COSA Casualties of Sexual Allegations Newsletter September 1995 Volume 2 No 7
Contents of this page:
Editorial: Hitting Home: men speak about abuse of women partners there are grave flaws in interpreting the data from this study as "1 in 5 men beat their women partners" or that "1 in 2 emotionally abuse them". There is a marked parallel here with sexual abuse statistics and other studies which seek evidence that women are victims of male brutality, and greatly magnify the problem to gain funding, support, vindication and ammunition.
Recovered memory convictions overturned (Australia).
Correspondence: Progress report from executive member Gordon Waugh.
I am a survivor of incest I personally cannot comprehend ‘repressing’ the abuse, so I have great difficulty in being convinced that the ‘repressed memory syndrome’ is for real.
Injustice Done and Seen to be Done After my trial and acquittal in Sept 1994 on charges stemming from "recovered memories", I applied for costs.
A story for our times "I know it’s scary and horrible, but it’s really important for you to tell me everything you can remember" Father insisted. "Did the scary thing have red eyes ? Did it have sharp, cruel teeth?
Coming Events Felicity Goodyear-Smith’s Glaxo tour, debate on recovered memories cancelled, John Briere seminar "The Self Trauma Model", Dr Arnon and Mrs Marianne Bentovim "Multidisciplinary management of allegations of sexual abuse in young children".
Hitting Home: men speak about abuse of women partners
Last month saw the publication of the Justice Department’s research project "Hitting Home: men speak about abuse of women partners", said to be the most comprehensive study of attitudes to domestic abuse which exists anywhere, and to present "prevalence rates of abuse of women by NZ men". The results of this $1.5 million Hamilton project were said to show that men abuse their women partners at twice the rate previously thought, and of course there was an accompanying call for more funding to deal with the problem.
The study reported that 21% of the 2000 men surveyed admitted physically abusing their women partners in the past year, and that 53% had psychologically abused them. 35% reported committing at least one act of physical abuse and 62% at least one act of psychological abuse in their life-times.
Domestic violence is without doubt a very serious problem which besets our society, and to reduce its incidence is a laudable cause. In no way do I condone physical violence between people. However there are grave flaws in interpreting the data from this study as "1 in 5 men beat their women partners" or that "1 in 2 emotionally abuse them".
Firstly, the definitions of abuse used were extremely broad. Domestic abuse is defined as "abuse of women by male partners". Physical abuse includes pushing, shoving, grabbing or throwing somthing at a woman partner. Psychological abuse includes insulting or swearing at her, preventing her having money (amount undefined) for her own use, criticising one of her friends or family, throwing or kicking something, or "tring to keep her from doing something she wants to do".
Rather than be surprised at the high reported incidence of such abuse, it is astounding that so many of the men have had such peaceful and congenial relationships with women that 65% have never even pushed or shoved one, and over a third have never even insulted a woman partner.
Secondly, there is the assumption that all domestic abuse is inflicted by men and suffered by women. A number of international studies have demonstrated time and time again that both women and men equally engage in physical violence in their intimate relationships (a reference list of 17 such studies is available). Certainly men do not have a monopoly on insults, throwing objects or kicking the door. Some women have a far greater mastery of psychological weapons than their male partners, and are quite capable of manipulating men from doing things they wish to do.
There is a marked parallel here with sexual abuse statistics and other studies which seek evidence that women are victims of male brutality, and greatly magnify the problem to gain funding, support, vindication and ammunition (see Literature Review of Gilbert, Hoff-Sommers and Bonilla in COSA newsletter Aug 1994 1 (4) p4-5). Just as gender feminism has expanded the definition of of rape from a heinous crime committed by a violent individual against an innocent victim to the victimization of all women by all men, so too does this study expand the definition of domestic abuse to the point of meaninglessness. Trivilising violence in this way affronts the real victims of assault.
I predict that such an approach will only serve to make the whole problem worse. Men are presented as being totally responsible for domestic abuse, and women in no way to blame.
