COSA Casualties Of Sexual Allegations Newsletter October 1998 Vol 5 No 7
Contents of this page:
Editorial: Report on 12th International Congress on Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN) 6 -9 Sep 1998, Auckland:
Court cases: Woman imprisoned for making false rape complaint
Houston trial – the first criminal trial of therapists involving "false" or "recovered" memories (USA).
Report on 12th International Congress on Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN)
6 – 9 Sep 1998, Auckland, New Zealand
Briere admits therapists ‘recovering’ memories is bad therapy
We have come a long way. The ‘recovered memory’ battle is virtually over. One of the most notable features of the ISPCAN conference was psychology Professor John Briere acknowledging that therapists trying to uncover buried memories of trauma ‘was a bad idea, bad therapy and [he doesn’t] recommend it’.
In the past psychologist John Briere has been a prominent supporter of the validity of recovered memories. In 1993 he co-published a study that used to be often quoted by sexual abuse workers as proving that childhood memories can be completely repressed and then accurately recalled during therapy [Briere John & Conte Jon (1993). Self-reported amnesia for abuse in adults molested as children, Journal of Traumatic Stress, 6 (1), 19-21]. The authors’ aim in performing this study was to determine he role of memory repression in sexual abuse trauma. Their subjects were 450 patients who gave histories of childhood sexual abuse. Over half (59%) reported not having remembered their abuse at some time after it occurred but before their 18th birthday, described as having a history of amnesia for the abuse. Briere and Conte concluded that amnesia appears to be a common phenomenon among clinical sexual abuse survivors. They reported that ‘most who specialise in abuse have clients who they are relatively convinced were sexual; abuse survivors, despite their clients’ claims to the contrary’ and acknowledge that "amnesia may partially or totally remit as therapy continues".
In 1995, there was a land-mark decision in New Hampshire, USA, by Judge William J Groff, regarding the admissibility of evidence based on memories recovered through the process of psychotherapy. Briere’s co-author, Jon Conte (along with Bessel van der Kolk and Daniel Brown), was an expert witness for the State, arguing for the scientific acceptability of the theory of memory repression and the validity of recovered memories. The judgement concluded that the testimony of the complainants concerned should not be admitted at trial because the phenomenon of memory repression, and the process of therapy used in these cases to recover the memories, had not gained general acceptance in the field of psychology, and are not scientifically reliable.
DSAC have brought Conte, Van der Kolk and Briere (the latter on several occasions) to NZ to teach sexual abuse issues to our workers. Both Conte and Briere were invited presenters at the ISPCAN conference (Conte’s topic was ‘Managing memory in psychotherapy’). It was therefore a major break through to have Briere admit that the numbers of bizarre memories ‘recovered’ in the 1980s may have been caused, at least in part, to "over-enthusiastic therapists" believing that their clients must remember "deeply buried traumatic experiences in order to get well" and hence trying to "liposuction memories out of their brains".
Unfortunately, Briere felt obliged to qualify his statement the next day. He claimed that "missing memories of abuse are reasonably common, but evidence suggests that false memories of abuse are quite uncommon". He still advocates that treatment of adults who have disclosed childhood sexual abuse must involve reliving memories of childhood abuse, slowly, over a period of time so that the individual is not overwhelmed by the pain, and that in fact to focus on the trauma is the only way that the abuse can be addressed. This is still a denial that ‘recovered memory therapy’ has caused significant harm. He has not yet suggested what should be done to acknowledge the harm done to clients and their families who were the victims of this "bad therapy" and to assist them to rebuild their damaged lives.
The ISPCAN conference spanned 4 days, and was attended by over 1200 participants from 50-odd countries. Frequently there were several sessions running simultaneously, hence I was able to attend only a minority of the programme. Clearly much of the material covered relating to dealing with child maltreatment was sensible and useful. Space restraint prohibits my reporting most of the content here, and I restrict my comment to areas which especially aroused my concerns.
