COSA Casualties Of Sexual Allegations Newsletter Nov – Dec 1998 Vol 5 No 8

Contents of this page:

Editorial: Young women crying ‘wolf’ Wiith the complainant adamantly claiming that David Dougherty was her assailant, evidence which did not support Dougherty as the suspect was downplayed or ignored by the police. They believed that Dougherty was their man, and therefore they sought only evidence to confirm that belief. What is different with the re-investigation is that the same evidence has been examined through a different lens, not coloured by the presumption of Dougherty’s guilt.

Obtaining redress for professional malpractice While professional bodies are now actively warning members about the dangers of suggestive interviewing or counselling, there is little acknowledgement of mistakes made in the past and the harm that these have caused families. Furthermore, the cautions currently being given do not go far enough. Use of ‘trauma-focused’ counselling and psychotherapy is still widely practised within New Zealand. We believe that there is no evidence yet available that this is a beneficial method of treatment. Worse, focusing on perceived past traumas rather than dealing with current psychological dysfunction and disorders may on occasion cause harm. Some of our members have attempted to seek redress for the iatrogenic damage they have suffered, with limited success. We believe that professional accountability is called for.

Court cases: Teenage girl claims rape by 6 men

Teenage girl accuses taxi driver of indecent assault

Number of false rape claims in Lower Hutt

Deputy Mayor accused of sexual misconduct (Christchurch)

Houston trial update (USA)

Man compensated for wrongful accusation by Child Protective Services (USA)

Hypnotherapist already eligible for parole (USA)

Reports: Compensating the wrongly convicted NZ Law Commission Report 49

Media: Presbyterian Church group accuse women of witchcraft (Australia)

Uncorroborated rape allegation results in death sentence (Phillipines)

Accusations of Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy is the new witch hunt (UK)

Multiple personality case ‘Sybil’ created through therapy (USA)

Information: Complaints to professional bodies

Literature: Establishing a Medical Research Agenda for Child Sexual Abuse

Reliability and Credibility of Young Children’s Reports: from research to policy and practice.

Repressed memory or dissociative amnesia: What the science says, and doesn’t say.

Childhood trauma remembered, A report on the current scientific knowledge base and its applications.

Recovered Crimes: sexual abuse reported to the police after therapy

Australian family survey of recovered memories

Psychological Abuse: protection or exposure? paper by Karen Zelas.

A meta-analytic examination of assumed properties of child sexual abuse Rind et al.

The science and politics of recovered memory

Medical papers on hymens Abstracts of ‘What is an "intact" hymen? A critique of the literature’ and ‘Can tampon use cause hymen changes in girls who have not had sexual intercourse? A review of the literature’ both by Felicity Goodyear-Smith, and Tannis Laidlaw.

Articles: Piano Teacher Accused – Casehistory

Critical Incident Stress Management


Young women crying ‘wolf

Over the past few years the COSA newsletter has documented numerous cases of young women (often teenagers) making false claims that they have been raped or otherwise sexually assaulted. In the Court Section of this issue, we outline a few of the most recent examples of what appears to be a growing trend. Many other such cases can be found in COSA back issues.

[This section of the Editorial was deleted in June 2003. It discussed the police review of the David Dougherty case relying mainly on an article published in the Sunday Star-Times. It became clear that this information was factually incorrect when the real offender was convicted in May 2003. Dogherty’s conviction for rape was overturned when DNA testing proved that the semen on the girl’s underpants was not his. – JohnP]

Police policy is to believe the complainant, to treat every complaint as genuine. The numbers of recorded cases where young women make false claims reveal what a dangerous and ill-advised practice this is. Law student Nick Wills was arrested and charged when a young woman claimed he raped her, despite his substantial alibi evidence that he could not have committed this crime. See also the case of ‘Shona’, the teenage serial accuser detailed in the Case History in the Jan 1997 (Vol 4 issue 1 ) Newsletter. One man underwent three trials and one Appeal; spent $115,000 and over a year in prison before the courts established that this young woman had made a false complaint against him.

Last month a judge actually sent a young woman to prison for making a false complaint. This is rare indeed. Usually the sentence is a small fine and/or community service. Most are of course never charged with making false complaints (to our knowledge, ‘Shona’ did not receive any official redress for her behaviour). [Sentence removed in June 2003 see above.]

STOP PRESS: The Minister of Justice, Doug Graham, apparently still believes Dougherty is guilty. He has dismissed the 18 month police review as ‘Just the musing of some cop’ and believes that the jury had it right at the first trial. He says that Dougherty still does not qualify for compensation. [Sentence removed in June 2003 see above.]

