COSA Casualties Of Sexual Allegations Newsletter March 1997 Vol 4 No 2

Contents of this site:

Editorial:Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ A parable for our time A group of suggestible girls, participating in voodoo spells and rituals with a Caribbean slave, developed strange behaviours and trance-like states. When questioned by their minister and other adults, the girls began to name the slave Tituba and other women in their community as witches whose wicked spirits were possessing them.

The NZ Human Rights Commission plans to give 6 hours’ training to a corp of 4000 school children (some as young as 12) to "weed out" sex abusers in their midst, both teachers and pupils. "Student safety teams" will be set up in schools and be expected to deal with problems ranging from verbal harassment to under-age sex to rape. Reminiscent of the Hitler Youth organisation, such a corp gives young people incredible power to point the finger, scapegoat, and potentially destroy the life of a fellow student or teacher whom they dislike.

COSA member participation In our attempts to reduce genuine abuse, our society has become over-sensitive to the possibility of sexual molestation in our midst. This effects not only those falsely accused. Many who fear that this might happen avoid contact with children – at high social cost. At a time when so many children are being raised by solo mothers, a lack of male teachers means even less contact for children with men as role models. Adults are avoiding cuddling and comforting children; activities at sports clubs are curtailed by men scared to be alone with children.


Jail for (non-sexual abuse claim) ACC Fraud

Woman extortionist not imprisoned

Rape convict wins appeal

Woman not jailed for attacking unfaithful lover Dr Gail Ratcliffe claimed that Marie Poa was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder when she suggested a sex game to her de-facto husband, bound him hand and foot and gagged in the shower, and tried to pour a jug of boiling water over his genitals. She then attacked him with a vegetable knife but he escaped from the house, chased by Poa wielding a barbecue skewer.

Multiple personality no defence against fraud

Sex offence charges dropped after counsellor shreds notes (Canada).

Court rules therapy notes to be shown to defence (Canada).

Falsely convicted man gets $1.35m compensation (Canada).

Neidig case (USA).

Media:Fear of false accusations stops men teaching children

Counselling at all costs

Sex, lies and men’s reputations

Minister advocates family values

CYPS using questionable statistics

Important memory research (USA).

Frightening state interventions in family lives (USA).

Alien abductions (UK).

Literature:Risk factors for adolescent pregnancy: how important is child sexual abuse?

Extract from a talk by David Calof about Satanic Ritual Abuse.

Public Understanding of Science

The case for motivated reasoning

Issues in Child Abuse Accusations

Features:Roger & Heather Smythe – Case history

Dear COSA, I write to you as a frustrated member….

Newsletters received by COSA

News From The South


A parable for our time

We have just seen the excellent film production of Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’. It deals with a period of hysteria which erupted in Salem, Massachusetts, from June to September 1692. A group of suggestible girls, participating in voodoo spells and rituals with a Caribbean slave, developed strange behaviours and trance-like states. When questioned by their minister and other adults, the girls began to name the slave Tituba and other women in their community as witches whose wicked spirits were possessing them. The wave of accusations soon spread to neighbouring towns, and the magistrates’ court set up to try the accused chose to believe the testimony of the children over the denials of those accused. Those who made false confession to being a witch (often forced by a variety of tortures) were neither tried nor executed, but those who denied their guilt were hanged.

By October 1692 accusations included an ever-increasing number of prominent people, including the governor’s wife. There was growing dissatisfaction about the criteria used by the courts to establish guilt, and the Reverend Increase Mather (president of Harvard College) stated "It were better that ten suspected witches should escape than one innocent person be condemned… I had rather judge a witch to be an honest woman than judge an honest woman to be a witch". The trials were stopped and for many years thereafter, courts and churches declared days of penance and prayer to apologise for the injustices suffered by the accused.

Miller wrote his play in 1953 as a parable about the campaign conducted by American politician Joseph McCarthy against Communism in the early 1950s. McCarthy made a number of unsubstantiated claims that the Department of State had been infiltrated by Communists and repeatedly accused various high-ranking officials of subversive activities.

Sadly, it appears society does not learn from its mistakes, and there are remarkable parallels between Salem and some sexual abuse accusations of the 1980s and 1990s. Common to both situations are a progressive wave of hysteria; suggestive interviewing of the presumed ‘victims’; an unaccustomed shower of attention and sense of power for those making false accusations; uncritical acceptance of the uncorroborated evidence of children; and rewarding those who make false confession.

In a frightening new development, it has recently been reported that the Human Rights Commission will be giving 6 hours’ training to a corp of 4000 school children (some as young as 12) to "weed out" sex abusers in their midst, both teachers and pupils. "Student safety teams" will be set up in schools and be expected to deal with problems ranging from verbal harassment to under-age sex to rape (Fisher D (23 Feb 1997) ‘Students to flush out sex perverts’, Sunday News [NZ], 5).

This may sound like a sensible goal. However, reminiscent of the Hitler Youth organisation, such a corp gives young people incredible power to point the finger, scapegoat, and potentially destroy the life of a fellow student or teacher whom they dislike. Furthermore, there appears to be a melding and confusion of some very different phenomena – sexual bantering and harassment between teenage boys and girls; consensual under-age sex; paedophilia and sexual assault. Clearly some complaints will be justified, but arming children with such a weapon endangers the innocent.

