witnesses. In other words, the case rested on the decision as to who was the more believable, the accuser or the accused. As was to be demonstrated, deciding guilt or innocence on the basis of an estimate of credibility is a very flawed method of justice.
In the case in question, the man was a masseuse and his massage included touching in and around the vagina. This was very well known. He did this as a form of sex therapy to help people overcome sexual problems. It had been his policy to explain what he did to his clients; to ask them if they wanted to have the ‘full’ massage; get them to sign a consent form and then videotape the entire session with their knowledge. He did this to protect himself against false allegations.
The woman claiming sexual violation had laid her complaint a considerable time after she had had such a session. She claimed that she did not know that genital touching was to be involved, and that she had escaped as soon as she could. When the defence lawyer presented her with the accused’s version of events (including her consent and the fact that she chose to stay long after she was given the opportunity to leave), she denied these, sticking to her story that she had thought she was going to have a ‘relaxation’ session but had not wanted to remove her clothes nor have a massage. She presented as a genuine, reliable and credible witness.
Unbeknown to her, the videotape still existed of her session, which the defence counsel now produced. The video clearly corroborated the defendant’s version of events. The woman watched, looking puzzled and uncomfortable, seeing herself behaving in just the way the man had claimed. After 10 minutes she requested the videotape be stopped, but when defence counsel asked that she accept this as a true and accurate record of what happened, she refused. The video was shown for another 10 minutes or so until finally her ordeal was over. The Crown Prosecutor withdrew the charge. Judge Robertson later commented that it did not appear that the woman’s accusations were malicious; rather that she ‘had just had a recollection of events that simply did not occur’.
This case exemplifies something that COSA has been emphasising since our beginning: many false accusations are not deliberately made. The complainant genuinely but wrongfully believes events happened which never occurred. While people may remember past events accurately, memory is very malleable, and there are many factors which can lead to their memories being false. These people are not lying: they sincerely believe their version of events. They therefore appear very reliable and credible, because they are convinced that they are right. This is why evidence should never rest solely on uncorroborated testimony. Justice cannot be served while legislation allows this practice.
In the case above, it is probable that without the videotape, the jury would have decided that the woman was credible, and the man would have been convicted. He was able to produce extraordinary evidence to counter her allegations: an actual videotape recording of the incidence in question. For so many of our members who are charged on the basis of uncorroborated accusations, no such evidence is available in their defence. If a complainant sincerely believes her false testimony, his conviction is likely.
No time limit for awarding costs
COSA reports a recent Reserved Judgement of Justice Heron, heard in the Wellington High Court, 22 May 1998 [between S, applicant, and the Queen, respondent, T 76/92]. This is an important case which may have relevance to a number of COSA members.
The applicant, ‘S’, had been accused in June 1991 by his ex-wife of sexually violating their son when he was aged 2 to 4 years. The allegations had arisen as a result of a conversation the mother had had with the boy after he returned from a visit to his father, during a time when there was a dispute over the father’s access. The boy underwent an evidential interview, but the police advised the mother that nothing was disclosed which would give rise to a charge against the father. Five days later a second interview was conducted, again without any specific disclosure. The boy then underwent 10 to 12 therapy sessions with the same counsellor who had conducted the evidential interviews.
Nine months after the initial complaint made by the mother, the counsellor conducted and videotaped a 3rd evidential interview, in which the boy finally did make a specific complaint. The father was then charged by the police. During a pre-trial hearing, despite objection by the defemnce lawyer, the third videotape was considered admissible as evidence. This was appealed by the accused, and the Appeal Court ruled that the 3rd videotape was inadmissible. Because this was the only evidence against ‘S’, in April 1993 he was discharged under S.347 of the Crimes Act (which is effectively an acquittal under the law).
‘S’ was advised by his lawyer that it would not be worthwhile making an application for costs. However several years later he discussed his case with COSA Professional Advisory Board member and Queen’s Counsel John Rowan, who felt that ‘S’ had a strong case for costs.
The case was heard by Judge Heron, who was critical of the fact that the same counsellor had conducted both the evidential and the therapeutic interviews of the boy, which is considered unacceptable as ‘the rules of eliciting information are quite different‘. He said that the police should have ensured that someone other than the therapist should have carried out the interviews. Furthermore, given the age of the boy when he was interviewed and his age at the time of the alleged events he was trying to recall, that in any event the ‘case must have been fraught with difficulty‘.
