COSA Casualties Of Sexual Allegations Newsletter June 1998 Vol 5 No 4
Contents of this page:
Editorial: Compensation for wrongful conviction or prosecution COSA argues that ‘The essence of a free society is the right of a law-abiding citizen to freedom of action without exposure to interference by the state’. The State has a duty to protect citizens from the unwarranted application of criminal law."
Falsely accused teachers While certainly some teachers do sexually molest children, it is all too easy for pupils to make wrongful allegations and be uncritically believed. Pointing the finger at a teacher gives students incredible power if they are angry with him (or her) and want revenge for being disciplined or sighted in some way.
Judge Elliott retires on superannuation, having faced three trials for indecency
Third party suing being tested in New Hampshire Joel Hungerford (USA)
Prosecution argue that knowledge about child suggestibility is not new Fells Acres Day School (USA)
Souzas may face prison (USA)
Media: Rape Crisis Awareness Week 4 -10 May 1998 – head of Hamilton CIB, Detective Chief Inspector Rex Miller said that Rape Crisis’ broad definition of incest was misleading the public. Rape Crisis spokeswoman Ceridwyn Roberts said their definition did not comply with the Crimes Act. "We go by our clients’ definitions". Warwick Roger was even more critical. He wrote: " I don’t believe them because I suspect the latest figures are just the most recent manifestation of the lesbian driven, anti-family, anti-men campaign that has been going on for more than a decade now."
Claims that ‘recovered memories’ are rare by Christchurch Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust.
Articles: ‘Barden’ Letter to the US Congress
Moral Panics, Witch Hunts and the Satanic Abuse Scare Dr Greg Newbold. "As the pitch of the satanic panic rose, it was almost inevitable that somebody, somewhere, was going to get accused. That unfortunate ‘somebody’ was Peter Ellis."
Regular Features: Literature ‘Professional help sought for emotional problems: coping with child sexual abuse in a Dunedin community sample of women’ and ‘Court-mandated treatment and required admission of guilt in cases of alleged sexual abuse: professional, ethical and legal issues’.
Notices: Annual General Meeting: COSA 1998
Compensation for wrongful conviction or prosecution
COSA has recently made a submission to the Law Commission in response to their Preliminary Paper 31: ‘Compensation for Wrongful Conviction or Prosecution’. A number of our members have also made independent submissions. Any member who would like a copy of our submission should contact Felicity Goodyear-smith.
The Law Commission discussion paper argues that an acquittal is not a finding of innocence and that not all those found not guilty deserve costs. The Commission says that if the wrongfully prosecuted were to be compensated, then people would be required to prove themselves innocent beyond reasonable doubt. This appears to be a complete reversal of a basic tenet of our justice system. Under our justice system people are supposedly presumed innocent until proven guilty. It must therefore follow that if they are not proven guilty, they are legally innocent. No-one should be obliged to ‘prove they are innocent’. If the state has prosecuted an individual but has been unable to present sufficient evidence to convict, then that person is innocent and should be entitled to compensation for the costs incurred in his or her defence.
The discussion paper identified that that ‘ultimately a policy decision must be made; whether certain hardships arising from the justice system are to be borne by the individuals or by society; and in what circumstances and to what extent’.
COSA argues that ‘The essence of a free society is the right of a law-abiding citizen to freedom of action without exposure to interference by the state’. The State has a duty to protect citizens from the unwarranted application of criminal law. No individual should suffer loss from the application of invasive criminal law, unless rightly and properly convicted of an offence which the accused committed.
The costs to an individual and his or her family for wrongful conviction or prosecution are high, both pecuniary (eg legal fees, loss of earnings and/or employment) and non-pecuniary (eg loss of home and/or personal property; break-up of the family; loss of children or other personal relationships; damage to reputation; damage to health; imprisonment). There is also considerable cost to a society when wrongful conviction or prosecution occurs. When there is public awareness that innocent individuals are being wrongfully convicted or prosecuted, there is a loss of public confidence in the justice system to look after innocent people and protect the freedom of the individual. Law-abiding citizens trust the system not to convict them of crimes they have not committed. Public confidence in the system will be increased if there is a perception that where mistakes have been made, the State takes these seriously and attempts to redress the damage it has caused.
The Law Commission puts forward the argument that the system has powerful safeguards against convicting the innocent (such as the rules of evidence, burden and standards of proof); that errors will rarely happen, and if they do, will be remedied on appeal. COSA argues that there have been a number of policy and legislative changes over the past one to two decades which have eroded those safeguards and mean that innocent people are increasingly prosecuted and at times convicted. Although a principle is that the burden of proof is supposed to lie with the prosecution, because no corroboration in sexual abuse cases is required, it effectively falls on the defendant to prove his innocence. It is our experience that the burden of proof has in practice been reversed.
In sexual cases, those safeguards have been significantly weakened by amendments to the Evidence Act which have lessened the need by the police to seek corroborative evidence. Other legislative changes include special rules as to evidence of child complainants, expert evidence and summing-up and precluding the cross-examination of complainants at Depositions. These legislative changes, combined with the approach of the Courts regarding dates and the absence of a criminal time-limitation statute, have significantly shifted the balance in sexual trials, especially those relating to child abuse. The task of counsel for the defence has certainly become harder. While safety nets do exist, COSA’s experience indicates the balance has shifted too far.
Allegations of sexual misconduct may be made that are so vague or relate to a time so long ago, without justification for delay, that it is unfair to place an accused on trial based on them. Especially in the case of historical allegations, which can relate to events alleged to have occurred decades ago, it is often impossible for a defendant to obtain evidence which would otherwise prove his innocence and secure acquittal. Some reasons for this include the death of key witnesses or their mental deterioration due to normal ageing, the failure of memory over lengthy periods of time, the loss of documentary evidence (eg by fire, routine destruction, or simply lost). It is now established practice to use specimen charges, particularly in sexual abuse cases. Specimen charges now commonly span as many as five years, and relate to alleged conduct in excess of 30 years old. From our experience, it appears that the combination of these two factors are widely used when police are unable to define with accuracy that the conduct alleged actually occurred on specific dates, or in specific weeks or months. This adds a further impediment to a fair trial.
In our submission we are asking only for limited compensation, which we appreciate will disappoint some of our members. However we believe our proposal is realistic and workable. It has advantages of simplicity, clear limits and practicality, as well as likely cost reductions in other areas of the justice system. In summary, our recommendations are:
- Reimbursement of actual and reasonable defence legal costs in criminal cases where the penalty upon conviction attracts a term of imprisonment;
- The threshold placed at the level of individuals prosecuted but acquitted, and extended to those having convictions quashed on appeal, or receiving pardon;
- Compensation based on the national average wage of the day for those who have wrongly served part or all of a prison sentence, but not including any consideration of non-pecuniary losses;
- Reimbursement and compensation by way of an automatic order made by the Court which dealt with the case;
- Further pecuniary losses sustained in individual cases to be decided by an Independent Tribunal.
- While ‘costs’ are theoretically possible to win now, they are not automatic, difficult to get awarded and seldom if ever cover the real sum spent by the falsely accused. For example, one of our members, a 26-year-old Auckland storeman, was accused of abusing his daughter when she was two. The girl told the court she knew about the incidents "because Nana told me." After his acquittal the judge awarded him $35,000 in costs, but he was still $16,000 out of pocket, a considerable sum for a man earning $440 a week. Another member is a 59 year old man whose adult daughters had claimed " recovered memories" of incidents which they claimed happened when they were as young as six months. Following acquittal, he was awarded $10,400 in costs. His legal bills were $125,000.
Falsely accused teachers
COSA has had a number of falsely accused teachers contact us in recent months. While certainly some teachers do sexually molest children, it is all too easy for pupils to make wrongful allegations and be uncritically believed. Pointing the finger at a teacher gives students incredible power if they are angry with him (or her) and want revenge for being disciplined or sighted in some way.
The case of acquitted ex-teacher Dr John Edgar, reported in our Courts section, demonstrates this well. Police chose to believe the boys rather than Edgar and other witnesses including fellow teachers. By all accounts, Edgar was an excellent teacher, and his loss from the profession depletes the already tiny pool of men prepared to teach in the 1990s.
Edgar has called on male teachers to quit in interests of their safety. COSA can appreciate his concern, and endorses his claim that teaching leaves them wide open to sex abuse charges. However we are gravely concerned by the loss of men from our schools. With the excessive rise in children being brought up by solo mothers in the past 2 decades, so many children lack any male role models in their homes. And not only are men too frightened to teach – they are also wary of being sports coaches; scout masters or instructors of other extra-curriculum activities for fear that they are accused.
The protective actions now promoted for teachers such as avoiding all touching of children and never being alone with a child may help prevent some from being accused. However they are not sufficient for all. COSA knows of cases (including the Edgar case) where the abuse was supposed to have occurred in full view of pupils and/or teachers, yet the police persisted because they believed the child complainants’ testimony. The non-touch policy may be useful, but it is tragic that a teacher cannot comfort and clean up an injured child; lend a shoulder to the deeply distressed; reward an achievement with a pat on the back, or offer physical support in gymnastics without being accused of ‘inappropriate touching’. Nor are these measures realistic. Teachers may find themselves alone with pupils no matter how hard they try – a child might enter the classroom where a teacher is working alone during a break; some subjects such as music tuition are expected to be taught on a one-to-one basis.
