COSA Casualties of Sexual Allegations Newsletter July – August 1995 Volume 2 No 6
Contents of this page:
Editorial: Acquittals of men falsely accused The processes that can lead to false allegations are being increasingly recognised, and people are being found innocent at trial or convicted prisoners released on appeal. Fortunately it seems that the recovered memory craze is on the wane. Professionals who have been avid proponents of memory repression theory are now saying that it is a highly exaggerated practice, and that practitioners have very few patients who recover memories. In my local newspaper, North Shore Women’s Centre counsellor Barbara Milne says she is concerned about the dropping numbers of clients alleging sexual abuse, which she blames on the issue of false memories being highlighted.
Dark Memories (Australia).
Media: Divided Memories A four-hour Frontline documentary on recovered memory therapy. (USA).
Social Work in Action includes a list of sexual abuse "indicators" (NZ).
Features: International Conference on Child Protectors and Clients Netherlands, 28-30 June 1995. We have just returned from this conference, which was attended by a number of professionals and representatives of Client Organisations from 15 countries in Great Britain, Scandinavia, Northern Europe, North America and Australasia. Conference speakers included a Dutch judge and a Member of Parliament of the Netherlands. Whilst these organisations were concerned with a variety of issues and problems, the common feature identified was a grave concern regarding misguided and incompetent Child Protection and therapy services in all these countries, with lack of professional accountability when mistakes are made and resulting harm to the children and families involved.
Coming events: DSAC – John Briere seminar "The Self Trauma Model", Astrid Heger "Paediatric Peer Review", Dr Arnon and Mrs Marianne Bentovim "Multidisciplinary management of allegations of sexual abuse in young children", Rape: Ten years Progress? an interdisciplinary conference, One-day seminar / debate on recovered memories with Karen Zelas.
Acquittals of men falsely accused
The past month or two has seen a number of acquittals of men falsely accused of sexual abuse. Many of those have not been reported in the media, partly because there is frequently name suppression of those involved, and because people being found not guilty of committing crimes does not make very exciting news.
It is very heartening to read some common sense judgements from our courts. In particular, two men have recently been awarded custody of their children by the Family Courts, after being falsely accused of sexually molesting them by their estranged wives. I hope to publish further details of these excellent judicial reports in my next newsletter. In the High Courts, several people have recently been found innocent of charges based on recovered memories.
A similar trend is also occurring overseas. The processes that can lead to false allegations are being increasingly recognised, and people are being found innocent at trial or convicted prisoners released on appeal.
For the families involved, there is however seldom much sense of victory. Whilst the innocent may have kept their freedom, they now have the task of picking up the pieces of their shattered lives. They may have lost contact with their children or other members of their family, they may have to sell the family home to pay for legal fees. They may have suffered loss of their jobs, their marriage, their reputation or their health.
To minimise the creation of false allegations being made, with all their ensuing human misery, a number of largely common sense safeguards should be established.
In the past there has been widespread acceptance of repression theory by the police, the courts and ACC. The Courts are only recently starting to challenge the scientific validity of recovered memories. The NZ Police have now established a working party to consider issues relating to repressed memory theory.
Minister of Justice Doug Graham is considering a 10-year time limit in the laying of charges from when the abuse is alleged to have occurred. The Solicitor-General, who is in charge of Crown prosecutors, is also reviewing policy on charges laid solely on memories.
At the very least, the courts should recognise that memory recovery is a hypnotic process likely to increase the certainty in, but not the accuracy of, the recollection, and should be alerted to the dangers of using such evidence at trial. There should also be reintroduction of the requirement for judges to caution juries about convicting someone on the basis of uncorroborated evidence.
Fortunately it seems that the recovered memory craze is on the wane. Professionals who have been avid proponents of memory repression theory are now saying that it is a highly exaggerated practice, and that practitioners have very few patients who recover memories. In my local newspaper, North Shore Women’s Centre counsellor Barbara Milne says she is concerned about the dropping numbers of clients alleging sexual abuse, which she blames on the issue of false memories being highlighted. The Centre co-ordinator claims that "in NZ, no abuse case has ever beeen solely built around the victim’s recovered memory of abuse". Some COSA members may beg to differ.
The good news is, hopefully many practitioners are now getting the message and are no longer using these dangerous practices.
Inglewood man innocent of male rape claims
A 33 year old Inglewood man was acquitted by Justice Paul Temm this month on charges of male rape. The allegations arose following a party he held in December 1992 which was attended by some rugby friends. Some heavy drinking was involved.
One of the party-goers later alleged that he was sodomised by a number of his mates during the party, including by the defendant, who was the only one he did not consent to. The complainant admitted he was grossly intoxicated at the time but claimed that he still had "a clear recollection of events". The charges were not laid until over a year after the party in question. The accused completely denied that the incident occurred, and no-one else present apparently backed up the complainant’s story.