The judge noted that ‘S’ had to borrow over $19,000 from his mother (who was a widow and not wealthy) to pay his $22,600 legal costs. He ruled that ‘This judgement comes five years after the discharge. There is no time limit for the bringing of such an application’. This is an important ruling, as there may well be other COSA members discharged or acquitted years ago who have good grounds to apply for costs.
The policy for costs is a contribution towards costs not full indemnity. The judge therefore ruled that the prosecution should pay $12,500 towards ‘S’s costs.
Man not guilty of rape and kidnapping
A man was discharged after being charged with rape and kidnap of a prostitute by the Christchurch High Court. The judge said that the complainant’s evidence was less compelling than that she had given at an earlier hearing.
(Christchurch Press, 13 May 98, Rape acquittal)
Update on Ellis
The Court of Appeal has rejected an application by Peter Ellis for bail. In March, Governor-General Sir Michael Hardie Boys, a former Court of Appeal judge, refused to free Ellis on a "free pardon" but referred his case back to the Court of Appeal later this year because there might have been a miscarriage of justice. This was on the basis of allegedly flawed techniques used to get evidence from the children, a newly discovered connection between one child’s mother and a juror’s partner, and the prosecution’s failure to disclose important photographs to the defence.
The Appeal Court now says that it is not overwhelmingly clear the 13 remaining convictions against him will be quashed. The appeal Court has also said it will only hear the case on very specific issues and will not conduct a full hearing into all the possible misjustices in the case. Ellis’ lawyer, Judith Ablett-Kerr QC, therefore will be petitioning Governor-General Sir Michael Hardie Boys for a Royal Commission of Inquiry.
NZ First MP Rana Waitai wrote strongly about how Peter Ellis was caught in the ritual abuse web. He says that when he was in the police force 7 years ago, he became concerned that "a new form of investigation had been developed for sexual abuse allegations in which the usual rules of police inquiry were suspended. We were later to see that new rules of evidence had also emerged and this was disturbing because such things change very slowly and never at the whim of fashion. What then was that whim of fashion? It is what I call the sexual abuse industry entering an hysterical phase in which the byword was that all males are rapists and all children always tell the truth. The proposition, apparently then embraced by policy makers, some police investigators and some courts was that any child who alleges sexual abuse will be believed come what may. The situation was then compounded by the emergence of a totally crack-pot school of thought that I will call the ritual abuse industry."
However, despite Waitai’s clear support, clearing Peter Ellis’ name and having the terrible errors that that lead to his conviction (and so many others) is still a huge battle. Not only has there been the decisions of the Appeal Court reported above, but also the police investigation into the actions of detective Colin Eade has completely exonerated him, even though he had had sexual relationships with 2 of the complainants’ mothers and had propositioned a 3rd while drunk.
Although concerned about Ellis’ plight, COSA feels that in some ways it is best that these smaller battles have not been won, as what is needed in this case is a Royal Commission of Inquiry. With every loss of redress from other avenues, this option grows more likely.
(Waikato Times 9 Jun 98, Court of Appeal rejects Ellis bail application; Christchurch Press, 11 Jun 98, Ellis team to seek inquiry; The Sunday News (Auckland) 14 Jun 98, Ellis caught in ritual abuse web, by Rana Waitai; The Press 16 Jun 98, Ellis Supporters Mock Review, by Martin van Beynen)
No double jeopardy allowed
The Court of Appeal has made a landmark ruling which prevents victims of sexual offences seeking exemplary damages through the civil courts if a criminal case has been heard or is likely. The argument behind this ruling is that people should not be punished twice. Four out of five judges agreed that exemplary damages against criminals are unjustified; one (Justice Thomas) dissented.
The decision was made in the context of the Peter Liddell case. Liddell is currently serving a prison term for the sexual abuse of 2 brothers. The parents of these boys wanted to also seek damages though civil litigation.
The Appeal Court decision will go to the Privy Council for review.
