COSA Casualties of Sexual Allegations Newsletter May 1997 Volume 4 No 4
Contents of this page:
Editorial: The case of David Dougherty One of the most disturbing aspects of this case is the action of the police and the prosecution. The girl’s story was that only one man had abducted and raped her. There was scientific evidence that the semen on her underpants came from someone other than Dougherty. There was no sensible explanation as to how Dougherty’s semen could have got there too. However the prosecution continued to believe the testimony of the girl rather than the DNA evidence. This means that not only was the wrong man being punished, but the police were not out there searching for the true assailant. It is alarming that even when there is scientific evidence which can categorically exclude the accused as a suspect, this is ignored in favour of the testimony of a child.
Recovered memories family survey NZ findings compared to those from UK and USA. In 1994 I sent questionnaires to 94 families with whom an allegation had been made on the basis of recovered memories and was said to be false by the accused or other members of the family. I have analysed and written up the findings in conjunction with two colleagues, Drs Tannis Laidlaw and Robert Large.
Clinical psychology teachers deny false memories are significant problem A letter to the editor of the Listener by proponents of "recovered memory" from the Psychology Department, Auckland University: Emma Davies, John Read & Fred Seymour. Creation of false abuse memories damages everyone, especially the alleged victims, their alleged abusers and their families, but also serves to undermine the credibility of the genuinely abused. The issue cannot be adequately addressed until clinical psychology teachers such as Read and Seymour acknowledge the problem and teach appropriate caution to their students.
Litigation pitfalls for the psychotherapist whose client "first remembers" childhood sexual abuse during therapy
Women & Therapy, 19 (1) As well as the paper reviewed above, this issue of the journal features a number of other writers about the "recovered memory" debate.
Tainted therapy & mistaken memory: avoiding malpractice & preserving evidence with possible adult victims of childhood sexual abuse.
Infant learning & long-term memory at 6 months: a confirming analysis.
Features: Michael – Case history
Christine Courtois: "Delayed memory controversy: guidelines for practice". 3 one-day seminars in NZ. Sponsored by DSAC, Courtois has been a strong promoter of recovered memories in the past.
The case of David Dougherty
In October 1992 an 11 year old Auckland girl was abducted from her home and raped. On questioning, she claimed that her assailant was her new next-door neighbour, David Dougherty. Dougherty denied the accusation and gave a DNA sample to prove his innocence. However he was arrested and in June 1993 went to trial. The DNA test results were said to be inconclusive. Dougherty was convicted and sentenced to 7 years 9 months.
In November 1993 Dougherty’s defence sought more sophisticated DNA testing from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR). The ESR identified another man’s semen in the girl’s underpants, but still claimed that there were traces of DNA which might also match Dougherty. A year later, in Oct 1994, the Appeal Court rejected a request to have Dougherty’s conviction overturned.
Lawyer Murray Gibson and DNA expert Arie Geursen were alarmed by these decisions and began to investigate.
After another year, in September 1995, they arranged for 2 overseas experts to examine the ESR test strips. In Jan 1996 both scientists reported that the tests showed unequivocal evidence of another man’s semen and said that the partial "match" to Dougherty also reported by the ESR was likely to be accidental cross-reactions in the test kit.
In April 1996 Murray Gibson petitioned the Governor General to intervene. He agreed and referred the matter back to the courts. In August the Appeal Court quashed Dougherty’s convictions and ordered a new trial. Dougherty was released on bail having spent more than 3 years in prison.
A retrial was held this month (April 1997) and a jury found him not guilty on all charges.
People wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for a crime they did not commit are not automatically entitled to compensation, in fact they very seldom receive it. Their only chance of redress relies on application to the Minister of Justice who may or may not decide to award it. In essence, Dougherty’s situation is no different to that of many other people every year who are charged and found not guilty of a crime.
One of the most disturbing aspects of this case is the action of the police and the prosecution. The girl’s story was that only one man had abducted and raped her. There was scientific evidence that the semen on her underpants came from someone other than Dougherty. There was no sensible explanation as to how Dougherty’s semen could have got there too. However the prosecution continued to believe the testimony of the girl rather than the DNA evidence. This means that not only was the wrong man being punished, but the police were not out there searching for the true assailant.
A man who kidnaps and rapes an 11 year old girl is likely to re-offend, and it is in society’s best interest for this man to be apprehended.