Interpretation of children’s art ‘evidence’ of abuse
Canadian art therapist Jacquelyn Jay advocated the use of child’s art as ‘powerful accompanying evidence’ in a prosecution. Courts in the US and Canada have started allowing pictures to be used as evidence in prosecution cases. Her theory is that children may not have the vocabulary to tell about traumatic events, but they can reveal abuse in their art work in symbolic form. She says that the symbols to look out for are genitals; encapsulation or feeling trapped; heavy lines about the hem or waist; absence of the lower body; or phallic shapes. She says that teachers should be trained to spot these signs in children’s art and refer to the relevant authorities for investigation of sexual abuse. She herself has been involved in Canada lecturing school staff and the President of the NZ Principals’ Federation, Nola Hambleton, said she would welcome such advice. I sincerely hope that our education and justice systems do not adopt this unscientific approach. Even if the untested assumption that child do reveal past trauma through their art was proved to be true, interpreting symbols as suggested by Jay is clearly an extremely subjective process, and extremely likely to lead to false allegations if person interpreting the art has an expectation that a child might have been abused.
Public notification of convicted sex offenders’ names and addresses
American abuse worker, Dr Lucy Berliner, said that Governments have an obligation to protect innocent lives by exposing repeat sex offenders to the public through flyers, community meetings and the media. Information exposed should include their names and where they lived. She felt that concerns that this would raise irrational community fears, vigilantism and reoffending by abusers are unfounded and she was pleased that NZ has adopted notification laws to expose sex abusers. COSA expresses concerns about such a policy. When someone has served their sentence for a conviction, that is supposed to be the end of their punishment. Men released from prison have to live somewhere. Many will have attended offender treatment programmes and may never re-offend. Having their names and addresses broadcast by the media, public meetings and flyers must increase their difficulty in reintegrating into the community and would appear to contravene the laws of natural justice.
Children have been abused even if accused is found innocent
Kee MacFarlane and Astrid Heger were key players in the McMartin Day Care case (see ‘Satan’s excellent adventure in the Antipodes’ later in this issue). In a videotape interview, Heger examined a girl who repeatedly denied being abused. Heger told her: "I don’t want to hear any more ‘no’s. No, no! Detective Dog and we are going to figure this out. Every little boy and girl in the whole school got touched like that …and some of them were hurt.
And some were afraid to tell… I think there is something to tell me about touching." MacFarlane used even more coercive questioning, utilising puppets and anatomically correct dolls to show ‘all the bad secrets’. Although evidence is overwhelming that the pre-school children were never victims of a satanic cult and that the allegations were fuelled by suggestive interviewing and misinterpretation of normal medical findings as indication of abuse, MacFarlane and Heger have never acknowledged that they made any mistakes. In fact their careers as sexual abuse experts were founded on the McMartin case.
In their joint ISPCAN presentation (‘The Multidisciplinary Assessment Centre and Family Advocacy’) they presented themselves as victims of the backlash who had suffered greatly because they stood up for children. They implied that really the McMartin children had been victimised. MacFarlane said that workers must not measure the success of their work by the outcome of the legal system – even if the courts fail to convict, they can still consider their work successful.
The backlash against childhood sexual abuse
Prof Ross Cheit is a political scientist and lawyer who became involved in the sexual abuse field after recovering his own memories of being abused in childhood. He believes that the claim that false allegations have been a social problem in the past decade is a ‘backlash’. The reasons he gives for this are:
1.that some people have been rightly concerned about how some children were interviewed in the 1980s but they have over-stated their case (and there have now been dramatic improvements in children’s interviewing);
2.that civil libertarians have been excessively concerned about innocent people getting convicted and do not care about the guilty going free;
3.that some people cannot cope with the unpleasant reality of child abuse and hence minimise or deny the problem.
It seems that the excesses of the 1980s and early 1990s are largely over. We no longer have workshops teaching how to detect satanic ritual abuse; to delve for buried memories to explain adult problems; or to use anatomically correct dolls in diagnosis (although promoting the detection of abuse by symbols perceived to be present in children’s drawings is alarming). Interviewers are largely aware of the dangers of leading questions, and the lengthy, repeated, highly suggestive and coercive interrogations of children are hopefully a thing of the past.
Sexual abuse workers claim (and probably rightly) that they do things o much better now, and have addressed many of the mistakes made in the past. What they have yet to do, however, is acknowledge the harm that was done to individuals and families by these methods. Their very existence is still largely denied.