Obtaining redress for professional malpractice

Deliberate false complaints are one type of case seen by COSA. Another category is where children or adults have come to make false complaints under the influence of inappropriate investigative or therapeutic practices. This topic has been well covered in our past newsletters, and includes those families damaged by false memories generated by ‘recovered memory therapy’ (thankfully now a waning phenomenon).

While professional bodies are now actively warning members about the dangers of suggestive interviewing or counselling, there is little acknowledgement of mistakes made in the past and the harm that these have caused families. Furthermore, the cautions currently being given do not go far enough. Use of ‘trauma-focused’ counselling and psychotherapy is still widely practised within New Zealand. We believe that there is no evidence yet available that this is a beneficial method of treatment. Worse, focusing on perceived past traumas rather than dealing with current psychological dysfunction and disorders may on occasion cause harm.

Some of our members have attempted to seek redress for the iatrogenic damage they have suffered, with limited success. We believe that professional accountability is called for. Later in this issue you will find Gordon Waugh’s ‘Complaints to professional bodies‘. Please consider registering your complaint, if this is relevant to your case. Professional bodies need to hear how the actions of their members have affected you and your families. We can give you assistance in preparing your complaint.

This is not about revenge; it is about ensuring that psychological and medical interventions used have been established as safe and effective.

In the medical arena, treatments have to be vigorously tested to prove that firstly they do produce the desired effects, and secondly, that they do not cause unacceptable adverse effects.

Sometimes mistakes occur. A well-known example is that of Thalidomide. In the 1960s this drug was prescribed to pregnant women as a sedative. It had not been adequately tested but was promoted by its manufacturer as being non-toxic, with no side-effects. Sadly it was discovered that some pregnant women who took the drug produced children with a wide range of distinctive deformities, especially being born with absent or flipper-like limbs. There was an international outcry at this tragedy, and the drug was banned. [Interestingly, Thalidomide is now making a come-back as an effective drug in the treatment of very specialised conditions including some rare cancers, but with stringent regulations to prevent its use by pregnant women.]

Drugs may adversely affect only a small percentage of those who take them. Even if the majority of people get considerable benefit and suffer no ill-effects, if there are potentially serious side-effects that cannot be predicted in individual cases, then those drugs must be considered unsafe. While not wanting to down-play in any way the effects of Thalidomide on those affected, it should be appreciated that only seven New Zealand babies suffered birth defects from Thalidomide use by their mothers.

Earlier this year Drs Tannis Laidlaw, Robert Large and myself published the results of our survey of families affected by recovered memory allegations (Goodyear-Smith, Felicity; Laidlaw, Tannis; Large, Robert (26 Jun 1998). ‘Parents and other relatives accused of sexual abuse on the basis of recovered memories: a New Zealand family survey’, New Zealand Medical Journal, 111, 225-228). Our research has been criticised by a some people who work or comment in the field (for example, Sandra Coney, and members of the Auckland University Psychology Department including John Read and Fred Seymour). The latter wrongly claim that our efforts ‘over a period of more than 6 years unearthed only 69’ cases of presumed false allegations.

These psychologists confuse ‘sample’ with ‘population’. In fact, we sent surveys to the first 100 families who met our criteria, and received 69 useable responses. We obtained our initial sample over a few months (not 6 years) and COSA now has on file several hundred families affected by allegations based on ‘recovered memories’. Furthermore, these are cases with whom we have had contact, and clearly will not be the entire population of affected persons. However, let us assume that ‘only 69’ families have been affected by recovered memory therapy in New Zealand. The consequences for these families has been significant, including psychological distress; loss of family, friends; jobs; and reputation; impaired health; loss of freedom and even death of family members. Put in the context of 7 NZ children affected by the Thalidomide disaster, even 69 families represent a lot of people unnecessarily harmed by mental health professionals.

As well as those people who met the strict criteria for our family survey, COSA has a number of other members whose lives have been adversely affected through the use of ‘memory enhancement ‘ or ‘recovery’ techniques, leading to false allegations. Add to this those affected by the automatic presumption of guilt by social workers, psychologists, doctors, counsellors and others whose subsequent actions and recommendations have impacted negatively on their lives. Altogether we have documented cases affecting well over a thousand New Zealanders. We think that the professional bodies need to hear from you. If you feel you have grounds for complaint, contact Gordon Waugh for the steps you need to take to do this. While his column deals specifically with complaints about ACC-funded counsellors, the same principles and mechanisms apply for complaints about professional interventions which did not involve ACC.

Felicity Goodyear-Smith


New Zealand

Teenage girl claims rape by 6 men

Police have investigated the claim by a 17 year old girl that she was abducted from outside a cinema complex on a Friday night by six men in a silver coloured car. She claimed that they had raped her and released her almost 24 hours later. The detective in charge of the case now reports that the police suspect that her allegations of kidnapping and rape are untrue.