(NZ Herald, 24 Jun 98, Landmark ruling stops victims suing sex fiend; Justice failed our abused sons: angry parents; 2 Jun 98, Civil cases: why we can’t do an OJ here)
Intern recovers memories of abuse by specialist doctor
Dr Saul Markman, a blood specialist, has been accused of sexually assaulting a former intern at the Ottawa Civic Hospital 12 years ago. The woman, who was 28 when the alleged attack took place, developed increasingly vivid and dramatic memories for 10 months after her initial complaint to the police in 1996. Eventually she recalled that Markman had tried forcing her to perform oral sex, held medical scissors to her throat and threatened to cut off her nipples if she told anyone about the incident. The defence argued that the allegations are based on fantasy and false memory. The verdict of the trial is awaited.
(Ottawa Sun, 28 May 98, Doc claims memories ‘not reliable’ by Richard Roik; 2 Jun 98, Doc’s fate rests on credibility of victim’s ‘ recovered’ memory, by Richard Roik)
Fraudulent child sexual abuse victim compensation claims
Over 1,400 former residents of the Shelburne Youth Centre and 4 other provincial institutions have filed claims under a compensation programme, which has a $48.5 million budget. So far, 723 claimants for a total of $22.8 million have been settled. However many residential school employees who have been cleared of abusing children in their care and are now seeking costs. Cameron McKinnon, a lawyer representing many of the employees, says that the situation is one involving massive fraud, and as many as 90% of claims have been shown to be fraudulent. Many of those accused are now elderly and want their reputations cleared before they die.
(Halifax Herald 16 Jun 98, Jim Smith: Government trying to be fair, by Amy Smith)
Recovered memory lawsuit against father dismissed
In 1993 Attorney Carl Hyldburg had a suit filed against him by his daughter Sandra Barrett, who is also an attorney. Barrett claimed her father had sexually assaulted her over 40 years ago when she was almost 3 years old and again when she was 5, but she had repressed memories of these events until television movie about sexual abuse triggered them. She now wanted monetary damages from her father for emotional trauma she said he inflicted.
However Judge Steelman ruled that the jury should not hear evidence based on repressed memories. Because no other evidence existed that an assault had occurred, the case was dismissed.
(Asheville Citizen-Times, 22 May 1998. Repressed Memory’ Sex Case Against Attorney Thrown Out by Susan Dryman)
Update on the Wenatchee case
Carol and Mark Doggett, two of the people convicted in the Wenatchee child sex abuse investigations, have unexpectedly been released from prison by the Court of Appeals. They are awaiting a new trial. Arrested by Detective Bob Perez on 1,000 counts each of incest, they were convicted and sentenced to prison in 1995, despite the steadfast insistence of their daughter, Sarah, an alleged victim, that they were innocent.
The Doggetts were among 43 people arrested in 1994 and 1995 and charged with 29,726 counts of rape or molestation of 60 Wenatchee children. They were not among those accused of participating in sex rings. They first came under suspicion after they sought help from Child Protective Services for an incest problem they discovered between their son and daughter. Three of their four children said that Perez pressured them to falsely accuse their parents of rape.
Four accused: pastor ‘Robbie’ Robertson and his wife Connie; Honnah Sims, a former Sunday school teacher, and Donna Rodriguez, a parishioner, are now suing for about $60 million. Defendants include the City of Wenatchee; the Wenatchee chief of police; Perez; the state Department of Social and Health Services and several social workers; private therapists Cindy Andrews and Donna Anderson; and Douglas County Sheriff Dan LaRoche and two detectives. The four contend they were falsely accused of child rape and molestation and maliciously prosecuted in the 1994-95 sex-ring investigation. While Sims and the Robertsons were acquitted, charges against Rodriguez were dropped.
Recently a jury in a Wenatchee civil trial awarded $1.5 million to Juana Vasquez, a CPS case worker who said she was fired for, among other things, criticizing Perez and her fellow case workers.
The bulk of the 29,000 rape charges involving dozens of adults said to be operating a sex ring in the church or in nearby homes were based on the testimony of the 2 Everitt sisters, whom Perez had taken into his home as foster daughters.