The judge acquitted the accused 1Ã‚Â½ days into the trial on the grounds that no reasonable jury, properly directed, could convict someone on the basis of the evidence being presented by the prosecution.
The defendant says that the last 16 months have been hell for him. In the small town of Inglewood, everyone knew who he was. He has been unable to work since his arrest, and cannot return to the life he had before these false allegations were made.
Senior public servant for retrial
A senior public servant in Christchurch was recently tried with charges of indecently assaulting and sexually violating a young woman between March and August 1992. She has received ACC-funded counselling for the alleged incidents.
The man vigorously denied all allegations, some of which are said to be bizarre or improbable. He and a number of witnesses gave testimony that the girl had become infatuated with him and would ring him 4 or 5 times a day. Staff working with him had been instructed to divert calls from her and say he was not available.
The teenage girl claimed she regarded the man as a father-figure and that she continued to telephone and write to him because she did not accept that it had happened.
After 15 hours of deliberation, the jury were unable to come to a decision and the judge has ordered a retrial.
In the past few weeks, 3 men have been released from Australian prisons with their convictions overturned on appeal. All 3 cases were based on memories of abuse recovered decades after the alleged events, but the validity of repressed memories was not aired in the courts during their trials. One man has been fully acquitted of all charges; the other 2 face retrials.
Bettina Arndt, Weekend Australian, 1-2 July 1995, 28
This 4 hour Frontline documentary on recovered memory therapy was made by Ofra Bikel and Karen O’Connor and was aired on American TV in April this year.
In the words of Detroit News reporter Cathy Young, "both critics and champions of recovered memory get even time – enough for the latter to self-destruct".
What is particularly striking is hearing a number of therapists (including psychiatrist Judith Herman) claim that they believe their patients but that it is not their job to be a detective to establish the "truth" of whether their client’s father really raped her as a young girl or not before supporting her to accuse him of the crime.
Therapists are shown sincerely helping their clients to recover memories such as being stuck in the fallopian tube as an embryo or being sexually abused in a past life. One Centre declares all their clients families are seriously dysfunctional, and pressures them to "detach" from all the people they love in their life (parents, husbands, even their own children) as such relationships are unhealthy and co-dependant. The therapist takes on the role of "parent", and the other patients become their new family.
Wrongly-accused father hits out
A Taranaki man blames police and sexual abuse counsellors for the trauma he and his children suffered when his psychiatrically-ill ex-wife falsely accused him of sexually abusing their children. The man claimed the police assumed he was guilty, telling him"you did it and you’re going to jail". Psychologists later said there was no evidence of sexual abuse and considered the police and social workers had abused the children through their interviewing techniques.
The man now has custody of his children, but feels he has suffered a grave injustice in his treatment by the authorities, and even when acquitted, the stigma of such an allegation remains forever.
New Plymouth CIB Chief Detective Senior Sereant Joe Townsley replied, with what has become the standard line, that "just because a person may get found not guilty by a jury, doesn’t mean they are innocent".
Lyn Humphreys, Daily News, 21 July 1995
Illinois State Medical Society Resolution: 22 (A-95)
Whereas, Memory enhancement/creation techniques represent at best experimental psychotheapy of unproven value withthe potential to do harm, and at worst unmitigated pseudocscience; and
Whereas, These have caused severe harm to many patients and their families, and have destroyed many lives on a scale comparable to the Salem witch hunts of the 17th century; and
Whereas, the AMA has adopted policy 515.978 warning of the inherent dangers of such techniques, but the ISMS has no such policy; and
Whereas, State laws are needed to safeguard patients from exploitation by misguided or unscrupulous therapists and lawyers; therefore be it
RESOLVED, That the ISMS adopt and make public a policy on memory enhancement/creation similar to the AMA policy as follows: "That ISMS considers the technique of ‘memory enhancement’ in the area of childhood sexual abuse to be fraught with problems of potential misapplication", and be it further
RESOLVED, That the ISMS support state legislative efforts requiring informed consent before patients can be subjected to memory enhancement/creation techniques.
Satanic Panic: the creation of a contemporary legend
Victor, Jeffrey (1993), Open Court, Illinois.
A comprehensive analysis of the factors which have resulted in the urban legend that there is a secret network of criminal and fanatical worshippers of Satan who kidnap, sexually abuse, torture, sacrifice and cannabalise children. Victor demonstrates how networks of "child advocates", credulous social workers, police officers and ministers of religion have all helped to spread this unsubstantiated rumour, along with the testimony of "surviviors" who have recovered memories of ritual abuse.
Reccommended reading for anyone interested in satanic ritual allegations or cases of multiple personality disorder.