(NZ Herald, police say teen’s story of rape by six men in doubt, 8 Oct 1998)

Teenage girl accuses taxi driver of indecent assault

A Nelson taxi-driver was charged with indecently assaulting a 12 year old girl. She claimed that while driving he had reached behind to where she was sitting back-to-back with him and had put his hand on her breast. He had then asked her to sit up front beside him, and had driven past the turn-off to her home despite her instructions.

The driver had adamantly denied touching the girl’s breast. He said he might have inadvertently touched her when he rested his hand on the back of his seat to turn and speak to her. He had asked her to sit up front because he was worried that travelling facing backwards was making her feel sick. He had also overshot the turnoff to her home because he had insufficient time to turn by the time she had told him it was her road.

The jury took just over an hour to acquit him.

(Nelson Mail (17 Oct 1998). Taxi driver acquitted of assault charge)

Number of false rape claims in Lower Hutt

Lower Hutt police are expressing concerns about the number of young women who get drunk and then make false sexual assault and rape complaints.

On 13 October, a 16 year old girl from Wainuiomata lied about having been attacked by three men. On the same day, a 14 year old girl found drunk in the main street in Lower Hutt claimed that six men had dragged her into a car and raped her. A doctor’s examination proved her complaint to be false. These cases cost the police about $10,000 each to investigate.

Last month 20 year old Debra Wood of Lower Hutt was found guilty of falsely accusing a man of indecently assaulting her.

(NZ Herald (22 October 1998). False rape claims worry for police)

Deputy Mayor accused of sexual misconduct

Dr Morgan Fahey, a Christchurch General Practitioner, was also Deputy Mayor of Christchurch and a mayoral candidate in the recent local body elections. In the week before polling day, he was accused of having sexually abused three of his patients. The allegations were the subject of a TV programme in which an aggressive reporter was clearly convinced that Fahey was guilty and interviewed him in an extremely hostile manner. Fahey denied the allegations, which he described as ridiculous and false.

Police had investigated the complaints thoroughly and decided in June this year that there were no charges to be laid.

The TV programme featured three former patients of Fahey. The first alleged that 30 years ago he had asked her if she was frigid and then used a vibrator on her. The second woman claimed that in the 1980s Fahey had caused her to become addicted to the drug Duramine, and that on one occasion she had agreed to having sexual intercourse with him in order to get a further prescription of the drug. A third woman also alleged use of Duromine, and said she had had sex with Fahey in his car, his surgery and at her home.

Dr Fahey said he knew the identity of only one of the women on the programme. He could not disclose her confidential medical records but said that examination of these records would have stopped the programme going to air.

Dr Fahey is considering defamation claims. He lost his bid for mayoralty but was a close second, despite the allegations.

(Christchurch Press, 7 Oct 1998, Fahey denies allegations)

United States

Houston trial update

As reported in the last newsletter, the US federal government has charged psychologist Judith Peterson, psychiatrists Richard Seward and Gloria Keraga, therapist Sylvia Davis and hospital administrator George Jerry Mueck with 60-counts of mail fraud, insurance fraud and knowingly misdiagnosing MPD in order to keep patients in the hospital. The trial began on September 9.

The trial has now entered it’s 7th week and the end is not yet in sight.

Man compensated for wrongful accusation by Child Protective Services

Six years ago child protection workers in Arizona falsely accused Ed Compton (now aged 63) of molesting his three young foster daughters. Compton spent 9 months in jail and it cost he and his wife nearly everything they owned before the criminal charges were thrown out. The Comptons then filed a suit in 1995 against Arizona Department of Economic Security for the way the Child Protective Services had handled the case.

In September 1998 Arizona settled the case, agreeing to pay Compton $1.5 million which compensates him for his financial losses but, more importantly, restores his good name.

(Arizona Republic, 2 Oct 1998, Man falsely accused of molestation wins $1.5 million settlement, by Brent Whiting)

Hypnotherapist already eligible for parole

Geraldine Lamb is believed to be the first person in the US to face criminal charges that include implanting false memories during therapy. In April 1998 she pleaded guilty to insurance fraud and practising psychology without a license. In return, the remaining counts, including those alleging she implanted false memories, were dropped. She was given a 30 month sentence.

Lamb is now eligible for parole after serving only 15% (4½ months) of her sentence. One of her ex-patients planning to testify at her parole hearing is a woman who consulted Lamb for treatment of depression. She spent tens of thousands of dollars for therapy after being convinced she was the victim of ritual sexual abuse at the hands of a Satanic cult that included her parents.

(St. Louis Post-Dispatch (30 Sep 1998). Hypnotherapist is set to make plea for parole today, by John G. Carlton)


Compensating the wrongly convicted – Law Commission Report 49, September 1998

The Law Commission has released its recommendations for compensation for the wrongly convicted. It does not suggest that those wrongly charged be eligible to any compensation (even though they may have spent their life savings defending themselves).