However, domestic violence is a relationship problem. Only when both men and women recognise and acknowledge the part they play in the conflict, will the problem be able to be redressed, and happier, mutually more trusting and co-operative relationships be established. Making men solely responsible for the problem gives women carte blanche to be as vicious or nasty as they like. This will only hasten the demise of their relationships and leave both parties angry and embittered.
With sociologist Greg Newbold a notable exception, very few professionals have spoken out about the flaws and dangers of this study. The other major critic was The NZ Skeptics, whom I applaud for giving it their "Bent Spoon Award" for 1995.
Falsely accused father awarded custody of daughters
In Dec 1994 a Family Court judge rejected allegations of sexual abuse of her daughter then aged 3 by her ex-husband, and awarded custody of both daughters to the father. The mother appealed this decision and the case was heard by in the High Court in April-June this year. The judge completely unheld the Family Court decision that there is no evidence of post-separation sexual abuse, but the mother is clearly fixated on sexual abuse and has a deep-seated (erroneous) belief that it had occurred. The judge was critical of the fact that the examining doctor clearly supported the mother in her belief that the daughter had been abused, despite the fact that her medical evidence was "only of the weakest character". He also stated that "those responsible for investigating this matter, had painted themselves into a corner by an explicit denunciation [of the father]. There was, with all due respects, subsequently conducted something close to a justificatory witch hunt… There are few signs that [the girl] has been traumatised by alleged abuse apart from the statements of [the mother] and her supporters".
Another falsely accused father awarded custody of his children
Another custody case heard by a Family Court judge in July 1995 also centred around false allegations of sexual abuse. In May the father had been acquitted by a jury of all criminal charges.
"The mother has convinced herself that the children have been sexually abused, and this perception was allowed to become part of the fabric of reality of her household" however the judge found that "it is overwhelmingly more probable than not that quite innocent and innocuous actions have been invested with an over-imaginative interpretation which is entirely false".
"It appears customary in (this) area at least to describe a child’s assertion that an incident of sexual abuse has happened as a ‘disclosure’… In the present case, it is said that ‘disclosures’ were made in the evidential interviews, and when one of the children was referred to counselling by a psychologist there was some expectation that in the course of the counselling sssions he might make a ‘disclosure’. Use of the word ‘disclosure’ betrays a process of thought which assumes that what is ‘disclosed’ must have happened as described and must be true. Its use precludes the notion that what is described might not have occurred. .. An allegation does not assume a truth or validity of its own merely because it has been made. In any rational system of investigation an allegation that certain events have occurred constitutes no more than an untested hypothesis. While that hypothesis remains untested, and particularly if it is challenged, it is intellectually dishonest to treat it as though it were valid and as though its validity cannot be questioned."
"Both the father and the children have become victims of serious injustice in the period of nearly 18 months from the start of the investigation to the criminal trial to the present hearing. That injustice was created because of uncritical acceptance and continued official support of allegations which arose in circumstances which demanded immediate, close and critical inquiry into their truth. There is no evidence that any such inquiry was undertaken before the course was set for criminal proceedings and the children were effectively isolated from their father".
The child was examined "by a paediatrician who is active in sexual abuse matters and has become an expert in the field. She found no physical evidence of abuse, but it appears… arranged for the completion of accident compensation claim forms so that [the child] could be referred for supportive counselling." The judge expressed his opinion that such a referral would have been "inappropriate in the absence of professional judgement that it was justifiable."
The younger son was later incorporated into the same counselling sessions as his brother. This was arranged by a social worker who reported "hopefully so he can be brought to the point where he will be prepared to talk about abuse" the judge concludes that the younger son’s "allegation of alleged abuse was no more than attention-seeking fabrication, placed in his mind by others at home".
The judge further queried whether it was wise for the ACC-funded counsellor:
- to become engaged as counsellor for [the 2 boys] on issues of sexual abuse which where disputed and had not been forensically established;
- become involved in the CYPS case conference as he did;
- hold himself out as available as an independent psychological assessor for the Court in the present proceedings;
- act as a specialist consultant for the prosecution in the criminal proceedings against the father;
- there was at one stage a probability that he might be called as expert witness for the Crown at the trial.
