COSA Casualties of Sexual Allegations Newsletter November 1994: Volume 1 No 7
Contents of this page:
Editorial: COSA in the media
Speaking engagements – Auckland Family Planning doctors, Auckland Women’s Executive Club, Psychotherapy Department of the Auckland Institute of Technology with Ondra Williams.
My most important speaking engagement was at the Professional Issues Forum for psychotherapists organised by the Psychotherapy Department of the Auckland Institute of Technology on 27 October. This was attended by both trainee and practising therapists in the Auckland region and the room was packed to over-flowing with between 250 and 300 people. This took the format a panel discussion between myself and psychotherapist tutor Ms Ondra Williams on the topic "Can memories be recovered in psychotherapy?".
Ondra said that she agreed with most if not all of my presentation. I was however shocked that she was under the mistaken impression that I condone sexual activity between adults and children. I have heard from a number of other sources that this rumour is being spread in an attempt to personally discredit me rather than address the issues I am raising.
Courts: A small step towards common sense In a landmark case, 59 year ‘Bill’ was acquitted by a jury in the Auckland High Court on charges of sexually abusing three of his daughters about 20 years ago. The women claimed they had suppressed the memories which had only resurfaced in later life. Clinical psychologist Eileen Swan, expert witness for the Crown, supported the phenomenon of "memory retrieval".
Children never lie? 74 year old man arrested on false charges of assault.
Convicted ex-policeman claims innocence of indecent assault
Convicted man maintains innocence of alleged offences 6 to 15 years ago
Another convicted man maintains innocence of alleged offences 20 to 26 years ago
Man charged with satanic abuse on hypnotic recall evidence (Australia).
Media: End Ritual Action group seeks funds – set up to "fight satanic abuse", ERA has applied for almost $40,000 from the Government and Lottery Board.
Recovering "memories" of alien abductions
Therapist Ondra Williams defends recovered memory therapy – research "lags behind clinical experience".
Clive Littin, Director, Primal Healing Institute, defends recovered memory therapy "a psychiatrist claims children have no memories before the age of 3. This is astonishing ignorance."
Debate about true and false memories
Otago study claims nearly 1 in 3 women sexually abused by age 16
Child abuse prevention programmes – about the drawbacks in prevention programmes especially the "Feeling Safe" preschool kit, which tells children of 3 and 4 years of age that no-one should touch their "special private places – not now, not EVER."
Freed childcare workers attacked by angry parents after sexual abuse allegations against them dismissed (UK).
Proven cases of false memories a review of Richard Ofshe and Ethan Watters’ recently published book, Making Monsters.
More on false memories – about the memory repression and recovery debate (USA).
‘Facilitated communication’ – where a facilitator holds a retarded person’s arm, and guides his or her use of a special typewriter keyboard. Studies have shown that in many cases it is a scam. (Australia).
Literature: End Ritual Action Newsletter includes Heather McDowell’s claim that those who use the term "false memory syndrome" want to deny the occurrence of sexual abuse. Also; supporters of Peter Ellis are "part of a cynical organised strategy to discredit children’s evidence in order to keep the world safe for other child abusers".
Effectiveness of sexual abuse therapy questioned – until properly conducted trials of treatment have been done, "we will continue to pay for therapies which might be ineffective or even harmful".
Retractor’s story – Laura Pasley (USA).
Memory "repression and retrieval" The myth of repressed memory – book by Elizabeth Loftus
Warning to expert witnesses in court about predicting future behaviour of the accused
Correspondence: From a father involved in custody dispute
Family member of alleged ‘satanic abuse victim’
From a prisoner "I was sentenced to 4 yrs 5 mths for a crime I most certainly didn’t commit."
From a mother of falsely accused son
From a concerned parent – education about sex abuse may make children think it has happened.
From ‘Bill’ – acquitted of recovered memory charges. "We quite rightly don’t give public funding to Scientology or colour therapists – we shouldn’t give taxpayers’ money to recovered memory therapists either".
From a son whose mother was falsely accused
From a mother who lost her son in custody battle
Features: Primary Cause Analysis – In 1962 a NZ hypnotist named James Bennett, who believed that virtually everyone has been sexually abused in early infancy, founded a therapy called Primary Cause Analysis.