The Commission limits its recommendation for compensation only to those ‘exceptional cases’ where a person has been wrongly convicted, imprisoned and then released on Appeal or Pardon without an order for retrial. Furthermore this person then has ‘to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he or she is in fact innocent’ before payment of compensation can be recommended to Government.

Following the Law Commission’s report, the Minister of Justice, Rt. Hon Doug. Graham, is seeking Cabinet approval to a policy position on compensation or ex gratia payments for wrongful conviction.

COSA is clearly disappointed although not surprised by the Law Commission’s report. Our recommendations to them were:

Reimbursement of actual and reasonable defence legal costs in criminal cases where the penalty upon conviction attracts a term of imprisonment;

The threshold placed at the level of individuals prosecuted but acquitted, and extended to those having convictions quashed on appeal, or receiving pardon;

Compensation based on the national average wage of the day for those who have wrongly served part or all of a prison sentence, but not including any consideration of non-pecuniary losses;

Reimbursement and compensation by way of an automatic order made by the Court which dealt with the case;

Further pecuniary losses sustained in individual cases to be decided by an Independent Tribunal.

Limiting compensation only for wrongful imprisonment means that the majority of falsely charged are unable to recuperate their losses from expensive legal fees and other costs incurred in defending themselves.

Of graver concern is the requirement that once their convictions have been quashed on Appeal, the wrongly convicted then have to prove their innocence beyond reasonable doubt. Whatever has happened to "innocent until proven guilty"? It appears that even when convictions are overturned, they are being presumed guilty.

In April this year Justice Minister Doug Graham denied David Dougherty compensation following his release on Appeal after having spent over 3 years in prison. DNA testing showed that the semen found on the girl’s underpants could not have come from Dougherty, yet Graham claimed that Dougherty had not adequately proved his innocence. If this quality of evidence is not sufficient to ‘prove innocence beyond reasonable doubt’, then we believe that the Law Commission’s recommendations are largely an academic exercise, as the numbers who will be eligible for compensation will be remarkably few.

[Final sentence removed in June 2003 see above.]



Presbyterian Church group accuse women of witchcraft

An ultra-right group (known as The Fellowship) within the Melbourne Presbyterian Church has accused several women of practising witchcraft; accused their parents and other family members of imaginary sins and broken off all contacts with them; and banned Mozart’s music because he was a freemason. Dozens of families have been reported to have been torn apart. An elderly woman was only allowed to hear her grand-child’s voice on an answering machine and a dying man had his present to his son returned unopened.

Three ministers are identified as leaders of the group; Graeme Nicholls, Michael Jensen and Warwick Davidson, and the group is also said to include some prominent professionals such as stockbrokers, doctors and academics.

The mainstream church assembly has told the group that their beliefs and practices are inimical to Presbyterian doctrine, and told then to change or leave the church.

(Weekend Australian (10 Oct 1998). Church sub-cult told to change or get out)


Uncorroborated rape allegation results in death sentence

Albert Wilson, a 46 year old former taxi-driver from England, moved to the Philippines in 1993 and began living with a Filipina woman, Vicky Delistan (aged 38) in 1996. Delistan had a daughter from a previous relationship.

Within the first year of the relationship, the girl, then aged 12, told her mother that Wilson had raped her while the mother was out shopping. The mother has never believed her allegations.

The girl then told her natural father, who filed a complaint with the police. Wilson and his de facto wife say the complaints were made after an attempt to extort money from someone seen as a wealthy Westerner (although in fact Wilson is of relatively modest means).

The evidence at his trial was apparently based solely on the girl’s testimony. Wilson was found guilty and sentenced to die by lethal injection. His accuser, now aged 14, told reporters that she hoped she could watch the execution.

(Sydney Herald (10 Oct 1998). Rapist faces execution)

United Kingdom

Accusations of Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy is the new witch hunt

Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy (MSBP) is a very rare and dangerous condition where adults, usually mothers, deliberately harm their children to draw attention to themselves. It ranges from the mother feigning imaginary illness in the child to secure unnecessary medical attention to physically inducing sickness in the child.

It has recently become ‘over-diagnosed’ by some health professionals who are taking children into care after mistakenly accusing parents of harming their children.

The diagnosis should only ever be made where no alternative explanation for a child’s physical condition can be found and where there is clear evidence that the parent has deliberately made the child ill. Sadly it is becoming another witch-hunt which is destroying families. Mothers of children with chronic fatigue syndrome myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder and food allergies have been accused of causing their children to be ill.

British psychologist Lisa Blakemore-Brown is convinced mothers have been wrongly accused of having MSBP in at least three cases. She has complained to the General Medical Council and asked the Department of Health for a public inquiry.

