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mercredi 1er février 2006

It’s happening next door : from incestuous girls to alienating mothers

par Léo Thiers-Vidal, doctorant en sociologie

Écrits d'Élaine Audet

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From February 27th - March 1st , 2006, in Geneva : Sponsored by the Institut de Médecine Légale and the Parquet de Genève, and with the support of the Société Suisse de Psychologie Légale, the training titled : "Evaluation of the credibility of a child’s testimony in the framework of penal codes on sexual abuse.” This training will be lead by Prof. Hubert Van Gijseghem, a Belgian-Canadian psychologist who, according to many, represents one of the most reactionary viewpoints on violence against children.

On October 21st, 2004, Prof. Van Gijseghem has also held a “training” in Paris about a socio-legal tool that has been widely contested by anti-child crime and violence against women activists - “Parental Alienation Syndrome” (PAS). In order to avoid repeating the existing analyses on this subject, please refer to the French language text “Humanism, pedo-criminality and masculinist resistance", published on-line on : www.sisyphe.org/article.php3?id_article=1364 Sisyphe web site. I would like to quickly remind you that PAS can be considered an extremely effective tool against the testimony of women and children who disclose sexual abuse in the context of parental separation. PAS is often promoted by associations for separated fathers and their new girlfriends/wives as well as by certain trends in the social-education sector, represented in France and Belgium by the Revue d’action juridique et sociale - Journal du droit des jeunes (lit. Review of legal and social action - journal of the right of youth).

According to Pierre Lassus, psychoanalyst and director of the Union française pour le Sauvetage des Enfants (lit. French union for saving children), “The opinions [of Van Gijseghem] seriously undermine recent gains - that are both fragile and precarious - as far as preventing sexual abuse and caring for child victims are concerned.” In the article "The Faurisson of Abuse ?" Pierre Sabourin, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, family therapist and co-fonder of the Centre des Buttes Chaumont, writes, “It is once again negationism at work. Usually this method - the Faurisson method - attempts to prove the reality of a theory (crazy as it may be) by using every possible amalgam and confusion - it’s a place where intellectuals from both the extreme-right and the ultra-left can merrily come together - but with practices comparable to hard-core propagandaism.” Catherine Marneffe, doctor, pedo-psychiatrist, child and family therapist, founder and ex-director of the SOS-Enfants center of the Vrije University of Brussels states, “Professor Van Gijseghem is constantly caught in a state of confusion between confessing and uncovering abuse, confession being the term generally reserved for someone who is guilty, i.e. abusers. By saying ‘that it is necessary to allow the victim, after disclosure, to shut up’ he confuses silence about the sexual act itself with silence brought on by the impossibility to put into words all of the contradictory feelings due to the abuse and the context and that needs to be broken.”

More recently, Philippe D. Jaffé, psychology professor at the University of Geneva and president of the Société Suisse de Psychologie Légale (SSPL) had the following to say about one of the main ideological references of Van Gijseghem, “The first reason [behind the controversy] is the character that is Richard Gardner. Even if, as a hypothesis, PAS were the discovery of the century, the author is so peculiar that it is impossible to consider its pertinence without considering its messenger, some of whose theories are very debatable. The second reason behind the controversy is also linked to the character that is Gardner and to some of his affirmations, as well as to sociological considerations. PAS in its initial conception is a syndrome that mainly affected women as the alienating parent. PAS could be considered the backlash of certain men’s movements. Parental alienation is a concept that is often used by lawyers and/or unscrupulous parents and even has the seal of approval of several associations that are active in promoting fathers’ rights.”

