COSA Casualties of Sexual Allegations Newsletter September / October 1997 Volume 4 No 8
Contents of this page:
Editorial: Sexual abuse of boys & menOn 5 and 6 September about 300 people attended a DSAC conference entitled "Sexualabuse of males: New Zealand’s untold story". A cynic might think that theconference was really about "Sexual abuse of males: New Zealand’s untapped market".
Courts: False claim by 11 year old girl
Man charged andconvicted of assaulting girl-friend despite her refusal to testify against him.
Justice Neeleyof the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals: "We now have a system in which afemale parent need only scream child abuse in a loud voice to keep the male parent fromseeing a child. Indeed, sexual abuse these days seems to arouse all the hysteria that wasassociated with witchcraft in yesteryear." (USA).
Media: Ex-policeman seeking truth Retiredpolice superintendent Bryan Rowe, now working as a private investigator, has been shockedby evidence of poorly conducted police investigations which are resulting in wrongfularrests and convictions.
Study disputeseffects of sex abuse The Otago Medical School study of 500 Dunedin women, half of whomreported past sexual abuse, found that about 75% who gave a sexual abuse history sufferedno measurable mental health problems in later life.
Workers to bechecked for "sexual abuse risk" (Australia).
More therapistimplanted false memories (Australia).
Jury backspseudo-science (USA).
Literature: How suggestible are pre-schoolchildren? Cognitive and social factors.
Flashbackphenomena in survivors of childhood sexual abuse: a four-stage treatment model.
The Silence ofthe Screams: violence by women in intimate relationships. (Australia).
Creating false memories – Elizabeth Loftus.
Rape & Sexual Abuse in NewZealand 1992 -1996 clients National Collective of Rape Crisis & RelatedGroups of Aotearoa Inc.
Delayed traumatic recall inadults: A synthesis with legal, clinical, and forensic recommendations.
Memory, repression and childsexual abuse: forensic implications for the mental health professional.
PsychoanalyticDialogues This issue is devoted to a symposium on the false memorycontroversy, with opinions ranging from those of Jody Davies, who asks whether there isany proof that "a false memory of parental sexual abuse even exists" toFrederick Crews, who expresses scepticism about the reliability of recovered memories.
Issues InChild Abuse Accusations This issue includes an article by Judith Adams on’Interviewing methods and hearsay testimony in suspected child abuse cases: questionsof accuracy’, which summarises interviewing techniques which may compromise thereliability of children’s testimony.
Breaking thecycle: an interagency guide to child abuse This is a review of the 1997 edition of theCYPS manual, written for health and education professionals and community workers toexplain to them what they should do if they have concerns that a child might be beingabused or neglected.
GordonWaugh’s award-winning Letter to the Editor, North & South magazine, October1997. "Let’s not kid ourselves. Allegations of sexual abuse are used as weapons, andas levers to gain advantage."
Recent events: Twoone-day workshops by Dr Michael Yakpo; ‘Integrating hypnosis with brief therapy’ &’Hypnosis and the treatment of depression".
Coming events: ConstanceDalenberg, clinical psychologist 4 one-day seminars on ‘Transference &counter-transference in trauma focused therapy’, sponsored by DSAC.
Owing to winter ailments and afflictions in COSA executive households,we were unable to put out a COSA newsletter last month. To compensate, here is a bumperissue covering the news and information accumulated over the past two months.
Sexual abuse of boys & men
On 5 and 6 September about 300 people attended a DSAC conferenceentitled "Sexual abuse of males: New Zealand’s untold story". A cynic mightthink that the conference was really about "Sexual abuse of males: New Zealand’suntapped market". While in no way wishing to deny that men and boys can and aresexually assaulted, and that this can at times have a devastating effect on them, in myopinion this conference presented a grossly exaggerated distorted view of the problem.
The overall message was that about one in 7 males are sexually abused,but most goes unreported. Boys and men tend to deny and minimise the abuse. It wasemphasised that workers in all sorts of agencies, from psychiatric in-patients toprobation officers, should routinely ask their clients whether they have been sexuallyabused. The assumption was made that if they answered yes, they should all be offeredcounselling to deal with it, most of which would be covered by ACC.
The seminar began with 2 men telling their stories about having beensexually abused. One of them, "Sam" [not his real name], told how he had spent20 years in the armed forces; got into trouble and eventually ended up living on thestreets abusing alcohol. He then attended a therapist who helped him to access his earlymemories, and in fact took him right back to the womb. He discovered that underneathapparently false memories of a happy childhood were real memories of terrible sexual abuseand rape by his step-father, which had continued for several years.
Throughout the conference, the two men who had told their storiesreceived accolades for their bravery in sharing their trauma with us.
Auckland University psychology lecturer John Read presentedepidemiological figures suggesting an incidence of male sexual abuse up to 15%, althoughhe did not define the term "sexual abuse" at any point. From the studies hequoted, it appears that he is using a very broad definition (including visual exposure tosexual acts, sexual harassment, unwanted genital touching through to anal and oral sexualassault).
He felt that the recent NZ cohort study published by Fergusson (whichgave a figure of 4.3% unwanted sexual experiences including non-contact) was probably anunder-estimate, and stated that the figure was likely to be at least twice that. Hecredited COSA and FMSF for much of the cause of the overwhelming under-reporting, becauseour media propaganda about an epidemic of false allegations meant that boys and men fearedthat they would not be believed.
He emphasised that sexual abuse should be routinely asked about -he had repressed memories of his own abuse for 10 years, and he could have been sparedmuch pain had someone asked.
Read believes that sexual abuse is a major cause of psychosis, and isconcerned that these people are being treated with drugs instead of counselling.
In a panel discussion about statistics, the agencies involved(including ACC; police; CYPS) claimed that most male abuse goes unreported. Sensitiveclaims manager Eric Metcalf stated that ACC was only seeing "the tip of theiceberg" – of the 8500 claims made in the past year (Jul 96 to Jul 97) 18%(1530) were male, and he was worried that not everyone was getting the help to which theyare entitled. Police representative Wendy Miller-Burgering was concerned that the policefigures were even lower, meaning that many who made ACC claims were not reporting thesecrimes to the police.
Visiting American psychologists John Briere and his wife CherylLanktree emphasised the negative sequelae of abuse (suicide, alcohol abuse, anxiety anddepression, adult violence, difficulties with sexual identity). The need for earlyidentification and treatment was seen as paramount – it was assumed that therapy canprevent these effects, and Lanktree expressed concern that if sexually abused boys do notdisclose, they may repress their memories as adults. It should be noted that to myknowledge, no studies yet have been conducted which indicate that psychotherapyinterventions make any positive difference at all in this situation.
Some boys and men are sexually assaulted by women (sadly an adolescentboy might deny or "romanticise" the harmful effects of sex with an older woman),and some offenders are homosexual. However Briere claimed that the vast majority ofoffenders are heterosexual males who rape weaker males as punishment or to exert socialdominance.
Briere expressed the view that all men are innate sexual aggressors.The good news though is that with the correct parenting, and sometimes with"sensitisation" to the pain of others from having survived own’s sexualtrauma, men can learn to control their violent selves and acquire more feminine qualities,which Briere believes are good things in a man. I personally have grave concerns about anideology which views men as inherently bad and women as inherently good.