(The Scotsman (29 Sep 1998). ‘Witch hunt’ warning in abuse scandal, by Stephen Breen)

United States

Multiple personality case ‘Sybil‘ created through therapy

In 1973 Flora Schreiber wrote and published her best-selling book ‘Sybil’, which was about psychiatrist Dr Cornelia Wilbur and a patient of hers whom she diagnosed as having 16 personalities (one of the first cases of multiple personality disorder). Schreiber died in 1992, and ‘Sybil’ is said to have died last year. A past friend of Schreiber is now speaking out about the case. Psychologist Robert Rieber says that 25 year old tape recordings of a conversation between Schreiber and Wilbur, which recently came into his possession, indicated that the two of them effectively manufactured Sybil’s entire story. He reported to the American Psychological Association in July 1998 that "It is clear from Wilbur’s own words that she was not exploring the truth but planting the truth as she wanted it to be". Wilbur used hypnosis, "truth serum" (Pentothal), and ‘recovered memory’ techniques to draw out details of her ‘memories’ as the book took form. "Once the book was a financial success, there was no turning back".


Complaints to professional bodies

Some basic facts first. In very recent years, ACC has dealt with over 70,000 cases of alleged sexual abuse. Your case may be one of those. Not all such claims are genuine. It has been estimated that by the time the lump-sum scheme closed in mid-1995, ACC had paid out some $500 Million to sexual abuse claimants. ACC pays its counsellors $6 to $7 Million dollars each year. All that money comes direct from taxpayers’ pockets. This has been a gravy-train for some counsellors.

Section 8(3) of the ACC legislation (the ARCI Act 1992) requires that in order to obtain compensation, counselling or treatment for sexual abuse, an offence, under those Sections of the Crimes Act which deal with sexual offending, must have been committed. Under Section 64, that abuse must be verified. That does not mean belief, suggestion, allegation or assumption. It means evidence of a crime must be provided. But in the absence of credible, external corroboration, no counsellor can know whether a client was in fact abused.

Counsellors’ belief that they do know, and ACC’s failure to demand credible evidence of abuse, has contributed to our personal problems. We encourage members to make formal complaints to ACC and to professional bodies to which counsellors have membership. If we don’t make complaints, they can say that because no-one complained, they are unaware of any problems. We know for sure that is not the case, but we only have ourselves to blame if we don’t do something about it.

There are well-oiled avenues for finding information and making complaints. Many COSA accusers have been in counselling and have made claims on ACC.

If your accuser has identified you in an ACC claim, you are entitled to have access to that information. Identification can be directly by name, or by words like "my father", "my uncle", "my grandfather". The first step is to write to ACC giving them details of the claimant and yourself (eg your relationship to her – daughter, niece, grandchild), and saying you have reason to believe she made a claim and identified you as the perpetrator. If ACC gives a negative answer, you can then ask the Privacy Commissioner to investigate.

If you know the name of the ACC-approved counsellor who did the job, ACC is obliged to tell you the name and address of her/his professional body. These bodies have Codes of Ethics which their members are obliged to follow, and Complaints Procedures which allow the public to seek redress. Their Ethics Committees have power to apply sanctions against a member, from a slap on the wrist to expulsion.

Making a complaint is a straightforward matter. Assemble your information and evidence, then write a letter to the relevant Association outlining the case, showing how the counsellor wrongly concluded that the client had been sexually abused, and describe the damage done.

COSA has copies of the Complaints Procedures for all of the relevant bodies. We can help you make acomplaint.

Gordon Waugh, COSA Liaison Officer


Establishing a Medical Research Agenda for Child Sexual Abuse

Child Abuse & Neglect 1998 Vol 22 Issue 6. This special issue contains a number of papers presented at an invited conference "Establishing a Medical Research Agenda for Child Sexual Abuse" organised by the Collaboration for Research on the Sexual Abuse of Children and held in Utah in May 1997. The journal includes 10 presented papers, response papers and edited discussion. The topics covered include:

  • Normal anogenital anatomy;
  • Appearance of acute, healing and healed anogenital trauma;
  • Medical consequences of sexual abuse;
  • Triage and referrals for child sexual abuse medical examinations: which children are likely to have positive medical findings?
  • Technical conduct of the child sexual abuse medical examination
  • Transmissibility of sexually transmitted diseases in sexually abused children.

Reliability and Credibility of Young Children’s Reports: from research to policy and practice

by Maggie Bruck and Stephen Ceci, American Psychologist, Feb 1998, 53 (2), 136-151.

An excellent review looking at research and issues regarding suggestibility and influence of various interviewing techniques on the reliability and credibility of young children’s reports, particularly with respect to child sexual abuse.