The judge’s specific criticisms of the case included:
- The mother’s 1st report of [the child’s] complaint of abuse was accepted uncritically and treated as justifying an immediate evidential interview;
- It appears to have been assumed that [the child’s] reported behaviour problems were wholly or partly the result of sexual abuse, whereas inquiry from the school would have revealed… there had never been any question or suspicion of sexual abuse until the mother herself raised the point immediately she reported it to the [Children and Young Person’s] Service;
- Once it was known that the father strongly denied the allegation, the fact of his denial, far from stimulating any further inquiry or investigation, seems to be put to one side on the basis of some assumption that people charged with sexual abuse usually deny it;
- It was assumed without any critical examination or independent checking, that what [the child] disclosed in his evidential interview must be believed and taken as true;
- The wisdom of engaging a child in therapeutic counselling under accident compensation auspices on the basis of what the child has said must be true, when it is known that the truth of what the child has said will be contested, is very much open to question;
- The evidential interviewing methodology was open to criticism including the interviewer using of leading questions at inappropriate points; seriously misconstruing what the child was saying on one occasion without realising her error; and being pre-disposed at least one point to over-intepret a particular situation that developed during the interview, so effectively prejudicing the child’s ability to recount his story in a natural and non-coercive setting;
- From an early stage of the Family Court proceedings efforts were made on behalf of the father to obtain access to the CYPS files and records. These efforts were met with official opposition, and even at a late stage of the present proceedings an attempt was made to place reliance on the Official Information Act and the Privacy Act… Since the request for information was made by the children’s co-guardian on a matter of importance to the children’s welfare, it is not clear to this Court what ground there could have been for failing promptly to provide the necessary inspection.
Recovered memory convictions overturned
In June a 67 year Melbourne man had 13 out of 14 sexual abuse convictions overturned on appeal, and was released to await a retrial. The allegations had arisen after the woman had "flashbacks" during counselling of being abused between 1968 and 1979. The judge ruled that a verdict based on "recovered memories" was unsafe.
Parents and grandmother charged with satanic ritual abuse
A Sydney couple and a 72 year old grandmother are awaiting trial for 67 alleged sexual offences including ritual abuse, enforced abortions and "infant sacrifice". The couple’s teenage daughter has recovered memories that her parents and grandparents were part of a satanic cult who raped and ritually abused her and other children for 12 years from the age of 5.
The Sydney Morning Herald (13 May 1995) reported that it has identified at least 10 cases in which men and women are claiming they have been wrongfully prosecuted on the basis of recovered memories.
Couple cleared on recovered memory claims
Kenneth and Grace Smith, a Canadian couple in their 60s, have been cleared of all charges that they sexually molested their daughter Jillian (now aged 37) for most of her youth, between 1967 to 1976. She had also accused her brother, a family friend and 2 school principals but these others had not been charged.
Ms Smith had attended therapy initially for an eating disorder, and had received over 800 therapy sessions (at a cost of over $80,000), during the course of which she had come to believe her parents had violently molested her including almost daily rape by her father from the age of 9. She also claimed he had made her pregnant and forced her to have an abortion at age 14.
Medical evidence demonstrated that she had never been pregnant or had an abortion, and the court found that her allegations were the result of believed-in pseudomemories created during therapy.
"Alter personality" makes false allegations
In Ottawa, Harland Fraser had assault charges against his wife Joanne Yantha-Fraser dropped after she told a stunned court that it was not she who had made the complaint. She said that the allegations had been fabricated by another part of her personality, called "Mary-Lou", and that she (Joanne) was not responsible for anything MaryLou said or did.
Repressed memory verdict reversed
In April this year a San Fransisco judge reversed the 1990 conviction of George Franklin having murdered his daughter’s childhood friend 20 years previously.
The evidence had been based on his daughter Eilleen recovering whilst under hypnosis a "buried" memory of witnessing the killing and was the first case tried by the USA courts in which the only evidence was somebody’s recovered, un-corroborated memory. Eilleen’s testimony did not offer any new information on the case which had not already been available through extensive media coverage at the time.