Statement Validity Analysis (SVA) is a systematic, qualitative evaluation of children’s disclosures using assessment protocols.
Coming Events: New Zealand Sociology Conference, Massey Unversity, Judith Herman Seminars: ‘Psychotherapy for patients with a history of childhood sexual abuse’, International Conference on Memory and Reality: Reconciliation, Baltimore (USA).
COSA in the media
What a busy month! The case of "Bill" acquitted of charges arising from the recovered memories of his daughters (see court column), resulted in considerable publicity on radio, TV and newspapers. Other media coverage in which I or COSA have been involved includes a discussion of potential flaws in the "Otago" study, and an assessment of child abuse prevention programmes on National Radio.
With all this publicity, I have been receiving numerous phonecalls and letters from people from all over New Zealand with heart-rending stories of false allegations. Relevant literature has also been flooding in. This month’s newsletter is 12 pages rather than the usual 8, and still does not cover all the material I have received. Many thanks to all those who contribute.
Grant awarded for FMS Survey
The Charitable Trust of the RNZCGP has awarded me a grant towards costs of distributing and collating results of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation survey. This is a 26 page questionnaire for families in whom someone has made sexual allegations on the basis of recovered memories. The grant is subject to Ethical Committee approval, which I am now seeking. I will probably be sending out the questionnaires early next year.
I have had several speaking engagements this month. I addressed the Journal Club of Auckland Family Planning doctors about my book, ‘First Do No Harm’ and a discussion about the nature of memory ensued. Doctors are often faced with the situation of patients giving histories of sexual abuse and requesting ACC forms be signed. It is my opinion that, in the absence of coroborating evidence, all a doctor can honestly write on these forms is "alleged sexual abuse" and this point was well-taken by the doctors present.
I also addressed an attentive audience of the Auckland Women’s Executive Club on the subject of "Recovered Memories".
My most important speaking engagement however was at the Professional Issues Forum for psychotherapists organised by the Psychotherapy Department of the Auckland Institute of Technology on 27 October. This was attended by both trainee and practising therapists in the Auckland region and the room was packed to over-flowing with between 250 and 300 people.
This took the format a panel discussion between myself and psychotherapist tutor Ms Ondra Williams on the topic "Can memories be recovered in psychotherapy?".
Ondra said that she agreed with most if not all of my presentation. I was however shocked that she was under the mistaken impression that I condone sexual activity between adults and children. I have heard from a number of other sources that this rumour is being spread in an attempt to personally discredit me rather than address the issues I am raising. I have written to her for clarification on what aspects of my address she does agree with, and hope to publish a summary of this in the next newsletter, as I feel her endorsement of my stand is an important step forward.
Further installment next month!
A small step towards common sense
In a landmark case, on the 30 September a 59 year old man, Bill (not his real name) was acquitted by a jury in the Auckland High Court on charges of sexually abusing three of his daughters about 20 years ago. The complainants alleged sodomy and rape, and indecent acts such as the insertion of a coat hanger in the vagina causing bleeding and loss of consciousness. The women claimed they had suppressed the memories which had only resurfaced in later life. All three daughters had attended therapy and made claims for damages from ACC before they laid the criminal charges against their father. Two of the daughters reported memories of events happening in their cots when aged one year old or less. Bill was defended by Mr Peter Williams, QC, who dismissed evidence based on "recovered memories" as dangerous and fallacious.
The mother of the girls, Bill’s former defacto wife, gave evidence (for the Crown) that she had never noticed any indication of such abuse taking place. She had never seen any signs on her girls of the violent trauma they now claimed to have suffered, and she nor had she ever encountered blood on their sheets and clothing.
Clinical psychologist Eileen Swan, expert witness for the Crown, supported the phenomenon of "memory retrieval". She told the jury that it was possible for people to block out memories of unpleasant events as a psychological mechanism if they were "too hard to deal with". These memories could return piecemeal at a later date. Ms Swan claimed that there is a "paucity of knowledge on memory" but admitted that her life is so busy she has trouble keeping up with her education on the subject.