Repressed memory or dissociative amnesia: What the science says

by AW Scheflin & D Brown, Journal of Psychiatry & Law, 1996,143-188 and

What science says – and doesn’t say – about repressed memories:

a critique of Scheflin and Brown, by August Piper Jr, Journal of Psychiatry & Law, Winter 1997, 615-639.

Scheflin & Brown asserted that 25 investigations confirm the reality of dissociative amnesia in sexually abused people. Piper has reviewed this study and showed that because of several methodological weaknesses in these investigations, it is not warranted for them to drawn these conclusions.

Childhood trauma remembered, a report on the current scientific knowledge base and its applications

published by the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

This report is supportive of ‘trauma-focused’ therapeutic practices. It concludes that ‘there is some evidence that recovered memories of childhood abuse can be as accurate as never-forgotten memories of childhood abuse’ but does warn that ‘at least in some circumstances inaccurate memories can be strongly believed and convincingly described’.

Recovered Crimes: sexual abuse reported to the police after therapy – Advice to the Dutch Minister of Justice

by PJ van Koppen, Netherlands Institute for the Study of Criminality and Law Enforcement, INSCALE Technical Report Series TR 98-01 (translated from Dutch by E Jackson & A Mak)

This paper describes a study of ‘recovered memory’ cases reported to the police. Comparison with Gudjonson’s FMS data shows that the Dutch cases are broadly comparable with the British ones.

Accusations of childhood sexual abuse based on recovered memories

a family survey, unpublished report by Merle Elson

This report outlines the results of the Family Survey undertaken in 1996-1997 of members of the Australian False Memory Association. The data is remarkably similar to that obtained in our New Zealand survey, and likewise similar to data from the UK, the USA and the Netherlands

(see above and also here).

Psychological Abuse: protection or exposure?

by Karen Zelas (Sep 1998). Butterworths Family Law Journal, 275-276

In the past, psychiatrist Karen Zelas has been a key witness for the Prosecution in a number of cases including that of Peter Ellis. In the past in a case where no abuse has been substantiated by a father, she has still recommended that it is not on the best interest of the children to have access to him where they and/or their mother still believe that abuse has occurred.

It was therefore very refreshing to read this sensible paper by her in response to Professor Mary Hayes, Professor of Law at Sheffield University, England. Prof Hayes attended the ISPCAN conference and subsequently recommended to NZ Family Courts that in cases where sexual abuse had been alleged, it is important for the protection of children that the standard of proof should not be as high a required in a criminal court. Furthermore, she felt the standard of proof should be low enough that where a complainant alleged abuse, the brothers and sisters should be also considered at risk and given protection (ie removed from their homes or denied access with their fathers).

Dr Zelas offered caution to those wanting to protect children ‘from the psychological effects of exposure to child abuse, particularly child sexual abuse.’ She acknowledged that while all forms of child maltreatment (sexual, physical and emotional abuse or neglect) can have serious long-term psychological effects, ‘the psychological effects of family disruption, removal of a parent, splitting of families through taking sides for and against a complainant, the loss of an abusing but nevertheless loved parent, and placement in foster care, have significant psychological risks also.’

She continued ‘In some instances the psychological effects of the above may be greater than the potential psychological effects of suffering the type of abuse alleged. Interventions which maybe damaging to a child’s mental health are therefore not to be undertaken lightly. To intervene on the basis of a possibility of risk to a child which is based on the possibility of abuse to another child is, I suggest, walking where angels fear to tread, unless the evidence with regard to the original complainant is relatively strong.’

Dr Zelas identifies that for many children, the consequence of a sexual abuse disclosure ‘has been the vulnerability to further abuse with the breakdown of the nuclear family structure and the introduction of new and sometimes serial paternal figures in either the child’s home or in foster care.’

A meta-analytic examination of assumed properties of child sexual abuse using college samples

Rind Bruce, Tromovitch Philip & Bauserman Robert (1998). APA Psychological Bulletin, 124(1): 22-53.

The authors reviewed 59 studies (involving 15,824 subjects) which looked at the psychological effects of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). They found that, contrary to current social beliefs, in general CSA appears to have no long-term negative sequelae, although occasionally, in specific cases, it may cause intense harm.

The science and politics of recovered memory

1998, Ethics and Behaviour. Special issue 8 (2)

Gerlad Koocher, ‘Editor’s note: the science and politics of recovered memory’, 99-100.

Jennifer Freyd, ‘Science in the memory debate’, 101-113.

Anna Salter, ‘Confessions of a whistle-blower’: lessons learned’, 115-124.

Jennifer Hoult, Silencing the victim: the politics of discrediting child abuse survivors’, 125-140.

Ross Cheit, ‘Consider this, skeptics of recovered memory’, 141-160.