However, today, the very same Philippe D. Jaffé, as president of the SSPL, supports the training hosted by Van Gijseghem and declared on December 5th, 2005 in the daily newspaper Suisse 24 heures Région La Côte, “Yes. During difficult separations, 90% of sexual abuse accusations are unfounded. It is a known syndrome called parental alienation. The parent brainwashes the child - sometimes in good faith - in order to get revenge on his/her ex. And that biases everything.” A rather sudden conversion to the “discovery of the century” for a psychologist who recently wrote, “parental alienation syndrome is not a syndrome and should be handled with much precaution.“ This conversion reveals a lot about the power of attraction that this ideological movement has as well as about the lobbies at work.

In France a pro-PAS association has recently emerged and works in close collaboration with the Ministère de l’Intérieur (Home Office) and separated fathers associations, mainly through work groups on “false allegations of sexual abuse.” A noteworthy fact is that among its founding members is a representative of the pagan extreme/new right ; this is noteworthy as it was also an adept of Celtic movements, who led a violent campaign against the psychotherapist Bernard Lempert, member of the Association pour la Formation à la Protection de l’Enfance - now Droit Et Soin (lit. “Right and Care”) - who has for several years opposed this reactionary movement. Moreover, this latter extreme right militant was a former member of the Front National (French extreme right-wing party), then member of the Troisième Voie movement (lit. “Third Way”) (radical extreme right) and the spokesperson for a small, autonomous Breton movement. In both cases, accusations of violence against children were brought about.

According to some observers, Prof. Van Gijseghem may have had a conversion similar to that of Philippe D. Jaffé after meeting an American pastor and psychologist, Ralph Underwager, inventor of “False Memory Syndrome” (which mainly attacks the testimony of adult women who remember sexual abuse during their childhood). Underwager was accused of sexual abuse by his own daughter and publicly defended pro pedo-criminal theories, calling on “pedophiles” to “proudly and courageously assert their choice.” Van Gijseghem appears to have met this pastor/psychologist in the early 90s during a trail in which both practiced their “other” profession, or perhaps we should say, who provided services as expert psychologists. If Van Gijseghem had initially recommended maintaining a bond with the father, he completely changed his tune when he told the judge that the daughter was in grave danger with her father. This fell in line with the expertise given by Ralph Underwager, who denied any sexual abuse against the daughter, thereby going against the word of the girl who said to have been the victim of sexual abuse on her mother’s side. Van Gijseghem changed his opinion without performing any new expertise on the girl or her father.

This is not the only “methodological” particularity of Van Gijseghem’s psychological expert testimony. In a 1993 trial, a man accused of sexually aggressing a 10 year-old girl (fondling and attempted rape) was analyzed by Van Gijseghem - he gave the man four obviously “scientific and objective tests, therefore non-projective” to fill out... in the comfort of his own home ! During the trial Van Gijseghem stated, “It is not very probable that M.S. committed the crimes that he is accused of [...]. My clinical flair did not make me see any danger.” Neither his clinical “flair” nor his “objective” tests seem to have worked very well as the accused man later turned out to be a repeat offender (in 1979 he was sentenced to 6 months of prison for the rape of a 15 year-old girl and also confessed to another rape in the Netherlands). The man in question, M.S., later confessed not only to the sexual assault of the 10 year-old girl but also to two other rapes. He was sentenced to one year of prison.

In another sexual assault case, Van Gijseghem applied his famous Rosenthal Syndrome analysis - the psychological version of a self-fulfilling prophecy - and said to have observed numerous “contaminations” in children’s testimonies and judged unreliable the accusations of fondling and sexual assault of 17 girls by a teacher. This was a serious professional error as in Canada an expert psychologist is not supposed to make statements on the credibility or reliability of a child’s testimony (as opposed to some European countries). The Canadian courts - up to the Supreme Court - confirmed the professional error committed by Van Gijseghem, stating, “the trial judge did not misunderstand the goal of the expert [testimony] nor did he abuse of his power by disposing of it.” The teacher was found guilty on 17 counts ; the assaulted girls were between 10 and 13 at the time of the crimes.

