Letter: Experts do not always listen to children

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The Independent Online
Sir: Professor La Fontaine rightly complains of being accused of promoting paedophilia by Beatrix Campbell's techniques of 'suggestion and innuendo'; I am similarly accused, the difference being that I am no longer surprised by Ms Campbell's methods ('Where Satan goes unseen', 4 May).

She describes me as 'a patron' of Rossen, and as 'one of the main architects of the notion that children have been brainwashed by foster carers and social workers', having appeared as an expert witness at Rochdale although I 'had never worked on child abuse'.

Although much of my play therapy work has involved abused children, I was called as an expert witness because of my many years of research on interviewing techniques, on children's ability to fantasise both in therapy and in more normal situations, and on children's drawing - all of which were highly relevant to the Rochdale case.

Sadly, the children in the case did suffer secondary abuse from the aggressively suggestive way in which they were interviewed; my report rested entirely on the evidence of videoed social work interviews (not foster care) compared with social work reports.

The children were isolated for many months from their parents, despite their protests. I shall not forget the child who exclaimed: 'Why doesn't someone listen to me like it says on the posters? I want to go home, I am safe at home.' When there is professional determination to discover satanic abuse, children will be listened to only selectively.

My 'patronage' of Rossen consisted of one reference to his thesis among other accounts of 'community distress' in Salem, Hungary, California and north Netherlands. However, the conclusion of that paragraph (obviously not one that suited Campbell's accusation) was that 'the failure of so many cases to be substantiated does not mean that all future cases will be unsubstantiated' (original emphasis) and that 'each case has to continue to be investigated on its own merit'.

Yours sincerely,

ELIZABETH NEWSON

Professor of Developmental

Psychology

Child Development Research Unit

Department of Psychology

University of Nottingham

Nottingham

7 May

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