False allegations were not addressed at this conference. On the oddoccasion it was mentioned, it was to emphasis that this is a very rare phenomenon. Theconference recommended that men and boys presenting to health and law-enforcement agenciesshould be asked about sexual abuse, and when disclosed, it should be assumed to be true.No-one even mentioned the possibility of over-reporting which might result from such astrategy.
A long list of areas requiring vastly increased resourcing,particularly counselling, policing, and education, was drawn up. Everyone agreed that thisnew problem everyone had identified was going to create a lot more work, and governmentlobbying was required to fund it.
False claim by 11 year old girl
A police investigation into an alleged attack on an 11 year old girlwas called off after it was discovered that the complaint was false. The girl had claimedthat a man jumped out at her from the bushes. The police constable involved said she madethe claim to get attention.
(North Shore Times Advertiser (12 Aug 1997) ‘Falseclaim’)
Man charged and convicted of assaultinggirl-friend despite her refusal to testify against him
Last year the police took out a protection order for a 20 year oldwoman without her knowledge. Her partner, Stephen Worth, had been accused of domesticviolence against her in the past, and the police subsequently removed him from their homewithout her agreement. She refused to testify against him in court but he was found guiltyand sentenced to 15 months prison.
In the High Court in August he appealed his conviction, but lost. Hislawyer told the court: "There was a complete absence of complainant evidence, acomplete absence of any eyewitness to the assault and complete absence of any admissionswhatsoever by the appellant".
(NZ Herald, ‘Partner assault appeal rejected’.)
Police finally admit Dougherty innocent
In April this year David Dougherty was acquitted at his second trialafter serving more than 3 years in prison for a crime he did not commit (see COSAnewsletters May & Sep 1996; May, Jun, Jul & Aug 1997).
Despite identifying that semen found on the underpants of the 11 yearold victim was not Dougherty’s but came from some other man, they still chose tobelieve that he was the offender because he had been identified by the victim.
A review just completed by South Auckland CIB Chief Kel McMinn foundthat the police investigation was deficient, and has finally admitted that the stain onthe girl’s clothing could not have come from Dougherty. This is a major shift by thepolice, and means that finally they will start to look for the real offender, whose DNAprofile they know. This is 5 years after the abduction and rape occurred.
A former detective who worked on the case, Eric Tannion, claims thatany errors in police investigation was due to their "limited resources" notincompetence.
(Sunday Star-Times (14 Sep 1997). ‘Police admit inquirydefective’ by Donna Chisholm; New Zealand Herald (15 Sep 1997).’resources get blame’)
Hung jury for surgeon Tony Guy
ENT surgeon Tony Guy has been accused of indecently touching 5 girls oryoung women when he treated them between 1987 and 1991. None of them made any complaintuntil years later, when they heard suggestions via the media that Guy had indecentlyassaulted patients.
Guy has always maintained that he touched their groins and under theirarms as part of a medical examination, checking their glands for enlargement. Such anexamination is recommended practice in checking for conditions such as glandular fever,which might also cause ear and throat problems. He has adamantly denied any touching forhis own sexual gratification. Another of his patients testified on his behalf that he haddone these sort of examinations on her, but had never acted with impropriety.
After over 13 hours of deliberation, a Christchurch District Court jurywas unable to reach a verdict last August. Guy was remanded on bail pending a retrial.
(Christchurch Press, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 26, 30 Jul; 1, 6, Aug1997; NZ Herald 7 Aug 97)
Judge commends mother for not inflictingcounselling on her daughter
Jeremy Kilpatrick, a 20 year-old farm worker, admitted to performing anindecent act on a six-year-old girl this month and was sentenced to 8 months periodicdetention and 12 months supervision, plus completion of a sexual-offenders programme.
The Christchurch District Court judge, Stephen Erber, praised thegirl’s mother for not "inflicting" counselling on her daughter after the abuse.Judge Erber said the abuse was a one-off incident and involved nothing worse thantouching. "The mother seems to have been extremely sensible and the girl hasn’t hadcounselling inflicted on her so as to bring matters back her recollection," the judgesaid. There seemed a good chance there would be no adverse effects.
Not surprisingly, his comments drew an angry response from at least onecounsellor, who wrote to the editor of a newspaper who reported it that "JudgeErber’s comments encourage minimisation and denial of the effects on children of indecentacts."
The Press, Christchurch (10 Sep 1997). ‘Parent Praised InAbuse Case’;
The Press, Christchurch (11 Sep 1997). ‘Letters To TheEditor: Counselling’, Judy Donaldson Campbell Centre Presbyterian Support.
Guilty until proven innocent?
Woody Allen has always claimed that he is innocent of allegations thathe sexually abused his daughter, Dylan, when she was seven. The allegations had arisen inthe context of a custody dispute with his ex-wife, Mia Farrow.
In 1993 prosecutor Frank Maco told reporters that he had evidence Allenhad sexually abused his daughter but was choosing not to prosecute for the girl’s sake.Allen lodged a complaint, saying that there was no way to clear his name against theseunfounded allegations.
In July this year the Statewide Grievance Committee voted to dismissthe case against the prosecutor, although members were divided on whether to accept asubcommittee’s report criticising Maco for his "lack of sensitivity … to theconcept of the presumption of innocence."
(Associated Press, AFP, 31 July 1997)
Woman compensated $5.8 million fortherapist-implanted false memories
In 1991 Lynn Carl attended Spring Shadows Glen for treatment ofdepression. She was to remain in therapy until 1993. During that time, she becameconvinced she had developed more than 500 personalities because of repressed memories ofinvolvement with a satanic cult. She said that therapists never warned her the memoriesshe recovered through hypnosis and other forms of psychotherapy might be unreliable. Shewas told that unless she continued recovering memories about the abuse, she would remainin denial and her children "wouldn’t get well". Her children (Kristi, then 13,and B.J., 14) entered the hospital a year after Carl began her stay there. B.J. came tobelieve he was programmed to die by age 16, and Kristi believed she was a"breeder" for the cult, according to testimony. They also believed they hadcommitted incest.
Carl said these false memories led to divorce from her husband and acourt order preventing her from seeing her children. After her release from Spring ShadowsGlen, Carl underwent treatment in Florida and Maryland before reuniting with her husband,Joe, and their children. In April 1996, the couple remarried.
Carl filed a suit against her therapists, accusing them of implantingfalse memories of satanic ritual abuse which tore her family apart. During the trial, herprimary therapist, Dr. Gloria Keraga, 44, testified that she didn’t know if the specificmemories Carl recovered in therapy were true, but said she believed the "gist"of them. She said that the Carl situation represented a "classic paedophile"case in which the perpetrators and victims later deny the sexual abuse, and that Carldemonstrated symptoms of abuse and that evidence was "overwhelming" that theCarl family had practiced incest. Referring to Carl’s journals and medical recordsdescribing bizarre sexual abuse, murder and torture, Keraga’s lawyer said suchmemories could not be falsely implanted.
