COSA Casualties of Sexual Allegations Newsletter March 1995 Volume 2 No 2
Contents of this page:
Editorial: DSAC objects to Criminal Bar Association hearing about false allegations Yet again, I discovered that DSAC (Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care) had approached the Association to tell them I had no authority to speak on sexual abuse issues and advising them to withdraw their invitation to me. The denial of workers in the field that false accusations are happening is undermining the public confidence in the services which are available.
Courts: Principal found guilty
Bunbury case charges dropped (Australia).
Landmark cases in New Hampshire State v Joel Hungerford and State v John Morahan (USA).
Media: Abuse hotline on way
Child sexual abuse and justice for teachers (Australia).
Literature: The revenge of the repressed discussion on memory repression and review of a number of recent books published on this topic.
Features: a href=”#Recent”>Recent Events: National Conference on Child Abuse:childhood ideals – childhood realities.
Coming Events: Recovered memories and the false memory syndrome, Proposed International Conference Regarding Parents Falsely Accused of Child Abuse.
DSAC objects to Criminal Bar Association hearing about false allegations
Well, February has raced by, and despite no General Practice work this month, I don’t seem to have any more time than previously to deal with the work that keeps arriving at my desk!
I have reapplied for Ethic Committee approval for my survey after making some alterations they requested; hopefully I will soon have their stamp of approval and will be able to set that project underway.
There has been a frustrating delay with work on the COSA Incorporation which I also hope will soon be moving along again.
I have had several speaking engagements recently. In particular on Friday night 24 February I addressed a very receptive audience from the Criminal Bar Association on the topic of false allegations, especially those arising from recovered memories. Yet again, I discovered that DSAC (Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care) had approached the Association to tell them I had no authority to speak on sexual abuse issues and advising them to withdraw their invitation to me. DSAC offered to send the President of the Criminal Bar Association material which would demonstrate that what I was saying was erroneous, but none has arrived to date.
In general, I am receiving considerable support from scientific researchers and other academics, lawyers, psychiatrists, and General Practitioners, all of whom are well aware that false sexual allegations are a significant and serious problem in our society. However, I am still getting a very cool reception, at best, from most clinical psychologists, psychotherapists and counsellors who work in this area.
As the courts swing into action again this year, sexual abuse cases, both true and false, seem to be in high focus in the media. A selection of recent cases which are possibly based on "recovered" memories are summarised in the Court section of this newsletter.
The Christchurch Civic Creche workers are suing their former employers, the Christchurch City Council, for wrongful dismissal. There are also several other individuals or groups currently attempting to obtain redress through the courts or via professional bodies, against individuals whom they believe have acted negligently with respect to sexual abuse claims.
A conference for child-protection workers held in Christchurch this month (see Recent Events) appears to have given very little acknowledgement that false allegations are occurring, nor addressing the damage these cause. Indeed, the visiting speaker, Dr Anna Salter, seems to have emphasised that concern about false allegations is part of a backlash movement which is leading to sexual abuse survivors being scared they will not be believed.
Personally, I believe that it is the denial of workers in the field that false accusations are happening, that is undermining the public confidence in the services which are available. False allegations of course also steal our limited resources away from those with genuine need.
Recent publicity in MORE magazine and in our local newspapers has resulted in a number of people inquiring about COSA and sharing their stories of sometimes heart-rending family devastation following sexual abuse allegations, mostly arising in custody disputes or from recovered memories. Whilst in most cases there is no way of knowing whether or not the allegations are false, the same stories and patterns repeat over and over, and certain circumstances certainly ring alarm bells for me. Hopefully we are moving towards a more balanced and just approach to the whole problem of identifying and dealing with sexual abuse.
Principal found guilty
46 year old Lower Hutt school prinicipal Rene Werkhoven has been found guilty of sexually abusing 3 former pupils in the 1980s. Werkhoven has denied all the charges. He had previously been found guilty and jailed in 1993 on charges relating to one of the complainants, but those convictions were overturned on appeal.
NZ Herald 10 Feb 1995
Jury accepts women’s accounts
A former Nelson City councillor, Robin Welsh, aged 58, was found guilty of indecent assault of 2 women over 20 years ago. The incidents are alleged to have occurred in 1967 and 1972, when they were aged 8 and 15.
The defence counsel, Joanna Maze, said one complainant had been influenced by counselling.
The crown counsel said the proescution witnesses "were compelling and their account of specific incidents was vivid".
NZ Herald, 18 Feb 1995
$15,000 part of penalty for abuse
A 49 year old Northland farmer has been found guilty of raping and indecently assaulting his step-daughter from the age of 7 to 18 years. He was sentenced to 6Ã‚Â½ years jail and ordered to pay her $15,000.
Judge Smellie said that the case had "driven a wedge between the complainant and other members of her family.
One can only admire the courage and fortitude both in coming forward to make the complaint and refusing to be disssuaded from the truth of what she had to say" he said.