Dr Frank Rawlinson, a psychiatrist called for the defence, has read widely and deeply on the topic. He recently visited America and consulted with some of the leading professionals in memory research, and returned with a large number of current books and articles, including Elizabeth Loftus and Katherine Ketcham’s The Myth of Repressed Memory: false memories and allegations of sexual abuse. Dr Rawlinson compared the use of recovered memory in sexual abuse cases to the 16th and 17th century witch-hunts in Europe. He said that whilst recovered memory theory (or any other theory) could never be disproved, there was no scientific evidence to date to substantiate such a belief. He explained that on the other hand it is very easy to create false memories. He disputed Ms Swan’s claim that people repress memories of traumatic events as a psychological mechanism. He explained that adults have no memories of childhood under the age of 3, and the alleged memories by two of the daughters at the age of one or younger were not possible.
In his summing up, Justice Sir Ian Barker told the jury they had to decide whether there was indeed repressed memory of sexual abuse which had been retrieved, and whether that memory was reliable. The jury concluded that these were not accurate memories of real events.
Bill was found to be innocent. It cost him $117,000 to defend himself. His three daughters were found to have made false allegations. Each received at least $10,000 "compensation" from ACC, which is not effected by the outcome of the trial.
This case brings up many issues. There are currently men in prison convicted solely on the basis of "recovered memories" (reconstructed visualisations) of incidents alleged to have occurred 2 or 3 decades ago. If Bill had not been able to afford the best in legal representation and psychiatric expertise, it is very likely he would have joined them. Possible future actions for those falsely accused through "memory retrieval" include applying for court costs from the Crown, and legal action against therapists who have implanted or supported the false memories. The anomaly of compensating those who make false accusations might also be addressed.
Already there has been a trend for people who recover memories in therapy to later change their testimony and declare that in fact they had always remembered the trauma. One of Bill’s daughters did this just this. Although her counsellor had "shredded the counselling notes" and hence had no records to which to refer, she testified that her client had always remembered her abuse. However, examination of the daughter’s initial police statement revealed that she had told the police that she had only discovered the abuse in the course of her therapy. Complainants stating that they had always remembered the abuse in not a course of action likely to occur in America. This is because their Statute of Limitations allows law suits relating to alleged long ago events on the basis that the Statute starts from the time the "memory" was exhumed.
This is the first case in New Zealand where a jury has decided that "recovered memories" are not reliable evidence. Although a great step forward, there is still a long way to go. Many professionals still believe that memories can be repressed and accurately retrieved, despite there being no scientific evidence to support this. A stream of American "experts" continue to teach that recovered memories are valid, and there is a reluctance within the sexual abuse industry to examine any evidence which challenges their beliefs. Critics who claim that some sexual allegations might be false are labelled as part of the "backlash" and accused of supporting paedophiles.
Letter from ‘Bill’ here
Children never lie?
A 74 year old Martinborough man, Francis Harkness, was arrested on charges of assault after 2 girls aged 10 and 11 claimed that he had spoken to them, given them money and then tried to drag them into his car. The incident, including his name, was fully reported in the local newspaper and on the radio.
Three days later it was reported that all the charges against him were dropped as police inquiries showed that the alleged incident had never happened. The man had suffered abusive phonecalls after the allegations were publicised.
Wairarapa Times-Age, 19 and 22 September 1994.
Convicted ex-policeman claims innocence
Brian Alderson, a 40 year old former policeman, was found guilty of indecent assault on a woman customer. She alleged he touched her on the breasts and put his hand through a split in her skirt to touch her under her underwear.
"He denied and still denied the offending". The judge said he had "served 11 years as a policeman, was fully involved with the Church and in every other aspect was of good character".
NZ Herald ‘Shop owner is fined $7500 for indecency’.
Convicted man maintains innocence of alleged offences 6 to 15 years ago
Nigel Drake, a 60 year old Kaitaia man was found guilty on 8 charges of indecent acts and assault on boys aged between 12 and 16, between 1979 and 1988.
He maintained his innocence since the allegations were first made. The mother and brother of one of the boys doubted the alleged incidents occurred. Also the charges concerning another of the boys were alleged to have happened when there were 2 other boys there, but they say it never happened.
