COSA Casualties of Sexual Allegations Newsletter June 1995 Volume 2 No 5
Contents of this page:
Editorial: Death-knell for recovered memory evidence admissibility in USA State v Joel Hungerford and State v John Morahan.
Daniel Brown, Bessel van der Kolk and Jon Conte were expert witnesses for the state, arguing for the scientific acceptability of the theory of memory repression and the validity of recovered memories. Expert witnesses for the defence, Elizabeth Loftus, Paul McHugh and James Hudson gave the opposing view that there was currently no known proof of this theory, that it is possible for people to sincerely beleive in false memories, and that there is no way to determine whether such memories are accurate or not.
Recovered memory family survey This is a questionnaire to be completed by anyone who has a family member who has accused another family member of sexual abuse on the basis of a recovered memory. About 100 surveys have been sent out so far and just over half returned.
Courts: Religious sect leader released
Literature: Caught in the Cross Fire – recovered memory epidemic "illusion."
NZ Psychological Society Bulletin Special Feature on Recovered Memory – features articles by 2 cognitive psychologists (Corballis and Pipe) and 4 clinical psychologists (Seymour, Read, McDowell and Swan) and clearly demonstrates the polarisation in this debate between the academics and the clinicians.
DSAC, the debate on memories of sexual abuse, accreditation, and the Glaxo Fellowship 1995 by Dr Juliet Broadmore – concern that Dr Goodyear-Smith was awarded the Glaxo Travelling Fellowship to warn doctors about recovered memories.
Correspondence: From a genuine offender in prison "I come across many men whom I believe are innocent…"
From a wife and mother "My husband was found not guilty of sexually abusing our daughters after they recovered memories in therapy."
From an accused father "I still do not know the details of what I am supposed to have done."
Features: Subscriptions message from Gordon Waugh.
Coming Events: Child Protectors and Clients: First International Forum,
DSAC Seminars: 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.
Death-knell for recovered memory evidence admissibility in USA
One of the most important events in the past month was the land-mark decision on 23 May by Judge William J Groff, New Hampshire, United States, regarding the admissibility of evidence based on memories recovered through the process of psychotherapy.
Two cases (State v Joel Hungerford and State v John Morahan) have attracted national attention there. Joel Hungerford had been charged with rape of his 27 year old daughter, Laura B, when she was a child, and junior high school teacher John Morahan had similarly been charged with raping his pupil Sarah F, when she was 13 years old. Both had recovered their memories during therapy and had no memory of these events prior to this.
The judge had ruled that before either women could testify at trial, the state must prove that "repressed memories" exist and that remembering them is generally accepted in psychotherapy. The state must also show that once recovered, those memories are accurate.
Daniel Brown, Bessel van der Kolk and Jon Conte were expert witnesses for the state, arguing for the scientific acceptability of the theory of memory repression and the validity of recovered memories. (Jon Conte was one of the lecturers DSAC brought to NZ last year to teach our professionals on topics such as "validating allegations of sexual abuse" and how to deal with the "backlash" which challenges the validity of some sexual accusations.)
Expert witnesses for the defence, Elizabeth Loftus, Paul McHugh and James Hudson gave the opposing view that there was currently no known proof of this theory, that it is possible for people to sincerely beleive in false memories, and that there is no way to determine whether such memories are accurate or not.
The judgement concluded that the testimony of the complainants should not be admitted at trial because the phenonenon of memory repression, and the process of therapy used in these cases to recover the memories, have not gained general acceptance in the field of psychology, and are not scientifically reliable.
This is an important legal precedent, making it much less likely that people will be charged with criminal offences where the evidence rests solely on recovered memories of the complainants.
Whilst in the United States this could be the death knoll for such cases, here in New Zealand we have an added complication. The Statute of Limitations in America means that one only has a limited period of time (for example, 5 years) to press charges after suffering an attack. In the case of recovered memories, however, this dates from when the memory was recovered, rather than when the trauma was alleged to have occurred.
We have no such limitation in this country. As evidence based on recovered memories has fallen into disrepute, there have been several incidents where complainants who have made accusations based on memories recovered during therapy to subsequently claim (and in all likelihood sincerely believe) that in actual fact they have always really remembered the abuse.
A case in point was that of an Auckland man acquitted last year of sexually abusing 3 of his daughters 20 years ago. Whilst the daughters’ testimony was completely based on recovered memories, one of the daughters later claimed (and continues to publically state) that actually she had always remembered the abuse. This is clearly contradicted by her initial statement to the police in which she had explained that she had only discovered her abuse in the course of her psychotherapy. This course of action has also occurred in several other documented cases.