Therapist found guilty of implanting false memories
A jury found Minnesota psychiatrist Dr Diane Humenansky guilty of implanting false memories in her client Vynnette Hamanne. Humenansky has been ordered to pay her ex-client $2.5 million in compensation for using memory recovery techniques and drugs to make her recall false memories of being the victim of bizarre satanic rituals and sexual abuse. Hamanne’s husband was also awarded $210,000 compensation for loss of his wife’s companionship. Humenansky has at least 5 similar civil lawsuits from ex-pateints pending.
House of Cards: psychology and psychotherapy built on myth
Robyn Dawes (1994), Free Press, New York.
This highly recommended book examines current knowledge in the science of psychology and how the clinical practice of psychologists and psychotherapists operates on myths and assumptions not supported by this science, often with devastating consequences.
I’m dysfunctional, you’re dysfunctional: the recovery movement and other self-help fashions
Wendy Kaminer (1992), Vintage Books, New York.
A clear and witty attack on the "recovery movement", the cult of victimhood, the preoccupation with the "inner child" and the current fashion of defining personal woes (such as over-eating or dependent relationships) as addictions.
Treating survivors of satanist abuse
Valerie Sinason (1994), Routledge, London and New York.
Despite the fact that satanic ritual abuse has never been substantiated and the chances that such allegations represent real events are negligible, this book proceeds to teach therapists how to treat such victims.
Chapter 11 (A systematic approach) offers a model for dealing with satanically abused children. This chapter was written by Arnon Bentovim and his wife Marianne (nee Tranter), who are guest speakers DSAC are bringing to NZ this November
Suggestions of abuse: true and false memories of childhood sexual trauma
Michael Yakpo (1994), Simon and Schuster, New York.
Another book about memory repression, the "scientific illiteracy" of many psychotherapists and the harm they can do their patients.
False memories of childhood experiences
Hyman, A; Husband, T; Billings F (Jun 1995), Applied Cognitive Psychology, V0009 N3.
Experimenters contacted the parents of students to obtain information about events that happened to the students during childhood. In a series of interviews the students were asked to recall the parent-reported events and one experimenter-created false event. It was found that some individuals created false memories, and those who discussed related background knowledge during early interviews were more likely to create a false recall.
End Ritual Abuse Newsletter (June 1995) 2 (2)
This newsletter includes:
- a letter of sympathy and support from Sandra Coney to ERA members (presumably parents who believe their children were satanically abused at the Christchurch creche;
- a letter from a multiple personality survivor (sourced from an Australian publication) with complicated explanations about how many personalities may inhabit the one body, each splitting off from the "host" each time there is ritual abuse, and how one may have a stomach ulcer show on X-Ray but which would no longer be there if a different alter was inhabiting the host body during a repeat X-Ray next week;
- a ritual abuse survivor writing about dissociation and how for 37 years she had no conscious memories of the abuse and thought she had had a happy childhood.
This newsletter is funded by a Lottery Board grant!
Progress report from executive member Gordon Waugh
So that you don’t think your Committee just goes fishing or golfing every day, I thought I might advise you of some items of our progress. Progress in this business is always incremental. No huge leaps forward can be made easily or without a lot of hard work in the background. However, gains are being made in a variety of directions and these are best assessed by looking back to our circumstances in May 1994 when COSA began as a loose bunch of like-minded people.
We started with half a dozen people. Now we have about 180. A Professional Advisory Board has been established. We have become an Incorporated Society. Applications for grants have been made to Lottery Grants Board, ASB Bank, J.R. McKenzie Trusts – more will be made to other agencies. The Courts now generally accept that recovered memories are invalid. Several members have spoken on TV and Radio Talkback and made a deep impression.
Letter writing to Editors continues. It is the public who see, hear and read these, and it is the public who make up the juries. Counsellors have been challenged to publicly justify their methods, but none will (one has to ask why!). Books which give reliable, credible and balanced information have been introduced, to sit alongside "the Courage to Heal" and the other penny-dreadfuls. The spread of mis-information (the "1 in 3 girls" bit etc) used by various organisations is recognised as inflated and without foundation, and is being slowed down, if not yet removed.