NZ Herald ‘Man convicted of sex abuse’
Another convicted man maintains innocence of alleged offences 20 to 26 years ago
A 54 year old man, Eric Edwards, was jailed for 4 years on 3 charges of rape, one of doing an indecent act on an 8 year old girl, and one of inducing an indecent act by a girl aged 5. He pleaded not guilty. The offences were alleged to have occurred between 20 and 26 years ago.
High Court judge Justice Gechan admitted that he could see no meaningful deterrence in a sentence passed 20 to 26 years after the crimes committed.
NZ Herald (7 Aug 1994) ‘Jail for offences 20 years ago’.
Man charged with satanic abuse on hypnotic recall evidence
‘Hypnosis recalled sexual abuse, court told’, Duncan Graham, The Age, 20 Oct 94, 10
A 64 year old retired high school principal and church elder is being tried in Australia on 42 charges of raping, sodomising and indecently assaulting his daughter (now aged 31) between 1964 and 1989. The woman claims he subjected her to years of ritualised torture and bizarre sexual practices.
She only recalled the events 3 years ago after being treated with hypnotherapy for depression. She said she initially was not sure if her mental pictures of abuse were real. She told the jury she had recently recalled that when she was 3 or 4 she was involved in a candle-lit ritual with male relatives in which a cross was scrawled in blood on her body and she was sexually penetrated with a crucifix.
She has also claimed that her father might be the father of her own child but DNA tests proved otherwise.
End Ritual Action group seeks funds
End Ritual Action (ERA), a group set up to fight satanic abuse, has applied for almost $40,000 from the Government and Lottery Board. ERA was started by one of the mothers whose son Peter Ellis was convicted of ritually abusing.
ERA distributes a quarterly newsletter (see literature review) whose mailout includes 50 counsellors and some social workers.
Dennis Dutton is quoted as saying: "I’m sure the Lottery Grants Board would not be so foolish as to support something as whacky.. If they do, they can expect UFO abductees to be next to queue up for money. (ERA is) promoting something which has been thoroughly discredited".
‘Group wants cash to fight ritual abuse’, Matt Conway, Sunday Star-Times, 16 Oct 1994
Recovering "memories" of alien abductions
Mr Alan Bainbridge, a hypnotist who helps people recover memories of being abducted and sexually abused by aliens, was reported in the NZ Herald as spokesman for the 25 member Extraterrestrial Awareness Group. He claims that 1000s of New Zealanders have had this experience. In response, Dr Large writes: "we continually reconstruct our memory of events through rehearsal, reflection and discussion..(hypnosis) encourages fantasy and confabulation, such that memories "recovered" under hypnosis are extremely unreliable…Hypnosis tends to strengthen one’s conviction that a "memory" is true. Thus, material that emerges in hypnosis is frequently arrived at through expectation, preconception and the suggestions of the hypnotist, but is stoutly defended by the subject as being the literal truth.
In other words, a "false memory" has been generated. Hypnosis is a useful treatment tool, but an extremely misleading way of arriving at the truth."
"Recalling aliens", Dr Robert Large, Psychiatry Department, Auckland Medical School, Letter to Editor, NZ Herald 12 Oct 1994
Therapist defends recovered memory therapy
Ms Williams writes that Mr Peter Williams, QC, "is completely inaccurate in stating that international authorities have concluded that there is no basis for believing that memories can be recovered in therapy". She claims that "the tide is turning in favour of recognising that unresolved memories of early child-abuse trauma have been the cause of the sort of symptoms Mr Peter Williams QC labels instability", that there is compelling research supporting her stand, and that research "lags behind clinical experience".
"Open case", Ms Ondra Williams, Psychotherapist. Letter to Editor, NZ Herald, 17 Oct 1994
…and another therapist defends recovered memory therapy
"As a therapist I have been involved with 100s of sexually abused women over the past 12 yrs.. a psychiatrist claims children have no memories before the age of 3. This is astonishing ignorance.
Day after day I witness my clients going through the agony of suspecting, often extremely reluctantly, that someone, very early on, has interferred with them.. The experience of the abuse can be triggered by various stimuli in later years; if the client wishes to find out.. this is possible by relaxing and breathing."