Out of 43 people arrested, 14 pleaded guilty and 5 others were convicted. All the others had their charges dismissed. Those who pleaded guilty or who were convicted were all represented by court-appointed lawyers who later complained of lacking the resources to defend their clients. Sixteen of the accused, alleged to have committed their deeds dressed in black robes and sunglasses, remain in prison. Numerous children have recanted their accusations. Harold and Idella Everett, were jailed even after one of their daughters Melinda admitted she was pressured by Perez to accuse her parents. The Everetts say they were coerced into plea-bargain agreements that led to a 23-year sentence for Mr. Everett and a five-year term for his wife. They have been in jail since November 1994. Idella Everitt is illiterate, with an IQ of 68. She says she confessed because "I was scared and I didn’t know what to do" and that Perez had told her "if I would tell him something, he would let me go – he wouldn’t put me in jail." Earlier this year a judge recommended the Everetts be permitted to withdraw their guilty pleas.
The cases have touched 17 families, with nearly 40 children still separated from their biological parents.
Wenatchee area authorities had insisted they had medical evidence during the 1994-95 sex-abuse investigations to back up assertions children were molested and raped. However recently Dr Joyce Adams testified that she found no signs of abuse when she reviewed colposcopic slides taken during that period of seven girls’ vaginal and anal areas. She disputed findings by Wenatchee physicians Mark Shipman, James Jantzen, Douglas Eisert and David Cook there was evidence some girls had been penetrated.
One of the convicted men was Manuel Hidalgo Rodriguez, a poor migrant worker who did not speak much English. An Appeal has just been filed against his conviction. The Everitt sisters accused him of repeated rapes. Hidalgo Rodriguez claims that he was pressured to confess, but he maintained his innocence. However he was found guilty of sexual abuse of the younger sister, a charge added just one day before his trial. The judge refused to allow his public defender additional time to prepare his defence. Dr. Philip Milnes examined the older sister and told the judge that findings indicated that it was doubtful she had ever experienced vaginal penetration. However this evidence was never presented at the trial; rather testimony from Dr. Mark Shipman was used which claimed that colposcopic exam of the girl 10 months earlier was "100% proof" of penetration (Dr Joyce Adams says that she found no signs of abuse when she reviewed the same colposcopic slides). Furthermore, employment records now show that Rdriguez was not even living in the Wenatchee area at the times when the Everitt girls said he raped them.
In June 1996 the oldest girl recanted on videotape her allegations against Rodriguez and others. Asked why she had done it she said "Because Bob (Perez) forced us to."
(Seattle Post Intelligencer, 1 Jun 98, Court To Order Wenatchee Couple Freed, by Andrew Schneider; Times (London) Echoes of Salem in child abuse inquiry, by Tom Rhodes; Washington Times, Justice in jeopardy in Wenatchee sex case; Activists cry foul, seek federal probe, by Julia Duin; Wenatchee World, 6 May 1998, Doctor says she found no signs of abuse, by Stephen Maher; Wenatchee World 23 Jun 98, Sex case lawyers barely beat deadline, by Stephen Maher)
Amirault case update
Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Isaac Borenstein has ordered that Cheryl LeFave be granted a new trial at which the children may not testify. Judge Borenstein told LeFave that she was as much a victim as the children who accused her. He was very critical of the investigators who sent LeFave, 40, her late mother, Violet Amirault, and her brother, Gerald "Tooky" Amirault, 43, to jail over 10 years ago.
(Boston Herald, 13 Jun 98, Judge KOs Fells Acres case by Jules Crittenden)
Middlesex Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Dolan has ruled that 66-year-old grandparents Raymond and Shirley Souza can remain under house-arrest until she decides whether they should get a new trial. The couple were convicted in 1993 on child rape charges.
(Lowell Sun, 28 Apr 98. Souzas get a reprieve No jail for Lowell couple while judge mulls new-trial bid in molesting case by Lisa Redmond)
Virtual reality identification
Memory experts Maryanne Garry and Alex Hudson (Victoria University, Wellington) are developing a system of 3D computerised ‘line-ups’ to enable people to try and identify criminals. Witnesses will be able to look at the person from all angles. They will see the people one at a time and will not know how many they will look at. This will be a great improvement on identity parades of photographs where they know that one of these will be the police suspect, and are likely to make a choice even if they are not too sure.
(Sunday Star-Times 21 Jun 98. New virtual reality system a boost for police line-ups)
Children memory research $1.1 million funding
University of Otago researchers Mel Pipe and Harlene Hayne have obtained funding of $1.1 million to examine the ability of children to accurately remember and report early experiences over long periods.
This research has implications for the reliability of child testimony in sexual abuse cases.
