COSA Casualties of Sexual Allegations Newsletter September 1994: Volume 1 No 5
Contents of this page:
Editorial: School talk leads to false 111 call by nine year old girl In my support group this month, two people described sexual charges which could be clearly traced to stories told by children immediately following their exposure to "keep yourself safe" abuse prevention programmes.
Recovered memory therapy should be considered medical fraud In the United States there is a nation-wide effort by professionals, affected individuals and other concerned groups to have use of recovered memory therapy be considered medical fraud. It declares that this therapy is "junk science" with no empirical basis.
Courts: Custody case acquittal
Hopeful Christian, Cooperite Community leader found guilty on 10 counts of indecent assault.
Correspondence: From an accused father
Political Action: Coalition of Consumer Outrage a co-ordinated nation-wide action in the USA claiming that repressed memory psychotherapy feeds into and is fed by a growing hysteria of sexual abuse that is clearly related to money and profit.
A group is forming in Auckland to look at possible actions to redress some of the wrongs and injustices regarding false allegations.
Coming Events: Child Protection Seminar by Roland Summit, Therapy for Sexually Abused Children by Jon Conte, Epidemiology of child sexual abuse – the Otago Study by Dr Jessie Anderson, International Conference on Memory and Reality: Reconciliation, Baltimore USA.
Recent seminars: Suggestibility and illusory memories in the therapeutic setting presented by Drs Michael Yakpo and Dorothy Rowe (UK).
August has nearly gone, my 6 weeks maternity leave will soon be finished, and there seems to be virtually no time for anything except babycare! I have a major assignment for a Masters degree due on 1 October, and am having trouble squeezing inenough time to write the COSA newsletter.
I have certainly received a flood of interesting material this month – articles, newspaper clippings and other papers. Many thanks to all those contributers, and I will endeavour to summarise as much of this information as I can.
School talk leads to false 111 call by nine year old girl
Our local newspaper (Rodney Times, 11 Aug 1994) an incident where a 9 year old girl dialled 111 and reported an armed man in a silver car at her gate. Police from 3 districts plus a helicopter were mobilised before the call was found to be fictitious. The girl denied making the call, but it had been taped and traced by the police. The allegation was seen to be a "bad case of imagination" after a talk at her school about the 111 system.
It made me wonder whether the police would have decided so quickly that the allegation was false if the claim had been about sexual exposure or molestation, given the prevailing belief that "children never lie about abuse". In my support group this month, two people described sexual charges which could be clearly traced to stories told by children immediately following their exposure to "keep yourself safe" abuse prevention programmes.
Recovered memory therapy should be considered medical fraud
As reported later in this newsletter, in the United States there is a nation-wide effort by professionals, affected individuals and other concerned groups to have use of recovered memory therapy be considered medical fraud. It declares that this therapy is "junk science" with no empirical basis, and not a single proven case of child abuse based on recovered memories in adults with no prior memory of the event can be provided by psychotherapy authorities.
It is being suggested that the following be incorporated in US health codes:
"no tax monies may be used for any form of health care treatment, including any form of psychotherapy, that has not been proven safe and effective by rigorous, valid and reliable scientific investigations and accepted as safe and effective by a substantial majority of the relevant scientific community."
Here in New Zealand ACC has paid out vast sums of money to alleged victims whose claims are based solely on recovered memories, and continues to pay for their ongoing therapy.
With both the American Medical and Psychiatric Associations cautioning its members that there is currently no scientific validity demonstrated for this therapy, it is time our professional bodies followed suit. It is particularly alarming that the Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care (DSAC) continue to bring people to New Zealand to teach these unproven and dangerous theories and practices.
Custody case acquittal
A 31 year old man was found not guilty on two charges of sexually molesting his 7 year old daughter. The allegations had arisen through a bitter custody dispute with his ex-wife. The child had described performing oral sex on her father during video-taped interviews conducted by Nicola Atwool, psychotherapist for the Children and Young Person’s Service, and had demonstrated this using "anatomically correct" dolls. Christchurch psychologist John Watson gave evidence for the Crown that she could not have given such extremely explicit descriptions without personal experience of what she was describing. However the jury clearly accepted that the girl had gradually learnt the allegations through discussion and progressive interviewing with a number of people.
Otago Daily Times 5 Aug 1994
School teacher acquittal
A 41 year old Johnsonville schoolteacher was acquitted on charges of sodomy and indecent assault of a 10 year old pupil. The boy had undergone 3 videotaped interviews and in each the allegations became more serious. The defence suggested that the boy’s allegations were fuelled by a desire to be the centre of attention and unconscious pressure from his mother and others. The jury clearly decided that the allegations were false.