The girl gave a story of being attacked in her sleep, dragged through neighbouring properties, raped, then given drugs and alcohol before being set free. The attack happened at night and most of the time she was blind-folded, and presumably terrified. She claimed to have recognised Dougherty’s voice and his face when the blindfold fell off on a couple of occasions. She scarcely knew Dougherty at the time, as he had not lived in the neighbourhood long and had only exchanged a few pleasantries with her. It could be argued that under these circumstances, she could easily be mistaken as to the identity of her attacker.
It is alarming that even when there is scientific evidence which can categorically exclude the accused as a suspect, this is ignored in favour of the testimony of a child.
(NZ Herald,15, 16, 18, 19 April 1997; Sunday Star-Times, 13 &20 April 1997)
Recovered memories family survey
In 1994 I sent questionnaires to 94 families with whom an allegation had been made on the basis of recovered memories and was said to be false by the accused or other members of the family. I received 69 back, completed either by the accused themselves (usually the parents) or other relatives especially brothers and sisters. I did this research from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Science at Auckland Medical School, where I am based, and have analysed and written up the findings in conjunction with two colleagues, Drs Tannis Laidlaw and Robert Large. Over the past two years we have submitted a paper documenting our statistical findings to four different journals. After a lengthy period of review, the paper has been declined for publication. Reviewer’s comments which are forwarded to us (no names provided) in several instances have indicated that the critics in question are clearly of the "pro-recovered memory" camp. This has been very disappointing and frustrating to us, especially as we are unable to release our findings fully before they have been published.
Similar surveys have been conducted in Britain and the United States. The British findings have recently been published in two top psychological journals, and in one of these, international experts were invited to give commentaries. We were one of the invited commentators, and we wrote about the similarities between the NZ and UK results. Since this has now been published, we are at liberty to release some of our findings. The following is based on our commentary paper. We have also made some comparisons with data published from the USA. Some of the similarities are striking.
Firstly I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all the families who took part, and to apologise for the delay in letting you know what we found.
In our 69 families respondents were nearly half fathers, a third mothers and the rest siblings and other relatives. In both the NZ and the UK studies, most (92%) had had the allegations made between 1989 and 1994, with the numbers peaking in 1992 and 1993. 4 families completed data for 2 accusers each, bringing the total number of accusers to 73.
The family members who were accused follow a similar pattern in all 3 countries:
International comparison: family members accused (%)
|Relative accused||NZ survey||British survey||US survey|
|Both mother & father||6.8||10||28|
For all 3 countries the families were predominately white, typically well-educated and of high socio-economic status. In NZ all the complainants were Pakeha apart from one who was half-Maori, although NZ population is comprised of 79.5% Caucasians, 9.7% Maori, 10.8% other ethnic groups. 47% of the accusing adults had been to university and 27% had gained a bachelor or post-graduate degree.
In all 3 countries, many of the families reported that they had never been told the specific nature of the accusations. Half of our respondents could identify only that some form of "sexual abuse" was alleged. Since different categories of offence were used in the UK, USA and NZ, full comparison is not possible, but there was remarkable similarity in the frequency that some of the key types of allegations, such as rape and sodomy, were reported. NZ families reported a number of bizarre allegations such as the insertion of foreign objects in the anus or vagina. 13.7% of our respondents indicated that allegations involving satanic ritual abuse had been made, which was nearly double that of the British sample (20 out of a total of 282 = 7%).
Our sample included a larger percentage of accusers who had subsequently either partially or fully retracted their allegations. All but one of our 73 accusers were women, which was a lower percentage of male accusers than the 13% found in the British study.
The age of accusers was similar in all 3 countries:
International comparison: age of accuser when first making accusation
|NZ Survey||British Survey||US Survey|
|Mean age||31 yrs||30 yrs||?|
|Aged 20 to 39||79%||76%||76.5%|
Claims of remembering abuse from a very young age happened in all 3 surveys, with about half of accusers claiming they could remember abuse starting before they were 5.
International comparison: age when the alleged abuse commenced (% of cases)
|Age when the alleged abuse commenced||NZ Survey||British Survey||US Survey|
|Up to one year||2.8%||5%||10%|
|1 and up to 3 years||21.9%||14%||29.9%|
|3 and up to 5 years||20.6%||24%||19.2%|
|Total % under 5 years||45.3%||43%||59.1%|
As there was often no contact between the families surveyed and the accusing adult, information on a number of variables was unavailable from some families. For example, 19.5% of the British and 11% of the New Zealand sample apparently did not know whether the accuser had been attending therapy before making the allegations. Where this was known, over 90% of families indicated that the allegations had been made with the involvement of counselling or therapy.