COSA member participation

A number of COSA members have recently been active in writing letters to newspapers; calling talk-back radio; appearing on television and contacting their MPs about false allegation issues. We wish to encourage such participation, as the problems were are facing are too great to be tackled by individuals. Our strength lies in our numbers – it is only when sufficient people speak out about the wrongs they have suffered that changes will be able to be made.

Certainly there is already a public ground-swell in recognising that in our attempts to reduce genuine abuse, our society has become over-sensitive to the possibility of sexual molestation in our midst. This effects not only those falsely accused. Many who fear that this might happen avoid contact with children – at high social cost. At a time when so many children are being raised by solo mothers, a lack of male teachers means even less contact for children with men as role models. Adults are avoiding cuddling and comforting children; activities at sports clubs are curtailed by men scared to be alone with children.

The time must come when public concerns get translated into a change in practices by our social and health professionals. This can be hastened by raising public awareness and sparking debate.

Be part of the solution! This month (7.30 pm Thurs 13 March, TV1) there will screen an Assignment documentary on recovered memories. As outlined in the enclosed flyer, please use this and other media opportunities to write to your newspapers; call talk-back hosts; send letters to MPs and encourage discussion about the issues with colleagues and friends.

Felicity Goodyear-Smith


New Zealand

Jail for (non-sexual abuse claim) ACC Fraud

Betsy Nicholson, a 55 year old Northland beneficiary, has been jailed for one year for defrauding ACC by falsely claiming home help. ACC claim that fraud costs ACC up to $100 million a year. COSA knows of a large number of claims to ACC for lump sums and counselling where the allegations have been shown to be clearly false. To our knowledge, none of these complainants (with the exception of Simone Doublett, who voluntarily admitted her false claim) has ever been charged with fraud.

(NZ Herald, 16 Nov 1996)


Woman extortionist not imprisoned

A 20 year old Nelson woman was found guilty of extortion but received only an 18 month suspended jail sentence, 8 months’ periodic detention and one year’s supervision. She had written to a man threatening to accuse him of sexually abusing her when she was younger unless he paid her $10,000.

(NZ Herald 12 Feb 1997)

Rape convict wins appeal

In Aug 1996 30 year old Ram Ladler received an 8 year sentence for rape. At his appeal, it was revealed that there was no circumstantial or forensic evidence corroborating the woman’s account, and the defence was denial. The Appeal Court judgement said that the real issue was whether or not the alleged intercourse had ever occurred, and that further evidence now available might have lead to a not guilty verdict by the jury. A retrial has been ordered.

(NZPA, 21 Nov 1996)

Woman not jailed for attacking unfaithful lover

29 year old Papakura woman Marie Poa planned revenge when she discovered that her de facto husband, Shane Westbury, had been unfaithful. She suggested a sex game and when he was bound hand and foot and gagged in the shower, she tried to pour a jug of boiling water over his genitals.

Fortunately, the scalding water was cooled by the shower, which had run cold, and he managed to deflect the hot water away from his genitalia. Poa then attacked him with a vegetable knife but Mr Westbury managed to free his hands from behind his back and defend himself. He escaped from the house, chased by Poa wielding a barbecue skewer.

Poa, a beneficiary, was found not guilty of attempting to murder Mr Westbury, but guilty of injuring him with intent to injure. She was sentenced to a 15 month suspended jail term and 2 years’ supervision.

A report from clinical psychologist, Dr Gail Ratcliffe, claimed that Poa had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder at the time. Because she had a ‘history of being abused’, when Mr Westbury admitted that he had had sex with someone else, she felt ‘dreadfully betrayed’ and hence was not in a state to be aware of the consequences of her actions.

Mr Westbury suffered no lasting physical injuries. The couple have since separated.

(NZ Herald, 15 Feb 1997, Tony Stickley, ‘False Lover Found Himself In Hot Water’)

Multiple personality no defence against fraud

The woman who claimed that another 2 of her multiple personalities stole $34,000 from a church and a trust (see COSA Newsletter Jan/Feb 1997 4 (1) , 3) was found guilty of fraud. It was decided that while she claimed that 2 of her 32 characters had committed the offence, there was no proof that she was insane.

(NZ Herald, 18 Jan 1997)


Sex offence charges dropped after counsellor shreds notes

Gross indecency charges against a teacher were dropped by the Supreme Court of Canada because a rape crisis centre had purposely shredded the notes compiled during an interview with the complainant. The complainant had attended the centre in 1992 to discuss laying charges against Nick Carosella, a teacher at the school she had attended from 1964 to 1966. She went to the police shortly after attending the centre.

The majority of the Supreme Court judges ruled that it undermined public confidence for a publicly funded agency such as a rape crisis centre to deliberately destroy potential evidence.

(Globe & Mail, 7 Feb 1997, ‘Top court tosses out sex case’)

Court rules therapy notes to be shown to defence

A British Columbia doctor is being sued by a 17 year old patient who claims he sexually assaulted her. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that notes taken by the complainant’s psychiatrist during therapy sessions with the girl are to be shown to the defence lawyers.

(Globe & Mail, 7 Feb 1997, ‘Psychiatric records allowed, court rules’)

Falsely convicted man gets $1.35m compensation

In April 1985 Guy Morin was arrested and charged with the sex-slaying of his 9 year old neighbour Christine Jessop. He was acquitted in 1986 but the government won an appeal and he was retried and convicted in 1992. He was sentenced to life in prison, but was granted bail in Feb 1993 while waiting the outcome of his appeal. By then he had already spent more than 2 years behind bars. In 1995 DNA testing exonerated him.