NZ Herald 18 Feb 1995
Ellis may appeal again
Graham Panckhurst, QC, is applying for legal aid for Ellis to the Attorney-General. If successful, Ellis will take his case to the Privy Council in Britain.
NZ Herald 14 Feb 1995
Creche workers sue for $2.6m
13 childcare workers who lost their jobs during the police investigation into the Christchurch Civic Childcare Creche are seeking damages in the Employment Court from their former employers, the Christchurch City Council.
Barry Clarke, Sunday Star-Times, 26 Feb 1995.
Complaint to Press Council by accuser dismissed
The daughter of a man acquitted of charges of sexually abusing 3 of his daughters many years ago has had her complaint to the NZ Press Council dismissed. She was unhappy that the NZ Herald had reported that the testimony of all 3 daughters was based on recovered memories, as she claims her own allegations were based on "things I never forgot".
NZ Herald, 27 Feb 1995
Third indecency trial possible
After a 2nd trial, a jury found a 64 year old retired Balclutha man not guilty on one of 2 charges of having indecently assaulted one of his grand daughters in 1986 when she was 12 years old. They could not reach a decision regarding the second charge, and the Solicitor-General is to decide whether the matter should go to 3rd trial.
The man agreed that he used to hug and tickle the girl, as with all his grandchildren, but denies any indecent assault, and says he was never alone with the complainant.
The man is currently under stress which the crown counsel attributed to his "having to continue with the lies he had told to protect himself".
Otago Daily News, 31 Jan and 1 Feb 1995
“Memory” events outlined to jury
A man is on trial at the Christchurch High Court charged with sexually abusing a girl in 1967 then aged 5, and again in 1978. The complainant is now aged 33 years, and claims that she only recalled the abuse many years later during sexual intercourse with her boyfriend and she recalled a further incident in 1989 after a violent argument with him. The defendant has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Referring to recovered memories, the crown prosecutor instructed the jury to "listen to the complainant’s evidence and not be swayed by the undisciplined treatment of the topic by some of the news media".
NZ Herald, 28 Feb 1995;The Press, 28 Feb 1995
Bunbury case charges dropped
On 20 Dec 1994 all remaining charges in the Bunbury case in Western Australia were dropped. This was a case where a father was accused of satanic ritual abuse of his daughters, who had recovered the memories as adults. A jury had found him not guilty on some counts, but had been "hung" on others.
The Director of Public Prosecutions said that "this decision should not be seen as making a judgement on the validity of recovered memories".
Landmark case in New Hampshire
Two cases in New Hampshire (State v Joel Hungerford and State v John Morahan) are attracting national attention there. Both cases involve women entering therapy and recovering memories of being raped years earlier, one by her father and one by a teacher. The judge has ruled that before either women can 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.
The experts for the state are Jon Conte, Bessel van der Kolk and Daniel Brown. The experts for the defense are Elizabeth Loftus, Paul McHugh and James Hudson. The hearing for the admissibility of recovered memory is set for 27 March 1995.
(from FMS Newsletter February 1995)
Incest charges against Gary Ramona dropped
Earlier in 1994 Gary Ramona successfully sued his daughter Holly’s therapists for malpractice, alleging that they had planted false memories of abuse in her memory. However he still faced incest charges from his daughter.
The judge dropped all the charges saying that the previous trial had "satisfactorily resolved that no abuse took place".
Ian Katz, Guardian, 14 Dec 1994
Abuse hotline on way
A national toll-free hotline is to be established for child-abuse victims, offenders and their families. The help line will employ paid counsellors. Callers may remain anonymous if they wish.
Where hotlines such as this have been is use overseas, especially if combined with a policy of mandatory reporting for investigation, a dramatic increase in the number of false allegations has resulted.
NZ Herald, 17 Feb 1995
Child sexual abuse and justice for teachers
"Those wrongly accused are likely to lose everything – not least their freedom."
This article describes how dozens of Australian teachers have recently had their careers destroyed by allegations motivated by malice or based on misunderstanding.
Greg Roberts, The Bulletin, 6 Dec 1994, 28-32
Satanic abuse allegations in Australia
Over the past 5 years, hundreds of people throughout Australia are recovering horrific and vivid memories of brutal satanic abuse during therapy.
Numerous police investigations have failed to substantiate even one of these claims.
Richard Guilliatt, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 Feb 95
British psychologists back childhood memory recall
In a survey of 810 British psychologists, 9 out of 10 believe that recovered memories are sometimes or usually "essentially accurate" and 9% claim they are always accurate. The report concluded "while there is a great deal of evidence for incorrect memories, there is much less evidence for the creation of false memories".
The British Psychological Society has issued guidelines for therapists, warning them of the dangers of using hypnosis or leading questions, and the risk of memories coming from fantasy or dream matterial.