One last example also demonstrates Van Gijseghem’s attitude vis-à-vis his peers and the contempt expressed toward them - mothers or doctors - who did not share his views. Once again Van Gijseghem participated as a psychological expert “to verify the sexual abuse allegations and determine what access rights that the non-guardian parent [in this case the father] should have.” The father was accused of raping his 3 year-old son during a visit. The verdict stated “The doctor [Van Gijseghem] supports that it is not appropriate to believe the child’s testimony as he is incapable of describing in detail what really happened [sic !] as described in the case report.” He added, “In any case, it is generally impossible to prove or disprove allegations of sexual abuse.” [sic !] He suggested that the mother consult a psychologist as it was feared that her certitude that the child was abused would lead her to make other accusations. [...]. He maintained that she invented it all.” Bear in mind that the boy was sodomized on several occasions by his father and that the doctor who examined him reported “two lesions to the anus [...], an abnormal opening of the anus [...], the child lost his constriction reflex [...] and the anal mucous membrane is flattened”.

Van Gijseghem contested the report on the physical exam saying, “you should not give a lot of weight to this [report] because she [the doctor] sees abuse in most of these kinds of cases” and goes on to affirm that “the child could have stimulated or mutilated himself.” During a conference in Lyon a few years ago Van Gijseghem made an entire auditorium filled with psychologists, social workers and magistrates laugh when he said that one of his British colleagues diagnosed sexual aggression every time he noticed a constipated child. This was also the line of defense of the father accused in the aforementioned case... constipation. In light of the facts [revealed in the trial], the court declared “the total forfeiture of parental authority on child B... of father G...T...” [and even] ordered the state to modify the child’s birth certificate” so that he would no longer have to carry the man’s name. One can easily imagine what the decision would have been had the doctor not in time observed anal lesions and could only rely on the words of the child, “Daddy booboo bum with purple stick”.

Perhaps Van Gijseghem was putting into practice the old adage of his pastor/psychologist/master, Ralph Underwager, “It is better that a thousand children in abusive situations not be discovered than one innocent person wrongly condemned.” But Van Gijseghem seemed to have, along with his “methodologies”, other particular beliefs - according to him, “certain girls put objects in their vagina or vulva and hurt themselves, and this is not rare in girls” ; “nothing distinguishes children who revealed a secret from children who have kept quiet” ; “if [the child] feels the need to admit something, he will do it”. Numerous observations of his writings reveal these types of particularities, along with many others, but few have taken notice of one of his older articles, written when Van Gijseghem was 35, entitled “Father-Daughter Incest”. In reading it, his conversion to the school of Underwager and Gardner begins to make sense. At the time, Van Gijseghem was studying delinquent girls and, within theses studies, he started studying “incestuous girls”. Please find below a few statements ofthis article, in which the words used are particularly revealing of the reactionary ideology that was already adopted at the time.

“According to a representative sample of 186 girls, taken in institutions for young delinquent Franco-Canadian girls, we find 52 girls who have had incestuous contacts with their father (biological or adoptive). This means that 28% of these delinquent girls knew their father as a sexual object.” “Within this population, we have found 52 girls who have been involved in incestuous dealings with their biological or adoptive father.” “Among these 52 girls, there are 22 whose incestuous relations with the biological father began before puberty, these relations lasted continuously or intermittently during a prolonged period of up to several years.”

“The prepubescent girls do not usually resist the father’s advances and this ends up as a long-lasting relationship. Incest can sometimes end at the onset of puberty, at the wish of one or both partners ; sometimes though, incest can go on for an undetermined period.” “The group is made up of 22 girls who began having incestuous relations with the father at an age that one could qualify as ‘prepubescent’, which can vary between two and twelve years-old.” “It is true that to the observer these girls who are ‘victims’ of incest, though very often if, in the beginning, they do not already seduce the father, they end up manipulating him as they want. Incest becomes for them a powerful way to exploit the father, blackmail him, receive money or favors and, sometimes, get him incarcerated.”