This letter gives me grave concerns about Mr Littin’s practices. He appears to be assuming that material derived from hypnotic techniques is accurate, and does not acknowledge the established scientific principle of infantile amnesia (under aged 3). The fact that 100s of his clients reluctantly "recall" abuse suggests that the therapist’s expectations are contributing to the material they confabulate.
"In defence of recovered memory", Clive Littin, Director, Primal Healing Institute. Letter to Editor NZ Herald, 8 Oct 1994
Debate about true and false memories
Reprint of Newsweek article by Sharon Begley and Martha Brant about the fallibility and malleable of memory and the neurological bases for false memories.
"Memory real and imagined", NZ Herald, 8 Oct 1994, section 3 p1.
Otago study claims nearly 1 in 3 women sexually abused by age 16
An article about Dr Jessie Anderson’s recent talk at the Medical School on the Otago childhood sexual abuse study. This study reports a prevalence of 32% abused under the age of 16. Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith’s concerns about the assumptions made by this study are reported, including the fact that what this study really measures is reported incidents, not actual abuse.
‘Think about it’, Camille Guy, NZ Herald, 8 Oct 1994, section 3 p1.
Child abuse prevention programmes
An excellent coverage about the drawbacks in prevention programmes especially the "Feeling Safe" preschool kit, which tells children of 3 and 4 years of age that no-one should touch their "special private places – not now, not EVER." This kit has sold 2500 copies, mostly to early childhood centres, without evaluation or followup.
Concerned parents interviewed on the radio show described a little boy telling his father that changing his baby sister’s nappies was abuse, and a 5 year old boy refusing his father’s help changing into his pyjamas after exposure to the video.
National Radio ‘Insight’, by Mary Wilson. 1230pm, 22 Oct and 9pm, 23 Oct.
Freed childcare workers attacked by angry parents
Two nursery school workers, Dawn Reed aged 23, and Christopher Lillie, aged 30, had to be rescued by police after sexual abuse allegations against them were dismissed by a judge in Newcastle, England. The pair were attacked by 40 parents shouting "lynch them" and "hang the bastards".
They had been accused of molesting 6 boys and girls aged between 2 and 4 and Lillie had also been charged with raping a 4 year old girl. The judge ruled that the videotaped interviews were prejudicial and could not be used as evidence.
"Sex case ends in a riot", Derek Hornby, International Express, 20-26 July 1994
Proven cases of false memories
A review of Richard Ofshe and Ethan Watters’ recently published book, Making Monsters. This book examines cases in which recovered memories have been proved false. This includes the case of Ofshe himself presenting accused offender Paul Ingram with an entirely fabricated allegation. Although Ingram had had no memories of ever abusing his daughters, he had been convinced by the accusing authorities that he must have repressed his memories of molesting them. After a day of prayer, he gave Ofshe a 3-page statement confessing to the crime Ofshe had made up.
"It didn’t happen, but he remembered it", Sarah Strickland, Independent on Sunday, 9 Oct 1994
More on false memories
Another aticle about the memory repression and recovery debate. Concludes that false memories are common enough that judges and juries should be doubtful of trusting evidence based on memories without corroboration.
‘When memory plays us false’, Bob Holmes, New Scientist 23 July 1994, 32-5.
"Facilitated communication" is a method first developed in Australia to help severely mentally retarded people communicate. A facilitator holds the retarded person’s arm, and guides his or her use of a special typewriter keyboard.
Although in some cases this may genuinely assist brain damaged people to communicate, studies have shown that in many many cases it is a scam, with the thoughts and ideas unintentionally coming from the "facilitator".
This method has resulted in a number of severely retarded people "typing out messages of which Tolstoy would have been proud".
A disturbing outcome of facilitated communication has been widespread claims of sexual abuse unsubstantiated by any corroborative evidence and often expressed in grammatically correct and erudite language. In the United States parents wrongly accused through the use of this technique are suing treatment agencies for millions of dollars.
‘Look, who’s talking now?’, Geoffrey Maslen, Good Weekend, 15 Oct 1994, 48-52.