Leaflets giving basic information about COSA are being distributed to members and to public outlets, with more to come. More and more people are getting to know the law related to Family Court issues, and how best to handle the social workers and psychologists who inflict upon us their warped views of children. Their interview techniques are daily being questioned and their recommendations overturned. Our people are beginning to learn to demand information, and they are winning.
Contact Members have been arranged in each area, and keep an eye on events as well. Felicity put a submission to the NZ Police at their request, putting repressed memories of abuse into their proper perspective. A submission was sent to the ACC Review Panel seeking changes to the ACC Act. Correspondence has been had with various Ministers (eg Justice, Health, ACC ) with more to come yet.
Felicity gives presentations to all sorts of groups eg the Family Court Association, the Bar Association, Medical groups and so on. Again with more to come.
Our Sub-Committees are starting to work well. The Court Support team has been hard at work in Auckland. Sadly, not all cases before the High Court go in our favour, but only a short time ago, none did.
Our message is being absorbed. Change is taking place. If COSA did not exist, would any of those things have happened? Encourage others to join us and we will get stronger. They don’t have to be "accused" to join. Persuade your friends, colleagues, associates, workmates to join us and become part of the solution. We will prevail.
A survivor of incest
"I have recently read your book First Do No Harm. I agree with much of what you wrote and really appreciated being able to read an honest, factual evaluation of the sexual abuse industry. I have first-hand experience with the workers in this industry and have some strong opinions also.
I believe society needs to create a balance on the issue of sexual abuse. This can be done through educating, the media, and literature such as yours. It may take years to relieve the industry of such hysteria, but it needs to happen – to make it fairer on genuine cases of abuse and on falsely accused people.
I am a survivor of incest. I personally cannot comprehend ‘repressing’ the abuse, so I have great difficulty in being convinced that the ‘repressed memory syndrome’ is for real. I guess it is possible, but to the extent it is now? Being a patient (in the past) at a psychiatric institution, I have met many people who claim to have been sexually abused. It is easy to spot those who are claiming false abuse, and I question others who only remember it after being in a hospital atmosphere where the majority are ‘victims’ of it. It makes me angry that so much specialists’ time is being used to work through issues that probably/often are not there. I just wanted to express my anger and opinions. I hope you continue to point out the facts of this industry."
Former psychiatric patient
Injustice Done and Seen to be Done
After my trial and acquittal in Sept 1994 on charges stemming from "recovered memories", I applied for costs. After 9 months, these were granted, on the Justice Dept’s scale of fees. Of the $125,000 plus I had spent, the judge awarded me $10,800. This is less than the Crown received from me in the GST content of my costs!.
Where on earth could you get a lawyer to represent you for a week in the High Court, plus the preliminary hearings, extracting the complainant’s ACC "stories" from a completely unco-operative ACC, interview witnesses etc, for $10,800? Does the Crown Prosecutor work for this?
As Judge William J. Groff said in his landmark case "The phenomenon of recovered memories is beyond the life experience of the average juror….". With 4 therapists appearing as Crown witnesses, it was vital that I had a good psychiatrist to debunk their misguided theories. His very reasonable fees alone amounted to most of the costs awarded.
With 26 High Court judges in NZ, surely one will challenge the admissibility of recovered memories as evidence.
Before the trial, a very farsighted family friend said, " In two years time, you’ll look back and shrug all this off. Your business will prosper, and your financial position will be as if this had never happened. The ones I feel sorry for are your accusers – they will realise they made a terrible mistake." Well, on the good side, my finances have bounced back, I’m cheerfully enjoying life, and I shall always be grateful for the support and help of COSA members, friends and family.
To all those who have had their lives devastated by false accusations, I wish you the strength to carry on. It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that matters in the long run."
A story for our times
One of the guide-lines for parents confronting the possibility of sexual abuse has been "believe the child." It has even been said that children cannot or do not invent stories about "abuse". In a recent TV "Assignment" programme, Gerald Nation QC, who represented the 4 women accused in the Civic Creche Case pointed out that "believe the child" can be "an extremely dangerous approach to take. The correct approach should be to take what a child says seriously, and to investigate it carefully." I agree with Mr Nation: to believe everything a child says is not necessarily to support the child. Children often bring fears and fantasies to adults so as to test their validity. Let me give an example from a charming picture book by Russell Hoban:
Bedtime for Frances.
