Monday, 14 May 2012

Doing Harm

There is an awful, awful case going through Court at the moment, for the second time.  Charlene Makaza, aged 10, died in 2007, from injuries the Crown say were caused by sexual violation.  The man accused of sexual violation and murder is her uncle, George Gwaze.

We know from the early Court reports on the retrial that the Crown is arguing Charlene's anal and vaginal injuries caused her death, and that because Mr Gwaze's semen was found in her underwear and bedsheets, the Crown believes Mr Gwaze caused those injuries by sexually assaulting her.

We also know that the defence for Mr Gwaze maintains his semen ended up on Charlene's underwear and bedclothes in the washing machine, and that her injuries came solely from her positive HIV status.

I would be interested in this case anyway - it's an occupational hazard - but because the medical advisor to Mr Gwaze in the first case was Felicity Goodyear Smith, I'm more than interested.

After the case was first trialled, Dr Goodyear Smith obtained a platform in the Sunday Star Times to explain why this case was not really sexual abuse.  I believe this was written by Donna Chisholm (though the article no longer names the author online), the same journalist who later wrote a North and South article so glowing the men's right website Menz scanned the pages to put them online.

So Dr Goodyear Smith has her admirers.

She also has her critics, because she has a longstanding history of arguing that "adult-child sexual contact" is not always harmful to children, including in her 1993 book "First Do No Harm."  This book also talks about false allegations of sexual abuse being common in child custody cases, and "false memories" being to blame for other allegations.

"False memory syndrome" is one of the great media beat-ups.  It does not exist.  The term was invented in 1992 by the False Memory Syndrome Foundation in the USA, a group of parents, mainly fathers, accused of sexual abuse.  They included Ralph Underwager, who was quoted in a Dutch paedophile magazine as saying sex with children was part of God’s will;  Pamela and Peter Freyd, whose adult daughter Jennifer told the media about her sexual abuse, believing her parents were doing unquestionable harm to abuse survivors; Paul and Shirley Eberle, who edited a child pornography magazine in the 1970s with explicit photographs of children and features like “Sexpot at five” and “My first rape, she was only 13.”
Dr Goodyear Smith is in frightening company in arguing that "false memories" are the cause of sexual abuse allegations.  Not surprising when you realise that her husband, John Potter, was imprisoned for indecently assaulting two under-age girls at Centrepoint.  John Potter runs the Men's Rights website Menz (where they publicise campaigns like "Kill the Family Court"), and is the son of Centrepoint founder Bert Potter, also convicted for sexual crimes against children.  Dr Goodyear Smith was Centrepoint's doctor, and says while she was aware of some "sexual contact" between adults and children at the commune, she wasn't aware of the extent of the child abuse.

She is also the founder of  COSA, Casualties of Sexual Abuse, a now defunct organisation that wants to see fewer convictions for sexual violence crimes because it argues many of those convicted are innocent.

I'll be interested to see if Dr Goodyear Smith gives evidence in the retrial of Mr Gwaze.   In describing her role as medical advisor for the first trial she said:
"It looked very damning, and very difficult. But when I went through it bit by bit and produced a timeline it all fell into place and then it became incredibly compelling that there was actually no crime. Even though there may be strange coincidences, there are explanations for all of it."
Will the doctor who didn't notice the sexual abuse at Centrepoint, who believes sexual contact with children isn't always that big a deal, who is anxious to stop the flood of false complaints imprisoning innocent people, win in court? We'll have to wait and see.

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