Recovered memory family survey
This is a questionnaire to be completed by anyone who has a family member who has accused another family member of sexual abuse on the basis of a recovered memory. About 100 surveys have been sent out so far and just over half returned. Many thanks to all those who have filled it in – it is a long and involved survey. I would like to encourage all those yet to do so to complete it and return it to me. If there are parts you cannot answer, "don’t know" is always an acceptable response.
Anyone who has not received a questionnaire who would like one, please let me know.
Religious sect leader released
Spiritual leader of the Cusp Community, Hopeful Christian, who was jailed last year on convictions of sexual abuse of children in the community, has been released on bail pending a new trial. The Court of Appeal judges have ruled that the trial judge had misdirected the jury.
NZ Herald 4 May 1995
Woman’s appeal on murder conviction fails
A Queenstown woman jailed for life for killing her estranged husband, lost her appeal to have her murder conviction overturned on the grounds that she thought he had abused her children.
Pauline Brown shot her ex-husband William Rainsford with a shotgun and then a rifle. The Court of Appeal decided this was overwhelmingly a planned and deliberate killing in circumstances where Brown was possessed of only the slightest evidence of anything on Bill Rainsford’s part towards the children.
Man acquitted in sex trials awarded costs
A man who was acquitted after 3 trials of alleged sexual impropriety with a teenager has been awarded substantial costs by a Rotorua District Court. Judge Lance found that an experienced police officer had given inadmissible evidence at the first two trials. This included failing to note similar allegations made by the complainant about 3 other men.
NZ Herald, 8 May 1995
Childcare workers released on appeal
On 3 May 95 an Appeal Court overturned the conviction of Robert Kelly Jr and Kathryn Wilson, 2 workers from Little Rascals Day Care Center, Columbia. Kelly, a co-owner of the Center, was convicted in April 1992 on 99 charges of sexually abusing 12 children, and was sentenced to 12 consecutive life sentences. Kathryn Wilson was on house arrest awaiting the result of the appeal. The Appeal Court found numerous errors in the trial proceedings including the inadmissiblity of the parents’ evidence.
TV documentaries on recovered memories and McMartin pre-school case
Two recent television programmes have attracted a great deal of attention. The first was a four-hour special entitled Divided Memories, which had a critical look at the phenonenon of recovered memories. It included such gems as a case on a woman "recovering" the memory of the trauma of being stuck in a fallopian tube when she was an embryo.
The other, called Indictment, is an in depth look at the McMartin Pre-School case, involving bizarre satanic allegations made by numerous children following extensive interviewing by "expert" social worker Kee McFarlane. After a $16 million trial, all members of the Buckley family (including the grand-mother co-owner of the creche) were found to be completely innocent.
A selection of relevant books and papers received by COSA in the last month
Caught in the Cross Fire
Family Therapy Networker, Mar/Apr 95
Reviews some of the current debate regarding false memories. Says that in direct contradiction to FMSF claims that recovered memories are rarely corroborated, she has talked to therapists who report "fathers who admit, and apologise for, things their daughters recall after years of forgetting".
Concludes that although therapists may make mistakes at times, it is an "illusion that an epidemic of delayed incest relevations can be explained away as bad therapy alone. It is easier for the culture to focus its outrage on therapy than to face…it’s failure to protect children from real abuse".
The experience of "forgetting" childhood abuse: a national survey of psychologists
Feldman-Summers, Shirley; Pope, Kenneth (1994). Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 62 (3), 636-9.
250 American psychologists were sent surveys, and 66% responded. Nearly 25% of respondents reported sexual abuse as children, and about 40% of those reported a period when they had forgotten some or all of the abuse they now recalled.
Hypnosis, memory and the ethics of uncertainty
McConkey, Kevin (Mar 1995), Australian Psychologist, 30 (1), 1-10.
Concludes that "memory is variable and vulnerable. Hypnosis can help memory, hinder memory, and do both at the same time. The meaning and emotion people place in memory are substantial, and can influence… the behaviour of themselves, the professionals dealing with them, and many other people."
NZ Psychological Society Bulletin Special Feature on Recovered Memory, March 1995.
This Bulletin features articles by 2 cognitive psychologists (Corballis and Pipe) and 4 clinical psychologists (Seymour, Read, McDowell and Swan) and clearly demonstrates the polarisation in this debate between the academics and the clinicians.
Seymour, Fred ‘Memory and child abuse’, 28-36.
Suggests organisations such as the American FMSF and the British FMS are "simply propaganda agencies", and that the debate over whether false memories could be created is damaging the trust that the public have in psychologists. Believes that because of this "some survivors will be reluctant to talk about their past and will continue therefore to live with the consequences of their abuse".
