Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Fringe of Darkness

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  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Kyle MacDonald,

    I heard a rumour they were friends, but have no idea if that was true.

    New Zealand is a very tiny country.

    How many degrees of separation?

    How many stories get into the media because the protagonist 'knows' someone in the industry?

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle MacDonald,

    Yes exactly. It is much less damaging and misleading to describe these cases as a failure of interviewing children appropriately, as opposed to being evidence of a syndrome whereby children falsely recall sexual abuse.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 82 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Francis, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Absolutely, Felicity Goodyear-Smith has credibility.

    She and others have made the point that there can be a reluctance by some to appear as expert witnesses in cases of alleged child sexual abuse. That is unfortunate.

    FGS says:

    "I have acted for both the Crown and the defence as an expert witness or medical advisor in cases involving allegations of sexual assault. I have always acknowledged that sexual assault occurs and have never condoned it. I have no desire for guilty people to escape punishment. However the basic premise under which I have always operated is that both true and false allegations occur. I believe in the overriding tenet of innocent until proven guilty and that people are entitled to a fair trial."

    Wairarapa • Since Apr 2012 • 26 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Francis,

    The above came from Felicity Goodyear-Smith's website.

    http://goodyearsmith.com/

    Wairarapa • Since Apr 2012 • 26 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Francis,

    writing academic papers about, for instance, how it is “possible” to contract STI’s as a child without sexual contact. (seriously)

    Not STIs in general but gonorrhoea specifically. And it seems she is correct.

    "It is important that all cases of N gonorrhoeae in children be fully investigated for sexual abuse, and reported to the relevant child protection authorities. There is no doubt that almost all gonococcal vaginal infections in prepubertal children are sexually transmitted, and this may include those previously reported as non-sexual. However it is also accepted that cases of non-sexual transmission of N gonorrhoeae in children do occur, but proof beyond all doubt can be very difficult to document scientifically."

    http://sti.bmj.com/content/80/4/327.1.full

    Wairarapa • Since Apr 2012 • 26 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard, in reply to Ross Francis,

    I have no desire for guilty people to escape punishment.

    I'm sure this is quite true. But I'm not convinced that Dr GS's view of what counts as guilty would accord with what most people in society, and indeed the justice system, would count as guilty.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle MacDonald, in reply to Ross Francis,

    The above came from Felicity Goodyear-Smith's website.

    http://goodyearsmith.com/

    With regards to her credibility, this also comes from her website:

    "It was believed that children should be given positive messages about sex. Adult contacts were not hidden from children. Children and adolescents were not discouraged when they demonstrated an interest in sexual activities including sexual contact with adults... ...I was the doctor for the community from 1989 until 1992."

    Three things:
    1. Sexual contact with minors was indisputably illegal at the time (regardless of what people may have "believed" was good or bad)

    2. There was ample evidence at the time of the detrimental effects of sexual contact with children on their ongoing psychological development.

    3. Medical professionals have a duty of care, and ethical requirement to report, suspected sexual abuse of minors.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 82 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle MacDonald, in reply to ,

    The new Sensitive Claims system, (which was an outcome of the 2009 fallout, and subsequent ministerial review, of which all professional bodies including psychotherapists helped design) is now fully funded, hence no surcharge payable by the client.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 82 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    But I’m not convinced that Dr GS’s view of what counts as guilty would accord with what most people in society, and indeed the justice system, would count as guilty.

    The Fringe is being fanned....

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Ross Francis,

    There are different standards of evidence for determining
    “do we have enough evidence of abuse that this child needs protection?” and
    “do we have enough evidence to conclude this person is guilty of abuse?”
    It’s a distinction that FGS deliberately blurs – which may give her “credibility” among (accused) offenders, but definitely not with victims.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1941 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Francis, in reply to Kyle MacDonald,

    Kyle

    You've omitted a fairly important comment from FSG's description of her time at Centrepoint.

    "Subsequent trials for sexual abuse leading to convictions of Bert, my husband John and five other members of the community related to events in the late 1970s and early 1980s. John left the community in 1985 and I met him a year later."

    Wairarapa • Since Apr 2012 • 26 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle MacDonald,

    No, I understand she presents the timeline in such a fashion as to minimise her involvement.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 82 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald,

    Look!

    A genuine fan!

    Membership of the club based on what?

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    Oh. Yes. Good point.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Francis, in reply to linger,

    There are different standards of evidence for determining
    “do we have enough evidence of abuse that this child needs protection?” and
    “do we have enough evidence to conclude this person is guilty of abuse?”
    It’s a distinction that FGS deliberately blurs – which may give her “credibility” among (accused) offenders, but definitely not with victims

    I'm not sure that's a fair characterisation of FSG's position. As an expert defence witness, she would certainly be involved with cases where there might be insufficient evidence of abuse. I'm not sure she would be involved with possible abuse cases where children need protecting.

    Wairarapa • Since Apr 2012 • 26 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    A 2009 story notes the result of thwarted police inquiries for a decade.

    The police interviews, while failing to secure any arrests or close the commune, drove the abuse underground.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Sacha,

    All hail the good ship google, and all who sail in her.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    though Dr Google is my favourite member of the family for entertainment.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • lynne walker,

    This is all so tough to read.especially as the one who reads like an apologist for some of what happened. There is so much evidence about effects on children of sexual abuse and so obvious of the power imbalance between the adults and children I am really struggling to see how anyone can defend it. Guess it's time to stop reading now

    Auckland • Since Jan 2011 • 23 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Yeah, can I ask people to not directly quote material here that might be distressing for some of our community? Especially if you can link to it. I'm not quite sure of the relevance of bringing some of it to this discussion: if you can google it, it's a matter of public record.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    At least this discussion of FGS' stance - apparently she's NZ's own MZB, but with professional clout - has helped put paid to the "fact" that all women are intrinsically more protective.

