Monday, September 19, 2016

More False Accusations of Sexual Abuse: Rob Harley's Proposal to TVNZ

Rob Harley, who did the Assignment story on the Glenelg families back in the 1990s, followed that up with another proposal for a documentary on false accusations of sexual abuse in Christchurch at a special ward at Christchurch Hospital. This is his outline. The health professionals are not named for legal reasons, but these are the real names of the families involved who want their story told.

Christchurch, Winter 2010.

The atmosphere in the Christchurch hotel room is very tense.

Two young women in their early thirties sit on either side of their mother, and both make only occasional eye contact with others in the room.

With a brief prompt, one begins to relate a story of horror – of a childhood and a family life ripped apart by overzealous doctors and therapists.

Joanne Fraser tells of the time that a female doctor told her to disrobe in a hospital ward, conducted an internal examination, and then told the trembling nine-year old that she appeared to have “enjoyed” the invasion of her young body – providing incontrovertible “proof” that her father had sexually abused her.

Joanne knew it was a preposterous lie. Nonetheless, the doctor insisted her father had interfered with her, and called the bewildered child a “slut” for having allowed it to happen.

Tears are flowing freely in the room now. Joanne’s Mum Margaret pulls her daughter close. This is the first time she has heard this revelation.

Dabbing her eyes, seeking to gain some composure, Joanne’s older sister Teresa nods and says much the same thing was done to her by the doctor.

Moreover, that upon Teresa’s admission to Christchurch Hospital’s Ward 24 for “treatment”, Teresa, then aged eleven, had been made by therapists to wear a small but very heavy backpack for up to eight hours a day.

“I was told this backpack – which was full of wooden blocks – was my ‘burden’,” Teresa tells her family. “The staff would tell me that if I were to disclose something about my Dad abusing me, then they would take a block out of the bag. Sometimes when I wasn’t co-operating, more blocks would go in.”

By this stage, Margaret is beside herself. She knows how dreadfully hard it has been for all her family since the utterly false allegations were made about her husband in 1988, but she never fully understood the toll it had taken on her girls.

The Fraser family sit and quietly absorb the body-blows of these fresh disclosures. The youngest child, Michael, aged 27, grimaces in his seat – hurting, physically a lot more than his older sisters today.

His jaw and three ribs, freshly broken in a fight last week with a distant relative, who at a family funeral called his father a “kiddie-fucker,” then handed him a severe beating.

This is just one of as many as a dozen broken families, who lost innocence, hope, contact with their loved ones, and in several cases even life itself, because of a single-minded and misguided obsession.

Children to Ashes, Fathers to Dust.


In the late 1980’s a number of families – mostly in and around Christchurch – were ripped apart by accusations of child sex abuse.

Two doctors – one a psychiatrist, the other a supposed child health specialist, engineered the removal of probably in excess of 20 children from their parents.

The reason: the child health specialist believed she had a revolutionary new way of proving that kids – especially girls – had been sexually abused.

The technique she used has now been internationally discredited, but the damage remains.

The children concerned – who were aged between five and seven years old at the time - are now emerging from the darkness to which they and their families were consigned.

Many of them have suffered major mental trauma as a result of having been taken from their parents – all carry the scars. At least two of the wrongly accused fathers died in their forties – their children convinced their hearts and health were broken by the accusations.

The paranoia about sexual abuse in Christchurch at that time, finally had its sequel in the infamous Christchurch Creche affair, - a story which divided a nation, and finally made us start to ask if we hadn’t been too zealous.

The “stolen” children are now adults, and they are fighting mad. The passage of 22 years has done nothing to diminish their adamant denials that they were never sexually abused by their fathers.

The awful irony is that some of these people were placed into foster care where, they allege, they suffered the exact abuse their fathers were falsely accused of perpetrating.

Some of the former victims of the diagnosing doctor have ended up in tragic situations in respect to their health and lifestyles.

The tales are literally like something plucked from the pages of Charles Dickens.

In thirty years of making TV programmes I have yet to come across a more ghastly situation. That it could have happened in Aotearoa defies belief. 
Those who were falsely diagnosed as having been abused would – in an ideal world - confront the doctor who tore their families asunder, the policeman who told their Dads to get a gun and shoot themselves, to save the courts the expense of a trial, and a system which has shrugged its shoulders at their pain.

Also left in the wake of this affair, a number of frightened health professionals and others whose own attempts to stop what was occurring in the eighties, were met with threats, intimidation, and jacked-up claims that they were probably child abusers too.

