Affidavit of Hollida Wakefield, M.A.,|
and Ralph Underwager, Ph.D.
Institute for Psychological Therapies
We, having been duly sworn upon oath and under penalty of perjury, depose
and state the following as true and accurate.
I. We have jointly prepared this affidavit at the request of Mr. Blank.
This affidavit is prepared for submission to the Superior Court of Blank
County, North Carolina in relationship to the accusations of child sexual
abuse in a day care center located in Blank, North Carolina. We have been
asked to prepare this affidavit in response to an affidavit of Roland C.
Summit, M. D. which asserts that a joint trial will be more traumatic for
the children than one requiring them to participate in multiple trials over
a long period of time.
II. Ralph C. Underwager received his M. Div. from Concordia Seminary, St.
Louis, MO in 1955 and was in the parish ministry before entering the University
of Minnesota in 1962 as recipient of the Wheat Ridge Foundation Mental Health
Fellowship. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1970
in clinical psychology with a medical minor and a collateral field in child
therapy. His training corresponds to the American Psychological Association,
Div. 12, guidelines (1985) for the optimal training for psychologists to
be able to provide competent psychological mental health services to children.
He has worked on several national research projects, as described in the
attached curriculum vitae. He has been a research scientist at Youth Research
Center, a staff psychologist at the Nicollet Clinic in Minneapolis, an associate
professor at St. Olaf College, and, since 1974, the Director of the Institute
for Psychological Therapies.
He has been involved in responding to the sexual abuse of children since
1953 when he disclosed and dealt with a case of incest in his parish elementary
school. Since beginning private practice as a psychologist in 1965, one-third
to one-fifth of his practice has been children. This has included the full
range of childhood disorders. He has regularly dealt with sexually abused
children, perpetrators, and their families. Across the years he has evaluated,
assessed and provided treatment for hundreds of child victims of sexual
and physical assault. His current active caseload includes two children
who are victims of sexual assault. He has also provided evaluation, assessment,
and treatment for perpetrators of sexual assault from 1965. IPT has had
a treatment program for sexual offenders from 1974 to the present. His current
caseload includes two perpetrators of child sexual abuse.
He is a licensed consulting psychologist (#C-55) under statute of the state
of Minnesota, is a member of the American Psychological Association, the
American Psychological Society, the Minnesota Psychological Association,
the Lutheran Academy for Scholarship, the
American College of Forensic Psychology,
and is accepted and listed in the National Registry of Health Providers
III. Hollida Wakefield received her B.A. from La Verne College, her M.A.
in psychology from the University of Maryland and completed all course work
for her Ph.D. She has worked as an elementary teacher, was an instructor
in psychology at St. Olaf College, and has been a staff psychologist at
the Institute for Psychological Therapies since 1976. She is a member of
the American Psychological Society, the Minnesota Psychological Association
and is a licensed psychologist under Minnesota statute. She is an Associate
Member of the American College of Forensic Psychology. She has regularly
provided therapy and evaluation for sexual abuse victims, sexual abuse perpetrators,
and their families.
IV. By invitation of the APA Commission on Legal Issues we have presented
a paper at the 94th annual convention of the American Psychological Association
on The Role of the Psychologist in the Assessment of Cases of Alleged
Sexual Abuse of Children. At the request of the Tennessee ACLU we submitted
a report to the Tennessee Legislature concerning proposed rules for establishing
a central registry for alleged sex abusers. At the request of the American
Bar Association Young Lawyers Project we provided consultation and materials
for a bench book for family court judges on false allegations of child sexual
abuse in divorce and custody cases. Our book, Accusations of Child Sexual
Abuse, has been published by C. C. Thomas, Springfield, IL. In this
book we report on our research programs in child sexual abuse. The research
projects we are carrying out are: 1) scientific content analyses of audio
and videotapes of actual interviews and interrogations of children in over
35 cases throughout the country; 2) analysis of types of psychotherapy given
to children when there is an accusation of sexual abuse; 3) the use of the
alleged anatomical correct dolls in the interviewing of children; 4) the
judicial assessment of the competence of children; 5) MMPI profiles of actual
sexual abusers and falsely accused persons; 6) analysis of false accusations
occurring within the context of a divorce and custody litigation; 7) analysis
of the records of cases to discover the variables that will assist in discriminating
between true and false accusations of child sexual abuse; 8) the personality
characteristics of parents involved in false accusations of child sexual
abuse during a divorce and custody battle; 9) developing a typology of accusations
of child sexual abuse in day care centers.