The ISPCAN conference was notable for the number of presenters who have been vocal about issues such as the validity of recovered memories and that we must always believe women and children alleging sexual abuse (John Briere; Jon Conte; Lucy Berliner; Linda Williams; Astrid Heger; Kee MacFarlane; Cheryl Lanktree; Toni Cavanagh-Johnson). NZ speakers included Karen Zelas, Miriam Saphira and Morgan Libeau (aka Linda Morgan, a specialist interviewer of some of the children in the Peter Ellis case). Any of the many commentators who have challenged some of the excesses and errors that have occurred in the sexual abuse field were conspicuous by their absence.
False allegations certainly continue to happen. This is borne out by the number of false claims reported in the past month, some of which are documented in the court column below.
Woman imprisoned for making false rape complaint
Debra Wood, a 20 year old Wellington woman, accused a 30-year old man of indecently assaulting her. In fact she had ripped off her own bra and used a key to scratch her breasts, chest and neck before laying the false complaint.
She has admitted to perjury and making a false declaration. Wellington District Court Judge Patrick Keane has sentenced her to 2 years in prison. He said the man and his family had been through unbearable suffering. He was aware that Wood had a personality disorder.
(NZ Herald, 26 Sep 98, Jail for falsely accusing)
Another false rape complaint
A 21 year old student reported to the Orewa Police at 4 am (on Sunday 20 Sep 1998) that her boy-friend had raped her. Later that morning she admitted she had mad up the story because she was angry with her boy-friend. She has been charged with making a false statement. The Orewa Police said that their station had dealt with several cases of false rape accusations in the past year.
(False rape compliant, Coaster, 23 Sep 1998, 5)
and yet another false rape complaint
A Napier mother-of-two told police that she had been raped by an intruder in her home while her children were in the house. Police conducted a thorough investigation, estimated to have cost $13,960. The accused man said that the woman had agreed to have sex with him in return for his paying her $55 speeding fine. The woman has now pleaded guilty to making a false complaint and ha admitted that it as wrong to have said that she did not know the man. Her defence lawyer said that it was unrealistic to expect her to pay reparation because of her personal circumstances.
(Press, Woman admits making false rape complaint, 23 Jul 98)
Man innocent of sexually violating 12 year old
A Nelson district Court jury found 31 year old Charles Lowe not guilty of sexually violating a 12 year old girl last year. The girl claimed the offences had occurred last year after he gave her and her friend a ride in his car. Lowe adamantly denied any sexual contact with her. She admitted in court that at that time, she had a history of school truancy, drinking alcohol, smoking cannabis, shoplifting and sometimes not going home at night.
(Man acquitted on three sex charges, The Press, 18 Sep 98)
Man found not guilty of indecent assault of teenage girl
A teenage girl accused a 47 year old man of indecently touching her while she was in his car. The man denied the allegations. The evidence against him consisted of the girls’ testimony, which was described as contradictory, vague, and full of inconsistencies. The man’s wife and 14 year old daughter testified that the girl did not act any differently in the presence of their family following the time that the alleged incident was said to have occurred. A Christchurch District jury found him not guilty.
(Press, Man cleared of sex charge, 9 Sep 98)
Sports administrator not guilty of indecent assault charges
An Auckland High Court jury found a top sports administrator (who has permanent name suppression) not guilty of indecently assaulting 11 women training under his guidance. The judge had previously dismissed charges made by a 12th woman. The offences were alleged to have occurred in 1978 and between 1988 and 1996, and the complainants were aged between 13 and 24 at the time.
The man’s lawyer, Kevin Ryan QC, told the jury that the allegations had arisen as part of a power struggle between 2 competing factions in the sport, and the man had been ‘under siege’ with complaints since the start of a rival organisation in 1994.
(Press, Sports boss cleared of sex assaults, 19 Sep 98)
Not guilty of rape
Frederick Dyer, a 34 year old Taupo man, was accused by a crippled woman of raping her when she went to his caravan to borrow $20 off him. She claimed that after this she returned to the Taupo Women’s Refuge, where she was living, and crashed her car because she was in shock. He did not deny that intercourse had taken place, but claimed that she had freely consented.