In Jan 1997 he received an apology from the Ontario authorities and $1.35 million in compensation.

(Star-Times, 26 Jan 1997)


Neidig case

Larry Neidig has been an officer in Virginia police department for 20 years. In 1992 his wife died, and he became solo parent to his 2 daughters, Christine and Sarah (then aged 8 and 1). In 1995, a school-friend of Christina (now aged 11) told a therapist that Larry was abusing Christina. Christina denied the allegation to a CPS worker. She was then interviewed by a police detective and a social worker. During this interview, Christina eventually alleged that Larry had sexually touched her. She now says: "They asked me the same thing over and over again. Finally I just told them stories. I was tired of talking about it."

Christina was examined by Suzanne Brown, a nurse from the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program. Nurse Brown claimed she saw a scar from penile penetration.

In May 1995 Christina failed to return home from school, and when Larry reported her missing, he was arrested and charged. He did not see Christina and Sarah outside of court for the next 18 months.

The criminal trial was held in Sep 1995. At this trial, Nurse Brown’s diagnosis was discredited; the scar that she identified as evidence of penetration was correctly identified by one of Larry’s expert witnesses (Michael Davis) as a "perineal raphe", a naturally-occurring small seam in the genital area. Another of his experts (Dr Timothy McElrath) pointed out that the girls’ hymens were intact. The jury found Larry not guilty.

However, Larry’s name was in the computer (apparently for life) as a suspected child molester, and was fired from the police department several months after his trial. He decided to fight back and regain custody of Sarah and Christina. In the resulting legal proceeding, one of his experts (Dr Robert Fey, a New York paediatrician) stated that Nurse Brown’s organisation, SANE, made "gross blunders" in their medical assessments, and that "They were looking for anything at all to validate a finding of abuse." As a result of these proceedings, judge Gerald Lee ruled that Christina and Sarah had not been abused; they were returned home to Larry two months ago.

That was still not the end of it. In the course of a casual conversation with Christina about going to the beach, Christina revealed that she and Sarah had been taken to Norfolk to "visit a doctor". Larry and his attorneys discovered that the girls had been examined in Apr 1996, in Norfolk, by Dr John de Triquet, who said "simply and specifically that there existed no physical sign of genital trauma." The county kept this finding secret, and continued to resist Larry’s efforts to restore his family and regain his job.

(Washington Times 16 Feb 1997, Michael Hedges)


New Zealand

Fear of false accusations stops men teaching children

Massey University lecturer Sarah Farquhar interviewed 20 male and 20 female early childhood teachers. In her report "A Few Good men or a Few Too many?" she identified the cases of Peter Ellis (Christchurch Civic Centre worker jailed for 10 years in 1993) and Geoffrey Scott (Wellington Hospital childcare centre teacher jailed for seven years in 1994) are a major reason why men are avoiding work in kindergartens and childcare centres.

"Before 1990, being accused of sex abuse was not a fear. But since 1990, it has become a major concern for men in early childhood centres," she said. All 40 subjects in her study said the most relevant explanation for male under-representation was the fear of being falsely accused of child abuse. 55% of male teachers said they had been treated as child abusers, or made to feel like potential abusers. There is however no evidence that men in early childhood centres were more dangerous to children than women.

(Evening Standard, 27 Jan 1997, "Fear keeps men from teaching", p2)

Counselling at all costs

This editorial challenges the idea that every human episode of suffering and loss needs professional counselling. Yvonne McEwen, an international expert in managing trauma, is quoted as saying that swamping survivors of disaster with teams of professional counsellors often creates more problems than it solves. Some disaster survivors benefit more from keeping silent than from talking about their grief. This applies even more so to the minor troubles that are inevitable in human life.

Ms McEwen criticises the idea that if people do not articulate what has happened to them they are ‘in denial’. Anyway, denial is a wonderful survival tool. "Look at the men who went into the trenches in the First World War and went on to lead productive, fulfilled lives. We are in danger of turning families into victims. We need to listen to what they want, and if they don’t want counselling then that is fine. People like themselves better when they work something out for themselves. They don’t want to talk to strangers about it."

Ms McEwen holds 5 international visiting professorships, and has worked on high-profile trauma disasters including the Lockerbie air crash, the Dunblane shooting, terrorism in Northern Ireland, the Oklahoma bombing in the USA.

Ms McEwen says disasters such as Lockerbie or the Hillsborough football stadium crush in which many died are "too often used by those in the caring professions as a way of enhancing a dull curriculum vitae, propping up a failing career, or attracting larger budgets for pet projects". She says counsellors do not want to learn from such disasters because "it would mean reducing their role or accepting that there is no role for them. It is about time people involved in these sorts of disasters stood back and admitted honestly that they have created a monster, got back to basics, and reappraised everything that’s been learned in the last 10 years."

After Thomas Hamilton’s Dunblane murders she says "There were more counsellors than victims. There needs to be less therapeutic and psychological support, and more practical help. Often, what people need after a disaster is a roof over their heads or a meal. Instead, what they are offered is counselling. We are neglecting people’s basic survival needs. What they need, too, is honest information about what is going on."

She also derides the compensating of professionals (police, ambulance staff, and others) for the psychological trauma of attending tragedies, since dealing with disasters might reasonably be expected to fall within their duties.