End Ritual Action Newsletter 1 (3) Oct 1994
End Ritual Abuse Special supplementary issue, Oct 1994
The newsletter includes:
- Heather McDowell’s Listener Viewpoint which claims that those who use the term "false memory syndrome" want to deny the occurrence of sexual abuse;
- Advice to ritual abuse sufferers to make sure your therapist is experienced in ritual abuse issues, and apply to ACC for free counselling;
- A list of some of the symptoms which should alert therapists that their clients are likely to have been ritually abused. A few of these include:
- panic at the sight of blood
- unusual symbols in their artwork
- haunting scared look in their eyes
- need for emotional support
- preoccupation with phases of the moon
- fear of "creepy crawlies"
- Supplementary issue of "a judicial summary of the Christchurch Civic Creche case" which accusers supporters of Peter Ellis as "part of a cynical organised strategy to discredit children’s evidence in order to keep the world safe for other child abusers".
Effectiveness of sexual abuse therapy questioned
Clarkson, J (10 Aug 1994). ‘Is therapy for child sexual abuse effective?’, New Zealand Medical Journal 107, 305-6.
This article questions whether therapies currently available for treating sexual abuse victims are actually beneficial. The author suggests that treatments fostering dependency are likely to be unhelpful, and suggests "on general and economic grounds short-term rather than longterm therapy is preferable".
He concludes that until properly conducted trials of treatment have been done, "we will continue to pay for therapies which might be ineffective or even harmful".
Pasley, Laura (1994). ‘Misplaced trust: a first-person account of how my therapist created false memories’, Skeptic 2 (3) 62-7.
Laura’s personal account of how she came to create false memories of incest in therapy and how she has now retracted those allegations.
Memory "repression and retrieval"
Loftus, Elizabeth; Ketcham, Katherine (1994). The myth of repressed memory, St Martins Press, New York.
An excellent book about memory repression theory, examples of how false memories can be implanted, and stories from retractors.
Loftus states that repression is hypothetical and essentially untestable, based on unsubstantiated speculation and anecdotes that are impossible to confirm or deny.
"If we can’t trust our own minds to tell us the truth, what is left to trust? If our minds are capable of feeding us tall tales from the past with such intense, hallucinatory detail that it never occurs to us to question them, where is the boundary between truth and lie, reality and fantasy, sanity and madness?"
She says that therapy deals with "myth and metaphor; meaning discovered in symbol and imagination.. Any memory that might turn up in age regression might be fact, a lie, a confabulation, or a pseudomemory caused accidentally by inappropriate suggestions by the therapist."
If you are going to read or recommend one book on this subject, this should be it.
Warning to expert witnesses in court about predicting future behaviour of the accused
Oakes, Len (Aug/Sep 1994). ‘Recent trends in expert evidence law: some implications for the Australian situation’, Bulletin of Australian Psychological Society, 12-3.
Discusses the use of "junk science" by professional expert witnesses in sexual abuse cases. In particular, it documents the inability of professionals to accurately predict future dangerousness or other behaviours of individuals.
Concludes that practitioners who simply report their observations regarding their clients have little cause for concern, but warns that "predicting behaviour or deducing harm suffered by appeal to a body of knowledge about some syndrome, even if supported by test scores and the like, should only be undertaken with extreme caution, or preferably not at all."
From a father involved in custody dispute
"My son recanted on the accusation which my ex-wife said he made before the court papers denying me access were even served on me."
From a family member of alleged ‘satanic abuse victim’
"I have been floundering for 6 years with no support for my dilemma – that of battling a "web" of psychotherapists who have wrongly brainwashed (a family member).
In 5 years of therapy, they have convinced her that (in order):
- Her father sexually abused her (after 1 yr of therapy)
- He was part of a satanic ritual abuse cult and he introduced her to the cult when she was 3-4 yrs old
- Over the next months, her "recovered" memories of this satanic garbage became more and more bizarre
- (Other family members were then implicated with the cult).
The truth is that it’s all fantasy.. (All her) siblings totally deny in full – some have excellent recall of this perod re "memories".
From a prisoner
"In April 1994 I was sentenced to 4 yrs 5 mths for a crime I most certainly didn’t commit. I have done nearly 18 months. Because my crime was seen as being "violent" I have to serve 3 yrs.