The jury reached a general consensus in favour of Carl during the firstfew minutes of their deliberations. They found Keraga bore 12% of liability in the case,with a number of others identified as sharing the blame for negligence. All the otherdefendants previously settled with Carl or were dropped. Carl was awarded nearly $5.8million.
Carl is one of more than a dozen patients who filed lawsuits againsttherapists at the former Spring Shadows Glen Hospital in Houston. The patients allege thattherapists planted false memories of abuse after the patients were diagnosed with multiplepersonality disorder. In 1993, Spring Shadows Glen closed the dissociative disorders unit,where such patients were treated, after state authorities cited the hospital for excessiveuse of physical restraints on patients, censorship of patient mail and phone calls and, inone case, making a patient’s discharge contingent upon safety from a "sataniccult." The hospital now is under different ownership and has been renamed MemorialSpring Shadows Glen.
(Houston Chronicle (8 Aug 1997). ‘Jury awards $5.8 millionin satanic memories case’, Mark Smith)
Justice Neeley of the West VirginiaSupreme Court of Appeals.
Mary D. v.Circuit Court, 438 S.E.2d 521, 529 (W.Va. 1992, Neeley, J.,dissent).
"We now have a system in which a female parent need only screamchild abuse in a loud voice to keep the male parent from seeing a child. Indeed, sexualabuse these days seems to arouse all the hysteria that was associated with witchcraft inyesteryear. In fact, it has spawned a witch-huntingesque cottage industry, to wit badlytrained, ideological rape trauma experts, rape counselors, bachelor levelpseudo-psychologists, social activists, and other assorted species of jacklegs. I am afirm believer that the best interest of the child are paramount, but that does not meannever allowing a father to see his children when evidence preponderates on his behalf eventhough, like an accused witch, he cannot clear himself beyond a shadow of a doubt.Continuous yelling and screaming of an accusation does not make that accusation any moretrue."
Appeal Court dismisses HollyRamona’s case against her father
On 19 Aug 1997, the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angelesdismissed Holly Ramona’s case against her father, Gary Ramona. In 1994 in the firstcase of its kind, Gary had sued Holly’s therapists for planting false memories ofsexual abuse in his daughter’s mind. The jury gave a verdict of malpractice and awarded$500,000 to Gary Ramona. Holly had appealed this decision. The California Court of Appealdismissed her appeal on the grounds that because Holly’s testimony of incestuous memorieswas acquired under, and after, the use of the hypnotic drug sodium amytal, her testimonyfailed to meet the criteria of consensus acceptance by the scientific community.
(The San Francisco Chronicle (22 Sep 1997). ‘Opinion:Open Forum’, by Moira Johnston,A20)
‘Dream‘ testimony rejected bycourt
In Aug 1991 a 15 year old New Hampshire girl became pregnant. She toldher mother in December. Some time before she gave birth, she had three"nightmares," during which she had "flashbacks" which consisted ofglimpses of her step-father abusing her when she was 9 or 10 years old (Aug 1984 to Nov1995). Before having these nightmares, she apparently had no memory of being assaulted byhim. Her step-father was charged with the offences.
He moved to exclude the complainant’s testimony from being admitted athis trial, arguing that she should not be allowed to testify regarding her alleged memoryof events that she previously had not remembered. The court decided that "because theobjective truth of memory cannot be scientifically determined, lay testimony of allegedlyrecovered memories cannot be barred on the basis that there has been no preliminaryshowing of its reliability." The court ruled that expert testimony would be allowedto explain the phenomena of traumatic amnesia and memory repression, and to opine on thereliability of ordinary memory and recovered memory, but not to opine on the truth of aparticular recovered memory.
An appeal followed. The appeal court commented that the complainantrecovered her memory by piecing together fragments that came to her as"flashbacks" during several dreams, rather than spontaneously or during atherapy session. However they felt that issues regarding the suggestibility of memoryrelating to therapy, expressed in the Hungerford, were equally applicable in the contextof dreams.
The appeal decision was released 6 Aug 1997. They reversed thedecision, barring the girl’s testimony. In explanation they discussed the potentialunreliability of memory: "Studies indicate that memory is not a mechanism that merelyreproduces one’s perceptions of events; rather, memory, like perception, is an active,constructive process that often introduces inaccuracies by adding details not present inthe initial representation or in the event itself. The mind combines all the informationacquired about a particular event into a single storage "bin," making itdifficult to distinguish what the witness saw originally from what she learnedlater."
(The Supreme Court of New Hampshire Hillsborough-Southern JudicialDistrict No. 96-058. The State Of New Hampshire V David Walters, 6 Aug 1997)
Ex-policeman seeking truth
Retired police superintendent Bryan Rowe, now working as a privateinvestigator, is speaking out about his views ‘from the other side’. He has beenshocked by evidence of poorly conducted police investigations which are resulting inwrongful arrests and convictions. He said that when he was a policeman he thought ‘awrongful conviction was most unlikely, and if it did happen it was extremely rare’ but inthe past 16 months, since working as a private eye, he has had to rearrange his thinking,and now realises that it can and does happen all too often.
(NZ Herald (28 Aug 1997). ‘private eye sees law from theother side’, A15).
Study disputes effects of sex abuse
The Otago Medical School study of 500 Dunedin women, half of whomreported past sexual abuse, found that about 75% who gave a sexual abuse history sufferedno measurable mental health problems in later life. The publication of these results hasbeen very unpopular amongst sexual abuse workers. Tauranga CYPS psychologist said that"to say sexual abuse does not affect people was simplistic", and a womanreporter, the daughter of a victim, claimed that measuring mental health problems was a"pitiful" way of gauging the long-term effects and that even if a woman appears’resilient’, her life is shattered by the abuse.
(NZ Herald (26 Jun 97). ‘Study into effects of sex abusedisputed’, HZ Herald (2 Aug 97). ‘psychological blight legacy of sexabuse’, Lesley Lundy)
Mental Health Training Service closed
After COSA lobbying and complaints, the sexual abuse counselling courserun by the Mental Health Training Service was completely overhauled and became awell-balanced scientifically-based training. Sadly the MHTS has now been closed, mainlybecause the CHE felt that for the expenditure required to keep it running, there werebetter ways to provide health professionals with training programmes.
(North Harbour News (29 Aug 1997). ‘Close of service"bad dream"’, p3)
Workers to be checked for "sexual abuse risk"
The Royal Commission is urging that NSW State Government set up anindependent super agency called the Children’s Commission. This body would check anyadults working with children (for example, teachers, foster parents, scoutmasters, sportscoaches) to see if they posed an ‘unacceptable risk’ of sexual abuse. If theydecided there was a risk, even if that person had never been convicted of any crime, theywould issue a certificate of ‘unacceptable risk’ and ban that person from anyjob involving children.
The Commission would not make a finding of guilt or innocence in anyspecific allegation, but could make its decision based on a variety of potentialinformation, including records from employers, police and government departments. TheCommission would be immune from any legal action regarding its decisions.
Such an agency could potentially ban people from their work on thebasis of unsubstantiated false allegations, and it appears that those affected would haveno legal redress. This is a terrifying situation.
It is also being suggested that NZ police look into setting up asimilar register here.