The New Zealand Education Institute (which acts as a teachers’ union) is minimising the problem. They recently stated in a teachers’ publication (Eduvac 4 May 1998, sexual misconduct allegations a rare occurrence: NZEI Chief, 3) that it is rare for teachers to face false allegation charges. From the many stories were have heard from NZ teachers over the years, COSA would have to disagree.
Part of the problem is the never-ending expansion of the definition of ‘sexual abuse’ and the instruction students get from pre-school days about ‘bad touch’ and the terrible psychological damage it causes. This environment makes it all too easy for children to misinterpret or distort innocent acts as having sexual ‘intent’.
They may also decide retrospectively that a sexual encounter must have been ‘abusive’ because a boy or girl-friend has rejected them, or they have fallen out. Recently 201 girls and 176 boys aged 16 to 18, from 45 Auckland High Schools, were surveyed about sexual abuse experiences. The results, published in the CYPS publication Social Work Now, found that nearly half of the boys and 65% of the girls had experienced ‘sexual abuse’ while dating. Abuse was defined from unwanted kissing through to sexual intercourse. Most adults will recall adolescent sexuality as minefield to navigate. Early sexual experiences might be exciting, painful, confusing, over-whelming. While in no way endorsing unwanted sexual advances being forced on teenagers by their peers, I suspect that in many instances the mutual fumblings of inexperienced sexually aroused teenagers are being excessively elevated to the status of ‘sexual abuse’. One of the dangers of this definition, of course, is that serious sexual molestation gets trivialised.
School teacher acquitted
Seven pupils at Hukanui Primary School in Hamilton accused 38 year old teacher Dr John Edgar of touching, rubbing or staring at their penises between 1991 and 1997. The oldest complainant is now aged 15. Edgar describes the allegations as ‘absolutely weird’. Some of them were supposed to have occurred in the playground in front of other students and teachers. Edgar believes the accusations were made up by one group of children at the school. "They were just the result of a group of children who knew each other … who made up stupid stories … it just developed some sort of a nightmarish life of itself," he said.
Edgar, who has a doctorate in history, described the police investigation as "sloppy". Edgar said that there were a number of teachers at the school who would have backed him up, but the police did not interview them. They did interview a student teacher and a teacher at the school, who were able to show the allegations were false, but the police did not use their evidence.
During the trial, the school principal gave evidence against him, while several parents and teachers appeared in his defence.
A Hamilton District Court jury found him not guilty of all 8 charges, to the elation of Edgar and his supporters.
The case had been investigated by Detective Constable Neil Burgess and Detective Chief Inspector Rex Miller defended police handling of the investigation. Mr Miller said that the investigation had been conducted thoroughly, and the Crown and Police were happy with the evidence from the children. "Had we doubted them, we would not have taken them to court as witnesses," he said. As usual, no apology is forthcoming from the police who, from their comments, still appear to believe the child complainants and assume Edgar is guilty despite his acquittal
Edgar resigned from teaching on his arrest in November 1997. His career destroyed, he feels very bitter and is advising men to avoid teaching as too dangerous a career in the current climate.
(Waikato Times 29 Apr 1998 Not Guilty Cheers, tears at acquittal, by Gordon Jon Thompson
Teenage boy makes false allegation
Police investigating the kidnapping and sexual violation of a 13 year old boy in Manurewa, Auckland, dropped the investigation after the boy admitted making up the accusation.
(Sunday Star-Times, No case, 12 Apr 1998)
Man acquitted of rape
Andrew Jepson, a 25 year old Christchurch man, has been found not guilty of raping a woman by a Christchurch district Court jury. The woman had met Jepson at a night-club, and he had returned to stay with her at her home. She said that she had dreamed about having sex during the night, and then woke up to find that Jepson had had sex with her. Jepson said that the sex has been consensual.
(Christchurch Press, Rape-accused acquitted, 6 May 1998)
Male nurse not guilty of abusing patient
A male nurse was accused of sexually abusing a teenaged hospital patient between 1976 and 1979. The complainant did not make the allegations until the late 1990s when he revisited the hospital (which now treats drug addicts and alcoholics) and claims he had memories ‘stirred up’ of the alleged abuse. The defence lawyer told the court that the complainant was both violent and dishonest, with convictions for raping a elderly woman in 1987 and others for assaulting women. He said that the story was made up out of revenge, with the complainant having threatened the nurse that he would ‘get him’.
A Christchurch District Court jury took less than 3 hours to find the nurse not guilty on all counts.
(Christchurch Press, Sex-case acquittal, 7 Apr 1998)
Woman charged with making false rape claim
In Feb this year a 45 year old woman was tied up and sexually assaulted in her Orakei home. Her attacker is described as a Maori or pacific Island man in his 20s, of athletic build. On 22 Apr a 25 year old woman from the same street reported to the police that she had been grabbed by an attacker outside the door of her house. He had slashed her clothes off with a knife and tried to rape her. She had fought him off but suffered cuts to her face and hands. From her description, the police believed it was the same attacker and resident in the area were warned to secure their homes and protect themselves against this serial rapist. The woman was interviewed on national TV on the Holmes Show about her experience.
On 11 May the 25 year old woman reported to the police that she came home to find a note made of cut-out newspaper letters in her kitchen from the offender, threatening to come back and ‘do her properly’. It was reported in the paper on 13 May that the police were keeping guard outside her home all night to protect her.
The following day, the paper reported that the woman had now been charged with making a false complaint. She was not named. The original sex attack on the 45 year old woman is still unsolved.
(NZ Herald, 13 May 1998, Sex attack suspect leaves calling card at victim’s door; 14 May 1998, Residents shocked at false claim charges)
Judge Elliott retires on superannuation
Having faced three trials for indecency against two sisters and a boy (alleged to have occurred between 1970 and 1984), which resulted in acquittal with respect to the female complainants but hung juries with respect to the boy, the Solicitor-General issued a stay of proceedings against Lower Hutt District Court judge Ross Elliott.
Elliott had been on full pay of $163,000 per year since his arrest in December 1996. He has now retired on a tax-fee annual superannuation of $61,800, on the grounds of ill health. Elliott suffers from a progressive neurological condition which has been aggravated by the stress resulting from the court proceedings.
(NZ Herald 7 Apr 98, Sex-case judge’s super is $62,000)
Ellis applying for bail
Judith Ablett-Kerr, QC Ellis’ lawyer made a special request to Justice Minister Doug Graham for Ellis to be released pending his 2nd Court of Appeal hearing. The application was declined, but now that the Court of Appeal has formally received the matter, Ablett-Kerr has applied for bail. That decision is still pending. At this point, it seem likely that the Appeal will be heard in September.
(The Press (Christchurch) 28 Apr 98, Ellis denied special release; The Dominion (Wellington), 11 May 98, Ellis may get chance for bail)
Murderess claims to be suffering from multiple personality disorder
In the late 1980s, Theresa Glaremin (aged 48) was serving, in Kingston’s Prison For Women, a sentence for manslaughter in the death of an elderly woman. She had a past history of mental disorders for which she had previously been hospitalised. Although never diagnosed before with multiple personality disorder, a registered psychologist Julie Darke diagnosed Glaremin as suffering from a multiple personality disorder with 22 identities. Glaremin was released in 1993 before her therapy was finished.
She has since been convicted of the murder of Lynn Larose in 1997, after pleading not guilty. Her lawyer now claims that she is criminally insane and should be sent to a mental institution, not a prison. There certainly appears to be considerable evidence that Glaremin has a long-standing mental disorder, but whether or not this is due to sexual abuse as a child causing multiple personality disorder (as claimed by her therapists) appears far more open to question.
(Kingston Whig Standard, 9 Apr 98 by Shawn Thompson)
False memory’s victims languish in jail
In the late 1980s Donna Cole(a pseudonym), a woman from Ontario, Canada, had memories ‘surface’ of events she had ‘repressed’ for 25 years. She vividly remembered her father Gerald Cole (also a pseudonym) sexually molesting her from age 18 months. She said he put her baby brother in a roasting pan and popped it in the oven. She ‘saw’ her father kill a female hitchhiker with a shovel and bury her remains in a yard. After she led police to the site, they dug up "About 1,350 chicken bones, one moose hide, two rotten cabbages and two dead frogs. And no body."
Donna’s memories first began as ‘flashbacks’ after her therapist, Dr. John Ledger, suggested that she read The Courage To Heal. Initially, Donna identified one of her brothers as her abuser. She stated that her father was not involved. But after more sessions, that story changed dramatically and following several months of investigation, her father was charged.
Despite complete lack of evidence, Gerald was convicted of six of the seven charges relating to assaults on his daughter, plus one charge of assaulting his wife. and sentenced to 6 years in prison in 1994.