(The Press, Christchurch, 8 Feb 1997, ‘Counselling at all costs’)

Sex, lies and men’s reputations

In a 2 part series, Rosemary McLeod addressed the issues of deliberate false rape allegations (as exemplified by the cases of Nick Wills, Allan Rust and Allen Collier). She identified that "women never lie about sex crimes" has become an axiom for social workers, police, counsellors and therapists, and how this can result in a presumption of guilt and inadequate police investigation for the falsely accused.

(The Dominion, Rosemary McLeod, ‘Sex, lies and men’s reputations’, 6 Feb 1997; ‘What juries discover too late’, 7 Feb 1997)

Minister advocates family values

To the consternation of some feminist politicians, Christine Fletcher, the new Minister of Women’s Affairs, is focusing on women’s role as the centrepiece of the family. She rightly identifies that the family has been under constant threat for the past 2 decades, and that many of our current social ills are caused by solo parenting or women trying to combine raising a family with being the economic provider.

Labour women’s affairs spokesperson Dianne Yates describes Ms Fletcher’s politically unfashionable stand as "outdated rhetoric reminiscent of a 19th century League of Mothers tract" claiming that women’s problems could be solved simply by increasing their benefits and wages.

(Evening Post, 5 Feb 1997, ‘A Minister who speaks her mind’)

CYPS using questionable statistics

In a well-researched article, Neville Bennett discusses a report entitled ‘The fiscal & economic cost of child abuse’, by the chief economist of DSW’s Social Policy Agency, Dr Graeme Scott. This report (which was intended to remain in-house until released under the Freedom of Information Act on application from Labour’s Annette King) estimated that child abuse (excluding sexual abuse and neglect) cost the country $1.6 billion a year. It further argued that for every dollar spent by CYPS, other government agencies save from $2 to $4.

In his analysis of the statistics used to reach this conclusion, Bennett discovered some very tenuous assumptions. For example, Scott decided that 130,000 children will be abused annually because there were about 37,000 police callouts to domestic abusive incidents in 1993 to 1994 and the "rule of thumb" is that there are 5 unreported incidents for every police callout. Bennett is also critical of the use of foreign data by Scott, when there is one of the best studies of prevalence in the world recently conducted in Christchurch (Fergusson); and the fact that CYPS has no idea of the "outcomes" of its interventions.

(Bennett N (24 Jan 1997). ‘The child abuse scandal’, National Business Review, 16)


Important memory research

North American researchers Susumu Tonegwa and Matthew Wilson (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Eric Kandel (Columbia University) have created a strain of mice which are genetically missing a signal receptor inside specific memory cells inside the hippocampus. This has allowed them to study how these mice’s memories are different from normal mice. Mice were put into a tub of milky water, which had a platform just below the surface. While mice can swim, they prefer to stand on something solid. It was found that after a few times in the tub, normal mice knew exactly where the platform was, whereas the mutant mice continued to swim around aimlessly.

Tiny electrodes were also hooked up to memory cells in the mice’s brains. It was found that in normal mice, these cells form a sort of map, different groups becoming activated as a mouse moves to a different landscape. Eventually the scientists could tell where a mouse was just by looking at which brain cells were firing. In the mutant mice however, this map was scrambled.

This research adds further proof to the theory that memories are made by the strengthening of connections between nerve cells in the brain.

(NZ Herald, 11 Jan 1997)

Frightening state interventions in family lives

In 1993 a Kentucky woman. took her 11-year-old daughter to the local school for the check-up she needed before starting sixth grade. She was shocked to learn that the doctor wanted to give the child a genital examination. This was required by the Department of Education to "catch abuse at an early age" and was paid for by a private foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Similarly, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic conducted a study of 900 elementary schoolchildren paid for by a private psychiatric institute. In this study, teachers were required to report how frequently each 6-to-10-year-old child tended to use obscene language, "con" other people, forge signatures, break into houses or force sexual activity on others. Teachers also rated each child as to how "normal" he or she seemed.

Also in Kentucky, the Baltimore-based Casey Foundation, endowed by the founder of United Parcel Service, James Casey, seeded a $74 million program to put social workers in every public school. Among other things, the workers train new parents and make sure the children get all the health and social services they need, including referrals to get pregnancy tests and condoms.

The manager of the programme was Ronnie Dunn, author of ‘The Factory Fable‘, a book that compares children to the "raw materials used in the manufacturing process." Dunn made her social engineering activities very clear when she said "When all citizens ‘own’ the children and work together to support and empower families, our society becomes a better place."

US charitable foundations give about $100 million each year to state and local governments. Today virtually every state accepts social agenda grants from private foundations.

(Forbes Magazine 16 Dec 1996)


Alien abductions

In 1996 British insurance company Goodfellow, Rebecca, Ingrams, Pearson (GRIP), specialising in bizarre policies, began offering policies against being "abducted, impregnated or eaten by aliens". GRIPs other policies include protection for virgins concerned about immaculate conception.

Company managing director Simon Burgess recently claimed that he had paid out NZ $2.4 million [US $1,680,000] to 23 year old policy holder Joseph Carpenter. Carpenter held a NZ $238 a year policy against alien abductions. He claimed that on 14 November 1996 he had been abducted by "an extraterrestrial entity with a triangular head, two tiny, slit nostrils and olive, dolphin-like skin" from a UFO in Wiltshire. He was said to have produced a transparent, webbed claw, as well as video and photographs of the abduction taken by his friends as proof of the claim.