    Perhaps there are fewer female perpetrators of child sexual abuse, but CP demonstrates there still are some, and plenty more who are enablers. We all know of women who are utterly in thrall to their appalling partners (it's not gender-exclusive, of course), and they can engage in aiding, minimising, normalizing, participating in and covering up vile acts.

    Regarding publication of the work itself, while I heartily dislike "misery porn", I think a thorough and journalistic look at the circumstances that led to this abuse taking place, how it was perpetrated, and dealt with, including the voices of victims and perpetrators, would be a useful thing.

    Focussing on the main perpetrator's "origin story" would be looking from the wrong POV, on this occasion. Most of the victims are still alive, for one, and deserve to be heard, if they wish to speak.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Sorry. Edited now to isolate the relevant sentence for our denialist.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to TracyMac,

    We all know of women who are utterly in thrall to their appalling partners (it’s not gender-exclusive, of course), and they can engage in aiding, minimising, normalizing, participating in and covering up vile acts.

    I'm a bit uneasy with this notion of "utterly in thrall"? I interpret that as you think the reason some mothers expose their children to these dangers (which is a different thing to being/becoming an enabler, but part of a continuum), has all/most to do with their own needs/desires for intimacy in a relationship? That of course is the type of conclusion one could come to when just reading the court reporting on these crimes and asking ' where was the mother in all of this'? But I wonder whether it is that black and white. I guess I believe that the in-built/natural nurturing and protectiveness qualities of the female of our species exists in every woman/mother - and that that quality it is interrupted/undermined (one could use many terms here) for many, many different reasons that we just do not have a good grasp on presently. It is an area where I think far more research is needed.

    Given there are so many cases where a mother is not the abuser but who is physically present in her child/children's life at the time that trauma/harm occurs, I do think we need to understand far better the reasons why these mothers failed to recognise/act/etc. to protect their child/children. We can then give all young adults and new parents the best and most appropriate knowledge and strategies with the aim of far better prevention of child abuse going forward.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to TracyMac,

    Focussing on the main perpetrator’s “origin story” would be looking from the wrong POV, on this occasion.

    And tbh, some of the interviews Bert barely comes up, and when he does, he's tangential. I guess, I just don't find him very interesting. But all the people around him, the bystanders, the enablers... Like Louise said when she got the letter, "What about the other 140 people? Where were they?"

    And how many of the people who weren't Bert would ever have done the things they did if they hadn't been in an environment where that behaviour wasn't just normalised, but actively encouraged? That's why the whole concept of Evil fails me. I've listened to hours of John Potter talking, and believe me the impression I got of him was not favourable, but... he was Bert's son. He grew up surrounded by this stuff. What chance did he ever have of a normal life?

    That's not to excuse the things in any way. It's an attempt to understand how it happens, what role group dynamics play.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to TracyMac,

    Most of the victims are still alive, for one, and deserve to be heard, if they wish to speak.

    I don’t disagree that those wanting to be heard should give voice their sorrows, hurts, anguish, anger, trauma etc.if they feel that might assist their own healing. I think there are many venues to do this already – I think somewhere above in this thread that Rosemary linked to one such blog site where other vicitms of child sexual abuse have told their story.

    The question for me is in the form of telling Centrepoint’s full story for general media consumption and attempting as a journalist to bring a balanced perspective to what was essentially one preditor’s vehicle for practise. The opening line of the article is a case in point:

    As a reporter, I wanted to explore how a utopian dream could turn into a collective nightmare and normal people end up as convicted paedophiles.

    Really? Does the reporter fully believe that Bert Potter wasn’t a paedophile when setting up the commune and that others eventually convicted weren’t always paedophiles but rather were “normal” people? What evidence was gathered to come to this conclusion?

    So, “the story” to me starts out on a false premise – or at least one which is unproven (and to me, objectionable). But, that is journalism – it isn’t academic study – so no criticism intended, it is just what it is.

    The problem I have with this journalistic approach – as emerged in this thread – is that side of the story that was/might have been seen to be ‘beneficial’ for some (positive references to wanting to know more about a sexual technique commonly used in the community, for example). I imagine any number of individuals who were illegally sexualised by this organisation who are still alive today feel, not only un-traumatised, but more sexually fulfilled in later life as a result. Some of them might even have grown into paedophiles as well, with urges/tendencies that they either look to fulfill or attempt to repress.

    I just don’t think those traumatised need to hear these “positive” stories (and the outside opinions of those of us reading this public account). And in fact I imagine hearing them may only worsens the struggle for some. They might ask, why was I affected differently – there must be something wrong with me.

    But by all means victims who want to should be able to tell their story – as per the Massey study – for the purposes of social learning (as opposed to wider media/public consumption). Hence, the emphasis I spoke of with respect to the involvement of clinicians and academics/criminologists if such an account is to be comprehensively told. I’m not saying the author/journalist should abandon the project, rather that the evidence gained through interviews should be used for a re-framed project/study – a collaboration with specialists/professionals in the field of child sexual abuse.

    As for the perpetrators and enablers telling their side of “the story”? To my mind, their only platform should be the courts. Many convicted could likely be tried on new charges, and why not.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

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