The case went to the Ontario Court of Appeal in 1996. The court upheld the convictions, but confessed to having grave reservations, particularly about the complainant’s memories from under age 2. Also of concern were Donna’s accounts of the hitchhiker’s murder, Gerald’s alleged attack on the family dog, forced fellatio after the young girl’s tonsillectomy, and the fact she claimed to have repressed any memory of an abortion.
A further appeal was made to the Supreme Court of Canada. Gerald’s lawyer located the neighbour — the purported victim of an anal rape by Gerald – in the United States. The man swore an affidavit that no such attack took place. The complainant also changed her recollection of where the hitchhiker was buried after a purported psychic suggested a different spot. Despite this fresh evidence, the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear the further appeal.
Gerald Cole remains in prison, one of up to three dozen people there for crimes that may never have happened, but are based on ‘recovered memories’.
(Globe and Mail 9 May 1998. Syndrome discredited but convictions still stand, by Kirk Makin)
MPD therapist settles malpractice suit with clients
Three Canadian women, Gail Lebreton, Bonnie Mowery and Connie Nickerson, have received an out-of-court settlement for a malpractice suit against their therapist, Dale Ault. The settlement sum is undisclosed, but their lawyer says that his clients are ‘satisfied’.
After seeing him for counselling for problems ranging from an eating disorder to low self-esteem to marital difficulties, Ault had diagnosed them all as having multiple personality disorder (MPD). He diagnosed one as having 81 personalities. Their mental health got worse during therapy. They became suicidal, self-mutilating, and lost their jobs.
Lebreton says that she feel very guilty at having viewed her father as a monster, when she now knows that he never harmed her physically or sexually. Her own children also suffered from her neglect while she was consumed by her therapy. it was only when she took a 4 week holiday that she began to feel better. She looked at all the women in her support group (all Aut’s patients) and saw how victimised they were, scarred from cutting themselves, and realised that something was terribly wrong. She has now made peace with her family.
Ault has apparently moved the US, where he has a further law suit pending.
(Globe and Mail 2nd May 1998, pp. D1-D2, Multiple Personality Disorder: The Many Faces of a Fad by Donna Laframboise)
Falsely accused man exonerated posthumously
In 1984 a Norwegian man, Atle Hage, was found guilty of sexually abusing his son Oystein and daughter, Nina and given a 3 year sentence. He consistently claimed that he had never molested them, and the children also claimed that they had never been abused, but they were not allowed to testify at his trial. The charges had been made by his ex-wife after a bitter divorce and custody battle for the children.
In 1987, aged 40, Hage killed himself, having been unable to clear his name. Finally in April 1998, his children (now adults) went to court to clear their father’s name. The prosecutor recommended a posthumous acquittal, noting dissatisfaction in the way the psychologists who had given evidence at his trial had simply accepted the mother’s word in the absence of any other evidence and in the face of denials by the children and their father.
(Associated Press, 24 Apr 98. Man Exonerated Years After Suicide. Oslo, Norway.
Another wrongfully accused man commits suicide
A 60 year old fisherman killed himself after having been convicted of sadistic, sexual abuse. Police have now admitted that the allegations were false. They got suspicious after the girl who had made the charges against him went on to press similar claims against other men shortly after her family had moved away to a new place.
(Dagbladet, Oslo, Norway, 26 April, 1998 Wrongfully convicted man commits suicide)
Therapists can be held responsible for damage to third parties
When Nicole Althaus was 15, she told a counsellor that "her father had touched her inappropriately". Allegheny County Children and Youth Services officials referred the matter to the police, who arrested Nicole’s father, Richard Althaus, and charged him with sexual abuse. Nicole was referred to Judith Cohen, a psychiatrist at a University of Pittsburgh clinic. Nicole’s accusations against her father grew to include ritualistic torture and murder of several babies that she claimed to have had. Both her father and her mother were arrested on more than one occasion. The therapist was actively involved in criminal proceedings against Nicole’s parents and testified that she believed that Nicole had been abused. A court-appointed psychiatrist testified that the girl suffered from borderline personality disorder and that he did not believe that she had ever been abused. The charges were then dropped.
Nicole’s parents then sought whether they are legally entitled to sue the psychiatrist for misdiagnosis of childhood sexual abuse which had developed into satanic ritual abuse allegations. This was considered by 9 judges in the Supreme Court, who decided (by a 5-4 margin) that a psychiatrist owes the parents of their patient a duty of care when the doctor’s actions "extend well beyond the psychiatric treatment of the child" (in this case supporting the child in legal actions against her parents).
This means that Pennsylvania joins New York, California and Colorado courts in finding a duty of care to individuals outside the patient-therapist relationship.
(The Legal Intelligencer, 15 Apr 1998. Court Holds Psychiatrist Liable For Patient’s False Abuse Reports , by Michael A. Riccardi.)
Third party suing being tested in New Hampshire
Joel Hungerford’s daughter recovered repressed memories which were then used as a basis for criminal charges ultimately rejected by the New Hampshire Supreme Court (see previous COSA newsletters). He is now seeking to sue Susan Jones, the therapist who helped his daughter recover her memories. This case will either set precedent permitting third party lawsuits or give the NH legislature a good reason to enact mental health accountability legislation.
(New Hampshire Supreme Court 97-657. Joel Hungerford v Susan L. Jones US&S S&H. Oral Arguments 6 May 98 (Robert Upton) (Edward M. Kaplan) Amicus: False Memory Syndrome Foundation Thomas A. Pavlinic; Paul A. Maggiotto)
Prosecution argue that knowledge about child suggestibility is not new
Lawyers for Fells Acres molestation defendant Cheryl Amirault LeFave are arguing that she deserves a new trial because new scientific evidence on child testimony differed much from research done in the 1980s. The interviewing of the children in the case has been criticised by psychologist Maggie Bruck of McGill University as being highly suggestive and potentially tainting the evidence.
In a 161-page brief, the prosecutors have rebutted defense testimony, saying that suggestibility of children was known 10 years ago when the convictions were made.
LeFave and her mother, Violet Amirault (who died last year), were convicted in 1987 of abusing young children at the Fells Acres Day School and spent eight years in prison for crimes they have always maintained they did not commit. They were released in 1995 when a judge ordered a new trial. LeFave’s brother, Gerald "Tooky" Amirault, remains in prison following his conviction in a separate 1986 trial.
(Boston Herald 1 Apr 1998, Prosecution says nothing new in Fells Acres defense claim, by Ed Hayward)
Souzas may face prison
Shirley Souza and her husband, Raymond, both 66 were convicted in 1993 of raping and sexually abusing two granddaughters. They have always adamantly denied the allegations which they attribute to the influence of their daughter Shirley Ann Souza. Shirley-Ann had a recurring dream that she had been abused as a child. She went to therapy and then called her sister-in-law. ”I think I have been abused, and I think your daughter is being abused,” Shirley Ann Souza told her. Questioned by her mother and later by a therapist, the child said she had been abused. In 1991, another of their grand-children also told a therapist she had been abused by her grandparents. Allegations became very bizarre including the children being kept locked up in non-existent cages in their grand-parents’ basement.
For the past 5 years the Souza’s have been on house arrest while they have fought to have the convictions overturned. They wear electronic-tracking bracelets with a range of 100 feet. Friends and neighbours do their shopping. Three times a day, at random, probation officials call the house; the Souzas must pose in front of a machine that captures their video image to prove they are still at home. They can leave the house only for church, doctor appointments, or a relative’s funeral. For the first 2 years they would get woken up at night by officials checking that they were home. In 5 years they have never broken their house arrest conditions.
Last month the Supreme Judicial Court rejected their latest appeal. They now face 9-to-15 years in prison, and have been told that the 5 years they have spent under house arrest will not even go towards their sentence.
On Good Friday (7 Apr 1998) a vigil was held for Ray and Shirley Souza by many of their supporters.
(Boston Herald 2 Apr 98. Grandparents lose second bid for new rape trial by Joe Heaney; Boston Globe, 3 Apr 98. Grandparents in child abuse case fear the cold reality of prison cells by William F. Doherty, BO3)
Quattrocchi case tests memory repression
In 1994 John Quattrocchi III, a former Lincoln town solicitor, was found guilty of sexually molesting a girl a decade earlier. The evidence was based on the recovered memory’ of his accuser, who saw the alleged crime as a flashback” during therapy. Now in her early 20s, she testified that she first experienced flashbacks in 1992 of long-forgotten assaults by Quattrocchi, who dated her mother between 1978, when she was 4, and 1983. She had been admitted to Hospital for treatment of depression and was originally diagnosed as suffering from bipolar disorder. However a psychologist decided that she actually displayed classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder caused by sexual assaults.
Review of the therapist’s notes reveal the accuser was “primed” by her doctor and her mother to remember instances of sexual abuse – for example, on 9 Sep 91 she wrote: “Informed patient that when she does remember, [the therapist] may have to report it to DCYF.”
In 1996, the state Supreme Court, concerned about the validity of recovered memories, threw out Quattrocchi’s conviction and his 40-year sentence.