GRIPs was reported as having sold another 1100 similar policies on the strength of the publicity, however the payout was later revealed to be a confidence trick.

(NZ Sunday Star-Times 29 Dec 9 ‘Insurer pays out on alien abduction’; NZ Herald 13 Jan 97 Alien payout ‘trick’, B3.)


Risk factors for adolescent pregnancy: how important is child sexual abuse?

Romans S, Martin J & Morris E (14 Feb 1997), New Zealand Medical Journal, 110: 30-33.

This study is based on data obtained from the Otago Women’s Health Sexual Abuse study in which 252 women claiming childhood sexual abuse were interviewed.

It was found that generally, childhood sexual abuse was not independently related to adolescent pregnancy.

Four pre-existing psychosocial factors were found to be associated with teenage pregnancy:

  • living in a non-nuclear family;
  • living with parents who had frequent rows;
  • being physically punished after age 12; and
  • not having a confidante as a child.

Extract from a talk by David Calof at the Menninger Clinic in the spring of 1993.

David Calof is an American therapist who has published a journal called Treating Abuse Today and who has promoted his belief in intergenerational satanic ritual abuse conspiracy. In the following interpretation, he takes what sounds like an innocent post-card to a client from her sister and explains what it ‘really’ means:

"In ritual abuse especially you will see "triggering programs" that are literally installed by the perpetrators to potentiate self-harm. You will find the possibility of disguised contact or clandestine contact with perpetrators that will then potentiate self-harm.

Let me just give a sterling example of this because, indeed, it’s so insidious that it can look benign. A ritual abuse survivor in a case I was consulting to received a postcard from her sister who had also been abused and we believe was still active in the perpetrating group. And it’s a very benign postcard on the surface. It said:

Dear Sis, Mom and I have been thinking about you. Can’t wait to see you again. In the meantime take care of yourself. Love, Sis.

Client got this postcard and began to engage in horrible self-harming behavior for a period of about six weeks until we appreciated that this had been a trigger. Let’s just simply look at it and see how insidious it can be. "Mom and I have been thinking about you" caters to the client’s magical thinking. The client believes that people can read her mind.

By the way, when an abusive parent of a survivor dies it doesn’t necessarily mean more safety. My experience is it means less safety, because what happens then is when the person is alive you can locate them but when they die they become omniscient and omnipresent. And again catering to the magical thinking. Oftentimes injunctions are spoken during the abuse that reinforce that. For example, "No matter where you are, or what you are doing I will know if you tell." This gets internalized…So "Mom and I have been thinking about you" caters to that. Now of course, it’s coincidental for being in therapy. So that’s enough almost right there.

Then: "We can’t wait to see you again." Now you have to take this in context. This is a woman, the client is a woman who’s on the lam from her family. She’s running from her family and the perpetrating group. She knows… that if she goes back something terrible is going to happen to her. So they’re speaking of the inevitability that she will, in fact, go back: "can’t wait to see you again." We call that a presupposition.

The most insidious part, however, is the last sentence: "In the meantime take care of yourself. Love, Sis." … "Take care of yourself." It was an injunction to kill herself. We finally found in this case an historical precedent for this. She went back to a ritual in which she remembered watching another child being murdered for disclosure. OK? The people that murdered that child came to the client in question then, when she was just a little girl I don’t remember how old, 3, 4, 5, no older than that and said to her, "If you tell, we will take care of you or you will have to take care of yourself." And there it was, there was the program. OK?

So let me urge you to consider the possibility of clandestine re-contact in these cases. I don’t want you to feel paranoid. I don’t want to leave you with the feeling that you can’t feel safe in these cases. But I must tell you that I learned the hard way that this happens."

Public Understanding of Science

Turney J (1996), Lancet, 347: 1087-1090.

Interesting article about the need for people to sift information about scientific issues to make decisions relevant to their lives. This raises questions about issues of trust in scientists, doctors and other "experts", and sources of information.

The case for motivated reasoning

Kunda Z (1990). Psychological Bulletin, 102 (3), 480-498.

Discusses the notion that someone’s motives or goals may affect the way they reason. Motivation to arrive at a particular conclusion can enhance the use of strategies and beliefs that are considered most likely to yield the desired conclusion.

Issues in Child Abuse Accusations Summer / Fall 1996, 8 (3/4)

Articles in this double issue include:

  • Investigations and interviews in cases of alleged child sexual abuse: a look at the scientific evidence, by Judith Adams;
  • Frailty, Thy name is memory: an inverse witch trial in Denmark, by Max Scharnberg;
  • Therapeutic influence in DID and recovered memories of sexual abuse, by Ralph Underwager and Hollida Wakefield;
  • Psychologists who make unqualified public statements about litigants whom they have not examined: a cautionary note, by Jack Annon;
  • Addendum III: Recommendations for dealing with parents who induce a parental alienation syndrome in their children, by Richard Gardner;
  • Witch-children: the myth of the innocent child, by Hans Sebald.

Roger & Heather Smythe – Case history

Names and details of case histories are changed to avoid identification of those involved. Please contact the Editor if you would like to have your case presented.

Roger Smythe married his wife Heather in May 1985. Their first son Samuel was born in June 1986 and the family moved from New Zealand to Australia when Samuel was still a baby. A second son Matthew was born in Australia in November 1988.