(Sydney Morning Herald (27 Aug 1997). ‘from teachers toscoutmasters, everyone will be put to the test’, by Adele Horin; NZ Herald (28Aug 97). ‘Sex abuse list considered.)
More therapist implanted false memories
A Canberra woman, called "Susan", came to believe that shewas Jane Beaumont, while she was being treated for repressed memories of childhood sexualabuse. In 1966 Jane Beaumont, aged 8, along with her sister Arnna, 7, and her brotherGrant, 4, had disappeared from a beach in Adelaide. They have never been found and for 31years their parents, now in their 70s, have hoped that their children were still alive.
In January 1996 "Susan" told the police that she was Jane,and that all 3 children had been handed over to a satanic cult. She has since come todisbelieve this and has lodged a complaint with the Canberra Commissioner of Health,alleging that her therapist had first suggested that she was Jane (the therapist deniesthis).
This same therapist was apparently involved in a case in 1988 whenanother of her patients wrongfully came to believe that she had been involved in themurder of a teenage girl.
The police had to inform the Beaumont parents that their hopes had beenwrongfully raised that their daughter had been found.
(Sydney Morning Herald (8 Aug 1997). ‘Canberra woman notmissing Beaumont girl: police’, by Richard Guilliatt & Philip Cornford.)
Counselling is not effective
The NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination at the University of Yorkwas set up with British government money to provide independent advice on differenttreatments. It does so by reviewing the literature, not by conducting its own research. Itrecently reviewed all the available studies of the effectiveness of various forms ofcounselling in helping people with mental health problems. Its conclusions will beunwelcome news to the growing army of counsellors, now believed to run into tens ofthousands.
Counselling, a technique which involves sharing worries by talking themthrough, is now routinely offered after disasters of all sorts. The bereaved, theunemployed, the divorced and children from disadvantaged backgrounds are all considered tobe at high risk of suffering long-term damage unless it can be averted by counselling. Butthe study by the York centre concludes that "counselling by itself has not been shownto produce sustained benefit in a variety of groups at risk".
Among women who have had a miscarriage, none of the 3 trials into theeffectiveness of counselling showed a sustained effect. The same was true of bereavementcounselling. The report says it showed no effect on "quality of life, satisfaction orfrustration levels in people close to deceased cancer patients", and no difference indepression among spouses of people who had committed suicide. "There has been a rapidgrowth in the employment of counsellors, particularly within primary care," thereport concludes. "However, there is little evidence that generic counselling,provided by itself, is particularly effective. More attention needs to be given to thecontent and effectiveness of specific forms of counselling and the skills of counsellorsbefore this approach is extended too widely."
They did however find that certain sorts of psychotherapy, especiallycognitive behavioural therapy, can have good results.
Not surprisingly, the spokesman for the British Association forCounselling spoke out against the report. The Association’s directory of counsellors inprivate practice lists 2,500 names, up from 800 in 1988. About 60% of GP surgeries nowemploy counsellors, with 66% of their salaries paid by the NHS. Nobody knows how manycounsellors there are, but membership of the association is more than 15,000.
(London Times (19 Aug1997). ‘Some problems cannot beresolved by just ‘getting it all out of your system”, Nigel Hawkes)
Teenagers branded ‘sexoffender’ for life
Britain has a scheme called ‘schedule one’ offender,previously use as a label to identify those who pose a serious and ongoing threat tochildren. Now however prison governors have been instructed to give all offenders with anunderage victim this lifelong label. A schedule one offender can be banned from any futurecontact with children. This means that teenagers involved in sexual or violent offencesagainst other teenagers (for example those involved in teenage brawls) might receive thislabel.
When Janice Williams was 16 she ripped a chain from the neck of a 13year old boy. This resulted in her being branded schedule one. Now Janice is aged 19 andhas her own child. Because she is schedule one, however, she is barred from any contactwith her niece, which prevents her setting up home with her sister and child as theyplanned. She is devastated by the ban, and cannot understand why she is considered nothreat to her own child, but a danger to others.
(Christchurch Press (21 Aug 1997) ‘Abuse net too fine’)
British boy granted Canadian refugeestatus on basis of unsubstantiated abuse claims
An American woman claimed that her ex-husband (a British intelligenceofficer) had sexually abused their son from the age of 2 months. The woman had approachedvarious social services in Britain but clearly there was no evidence to support theallegations. The mother claims that her ex-husband’s family threatened to have hercommitted to a mental institution if she continued to make the allegations.
She remarried and went to live in the USA but her new partner wasdeported 2 years later and she entered Canada, where she lodged a refugee claim in Nov1994. She claimed that her son (now aged 12) needed to be granted refugee status on thegrounds that if he returned to Britain, the authorities could not be relied upon toprotect him from sexual abuse by his natural father. She produced as evidence a record ofher attempts to seek help from UK authorities, claiming that they had failed to assisther.
The Canadian Immigration & Refugee Board granted the boy refugeestatus on this basis.
(Guardian Weekly (27 Apr 1997). ‘Canada takes sexual abuseboy Britain ‘did not protect’, Owen Bowcot, 12)
Jury backs pseudo-science
In a worrying development in the USA courts, a jury awarded in favourof the plaintiffs against Dow Chemical. The women complainants all claim that they havedeveloped a plethora of health problems from migraines, memory loss, to joint and nervepain, which they believe have been caused by their silicone breast implants. Respectedinternational scientists testified to the court that there is no scientific evidence ofany link between silicone implants and systemic disease. However thousands of women havenow come to believe that these implants are the cause of their current problems, whateverthey are.
The jury chose to ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence and basedits decision on the emotional testimony of the claimants.
(Time (1 Sep 97). ‘Sleights of silicone’, 57)
$26 million compensation for wrongfulsexual harassment dismissal
In 1993 Jerold McKenzie, the manager of a brewing company in Milwaukeeasked a co-worker, Patricia Best, if she had seen the previous night’s Seinfeldprogramme, in which Jerry Seinfeld forgets the name of a woman he is dating but knows itrhymes with a female body part; finally he remembers that it is Dolores. When Best did not’get it’, he showed her a dictionary definition of clitoris. Best complained toher boss. McKenzie was fired for sexual harassment.
In July 1997 a jury awarded McKenzie $26.6 million compensation. Noneof the jury, which included 10 women, were offended by the Seinfeld story.
(Time (28 Jul 1997). ‘It was a joke!’, 58)
Violet Amirault has died of cancer
Sadly, we have heard news that Violet Amirault has died of stomachcancer, aged 74. Violet was accused of sexually abusing children at her Fells Acre DayCare, and who spent many years in prison with her daughter before winning an appeal andher release last year pending a retrial (see COSA newsletters Oct 1995; May & June1997). Her son still languishes in prison, despite the overwhelming evidence that theallegations against the family were the result of terrible injustice and fuelled by thesex abuse hysteria of the 1980s. The family have always maintained their innocence, and alarge body of supporters have been fighting for justice on their behalf.
(Boston Globe Associated Press (12 Sep 97) ‘Violet Amirault,dies at 74’)
Professor fired for sayingpaedophilia not inevitably harmful
Christopher Brand, a 27-year tenured psychology professor at EdinburghUniversity, became a source of discomfort to his university last year when he made publiccomments that racial differences in IQ are partly genetic (Science, 3 May 1996,p. 644). His book "The g Factor", on the scientific research on generalintelligence, was withdrawn from publication by Wiley.