There are considerable limitations in this type of survey, and we must be careful in generalising from it. It involves retrospective reporting of a ‘convenience’ sample with no control group; relies on information on the accuser coming from a parent or other relative (and hence second or third hand); some families were unable to supply data on a number of the variables, and the sensitive nature of the material sought means that these results may well not be representative of recovered memories of sexual abuse occurring in our countries. A few remarkable similarities between NZ, UK and USA results do however suggest that we might be dealing with similar populations of people. It was not possible in these studies to establish whether the abusive events had ever occurred. However, some of what was alleged is of very low probability, making it very likely that a number of the recovered memories are false. For example, it is very rare for a child under the age of 6 to be raped or sodomised, or for adults to insert objects in vaginas or anuses of children (when these sorts of sadistic acts do happen, they are very seldom performed by offenders who know their victims). Most sexual offenders are men, and actively participating female partners are rare (a large number of mothers are accused in our samples). Extensive investigations of satanic ritual abuse accusations in both the USA and Britain have found no physical corroboration of such organised abuse. Memories recovered of trauma occurring at age 3 to 4, and especially 2 or under, when infantile amnesia is expected, should also be treated with caution.
In all 3 surveys, the accusers appear to be vulnerable people in distress, many of them attending psychotherapy for unrelated issues when their memories of sexual abuse surfaced. Almost all of the allegations were made in the past 5 years, since the idea of "repression" of trauma memories to explain adult problems began appearing in the literature, and since therapists began to use "memory recovery" techniques. Some of the accusers have retracted part or all of their allegations and now say that they had developed false beliefs during their therapy.
The replication of results in these 3 independent surveys at opposite sides of the world of families accused of sexual abuse suggests that they are measuring comparable phenomena. At the very least, these findings indicate that caution should be used when memories of childhood sexual abuse are recovered in therapy. Not all recovered memories are necessarily false, but they are certainly not all true. In the absence of corroborative evidence, memories recovered during therapy should be treated with respect, but not assumed to be factually accurate.
Step-daughter shifts from the side of prosecution to defence
A 14 year old girl claimed that her step-father had sexually abused her but later gave evidence for the defence on his behalf. It appears that she retracted her initial claim but the prosecution still proceeded. The girl’s mother had apparently initially supported her daughter’s claim but later changed her mind. The defence was critical of the "feminist agenda’ which was said to have fuelled the case.
The man was found guilty but when the girl wrote to the judge pleading for him not to be jailed, he was given a suspended jail sentence and ordered to do six months’ periodic detention and be supervised for a year.
(Dominion(12 Apr 1997) Girl’s plea stops stepfather’s jailing, P.10)
In the 1980s there was an epidemic of childcare workers accused of horrendously abusing entire nursery schools. Typically, after an initial (later unsubstantiated) allegation, fuelled by zealous investigators and hysterical parents, children came to make the most outlandish accusations of being raped and sodomised, buried in tunnels, involved in satanic rituals with sacrificed animals and costumes. After extensive court proceedings, some of these child-care workers were acquitted; others were late released from prison on appeal, when it became clear that terrible injustices had occurred. There are however still people imprisoned today, including Peter Ellis here in New Zealand, accused by crÃƒÂ¨che children of crimes which include all the items on the parents’ satanic ritual abuse check-list. Another such case is that of the Amirault family.
The Amiraults ran the Fells Acres Day School The first allegation was made by a 5 year old boy whose soiled pants had been changed by care worker Gerald Amirault. The boy’s mother was very concerned about sexual abuse, and set in motion a series of events which lead to allegations that for two years, children had gone happily to school every day to be tortured, terrorised and sexually abused without any parent ever suspecting there was any thing wrong. The children underwent a series of bizarre interviews in which they were offered police badges, gifts and trips to McDonald’s, if they would "help" by telling about the abuse and torture at Fells Acres. Their stories became more and more fantasy-like and unbelievable .
