COSA Casualties of Sexual Allegations Newsletter October 1995: Volume 2 No 8
Contents of this page:
Editorial: ACC worried about the increased costs of counselling in sexual abuse claims ACC sensitive claims do not require any corroboration that sexual abuse has occurred. When a client gives a history of childhood abuse, in the absence of corroboration there is no way for anyone (including ACC-registered counsellors) to tell the difference between a viable memory about the past and a sincerely believed-in but false pseudomemory. Many sensitive claims have been made on the basis of "recovered memories" which have a high likelihood of being believed-in confabulations. A number of claimants have recovered memories of highly improbable or impossible events such as satanic ritual abuse and full penetrative rape when only a few months of age.
Prisoners for retrial because of repressed memory doubts following use of EMDR; Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing. (Australia).
Man acquitted of sodomy on Appeal (Australia).
Margaret Kelly Michaels to sue the people who sent her to prison – Wee Care Nursery-School Case. (USA).
Media: $830m compo rush to pick up lump-sum compensation from ACC.
Politically correct health funding North Health has recently published its outline for future alcohol, drug and tobacco regional services. White (European and Asian) heterosexual middle-aged men miss out because: "They are the ones who have been accessing these services predominantly for the last 20 years – the emphasis is now to redress the balance".
Hypnosis and delayed recall part II of a special issue of the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis.
The Assault on Truth: Freud’s suppression of the seduction theory book by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
Sexual abuse brochures from local Women’s Centre, counselling centre and Rape Crisis.
Skeptics conference presentations included ‘Psychotherapy as Placebo’ Stephen Humphries has concluded that the observed benefits appear to be due solely to placebo rather than any specific treatment effects. Also ‘Do repressed Memories Exist?’ debate by Dr Gordon Hewitt and Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith.
Coming seminar organised by DSAC Dr Arnon and Mrs Marianne Bentovim on "Multidisciplinary management of allegations of sexual abuse in young children". The Bentovims have been active in promoting dangerous interviewing techniques of children in Britain and in Scandinavia.
ACC worried about the increased costs of counselling in sexual abuse claims
The Accident Rehabilitation and Insurance Corporation is reported to be worried about the increased costs of counselling in sexual abuse claims (see Media report Page 3).
ACC has reason to be worried. In its annual report tabled in Parliament on 21 September 1995, the corporation said it had registered 11,740 sexual abuse claims in the 12 months under review compared with 10,800 in 1993-94. The counselling costs for sensitive claims this year totalled more than $8.3 million.
I believe that there are 3 main issues here which need to be urgently addressed.
Firstly, ACC sensitive claims do not require any corroboration that sexual abuse has occurred. When a client gives a history of childhood abuse, in the absence of corroboration there is no way for anyone (including ACC-registered counsellors) to tell the difference between a viable memory about the past and a sincerely believed-in but false pseudomemory. Many sensitive claims have been made on the basis of "recovered memories" which have a high likelihood of being believed-in confabulations. A number of claimants have recovered memories of highly improbable or impossible events such as satanic ritual abuse and full penetrative rape when only a few months of age.
A number of other claims for ACC counselling are made when abuse is suspected by a concerned adult even though the child has not disclosed, or when allegations arise in the context of custody disputes. I know of a number of cases of ACC-paid counselling where subsequent court proceedings have found the alleged perpetrator not guilty; or the alleged victim has subsequently retracted the allegations.
Secondly, no causal relationships between childhood sexual abuse and specific adult problems have been established. Even when there is a definite history of childhood sexual abuse, there is no way to know whether a current problem such as depression, relationship breakdown or eating disorder, has been caused by the previous molestation or is the result of many other possible factors. The assumption that going back to relive past abuse will help an adult with her current life problems has certainly not been substantiated.
Thirdly, there is an absence of adequate evaluation studies as to the effectiveness of the counselling which ACC has been funding so extensively. ACC pays for counselling at $58 per hour. Studies of psychotherapy show that it is generally equally effective regardless of the techniques used, the training and experience of the therapist, or the duration of the therapy programme. A large number of assessments of the effectiveness of psychotherapy indicate that it is about equivalent to the placebo effect. In other words, any positive result is derived from the attention from someone believed to be able to help.