David Calof, ‘Notes from a practice under siege: harassment, defamation, and intimidation in the name of science’, 161-187.

Laura Brown, ‘the prices of resisting silence: comment on Calof, Cheit, Freyd, Hoult and Salter’, 189-193.

This entire issue is devoted to minimising or denying that RMT has caused false memories; claiming that there is scientific evidence to support the validity of ‘repression’ and recovery of CSA memories; and accusing the FMS foundation of trying to silence people who are willing ‘to tell the truth about sexual abuse of children’.

Medical papers on hymens

Drs Felicity Goodyear-Smith and Tannis Laidlaw have recently had two papers published in academic forensic journals on medical aspects of hymens with respect to sexual abuse allegations. These papers are of particular relevance to lawyers and their clients accused of acts of sexual penetration of children. Details of these papers and their Abstracts follow:

What is an "intact" hymen? A critique of the literature

Goodyear-Smith, Felicity; Laidlaw Tannis (Oct 1998). Medicine, Science & the Law.


Purpose of Study: To establish medico-legal guidelines based upon medical findings which support or refute allegations of sexual penetration, taking into account non-sexual explanations for positive physical findings.

Methodology: Review of the literature to examine what has been determined about the range of usual findings which can be expected if the hymen has been penetrated.

Results: While a large body of literature is available on the topic, some findings are ambiguous, and further research is required to further advance and clarify our knowledge base in these areas.

Conclusion: In only a minority of non-acute cases can definitive statements be made as to whether an alleged molestation has occurred. A non-scarred hymen that will not admit a finger is "intact"; a hymenal opening accommodating two fingers or a vaginal speculum, with evidence of a deficit or scarring at the lower pole indicates past sexual or, possibly, non-sexual penetration. Other findings are not definitive, and, at best, can estimate only relative probability of occurrence of penetration. Findings within the normal range should be presented as "neither confirm nor deny abuse", not "consistent with abuse". Often, it is impossible to establish whether a hymen is "intact" in regard to past sexual intercourse.

Can tampon use cause hymen changes in girls who have not had sexual intercourse? A review of the literature

Goodyear-Smith, Felicity; Laidlaw Tannis (1998). Forensic Science International, 94, 147-153.


Since tampon availability has become ubiquitous, several authors have opined about their effect on the virginal hymen, but only one paper has scientifically addressed the subject of tampon use and clefts in the hymens of never-sexually-active adolescent girls. It naturally has become an authority used by the courts. The Emans, Woods, Allred & Grace (1994) study asserts that "for physicians testifying in court about sexual assault cases, complete clefts in adolescents cannot be attributed to prior tampon use". On closer inspection, however, it appears that the authors have interpreted their statistical finding using a strict scientific convention (Chi p=0.06 as not having statistical significance) that may mislead in a clinical or legal situation. Indeed, there is a definite possibility that tampon use compared to not having used tampons in their never-sexually-active sample was associated with an increased percentage of complete hymenal clefts (14% v 6%; p=0.06).

Nevertheless, clefts were found in both the sexually active and the never-active groups: 20 of their 200 sexually never-active subjects possessed complete hymenal clefts, as did only 84 of their 100 sexually active subjects. Caution should be used by all physicians asked to testify in courts regarding possible causes of a hymenal cleft.


Piano Teacher Accused – 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.

Recently a music teacher in his 40s was charged with indecently assaulting one of his pupils, a 7 year old girl. The complaint related to incidents when he was teaching her to play the piano. The girl was short and stood at the piano to play. Her teacher would kneel to one side of her and if corrections were needed, would move the girls hands ensuring that he did not obstruct her view while doing it. There were often up to 5 or 6 other children in the class, including the girl’s brother, and the children would watch each other being instructed. The classes lasted 30 minutes which meant that each child had about 5 minutes one-to-one tuition each. Other children, including the girl’s friend, and also parents of the pupils would sometimes be present and would watch the lesson.

The girl claimed that her teacher would put his hand over her vagina during these lessons, and would move his fingers, tickling her. She said this happened about every second lesson, which would be over 20 times during the year and a half she was taught by him.

The girl’s allegations arose after she had undergone the Keeping Ourselves Safe programme at her school. The video in this programme apparently includes a music teacher as an example of a sexual abuser. The girl had to do homework about touching she liked, did not like or was confused about. Her mother helped her by providing an example (about a work-mate putting his arm around her when he talked to her). This resulted in the girl telling her about her music teacher’s touching which she was ‘confused’ about.

The police were contacted and CYPS conducted an evidential video interview of the child. Initially she indicated that the teacher had touched her on her abdominal region, but she later marked a body diagram with a cross on the area she labelled the vagina. During this interview, the interviewer appears to have assumed that the girl had been sexually molested by her music teacher, and failed to explore alternative, innocent explanations for the described incidents.