Corballis, Michael ‘The repression and recovery of memory: a Freudian flip’, 37-42.
"Although recovery of repressed memories, especially of childhood sexual abuse, is often regarded as critical in psychotherapy, there is little scientific evidence that memories can actually be repressed. However there is good evidence that memories can be altered, even implanted, possibly by the very techniques that are designed to recover them. Therapists are urged to take great care in making claims about recovered memories. It is equally important not to underestimate the problem of sexual abuse."
Pipe, Margaret-Ellen ‘Remembering in extraordinary contexts’, 43-7.
Concludes that more research is required into memory, especially in relationship to extraordinary events involving stress and trauma.
Read, John ‘Child abuse and psychosis: why we deny the facts’, 48-55.
Believes that those who challenge recovered memories are part of an international propaganda campaign to"deny or minimise the prevalence and effects of child abuse".
Claims that a causal relationship has been established between child sex abuse and adult depression, anxiety, eating disorders, dissociation, PTSD and substance abuse.
Hypothesises that psychosis (particularly schizophrenia) can be caused by child sex abuse, and wants policies introduced for all mental health agencies to routinely ask their patients if they have been sexually abused.
McDowell, Heather; Swan, Eileen). ‘Ethical practice: working with memory’, 56-60.
"Some adult survivors.. do not remember all, or even any abusive events, and some memories are recovered with appropriate cues… There is no such thing as ‘False Memory Syndrome’. It is possible for some therapy techniques to induce inaccurate memories. Guidelines and suggesions for ethical practice are suggested".
DSAC, the debate on memories of sexual abuse, accreditation, and the Glaxo Fellowship 1995
DSAC (Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care) National Newsletter April 1995
States that recent media articles emphasising "false memories" is causing distress for many sexual abuse victims, and complicates and prolongs their recovery.
Expresses concern that Dr Goodyear-Smith was awarded the Glaxo Travelling Fellowship and that her viewpoint might be seen to "be endorsed by mainstream medical practitioners" when in fact DSAC believe she "does not present the middle ground" and gives a "polarised view.. strongly influenced by the FMSF". DSAC have written to Glaxo and the regional CME Co-ordinators about their concerns regarding Dr Goodyear-Smith addressing medical audiences on sexual abuse issues.
Beware the talking cure: psychotherapy can be hazardous to your mental health
Campbell, Terence (1994), Upton Books, Florida.
This book raises some hard questions about the merits of psychotherapy. It evaluates the effectiveness of different forms of therapy by reviewing the known research findings, and concludes that a psychotherapeutic practice may often be no more than a Rent-a-Friend business.
Normal for children to tell lies
Australian Journal of Psychology
Research conducted by Professor Beryl McKenzie, psychology researcher, Melbourne La Trobe University, concludes that the ability to lie should be seen as an achievement in young children and a sign of developing brain function.
A survey of 100 women with children aged 3 to 7 identified "a pervasive tendency for children in this age range to engage in deception for the purpose of self-interest". Previous research has shown that children lie for complex reasons, including to avoid punishment, get something they want, protect themselves or others from harm, win admiration, avoid embarrassment, conform with a stereotype, maintain privacy or demonstrate power over an authority.
Parents should be reassured rather than alarmed by their young children’s lies which can be viewed as an index of increasing cognitive sophistication.
From a genuine offender in prison
"I am here (in prison) because basically I deserve to be here. I am an offender, in fact on this occasion I disclosed to the Police matters which they had no knowledge of…. As an offender I come across many men whom I believe are innocent…
It may seem strange to have an offender who is prepared out this way and who has confessed and is prepared to speak out even about my own offending. I believe sexual abuse must stop and I will do everything in my power to help others face their offending. I get annoyed when I see the blatant uncontrolled over-runs of justice, where unsubstantiated allegations of women and minors carry more weight than the desire for truth, and heavy sentences given in marginal cases where the alleged perpetrator maintains a strong stance for his innocence.
What, I wonder, has happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ in our justice system?"
From a wife and mother
"My husband was charged with sexually abusing 3 of our daughters on the basis of memories they had recovered in therapy. He was found not guilty on all 6 charges. The jury decision took one hour 10 minutes. We were fortunate in having:
- an attentive jury
- a few original notes from the many counsellors (a total of 12, 6 for each daughter) – a number took no notes. The notes we got were so revealing, so overboard with not one fact having any bearing on their childhood, they were quite frankly ludicrous. This was the basis of a very large ACC settlement, as well as payment for prolonged counselling
- a number of good witnesses at the trial.
- an excellent QC and a hard-working barrister. The cost to 2 pensioners will be approximately $250,000.
This trial was about dreams and realities, with no witnesses. For us, no celebration.