A hearing is now underway before Superior Court Judge Edward Clifton to argue whether or not memory repression and recovery is a valid entity ie whether or not "a phenomenon exists where someone can forget a traumatic event and later remember it. And there is a small subgroup of people with whom that’s happened.” Quattrocchi’s defense team is headed by Christopher Barden, a nationally recognised figure in the recovered-memory debate. Expert witnesses include FMSF advisers Paul McHugh, Richard Ofshe and Elizabeth Loftus Judge Clifton is expected to rule later this year whether he will allow into evidence at Quattrocchi’s new trial the “recovered” memory of his accuser.
(Providence Journal Company 6 Apr 98. `Repressed memory’ on trial, by Tom Mooney )
Prosecutors being prosecuted
In 1993, 13 year old Lynn Murphy, from Michigan, US, went to see a school counsellor. The counsellor believed for some reason t hat Lynn must have been sexually assaulted when she was 5, and referred the girl to a therapist to "assist in recalling her repressed memories". From 1993 onwards Lynn saw a counsellor, often weekly, but did not recall any abuse. Throughout that period of time counsellors had weekly contact with Lynn.
In Jul 1995, her father Walter Murphy II was arrested on charges of sexually abusing his daughter. In Apr 1996, Murphy was tried and found not guilty by a jury.
In Feb 1998, Lynn was interviewed by 2 different therapists. She still did not recover memories and was sent on to the Mental Health Services. About two weeks later Lynn told counsellors that she never saw nor touched any inappropriate areas of her father’s anatomy. In notes written Mar 1998 it was said "It was apparent that Lynn could not remember any details regarding the alleged sexual abuse, and Protective Services could not substantiate the case."
Her father is now bringing charges against the prosecutors and the counsellors for malicious prosecution instituted without evidence
(The Courier-Leader, Paw Paw, Michigan 10 Apr 1998, Prosecutors to be Defendants, by Sharon Oswalt)
Therapist not held responsible for SRA memories
For much of the early 1990s, Kristi Jones (now aged 35) believed her father had impregnated her six times and that she had participated in the satanic ritual murder of hundreds of babies, including her own (in fact, Jones has never been pregnant). She was diagnosed with as many as 800 personalities, and attempted suicide on 11 occasions. She initially tried to sue her parents after her therapists had helped her ‘recover’ these memories. However in 1995 she realised that her memories were false, and sued her therapists instead.
All but one of the mental health-care providers named in the case settled with Jones pre-trial. Dr Dorothy Lurie, who treated her from 1989 to 1994, and accepted her fantastic stories instead of steering her towards reality, would not agree to any wrongdoing. She had written in therapy notes that `The primary goal of my therapy is for (Jones) to believe her memories are true, ie she was a murderer and cannibal.’ She used the hypnotic sedative sodium amytal to help Jones ‘access’ her memories.
Despite this testimony. the jury chose to exonerate the therapist, saying that she was not responsible for her patient’s anguish caused by the false memories.
(Houston Chronicle 4 May 1998. Jury finds no wrongdoing by psychotherapist: No money is awarded to Katy woman who claimed false memories implanted by Ron Nissimov)
Rape Crisis Awareness Week 4 – 10 May 1998
The media machine was on full-throttle during Rape Crisis Awareness Week , focusing this year on incest. Along with sensationalised stories of ‘survivors’; the slogan "it’s ok to talk about incest’, and full-page advertisements by Rape Crisis sponsored by CYPS, there were astounding statistics suggesting that ‘Kiwi homes are plagued by incest’, and that ‘fathers are the most common offenders’. They based their claims on statistics they have gathered on calls to their service.
In the years 1992 to 1996, Rape Crisis says they received 25,331 calls alleging sexual abuse, of which 2,081 were allegations of offences committed by blood relatives. These are presented as ‘incest victims’ without any corroboration of the claims. The figures are based on the assumption that anyone who telephoned a Rape Crisis office with a complaint about sexual abuse was relating an actual event. The person ringing may have been the complainant, or another person with a suspicion about a friend or family member. Rape Crisis has not validated the accuracy of the alleged event by investigation or through valid, external corroboration. 90% of the cases referred to events said to have occurred more than a year before, many of them decades before. Rape Crisis does not acknowledge the possibility that a percentage of these allegations are certain to be false.
Rape Crisis figures include women who contacted them believing they are victims of incest which never really occurred. In the early 1990s there was wide-spread use of ‘recovered memory’ techniques by therapists. COSA has extensive documentation of a large number of families where allegations were made by adult women about their fathers based on ‘recovered memories’ and which have been proven to be false, or are likely to be false (for example, the women claim that their parents abused them as part of satanic cults). Rape crisis’ claim that a high percentage of natural fathers are abusers is consistent with a number of their cases being based on false recovered memories.
The vast majority of natural fathers do not sexually abuse their children. Studies indicate that a step-father is many more times likely to offend than a biological father. New Zealand has good incest prevalence data from the Christchurch Health and Development Study which has followed a birth cohort of over 1200 youngsters since 1977. They found a 3% rate (31) of incest in a sample of over a 1000. The offenders in these cases had been the natural parent in 6.5% (ie in 2 cases), the step-parent in 22.5%, a sibling in 29% and another relative (eg grand-parent, cousin) in 41%. These figures are dramatically different from Rape Crisis data who are promoting the view that father-daughter incest is common-place.
Takapuna CYPS Manager Barbara Thompson went even further, and claimed that in 30% of all child sexual abuse cases, the perpetrator is their father. Given the number of cases COSA has on file of fathers falsely accused in the context of an access or custody dispute, and denied contact with their child by CYPS without ever being charged by the police, it would seem likely that some or many of these cases may well fall in that category.
Through the hype, a few challenging voices were heard. The head of Hamilton CIB, Detective Chief Inspector Rex Miller said that Rape Crisis’ broad definition of incest was misleading the public. Rape Crisis said Hamilton had the highest number of incest cases last year: 59 out of 185 complaints to the Hamilton Rape and Sexual Abuse Healing Centre involved incest. Hamilton police responded that Rape Crisis claims are wrong and legally incorrect, and there was only one case of incest reported to them last year.
Rape Crisis spokeswoman Ceridwyn Roberts said their definition did not comply with the Crimes Act. "We go by our clients’ definitions". Incest could include a range of sexually abusive behaviours and was not limited to sexual intercourse. "Feminist thought and bicultural commitment” also contributed to the definition, and Maori believed that any sexually violent contact between Maori could be seen as blood relative incest.
Warwick Roger, columnist in the Evening Post was even more critical. He wrote: "Well I for one don’t believe the advertisements. I don’t believe them because I don’t trust the people who came up with the figures. I don’t believe them because in the past, in my opinion, the sex abuse industry has used dubious figures to mislead the public. I don’t believe them because I suspect the latest figures are just the most recent manifestation of the lesbian driven, anti-family, anti-men campaign that has been going on for more than a decade now. Oh so incest is now anything you choose to call it then. The anti-man anti-family cabal are up to their old tricks again. I reckon that judging by the short spiky haircuts, the multiple earrings, and their writings, a lot of the people running the sex abuse industry are lesbians. This doesn’t worry me. What other people get up to in the sack is no concern of mine. But when people of a particular sexual persuasion try to change the climate of public opinion by using false definitions and shoddy statistics then, yes…"
Trust claims that ‘recovered memories’ are rare
A spokesperson for the Christchurch Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust, Ken Clearwater, claims that few practitioners in NZ have ever used ‘recovery memory techniques’. He is perhaps not aware of the widespread promotion of ‘age repression’, ‘guided imagery’ and other methods of reliving past traumas that have been taught in NZ courses, promoted by visiting ‘experts’, and the documented cases of such treatments and their effects.
(Christchurch Mail, 27 Apr 1998, Recovered memory rarely used’)
Police memorising their briefs of evidence
Constable Jeff Welch of Blenheim asks in the New Zealand Police Magazine why police officers are not permitted to read their brief of evidence when in court. Apparently he and many other officers spend hours trying to memorise all the details of their briefs before appearing in court.
In reply, PNHQ legal adviser Les Gibbs says there’s nothing in New Zealand statute law which prevents police reading evidence in chief from notebooks and it’s up to the judge.
Sergeant Bill Cronin of Hamilton Prosecutions further writes that there is no need for any law change to permit this and there is no law which prohibits anyone from reading from their notes before they have exhausted their memory. He quotes two High court cases which all prosecutors should be aware of, and says ‘ It is only courtesy that we request permission to refer to our notes. Counsel do not even have the right to object, provided we lay down the ground rules about when they were made.’
Hopefully this will prevent police officers laboriously committing their entire briefs to memory in the future. As well as a waste of police time, such a memory exercise could clearly risk inaccuracies which would unfairly prejudice an accused.
("TEN-ONE" The New Zealand Police Magazine No 154, 7 November 1997 To Read Or Remember? P12; No 161, 6 March 1998, More on … to read or remember, Page 11)
Counselling makes people sicker
Ms Angela Patmore, a research fellow at the University of East Anglia, Britain, believes therapists interfere with a natural, human survival mechanism – to fight back. Coping with stresses helps strengthen the body against a range of infections and diseases. Stress is not a disease – it galvanises people into action. Stress or trauma counselling dampens down the stress response instead of just letting people deal with traumatic events.