Sex offences quashed by Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal has quashed all convictions against a man found guilty of 5 counts of indecent assault and 7 counts of rape against his step-daughter. A re-trial has been ordered.
The defence lawyer submitted there had been a miscarriage of justice on several counts.
N Z Herald 18 Aug 1994
Hopeful Christian, Cooperite Community leader
On 12 August, the 67 year old leader of the Christian sect called the Cooperites, Neville Cooper, now known as Hopeful Christian, was found guilty on 10 counts of indecent assault. He has consistently denied the charges since he was arrested in July last year.
Founded in the late 1960s, the sect consists of about two hundred people living on two self-sufficient farm properties in the South island of New Zealand.
Based on very strict Christian principles, the cult has always advocated modest dress and forbidden any sexual activity outside of marriage. They have always emphasised the importance of a happy active sex life within wedlock, however. Members often marry at a young age and both men and women are taught that they must satisfy their partners sexually.
In a familiar pattern, the allegations against Neville Cooper were a result of complaints from disillusioned ex-members of his community. The convictions are based on the word of one group of people against another with no external corroboration.
We are still waiting the Appeal Court decision regarding his Appeal on the grounds of miscarriage of justice, and with one of the main complainants having retracted her story.
North Shore creche case
A 33 year old creche worker who was cleared in May this year of all 8 charges of abusing children in her care, has applied to the courts to be paid costs of over $53,000. The judge has reserved his decision to date.
NZ Herald 13 Aug 1993
Failed Appeal against indecent assault conviction
The Court of Appeal dismissed a man’s appeal against conviction on 5 charges of indecent assault of his step-daughter and her friend. The incidents were said to have occurred from 1980, when his step-daughter was 12, continuing for the next three and a half years.
The man’s grounds included inconsistent evidence from the 2 complainants.
The Appeal Court ruled that his acquittal on a rape count "did not make the other convictions irrational. He is entitled to credit for his good behaviour although the courts encounter all too often serious child sexual abuse by persons living otherwise blameless lives".
NZ Herald 23 Aug 1994
Commissioner for Children accepts statements of children as credible evidence without corroboration
Ian Hassall, Commissioner for Children, Wellington, writes in reply to columnist Frank Haden’s concern that adults are being convicted on the testimony of children. Mr Hassall seems to be unaware that only in sexual allegations are the statements of children accepted as credible evidence without corroboration, against the word of an adult. He also does not acknowledge the processes that often occur resulting in children giving sincerely believed in but distorted or fabricated stories.
Letter to Editor, Sunday Star-Times, 5 June 1994
Validity of recovered memories
Another article discussing the validity or otherwise of recovered memories. Dr Karen Zelas claims that "amnesia" and repression of sexual abuse is common for victims, although she does acknowledge that it is possible for a person to "create an inaccurate scenario". Dennis Dutton is quoted as saying there is no evidence for robust repression and that false allegations can cause a lot of damage.
Wellington psychologist Mary Lane-Dodd admits there are some "untrained and inexperienced" psychotherapists in practice, [Update 25th Nov 2008 – in case any falsely accused man mistakenly thinks Ms Dodd might be supportive – she rang today to say that she is horrified to see her name on this website, because she is strongly opposed to MENZ and COSA] and the co-ordinator of the West Auckland Sexual Abuse Support Centre, Robyn Bigelow, claims that while it is possible that false memories could be implanted, "the likelihood of it occurring is not high".
Rotorua Daily Post, 18 June 1994, ‘Choosing to forget?’
A one hour documentary about a Maori woman, Aroha Terry, whose mission is to conduct sexual abuse trials on the marae instead of in the courts. Where an offender is truly guilty and confesses in front of his whanau, this process seems have a lot of positive aspects regarding healing and forgiveness, keeping families intact, and educating others.
I had grave concerns however, that Ms Terry seemed to have no room in her process for the possibility of false allegations. She quoted a figure of 1 in 2 Maori women being sexually abused, she seemed to accept whatever the women she counselled told her at face value without challenge, and most worrying of all, her counselling methods designed to "unblock" memories of past abuse and working with "flashbacks" appeared to be techniques likely to create illusionary memories.
Ms Terry has decided that the alleged offenders are guilty – she acts as prosecuter, judge and jury, and there appears to be no room in the process for any defence. Those who deny the allegations are permanently exiled from their whanau.