I was so angry with the Police who had mounted no investigation, the Crown Prosecutor who had all the evidence from the Police 2 years ago, and more particularly with all these counselling women and their therapies – are so upset and angry at what has become of our daughters.
A good friend has told us we would be wise to forget the past, live life again, don’t expect our daughters to return, and accept it as bonus if they do. We do have two wonderful remaining children, grandchildren, relatives and friends. I accept this, but I know our missing daughters are fundamentally capable, in time, of again taking control over their lives, and we will be there for them."
wife and mother
From an accused father
"Last year my daughter , who is in her 20s, wrote to me accusing me of having sexually abused her over a number of years, since she was in nappies. She is receiving counselling from a therapist, with fees paid for by ACC. I have never sexually abused her, or for that matter, anyone else. I still do not know the details of what I am supposed to have done."
When we started in May 1994, we gathered new members each month. Subs were paid in the month of joining. When writing our Rules for Incorporation, we arranged our financial year from 1 April one year to 31 March the next. New members’ subs now cover the current FY. If they join between April and September, they pay the full fee, but between October and March they pay a reduced amount.
To sort out the transition period from our previously "loose association" to an Incorporated Society, we will divide the annual sub into monthly amounts, and work out how much each member needs to pay to bring their subs up-to-date to 31 March 1996. A notification of this will be enclosed with your newsletter.
The cost of printing and distribution of our newsletters is not fully covered by subscriptions received, let alone any of the other many costs involved in running COSA. If you can see your way clear to also making a small donation, we would all benefit.
COSA Inaugural AGM
Held on a wet Sunday afternoon 28 May.
Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith elected unanimously (by those present and by proxy votes) as President.
Currently the appointments are as follows:
President/editor: Felicity Goodyear-Smith
Secretary/area co-ordinator: Colleen Waugh
Treasurer: Gordon Waugh
- court support: Joyce
- access/custody issues: Peter
- recovered memory and counselling issues: Arthur
The initial task of a subcommittee is to clearly identify its aim, the tasks needed to achieve that aim, and how and when it will achieve this. Anyone wishing to have input into these subcommittees, please contact the convenors.
COSA Professional Advisory Board
COSA is very fortunate to have a number of eminent and well-respected academics, clinicians and lawyers join the Professional Advisory Board. There are still several others who are have accepted the invitation and whose formal response is awaited.
- Dr Denis Dutton, PhD, School of Fine Arts, University of Canterbury, Christchurch
- Mr Murray Gibson BA, LLB, Auckland
- Mr Nigel Hampton, Queen’s Counsel, Christchurch
- Professor Michael Hill, BA (Soc), PhD (Lond), Department of Sociology, University of Victoria, Wellington
- Dr Barry Kirkwood, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Auckland
- Dr Robert G Large , MB ChB, DPM, PhD ,FFPsych (SA), FRANZCP, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Science, University of Auckland
- Professor Elizabeth Loftus, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, USA
- Mr Michael Marris, BSC, Cert Ch Psych, MNZAP, Psychological Consultancy, Newmarket, Auckland
- Professor Richard Ofshe, PhD, Department of Sociology, University of California, Berkley, USA
- Mr Chris Reid LLB, Auckland
- Mr John Rowan, BA, LLB, Wanganui
- Mr Peter Williams, LLB, CM, Queen’s Counsel, Auckland
Child Protectors and Clients: First International Forum – a critical look at the functioning of Child Protection Services
Zeist, the Netherlands, 28-30 June.
I will be attending this conference to present a paper entitled "The business of child sexual abuse management: the New Zealand perspective".
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
Astrid Heger is a colleague of Kee McFarlane, Children’s Institute International, Los Angeles. McFarlane was the interviewer in the McMartin case, where interrogation techniques were shown to have resulted in numerous children making false allegations of sexual and satanic abuse.
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
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.
Violence and abuse within the family: the neglected issues
Senate of Canada
Free public meetings on 9 and 10 June 1995: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
These seminars will be particularly addressing issues of false allegations. Sessional topics include "The violence of wrongful accusations in familial conflicts" and "The abuse that is child-access denial and parental alienation".
Judith Herman seminars go ahead in NZ despite criminal drug charges
Judith Herman is another "recovered memory expert" who was brought to NZ by DSAC. 290 registrants attended Herman’s Wellington and Auckland 2-day seminars but she was apparently too ill to present the Christchurch one, which was cancelled.
Recent news via the Internet is that Judith Herman is facing criminal charges in the United States for the illegal dispensing of a number of psychotrophic drugs, including barbituates, valium and halcion. Apparently 4,200 tablets have been found to be unaccounted for.