An organisation founded in 1994 to help fathers accused of sexually abusing their children is winding down, saying the “epidemic” of allegations has ended thanks to its work.

Cosa (Casualties of Sexual Allegations) was formed by Auckland general practitioner Felicity Goodyear-Smith. It fought a wave of allegations in the 1990s stemming from counselors using the now largely discredited “recovered memory” theory to make adults recall childhood abuse.

“Recovered memory” cases spread across America in the 1980s and then to New Zealand in the 1990s.

Research by academics such as University of Washington in Seattle psychology professor Elizabeth Loftus, who visited New Zealand in August, raised serious doubt that memories “recovered” by such therapy were genuine.

When the number of cases dropped rapidly late last year, Dr Goodyear-Smith resigned as president and Cosa was split into North and South Island branches.

Cosa (North) liaison officer Gordon Waugh said yesterday that only one recovered memory case had been referred to the organization in the past year and it was time to close down. At the height of what he called an epidemic, hundreds of men were seeking Cosa’s help each year.

Cosa (North) closed in October. The South Island branch is still going.

Mr Waugh credited the fall in recovered memory allegations to Cosa’s work in educating the public, lawyers, politicians and professionals about what he called the flawed beliefs behind the theory.

“A small handful of true believers still cling doggedly to their beliefs, but they have clearly isolated themselves from mainstream knowledge and understanding,” he said. “It has been a long battle which should never have been necessary to fight. Sensible people now accept that recovered memories, multiple personality disorder, satanic ritual abuse and all the associated trappings was a dangerous fad with no scientific or common-sense basis.”

From The Dominion, Friday October 27

Recommended Posts