After a week long trial, inspite of my emphatic plea of "not guilty", and no proof to say otherwise, the jury found me guilty on 4 of the 8 trumped up charges of sexual violation…
These charges were brought through an ex-girlfriend of mine involving her 2 daughters, mostly for finacial gain (she was given $19,800 in compensation). I must assure you that I am completely innocent of all those charges…
The only evidence presented was the uncorroborated and unsubstantiated statements of the 2 girls. The police interviewer admitted the techniques she used in the video interview could be seen as "preparing or coaching" and she defended the interviewer’s right to do so. The social worker admitted, after thorough questioning, that she had also "coached" these witnesses. When questioned about certain alleged events, both girls couldn’t follow the scenarios completely and stated that they were only saying what the police interviewer and the social worker had told them to say. Their stories differed in very important details and descriptions.
My story is only one of the few similar ones that abound in this prison and we have formed a small support group."
Mother of falsely accused son
"Child sexual abuse unfortunately does happen but is not as widespread as they lead us to believe, and with the breakup of families, too often in the custody wrangle false allegations are made, and then there are those in the FMS group. I would like some terrible things to happen to those who cause misery to others although I probably shouldn’t say that, but I find it difficult that those who maintain they care for the child are in so many instances harming them".
"Literature intended to give children some awareness and the ability to develop defences against possible abuse, has actually given them a "tool" which they are misusing. Their knowledge of terminology etc makes a credible case if they wish to make untrue claims.
I have a suspicion that if a child is exposed to this form of "education" too early, the child may be conditioned to think that abuse has taken place. A mother with an obsession about abuse could only enhance this feeling."
"On 30-9-1994 I was acquitted on 11 serious abuse charges, the only "evidence" being the recovered "memories" of some of my daughters. This trial tied up the High Court for a whole week.
Heart-felt thanks again, COSA members, for your valuable help and advice.
I heard that on Tuesday a man was sent to jail on recovered memory charges – he had legal aid– Peter Williams QC is upset at what he calls "a complete travesty of justice".
In my case police ignored the contradictory and bizarre aspects, didn’t bother to look for corroborating evidence, indeed, as the law now stands, they don’t need any, it really is just who the jury believe, who has the best counsel, the way the jury is made up, the personal attitude of the judge.
Innocent men can be, and have been, sent to jail…
We quite rightly don’t give public funding to Scientology or colour therapists – we shouldn’t give taxpayers’ money to recovered memory therapists either, as their ideas are no more based on reality than the former.. They’ve taken over ACC,.. and influence police and social welfare thinking.
(We must) remove public funding from these folk, who may be well-menaing, but whose results are devastatingly harmful to all concerned."
More details in court section here
Son whose mother was falsely accused
"Our family had a disturbing insight into the "sexual abuse industry" when my mother was falsely accused of molesting a child. I was appalled at how much power the police and social welfare give to a complainant, who simply has to make an accusation of sexual abuse against someone, regardless of whether that accusation is true or false.
This system is so open to abuse. The trauma a false allegationcan inflict agains the accused and their family and friends is severe. An allegation of sexual abuse has a particulrly nasty stigma attached to it.
The obvious malicious motive of my mother’s accuser, and the ease in which he utilised the police and social welfare against my mother, cauesd me great anguish.
Complainants can claim a monetary payout. I wonder how many complainants do it for the money?
Meanwhile the victim of a false complaint has to suffer, and I mean suffer"
Mother who lost her son in custody battle
"I have always had weekend access to my son and had not long returned him to his father’s care when my partner and I recieved a visit from 2 social welfare workers. They told me that my son, then 4, had been sexually abused. That hit me hard. They then told me that he was saying my partner and I had done this. By now I was in tears and having difficulty taking in what they had said. They said they felt we were guilty and that if we admitted it not only could we get help but this would flow much easier legally.
The following 3 years were difficult as I waited. Living in fear as I was looking at 10 years in prison for something I didn’t do. I was constantly concerned for my son.
Finally the charges were dropped and the case dismissed. I immediately applied for custody. It was like being on trial. The (Family Court) judge decided that my son should remain with his father on the basis that I was guilty and he would be at risk with me. He is now living in Australia with his father.
The pain of losing him after so much fear and worry is difficult, especially since a person is supposedly innocent until proven guilty. In losing him I have been found guilty and sentenced."
