The Christchurch Civic Crèche Case

News Reports Index

To November 1991
(reports before Ellis was accused)

This page last updated Jan 24 2005

A period of time when there was a growing awareness of both the incidence of child sexual abuse and the damage that such abuse could cause the victims. This site does not wish to diminish the importance of recognising the crime of sexual abuse, or of efforts to stop the crime and/or assist the victims. Instead it wishes to focus on the quite separate problems that grew alongside:

§                The developing lack of objectivity that enveloped suspicions of child sex abuse. 

§                Zealots without objectivity promoting hysteria over abuse and then satanic abuse, ritual abuse;  

§                People such as Karen Zelas who made a profession of the growing sexual abuse "industry" and who have been implicated in a number of cases of injustice; 

§                Normal child behaviour being described as being "consistent with sexual abuse" or a "symptom of sexual abuse";

§                Lies, damn lies and statistics - combined with Woman's Weekly surveys and Telethons.

§                The scientific folly articulated by Hamish Dixon in 1988 that was to be repeated over and over in subsequent years - that the "background" of the clients of clinicians is able to "show" the probability of priests (or men, or people with schizophrenia, or any other target group) abusing.

1991-0903 - Evening Post - Satanic sexual torture more than a nightmare   
by Linsey Morgan - Some New Zealand children are at a very real risk of sexual torture by satanic cults, counsellors say. Counsellor Jocelyn Frances and re searcher Anne-Mane Stapp say it appears ritual abuse cults still operate throughout the country. A support network growing between counsellors around the country is identifying women and children who say they have suffered in the same way. The two trained social workers presented a research paper on ritual abuse at the Family Violence Prevention Co-ordinating Committee conference in Christchurch last week. A Hutt police officer who studied ritual abuse in the United States has confirmed what Ms Frances and Ms Stapp say.

1991-0901 - Dominion Sunday Times - Satanic curses   
by Jenny Long - Police and counsellors are finding evidence of ritual abuse in New Zealand. Senior Sergeant Laurie Gabites, of Upper Hutt police, says he knows of a satanic cult in his area, and other cults in other parts of New Zealand. Evidence has come from former members, and others who have passed on information which the police accept as genuine, Mr Gabites says. While the cults themselves are not illegal, the child abuse clearly is. Wellington counsellors Jocelyn Frances and Ann-Marie Stapp say they have been horrified by descriptions of ritual abuse given by survivors.

1991-0827 - The Press - Satanic ritual abuse in NZ - US therapist   
by Sarona Josefa - Satanic ritual abuse is occurring in New Zealand, says a visiting American specialist in child sexual abuse. Mr Mitchell Whitman is a sexual abuse therapist who is noted for his work, as a Christian, in raising child sexual abuse awareness within United States churches. He says society has to believe victims in order to stop abuse. Satanic ritual abuse posed as great a threat to children as sexual abuse, he said in Christchurch yesterday. It was up to society to uncover the practice. Mr Whitman claimed that seven victims of satanic ritual abuse had approached him during his visit to New Zealand. They had told him of being drugged by satanic worshippers in their homes, and being subjected with their children to rituals of brainwashing.

1991-0427 - The Press - Photos 'back claim of child sex ring'   
by Barry Clarke - Photographs of naked New Zealand children being sent to the United States backs up a belief by a former detective that an investigation into child pornography in Christchurch two years ago should not have been stopped…… the investigating officer, former detective Brent Hyde, said there was clear evidence of children in the Shirley and Dallington areas being targeted by the child sex ring….. Senior-Sergeant Laurie Gabites said he had evidence that paedophiles in New Zealand were sending photographs to the United States

1989-0700 - North and South - The Spence Case: A Public and Private Nightmare
by Rosemary McLeod - When Christchurch couple Jeff and Louise Spence told their story on Frontline, it was devastatingly effective television. The Spences hated being filmed and relied on a warm relationship with their interviewer, Amanda Miller, to make it bearable. They described how they had admitted daughter Liselle to Christchurch Hospital's Ward 24 for help with behavioural problems, only to be told weeks later that she had been sexually abused, and her father was suspected. Police carried charges against both of them to the secret forum of the Children and Young Person's Court, but instead of accepting their fate, the Spences questioned the way the ward had investigated Liselle's problem

(This report is important as it describes the developing lack of objectivity that enveloped suspicions of child sex abuse. This case also involved Karen Zelas who was later to become involved in the Ellis case

1989-0625 - The Press - Lecturer speaks on child abuse study    
by Sue Lancaster - Canterbury people interested in child sexual abuse crammed the Christchurch School of Medicine's lecture theatre yesterday to listen to a visiting American child abuse researcher. Dr Gail Goodman, of the University of Denver, spoke to the group of about 300 people on her research into using children as witnesses. Her research, involving about 400 children aged from three to nine, found that they were more reliable as witnesses than society had been led to believe in the past.

1989-0607 - Christchurch Star - Hospital staff 'in breach of guidelines' 
by Cate Brett - Staff at the centre of Christchurch Hospital’s child sexual abuse controversy were inexperienced, unsupervised and breached child sexual abuse interviewing guidelines, according to ward 24 investigator, Dr Les Ding. The investigation supports allegations of deficiencies in child sexual abuse interviews carried out on the ward and later presented as critical evidence in the Family Court. Personality conflicts, inadequate supervision by the director and other senior clinicians, and unclear lines of accountability allowed these deficiencies to go undetected despite concerns raised by other ward staff members. The investigation sparked by a Television New Zealand programme on Ward 24’s handling of two Christchurch child abuse cases thrown out of court for lack of evidence, concludes that as a rule ward 24 staff should not be involved in gathering evidence for court hearings.