An attendee at the trial says that in the courtroom it was revealed that the woman had spent several hours in the pub drinking on the afternoon in question, and witnesses testified that she had been ‘offering her body’ for $20. Following the incident in the caravan she returned to the Refuge, broke into the car of acquaintance by smashing a car window (she had seen where the spare key was inside), stole the car and smashed it into a wall. She rang a taxi, went to a night-club, left for a burger and then returned to the night-club. After several hours she rang the Refuge and told the volunteer there that she had been raped. The volunteer took her to the police to lay a charge.
The case reached court 17 months later and after a 2 day trial, the man was found not guilty.
(Daily Post, Taupo man not guilty of rape, 18 Aug 98)
Not guilty of sexual violation
An 18 year old boy was found not guilty of sexually violating a teenage girl by a Christchurch District Court. He did not deny performing oral sex on her but believed he had her consent because of her active assistance in removing her underwear. She later claimed that she had been asleep at the time and had not consented.
(Press, Not guilty verdict in sex case, 1 Aug 98)
Gang-rape complaint fails
After a 6 month investigation, police have decided not to lay charges against 4 harness racing figures accused by a 37 year old Invercargill woman of gang-raping her in February. Forensic tests have been reported by the accused men’s lawyer as being negative.
(Press, Rape complaint fails, 1 Sep 98)
Two boys falsely confess to molestation and murder
On 27 July 1998, an 11 year old girl went missing from a poor area in Chicago. The next day police found her body in the woods. She had a skull fracture, her underpants were stuffed in her mouth, and twigs and leaves stuffed in her nostrils.
Two weeks later, 2 boys aged 7 and 8, allegedly confessed to the crime during a police interview (at which no relatives or lawyer was present).
Some weeks later the police dropped the charges against the boys because forensic testing of the underpants revealed semen which could not have come from them. The police are being criticised for mishandling the case, including not responding to 3 witnesses who said they had seen the girl with a strange man on the night that she died.
(Press, Chicago boys cleared over girl’s violent death, 7 Sep 98)
The first criminal trial of therapists involving "false" or "recovered" memories is underway in Houston, Texas. A 60-count indictment has been brought against 5 former employees of Spring Shadows Glen Hospital: Dr. Judith Peterson, psychologist, Gloria Keraga and Richard Seward, psychiatrists, therapist Sylvia Davis and hospital administrator Jerry Mueck. The prosecution charges include that the defendants defrauded health insurance providers of millions $$ for the treatment of patients falsely diagnosed as suffering MPD said to be caused be severe ritualised sexual abuse in satanic cults, and abused their status as professionals by applying techniques associated with mind control or "brainwashing", hypnosis, administered drugs for untested uses and in untested dosages, and used restraints to coerce patients into believing they had been ritually abused in cults. More than a dozen former patients have already made civil claims against the hospital. The case is based on medical records and insurance billings for seven patients treated at Spring Shadows Glen. In 1997, plaintiff Lynn Carl was awarded $5.8 million dollars by a federal jury for damages suffered as a result her treatment there.
Drs Bennett Braun, Roberta Sachs and Corydon Hammond have also been named as unindicted co-conspirators in the case. Last year Patricia Burgus settled a lawsuit against Braun and Rush-Presbyterian-St Luke’s Medical Center for $10.6 million. Burgus had complained that Braun had led her to believe she and her two children had participated in a satanic and cannibalistic cult. These imaginary episodes allegedly consisted of sexual, physical and emotional abuse, human sacrifice and human torture. The Illinois state is now asking for Braun’s practising license to be revoked by the Department of Professional Regulation.
Conviction overturned when boy recants
In 1990, 2 Nevada men (Jack Broam, 38, and Jay Manning, 37) were convicted of sodomy and sent to prison. They had both maintained their innocence since Broam’s son made the allegations against them 8 years ago. Recently the boy, now aged 17, told a judge that his mother had locked him up and starved him until he testified that his father and his father’s co-worker sexually assaulted him, including up to 50 times in a single night. The judge ordered a new trial for the two prisoners after hearing the boy’s recantation. The prosecutor immediately dismissed the charges and the 2 men were released. The boy said he got up the courage to tell the truth after his little sister told her social worker that the stories of sexual assaults were lies. Lawyers said they don’t know the location of the boy’s mother.