At two years old, with a baby brother, Samuel was the typical "terrible two year old", attention-seeking, aggressive and unruly. Unlike most children, however, his behaviour did not settle down in the next few years, and he remained hyperactive, always trying to be the centre of attention, and often naughty. The behaviour problem persisted when he started school with him bullying other children and being disruptive in class.

The relationship between Roger and Heather deteriorated, they grew apart and had very little in common. In January 1993 Heather returned to New Zealand with her sons, now aged 6 and 4. Samuel was again a trouble-maker at his new school, being aggressive and disruptive. He was also caught playing rude games with some boys in a park, sucking each others’ penises and urinating on each other. A couple of months later he was found to have been playing similar sexual games with the 5 year old son of one of Heather’s friends. Matthew was also involved in this incident, but in general he was described by his mother as a well-behaved placid child, and Heather felt that his participation was due to Samuel’s influence.

Concerned about Samuel’s behaviour, Heather organised for him to have counselling with a family therapist, Ms Tania Stanley. Ms Stanley worked at the Catholic Family and Community Services and was recommended by Roger’s brother, who was also a counsellor. Heather and a school teacher friend felt that Samuel’s behaviour problems were probably caused by Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) but neither Ms Stanley nor any of the other professionals who later dealt with him, would agree.

Even before she first met Samuel, Ms Stanley clearly believed that his behaviour problems were probably due to him having been sexually abused. At the referral in May 1993, and before having ever seen Samuel, she had contacted the Children and Young Person’s Service about him having an evidential interview for sexual abuse. She was informed that such an interview was not indicated until the child was ready to talk about how he had been sexually abused and by whom.

Her first session, in June 1993, was with the family – Samuel, Matthew and Heather – to talk about the rude games, which Ms Stanley described as Samuel’s sexual abuse of other children. At the end of this session Ms Stanley told Heather that Samuel may well have been sexually abused and that it was possible the offender was his father, Roger.

From then on she mostly saw Samuel alone, and was to have about 60 sessions with him over the next two years (which is more than one a fortnight). From the onset, she saw the focus of her therapy was to deal with his sexually abusive and other "acting out" behaviour, and to investigate the possibility that he had himself been sexually abused.

His behaviour did not improve over the next few months and Heather made contact with Roger, expressing her concerns and saying that Samuel was acting out of control. Roger decided to come back to New Zealand to help with his sons’ upbringing and within two weeks he was home, arriving in August 1993. He found himself accommodation and had the boys to stay every second weekend. He would also go and baby-sit them at their home when Heather wanted to go out for the evening. The arrangement was largely amicable and Heather did not believe that he had ever sexually abused their sons.

Samuel’s counselling with Ms Stanley continued and even though he persistently denied that he had been sexually abused, she kept up her inquiries with him about possible molestation. In November 1993 she claimed Samuel had complained about pain in his bottom and said that this indicated that perhaps someone had sexually abused him. On the strength of this she referred him to the children’s hospital for physical assessment. In February 1994 Samuel underwent a full physical and genital examination. The findings were normal, and according to the doctor’s report, Samuel had never complained of a sore bottom.

Counselling continued. This included Ms Stanley frequently asking Samuel to tell her any secrets he might be keeping, emphasising that it was bad for him to carry secrets. It would have been very clear to Samuel from the onset of her therapy that she believed that he had been sexually abused. In early 1994 Samuel said that he had been sexually abused by a man called Roger Smith when he was four years old (and still living in Australia). Ms Stanley suspected that this was really his father, but that Samuel was not ready to admit it. She carried on her counselling, seeking for further details of sexual abuse, and organised for both him and Matthew to undergo evidential interviews.

The interviews took place in June 1994. The week before Ms Stanley saw the two boys separately and then together to prepare them for the interviews. She accompanied them to the evidential video centre as their support person, and waited with their mother while they were being interviewed.

Samuel started his interview by saying he was there "because um Dad’s been sexually abusing us and stuff" but then admitted that he did not know what "abuse" really meant. On direct questioning, he said that his father has touched his penis in the shower, "pulling it back" with his hands, and that it felt "horrible". He says his father has done the same to his brother. The possibility that he might be describing hygiene care was not explored by the interviewer, who assumed that this is a sexual act. Samuel insisted that there had been no other types of rude touching, despite leading questions from the interviewer who clearly did not accept his denial and repeated her questions. She even asked him if his father has ever put his penis in Samuel’s bottom, although this had never been suggested before.

In Matthew’s interview he said he was there "cause [Dad] was playing with our rude bits", that "Mummy thinks um we’re not going to Dad’s any more" and that "the Police are contacting [Dad]". He claimed that this touching happened on five occasions "in the bushes" at his father’s house between the ages of 4 and 5 years. He also claimed that he had seen his father do this to Samuel five times; however Samuel said in his interview that his father had only ever touched him in the shower.

Soon after these interviews, Heather’s new boy friend, Graham Henry, moved in to live with her.

In July 1994 Roger was approached by the police and informed of these allegations. He underwent a video interview during which he adamantly denied the allegations. Several months later, in October, he was again contacted by the police, arrested and charged with indecent assault of both sons.