Inside New Zealand, TV3, 31 August 1994
Recovered memory therapy and false memory syndrome
Hochman, John (1994), Skeptic, 2 (3), 58-61.
Scathing article about the dangers of recovered memory therapy and how this can produce the false memory syndrome. Draws analogies with past life therapy and "recovered memories" of being abducted by aliens from outer space.
From an accused father
"Most New Zealanders know that justice is at the very heart of our society. think about the Arthur Allan Thomas trials – the public wouldn’t allow injustice to prevail. But imagine if Thomas’ trial, and all the details of it were permanently suppressed – would the police falsifying of evidence, their total disregard for truth in the scramble for a conviction, have ever come to light?
The Thomas case permanently eroded public confidence in our police and justice system. What is happening now, with so many false allegations of sexual abuse, is doing further damage.
On 26 September 1994 a jury will gather in the High Court at Auckland, a solemn judge and lawyers in formal attire, with wigs, all at great expense to the tax-payers and me; and the trial is based solely on recovered memories.
The one thing most experts agree on is that no one can tell if a recovered memory is true or false. Certainly, the "victim" believes her story.
Like me, you believed an accused is "innocent until proven guilty"? Think again! Once a family member has recovered "memories", siblings become obliged to take sides – some usually siding with the "victim" and also recovering memories. The police then have 2 or more accusers – enough to arrest the "offender".
A trial on the basis of recovered memories, without a trace of corroborative evidence, really boils down to whom the jury believes. Or who has the best lawyer. An outcome of similar fairness and accuracy could be had by tossing a coin. Or trial by ordeal.
Right now there are innocent men in jail on the basis of recovered "memories".
At my Depositions hearing the police’s expert witness said she had evidence that few recovered memories were false.
Yet many are so bizarre that they obviously are. Of many thousands of "victims" claiming recovered memories of ritual or satanic abuse, not one has been shown to be based on fact.
One Harvard psychiatrist alone, John Mack, has had more than 70 patients with recovered memories of abduction and sexual abuse by aliens from outer space (see Time Magazine 29 November 1993). This isn’t too funny to the "victims", who really believe in, and are terrified by, their "experiences".
In California, where this "therapy" is said to have originated, the law is now: "no legal action may be taken based on recovered memories alone".
Let’s hope our own lawmakers soon recognise the waste and devastation being caused right now in NZ, and put a stop to it."
Accused father, August 1994
A mother who cares
"Since April 1992 our nightmare began with my husband’s 2 teenage daughters accusing him of sexual abuse. He has since been to trial (March 1994) the first father in NZ for recovered sexual abuse memories. Over the period up to the trial I myself took notes of everything the girls, their mother and my husband said and my feelings of good common sense came to the fore. I believe in the truth and without doubt my husband was telling the truth. None of the events he was charged with ever happened.
With all the pain and a few sleepless nights we have endured the outcome, as I always knew, truth would overcome. During this nightmare my 26 year old son was killed (July 1993) his death was so very real and we have been able to allow for our loss, but to lose my husband’s 2 daughters with such confusion has taken its toll.
To everyone out there going through similar pain, hold onto your beliefs, lies are lies, truth is the truth, make-believe is make-believe. Our hearts are full of love, our heads are filled with common sense and logic. All these beliefs have helped my husband get through this nightmare. Sure we have spent a lot of money but we still have each other, my daughter, our lovely 3 year old daughter to share all our love with. My son has left us with a mountain of lovely memories, but my husband’s 2 daughters – their future, who knows? We think of them often and are waiting for them to break through their memories.
In the future, I’m sure this cruel destruction of people’s lives will DIE for there are many people who care – Dr Goodyear-Smith, Mr Dennis Dutton and all the support groups.
Love to you all.
A mother who cares."
Coalition of Consumer Outrage
There is a co-ordinated nation-wide action by a "coalition of outraged consumers" in the United States claiming that:
a) repressed memory psychotherapy feeds into and is fed by a growing hysteria of sexual abuse that is clearly related to money and profit;
b) the claims of repressed memory therapy have not been scientifically verified;
c) the practice of an untried, untested therapy constitutes consumer fraud.
Outraged consumers are identified as mental health professionals, observers of the scene (including lawyers, police, journalists, religious leaders, social service workers) and the injured (the accused, their families, and recanting accusers).
Letters are being written to Congress calling for a Hearing. It is possible that similar action may be able to be taken in New Zealand on the grounds of health care consumer fraud.