Patmore asks if stress is so bad, why do people induce it by watching a horror movie, playing in an orchestra, or bunny jumping? "These are all ways of practising stress to become stress competent".
(Dominion, 15 Apr 1998, Counselling just makes stress victims sicker)
Martensville child-care case
In 1992 in Martensville, Saskatchewan, 9 people were accused of running a satanic child sex-abuse cult out of the home of Ron and Linda Sterling, who operated a baby-sitting service. Children claimed that they were taken to a place called "the Devil Church", hung in cages, made to eat faeces or swallow acid, engaged in intercourse with adults, dismembered other children, mutilated adults and partook in human sacrifices.
Travis Sterling, the proprietors’ 24-year-old son, was found guilty on two charges of sexually touching one girl, and the 178 other charges against 8 others were dismissed due to an utter lack of evidence. It became blatantly clear that the things alleged by the children could never have happened.
A general ban on publication ordered by the court meant that details of this case never reached the public arena. However former teacher and writer Frann Harris sat through the trials to report on the events which she has now recorded in her book. Although there was no evidence at all against 8 out of the 9 accused, Harris implies in her book that something really had happened to the children who came up with these outlandish and bizarre stories during the investigation.
In fact the allegations appear to be inextricably related to Constable Claudia Bryden who had joined the Martensville Police Force not long before the case surfaced. Expert witnesses were very critical of the techniques that Bryden and Corporal Rod Moor, a Saskatoon police officer, used to interview the children. Apparently Moor would not accept denials form the children, some of whom were interviewed 60 times.
(Martensville: Truth or Justice? The Story of the Martensville Daycare Trials by Frann Harris Dundurn Press – review by David Roberts, Globe and Mail 18 Apr 98.)
The subversive movement of psychocracy
Sociologist James Brown writes that ‘the most successful and dangerous subversive political movement in the United States today is neither socialism nor the militia movement, it is an alliance of clinical psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and social workers who believe their collective "special insights" should be the basis for all public policy decisions and judicial decisions.’ He labels this government control by psycho experts (clinical psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and social workers) as "psychocracy" and identifies that they achieve their control through government administration, the police and the law courts. He says ‘Evidence continues to mount that clinical psychiatry, clinical psychology and social work are all based upon junk or pseudo-science. Psycho experts perform worse than chance identifying disorders and predicting behavior.’
He distinguishes these ‘pseudo science zealots’ from research psychologists, whose work is based on reasoned science.
(Arkansas Democrat Gazette, 6 May 1998, A dangerous political movement by James Roger Brown)
The Politics of Hysteria by Joan Acocella
New Yorker, 6 Apr 98, 64-79.
An excellent article about how it came to happen that over the past 2 decades, multiple personality disorder has been used to explain the behaviour of thousands of American women.
Explains that MPD is part of the history of hysteria. Every culture has had its ‘idiom of distress’. In South East Asia and China there is koro, in which a man imagines in horror that his penis is being retracted into his body. Two centuries ago somnambulism was fashionable, and were reported to perform amazing tasks such as walking over rooftops and writing poems while sleepwalking. MPD (now with the sanitised name of Dissociative Identity Disorder) developed out of the recovered memory movement of the 1980s and 90s.
Child scientist debunks junk therapy
When she was 9, a Colorado girl Emily Rosa (now aged 11) conducted a simple but elegant medical experiment to test out the effectiveness of ‘therapeutic touch’ (TT) or ‘energy healing’. Invented in the 1970s, TT is now practised by 40,000 nurses and caregivers in the United States. Practitioners claim that moving their hands a few inches above a patient’s body promotes healing. Professional organizations such as the National League for Nursing and the American Nurses’ Association have promoted TT and 80 hospitals in North America reportedly offer the treatment. The North American Nursing Diagnosis Association recognises "energy field disturbance" as a health problem. Healing Touch International, a Colorado group, says the treatment can help with many illnesses and symptoms, including AIDS, multiple sclerosis, cancer and arthritis.
Emily’s mother, Linda Rosa, is a registered nurse who is critical of the procedure and her step-father is Chairman of an anti-TT organisation. In the past, TT practitioners have refused to have their technique independently tested, but they agreed to allow Emily to conduct her experiment. As she said, "I think they didn’t take me seriously, because I’m a kid".
Her experiment involved getting 21 TT therapists to place their hands, palms up, through a screen. Emily held her own hand over one of theirs – left or right, depending on the throw of a dice, and the practitioners had to say which hand it was, by sensing the ‘energy field’. They did not get it right any better than chance. Her results have been published in the American Medical Association Journal, with her parents and a physician as co-writers.
(Los Angeles Times, 3 Apr 98. A 4th grader’s debunking of "therapeutic touch" lands her in a top journal, by Terence Monmaney and Louis Shagun)
Multiple personality story with a twist
Billy Milligan was charged with kidnapping, rape and robbery of 3 women in the Ohio State University area in 1978. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity based on his multiple personality defence. He was released from a state hospital in 1988 after experts concluded his 24 personalities had fused into one.
In the early 1990s he co-authored two books about his story, which have earned him nearly a $1 million in royalties. Attorney General Betty Montgomery has subsequently gone to court to get Milligan to repay the state $550,000 – the cost of his 11-year stay in state mental hospitals. In late 1996 Milligan filed bankruptcy but the state is top of the list for any further earnings Mr. Milligan may receive for selling his story.
(The Columbus Dispatch, 5 May 1998, State OKs more money to recoup criminal’s earnings )
‘Barden‘ Letter to the US Congress
R. Christopher Barden, Ph.D., J.D., LP 4025 Quaker Lane North Plymouth, MN 55441 612-371-3296 FAX 371-3207
The Honorable Henry Hyde, Chairman Judiciary Committee United States House of Representatives 2138 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510
Mental illness, child abuse and health care fraud are serious social problems that should be addressed in a responsible, effective manner. In the past year, the academic, scientific and psychotherapy communities have become embroiled in a well publicized controversy regarding the "recovery" of long "repressed" memories of childhood trauma including sexual abuse. Regardless of the long term outcome of the scientific debate regarding "recovered memories," the use of such controversial, unproven "treatments" on unsuspecting and unwarned psychotherapy patients raises serious legal, legislative and public policy issues which must be addressed immediately.
Consumer, patient, and professional groups are just now realizing that psychotherapy patients across America are being subjected to experimental and potentially dangerous forms of "psychotherapy," including "memory retrieval/enhancement" therapy, at taxpayer expense. Even more disturbing is the almost universal practice of subjecting patients to these controversial and potentially dangerous procedures without any semblance of informed consent. We believe that fraud investigations by the F.B.I. and other agencies would reveal that virtually none of the therapists engaged in "memory retrieval" or "memory enhancement" procedures are informing their patients (or insurance companies) of the experimental, very controversial and potentially dangerous nature of these "treatments." Many of these therapists are also failing to inform their patients of the reservations and warnings voiced publicly by the American Medical Association and numerous experts in the field regarding the hazards of these unproven procedures .
Consumers, parent and other groups are also beginning to realize that the American Medical Association (A.M.A.) and other professional organizations warned against the inappropriate use of such techniques many years ago. As the A.M.A. Research Council noted in April of 1985:
"The council finds that recollections obtained during hypnosis [and similar procedures such as guided imagery] can involve confabulations and pseudomemories and not only fail to be more accurate, but actually appear to be less reliable than nonhypnotic recall…. There are no techniques based on the individual’s report that can discriminate reliably between a true and false memory report in any specific case…."
Similarly, basic textbooks in psychiatry and psychology have warned against the use of such procedures for years. For example, one of the most widely used and cited textbooks in psychiatry noted, "An overwhelming body of research indicates that hypnosis does not increase accurate memory, but does increase the person’s willingness to report previously uncertain memories with strong conviction. Furthermore, the hypnotized individual has a pronounced tendency to confabulate [produce false memories] in those areas where there is little or no recollection; to distort memory to become more congruent with beliefs, hopes, and fantasies; and to incorporate cues from leading questions as factual memories. Finally, there is a high likelihood that the beliefs of the hypnotist will somehow be communicated to the patient in hypnosis and incorporated into what the patient believes to be memories, often with strong conviction.".
It should be obvious to any law-abiding therapist that billing Medicaid and Medicare for controversial, unproven, experimental and hazardous techniques such as "memory retrieval" or "memory enhancement" therapy appears to constitute a fraud on the health care system and the taxpayers of America. It should be obvious to any law abiding therapist that subjecting patients to unproven and potentially hazardous "treatments" without informed consent violates patients’ civil rights.
We are concerned that the federal government apparently continues to condone such unethical and potentially illegal behavior and waste millions and perhaps billions of tax dollars, without question or investigation, reimbursing "therapists" for experimental, controversial, untested, unproven and hazardous "psychotherapy" procedures such as "memory retrieval" or "memory enhancement" therapies. Such reimbursements appear to violate federal laws, state laws, federal regulations and state regulations. Such inappropriate reimbursements create powerful financial incentives for the reckless use of experimental "therapies" on unsuspecting psychotherapy patients.