(Sunday Star-Times, 14 Jun 1998, More money to test children’s memories)
Prime Minister warns against exaggerating rape risk
Prime Minister Jenny Shipley expressed concern that giving excessive media coverage to rape cases exaggerated the real risk of women being raped and generated unjustified fears.
(NZ Herald, 12 Jun 98, ‘In your face’ coverage of rapes criticised by PM)
Support group for male teachers
Auckland primary school teacher Garth Houtham has set up a support group for male teachers worried about facing false sexual allegations. The group plans to adopt a code of conduct regarding the appropriate behaviour around children to reduce the risk of false abuse accusations.
(NZ Herald, 23 Jun 98, Male teachers bond in support group, by Mary Jane Boland)
War veteran recovers memory of nerve gas use
Lieutenant Robert Van Buskirk is alleging that the lethal nerve gas sarin was used in a secret 1970 mission during the Vietnam war. Van Buskirk says he has recently recovered a memory of sarin being used in a Laos Village. He also remembers killing a US defector with a hand grenade during the attack. He says that he suppressed the memories on Easter Sunday 1974 when he was in prison on charges of selling weapons to terrorists. Other officers and soldiers in the raid, code-named Operation Tailwind, say that tear gas not nerve gas was used in the attack, and deny getting orders to kill US defectors or even seeing any in the village.
(Agence France Presse, 15 Jun 98, US army officer denies report sarin gas was used in Vietnam)
Sportsmen are targets for false allegations
Three wealthy US basketball players, Derrick Coleman, Chris Webber and Jalen Rose, were all accused of sexual assault. All charges were later shown to be false and dropped. In the Coleman case, DNA testing of semen from the complainant and her clothing could not have come from him. In the other 2 cases, the woman who made the complaint admitted she had made the whole thing up.
(Boston Herald Too many false rape charges, by Alan Dershowitz)
Robin Williams in MPD movie
Robin Williams and his wife Marsha will produce a film based on Cameron West’s unpublished autobiographical manuscript "First Person Plural". West had 23 personalities when he wrote the book, and apparently now has developed 3 more. Robin Williams will play the lead role.
(Hollywood Reporter, 12 Jun 98, ‘Plural’: Williams multiple choice, by Kirk Honeycutt)
The price of bad memories
Elizabeth Loftus, Skeptic Inquirer, Mar/Apr 1998, 22 (2),
Article documenting the case of Patricia Burgus, who was awarded $10.6 million settlement for having been falsely diagnosed with MPD. Loftus acknowledges the hundreds, possibly thousands of families devastated by repressed memory accusations who still need consideration.
Convictions based solely on recovered memories
Canadian Psychological Association Policy Statement June 1998:
The Canadian Psychological Association recognizes the very serious concern of child abuse and child sexual abuse in our society. The Canadian Psychological Association also recognizes that justice may not have been served in cases where people have been convicted of offences based solely upon "repressed" or "recovered" memories of abuse, without further corroborative evidence that the abuse in fact occurred. Developments in the state of our knowledge about repressed or recovered memories suggest that such memories, if they exist, may not be sufficiently reliable to serve as the sole basis for a criminal conviction. To the extent that some people may have been convicted of offences based solely upon the testimony of people’s recovered memories, the Canadian Psychological Association urges the Minister of Justice to conduct a special inquiry into this category of convictions.
Patricia Black, Secretary to the Executive Director Canadian Psychological Association (151 Slater Street, Suite 205 Ottawa, ON K1P 5H3, Canada. Tel: (613) 237-2144, ext. 31; Fax: (613) 237-1674 1-888-472-0657)
Jeremy and Tracey – Case history
Names and details of case histories are changed to avoid identification of those involved. Please contact the Editor if you would like to have your case presented.
Jeremy and Tracey first met in the mid 1980s. She had a past history of a schizophrenic-type illness and her problems included past suicide attempts and binge eating. At times she was troubled with anxiety and depression.
Tracey’s psychological problems were treated with anti-depressants. Several years later Jeremy and Tracey’s daughter Sarah was born. Tracey continued taking her medication throughout her pregnancy and until her daughter was at least 3 years old.
Soon after her daughter’s birth Tracey began to express concerns that her child might be molested, especially by members of her family. She started to read Sarah books about bad touching at an early age.