Our second book dealing with child sexual abuse, The Real World of Child
Interrogation, was published by C. C. Thomas in November 0f 1989. Our
third book dealing with child sexual abuse allegations, Solomon's Dilemma:
False Accusations of Sexual Abuse in Divorce and Custody Disputes, is
By invitation we have presented our MMPI research results at the 23rd annual
Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Symposium, 1988. We have conducted
workshops and seminars for public defenders, trial lawyer's associations,
and family law groups in many states. By invitation of the Crown Solicitor
we presented evidence in the parliamentary judicial inquiry into the sexual
abuse allegations in Cleveland County, Middlesborough, England. By invitation
our research on the use of the alleged anatomically correct dolls was provided
to the Supreme Court of Holland which then ruled no testimony based on the
use of dolls is admissible in Holland unless it can be shown their use meets
our objections. By invitation we have presented seminars for professionals
in five cities in Australia dealing with investigation and preparation for
trial in child sexual abuse allegations.
Most recently, by invitation, we have presented the research projects on
personality characteristics of parents making false accusations and the
typology of accusations in day care settings at the Sixth Annual Symposium
of the American College of Forensic Psychology, Las Vegas, Nevada, March,
1990. Our proposals for presentation have been examined and accepted by
the American Psychological Society and the American Psychological Association.
We will be presenting our research at Dallas, June, 1990, for the APS convention
and other research projects at Boston, August, 1990, at the APA convention.
We made a presentation dealing with child sexual abuse allegations at the
North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers, Charleston, NC, in March, 1990.
We have provided consultation, information, and expert witness services
in over 400 cases of sexual abuse allegations. This has included 35 day
V. In response to the affidavit of Dr. Summit, there are several rather
preliminary observations relating to his description of his expertise.
Dr. Summit is correct in asserting that he has been primarily involved in
psychiatric community consultation. As a community psychiatrist Dr. Summit
consults with other professionals and does little or no clinical work himself.
Thus when he was asked during cross examination in the Taugher trial how
many of the 2000 children he claims to base the concept of sexual abuse
accommodation syndrome on he himself had actually seen, he answered two
or three. Therefore when Dr. Summit claims to base his opinions on experience,
it should be clear that his experience has been in talking with adults who
are professionals concerned in one way or another with an accusation. In
most instances this has been an agenda or interest in identification and
prosecution of persons accused. His experience therefore does not include
actual contact with children but rather with adults who tell him their subjective
impressions about children.
Dr. Summit claims to have written "several influential articles and
book chapters in the clinical literature." The Curriculum Vitae he
attached to the affidavit shows he has written three articles in peer reviewed
journals. The others are in local newsletters or publications of agencies.
The one he claims has been widely reprinted nationally and internationally
is the 1983 article which appeared in Child Abuse and Neglect. This is where
he describes his theory or hypothesis of the sexual abuse accommodation
syndrome. There is no empirical research evidence to support this concept
and it has not been generally accepted in the scientific community. Appellate
courts in California and Tennessee have ruled the sexual abuse accommodation
syndrome does not meet the Frye test of general acceptance in the scientific
community in order for testimony to be admissible (See attached Appendix
A for a general bibliography). None of the articles or chapters he says
he has written are based upon any empirical research nor has Dr. Summit
himself carried out any scientific research projects.
This is to be expected inasmuch as the practice of medicine, including psychiatry,
is not a science but an art. Physicians are not trained as scientists and
are not knowledgeable as physicians about scientific research and how to
do it. It is true, as Dr. Summit also states about his opinions , that much
of medical practice is based by physicians on their experience. This is
the cause for almost a monthly revelation that some medical practice used
for years is now shown to be a mistake. The latest was the use of phenobarbital
to treat children with febrile seizures. Before that it was widely used
heart surgery techniques now shown to be unnecessary and before that radical
mastectomies now also shown to be in error.