This apparent health care fraud has also created unprecedented problems in the legal system. Accusations of childhood trauma based upon "recovered memories" (including "memories" of sexual abuse by parents, relatives, "cults," and "aliens" from UFO’S) have reached epidemic proportions. These largely uncorroborated accusations feed into and are fuelled by a mass hysteria of child sexual abuse that, in terms of the number of lives destroyed, may well exceed the Salem witch trials of 1692 and the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s. Economic incentives for this hysteria were apparently created by the flow of federal funds (under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act) to a network of child protective agencies. These funds were unwisely dispersed in direct proportion to interagency referrals of suspected child abuse. Under this poorly conceived program, each false accusation of abuse may be compensated with cash rewards.
Child abuse is too serious a social problem to be dealt with in this irresponsible manner. We strongly support the implementation of effective programs to reduce the incidence of child abuse, assist victims of abuse and punish those who harm children. Efforts to attain these important goals must, however, be based in fact rather than prejudice, science rather than hysteria and reason rather than political ideology.
The recent increase in additional forms of psychotherapy fraud is apparently related to the increased availability of public funds for untested and unproven "treatments" for emotional disorders. The Congress has a responsibility to require mental health treatments to be proven safe and effective before they are offered to an unsuspecting public. Most tragically, the time, attention and resources now diverted to adults with "recovered memories" are sorely needed in reliable, responsible programs to prevent actual child abuse and apprehend and punish actual child abusers.
Another serious legal issue involves so-called "experts" who are willing to testify in criminal and/or civil trials that they are reliably able to certify the "truth" of recovered memories based solely on the patient’s report. Such "experts" are clearly engaging in fraud on the court. As the most recent A.M.A. public statement notes, "[i]t is not yet known how to distinguish true memories from imagined events in these [recovered memory] cases…. The A.M.A. considers recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse to be of uncertain authenticity, which should be subject to external verification…. The use of recovered memories is fraught with problems of misapplication." The legal system, as well as the health care system, is thus being abused by irresponsible, reckless and fraudulent therapists who claim the ability to "retrieve" fully accurate "repressed memories" of childhood trauma.
To reduce the possibility of future, similar tragedies we suggest that the following language be included in all appropriate sections of relevant health care codes:
"No tax or tax exempt monies may be used for any form of health care treatment, including any form of psychotherapy, that has not been proven safe and effective by rigorous, valid and reliable scientific Investigations and accepted as safe and effective by a substantial majority of the relevant scientific community."
Because these widespread, harmful practices waste millions of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars, violate the civil rights of patients and families and defile the American judicial process, we respectfully request open hearings into these important scientific, legal, consumer protection and public policy issues. Although any number of committees could address these issues, we have been informed that several committees have already scheduled hearings on this or related topics.
We respectfully request a time, a date and a place where these issues may be presented in a joint hearing before the press, the American public and any and all appropriate committees of the Congress.
Respectfully, (Signatures received and on file), R. Christopher Barden, Ph.D., J.D.; Paul E. Meehl, Ph.D.; Terence W. Campbell, Ph.D.; Richard Ofshe, Ph.D.; Richard A. Gardner, M.D.; Margaret Singer, Ph.D.; William Grove, Ph.D.; Michael D. Yapko, Ph.D.; Robyn Dawes, Ph.D.; Richard Flyer, M.D.; Robert Kinscherff, Ph.D., J.D.; Mel Guyer, Ph.D., J.D.; Francis Fincham, Ph.D.; Thom Moore, Ph.D.; Henry E. Adams, Ph.D.; E. Mark Cummings, Ph.D.; Lewis P. Lipsitt, Ph.D.; Donald M. Kaplan, Ph.D.; Robert R. Holt, Ph.D.; Richard M. McFall, Ph.D.; Hans H. Strupp, Ph.D.; Stephen J. Lepore, Ph.D.; Lee Sechrest, Ph.D.; Paul Ekman, Ph.D.; Hans J. Eysenck, Ph.D.; Jerome Kagan, Ph.D.; George Stricker, Ph.D.; Debra Ann Poole, Ph.D.; Mark L. Howe, Ph.D.; J. Don Read, Ph.D.; Howard Shevrin, Ph.D.
‘Gold‘ letter to Canadian Minister of Justice
In Canada, lawyer Alan Gold has written to the Minister of Justice asking that the cases of men falsely accused and wrongfully convicted as a result of accusations that surfaced in "repressed memory therapy" be reviewed and that these men be released from prison. An excerpt from his letter follows:
March 25, 1998
The Hon. Anne McLellan
Minister of Justice and Attorney General for Canada Justice Building
239 Wellington Street , Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0H8
In recent years, a certain concept has been allowed uncritically into jurisprudence in Canada and elsewhere: that of "repressed" and later "recovered" memory. There was never any legitimate reason for regarding such alleged memories as trustworthy; but by this point in time it is perfectly clear that they are not.
In the past two years, professional associations of psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental- health workers in various countries (including Canada) have officially warned that such "memories" are so unreliable in general that their evidential value in any individual case is zero. In fact, great numbers of practitioners in those fields maintain that memory "repression" (an unconscious act, not mere forgetting) does not exist at all, certainly not in the case of serious trauma. But that debate is immaterial to the concerns of the Justice system; real or not, such alleged memories are too readily confused with the results of suggestion and confabulation to have any degree of reliability.
As realization of the total unreliability of "recovered memory" has taken hold in the justice community, courts in many places have responded appropriately. In the US, Appellate and Supreme Courts in New Hampshire, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Tennessee, Texas, Rhode Island, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Arizona, California, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Utah and Maryland have issued judgements recognizing the injustice of an accused being convicted on grounds of "recovered memory".
And yet that now-discredited concept has by this point in time been applied in scores of court cases in our country. More recently, such "evidence" has not been allowed to hold sway in Canada either. But those men convicted under the older naive views continue to suffer – and some of them are still in prison because of it. Worse yet, courts in certain individual "repressed memory" cases in Canada have turned down appeals based on today’s greater awareness of how memory works – apparently on the narrow grounds that all was done properly under the jurisprudence of the time. Because of these circumstances, the undersigned believe, there is only one just and proper thing for the Justice Minister to do: conduct an inquiry into this entire category of convictions, with a view to releasing forthwith all those prisoners who would not have been convicted but for the testimony of "recovered memories".
Given the systemic nature of the original injustice, and given the failure of Canadian courts to act on the problem even in individual cases, and given the ongoing suffering of those convicted without any adequate grounds, it is absolutely imperative that you act on this matter without delay.
Yours very truly, ALAN D. GOLD President Canadian Criminal Lawyers Association
Some who also signed were:
- Timothy E Moore, PhD, C Psych, Chair, Dept of Psychology Glendon College, LaMarsh Research Program on Violence & Conflict Resolution, York University
- Endel Tulving , PhD, FRSC, FRS Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience, Rotman Research Institute; Professor Emeritus Psychology, University of Toronto;
- Rotman Research Institute of Baycrest Centre 3560 Bathurst Street, Ontario
- Elizabeth F Loftus, PhD President American Psychological Society, University of Washington,
- Charlotte Vale Allen, Novelist, Canadian Author of:Daddy’s Girl, etc etc,
- Harold Merskey, DM, FRCP(C), FCPsych Professor Emeritus, Dept of Psychiatry, University of Western Ontario,
- Prof Michael G Kenny, DPhil (Oxon) Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Simon Fraser University,
- Barry L Beyerstein, PhD, Brain Behavior Laboratory, Department of Psychology, Simon Fraser University,
- R Christopher Barden, PhD, JD, LP President, National Assn for Consumer Protection in Mental Health Practices North Salt Lake, Utah
- Lawrence Greenspon, Specialist in Criminal & Civil Litigation c/o Karam, Greenspon, Ottawa,
- Mark Pendergrast, Journalist, Author, Victims of Memory: Incest Accusations and Shattered Lives,
- Charles Traynor ,Vice President Campbell Goodell Traynor Consultants Ltd, Victoria,
- Herman W Ohme, National Co-Chair, National Association for Consumer Protection in Mental Health Practice,
- Paul Sandor MD FRCPC, staff psychiatrist, The Toronto Hospital, Toronto,
- Dr Griffith Pearson MD 18 A Lower Village Gate Apt 112 Toronto,
- Karl Akiba Enright, MD FRCPC, Psychiatrist, Whistler BC.