Primary Cause Analysis
In 1962 a New Zealand hypnotist named James Bennett founded a therapy called Primary Cause Analysis. Bennett, who died in 1993, believed that virtually everyone has been sexually abused in early infancy. He describes 39 types of abuse categorised as "P" (paedophilia) scenes, which he claims were practised openly and performed as rituals until 2,800BC, when society banned them. Since then most children have been victims of the abuse but have repressed memories of it.
The training manual for PCA therapists describes these 39 scenes, some of them extremely bizarre and obscene, in lurid detail. It claims that 98% of all cot deaths result from a mother holding her infant upside down by one leg inducing an act of "double oral sex". This would be a very disturbing suggestion to someone suffering the tragedy of a cot death.
Bennett taught that almost every problem for which people seek psychological help is the result of repressed memories, as are a large number of illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, acne and shortsightedness. His therapy involved hypnotic "recall" and "reliving" of the abuse scenes, which are the Primary Cause of the client’s problems.
Bennett claimed that he and therapists he trained had treated over 10,000 cases in New Zealand. Trainees are required to sign a pledge of secrecy about the processes they use and are not supposed to show the manual (of which I have actually obtained a copy) to anyone.
I am not aware of how many if any PCA therapists still practice in NZ. However, the therapy has surfaced in Britain, where the Society for Primary Cause Analysis by Hypnosis has secretly trained about 50 people in its methods.
PCA is an early and extreme example of treatment based on memory repression and recovery theory. It is clearly orientated towards its clients hypnotically creating violent scenes of incest during babyhood which they become then convinced really happened. As such, it is a potentially very dangerous practice.
Statement Validity Analysis
Statement Validity Analysis (SVA) is a systematic, qualitative evaluation of children’s disclosures using assessment protocols. Adapted from European criteria by Americans Raskin and Yuille, the SVA protocol follows recommendations from a number of other writers in the field.
The protocol outlines a number of criteria to apply to a child’s statement in assessing its veritibility. Features used as criteria include:
- consistency of description
- presence of detail
- spontaneity of disclosure
- descriptions from child’s viewpoint and in the child’s language
- appropriate affect
- congruence between disclosed abuse and what is known about child sexual abuse in general
- evidence of child’s accomodation to others’ reactions to the disclosure.
SVA is said to be based on scientific demonstrations that descriptions of events that were actually experienced by the reporting witness differ in specific content, qualities and expression from those which have been fabricated in some way.
Whilst this will not be a fool-proof method, it does appear to go a long way in assessing whether a child’s statement describes something that really happened or a fantasy created through suggestive questioning and other influences.
New Zealand Sociology Conference, Massey Unversity, Palmerston North, 25-27 Nov 1994.
Sexual abuse sessions: panel discussion 11am to 12.30pm; workshops 1.30 to 3pm.
Panel discussion on definition and prevalence of sexual abuse.
- Ken McMasters: social worker treating offenders
- Wendy Miller: Constable with Police and Children and Young Person’s Sexual Abuse Team
- Felicity Goodyear-Smith: doctor, researcher, writer in sexual abuse field.
Judith Herman Seminars: Psychotherapy for patients with a history of childhood sexual abuse.
Wellington (1-18 March 1995), Auckland (23-24) and Christchurch (28-29).
Workshops will "review the long-term sequelae of sexual abuse and delineate symptoms frequently seen in patients with a traumatic history". Psychotherapy, group therapy self-help and social action will then be covered.
The advertised programme includes:
- limit-setting with the family of origin
- reconstructing a narrative of a traumatic event
- specialised techniques for recovery of memories.
Workshop costs $196 ($168 if paid before 1 Feb 1995) and prospective participants are asked to indicate if they do not want their names to appear on a registrants list (I wonder why psychotherapists would require their attendance at such a seminar kept secret?).
International Conference on Memory and Reality: Reconciliation
Baltimore, 9-11 Dec 1994.
Co-sponsored by John Hopkins Continuing Education Program and FMSF.
Scientific, clinical and legal issues of false memory syndrome.
This important conference will bring together many outstanding scholars and professionals in the field with retractors and families affected by the problem.
(Contact COSA for further details)
I will be attending this seminar – Felicity Goodyear-Smith