In the meantime Samuel continued to have regular counselling with Ms Stanley, and Matthew also started to have fortnightly sessions with her. She encouraged them to talk about the horrid feelings they had had and some of the horrid things that had happened to them when their father had been playing rude games with them, and how important it was for them to talk about some of the secrets they had not talked about yet so that they could start feeling better. For some months neither boy revealed any further details. In November 1994 Ms Stanley suggested that she make some guesses about what Dad might have done in the shower and they could tell her if she was right. She asked Samuel about a number of scenarios such as his dad making him touch his [dad’s] penis, but Samuel kept saying no, that had not happened. Finally when she "guessed" that his father had put his penis in Samuel’s bottom, the boy said "yes, that’s what Dad did".

Matthew underwent a similar session, with Ms Stanley trying to "guess" what Dad had done to him. Initially when she asked if Dad had put his penis in Matthew’s bottom the boy said no, but he later changed this to "sometimes he did". She then referred both boys back to the police, and had a joint session with them in December to prepare them for their second evidential interviews, which took place in mid December. Again, Ms Stanley accompanied them to the video interview centre and waited while they had their interviews.

During his second interview, Samuel claimed that his father has "put his willy into my bottom" on a number of occasions when he was in the shower. His father would stand outside the shower box, drop his trousers to his knees and do this while both he and the boy were standing up. When asked if Dad’s body was moving or still, he replied "almost still" and that after it had happened, he would go home and tell his mother.

In Matthew’s second interview, he used the same words as his brother, volunteering that "Dad put his willy in my bottom" before he was even asked why he was there and that it felt "horrible". When asked why he had not told about this during his first interview, he said "because I forgot" but that now "I remembered it".

Roger now faced further representative charges of anal intercourse with his sons. Before the trial, Samuel retracted his allegations to the police. They did not inform either the defence or the court about these retractions. Furthermore, Samuel also made allegations that his new step-father Graham had abused him, but subsequently admitted these allegations were false. This information was similarly withheld by the police.

Roger’s trial took place in August 1995. The day before the trial both boys attended Ms Stanley’s counselling centre to view the evidential interview they had made the previous year and refresh their minds about the allegations they had made. When asked about the incident with "Roger Smith" in Australia, Samuel admitted that he had just remembered that this man was someone he had only dreamed about and did not really exist. His evidence about when his father was supposed to have sodomised him, and how he had told his mother after each occasion, was confused and contradictory.

Matthew’s evidence was similarly inconsistent with what he had previously alleged, now saying that the episode in the bushes had happened only once and that he had told his mother about it straight away, and that the sodomy in the shower occurred at the same time, changing this to each incident having happened 5 times on the one day. A police officer who had visited Roger’s home during the investigations admitted that there were no bushes in the vicinity.

During the trial a court appointed psychologist gave evidence that the behaviour problems of both boys was consistent with a history of sexual abuse and that the diagnosis of hyperactivity (ADHD) causing Samuel’s behaviour problems could be excluded because these problems included sexualised behaviour which was consistent with sexual abuse having occurred. She claimed that children are no more open to suggestion than adults [apparently unaware of the large body of research demonstrating that children’s testimony can be easily influenced by the expectations of people in authority (including therapists, interviewers, police and parents) and that they are generally eager to please and will attempt to give a questioner the answer they believe expected of them].

Ms Stanley claimed that Samuel’s disruptive and sexualised behaviours had been caused by his father sexually abusing him. She said that since he had realised that he was sexually abused, he had become angry and resentful of his mother and others, developed low self-esteem, nightmares and fear of the dark. She felt that more counselling might help some of his problems but that he was emotionally scarred for life and deprived of a normal childhood by his father.

The physical unfeasibility of a big man being able to sodmise a small boy while he had his trousers down around his legs and with both of them standing up was never addressed during the trial. The height differential alone would make this an impossible act.

The jury acquitted Roger on charges relating to Matthew but found him guilty on one representative count of indecency with Samuel and one representative count of anal intercourse with him. In August 1995 Roger was sentenced to six years imprisonment, with permanent name suppression to protect the victim.

Roger’s family were shocked by the outcome. With the exception of his counsellor brother who had initially recommended Ms Stanley, his family had been very supportive, absolutely sure that there was no truth in the allegations. In early 1995 Roger had developed a relationship with a young woman, Rosemary Evans, who knew about the allegations and was very supportive of him. She remained a staunch ally. Roger’s parents took out a mortgage on their house, and an appeal was mounted.

In May 1996, nine months after his father had been sentenced, Samuel asked his mother if he could see his father in prison. He asked a lot of questions about his father and what prison is like. Then he asked "Does God know if you are telling lies?". When his mother said yes, he started crying and said that he had been telling lies about his father, that Roger had never played rude games with him. Matthew was present and he told his mother that he had told lies too. She waited a few days to see if they would change their story, then asked them about it again. The boys repeated that they had never played rude games with Roger and said that they would like to take a lie detector test to prove they were now telling the truth. Two days later Samuel went to see Ms Stanley. Despite her attempts to support him in the allegations, he insisted that none of it had ever happened.

Heather started to correspond with Roger in prison. She said she had never really believed the allegations, but had felt that the experts (the counsellor, social workers, psychologists and police) must know best, and it had been emphasised to her that if she did not believe her sons, it would be damaging to them and an indication that she was not able to protect them. Heather made an affidavit in which she outlined in great detail how both her sons had retracted their allegations. She was adamant that Samuel’s retraction was spontaneous and that she had not tried to pressure the children in any way that their allegations might not be true.

In July 1996 she took Samuel to a paediatrician who diagnosed his behaviour problems as Attention Deficit Disorder. He was treated with Ritalin and his behaviour rapidly improved.