The police appear not have conducted any further investigation. In particular they failed to interview any of the other children attending the music class, the girl’s friend who used to come to watch, or the parents who would be present from time to time. However, they went ahead and charged the teacher with indecent assault of his pupil.

The police subsequently interviewed the children who had been present during the sessions, but only when the man’s defence lawyer indicated that he would interview them himself. All the children stated that they were in the room, as close as one to two metres away, and saw no inappropriate teaching methods being employed by their teacher. They also said that they liked him as a teacher.

The teacher and his family suffered an agonising few months until his case came to trial. He was suspended from his regular job, but was able to carry on giving private music lessons after he spoke to all the parents of his students telling them of his situation.

The case was heard by a District Court judge. Having assessed the evidence, the judge noted that the teacher adamantly denied any impropriety, although he admitted that his hand might have inadvertently touched the front of her body while correcting her fingering. Noting the presence of both children and adults in the room, the judge decided there was no evidence that the teacher had intended to touch the girl in any indecent way and he dismissed the case, granting permanent name suppression to the defendant.

Although happy to be free of the charges, the teacher has suffered considerable loss. He has had large legal expenses to meet. His family have unnecessarily had to go through the hardest few months of their lives. Furthermore his employer had replaced him with another worker by the time the case was over, and he has lost his job.

This case illustrates several points which have been the subject of COSA’s concerns. Firstly, that the use of ‘sexual abuse prevention programmes’ such as Keeping Ourselves Safe in schools may inadvertently help create false allegations of sexual impropriety.

Secondly, that there is an immediate presumption of guilt and investigators fail to explore possible non-sexual explanations for what is being said. This case cost the tax payers a large sum of money. A huge price was also paid by the teacher and his family. The process will clearly have been damaging to the complainant too, who misguidedly came to believe that her music teacher’s inocent touching of her during instruction had an alternative malevolent intent. The girl had to undergo the stresses of the case going to trial and resulting in the charges being dismissed. If such cases were approached with from a neutral, objective standpoint, they would never need go to trial.

Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM)

Psychologist Tana Dineen wrote recently (The Ottawa Citizen (12 Sep 1998). Swissair’s false victims) about the September Swissair plane crash in Nova Scotia, which killed all 229 passengers and crew. This was a terrible tragedy for the victims and their families.

However, in line with 1990s ‘victimology’, the local people who helped in the disaster (fishermen, divers, soldiers who searched for the bodies) are being cast as the ‘victims’ who need professional psychological help to cope with their ‘stress’.

Certainly, talking it over or having a cry with a friend can help when people are upset by such a disaster. But anyone who was even remotely connected to the tragedy – the residents of Peggy’s Cove, the searchers, the children and even the trauma counsellors – were encouraged to use a service called Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) to help them ‘debrief’.

As Tana Dineen reports, there is a lack of supportive evidence that CISM is of benefit, and may even make things worse. ‘Recent studies even show that those who receive trauma counselling have a higher likelihood of getting worse. Rather than being preventative, these services may actually be doing harm.’

The real victims of the crash are those who lost their lives. Offering trauma counselling to those who just happened to be in vicinity ‘encourages people to dwell on their own comparatively trivial discomfort and robs the real victims of the respect due them.’

We have recently learned that CISM has become established as a service here in New Zealand. A Critical Incident Stress Debriefing Service has been operating in the Auckland region since February 1998 (Robyn Agnew, Mary Dawson & Cara Elliott (Aug 1998). Dealing with the aftermath: why debriefing is critical, Social Work Now, 10: 6-11). This has been set up by CYPS to help staff deal with their own reactions to dealing with a traumatic event or ‘critical incident’. Promoters of this service claim that CYPS staff face ‘serious and often horrific child abuse on a daily basis’ and may develop ‘critical incident stress’ in reaction to dealing with a traumatic incident.

It is reported that in its first 4 months of operation, the CISD Service held 16 debriefings of CYPS staff, involving a total of 26 staff members ‘debriefed’ and 20 debriefers doing the work. Mäori and Pacific Islands debriefers are currently developing their own culturally appropriate versions of the debriefing process, and plans are in hand to make this service available to all CYPS Staff nation-wide in the future. CISD appears set to become a growth area and clearly with the number of recipients and service providers involved, this will be an added demand on already-stretched CYPS resources.

Auckland COSA Meetings

Place: Northcote Community House (Onepoto Awhina), Pearn Cres in the Northcote Town Centre off Lake Rd.

Time: 7.30 to 10 pm second Sunday monthly.

Next meetings:

Sunday 8 November 1998

Sunday 12 December 1998

ALL WELCOME: Contact Felicity Goodyear-Smith for further details

Skip to toolbar