Given this, what evidence is there that spending $8.3m a year on sex abuse counselling is an appropriate use of scarce resources? Furthermore, there is evidence that in some instances, individuals have been seriously harmed by being supported to believe in false memories of abuse.
In the United States, hundreds of clients are now suing their therapists for having implanted false memories and leading them to believe they suffer from multiple personality disorder or had been ritually abused by satanic cults. Has ACC considered its future liability with regards to this kind of therapeutic malpractice?
Man not guilty of indecent assault on young girl
A 27 year old Taranaki man, Garry Bellamy, was found not guilty of indecently touching a girl under 12 who had stayed overnight in the lounge of her home between 9 Sept 1990 and 9 Sept 1991.
NZ Herald 23 and 30 Aug 1995
"Recovered memory" conviction overturned on Appeal
An Appeal court hearing this month has overturned the conviction of a COSA member who was convicted of sexual abuse charges earlier this year. The three Appeal court judges found that the way the case had been dealt with in his trial had been a gross miscarriage of justice and declared the trial a nullity.
Discharge of man charged with sexual offences on recovered memory testimony
An Auckland High Court judge recently discharged a man accused of rape and other sexual offences against his step-daughter alleged to have occurred between 16 and 24 years ago. The allegations had arisen after the complainant had recovered memories of the abuse during extensive psychotherapy between May 1992 and December 1993. The grounds for the discharge were the inherently suspect prosecution evidence based upon testimony obtained from the complainant following repressed memory therapy, and also the magnitude of delay between alleged offences and proposed trail date causing prejudice to the defendant.
Teacher claims sex-abuse charges falsified
A Christchurch teacher claims that sex abuse allegations made against him were deliberately mishandled by a CYPS social worker.
In July 1993 the teacher was accused of having indecently touched a 13 year old girl and asking her to touch his genitals at school the previous year.
When he was able to produce corroboration from a colleague that the alleged offences could not have occurred, the social worker changed the time the alleged offences were supposed to have occurred. The police child abuse unit had investigated the charges and decided there was no case to prosecute.
The teacher then began a long process of seeking from CYPS details of the accusations and how they had been handled by the social worker. When his specific questions remained unanswered, he complained to the regional manager of the CYPS and the Privacy Commissioner. The regional manager, Ms Janet Biswell, said the social worker was under great stress and she did not want to submit her to added stress by these inquiries.
The teacher said this ignored the stress CYPS had placed him and his family under. CYPS had never admitted that any of its actions or the charges were incorrect. The teacher was concerned about the number of unfounded sex-abuse charges being made and he wanted to bring CYPS to account to stop others being treated similarly.
The Christchurch Press
Prisoners for retrial because of repressed memory doubts
Four NSW prison inmates have won a retrial because of doubts about the alleged repressed memories of a prison guard who underwent psychotherapy after a jail breakout in July 1991.
Initially a guard who was injured during the attempted escape had claimed that "I cannot remember which prisoner did what… I can just remember that between 8 and 9 prisoners came into the office".
A year later the guard underwent a psychotherapeutic procedure called Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), following which he made a second statement specifically identifying his assailants.
The judge described EMDR as a "novel and unexplained procedure" very akin to hypnosis, with a similar effect of making a witness more certain of a false memory.
EMDR appears to be a technique in vogue in Australia. A COSA member was charged with sexual offences against his step-daughter after she attended a therapist in Australia. Counselling notes reveal that the abuse memories were recovered with the use of EMDR. The member has recently had the charges against him dismissed.
Sydney Morning Herald 2 Sept 1995
Man acquitted of sodomy on Appeal
A COSA member who was until recently an inmate of an Australian prison was acquitted on Appeal in June this year. He is now a free man again after serving 7 months in prison.
The Appeal court judge found there was a significant risk that a miscarriage of justice had occurred in his trial.
The charges referred to events alleged to have occurred 16 to 18 years previously, with no physical or other evidence to corroborate them. The complainant’s possible motives for making a false allegation, including financial gain, were also noted.