In October 1996 he spoke out in defense of Nobel price winner CarltonGajdusek, convicted last year of paedophilia. Brand wrote in a personal online newsletterthat paedophilia is not always harmful to young males. He said that research suggestedthat consensual adult-adolescent contacts, where the younger partner was aged 12 or over,did not necessarily lead to negative outcomes. However, he did not defend paedophilia perse, and in fact stated that a behaviour could be "harmless" yet still be morallywrong in some sense. That statement prompted the university to suspend him, and now a3-person tribunal has recommended his dismissal for "gross misconduct" on thegrounds that his statement appeared to condone paedophilia. Brand is appealing thedecision on the grounds of academic freedom, which appears to be in short supply.
(‘Controversial Academic Gets the Axe’, Science (22 Aug1997), Volume 277, Number 5329)
How suggestible are pre-schoolchildren? Cognitive and social factors
Ceci S & Huffman M (Jul 1997). Journal of American Child &Adolescent Psychiatry, 36 (7): 948-958.
This paper describes a series of studies which investigate howsusceptible pre-school children are to suggestion. It was found that very young children(aged 3 and 4) were significantly more vulnerable to suggestion than those aged 5 and 6.While some types of events (eg negative, genital, salient) were more difficult to implantin children’s statements than others, all the events tested were able to beincorporated by some children into false memories.
Further, a significant number of the children appeared to internalisethese false suggestions and resisted debriefing, no matter how hard the researchers andthe children’s parents tried to get the children to accept that the fictitious eventsnever occurred.
The children’s false statements were convincing to professionals.Alarmingly, the several 1000 psychiatrists, social workers, lawyers and judges who watchedthe videotapes of the children being interviewed were unable to distinguish between trueand false accounts by the children.
Do therapist experience, diagnosisand functional level predict outcome in short term psychotherapy?
Propst A, Paris J, Roseberger Z (Apr 1994). Canadian Journal ofPsychiatry, 39: 168-176.
This study showed that patients improved with short-term methods oftherapy irrespective of what sort of therapist treated them or how experienced they were(psychiatrist, psychiatric resident, family practice resident or medical student). Thisfurther supports the evidence that a large percentage of benefit from psychotherapy restswith the placebo effect, and relates more to the positive attention given than thespecific techniques used.
Unusual flashbacks in a Vietnamveteran
Mayer P & Pope Harrison G (May 1997). American Journal ofPsychiatry, 154 (5): 713.
This is a case story of a Vietnam war marine who has regular flashbacksto wartime scenes, including being shot in the leg on the battlefield, an incident thatnever happened.
This indicates that no matter how compelling and consistent aflashbacks is of a traumatic event, it should not be assumed to represent fact. Even whenthe patient does suffer from bona fide PTSD, "flashbacks of non-existent events canalso occur and intermingle with flashbacks of real experiences".
Flashback phenomena in survivors ofchildhood sexual abuse: a four-stage treatment model
Muscar L & Josefowitz N (1996). Journal of ContemporaryPsychotherapy, 26 (2): 177-191.
This article assumes that flashbacks are accurate memories of realevents, an assumption not grounded in science.
Admissibility and per seexclusion of hypnotically elicited recall in American courts of law
Perry C (Jul 1997). International Journal of Clinical &Experimental Hypnosis, XLV (3): 266-279.
‘Data indicate that hypnosis increases productivity [ie amount ofrecall], but most of it is error. In addition, it increases confidence for both correctand incorrect material". This paper discusses the attempts to rescind the exclusionof hypnotically elicited testimony from US courts, and discusses the Daubert criteria inthis regard.
The Silence of the Screams: violence by women inintimate relationships
researched by Y Joakimidis.
Child Support Action Group (CSAG Inc), South Australia (1996).
This paper documents evidence that domestic violence is not justsomething that men do to women, and in fact it seems that women also inflict a high rateof violence on their male partners. Women also beat their lesbian partners and theirchildren. The evidence suggests that "battery seems to be a pathology of intimacy, asfrequent among homosexual as heterosexual couples".
Mothers are at least as likely as fathers to be responsible for thedeath of their child.
With respect to custody issues, the authors noted that children inintact 2-parent homes had significantly less problems than children in single or blendedfamilies, even if the marriage was not going well.
There is an increased risk of all forms of child abuse when a motherhas sole custody of a child, and following divorce, evidence suggests that the safestplace for children is with their biological fathers.
The authors conclude that the law should "serve the vast majorityof the fit and loving parents who simply want to be with their children" andadvocates joint custody when possible.
Creating false memories
Loftus, Elizabeth F. (1997) Scientific American, 277, 70-75
In this paper Loftus documents a number of high-profile cases (Cool,Rutherford, Hammane, Carlson) where patients developed false memories as a result ofquestionable therapy. She discusses her own research into memory distortion which goesback to the early l970s when she began studies of the "misinformation effect."This research demonstrates that when people who witness an event are later exposed to newand misleading information about it, their recollections often become distorted.
She also describes a study conducted by herself and colleagueJacqueline Pickrell in which they implanted in their subjects a false memory of a mildlytraumatic event that never happened. The event they chose was being lost in a shoppingmall as a child, and the memories were implanted by the use of suggestion. 29% of theparticipants remembered either partially or fully the false event constructed for them,and in the 2 follow-up interviews 25% continued to claim that they could remember thefictitious event.
While being lost in a shopping mall is not the same as being abused asa child, suggestion could also play a part in the construction of false childhood abusememories. Sometimes people are asked to imagine events during police questioning ortherapy. Loftus writes: ‘When trying to obtain a confession law officers may ask asuspect to imagine having participated in a criminal act… Some mental healthprofessionals encourage patients to imagine childhood events as a way of recoveringsupposedly hidden memories.’ She conducted research to test whether imagining achildhood event increases confidence that it occurred. In all cases studied, subjectsinvited to imagine certain events showed an increased likelihood of reporting that it hadreally taken place. This "imagination inflation" effect has also beendemonstrated in work done by Lyn Goff and Henry Roediger III of Washington University, whofound that the more times participants imagined an unperformed action, the more likelythey were to remember having performed it.
Some research indicates the construction of ‘impossiblememories’. For example, a procedure for planting "impossible" memoriesabout experiences that occur shortly after birth was developed by the late Nicholas Spanoset al at Carleton University. Saul Kassin and colleagues at Williams College investigatedthe reactions of individuals falsely accused of damaging a computer by pressing the wrongkey. They were able to get people to accept guilt for a crime they did not commit, andeven to develop memories to support their guilty feelings.
Loftus concludes: ‘Mental health professionals and others must beaware of how much they can influence the recall of events and of the great need formaintaining restraint in situations in which imagination is used as an aid in recoveringpresumably lost memories.’
Feminists and false memories" acase of postmodern amnesia
Scott S (1997). Feminism & Psychology, 7 (1): 33-38.
This author clearly believes that ‘False Memory Syndrome’does not exist, but that it is an explanation being used to deny the sexual abuse ofchildren in Western society. She says that "FMS is a dangerous idea to be on theloose".