Gullible’s Travels, or the importance of being multiple, in Dissociative Identity Disorder
Simpson, Michael (1995), edited by Cohen et al, Jason Ananson, 86-134.
Convincing argument that Multiple Personality Disorder is a therapeutic artifact "linked to American psychobabble culture" and its incidence shows a direct relationship with the "degree of publicity given to multiplicity in the popular media". There is no scientific evidence that this is a naturally-occurring phenomenon, and the latter-day MPD movement shows many of the features of a religious cult". The author also states that there is no evidence that therapy which indulges "MPD" patients to be irresponsible children is of any benefit to them.
Multiple personality disorder and false memory syndrome
Merskey, Harold (1995). British Journal of Psychiatry, 166, 281-3.
Thoughtful editorial on the rise of MPD diagnosis as a consequence of the use of memory recovery techniques in psychotherapy. Professor Merskey says there is "little, if any, reason to believe in the validity of recovered memories," that the theory of repression "is not tenable as an explanation for sustained loss of memory". The World Health Organisation (1992) in the 10th revision of International Classification of Diseases, queries whether MPD exists at all as a naturally-occurring disorder.
The dark truth about the "Dark tunnels of McMartin"
John Earl (1995), Issues in Child Abuse Accusations, 7 (2) 76-131.
Parents who believe their children were satanically abused in the McMartin preschool case (despite all defendants having being acquitted) claim that tunnels have now been discovered under the preschool (extensive police investigations had previously failed to find them). If the tunnels really existed, then the credibility of the children’s other testimony would be enhanced.
"Believe the children" advocate Roland Summit continues to make written and public statements on the existence of the tunnels. Earl’s article critically examines the evidence and concludes that there is no indication that the tunnels exist.
Social Work in Action
Munford, Robyn; Nash, Mary (1994), Dunmore Press, Palmerston North.
This recently published text for social workers includes a list of sexual abuse "indicators" and advises workers to prompt their clients for sexual abuse history. The case history given is a typical example of a client recovering a memory of her father sexually abusing her after it has been suggested that this might be the cause of her depression, loss of self esteem and relationship problems.
International Conference on Child Protectors and Clients
Netherlands, 28-30 June 1995.
This conference was attended by a number of professionals and representatives of Client Organisations from 15 countries in Great Britain, Scandinavia, Northern Europe, North America and Australasia. Conference speakers included a Dutch judge and a Member of Parliament of the Netherlands.
The organisations represented included parent organisations concerned about inappropriate Social Services actions, organisations involved with separation and custody issues, organisations concerned with false abuse allegations and false memory syndrome associations. A list of names and addresses of these groups and similar associations in NZ is included later in this newsletter.
Whilst these organisations were concerned with a variety of issues and problems, the common feature identified was a grave concern regarding misguided and incompetent Child Protection and therapy services in all these countries, with lack of professional accountability when mistakes are made and resulting harm to the children and families involved.
There was a striking similarity in the problems encountered in all the countries represented, with many of the protocols and practices used identified as originating in the United States, and being disseminated by popular literature, training workshops and networking. The failure of Social and Mental Health services to acknowledge that false accusations of abuse can and do occur, and are a growing and significant problem, was seen as one of the most important problems to redress.
Several speakers discussed child care ritual abuse cases, including a case at a Montessori school in Germany and a number of creche cases in the United States. These bore an uncanny resemblance to our Christchurch Creche case, including details such as the initial "complainant" not being part of the subsequent allegations proceeding to court; suggestive and misleading interviewing of the children; selective presentation of evidence and the selective charging of only a few of the named "offenders". Nearly all these cases overseas have either resulted in acquittals or been overturned on appeal, often with damning criticism of the psychological abuse of children by the interrogators in their methods used to produce the "evidence". It appears that NZ is one of the few countries where the justice system has so far proved inadequate to deal with this situation.
The conference heard of horror stories of young children held hostage by over-zealous child protection workers. Videotaped interviews were shown of a 4 year old Norwegian boy Nikko, who had been removed from his family. At one time he was kept for hours with only naked "anatomically correct" dolls to play with. In another segment of the tape he can be heard repeatedly begging to be allowed to go to sleep while an interviewer kept badgering him for details of "abuse".
Swedish forensic psychologist Astrid Hollgerson presented examples of interviews of cases in which she had been consulted. For example:
Professional: Now I shall put these "if-questions", you know.
Pr: So, I say: If you should have been in Per’s home – what do you think it might have looked like in his home?
Child: (cannot answer but says that she has seen one of his rooms on television.)
Pr: But if you should guess what it.. or what you think it might have looked like in Per’s home – if you had been there. Do you remember that?
Child: I haven’t been there, you know that.
Pr: Yes, but what do you think?
Child: It must have been a kitchen and a room, anyway.