Fay Weldon criticises gender feminism
Novelist Fay Weldon has been strongly criticising militant feminism. She identifies women’s obsession for ‘rights’ as a central cause of family disintegration. Modern feminism has moved from the suffragette campaign for equality to demands for special quotas and privileges for women and restrictions on freedom of speech which is demeaning to men, women and children.
(Weekly Telegraph, Taking women’s liberties, 1 Sep 98)
Fake Holocaust testimony
In 1995 Binjamin Wilkomirski, published Fragments. The book was about a young Jewish boy from Riga who, after surviving the death camps, was adopted by Swiss parents. His memories of the holocaust were repressed until he attended psychotherapy, when his memories flooded back. These are very graphic: he tells of the blood shooting out of the neck of his father, of the rats scrambling over the mountains of corpses.
The book was praised by the New York Times Book Review and held up as an example of memory repression and recovery. It has now been revealed that the book is complete fiction. Wilkomirski’s real name is Bruno Doesseker, a Swiss citizen who did not spend his childhood in concentration camps.
(Times of London, 8 Sep 1998, Testimony of Holocaust ‘survivor’ denounced as fiction, by Roger Boyes)
Ideal qualifications to be an American talk-show host
Roseanne Barr recently told Harper’s Bazaar she has "excellent qualifications" to be a talk-show host. "I have five kids from three marriages. I come from a trailer park My sister and brother are both gay. I have multiple personalities, several of whom don’t even know they’re famous."
Satan’s excellent adventure in the Antipodes
Preface to Prof Mike Hill’s presentation Satan’s excellent adventure in the Antipodes:
"I have observed that there were neither witches nor bewitched in a village until they were talked and written about."
(Alonso de Salazar [17th century sceptic responsible for bringing an end to a witch-hunt] quoted in Geis and Bunn, 1991:41-42)
In his talk to the NZ Skeptics Conference, August 1998, Michael Hill, Professor of Sociology, Victoria University of Wellington, outlined the mounting panic about alleged satanic activities in Australasia in the late 1980s, where satanic cults were believed to be involved horrifying rituals in which children were said to be sexually abused, tortured, murdered, cannibalised, and even bred for use in these gothic practices. This belief spread not only among Christian fundamentalists but also among secular professionals, especially those involved in social work and counselling, despite no physical corroboration of the atrocities allegedly perpetrated by these Satanists.
Hill qualified his talk by emphasising that he neither questions the existence of child abuse nor of people who label themselves Satanists; however the firm conclusions of investigations in both the US and the UK of satanic cults ritually abusing children found ‘no bodies, no bones, no bloodstains, nothing’.
His talk outlined the historical antecedents to the satanism scare, especially the publication of Michelle Remembers in 1981and the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-III) including the diagnosis of ‘Multiple Personality Disorder’, soon believed by many therapists to be caused by SRA.
The McMartin Pre-school case brought SRA allegations to international attention. Two central figures in this case were social worker and interviewer Kee MacFarlane and psychiatrist Roland Summit. ‘Aware of the problems of interviewing small children, MacFarlane introduced novel procedures, such as using hand puppets in the interviews, wearing colourful clothes, and making use of anatomically correct dolls. Given the growing interest in Multiple Personality and ritual abuse, children were told that if they did not remember incidents at the pre-school this was because they were dissociating, and that the job of the interviewers was to help them remember. This led to a form of insistent interviewing, in which denials of abuse by children were discounted in the search for ‘truths’ which the interviewers believed were being suppressed. The original mother’s complaints became increasingly bizarre and improbable but they were taken literally by police and therapists, who failed to notice their delusional nature: in fact, the mother was eventually diagnosed as paranoid-schizophrenic and died shortly afterwards from alcohol poisoning….