STOP PRESS: In her letter of reply, Justice Minister McLellan has said that while it is "premature at this time" to call for a special inquiry into sexual abuse convictions based on "recovered" memories, she has pledged to discuss the issue with her federal and provincial deputy ministers. (Edmonton Journal, 16 May 1998, McLellan will talk to provinces about ‘recovered memory’ convictions by Stephen Bindman)
Moral Panics, Witch Hunts and the Satanic Abuse Scare
Talk to Canterbury COSA 27 April 1998 by Dr Greg Newbold, Department of Sociology, University of Canterbury
Folk Devils and Moral Panics:
From time to time, societies are gripped by what sociologists call, ‘moral panics’. Moral panics are periods of frenzied fear about certain social developments, which spread rapidly through a society. Large numbers of people get caught up in these panics. People come to believe that if something is not done about the phenomenon, the consequences will be grave. The fabric of society will be jeopardised. In a moral panic, the sources of the threat are other social groups or social types. These groups become identified as ‘folk devils’, and a great deal of anger and hostility is directed at them. Folk Devils are normally characterised as clever, deceptive people, who appear normal to the average citizen. They live among their victims, befriending them before drawing them into their nets. The insidious activities of these devils can only be exposed after careful investigation by experts. Thus experts emerge, who are assumed to have extraordinary skills and powers which allow them to identify the symptoms which are associated with folk-devilry: these symptoms include the symptoms of bewitchment as well as the special characteristics of the bewitchers. The interests of protecting society from these groups are felt to be so great that extreme measures are deemed necessary to suppress their insidious activities. These extreme measures may include extraordinary forms of punishment and extraordinary powers of investigation. For example, suspension of rights and safeguards which are normally there to protect the innocent. [eg uncorroborated testimony].
Examples of moral panics in the past:
- The Enlightenment witch-hunts.
- The anti-Jewish campaigns of Nazi Germany
- The communist purges of the McCarthy era (1950-1954)
- The purges of ‘bourgeois reactionaries’ during China’s Cultural Revolution (1966-c.1976)
- The world-wide satanic abuse scare (c1981- 1991).
What gives the witch-hunt its credibility is a general belief that witches really do exist. The moral panic is always backed up by grains of truth.
- During the Enlightenment, there were sorcerers and magicians. They had been healing people and casting spells for centuries.
- There were millions of Jews in Europe, and many of them were very rich, and associated with banks, finance and usury. Some of them – like Karl Marx and Bela Kun of Hungary – were also communists. This allowed the Nazis to sell the unlikely idea of a Jewish-Communist conspiracy.
- There was a surge in Communist sympathy in the West, after WW II. e.g. British spies George Blake (imprisoned 1960), Kim Philby (exposed 1951), Donald MacClean, Anthony Blunt. Also Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, (executed 1951)
- There had been many remnants of bourgeois reactionism in China since the revolution in 1949.
- And in the West, awareness about child sexual abuse had been increasing since the 1960s.
It was generally acknowledged that the sexual abuse of children was a major hidden problem, and that the consequences of child abuse were highly destructive. But a characteristic of the moral panic is that the threat becomes highly exaggerated. And the numbers that are supposed to be involved are much greater than is actually the case. Consequences of the evil are exaggerated also. Extravagant claims about the extent of the problem are often based on flawed research or they have no factual basis at all. They become a form of propaganda, used by the true believers to achieve their purpose. In the case of the witch-hunts, sometimes entire villagers were deemed to be witches and exterminated. In total, around 500,000 were killed, but few of these were actually engaged in sorcery.
In Germany the majority of Jews were law-abiding, many of them were extremely poor, and very few Jews were Communist. But in Nazi campaigns, all Jews were presented as criminal, communistic, money grabbing, and intent on the destruction of European society. In China, only a few people dared to oppose the might of the Communist juggernaut. But the fear of bourgeois reactionism was so great that between 1966 and 1969, all the universities were closed and millions were sent to the countryside for re-education.
In the case of the satanic abuse scare, fears also were grossly exaggerated. In the US it was claimed that there are more than 1m Satanists and the >200,000 kids go missing every year – most of them sacrificed by satanic covens – (there are only 22,000 homicides). In Britain it was claimed that every year, 4000 babies are born into covens to be used for sacrifices and cannibalism. In NZ in 1981-1988, Miriam Saphira claimed that 1/4 NZ girls are sexually abused.
Normally moral panics occur against a background of rising fear, and the panic is often precipitated by significant events or book publications. In the case of the Renaissance witch hunts, witches and sorcerers had long been accepted as normal and necessary part of society. Most doctors and alchemists, for example, were really just sorcerers. As a result of rising awareness and intellectual sophistication accompanying these changes there was growing scepticism about traditional church doctrine. Numerous religious sects began forming, challenging the doctrines of the Catholic Church. This created a threat not only to the supremacy of the church, but also to the power of the Monarchies, whose wealth and privilege was sanctioned by the church and dependent on blind acceptance of church doctrines. A feeling of insecurity swept over Europe’s traditional ruling elite. Thus, in 1216 the Order of Dominican Friars was created to root out the heretics, many of whom were burned to death. But by C.14, most heretics had been exterminated, so the attention of the Inquisitors turned to other forms of heresy, such as sorcery. So from the C.14 onwards, purges of witches become increasingly common in Europe.
Over the next 100 years or so, dozens of books about witchcraft were written. Fear of witches grew. But it was in the late C.15 that full scale witch hunts commenced and it was the publication of one book which was more influential than anything else in setting the craze off. That book was Malleus Maleficarum (The Witch’s Hammer) written by Spengler and Kramer in 1489. It was directly as a result of petitions by the authors of this book that the Pope issued his papal bill which officially recognised witchcraft and committed the Church to the use of Inquisitorial methods to root the problem out. Because of its similarity to some of the books we now associate with recovered memory, its interesting to take a quick look at what Malleus Maleficarum contained. It had 3 parts.
Part 1. proves the existence of witches and argues that anyone who denies witchcraft is either a victim of witchcraft or a witch themselves.
Part 2. explains how to identify witches and how to recognise the symptoms of witchcraft.
Part 3. describes how to investigate and punish witchcraft, and how to cure its victims.
As we know, books like Michelle Remembers, 1980 and the Courage to Heal, 1988, were similar inasmuch as they were instrumental in:
- Establishing the existence of phenomena such as recovered memory and satanic abuse.
- Telling the reader how to recognise the symptoms of childhood sexual abuse.
- Telling the reader how to recover repressed memories of sexual abuse and then how to apply therapeutic techniques to deal with the consequences of it.
The Emergence of the Satanic Abuse Scare:
Like the witch hunts, the satanic abuse scares of the West did not occur in a social vacuum. They too occurred during a time of rising tensions and social change. The background of the Satanism craze was the growth of American fundamentalist evangelism in the 1970s. Men like Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Jim Bakker and Jim Swaggart made millions of dollars convincing Americans of the imminent downfall of society by sin. The coming downfall was indicated by rising crime rates and a departure from traditional Christian values. eg. rising illegitimacy rates; legalised homosexuality; growth of non-Christian religions; the changing status of women, manifested in: legalised abortions (US 1973),rising divorce rates, open lesbianism, radical feminism, working mothers and daycare centres. A lot of people – especially conservative American Christians – were worried about these things, and they all seemed to be tied up together. The fundamentalists believed it was all the work of the devil and his earthly agents. By the end of the 1970s with millions of Americans believing that Satan and his evil angels were working to bring about the downfall of American society, the ground was thus prepared for some sort of Satanism scare. As with the European witch crazes, it was one book which set the panic in motion. That was the publication of Michelle Remembers in 1980, about a Canadian called Michelle Smith and her recovered memories of childhood atrocities suffered in a satanic coven.
The book was a sensational success, and let to thousands of ‘survivors’ coming forward and claiming similar experiences. When officials and sceptics doubted the truth of the claims they were accused of being part of a conspiracy which involved government officials, police, the media, and the perpetrators. As is usual, the fears were backed by partial truths. True, every year in the US, 2000 kids are killed by their parents. Every year there are about 100 stranger-child abductions. This was presented by the believers as just the tip of an iceberg. In reality, they said, the number of children who disappear is about 200,000. For the most part, in the US, believers were fundamentalist Christians living in small towns, with low education levels. It is these people who are more concerned about the breakdown of American values, and they had no reason to doubt these extraordinary figures. For many , the daycare centre came to symbolise the working mother and the destruction of family values. It was thus not long after the publication of Michelle Remembers that the first satanic daycare cases broke: The Virginia McMartin pre-school centre, 1983; Country Walk Baby Sitting Service, 1984; Wee Care Day Nursery 1984 (Kelly Michaels). Before long , in daycare centres all over the US, similar claims were being made: more than 300 SRA cases in total.
In the UK, the first cases began in 1988, as a result of an organised consciousness raising campaign by American and British evangelical groups. Between 1988-1992 there was >80 cases of Satanic abuse in England, Scotland and the Orkney Islands (1991).
In Australia allegations commenced with the 1988 case of Mr Bubbles at the Seabeach Kindergarten, NSW .It has since been estimated the >300 people have sought treatment for memories of SRA in NSW alone, and other cases have emerged from all over Australia.
The Ellis Case:
In NZ, the satanism scare came late and was much more restricted than it had been elsewhere (largely due to rising scepticism overseas and increases in knowledge about such things as false memory syndrome). Concern about child sexual abuse had been building up since the 1970s:
1974 CYP Act, set up specialised services for young people at risk.
1976 lesbian psychologist Miriam Saphira began speaking out in the media about the problem of sexual abuse.