Amiraults – Fells Acres Day Care Case
This month a Massechusetts State judge overturned the convictions of 71 year old Violet Amirault and her daughter Cheryl. Along with Violet’s son Gerald, they were convicted of preposterous sexual acts with children during the late 1980s daycare craze. They have just been released after nearly a decade of being imprisoned. Throughout the United States, numerous similar cases are being overturned as the authorities recognise that prosecutors and social workers manipulated the children into making things up.
The following is an extract from the transcript of the recent 20/20 documentary about the case.
ABC NEWS SHOW: 20/20 TRUTH ON TRIAL
JOHN STOSSEL, ABC News: (voice over) This place is a state prison in Framingham, Massachusetts. Eleven years ago, a judge sentenced Violet Amirault and her daughter Cheryl to serve 20 years here. Violet Amirault’s son, Gerald, is serving 40 years in another jail. Prosecutors say the Amiraults, while running a day care center, photographed four and five-year old children naked, raped them and tortured them. To this day, the Amiraults insist that they didn’t do it.
JOHN STOSSEL: (voice over) Violet Amirault founded the Fells Acres Day Care Center 20 years earlier in the town of Maiden, near Boston. Her kids, Cheryl and Gerald, worked at the school with five other teachers. Each morning, 75 kids arrived at the converted home. They ran the school like a big family.
JOHN STOSSEL: (voice over) For the Amiraults, the ordeal began with an incident that seemed innocuous at the time. A five-year-old boy wet his pants.
GERALD AMIRAULT: I had to undress him, wipe his private area and put a new set of clothes on him.
JOHN STOSSEL: (voice over) Three months later, the boy told his uncle his private parts had been touched at school. His mother called the state’s child abuse hot line.
VIOLET AMIRAULT: The phone rang and I picked it up and this woman said, "We’ve had a complaint of a molestation against your school." I said, "You have?" She says,"Well, you’ll hear about it tomorrow." and she hung up.
CHERYL AMIRAULT: I remember we both looked at each other and she sat there and it was almost an immediate feeling of doom.
GERALD AMIRAULT: Within a day or two, I was arrested for the rape of a child with no investigation done whatsoever.
JOHN STOSSEL: The Amiraults say no-one questioned them about the allegations. Instead police and prosecutors asked all the parents and children who attended Fells Acres to come to a meeting. At the meeting, the police said ask your kids about a magic room, a secret room and an evil clown. Parents, understandably, were frightened.
GERALD AMIRAULT: Forget it after that. You know, you – it just snowballed. The media – it was unbelievable. I mean every single day I was on the front page of the newspapers, on television, with stories of animal mutilation, robots, you know, clowns. I mean the allegations were so ridiculous -with knives, sticks. They just got more and more bizarre as time went on.
JOHN STOSSEL: (voice over) All this happened at a time when reports of institutional child abuse were sweeping the country. Day care centers all over America were investigated and shut down. Plenty of people went to jail. Around the time of the Fells Acres case, there were more than 30 day care center convictions based almost entirely on children’s testimony. Since then, however, most have fallen apart. In fact, more than two-thirds have been overturned or dismissed, often because authorities later concluded that prosecutors and social workers had manipulated the kids into making things up. What happened in this case sure sounds similar. There was no clear evidence of abuse. Despite stories about torture and a 12-inch butcher knife, no child had an injury anyone could document. The state claimed the Amiraults took pornographic photos of the kids, but no pictures were ever found. No adults, teachers or parents, who were at the day care center at all hours, ever said they saw anything. What convinced the jury were the words of the children.
2nd CHILD: She put her mouth on my private spot.
3rd THERAPIST: And what were you doing while she took the pictures?
3rd CHILD: I was crying.
3rd THERAPIST: And why were you crying?
3rd CHILD: Because I was – because I had my clothes off.
JOHN STOSSEL: After hearing nine children tell such stories, it would be hard not to believe that horrible things happened. But how did the kids come to tell these stores? Well in the months following that meeting with the parents, the children were asked about sexual abuse again and again. They were questioned by police, social workers, psychologists and, of course by their own parents. Prosecutors videotaped some of the interviews.