The proprietors of the school, Violet, Gerald and Cheryl Amirault, were alleged to have tortured children in secret rooms and committed fantastic crimes involving a bad clown, mutilated small animals and stabbed children. Gerald was said to have raped a child with a butcher knife without leaving marks; his mother Violet to have raped a four year old child in the anus with a sharp stick while the whole school watched. No corroborative evidence was ever found and the children contradicted each other about who was supposed to be involve in what event. However, the family was found guilty and Gerald was sentenced to 30 to 40 years, his sister Cheryl and mother Violet eight to 20 years.
In 1995 an Appeal overturned Violet and Cheryl Amirault’s convictions, on grounds that they had been denied the right to confront their accusers. They were released on bail. In March 1997 the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts overturned this ruling and Cheryl and her 75 year old mother Violet have been returned to prison. Gerald has now been in prison 11 years. There is a growing movement in the USA protesting the terrible injustice of keeping in jail this family when overwhelming common sense shows that they could not be guilty of what they were accused.
(The Wall Street Journal (21 Mar 1997) Justice and the Prosecutor and (10 Apr 1997) The Amiraults’ Trial: Judge Reviews His Peers, by Dorothy Rabinowitz.)
Accused father gains access and custody of children
A Massachusetts father who has been battling sex abuse accusations for 2 years won a victory in a custody agreement that will let him visit his daughters without supervision and gain custody of his son. In 1993 a police detective had declared the allegations unfounded, but this report never made it into the courtroom. Last year, outside experts, including a team of psychologists and social workers, determined there was no evidence for the charges. Finally in March 1997 the Department of Human Services was ordered to stop keeping him away from his daughters.
David has been fighting for free access to his children since his ex-wife told DHS that he had sexually abused one of them. The allegations had first surfaced at a women’s shelter when a shelter worker talked with a group of children about sex abuse and wrote allegations on the board for them to copy.
The court has now ruled that he is of no danger to his children, and that normalised contact between the children and both of their parents "is of utmost importance."
(Bangor Daily News (5 Apr 1997) ‘David’ awarded custody of his son.)
Court finds in favour of third-party suits against therapist
A father in Illinois has sued his daughter’s therapist, Bobbie McKay. During the course of her therapy, his daughter had discovered repressed memories of alleged sexual abuse by her father. The therapist ‘subscribed to the theory that mental or emotional problems in adults are often the result of childhood sexual abuse which is "repressed" from conscious memory as a defense mechanism so that the person has no recollection of the abuse, and believed that "repressed memories" can be accessed with the techniques he used and "healing" can occur when the patient recovers previously "repressed" memories and deals with the consequent emotional turmoil.’ The daughter was told that the only possible cause of her condition was that she had been sexually abused by her father but repressed the memory.
On 17 Mar 1997 the Appellate Court of Illinois ruled that the father could bring a claim for recovery of damages resulting from the loss of society and companionship of his daughter.
Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome not admissible evidence
The Supreme Court of Florida has ruled (6 Feb 1997) that Roland Summit’s "Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome" does not pass the Frye standard of admissibility. This means that the court will not accept the testimony of a qualified psychologist that an alleged victim in a sexual abuse case exhibits symptoms consistent with that syndrome, and hence must have been sexually abused. CSAAS as a means of predicting sexual abuse has been the subject of considerable criticism because the syndrome assumes the existence of abuse, and was not developed as a method of detecting abuse.
In the cases in question, Timothy Hadden and Richard Beaulieu were charged with sexual assaults on children. The evidence against them was largely the statement of a registered psychologist that the children exhibited symptoms consistent with a history of sexual abuse. The court ruled that there was no evidence that CSAAS had been generally accepted in the relevant scientific community as a diagnostic tool and therefore expert testimony offered to prove the alleged victim of sexual abuse exhibits symptoms consistent with one who has been sexually abused should not be admitted. The defendants were remanded for retrial.
Renee Frederickon sued by patient
Psychologist and author of book "Repressed Memories: A Journey to Recovery from Sexual Abuse," Renee Frederickson, is being accused by a former patient of malpractice. The female patient alleged that Fredrickson manipulated her into experiencing false memories of ritual cult abuse, torture, dismemberment and murder. She claims that over a 10-month period Fredrickson used hypnosis and other techniques to falsely convince her that she had been the victim of Satanic or ritual cult abuse. The patient and her husband are seeking damages on eight counts of professional negligence and inflicting suffering.