The creation of Satanic ritual abuse
Bottoms B & Davis S (1997). Journal of Social & ClinicalPsychology, 16 (2): 112-132.
A comprehensive review of satanic ritual abuse allegations in the 1980sand 1990s indicates that these were largely unfounded. This paper explores the factorswhich may be responsible for the creation of ritual abuse allegations, including therapy(some forms of therapy and some therapists); socio-cultural factors (such as mediaportrayal of satanic cults, pop psychology books and social scape-goating) and individualfactors such as religious beliefs, suggestibility and vulnerability.
The authors call for more responsible media coverage of issues relatingto child abuse, more research to identify what factors contribute to false allegations,and better training of mental health professionals.
Rape & Sexual Abuse in New Zealand 1992 – 1996clients
National Collective of Rape Crisis & Related Groups of Aotearoa Inc (April 1997). ,Holdt & Associates Evaluation & Research Services.
This document is a summary of Rape Crisis statistics for the past 5years. Rape Crisis has logged the telephone, face-to-face and mail contacts that have beenmade where an allegation of sexual abuse or rape was made. They report ‘10,901 rapeor sexual abuse-related contacts logged’ between 1992 and 1996. All these cases arepresented as sexual abuse or rape survivors. There is no consideration at any point thatany of these complainants might not be victims of a sexual assault. There is no definitiongiven as to what Rape Crisis define as rape or sexual abuse.
Delayed traumatic recall in adults: A synthesis withlegal, clinical, and forensic recommendations
Beahrs J, Cannell J, Gutheil T (1996). Bulletin of the AmericanAcademy of Psychiatry & the Law, 24 (1) 45-55.
This paper discusses complexities in the psychotherapeutic, legal,clinical, and forensic use of delayed traumatic recall. Guidelines are proposed to clarifythe use of the term in each field, and to balance conflicting professional duties andpriorities, balance protection of children with defending legitimate social structuressuch as the family, and better use of an empirical understanding of human memory.
Memory, repression and child sexualabuse: forensic implications for the mental health professional
Corelli T, Hoag M, Howell R (1997). Journal of American Psychiatry& Law, 25 (1): 31-47.
Offers cautions to therapists assuming the validity of client’smemories, and discusses some legal precedents in the US.
Psychoanalytic Dialogues 1996 Vol 6(2)
This issue is devoted to a symposium on the False memory controversy,with opinions ranging from those of Jody Davies, who asks whether there is any proof that"a false memory of parental sexual abuse even exists" to Frederick Crews, whoexpresses scepticism about the reliability of recovered memories.
- Brenneis C. ‘Cause for skepticism about recovered memory: Commentary on papers by Davies and Harris’ 219-230
- Crews F. ‘Forward to 1896? Commentary on papers by Harris and Davies’, 231-250
- Stern D. ‘Dissociation and constructivism: Commentary on papers by Davies and Harris’, 251-266.
- Harris A. ‘Reply to Brenneis, Crews, and Stern’, 267-279.
- Davies J. ‘Maintaining the complexities: A reply to Crews, Brenneis, and Stern’, 281-294.
Issues In Child Abuse Accusations 9 (12) Winter / Spring 1997
This issue includes an article by Judith Adams on ‘Interviewingmethods and hearsay testimony in suspected child abuse cases: questions of accuracy’,which summarises interviewing techniques which may compromise the reliability ofchildren’s testimony, and suggests methods of increasing accuracy of interviews. Alsoin this issue is a paper by Jack Annon entitled ‘Guidelines for psychologists whoreceive a subpoena for their records’, which addresses the potential conflict betweenlegal requirements and issues of patient confidentiality.
Selected articles from Issues In Child Abuse Accusations areavailable on the Institute for Psychological Therapies website (link).
Multiple personality disorder: fact or artefact?
Sarbin T (1997). Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 10: 136-140.
Sarbin has conducted a review of the literature which ranges from thecredulous (usually therapists who explore with their patients the thoughts, feelings andactions of a number of discrete personalities residing in one person) who believe MPDresults from repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse; to the sceptics, who believethat MPD is a created artefact resulting from over-zealous therapy or exposure to literaryor media models.
The current literature favours the conclusion that MPD is artefactual.
Collective delusions: a skeptic’s guide
Bartholomew R (May / Jun 1997). Skeptical Inquirer, 29-33.
Bartholomew documents historical episodes of collective delusions(rapidly spread false but plausible, exaggerated beliefs that gain credibility within aparticular social and cultural context) such as mass flight panic in response toprophecies of destruction, witch hunts and communist invasion scares. He identifies anumber of contemporary examples, from Asian ‘koro’ epidemics (men convinced theyare victims of contagion that causes their penises to shrink) to delusional beliefs that acommunity has been gassed (such as the 400 dock workers in Auckland in 1973 who wronglybelieved that they had been exposed to a toxic chemical and came down with a variety ofpsychosomatic complaints.
He notes that "contemporary child-molestation and satanic-cultfears reassemble the persecution of various deviants and ethnic groups during the infamousmedieval European witch-hunts."
Breaking the cycle: an interagencyguide to child abuse
This is a review of the 1997 edition of the CYPS manual ‘Breakingthe cycle: an interagency guide to child abuse’. This manual is written for healthand education professionals and community workers to explain to them what they should doif they have concerns that a child might be being abused or neglected.
It explains the structure and function of CYPS, and then follows asection on the recognition of child abuse and neglect.
Sexual abuse is defined as "any act or acts that result in thesexual exploitation of a child or young person, whether consensual or not. It may include,but is not restricted to:
- Non-contact abuse
- Suggestive behaviours or comments
- Exposure to pornographic material
- Contact abuse
- Touching breasts
- Genital/anal fondling
- Oral sex
- Object or finger penetration of anus or vagina
- Penile penetration of anus or vagina
- Encouraging child or young person to perform such acts on perpetrator
- Involvement of child or young person in activities for purposes of pornography or prostitution."
It can be seen that this is an extremely broad way of defining sexualabuse.
A large number of indicators of possible abuse are listed, although thewarning is given that "most signs are non-specific to abuse". Self-mutilation issaid to be an especially strong indicator of sexual abuse.
The manual also discusses the concept of corrupting of children infamilies, where the corrupting influence might be exposure to sexually explicit materialor witnessing sexual acts. Corruption can also occur through involving the child or youngperson in other criminal activities.
Lists of instructions are given about dealing with suspected abuse andreporting it. Professionals are told that they must listen to the child and reassure themthat they have done the right thing by telling. The possibility that the suspicion mightbe wrong, or that a child might make a false claim, appears not to be considered.
In the section headed "What if I am not right?" we are toldthat that fear of being wrong is the most common reason why people decide not to act.People might have this fear because they are:
- "afraid of repercussions
- afraid of being thought insensitive
- afraid of breaking confidence
- afraid of being disloyal".
Readers are assured that "if we feel confident about recognisingthe signs of abuse and their significance we won’t be so afraid that we’ve gotit wrong". The possibility that on occasions we might really have got it wrong is notlisted. In other words, we are lead to believe that any fears we have that we might not beright about a child being abused are unfounded.