4th CHILD: We were tied upon trees.
4th THERAPIST: Who tied you up on trees?
4th CHILD: All the teachers. They took turns every day.
GERALD AMIRAULT: There was supposedly one of the little boys, the one that was tied to the tree, said there was 16 children that were killed at the school and one little girl said she was molested with a butcher knife that was like two feet long.
VIOLET AMIRAULT: It is very very obvious that nothing with knives ever happened. There was no physical evidence whatsoever of a child even having so much as a scintilla of a cut.
JOHN STOSSEL: Why would the children say these things if they didn’t happen?
VIOLET AMIRAULT: Initially the children did not say anything.
CHERYL AMIRAULT: The disclosures happened over a long period of time after a multitude of investigators got at the hands of the children. The interviewer just kept asking the questions –
VIOLET AMIRAULT: And coerced them into saying what they wanted to hear.
CHERYL AMIRAULT: Exactly….
JOHN STOSSEL: (voice over) We hired Cornell University Professor Stephen Ceci and his associate, Helen Hembrook, to review the Fells Acre case. They spent several days examining police and social workers’ reports, court testimony and the videotaped interviews. Their conclusions? The questions were unacceptably coercive.
5th THERAPIST: Did anyone touch your bum?
6th CHILD: No
5th THERAPIST:Would you tell me if they did?
6th CHILD: No
5th THERAPIST: You wouldn’t tell me? Would you tell Bert? (holding a Sesame Street puppet)
6th CHILD: They didn’t touch my bum.
HELEN HEMBROOK: The child is repeatedly saying no. I can’t even count how many times this child said no and how many times the question was re-asked and redirected and the child’s given answer was seemingly not sufficient. These children were interviewed again and again, sometimes more than a dozen times. Repeated interviews alone encourage children to make things up.
Margaret Kelly Michaels to sue the people who sent her to prison
After 2 years of indictment and a 10 month, highly publicized trial, Kelly Michaels was convicted of the most bizarre and horrendous accounts of child molestation of children at the Wee Care Nursery-School where she worked in New Jersey. She spent 5 years in prison until an Appellate Court overturned her conviction in 1993.
The appeal court assessment of the 20 children’s "disclosures" concluded that "all the children involved had been led, bribed or threatened" by the prosecution interviewers, and not one had related incidents of sexual abuse using free recall. Researcher Stephen Ceci told the court that the interviews in the Michaels case were some of the worst he had ever seen. The children, he said, "were undoubtedly abused, but probably not until they met the investigator".
Kelly Michael’s lawyers are filing a $10 million Federal suit against the county, the state, and virtually every individual involved in her prosecution, charging they maliciously invented crimes which never occurred. "I’m out to destroy the mythical monster of their creation", she says, "the drooling, dark beast which never was".
New York Times Magazine, 10 Sept 1995
$830m lump-sum compo rush
A rush to pick up lump-sum compensation cost ACC more than $830 million in the past few years. Nearly 110,000 claims were paid out since the lump-sum payment was abolished in the 1992 ARCI Act and claimants with injuries prior to 1 July 1992 were allow to register claims during a 3 year transitional period.
$151,661,123 was paid out for loss of bodily function and $681, 213, 727 for loss of enjoyment of life. Whilst most of the former payments will relate to physical injuries such as loss of limbs, the vast majority of the latter payments will be sexual abuse "sensitive" claims, usually $10,000 each. Where a number of different episodes and perpetrators are named, complainants have received $10,000 per incident, and there cases where satanic ritual abuse has been alleged, and complainants have been paid $60,000 sums by ACC. There are still over 4000 claims to be heard or reviewed.
NZ Herald, 19 Aug 1995.
Sexual abuse counselling costs $8.3m a year
ACC is concerned at the increased cost of sexual abuse counselling. There have been 11,740 sexual abuse claims in the past year, up from 10,800 in 1993-4. Counselling costs from "sensitive claims" totalled more than $8.3 million for the year.
NZ Herald, 22 Sept 1995
Politically correct health funding
North Health has recently published its Locality Plans. In its outline for future alcohol, drug and tobacco regional services, North Health identifies the following priority groups:
Maori, Pacific Island, young people, women, older people, homosexual men, lesbian women, people with disabilities and rural people.