Two other figures who were involved in the McMartin case, one of whom has considerable importance in New Zealand, are David Finkelhor and Astrid Heger.’ The latter ‘was the 4th McMartin investigator to popularise a diagnostic technique which became influential in other parts of the world. Her investigation of children’s genitals, and especially her belief that sexual abuse could be detected by the size and shape of young girls’ hymens became an abuse indicator in the Christchurch child abuse investigation at the Glenelg Health Camp…. Evidence gradually accumulated to show that these alleged stigmata of child sexual abuse were meaningless, and although Heger was aware of these studies she still persisted in maintaining her original diagnoses when the McMartin case came to trial in 1987.’ Charges against 5 women workers were dropped pre-trial. All further charges were dropped or dismissed after a 28 month trial and the male defendant released from prison after being remanded in custody for 5 years. The Christchurch CrÃƒÂ¨che case shows remarkable parallels to the McMartin case.
Hill chronicles the ‘role played by a key network of American claims-makers who brought the Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) scenario to Australia, and later to New Zealand’. These include US social workers Pamela Klein, who promoted lists of "satanic indicators" such as bed wetting, nightmares, or fear of monsters and ghosts and Pamela Hudson, who listed 16 forms of satanic ritual abuse, such as being locked in a cage, being buried in the ground in a coffin or box or seeing children or babies killed. Klein spoke about SRA at a NZ sexual abuse conference in 1990, and Hudson’s ‘indicator list’ was circulated. Summit, MacFarlane, Heger and Finkelhor all addressed Sixth International Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect in Sydney in 1986.
Hill notes that ‘a number of participants in the original McMartin debacle have had a continuing influence on the New Zealand child abuse industry. Roland Summit visited in 1994 at the invitation of Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care… Another McMartin protagonist, Astrid Heger, was invited by DSAC no fewer than 5 times between 1989 and 1996: she and Kee MacFarlane will be in New Zealand next month at an international conference on child abuse whose chief organiser is Robin Fancourt, a New Plymouth paediatrician who notably advanced the ‘Believe the Children’ dogma at the time of the create inquiry in Christchurch. DSAC has also invited the SRA believers Arnon and Marianne Bentovim to New Zealand, as well as a number of the more extreme claims-makers in the recovered memory and multiple personality/dissociation debate.’
He concludes: ‘As long as such lack of balance persists in the sexual abuse industry there remains a possibility that the SRA scenario will persist… One of the more disturbing features of the last decade is the way in which the uncorroborated claims of Satan-hunters have infiltrated the beliefs of secular professionals and semi-professionals such as psychiatrists, social workers, police, and government administrators. Despite the findings of a growing body of research which would urge scepticism over the SRA scenario and the related issue of therapy-induced pseudomemories, organisations like Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care continue to listen to a select group of true believers and to exclude critical views. In such an atmosphere of professionally-induced credulity, it is possible that Satan’s excellent adventure may not be entirely ended.’
Newsletters received by COSA
FMS Support Groups Newsletter Canada August 1998, Vol 5 No 8
The Canadian FMS group have mounted a comprehensive campaign of letter-writing and lobbying to have the cases of those who claim wrongful conviction and imprisonment (due to testimony based on recovered memories) be reviewed.
FMS Foundation Newsletter – USA
COSA offers a service to members of sending copies of FMSF Newsletter at a cost of $30 per year (including postage)
COSA Information and Suggestion Kits are available below. They have been compiled from the suggestions and experience of COSA members plus written material from a number of sources. They are designed to assist those falsely accused of sexual offences in dealing with the social and legal consequences of such allegations. While this material is offered in good faith, COSA accepts no responsibility for the outcome to individuals using this resource in making decisions on how to act. Sets currently available are:
Set A False sexual allegations during child access and custody disputes (includes: Associated facts and factors; What to do if you fear you might be falsely accused of sexually abusing your children; What to do if you are falsely accused of sexually abusing your children; Incidence of false allegations; Legal precedents in custody disputes)
Set B False sexual allegations: criminal charges (includes: Associated facts and factors; What to do if you fear you might be arrested on false charges of sex offending; What to do if you have been arrested on false charges of sex offending).
While COSA may give our members the names of lawyers and other professionals whom we have found helpful in the past, it must be understood that clearly we can take no responsibility for the outcome of individual legal proceedings or other professional assistance.