Those who perpetrated what are now generally acknowledged as having been terrible breaches of natural justice, have never been called to account.


  1. After numerous injunctions and threats of legal proceedings against us... this is the first time in 30 years that my family has finally been allowed to speak publicly about this outrageous debacle that has ruined the lives of countless innocent children and families for more than 30 years.
    Dr - and I use that term loosely - Karen Zelas, and Dr - again loosely used - Dianne Espie, ruined my families lives and the lives of many other people over the years, for no other reason except they were incompetent. They, along with countless other people who willingly went along with their preposterous proceedings need a damn good reality check when it comes to acting in 'the best interests of the child' or even acting with any sense of moral social decency.
    The only thing I hope that happens for these people, is that before each of them go to their graves, they are confronted with the magnitude of devastation their actions caused to countless families, and they are made to pay recompense for their ineptitude and absolute disregard for moral decency. May you all finally get what you deserve in the end.

  2. About time. Special thanks to Rob Harley for this story, we can now vent our disgusting treatment by so called profesionals.

    Heather Broadhurst, so called expert in disclosure(2nd year preschool worker) 40+ hours of discloure per child before the slightest hint of abuse,

    Dr Bill Ritchie Ward 24, expert witness for CYFS, telling next witness what to say next in family court, then agreeing in court that witnesses are un biased.

    Brent Hyde Detective, "i'm going to add chargers just so you get publicity. If i was you i'd go home and shoot yourself save the courts".

    CYFS for removing our children and placing them in their care WHERE they were sexually abused.
    CYFS again for there dogged belief they were right.
    There is so much more this is the tip of a titanic iceberg.

    But thanks to A small group of people(they know who they are) and Deborah for starting this lets hope now they jump in and comment further.

    PS something ironic "After all this CYFs and the Family Court have placed 3 of our grandchildren in our Care but wont admit they made a mistake 30 yrs ago.

    1. Ps there is a letter from the then DSW minister Jenny Shipley saying Heather Broadhurst was not to be used anymore in court as she "fabricates evidence".

    2. Heather Broadhurst/Chambers fabricates evidence... I could believe that... that woman is downright crazy... her and that damned monkey puppet she kept shoving in my face... and the disgusting things she did with 'anatomically correct dolls' in front of young children, would put a porn star to shame. Sheesh

    3. Another bit of interesting information, all this result in 2 court cases, 1st in the family court, which in New Zealand means that none of the information needs to be true no matter how bizzare as long as its even slightly possible.
      And 2nd in the High court where after ALL the evidence was discredeted i was found NOT GUILTY on all charges and even the foreman and members of the jury came to me in front of my Lawyers and shook my hand and said "SUE THE BASTARDS".
      You only have to read the chch creche case to read how Bizzare some of the claims can be.
      I/We now have all our Family back, But this has effected our whole family emotionally, no-one has even attempted to rectify this.
      Some will know we are at present Still fighting for the rights of children today after we discovered inappropriate touching and bullying going on at our Grandchildrens school, incorrect rumours are running rife in the Area , trying to evade the real issue that BULLYING etc is going on in our lives and NO-ONE wants to admit or god forbid DEAL with it.

    4. Yes it does have to stop Keith. There is an element of corruption in the system. Public servants protecting PUBLIC SERPENTS.

  3. I am honestly having trouble coming to terms with what these people did to your family. Disgusted this could happen and yet today in some cases authority will turn a blind eye when it is brought up, particularly in schools. I got shouted down at a meeting by a principle, BOT member and a police youth aid officer. The ones who hide abuse these days are as sick as those people back then, corrupt mongrels.

  4. The public of New-Zealand have not even heard the half of it I personally recall Karen zelas being guest speaker at a conference for Social workers at Canterbury university.She walked onto the stage like some sort of demi god..And everyone present, except myself stood up and clapped her in to her speech on" First do no harm "..That was the atmosphere during her role as chair of the child protection team...Pity she didnt pay due dilegence to her own propaganda..What a noble cause "The safety of children".We all so desperately want that, do we not..So what went so terribly wrong,No body questioned her..She was the expert was she not...!!!The whos who, all with their noses in the feeding trough,of funding.The rich gravy train of child protection. I can tell you, not even Mother Teressa could have escaped that bunch of abusers.They collectively have blood on their hands, and it aint over till the fat lady sings.Nothing less than a ministerial inquiry,promised all those years ago by then prime minister.And then it would have to be off shore. Who would trust the system that failed all those families in the first place.