The only minority not singled out for help by the regional funding agency are white (European and Asian) heterosexual middle-aged men living in greater Auckland.
Mr Rod Humpage, North Harbour’s alcohol, tobacco and other drugs’ service manager, says that the segregation of middle-class white males is deliberate. "They are the ones who have been accessing these services predominantly for the last 20 years – the emphasis is now to redress the balance", he says.
‘Proof that certain men are subject to discrimination’ by Geoff Cumming
North Shore Harbour News, 14 Sept 1995
False allegations major growth industry in Canada
This article quotes Dr Hazel McBride, a Canadian authority on sexual abuse, who reports that false allegations are one of Canada’s few major growth industries. She attributes the increase in cases to motives of money, revenge, malice or custody disputes. In parallel to our NZ experience, she describes the stress experienced by those falsely accused, including loss of reputation or job, economic hardship, bankruptcy, strokes, heart attacks, mental breakdowns and suicides.
She describes the sudden rise in the number of false allegations in the past 2 years as a fashion, and related cases of women "doctor-shopping" by taking the allegations to dozens of doctors until one agrees that the abuse of a child has taken place.
Michael Corin, The Toronto Sun, 23 Aug 1995
Shadow, evil and satanic abuse: Jungian and first nations perspectives
Michael Owen (June 1995). NZAP – Journal of NZ Association of Psychotherapists, 1, 23-40.
Michael Owen is a senior clinical psychologist at Tauranga Hospital and a member of the NZ Association of Psychotherapists. A Canadian, he has trained in "shamanic medicine" with native American Indians and has a private practice in Jungian-based psychotherapy.
He claims that satanic abuse happens and that all clinical reports should be considered true unless clearly proven otherwise.
His paper is a long complex discussion about what he calls personal shadows (which includes one’s repressed child of the past) and evil and dream worlds. This is "psychic truth which cannot be contested and needs no proof".
Concepts such as scientific evaluation and logical processes do not appear to be part of his world view. I wonder if he is an ACC-registered counsellor?
Witches, multiple personalities, and other psychiatric artifacts
Paul McHugh, (Feb 1995). Nature Medicine, 1 (2), 110-4.
Discusses how sociocultural fads and fashions of the day have contributed to contemporary psychiatric errors such as the therapeutic artifact of multiple personality disorder, and how "the results have been disastrous for everyone – patients, families, the public and psychiatry itself".
Hypnosis and delayed recall
International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis April 1995 Vol XLIII 2.
This is part II of the special issue on hypnosis and delayed recall (Part I Oct 1994 was reviewed in COSA newsletter Jan/Feb 1995 2 (1) 5-6).
This issue includes:
American Medical Association report on Memories of childhood abuse;
Hypnosis, Childhood trauma, and dissociative identity disorder, by George Ganaway;
Fantasy proneness, reported childhood abuse, and the relevance of reported abuse onset, by Richard Bryant;
The admissibility of hypnotic evidence in US courts, by Paul Giannelli.
Therapeutic treatment of patients with repressed memories
Ray London (Spring 1995). The Independent Practitioner, Division 42 of American Psychological Association, 15 (2), 64-67.
This articles focuses on concerns about therapist’s behaviour in the therapeutic context. Concludes "When therapists assume facts not in evidence, confuse dogma and belief with scientifically established fact, do not give full informed consent, offer a cure that may be worse than the disease, then they are toying with the boundaries of malpractice. When appropriate treatment is not provided, everyone suffers".
The Assault on Truth: Freud’s suppression of the seduction theory
Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson (1984). Farrar, Straus and Giroux, United States.
The current debate about whether recollection of childhood incest by adults during psychotherapy represents actual events or fantasy is a revisitation from an earlier era. This book clearly shows how Freud and his colleagues explored this phenomenon at the turn of the century. Masson interprets the documentation from Freud’s archives as indicating that his patients were really victims of incest, which Freud later denied. The evidence can equally support the view that the memories of childhood trauma were created under hypnosis. While we will never know whether Freud’s patients were abused or not, this book provides fascinating confirmation that the current dispute about recovered memories is a repeat performance from the past.