If you are interested, we can send you further details of this action, including two excellent model letters to Legislators written by Drs Terence Campbell and Christopher Barden (please contact Colleen enclosing $4 to cover costs).
A group is forming in Auckland
To look at possible actions to redress some of the wrongs and injustices regarding false allegations.
Suggestions of possible actions include:
- writing to politicians
- contact with the media
- call for public inquiries into specific cases and/or untested and unjust practices
- legal redress under Bill of Rights
- legal redress re consumer fraud
- legal action against therapists or institutions and agencies
- call for accountability of investigators and therapists
- call for legislative changes
- lobbying ACC Review Committee re "victim compensation"
- organising public meetings
- distributing leaflets and pamphlets outlining injustices and malpractice eg to CAB offices and public libraries
(this is not an exclusive list).
If you are interested in getting involved in some form of action, please contact us.
The support group formed under COSA has grown in numbers. It is felt that people outside the Auckland district need more support and contact with others in their area therefore it is being proposed that we form a network. This is seen as a support group for people in far-flung areas whose only contact with COSA is through the newsletter. It is not always convenient or financially possible to make long-distance phone calls, therefore if there is a person willing to help and listen, their name and phone number could be given for contact to people in their local area.
We recognise the feelings of isolation, anger, confusion and concern about false allegations of sexual abuse. Often it is good to know we are not alone and therefore contact and the ability to talk offers great relief.
If you feel you could contribute in some way then please let us know how you could assist.
We know of several people in the same position living in an area but unaware that others similarly affected are living close by. We hope that by this method of networking we may bring more support and help to members who feel they are too far from
the source of COSA.
Joyce, Sonya, & Colleen
Child Protection Seminar by Roland Summit
1-5 pm, 23 Sept 1994, Auckland, $60.
Organised by DSAC to "anticipate and prevent opposition to child protection work".
Sexual Abuse Therapy by Roland Summit
Auckland, Sept 1994.
Organised by DSAC – includes False Memory Syndrome and Memory Repression.
2-day workshops on Therapy for Sexually Abused Children by Jon Conte
4 workshops (Auckland, Pahia, Napier, Dunedin) in October 1994.
Organised by DSAC – addresses:
- Validating allegations of childhood sexual abuse
- New concepts in the treatment of sexual victimization
- Counter transference in child abuse treatment
- Child abuse ethics
- An overview of issues facing professionals working in the area of child sexual abuse.
I am alarmed about the beliefs and materials likely to be presented to our professionals by both Roland Summit and Jon Conte – see July newsletter for further details. I have written to DSAC President Juliet Broadmore, and Dr Dennis Pezaro, Chairman of the N Z Medical Association, with my concerns, and am awaiting their replies.
Epidemiology of child sexual abuse – the Otago Study
Dr Jessie Anderson, Co-Investigator, Otago women’s Health Survey Child Sexual Abuse Study.
Community Health Seminar Series
12.30 to 1.30 pm 20 September, Room 3305, 3rd floor, Dept Community Health, Auckland Medical School.
This talk has been arranged by DSAC, in response to Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith’s presentation in May 1994 on ‘The definitions and prevalence of sexual abuse: how good is the data?’
DSAC was apparently very upset that someone other than one of their official representatives would give a seminar in this area.
In fact, the Otago study represents one of the best surveys conducted in regard to the prevalence of sexual abuse, and this should be a very interesting seminar.
International Conference on Memory and Reality: Reconciliation
Baltimore, 9-11 Dec 1994.
Co-sponsored by John Hopkins Continuing Education Program and FMSF.
Scientific, clinical and legal issues of false memory syndrome.
This important conference will bring together many outstanding scholars and professionals in the field with retractors and families affected by the problem.
(Contact COSA for further details)
‘Suggestibility and illusory memories in the therapeutic setting’
Seminar presented by Drs Michael Yakpo and Dorothy Rowe
31 May 1994, Royal Society of Medicine, London.
This seminar addressed the topic of suggestions of abuse and the repressed memory controversy.
Michael Yakpo is a clinical psychologist Director of the Milton Erickson Institute of San Diego, and a Fellow of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis. He reported the results of a survey he recently conducted of over 1000 American psychotherapists’ beliefs about repressed memory. A summary of these research findings will be given in the next (October) newsletter.
Dorothy Rowe is a child psychologist living in England and involved in research and writing. Her work is concerned with how we create meaning and how we communicate.