(Minneapolis Star Tribune (5 Apr 1997) Psychologist accused of planting false abuse memories in patient)
Volcano does not increase asthma cases
This story is nothing to do with sexual abuse, but does show how rumours and public misconceptions are easily spread.
In September 1995 the central North Island volcano Mt Ruapehu erupted, exposing people living in the area to airborne ash particles over the next few months. Media reports suggested that there was widespread increase in asthma and other respiratory problems in the affected districts. It was the topic of newspaper articles and talk-back radio.
In Hawkes Bay, where one third of the exposed people lived, a random survey of people with asthma had been conducted in 1991 and 1992. A follow-up survey was sent, and pre-identified Hawkes Bay asthmatics who still lived in the area and were exposed to ash were compared with those who now lived in non-exposed areas. This revealed that there was no increase at all in asthma symptoms or medication use in those exposed to volcanic ash, despite extensive media reports to the contrary.
(Bradshaw et al. (28 Mar 1997). Under the volcano: fire, ash and asthma? NZ Medical Journal, 90-91)
Clinical psychology teachers deny false memories are significant problem
In a letter to the editor of the Listener (5 Apr 1997) proponents of "recovered memory" from the Psychology Department, Auckland University (Emma Davies, John Read & Fred Seymour) expressed concerns that the 13 Mar TVNZ’s Assignment programme about recovered memories was misleading because it implied that counsellors are "implanting" memories. They claimed that because you cannot get ACC-paid counselling until you have already remembered abuse, most recovered memories do not occur within counselling. They also claimed that since "hypnosis is used by only a tiny minority of counsellors and psychologists in NZ, the demonstration, in the programme, that false memories can be implanted by hypnosis, seems, therefore, somewhat irrelevant." They admitted that memories under the age of 2 might be unreliable, but explained that most allegations involve memories of an older age. They concluded that since 32% of NZ women have been found to have been sexually abused before the age of 16, but the "programme could identify only two cases involving recovered memories that had come to the attention of the police", it would be better if TVNZ focused on programmes dealing with treating and researching childhood sexual abuse.
In response, COSA has evidence that significant numbers of counsellors do assist clients to recall possible childhood traumas. Many do not understand that the techniques they use, such as guided imagery and age regression, are in fact forms of hypnosis. While technically true that you cannot claim for therapy through ACC until you have been referred by a doctor, there are many instances where patients have consulted with me and fellow GPs at the direction of their counsellors, asking us to fill out ACC forms so that their therapy can be paid for under ACC. You can consult an ACC-registered counsellor (who treat a wide range of psychological problems) without having memories of abuse; you just cannot claim counselling fees from ACC until you have abuse memories.
Read et al appear to imply that memories over the age of 2 are generally reliable. Considerable evidence exists to show how easily memories can be distorted or created from our imaginations and the wealth of stored knowledge of what we have heard, seen and read about. In the absence of independent corroboration, counsellors are unable to distinguish between real and pseudomemories of their clients’ past, irrespective of whether hypnosis was used, to what age the memory relates, or whether or not their client presented with a pre-existing memory of sexual abuse.
Creation of false abuse memories damages everyone, especially the alleged victims, their alleged abusers and their families, but also serves to undermine the credibility of the genuinely abused. COSA has documented evidence of over 100 such cases. The issue cannot be adequately addressed until clinical psychology teachers such as Read and Seymour acknowledge the problem and teach appropriate caution to their students.
British Association of Counselling warns against recovering memories
The British Association of Counselling admits that thousands of people may suffer delusions of child sex abuse as a result of counselling. It has issued cautions to its 14,000 members against the use of recovered memory techniques and says that the creation of false memories is a problem of unknown proportions. The report recommends that counsellors should not use methods which intend to induce memories of abuse because they risk eliciting false ones. It says: "Counsellors should be careful not to say anything which suggests that abuse may have occurred. The impetus for discussions of abuse as a possibility should come from the client."
The British False Memory Society has received 850 reports of false accusation since its inception in 1993.
(The Daily Telegraph, London (25 Mar 1997). Thousands may suffer delusions of child sex attacks, admits report into counselling techniques: Victims Of Abuse That Never Was, by Margaret Jervis & Celia Hall.)
Ashes to Ashes. … Families to dust, false allegations of child abuse: a roadmap for survivors
Dean Tong (1996), FamRights Press, Florida.