Tracey’s psychological problems, especially her severely fluctuating mood swings, continued, and their relationship deteriorated. They separated when Sarah turned three, Tracey remaining in the family home. Although not living at home, Jeremy saw and cared for his daughter on a daily basis for the next 6 months.
When she was 3Ã‚Â½, Jeremy spent the day with Sarah and family friends at the beach. Jeremy allowed his daughter to have a swim in a paddling pool there, but knowing that Tracey would not approve, all those present agreed to keep it a secret from Sarah’s mother.
Within a day or two, Sarah had told Tracey that she had a secret she was not supposed to tell her. Tracey claimed that when questioned, Sarah had said that her father had sexually abused her. Tracey contacted CYPS and Sarah was interviewed by two social workers. No notes are available of this interview. About two weeks later she underwent the first of two evidential interviews.
Sarah did not disclose abuse in this interview, apart from saying that her father had touched her bottom once with paper.
A month later she was subjected to a further 40 minute interview. After a number of initial denials, Sarah finally said that her father had touched her genitally. She insisted several times that her father had never touched her vagina with his hand, although he had wiped it with paper. After repeated questioning, she eventually said that he had also touched her vagina with his toe, his hand and finally demonstrated ‘oral sex’ with two soft toys.
These interviews included nearly all the features of what not to do when interviewing a 3 year old child. The child said that Daddy had touched his own genitals but kept insisting that he had never touched hers. Despite this the interviewer kept asking questions about when Daddy had touched her and appeared not to hear the girl’s repeated denials, because she later asked yet again about where she was when her father put his fingers in her genitals. Sarah again insisted that it was his genitals, not hers. It was never explored as to whether there is a non-sexual explanation to what she was saying, such as seeing her father urinate, and having him wipe her bottom with toilet paper.
The interviewers used a number of closed-ended binary questions (such as "the fingers; was that on the inside or the outside of the bottom?") which were suggestive in nature and directed the possible answers the child could give. There were a number of maximally leading questions during these interviews. A maximally leading question is one about which there can be no doubt about what the interviewer is interested in hearing about. In both interviews it was suggested to Sarah that she could not give the answers the interviewer was seeking because it was too hard to talk about, but once she got this ‘hard stuff’ talked about, she would be able to go. In her first interview she said several times that she was tired and wanted to stop. Her interviewer said that she had just three more questions to ask, but then proceeded to ask a further sixteen.
Although the girl had repeated many times that her father had never touched her, the interviewer ignored her denials, got out a body chart and asked her to show where her father had done ‘some things’ to her body. There was considerable selective reinforcement of her responses. Full attention was paid to conversations about sexual and excretory organs but answers referring to other body parts were skimmed over or ignored. The child was clearly educated that the interviewer was only interested in the "private" or "rude" bits of the body and that these were the "proper" and expected responses to the questions. Despite this, though the course of two long and tiring interviews, Sarah persisted in denying that her father had sexually abused her.
Finally the girl was directed to use two toys to show the interviewer what her father had done. Sarah put the head of one toy between the legs of the other. This was the basis of the allegation of oral sex, although when the interviewer directly asked what his tongue had been doing to his genitals, Sarah answered that she did not know, that she had forgotten. On repeated questioning, she said six more times that she had forgotten all about it. Never-the-less, this play with the soft toys was taken as a disclosure of oral sex by her father.
Between the first and second interviews, Jeremy was issued with an interim non-molestation order and directed to attend a ‘Living without Violence’ course. He was denied further access to his daughter.
A month after the second interview, Sarah was referred to a sexual abuse counsellor for ‘play therapy’. Jeremy was interviewed by the police who decided that there were no charges to be laid. However the Family Court and CYPS assumed that the child had been abused. A Family Court judge ordered that Jeremy’s access to Sarah be limited to weekly supervised sessions at a child care centre. Sarah’s mother ignored this directive and it was a further three months before the first access occurred.
A year later there was a fully defended Family Court hearing. The court-appointed psychologist said that although it was impossible to say conclusively whether or not Sarah had been abused, there was a moderate risk of sexual abuse having occurred. A second psychologist, retained by Jeremy, identified the deeply flawed nature of the interviews, with their leading questions and potential contamination of the child’s testimony, concluding that they were virtually useless and that they should not be brought into any significant account by the Court.
It was of course impossible to say categorically that the girl had never been abused, although there was no evidence that she had.