1989-0607 - Christchurch Star - Doors opened on Ward 24
Ten weeks after the “Christchurch Star” reported on one of the two cases dismissed by the Family Court, because of serious deficiencies in evidence by Ward 24 staff the Canterbury Area Health Board has released the results of its internal investigation.

1989-0607 - Christchurch Star - One of the cases    
by Cate Brett - One of the cases investigated by Dr Ding and reported on "Frontline" programme was the story of Ben. In a major report on March 28 the "Christchurch Star" told the story of Ben and his family. On May 12, 1988, all four children were forcibly taken from their home by a squad of police and social workers. The Department of Social Welfare alleged each child had been physically and emotionally abused by its parents. It later also alleged two of the children had been sexually abused in all probability by their father. After a separation of 291 days and a court hearing which spanned six months the children have now been returned to their mother

1989-0418 - The Press - Mistakes 'small price' to protect children 
A possibility that some fathers might be unnecessarily accused of child abuse was a small price to pay to have children and women protected, said the president of the Canterbury Association for Mental Health, the Rev. John Elvidge, yesterday. "While I agree there's a danger that some men, particularly fathers, are going to be unnecessarily accused, there's a greater worry that men have been getting away with sexual abuse for a long time, because they have been able to use the system better."  Mr Elvidge is the director of the psychological counselling services offered by the Campbell Centre, which sometimes refers child clients with behavioural problems to Ward 24.

1988-1022 - Christchurch Star - Who do you believe? 
by Cate Brett - Men convicted of sexually assaulting children are almost invariably guilty. It is men like Mark, who will probably never face charges, who alarm some professionals in this city.Mark is a worry on two counts: Either he is guilty but the system is incapable of proving his guilt, or he is innocent and falsely accused. Nobody interviewed for this article was prepared to dismiss the possibility of Mark's innocence.

1988-1022 - Christchurch Star - An accused father's hell
by Cate Brett -
For generations society has refused to believe children and thereby failed to protect them from numerous forms of abuse — including sexual abuse. Now children are being believed and their right to a safe environment placed above a family's right to stay intact. For men like Mark, these facts add up to one thing: "I am guilty. In everyone's eyes I am guilty. Guilty until proven innocent.

1988-1022 - Christchurch Star - Child sex abuse: the backlash
by Cate Brett - They call themselves Parents Against Injustice. The claim to represent parents or individuals falsely accused of sexually assaulting a child. They have asked the Government for a ministerial Inquiry into New Zealand’s handling of child sexual abuse. It began with a break-in and the theft of a filing cabinet containing confidential case notes on dozens of sexually abused Christchurch children. Next came an arson attack and the poisoning of a sexual abuse therapist's family pet. A series of public notices were placed in Christchurch papers sponsored by a group calling itself PAIN - Parents Against Injustice. The notices advised parents who believed themselves unjustly accused of sexually abusing children to make contact through a private box number.

1988-0819 - The Press - Religious men 'more likely' to abuse 
Men with religious backgrounds who are considered “pillars of society” have a greater chance of being child abusers, a Wellington psychologist’s research has found. Mr Hamish Dixon, a member of Men for Non-violence in Wellington is involved with a group for treating sexually abusive fathers. He told the Psychological Society Conference that the backgrounds of men in his group showed that those with strong religious backgrounds had a higher chance of being abusers

1983 - The Public face of sexual violence 
paper by Sally Ruth -
This paper is based on two scrapbooks of clippings taken from the Christchurch Press and the Christchurch Star during the months February to November 1982. I began collecting the clippings after seeing a similar scrapbook at a rape workshop at last year's feminist conference. Once I'd recovered my breath after seeing so much male violence within the covers of a kid's scrapbook, the potential political impact of such a collection persuaded me to begin clipping also

1982-0624 - The Press - How to protect children from sexual attacks   
by Felicity Price - Teaching children about sexual attacks should be as common as teaching them road safety rules, says Mrs Miriam Saphira. an Auckland psychologist. Mrs Saphira, who has written a booklet, “The Sexual Abuse of Children” is on a speaking tour of New Zealand sponsored by the Mental Health Foundation to raise public knowledge on the sexual abuse of children.  Mrs Saphira carried out a survey in the "Woman's Weekly," on the sexual abuse of children, and reported that "one in five girls will be sexually molested before she is 16, and that 90 per cent of those assaults will come from someone she knows and trusts, such as her father, stepfather, foster father, uncle or friend of the family"

1974-0626 - The Press - Need for more information    
“In my opinion, there is a place for day-care centres in the community but their limitations and potentially detrimental effects must be recognised and as many steps as possible taken to minimise these.” Karen Zelas said

1974-0610 - The Press - Day care centres' "impossible task"    
Day-care centres and crèches, while being beneficial to working mothers, could have detrimental effects on children. Studies overseas, where such institutions have been in operation longer than they have here, show that this is the case, but the seriousness of the problem may not be apparent here until these children become adult citizens, says Dr Karen Zelas, a child psychiatrist.