Over the past couple of years there has been a flood of books and papers published about false allegations relating to the "recovered memory" scenario, but a relative dearth of material about the situation which affects about 1/3 of the cases documented by COSA, that of false sexual allegations arising during child access and custody disputes. This excellent new book by Dean Tong helps to fill the gap.
Although there are some differences in specific laws and procedures between NZ and the USA, both our countries basically face the same problems: the use of sexual abuse allegations as a weapon in acrimonious custody disputes; the presumption of guilt by the social services; health professionals and the police; and the loss of access to one’s children on the basis of an unsubstantiated claim. Ashes to Ashes offers valuable information and practical ‘what to do’ advice for anyone who sadly finds himself in this situation. Highly recommended.
Litigation pitfalls for the psychotherapist whose client "first remembers" childhood sexual abuse during therapy
Shirley Feldman-Summers (1996). Women & Therapy, 19 (1), 109-122.
A therapist with a gender-feminist agenda, Feldman-Summers does not acknowledge that therapists have contributed significantly to clients recovering false memories. She does however offer some excellent advice to therapists to protect themselves legally, that if followed, would go most of the way to preventing the problem. Her suggestions include:
- Become familiar with research findings
- Strongly consider not using memory "enhancement" techniques
- Understand that the therapist’s beliefs may influence the client
- Explore with clients the possibility that a memory might be symbolic rather than factual
- Explore with client the merits of seeking corroboration before acting on a newly-acquired belief that childhood abuse occurred
- Keep careful notes.
Women & Therapy, 19 (1)
As well as the paper reviewed above, this issue of the journal features a number of other writers about the "recovered memory" debate:
- S Contratto & M Gutfreund, A feminist guide to the memory debate: introduction, 1-3;
- L Brown, Politics of memory, politics of incest: doing therapy and politics that really matter, 5-18;
- S Quirk & A Deprince, Childhood trauma: politics & legislative concerns for therapists, 19-30;
- W Hovdestad & C Kristiansen, mind meets body: on the nature of recovered memories of trauma, 31-45;
- C Kristensen, K Felton & W Hovdestad, Recovered memories of child-abuse; fact, fantasy or fancy, 47-59;
- K Leary, Repressed memories & clinical-practice, 61-77;
- C Enns, The feminist-therapy-institute code of ethics: implications for working with survivors of child sexual abuse, 79-91;
- K Pope, Scientific research, recovered memory and context: 7 surprising findings, 123-140.
The tone of these papers is generally that there is scientific evidence to support "repression", and that ‘backlash" organisations such as FMSF operate from a personal and socio-political not a scientific basis.
Tainted therapy & mistaken memory: avoiding malpractice & preserving evidence with possible adult victims of childhood sexual abuse
R Frank (1996). Applied & Preventative Psychology, 5, 135-164.
Another sensible article offering advice to therapists with regard to law and ethics. Frank suggests they should focus on their clients’ emotional needs rather than verifying their memories. The paper includes an appendix on obtaining informed consent from clients and explaining the potential benefits and risks of what he terms ‘verbal therapy" (ie the "talking cure").
Infant learning & long-term memory at 6 months: a confirming analysis
K Hartshorn & C Rover-Collier (1997). Developmental Psychobiology, 30, 71-85.
Describes 3 interesting experiments with 6 month old children who learnt a task involving a toy train and showed some evidence of remembering what they had learnt up to a month later. Interestingly, they could not do the task if they were tested in a different place from where they were they first learnt it (meaning that their learning is context rather than task-specific).
Repeated exposure to suggestion and the creation of false memories
M Zaragoza & K Mitchell (Sep 1996). Psychological Science, 7 (5), 294-300.
This study showed that when subjects were exposed to a repeated suggestion, they were more likely create a false memory and confidently believe in it.
Michael – 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.
Michael was in his mid 40s, happily married and father of two young children.
In 1989 his nineteen year old niece Susan (his brother’s daughter) attended counselling after she had had a termination of an unwanted teenage pregnancy and had made a suicide attempt. She had regular counselling over the next few years, with several changes of counsellor, until 1993. In March 1993 Susan was involved in a motor vehicle accident and had more extensive counselling. The next month, she first made an allegation to her father that she had "regained" memories that her uncle had sexually abused her as a child.
In September 1993 she wrote to her father accusing him and her mother of "abusing her by neglect", of not communicating adequately with her and not understanding her. She also claimed that she knew her parents must both have been abused themselves as children. Both parents are adamant that their parents never abused them. Susan said that she had changed her name by deed-poll and did not want any more contact with them.