No-where in this section, or in any other part of this manual for thatmatter, does it address the possible damage that wrongful suspicions and allegations ofabuse can have on all concerned, especially the child involved.
The document explains that although it might be desirable for socialworkers to have parents’ permission to interview their children, this is notobligatory and not always appropriate (for example, when the parents are the allegedabusers). Social workers can ask permission from school staff to interview children, andif this is refused, they can apply for a warrant.
Counselling is viewed as an essential intervention for all children whohave been victims of abuse and their families. Readers are instructed to use ACC-accredited counsellors with costs to be met by ACC.
The manual warns workers to watch out for denial that abuse has beenoccurring by other agencies and professionals. It is claimed that professionals often donot want to believe that abuse is occurring because of the strong feelings it engenders inthemselves:
"The most common defences [by professionals] are denial andprojection. Denial is when, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, one or moreprofessionals is unable to see that abuse is occurring. Projection occurs when aprofessional or agency brings to blame another agency as though they were the cause of theabuse. The agency which originally refers the case often becomes the recipient of suchhostile projection. Denial and projection are powerful defences, and they are also thedefences used by abusing families. When participants at case conferences begin to use suchdefences, they are in some way mirroring the dynamics of the family whom they areconsidering."
While this might be true on occasions, the manual does not appear torecognise that in some cases, a professional or professionals and the families concernedmight be denying that the alleged abuse ever occurred because in fact it did never occur(in the sexual abuse field, denial tends to be seen as confirmation of abuse).
The manual is accompanied by a number of protocols for interagencychild abuse management. First there is a guideline to help voluntary agencies developtheir own protocols about reporting suspected abuse. The guideline includes the statement:
"Believing the child. When a child tells you about abusivebehaviour beyond the normal experience for their age perpetrated on them by a trustedperson it is most unlikely they are lying."
This is the only statement addressing the possibility of falseallegations, and effectively it is minimising the possibility that this could happen. Itdoes not address those many cases documented by COSA where children are not lying, buthave systematically come to believe that bad things have happened to them throughsuggestive questioning and other interventions.
A number of specific protocols from voluntary agencies follow. Most ofthese rely heavily on the CYPS guideline, and include the sentence above. The agencyguidelines presented are:
- Open Home Foundation
- Youth for Christ
- Children’s Health Camp Board
Of these, only Barnado’s protocol addresses the possibility offalse allegation. It states that when a Barnado’s caregiver, foster parent or staffmember is suspected of abuse:
- "it is important to minimise the impact of allegations and to allow a fair investigation
- if a person has a history of suspected child abuse or an allegation has been made against them or their household, Barnado’s would consider the individual’s case and base decisions on both the protection of the child and the person involved".
They also state that "justice and the rule of natural fairnessshould be observed for caregivers and foster parents".
Other protocols included are those for Crown Health Enterprises; theMinistry of Education and NZ School trustees; and the DSAC guidelines for child sexualabuse management in General Practice.
The DSAC guidelines include the following statements:
- "NZ studies show that child sexual abuse is very common in our society.
- Only a small percentage of cases are reported to the statutory authorities.
- Children rarely lie about allegations of sexual assault. However, false accusations can occur, for example, where there is adult collusion or when a child has experienced abuse in the past.
- False denials and recanting of history are not unusual.
- Sexually abused children experience feelings of guilt, self-blame, and worthlessness that have serious long-term consequences into adulthood.
- Forms of abuse that seem minor to an adult can have serious consequences for a child.
- Child sexual abuse is usually planned with the perpetrator selecting, grooming, and maintaining the child in a vulnerable situation. It does not often involve acts which result in physical injury to the child. In contrast emotional damage is inevitable and pervasive."
No references are given for these dogmatic statements. While they maybe true on occasion, research evidence indicates that only a minority of people developadult mental health problems from sexual abuse. That of course in no way condones suchoffenses. However, COSA has concerns about DSAC’s over-emphasis on the frequency thatchild sexual abuse occurs and the damage it causes, as this appears to be one of thecontributing factors to the iatrogenic damage we see.
In summary, much of the information and advice contained in the CYPSmanual ‘Breaking the cycle: an interagency guide to child abuse’. may beaccurate and useful where there has really been child abuse. However it fails toacknowledge the social problem of false allegations, and the devastating effect these haveon families. We are disturbed that anyone using this manual may get a distorted viewregarding the detection of child abuse and its management.
Gordon Waugh’s award-winning Letterto the Editor, North & South magazine, October 1997
" Let’s not kid ourselves. Allegations of sexual abuse are used asweapons, and as levers to gain advantage. They are commonly made by women exposed tocounselling, in child custody cases, for extortion, by children after suggestiveinterviewing, for vindictive or mistaken reasons, and to obtain ACC compensation. In thevery brief period from 1992-96, ACC handled almost 60,000 claims for alleged sexual abuse,and according to Rape Crisis, over 750,000 rapes were committed.
Illogically, sexual crimes are treated differently from others. Policebelieve complainants. The age-old requirement for corroboration was removed from theEvidence Act. A complainant’s previous sexual history is inadmissible. She cannot becross-examined at depositions. Complainants are "victims" and accused are"perpetrators" even before a trial. And that very essence of justice, apresumption of innocence, went out with the bathwater.
DI Doyle and others confuse opinion with fact. Opinion: "Thecriminal justice system has a series of filters designed to ensure innocent men are notprosecuted…." Fact: The 1,570 or so rape prosecutions in the years 1992-96 resultedin about 750 convictions, an unacceptable failure rate of 52%. Some filters are absent.
By saying "Our philosophy is that we set out to prove a complaintis true", DI Doyle declares a clear presumption of guilt. An investigator’s task isto find and balance evidence for and against allegations, from a neutral stance.
Too many trials hinge on witness credibility instead of credibleevidence. Too many lives have been devastated by false allegations of sexual abuse. It istime now to correct obvious systemic flaws. Police must do thorough investigations.Politicians must amend the law to reintroduce corroboration, allow trial without jury,establish a 5-year statute of limitation, automatically compensate those falsely accused,and penalise false accusers. And judges should more often exercise their prerogative toterminate trials where prosecution evidence is unreasonable, bizarre or impossible."
Newsletters received by COSA
FMS Foundation Newsletter Jul/Aug 1997, 6 (7)
Legal decisions, media coverage, articles about FMS issues.
FMS Foundation Newsletter Sep 1997, 6 (8)
This issue includes a long section about the NZ perspective and thedevelopment of COSA.
COSA offers a service to members of sending copies of FMSF newsletterat a cost of $30 per year (including postage).
Canadian FMS Support Groups newsletters Jun/Jul1997, 4(7/8) & Aug 1997, 5 (9).
FMS news and views from Canada and around the world.
Australian False Memory Association Newsletter (Jul 1997), 4(2)
Includes a detailed report on the FMSF conference in Baltimore, USA,March 1997 on "Memory & reality".
‘Integrating hypnosis with brief therapy’ & ‘Hypnosis andthe treatment of depression".
Two one-day workshops by Dr Michael Yakpo, 20 & 21 Sep 1997, VictoriaUniversity, Wellington.