“The rate of homosexuality could be explained by the hypothesis that the incestuous [ones] would have had a more primitive psychosexual development and, in turn, would be sexually more undifferentiated.“ “Generally, incest seems to be an event that marks a girl’s life which, in almost all cases, leaves irreversible psychic wounds.”

The training of magistrates, psychologists and other professionals in the Geneva area could be contributing to keeping numerous children in violent situations, criminalizing numerous “alienating” women and exonerating numerous sexually aggressive men. This is maybe one of the actual consequences of th Outreau affair, which demonstrated the rise in popularity among the media and the state of this reactionary movement - converted to the ideology of “false allegations”, “parental alienation syndrome”, “false memory syndrome”, “Rosenthal syndrome“, etc. As the Swiss journalist Pascale Zimmerman announces, “While the Outreau affair ends up in a terrible fiasco and presents the problem of credibility of children’s declarations [sic !] in the courts, a training for psychologists is starting up in Switzerland. The first classes started this past weekend in Sion. This is an interview with one of the main designers of the project, Philippe Jaffé, professor of psychology at the University of Geneva, as well as at the Institute of Criminology and Penal Law at Lausanne.” A certain “flair” tells me that the future is far from reassuring, at least for some.

Let’s conclude with a statement by Gérad Lopez, psychiatrist, medical director of the psychotherapy center at the Institute of Victimology in Paris and teacher at the University of Paris XIII in the department of forensics, “The analysis of perverse strategies and the evaluation of strengths and weaknesses at hand is a difficult and perilous undertaking. Considerable efforts need to be deployed to overcome ones own resistance and that of others when confronted by ‘unthinkable violence’. All victims of emprise [to have a mental hold on] encounter incomprehension in their entourage and in all contacts they have with institutions. This makes them doubly victim. These massacred children do not hope for any help from the outside. They know that adults often keep quiet, even when they show up to school covered in wounds. Thousands of adults’ testimonies confirm : denial has thick skin.”

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On Sisyphe, March, 2006

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Léo Thiers-Vidal, doctorant en sociologie

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  • It’s happening next door : from incestuous girls to alienating mothers
    (1/1) 12 septembre 2008 , par

  • It’s happening next door : from incestuous girls to alienating mothers
    12 septembre 2008 , par   [retour au début des forums]

    This comment is going to be in English as I do not speak French even though I live in Quebec. When I was very young, approx 3 yrs old, my mother’s brother molested me, that did not come out till I underwent hypnosis to determine why I was having relationship problems. When I was 9 or 10, I am not sure, my father started molesting me until I was 15 yrs old. My mother, I am sure, knew what was going on but because she had her own agenda, did not do anything until she was good and ready to. Now, at age 64, I am filled with so much hatred for that woman, I moved 2,000 miles away and broke all ties with family members because I was sacrificed for her wants and needs. While your article was interesting, nothing was covered about the deep psychological scars that occur. I have been married 3 times, divorced twice and was going to divorce the third one when he died. I have had problems all my life, could not hold down a job for any length of time, my temper has to be controlled with drugs, I fight authority every step of the way. In short, my life has been hell. I no longer care who knows about this situation, in fact I am thinking of writing my story and having it published for all to read and I will be using the real names of the people involved. What little attention I received was nothing more than a bandaid, there was more attention concentrated on keeping the family together. In short, this experiment was a total failure. What my father did was bad enough, my mother is a monster, she mentally and psychologically abused me for years after. I finally sat down and wrote her a letter telling her exactly what I thought of her because I was hoping for closure, I never got it, doubt I ever will, so I live from day to day trying to keep from letting this piece of garbage from destroying my life any more than she already has. I have tried so hard to get over this, not for her sake but for mine. I don’t want to leave this earth with these feelings. I am more important than that. So, I send you this comment, there should be more attention paid to not just children but adults who went through this at a time when what little so called help did not do any good.

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