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Child sex abuse hysteria: The Moral Panic


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Shirley Julich - sex abuse "expert"

This page last updated April 20, 2004

Who is Shirley Julich?
Shirley Julich is a Senior Lecturer at the Auckland University of Technology

Why is Shirley Julich featured on these pages?
Shirley Julich is a good example of a person who has contributed, and still appears to be contributing to the moral panic and hysteria over child sexual abuse.

Did Shirley Julich have anything to do with the Peter Ellis case?
Not to the knowledge of this site.

What expertise does Shirley Julich have?
Julich graduated with a PhD in Social Policy from Massey University in 2002. The Auckland University of Technology magazine "Inside AUT" Issue 6, May 6, 2002 described her research as investigating "the relationship between child sexual abuse, restorative justice and traditional criminal justice from the perspective of adult survivors"  The report went on to say that the "groundbreaking research has implications for policy makers, justice professionals and all those working in the field of child sexual abuse"

How did Shirley Julich carry out the study?
News reports indicate that in Julich's six year study, she interviewed 21 people who said they were victims of sexual abuse, two jurors, a judge and two counsellors.

That seems fair enough.  What's the concern?
In describing her research Julich has made outrageously misleading statements that cannot be supported by her purported findings and methodology. Her reported conclusions are an extremely good example of publicity for inept research that appears designed to generate hysteria rather than determine and examine the facts over the serious problem of sexual abuse

That's serious.  Can you give some examples?
Yep, sure can.  We'll first look at some news reports from the time Julich was awarded her PhD.

Dominion Post, July 19 2002 reported that the Julich study says

§           more than 8500 children will be abused for the first time

§           just 7.5% of adult victims reported childhood sexual abuse to police

§           by the age of 16, 25% of girls and 9% of boys would have been abused


The Press, July 19 2002 reported that the Julich study found that the sexual abuse costs New Zealand $2.4 billion a year. Of that total, $900 million is accounted for by adult survivors of abuse in lost earnings, extra health bills, and unrealised potential

Massey News, July 22 2002 tells us that Julich's costs are "based" on a 1993 model for costing social problems

After this reporting, one would have thought that Julich may have been careful and concentrated on what she actually researched, rather than treat her new qualification as a licence to say anything she liked ….. but, alas, no…

Western Leader, August 15 2002  Reporter Chris Schultz tells us that Julich "spent six years finding out how much sexual abuse is costing New Zealand"   The same "statistics" in the July reports are repeated, and Julich further adds that "she found an offender averages 50 victims before being caught".

North Shore Times, July 25 2002  Reporter Chris Schultz first report. Same old "statistics", with Julich informing him "Somewhere, we're making it OK for men to abuse".

Those are the conclusions from interviews with 26 people?
Appears so!  It's absolute rubbish of course.  Such conclusions cannot be drawn from interviewing 26 people. But that does not appear to have prevented Julich from getting a PhD for her efforts!  She was immediately criticised at the time:

Dominion Post, July 25 2002   Martin O'Cahill responds to the earlier DomPost report saying that this is just another case of "jumping on the moral panic bandwagon". He says: "What alarms me is that again we have studies telling us how much in danger our children are, while presenting little if any evidence"

Western Leader, August 22 2002   Gordon Waugh is blunt in telling Julich that "her study lacks academic rigour and is outrageously misleading"   "Her reported conclusions rely on inadequate data, ill-informed speculation, discredited ideology and misguided beliefs"

"No-one disputes that sexual abuse occurs and is abhorrent. No-one knows the actual prevalence of sexual abuse, but many make guesses.  Findings about sexual abuse are not a matter of impression, theory, opinion or speculation. They must be evidence-based on facts properly determined from empirical scientific methodology.

"Her "research" is similar to a raft of other retrospective studies which drew fatally flawed conclusions from unverified data. The quite silly idea that one in every four females and 9 per cent of males are sexually abused by age 16 has long since been discredited.  During her six years of work, Dr Julich apparently did not raise her head to do a reality check.

"She gathered data from a miniscule sample of 21 "survivors" and reports from a self-help "survivor" group. She must prove she externally corroborated the abuse allegations and that her thesis properly accounted for the well-known range of biases inherent in such retrospective studies. It is illogical to extrapolate such "findings" to the general population.

"In the light of accurate Ministry of Justice statistics on sexual abuse convictions, her conclusion that only 7.5% of abuse is reported is utter nonsense, as is her finding that an "offender" averages 50 victims before being caught. Her attribution of the Stockholm Syndrome is laughable.

What's happened since 2002?
This is the sad part. Shirley Julich appears to have learnt nothing, and continues to treat her PhD as a licence to whip up hysteria.  She obviously has good intentions - to prevent the evil of child sexual abuse, but does not seem to have any ethical appreciation of her responsibility not to present her beliefs and her speculations as research findings.

NZ Herald, April 19, 2004   Julich reports to a conference on sexual offending the same "statistics" that she used in 2002, that again appear to have no relation to her own research. 

But she comes up with some remarkable new "estimates" of the cost of being sexually abused, apparently "to justify spending a lot of money on a (trauma) programme". She claims that the "estimate" is partly based on her interviews with 21 abuse victims:

       $1,545.00     Medical charges, victims' and offenders' lost income and other individual costs.

         $360.00     State costs of healthcare, welfare, justice.

     $81,033.00     Victims' lost quality of life.

Apparently the last figure is based on her assertion that victims of sexual abuse earn 10% less than they would have - for the rest of their lives.


Shirley Julich needs to learn that if she is after money she needs to have more evidence than a Massey University qualification, a concern for a worthy cause, and stuff that she makes up. 

This site suggests that Shirley Julich do a little research - perhaps using this site as a starting point - to learn that sexual abuse hysteria has led to an epidemic of false sex abuse allegations, that has done harm both to both the victims of such allegations, and also to genuine victims of abuse