1981 as a result of a NZWW survey, Saphira began making extravagant claims about the extent of sexual abuse in NZ.[eg. 1/4 girls by age 18]
1982 HELP Foundation for sexual abuse victims was set up, and had its first conference in Palmerston North. Incest ‘survivors’ began speaking out and the first knicker stickers, warning kids about the dangers of sexual abuse, began to appear.
1984 Dr Karen Zelas began talking in the media about the problem of child sexual abuse. The first anatomically correct dolls arrived.
1985 Evidence Amendment Act made uncorroborated testimony acceptable in Sexual Violation cases. Under the assumption ‘ children don’t lie,’ the law stopped Judges commenting on the unreliability of unsupported sexual abuse evidence.
1986 The National Advisory Committee on the Prevention of Child Abuse published guidelines on the investigation of child abuse.
1987 The first evidential video unit opened in Lower Hutt. A second one opened in Otahuhu in 1988. Teresa Cormack went missing. This led to a leap in reported sexual abuse cases in the Gisborne area. Considerable news coverage about rising reports of sexual abuse commenced. The scandal at the Glenelg Health Camp broke.
1988 Sexual Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Team (START) was set up in Chch. Telethon – supporting International Year of the Child (1989?) used Saphira’s shonky "One in Four’ statistic. Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care (DSAC) was formed. ACC claims for sexual abuse commenced, costing $1.9m in the first year. Payouts virtually doubled every year thereafter, from 200 cases in 1988 to 2000 in 1992.-In 1993 – the last year payouts were available – there were 6000 payouts made in the 1st 3 months. The Ward 24 case began – Liselle (5) and Jeff Spence – controversy over the case continued till the end of 1989. Sally Ruth wrote a booklet on sexual abuse for Chch Polytechnic. High levels of publicity about child sexual abuse continue.
1984-1987: 16 articles on child and sexual abuse appear in Chch newspapers. 1988-1991: 173 articles appear.
1989 A pornography ring scare broke in Chch. Police investigation closed. Summary Proceedings Amendment Act allowed sex abuse victims to give videotaped evidence. Police and DSW set up a reciprocal reporting policy on child abuse. A specialist child sexual abuse unit was set up by DSW in Christchurch. A Child Protection Training Course became offered at UC in the Dept of Social Work. There was a dramatic increase in child sexual abuse complaints in Christchurch. DSAC sponsors an American sexual abuse specialist to a NZ speaking tour – theme: ‘children do not lie’.
1990 The first Child sexual abuse conference was held in Wellington. Office of the Commissioner for Children was opened. The Morgan-Foretich case hit the headlines.
1991 August. An American Christian sexual abuse therapist spoke in Christchurch as a guest of the Open Home Foundation. She claimed that 1/2 of the kids with MPD have been victims of satanic abuse. She claimed to have interviewed victims of SRA in NZ. 6 days later, a sexual abuse workshop was held in Chch. In Wellington in Sept, 2 counsellors began to speak publicly about large amounts of SRA occurring in NZ Sunday News claimed ‘rampant satanism is here’ The Ritual Action Group (RAG) was formed with the assistance of the Department of Social Welfare and began campaigning, with big publicity, in Sept. 1991.
As the pitch of the satanic panic rose, it was almost inevitable that somebody, somewhere, was going to get accused. That unfortunate ‘somebody’ was Peter Ellis, who came under suspicion after a child at Christchurch’s Civic CrÃƒÂ¨che allegedly told his mother that he didn’t like Peter’s ‘black penis’, in November 1991.
At first police investigations revealed nothing but three months later, I suggest as a result of continuing questioning by worried parents, the children began to relate strange stories of sexual abuse involving numerous male and female adults, including Peter Ellis. These stories became increasingly bizarre as time, and interviews with the children progressed. Ellis was finally arrested and charged on 31 March 1992. In June 1993 Ellis was convicted on 16 out of 23 charges of sexually abusing children, and sentenced to ten years imprisonment.
SRA Cases are remarkably alike, and similar to some witch hunts, such as that at Salem, Massachusetts, in the 1690.
- They occur against a background of rising concern about a specific problem or group of people
- Often suspicions are triggered by a bizarre comment from a child, or some form of bizarre behaviour. Investigations commence and allegations become more widespread and more bizarre as the inquiry proceeds. Sooner or later a perpetrator is singled out and a prosecution begins.
- There is general confidence in the ability of specialists to identify witches and to recognise the symptoms of their work.
- The investigative process involves reliance on the word of children or adults who have been counselled prior to giving evidence, or subjected to multiple interrogations.
- There is an absence of independent eyewitness testimony, or of medical or physical evidence.
- Persons ID’s as perpetrators are frequently outsiders. (eg Ellis was a homosexual, at Wee Care, Kelly Michaels had been a lesbian, in the 1991 Faith Chapel case in San Diego, California, Dale Akiki was genetically disabled). Previous behaviour, or the behaviour of the victims, which once seemed innocuous, is now re-examined in the sinister light of the allegations.
Morris E M, Martin JL & Romans SE (10 Apr 1998). Professional help sought for emotional problems: coping with child sexual abuse in a Dunedin community sample of women, New Zealand Medical Journal, 123-126.
In a follow-up interview of women who participated in the 1989 Otago Women’s health Survey Child sexual Abuse study, women were asked about their use of professional help for emotional reasons. Women who gave a history of past sexual abuse were more likely to have sought help, but those with marital breakdowns were even more likely to be contacting GPs, therapists and counsellors for assistance.
Adams JK Summer/Fall 1998, Court-mandated treatment and required admission of guilt in cases of alleged sexual abuse: professional, ethical and legal issues, Issues in Child Abuse Accusations 9, 3 / 4, 96-115.
Argues that mandating people to attend treatment (for example making parental access to children contingent on attendance) breaches informed consent requirements and coercing people to admit guilt in this programmes is unethical.
Newsletters received by COSA
FMS Support Groups Canada Apr 1998. 5 (4)
In response to the Royal College of Psychiatrists condemnation of recovered memory therapy, The Canadian newsletter calls for people to sign a letter to the Minister of Justice to get wrongfully convicted men out of jail.
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)
Includes comments from the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ published guidelines [Brandon S, Boakes J, Glaser D and Green R (April 1998). Review Article: Recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse: Implications for clinical practice, British Journal of Psychiatry 172 294-307] and updates from the Wenatchee case (COSA will cover developments in this case in our next newsletter).
AFMA Newsletter Mar 1998 Vol 5 (1)
News from the Australian False Memory Association.
New Zealand Skeptic, Autumn 1998, #47
Counsellor Gordon Hewitt writes in defence of counselling, in response to an article in the previous Skeptic issue (Summer 1997, #46) which cautioned that ‘counselling by itself has not been shown to produce sustained benefit in a variety of groups at risk’. He criticises the article because it is based on one study of counselling effectiveness. However there are in fact a number of other studies that have reached the same conclusion, and Hewitt fails to provide any research indicating that counselling is any more effective than placebo.
Annual General Meeting: COSA 1998
The 1998 Annual General Meeting of Casualties Of Sexual Allegations Incorporated will be held on Sunday 26 July 1998 at the Northcote Citizens Centre, Ernie May Road, Northcote Auckland, commencing at 2.00 pm.
Format: This year, Felicity has arranged to have a Guest Speaker, who will give an address after the formal meeting. The President’s Report and the Financial Report will be given during the meeting. Afternoon tea will follow the meeting and addresses.
Catering: As we cannot guess in advance how many might attend – and we want as many as possible to come – would those attending please bring a plate. Catering quantities will then match the numbers attending. Tea and coffee will be available, of course.
The Agenda for the Meeting is:
- Minutes of the previous AGM
- Business arising from Minutes
- President’s Report
- Financial Report
- Notices of Motion
- Election of Officers
Notices of Motion: Notices of Motion must be in writing, reach Colleen not later than Saturday 25 July 1998. These can be sent in by letter, Fax or E-mail. If you are unable to attend the meeting personally, it would be helpful if you could include a description of the background to the motion, to make it easy to understand and discuss the matters involved. Please note that our Rules do not permit Motions from the floor.
Committee Positions: The current committee is happy to continue, with Felicity as President, Colleen as Secretary, Robin as Treasurer, Paul as Development Officer and Gordon as Liaison Officer. If there are any other nominations, please let us know as soon as possible.
Billets: If you live outside of Auckland and need a billet for the night or weekend, we will try our best to meet your needs. We ask all members who live in Auckland to help by providing billets, if they are able. Please let Colleen know as soon as possible whether you can provide, or need, a billet.
COSA Canty meetings
All COSA members and other interested parties welcome to attend.
Sunday 31 May: Midday meeting, Kaiapoi. Bring a plate. Contact Arthur.
Monday 29 June: 7.30 pm. Methodist Church Hall, 68 Harewood Street, Christchurch. Guest speaker Dr Dennis Dutton.
Sunday 26 July: Midday meeting, Rangiora. Bring a plate. Contact Jane.
Monday 31 August: 7.30 pm. Methodist Church Hall, 68 Harewood Street, Christchurch.
Sunday 27 September: Midday meeting, Kaiapoi. Bring a plate. Contact Arthur.