Hosted by the New Zealand Society of Hypnosis, these workshops wereattended by about 40 health professionals, mostly doctors and psychologists.
Michael Yakpo is a strong advocate of using psychotherapiesdemonstrated to be effective and safe, and ones which can achieve the maximum gain in theminimum number of sessions. Treatment should be active, time-limited, focused on currentproblems, and aimed at symptom resolution. Therapies that work best are ones which do notexplore the past but which facilitate people to make changes to help them achieve theirgoals. The short-term therapies shown to be most effective are cognitive, behavioural orinterpersonal. These therapies focus on helping people change the way they think aboutthings, the way they act or the way they relate to others, in a direction designed to helpthem achieve their goals. Most people know what they want – what they need when they arestuck are strategies on how to achieve this. An emphasis on people’s history in explainingtheir problems is an inefficient and interminable form of treatment. Delving into the pastto come up with reasons as to why they have not achieved their goals will be singularlyunhelpful. Dynamic psychotherapy which explores people’s childhoods, encourages them toexperience their feelings (such as catharsis) and makes symbolic interpretations arelikely to lead to the worst possible outcome.
Treatment should offer clients direction – the concept of non-directivetherapy is illusionary, and all therapists will inevitably influence their patients. Yakposays that while therapists share a commonality of good intentions (they do not set out tocause any harm), many deal with highly ambiguous material and mistake their theories forfacts. In the last couple of decades there have been therapists advocating "trustyour feelings" without understanding that feelings can be self-deceptive. Thestrategy to learn is to know when you should trust your feelings and when you shouldignore them. There are times when it is important to be fully in the present (for example,at times of intimacy with someone you love), but there are also many occasions whencritical thinking and future planning are what is necessary. Every part of a person isvaluable at some point, some time – what is most important is the context. When peoplefeel stuck, when things are not working for them, when they have problems, often what ismissing is their accessing or developing the resources needed to deal effectively in thatcontext.
Yakpo does not focus on people’s weaknesses but their strengths. Heexplores what makes people healthy – what are the attributes and strategies of someone whomanages to cope with a difficult situation. This parallels my own belief with regard tosexual abuse victims – while some people do suffer devastating effects from childhoodmolestation, the majority of people appear to be able to live fulfilling lives withoutmajor psychological problems. We should be focusing on what people do who are resilient,who bounce back from adversity. Yakpo looks for attributes that are missing orunder-utilised, what is needed to help people get to where they want to go, what he termstheir experiential deficits. His therapy is solution-orientated. He assesses which part ofa person’s experience needs to be amplified, and which needs to be de-amplified. Heteaches strategies on how people can make decisions for themselves, on how to open up newways of feeling, thinking and behaving, new possibilities to which the person did not haveprevious access.
For example, he presented the case of a psychiatrist who was about tosit his Child Psychiatry board examinations for the 8th time. He had failed 7 times, butonly the oral part of the examination (he had passed the written part on the firstattempt). This man was intelligent, he had passed earlier medical examinations withstraight "A"s. To prepare for his Boards, he spent more and more time studying,learning material, a strategy which had always seen him pass exams (which had been writtenones) in the past. What this man did not realise was that passing an oral exam requirescompletely different skills to passing a written one. He was trying to pass by tryingharder to do the same things which had lead to his failure in the past – a strategy notlikely to be successful. What he had not seen was that he needed to do somethingdifferent. Oral examinations require certain social skills. The candidate is interactingwith two examiners who will ask questions but whose job it is to remain completely neutral- not to give any feedback as to how well or badly the examinee is performing. Our man wastaking this response personally, interpreting it as failure on his part, and thenreflecting his belief that he was failing in the way he responded to their questions, notonly with what he said but how he said it. What he needed was training in how to handlethis form of social interaction effectively and with confidence.
The content – the issues and details of a person’s past are notimportant; what is important are the processes, the patterns, they have been using. Thetask of the therapist is to identify how the client is generating the symptomaticexperience which is troubling them, and what they need to do to change this. There arealways more possibilities and choices than people may realise or access. Differentresponses will have different consequences. Every choice precludes other choices – wecannot have it all, but we can learn to make the most effective choices to achieve ourgoals.
Yakpo’s therapy is action-based. He teaches people to thinkstrategically. The structure of his therapy is:
- Identify specify concrete goals and place them in their appropriate order of priority
- Create a linear (step-by-step) sequence which will achieve these.
- Identify the specific life resources (abilities) needed, and which of these the client has that are no being accessed, and which need to be acquired through training.
- Make the learned response context-based ie specific to the particular task or goal to be attained.
Hypnosis is a useful tool to help people understand what they need tochange and to gain the skills required. Hypnosis has been called the "induction ofconviction" and hence it can help "fast-track" people to reframe theirexperiences and make effective changes in how they think, feel and do about things in thefuture.
As well as hypnosis, Yakpo gives clients homework exercises to helpthem learn new skills. For example, a patient who is very unobservant and is missingvaluable social cues in his personal interactions, might be told to go around hisneighbourhood to note down 25 things he had never noticed before. Instructions move fromthe general to the more specific, focusing down to the context or goal to hand. So, thenext home-work task for our unobservant individual might involve observing people in ashopping centre, and so on.
The second day of the workshop Yakpo focused on depression, which canbe treated using a combination of drugs and brief psychotherapy. Depressed people feelhelpless and hopeless. They usually blame themselves for the state they are in, believethat there is no way out, that things are not going to change and that it affectseverything they do. They ruminate about their lives – they keep dwelling about the badthings and feeling hurt. Therapy can help them move from this rigid stand to one offlexibility, to learn that the past does not predict the future, that things do change,and that there are ways of taking control and making choices which will lead to differentoutcomes.
Over the past couple of decades NZ health professionals have beenexposed to a preponderance of lecturers and ‘gurus’ teaching long-term therapy whichencourages people to recall and relive the bad things in their lives, to blame their pastsfor their current woes, and to get in touch with their feelings of anger and hurt. Thelatest seminar of sexual abuse of males, covered in this month’s editorial, illustratesthis clearly. Yakpo’s workshop presented a refreshing alternative paradigm. Therapy shouldbe aimed at helping people change their perspectives, to reframe the way they view theworld, the way they feel, the way they behave, to reduce or eliminate the symptomstroubling them and lead more fulfilling lives.
Constance Dalenberg, clinicalpsychologist
4 one-day seminars on ‘Transference & counter-transference intrauma focused therapy’, sponsored by DSAC (Doctors forSexual Abuse Care).
- Auckland 31 Mar 1998
- Wellington 2 Apr 1998
- Christchurch 6 Apr 1998
- Dunedin 8 Apr 1998
Another supporter of ‘recovered memories’, Dalenberg haspublished a study she conducted of 17 women patients who had recovered memories ofphysical or sexual abuse by their fathers while in therapy. She claims that the claimswere ‘corroborated’ by a sibling or by the father in a number of cases. This isone of the studies cited to support the validity of recovered memories.
(Dalenberg C (1996). ‘Accuracy, timing and circumstances ofdisclosure in therapy of recovered and continuous memories of abuse’, Journal ofPsychiatry & Law, 24 (2): 229-275.)