A month later she wrote to her father again, saying in the previous six months she had recovered several memories of sexual abuse and "more are coming up all the time". Her allegations included her uncle Michael having "fingered her at 3 and raped her at 6". Two months later, in December, the police arrested Michael and charged him with rape of his niece when she was a child. He adamantly denied the allegations and went public, speaking on national television and writing to politicians. He wanted to sue the counsellors and also went to the police himself to complain about Susan’s false allegation.
In the course of the investigations it was revealed that Susan had been diagnosed as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and had received $10,000 lump sum compensation from the Accident Compensation scheme.
In mid 1994, Susan dropped the charges on Michael. She told her family that it was her father not her uncle who had abused her. Susan has had no further contact with her family.
Newsletters received by COSA
AFMA Newsletter (Mar 1997). 4 (1)
News from the False Memory Association in Australia.
Canadian Newsletter Apr 1997). 4 (1)
This issue addresses what is known as the "memory wars" and the dangers of mediators such as Dr Stephen Lindsay, "who stand between both sides waving the white flag" in trying to claim the middle ground, in a situation where there may be no neutral territory – even if it can be demonstrated that some recovered memories are accurate, there are no ways to determine which ones, and hence allegations should still not be believed without independent evidence.
FMS Foundation Newsletter (1 Apr 1997) Vol 6 (4)
Includes reports on their recent conference What’s New In The Memory Wars? and some updated results of their Family Survey. In 25% of their families, the accused have "returned" to the family, and 7% have retracted their allegations.
COSA offers a service to members of sending copies of FMSF newsletter at a cost of $30 per year (including postage).
Christine Courtois "Delayed memory controversy: guidelines for practice"
3 one-day seminars Auckland 15 May; Wellington 17 May; Christchurch 19 May 1997.
Sponsored by DSAC, Courtois has been a strong promoter of recovered memories in the past. She has written "A number of women who have been incestuously abused enter therapy without an awareness of having been abused. This non-awareness is due to the use of various ego defenses and denial/numbing mechanisms used to contain the trauma, most notably repression, amnesia and dissociation". She advocates therapy which focuses on "the recollection, exploration and abreacting of the traumatic material through the adult context" and states that "the survivor might have to get worse before she gets better".
She has said that because sexual abuse memories are "so often hidden, dissociated or repressed", if a client has symptoms "suggestive of an abuse history the therapist must raise the issue with the client" and even if the abuse is denied, therapists who continue to have suspicions must "continue to explore its possibility and.. connect abuse with its associated symptoms". She supports the view that "memory can return in many forms, including dreams and nightmares, flashbacks" and that an integral part of the healing process is the client moving from denial and dissociation to believing that this remembered abuse really happened.
COSA Branch reports
As you know, last year we set up two branches. Canterbury (COSA Canty) is up and running; now we need to get our Auckland branch off the ground. All those COSA members residing in the greater Auckland area are automatically also members of the Auckland branch.
An Auckland Branch meeting will be held at 7pm Sunday 12 May at Northcote Senior Citizen’s Hall, corner of Ernie May and College Rds, Northcote (half hour before the regular support meeting).
While we have had an interim committee to do the basic groundwork of establishing the branch, we will soon need to formally elect officers (chairperson, secretary, treasurer, and one member). This is your branch – become part of the solution by taking an active role. Please consider putting your name forward.
The Auckland branch is about ACTION – please consider coming to this even if you prefer not to attend the support meeting which follows.
News from the South
It is 6 am. The mornings are colder now and I sit in my favourite dog-chewed armchair on the veranda having my mood fag. Listening to the morning sounds. The cows going to the milking shed next door. George, our randy old ram, chasing Mildred, our frigid old ewe, round and round the paddock. It is at this time that I wonder. I wonder if our dopey politicians, our politically correct Police and our coercing counsellors have a morning mood fag and listen to the sounds of normality. I don’t think they do because if they did the cow cocky next door would be doing time for sexual assault and poor old George would be receiving treatment for sexual harassment and would most definitely be in the Coddington Book. You see, normality is balance and this balance has evolved over thousands of years. If you fiddle with that balance, then you create chaos. I enjoy my morning mood fag.
(Disclaimer: the Editor does not necessarily agree with Arthur’s analogy that human beings can be equated with sheep)