The judge decided that both Sarah and her mother would now be too distressed by unsupervised access. By this stage, Sarah had undergone a year of counselling. The judge ordered the continuation of supervised access but that this could be improved by using family members for supervisors. This has never occurred because Tracey would not approve anyone as a supervisor. He also ordered that Tracey attend counselling to help her understand why professionals might be saying that these allegations were not true and accept that her daughter may not have been abused. This requirement has not been met to date.
A year and a half later, Jeremy is still limited to 2 hours weekly supervised access with his daughter, which costs him $20 per session. He is paying maintenance of over $400 a month and lives frugally to pay off the last of his approximately $40,000 legal costs. The court has ruled that there shall be no more hearings on this case for a further two years. Sarah continued to see her counsellor for a total of 18 months. It appears likely that ACC is funding this counselling.
Restrictions on Jeremy’s contact with Sarah are considerable. All communication between them is monitored. He is forbidden to ask her any questions at all, even of the most benign nature (such as what she is learning about at school). He is not allowed to discuss family with her. His only source of communication with her mother is through the supervised access centre. He cannot ask Sarah what she would like for her birthday, and if she names something that she would like, he has to ask permission from her mother to give it to her. He has no ready access to her school reports nor her medical files should she be taken sick.
Jeremy has always adamantly denied any abuse or violence against either Tracey or Sarah. He is supported by both his own and Tracey’s family members who believe that the allegations were false and probably the product of Tracey’s ongoing mental problems. Tracey has isolated herself and her daughter from the rest of the extended family.
He continues to abide by the restrictions even though they preclude having a relaxed and natural time with Sarah, because he believes that even this limited contact with her father is better for her than no father at all.
FMS Support Groups Canada May 1998. 5 (5)
This newsletter includes a copy of Anne McLellan, the Minister of Justice’s response to Alan Gold’s letter (published in last month’s COSA newsletter). She encourages Gold to bring specific cases [of people convicted on the basis of recovered memories] to her attention, and she will ‘ensure they are thoroughly and promptly reviewed‘. She will also bring the matter to the attention of the provincial and territorial Attorneys General.
FMS Foundation Newsletter April 1998 7 (3)
Included in this issue is a report by Allen Feld (Director of Continuing Education for the FMS Foundation) outlining recent research by Elizabeth Loftus and Guiliana Mazzoni on the effects of dream interpretation. Thy have conducted a study which demonstrates the potentially powerful influence of therapists in creating false beliefs about events which never happened, and also indicates the potential harm that may be cause by using dream interpretation to establish the accuracy of client’s memory.
FMS Foundation Newsletter May 1998 7 (4)
In May 1998, the members of the FMSF Professional and Scientific Advisory Board met for the first time since 1993. They are a diverse group from a variety of different backgrounds, although all are committed to approaching issues from a scientific perspective. In less than 25 hours, they produced a unanimous statement addressing the current understanding of ‘recovered memories’. this issue will be published in the July / August FMSF newsletter and reproduced in the August COSA newsletter.
COSA offers a service to members of sending copies of FMSF newsletter at a cost of $30 per year (including postage).
New Zealand Skeptic, Winter 1998, #48
Skeptic Chair-Entity Vicki Hyde publishes an articulate response to the question "So why are the Skeptics giving money to convicted child abusers?". This is in reply to a member who resigned because Skeptics have donated money to the Peter Ellis Defence Fund.
COSA AGM 1998:
CHANGE OF DATE
Included with this newsletter is a notice about this meeting, as well as a copy of the President’s Report 1998. Please note that the date has had to be changed to Sunday 2 August – still at 2 pm, in the Northcote Citizens Centre, Ernie May Road, Northcote Auckland.
Please note that after a brief business meeting, at 2.45 pm, we will be addressed by experienced legal counsel Mr Rob Harrison. Rob has acted as defence lawyer in a number of sexual allegation cases, including Peter Ellis in the Christchurch Civic CrÃƒÂ¨che case. Although he appreciates the damage false allegations can do to the accused and their families, Rob’s talk will extend beyond those falsely accused of sexual crimes. His topic is ‘Fatherhood in the 1990s: what 21st Century fall-out?‘
This is a free public meeting: please pass the word, and encourage friends and family to attend.
A food contribution towards afternoon tea would be appreciated.