    1. Proof exists that Dr Zelas commited what i would call FRAUD, when in the late 80's she was recieving monies from the COURTS, CYFS or ACC for Counselling of abused children, a LOT of these sessions resulted in the children going to her office for Counselling and sitting with her secretary for the whole session because Dr Zelas was overseas.SHe was PAID Very Nice Money for these sessions from the Govt, while on holiday,All thjat is required is for people to LOOK. Cross referencing Travel DATES with theses session payments will confirm this. it was all a BIG MONEY GO-ROUND in those days.

    2. I know that is true.

      I went to see Karen Zelas when I was 10 for what were supposed to be 'counselling' sessions. The sessions were supposed to be an hour long.

      I went for the first session and she did most of the talking, telling me how much I could trust her, and that she was there to 'help' me deal with what had happened to me. I remember asking her what I needed help with and she told me that I needed help to deal with my father abusing me. Whenever I tried to tell her that my father never abused me and that I was confused why everyone was telling me that he had, she told me that I was just in denial. As soon as she told me that I was simply in denial I knew that I couldn't trust her at all because she wasn't prepared to listen to me.

      The following session I turned up and Karen wasn't even there, I spent the whole hour sitting with her secretary helping her with filing.

      The next sessions were pretty much hit and miss as to whether she was there or not. I would say she wasn't there for the majority of the sessions. I started taking a deck of cards with me so I would have something to do because my Grandfather used to just drop me off at the door on the ground floor of the old St Elmo's Courts building, and come back in an hour to collect me. (I actually hated seeing that building for years afterwards because of the bad memories it used to bring back, and I was relieved when it came down after the earthquakes).

      At my final session she was actually there. I was playing solitaire and she got annoyed with me because I wouldn't talk to her, so she gave me a Barbie doll and a firetruck and told me I had to play with instead so she could 'observe me'. I told her I wasn't interested in playing with them and was fine with my cards.

      She told me that this was supposed to be play therapy and she needed to see how I interacted with the toys she gave me... I told her I thought she was weird but she kept insisting that I play with those toys... I got tired of listening to her going on about the doll and truck so I took them both to the open window and threw them out of it and went back to my cards...

      She started writing furiously on her notepad so I asked her what she was writing... She told me that it had nothing to do with me what she wrote down. I told her that if it had my name on it then I was entitled to read it. She got annoyed with me and threw the pad at me. She had written that I was a disobedient child who had difficulties following directions and seemed to enjoy defying authority figures.

      For the record... I had no issues with following directions, I just couldn't stand her and after years of being told that I was a liar I had gotten rather strong willed and cynical.

    3. Lets see if someone has the balls to run with this one, shouldnt be to hard for a Govt Office to check. all they need to do is WANT TO.

  5. Interesting I had previous dealings with zelas, as a guest speaker whilst i was in training ..I thought she was level headed and professional from that..When i was faced with the possible alleged safety of my beloved only child , I sort out Zelas..I was completely unaware that she was involved in Child sexual abuse.I chose her soley for my past experience of her in my training.I phoned her imediately from out of Christchurch and asked her if she would urgently see my child.I was a mother and an allegation had been made I needed to know..I would have walked over broken glass to get my daughter help.Long story short,I mean time meet a group of other families, facing the same nightmare.I travelled to christchurch and presented my daughter to Zelas. I also on the day ,asked her if she could record the session...Shock horror,she told me no as the police were paying for the interview.At that stage i just wanted to know my daughter had not been violated .A two day wait the longest two days of my life .Nothing was disclosed that would indicate any form of abuse..Sometime passed and there was a high court trial...I asked Zelas if she would give evedience...nO CONVENIENTLY she was required elsewhere...And besides that would certaintly not support her position The whole fiasco was as corrupt as the day was long. My daughter is now in her later 30s she still recalls the day wih Karen. My daughter was given the Anatomically ?dolls..Just a wee snippet to share , and its taken a lot of courage, for me to revisit, those terrible days.

  6. Thank you so much Rob for all the hard work , commitment and effort you have invested to try to gain some justice for these Families and for the compassionate way in which you dealt with so many people who were hurting.
    Both you and Deborah are the only ones who have stood up and tried to do something practical.
    And a word of thanks also to our Senior Police Officer friend who had concern enough to originally connect us in 1995 to initiate an investigation that has continued over all these long years.

  7. Alan,I am no academic but, reading this post i believe that may very well be where the healing starts.Practical help,and an admission something went terribly wrong ..One foot after another is all it takes.My grateful thanks to Rob Harley and to that Senior Police officer, men of integrity..