Frances looked up at the ceiling. There was a crack in the ceiling, and she though about it. Maybe something will come out of that crack, she thought. Maybe insects or spiders. Maybe something with a lot of skinny legs in the dark. She went to get Father. He was brushing his teeth. Frances said "Something scary is going to come out of the crack in the ceiling. I forgot to brush my teeth". Father said "You brush your teeth and I will have a look." Frances brushed her teeth. Father came back and said "nothing could come out of such a little crack, but if you are worried about it, get somebody to help you watch. You can take turns". Frances told her teddy bear tot watch. They took turns for a while. Then Frances got tired of it and let Teddy do all the watching.
But let me re-invent father’s response, assuming he has read in a pamphlet that children cannot make up stories about scary things in the ceiling.
Frances said "Something scary is going to come out of the crack in the ceiling." "What a brave girl you are for telling me" said Father. "Other children have had bad experiences with scary things in the ceiling too. Now tell me, how did you know what it was like? Has this thing come out of the crack before ?"
"Maybe… no… I don’t think so" said Frances, "but I’m feeling really frightened.
"You’ve come to the right person. I know it’s scary and horrible, but it’s really important for you to tell me everything you can remember" Father insisted. "Did the scary thing have red eyes? Did it have sharp, cruel teeth? Did it want to hurt you with it’s teeth? Has it done that to you before?"
Now, imagine that next day, Father takes Frances to an evidential interview where a nice lady shows her models of monsters and encourages her to say what they might have done to her, and to draw pictures, and to answer more leading questions. One thing is sure. Frances isn’t going to find it easier getting to sleep. And her preoccupation with monsters is unlikely to diminish.
But then let us suppose Frances figures out for herself that no scary thing ever came out of the crack, that the crack was too small, that it was just imagination. Suppose she tells the grown-ups (who by now have published a detailed encyclopaedia of ceiling monsters, based on her accounts) that the things she said in the interviews weren’t true, that she had given the answers she thought the interviewer wanted to hear. Would the grown-ups believe her this time?
A little girl in Christchurch had a very similar experience with the Court of Appeal. The Court decided she was a confused and troubled girl, and said "We are by no means satisfied that she did lie at the interviews, although she may now genuinely think she did." Believe the child?
I think Mr Nation got it right. The Civic children would have been better served by a careful adult investigation than by the belief system (or by their parents getting $500,000 form the ACC).
Peter Ellis’s continuing imprisonment is a reminder that in the Civic case, a careful adult investigation has yet to take place. In the interests of all the children, I hope it will happen soon.
Felicity Goodyear-Smith’s Glaxo tour
Various topics regarding memory repression issues will be presented to a variety of medical and mental health professionals.
5 Sept Tauranga Hospital Sessions at 12.30 and 7 pm.
6 Sept Hastings Hospital 12.15; Napier Hospital 7 pm
7 Sept Whakatane Hospital Sessions 12.00 and 7 pm
11 Sept Dunedin Hospital 6.30 pm
One-day seminar/debate on recovered memories
Friday 15 September 1995, Christchurch
Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith and Dr Karen Zelas
The Christchurch organiser of this debate has suddenly cancelled it. The reason given was that her colleagues in the mental health field were giving her no support to run the seminar.
Seminars organised by DSAC
John Briere seminar "The Self Trauma Model"
11 Sept 1995: Christchurch; 13 Sept 1995: Auckland
DSAC are bringing back this American "recovered memory expert" to run two more seminars here.
Dr Arnon and Mrs Marianne Bentovim "Multidisciplinary management of allegations of sexual abuse in young children"
7 November: Christchurch; 10 November: Wellington; 1
3-14 November: Auckland
See Literature Review (Treating survivors of satanist abuse) about this couple’s endorsement of "satanic ritual abuse".