Lois Rogers, Sunday Times, 1 Jan 1995
Families cleared of ritual sex abuse go home to their shattered lives
4 couples were wrongly accused of ritually abusing 5 children. All middle-class professional and business people, they had been arrested in front of their own children and had spent many months in prison awaiting trial, whilst their homes were left unoccupied and vandalised. They were freed by a judge after the prosecution accepted that there "was not a shred of corroborative evidence" and that the children had made up the allegations.
Nigel Bunyan, Daily Telegraph, 14 Jan 1995
Christians admit delusions
The Evangelical Alliance, which represents about a million charismatic Christians, has admitted the existence of the false memory syndrome in causing some accounts of satanic ritual abuse and similar horrors.
A case is reported of a 21 year old girl, Rebecca Dallimore, who came to believe that her parents had abused her after she attended charismatic meetings at the home of the Rev Arthur Rowe of Norfolk. She has left her family and home as a result of her beliefs, although a police investigation found no evidence to support her claims.
The priest has apparently been disciplined by his church, but not sacked despite requests from her furious parents.
Andrew Brown, Independent, 17 Dec 1994
The revenge of the repressed
Frederick Crews, The New York Review, XLI, 20, 54-8
An excellent discussion on memory repression and review of a number of recent books published on this topic, both in support and challenging "recovered memories". These are all books previously reviewed in COSA newsletters:
- Unchained Memories, Lenore Terr;
- The Myth of Repressed Memory, Elizabeth Loftus and Katherine Ketcham;
- Remembering Satan, Lawrence Wright;
- The Courage to Heal, Ellen Bass and Laura Davis;
- Making Monsters, Richard Ofshe;
- Victims of Memory, Mark Pendergrast.
You’re not a paranoid schizophrenic – you only have multiple personality disorder
Richard Gardner, Academy Forum, Fall 1994, 38 (3), 11-4.
Excellent paper which discusses the currently in vogue diagnosis of MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder). Concludes that whatever the true prevalence of MPD (from nonexistent and iatrogenic: McHugh, 1993) there is also a parallel phenomenon taking place, whereby the MPD disgnosis is being utilised by paranoid schizophrenics and their therapists.
National Conference on Child Abuse:childhood ideals – childhood realities.
14-17 February, Lincoln University, Christchurch.
Organised by multi-disciplinary group including New Zealand Police, this conference was attended by 300 child protection workers.
Visiting American expert , Dr Anna Salter, told the conference that "the growing backlash threatened to stop long-term sexual abuse sufferers from seeking help…. The controversy over "recovered memories"… had caused some people to disbelieve all victims…. Victims feel disempowered and attacked… It makes adult survivors very vulnerable and subject to further abuse".
Suzanne Hall, NZCYPS, examined the outcome of 1,577 children’s interviews performed by the Christchurch Evidential Unit to investigate allegations. 50% of children disclosed abuse, 30% did not disclose abuse and no evidence was noted, 11% were situations not to be clarified, 7% sexual abuse was not disclosed but remained suspected, and only 2% were assessed as false allegations. I am unsure why the other 48% who failed to disclose abuse were not considered to be false claims.
Yvonne Pauling ran a workshop about how "some mothers turn their backs on their relationship with their daughters (the survivors of abuse) in favourof maintaining a relationship with their male partners (the alleged abusers)". She considers the influence of "the story of marriage as the most common story of how a woman’s life should be in a Patriarchal Society" and how this leads to survivors feeling abandoned by their mothers.
Angeline Wallace presented a paper entitled Children as witnesses: the impact of video technology in child sexual abuse cases. The impact of videotaping evidential interviews in Christchurch was researched. The study anticipated that videotapes would increase the number of guilty pleas entered, however in fact gulity pleas had decreased after the introduction of the regulations (although not significantly).
Recovered memories and the false memory syndrome
Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith
University of Auckland Continuing Education Programme (#G1.145)
7.30-9.30 pm, Tues 11 April, Room 029, Old Arts Bldg, 22 Princes St ($15)
Summarises the latest evidence about the nature of memory, and the arguments for and against recovered memory theory and therapy. Discusses the phenomenon which gives rise to previously "forgotten" stories, as well as bizarre tales of satanic rituals, cannibalism, alien abduction and past lives.
Proposed International Conference Regarding Parents Falsely Accused of Child Abuse
Utrecht, Netherlands, 28-30th June 1995.
(see Jan/Feb newsletter for details)
There is mounting professional and public concern that a well-intentioned movement aimed at detecting, treating and preventing childhood sexual abuse is also generating increasing numbers of false allegations. This is sadly resulting in a society hysterical about sexual abuse, where adults are becoming fearful to cuddle or toilet children for fear their actions are misconstrued, and services offering assistance to genuine abuse victims are losing public credibility.
COSA is an organisation for anyone concerned or harmed by false allegations of sexual abuse, in particular cases involving:
- custody disputes
- children who undergo "disclosure interviews" where a concerned adult suspects abuse but the child has given no history of it
- child care workers
- adult children recovering memories of childhood abuse during therapy (the so-called false memory syndrome)
- communities or religious groups.