Both children were interviewed by a retired judge, who prepared a report for the appeal court in September 1996. The judge confirmed Samuel’s retraction against his father. He said that Samuel had explained that he initially lied because he didn’t like the way his father had been strict with him and because his counsellor, Ms Stanley, kept asking the same questions over and over again.

The appeal was heard in October 1996. Both Roger’s convictions were quashed on the basis that Samuel had retracted his allegations both before and since the trial, and was still standing by his retractions. It was also ordered that there should not be a re-trial.

The following day Roger was released from prison, after 14½ months’ wrongful imprisonment. Today he lives with his girl-friend Rosemary, and the two boys stay with them at weekends and holidays. Roger says that the three years he had apart from his sons are fading like a bad dream, and they are back to the happy relaxed relationship they used to share. It cost Roger’s parents $60,000 to win his freedom, and he is planning legal action to win back his costs and repay his family.


Dear COSA,

I write to you as a frustrated member. Whilst I applaud the efforts of COSA generally, I ask what can COSA do for me & others who join?

I read the newsletters detailing what we as members already know, a world wide problem with the child welfare & investigative agencies, exacerbated by the legal system. COSA is only one of many support groups in a so-called civilised world, formed to highlight wrongful allegations of abuse.

I am aware that the President Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith is a professional person engaged in a most worthwhile career. In many other support groups we have persons of similar standing. Many members of these support groups are people such as ourselves who are now unemployed, damaged physically and psychologically, struggling to maintain their family unit. We all want to shout at the top f our voices at the indignity imposed on us by the ‘system’. Yet here we all sit reading each newsletter, hoping that COSA will be our voice. To no avail it would appear!

Surely COSA and all the other support groups, after amassing such a wealth of information / complaints should be in a position to do more than issue a newsletter every now and again? Surely our President now has the connections to push this issue home to the properly connected people?

Will COSA list the support groups it now has contact with throughout the world and be good enough to explain why there is not more noise being made in the right direction?

I am currently about to publish the story on our fiasco of wrongful allegation / conspiracy which is so familiar occurrence nowadays. We intend to take it to the senate in Canberra & shout & shout & shout! Why cannot COSA and others unite and do likewise?

Is COSA aware of American Carol Lamb Hopkins, co-founder of ‘Justice’? Also the National Child Abuse Defence & Resource Centre in Holland? Surely closer identification with these groups will unite our members to give more strength to a common cause?

Lastly, perhaps COSA can advise us on forming such a support group in Australia as we appear to be the last outpost here with no representation. I trust this inquiry will be taken in the right light as we are only one family in God knows how many, who are standing alone trying valiantly to keep our heads above water against a corrupt ‘system’.

Yours faithfully, Norman & Alison Shulver

[In response, we at COSA hear the Shulvers’ frustration. Our newsletter is widely disseminated to the media and politicians as well as our members, and although progress is very slow, we believe we have made significant headway in bringing the issues to public attention. Subscription fees barely cover cost of newsletter distribution – all labour is voluntary, and there is a limit to how much we can do without resources. As addressed in this issue’s editorial, we need the active participation of our members to help bring about the desperately needed changes in our social practices, policies and legislation.

While COSA is in regular communication with a number of international groups with similar aims, different laws and social services limit the possibility of united action. – Editor]

Newsletters received by COSA

Canadian FMS Support Groups Newsletter Feb 1997 4(3)

Includes a report from a meeting of the falsely caused in Salem, 300 years after the Day of Contrition, and a book review of Pamela Freyd’s daughter Jennifer’s book Betrayal Trauma.

FMS Foundation Newsletter Feb 97 6 (6)

The front page of this issue includes a graph demonstrating the sudden development of filing legal cases based on repressed memory in the USA in the early 1990s, peaking in 1993 and dropping away sharply since 1994. Pamela Freyd describes this as "a concrete barometer of the stages of the recovered memory phenomenon as it passes through our culture".

COSA offers a service to members of sending copies of FMSF newsletter at a cost of $30 per year (including postage).

COSA Branch report

News From The South

The second meeting as COSA (Canty) Inc demonstrated our members’ enthusiasm and willingness to become involved. Meetings are held six-weekly to allow sub-committees (publicity, financial and information) to investigate and action full committee motions and suggestions. If any of our South Island members wish to attend our meetings, please contact us. You are most welcome.

Free editor’s briefs are placed weekly in most South Island newspapers and cards have been produced for convenient distribution. The response and resulting new members from our advertising campaign have been impressive, highlighting how widespread false allegations and accompanying desperation really are.

Information, including "First Do No Harm" and related titles; assorted videos and audio tapes are being collected and catalogued in our own library.

A finance sub-committee is investigating ways to obtain operating capital. Such methods include applications to financial bodies as well as the traditional stalls, raffles and donations.

‘Repressed Memory’, after much publicity, has been rejected as "nonsense" in most court rooms . In defence to this, psychologists are convincing their clients that the memories have always been there and not suppressed. At present we have members going through the courts and have set up a support roster for them. I continue to be appalled at the waste of time and money caused by the court process and am constantly aware of what seems to be deliberate withholding of information by police and the crown which may well be of assistance to the defendant. The truth, it would seem, does not matter. The time it takes for defence lawyers to get this information (and often they don’t) costs the accused person all they have, leaving them powerless in the fight for retribution should they be acquitted.

Regards, Arthur.

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