It was emphasised by professionals and client groups attending the conference that child abuse is a real and serious problem that all our communities face. There was considerable concern that the credibility of child protection services is being undermined by faulty practices to the point where their effectiveness is being ompromised. Child abuse is in no way condoned and requires adequate and competent legal and social services to deal with it. Taking steps to minimise the creation of false allegations can only assist in dealing with genuine abuse, by freeing up resources currently wasted by investigating and treating when no abuse has occurred. The aim of the conference was to look for solutions to what appears more and more to be a world health problem and to find ways to share information internationally.
Seminars organised by DSAC
John Briere seminar "The Self Trauma Model"
11 Sept 1995: Christchurch
13 Sept 1995: Auckland
DSAC are bringing back this American "recovered memory expert" to run two more seminars here.
Astrid Heger Paediatric Peer Review
Auckland, 13 October 1995
Dr Astrid Heger claims that tiny signs of past sexual trauma such as marks and scars in the genital region can be diagnosed using a colposcope (a vaginal microscope). This theory has yet to be endorsed by medical researchers in this field.
Dr Arnon and Mrs Marianne Bentovim "Multidisciplinary management of allegations of sexual abuse in young children"
7 November: Christchurch
10 November: Wellington
13-14 November: Auckland
The Bentovims have been active in promoting dangerous interviewing techniques of children in Britain and in Scandanavia. These methods utilise highly suggestive leading questions using a hypothetical situation (for example, "If he were to have touched you there, what would you have done?") and have been involved in several major cases of false allegations.
Rape: Ten years Progress? an interdisciplinary conference
28-30 March 1996: Wellington
DSAC have indicated that historical allegations of rape (including those based on recovered memories) will not be discussed at this conference.
One-day seminar / debate on recovered memories
Friday 15 September 1995, Christchurch
Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith and Dr Karen Zelas
Being organised by Child Protection as part of Dr Goodyear-Smith’s Glaxo tour. Further details in next newsletter.
1. For the falsely accused
FACADE (False Accusations of Child Abuse Damage Everyone Society Inc)
PO Box 8186 Christchurch
SAFAR (Society Against False Allegations Of Rape)
Mr James Donald Anderson #6952487
3405 Deer Park Drive SE Salem Oregon 97301-9385
2. Parent organisations
PAIN Soc (NZ) Inc (Parents Against INjustice)
PO Box 9214 Christchurch
PAIN (Parents Against INjustice)
Director Sue Amphlett
10 Water Lane Bishop’s Stortford Herts CM23 2JZ
VOCAL (Victims of Child Abuse Laws)
National Board member Ms Lesley Wimberley
11625 E Old Trail Tucson AZ 85730-5615
Accused Parents Aid Group (APAG)
Chairman Mr Edward Heron
63 Thomas St Dublin 8
Sozial- and Familienhelfer (SEM/KIND)
Muhlenstrasse 78 D-48703 Stadlohn
49 2563 97300
RFFR (Swedish Association for the Rights of the Families)
Bastugatan 41 S-118 25 Stockholm
Tel 08 658 21 00
Fax 08 658 21 88
Ouders voor Kinderen (Parents for Children)
Secretariate Dr Jan Wind
Bredelaan 15 1406 LN Busum
PESUE (Society for Family Rights in Finland)
Managing Director Ms Anu Suomela
Laitauulenkaari 3 G 57 00850 Helsinki
3. Organisations involving separation and custody issues
FARE (Families Apart Require Equity Inc)
Representative Mr Bruce Tichbon
PO Box 10733 The Terrace Wellington
New Zealand Men’s Rights Association
Secretary Peter Zohrab
74 Wellington Rd Wainuiomata
Lower Hutt 6008
Child Support Act, Action Support group
Leader Mr Paul Ireland
Tel 64 7 886 5502
Fax 64 7 886 6452
Families Need Fathers
Representative Mr Victor Parks
1 Kiln Walk Red Hill R11 5SW
National Congress for Men and Children
PO Box 171675 Kansas City Ka 66117
Tel 800 733 DADS
Vateraufbruch fur Kinder (Fathers’ Initiative for Children)
Statthalterhofweg 71 D-50858 Cologne
Director Mr Michel Thizon
BP 49, F-78230 Le Pacq Paris
4. False Memory Organisations
American False Memory Syndrome Foundation
Director Dr Pamela Freyd
3401 Market St Suite 130
Philadelphia PA 19104-3315
Tel 1 215 387 1865
Australian False Memory Association
President Mrs Irene Curtis
PO Box 630 Sunbury Victoria 3429
British False Memory Society
Director Mr Roger Scotford
Bradford on Avon Wiltshire BA15 1NA
Nordic countries FMS Representative
(Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden)
Eva odr Ake Moller
Paron vagen 15, 26262 Angelholm