Newsletters received by COSA:
AIDWYC (Journal of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Accused)
1 (1) May 1995
This is a Canadian Journal published in Ontario quarterly.
FARE (Families Apart Require Equality Inc)
Aug 1995 PO Box 10733 The Terrace Wellington
FARE is a NZ national organisation dedicated to helping children and parents affected by divorce and separation. Their commitment is to putting children first and to fostering equality of rights of parents.
SOS PAPA Report
SOS PAPA is the French equivalent to FARE and has the motto: I have a right to my two parents.
This report is on ‘The parent’s perspective in France’ by Michel Thizon.
FMS Foundation Newsletter
4 (8) 1 Sept 1995
FMSF issue a monthly newsletter detailing important developments with respect to memory "recovery" issues.
Sexual Abuse Brochures
On a local Women’s Centre brochure about sexual abuse:
Adults sexually abuse about..
- 1 in every 4 girls and
- 1 in every 10 boys.
Believe children and women who have been raped or sexually molested.
And on another local sexual abuse centre booklet:
1 in 3 girls are sexually abused under the age of 16..
and between 5-20% of boys.
Believe the child – children rarely lie about sexual abuse.
Rape Crisis brochure found on the shelves on an Auckland court:
1 in 3 girls and perhaps as many boys have been sexually abused by the time they are 18
If you have been sexually abused, or think you might have been, you are not alone. Whether you have little memory of the abuse, feel you could never forget it, or it is still happening, sexual abuse is damaging and the effects can be ongoing.
Sexual abuse can include:
watching a child undress
We can heal by talking and believing each other."
This brochure recommends Courage to Heal.
2 of the 3 brochures informs that ACC will pay for counselling and one says that permanent disability allowances are sometimes available as well.
Christchurch COSA Subcommittee
This sub-committee is very active, with well over a dozen members meeting monthly. Activities include:
- contacting bookshops to try and get balanced material on their shelves;
- addressing accountability issues of therapists;
- developing standard letters of complaint.
Skeptics conference 25-27 August 1995
Psychotherapy as Placebo
Stephen Humphries, psychology researcher, Massey University, Palmerston North
After reviewing the available literature on studies of the effectiveness of psychotherapy, Dr Humphries concluded that the observed benefits appear to be due solely to placebo rather than any specific treatment effects. These non-specific placebo factors include the attention and the structured world view offered by the therapist, the hope and faith in the therapy by the client, the expectation of both that the client’s life will improve, and the client’s increase in self-confidence and self-mastery.
This finding indicates that it is not the techniques and the theories psychotherapists offer which are effective, but rather the nature of the relationship in which one person believes the other can help him or her, and the way modern-day therapists replace the role of witch-doctor or priest.
Do repressed Memories Exist?
Dr Gordon Hewitt and Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith
Dr Goodyear-Smith argued that there is currently no scientific evidence which substantiates memory repression theory and the validity of recovered memories. Dr Hewitt agreed but told some anecdotal stories which appeared to support the theory.
Both speakers agreed that in the absence of corroborative evidence, there is no way to distinguish between a historically accurate recall and a pseudomemory, regardless of whether the memory is said to be continuous, partially recovered, or fully recovered.
Seminars organised by DSAC
Dr Arnon and Mrs Marianne Bentovim ‘Multidisciplinary management of allegations of sexual abuse in young children’
7 November: Christchurch;
10 November: Wellington;
3-14 November: Auckland
The Bentovims have been active in promoting dangerous interviewing techniques of children in Britain and in Scandinavia. These methods utilise highly suggestive leading questions using a hypothetical situation (for example, "If he were to have touched you there, what would you have done?") and have been involved in several major cases of false allegations.
In a recently published book entitled ‘Treating survivors of satanist abuse’, Bentovim and his wife have contributed a chapter on how to deal with satanically abused children. Despite the fact that satanic ritual abuse has never been substantiated and the chances that such allegations represent real events are negligible, this book teaches therapists how to treat such victims.