Although the courts accept experience as a basis for accepting expert opinion,
the scientific investigation of the relationship between experience and
validity demonstrates clearly there is no relationship (Dawes, 1989). What
this robust and replicated finding means is that relying solely upon experience
produces unrecognized error at an unacceptable rate. An example given by
Dawes (1989) is "the best predictors of parole violation are the age
of first conviction, number of past convictions, and number of prison violations.
The subsequent "knowledge" gained in a parole interview simply
decreases accuracy in predicting who will remain outside of jail."
An opinion based solely on experience must be viewed very cautiously and
weighed with an awareness of the high probability of error and the likelihood
of no demonstrable validity (See attached Appendix B for a general bibliography
on the relationship between experience and validity). We understand this
may be counterintuitive and the court may find this a troubling concept.
We ask the court to attend to the well established scientific fact that,
as Benjamin Franklin said, "Experience is a dear (expensive) teacher
and fools will learn from no other."
VI. The first opinion by Dr. Summit is "Child witnesses will be more
intimidated and confused in confrontation with several defendants than with
one at a time" (p. 2). There is no scientific evidence whatsoever to
support this claim. We dealt with the same claim in an Amicus Curiae Brief
we submitted to the U. S. Supreme Court in Maryland v. Craig (See attached
copy). In fact the evidence available shows that children are not traumatized
by testifying in court but benefited. The cause of trauma to children as
demonstrated by Runyan et. al (1988), is the delay in getting to the trial
and getting it done and over . The Flin et al (1988) research study done
in British courts also demonstrates that children were not distressed by
testifying in court. Several of the children observed were in settings in
which there was more than one defendant. In short, the scientific research
evidence available that bears directly on this issue suggests that children
would be benefited by a single trial as the defense has requested with the
conclusion reached as quickly as possible. The scientific evidence available
shows the request of the prosecution for several trials extending across
a considerable length of time would be the most harmful possible course
to take in relationship to the welfare of the children.
The remainder of the statements in Dr. Summit's point 1 are unsupported
by any scientific data but are solely subjective speculative personal opinions.
The statement "The quality of argument will be inversely proportional
to the number of people facing the child in the courtroom" is an example
of this speculative nature of his opinion. There simply is no empirical
data anywhere to support this assertion. His statement that unless the court
assumes it must do what he suggests in order to prevent further harm and
"To assume otherwise is to frame the court as the instigator of reckless,
potentially disastrous reabuse" has no support anywhere in the scientific
data available to reasonably evaluate these issues. He cites the Finkelhor
Nursery Crimes book to support his contention children are fragile.
This book is seriously flawed by the selection of a criterion measure that
is indefensible. See attached Appendix E for a brief discussion of this
book. It is not a scientifically credible work.
Furthermore there is a beginning scientific literature that points to possible
ways to improve the ability of children to produce reliable statements (see
attached Appendix D for a bibliography dealing with improving retrieval)
that do not require extreme measures in the courtroom. It is also the case
that no competent defense attorney is going to act in a way so as to terrorize
little children in the courtroom. This would be completely counter productive
with the fact finder.
VII. Dr. Summit's point 2 appears to come down to his claim that the cognitive
capacities of children are such that "children of three can attend
to no more than three subjects at a time. A child of five may handle the
convergence of five variables without intermixing them" (p. 3). Once
again there is no scientific data in developmental psychology to support
this claim. The cognitive capacity of children has been studied for many
years. The assertion by Dr. Summit can nowhere be found in the scientific
research on children's cognitive capacity (See attached Appendix F for a
general bibliography on the cognitive capacity of children).
VIII. Point 3 is the claim that a joint trial will ". . . scramble
the testimony of the child witnesses, leaving triers of fact with more subjective,
more prejudicial and less probative considerations . . ." (p. 4). Once
again there is no scientific evidence to support this claim. We dealt with
the same issue in the Maryland v. Craig Amicus Curiae Brief. We cite the
study by Goodman et al. (1989) to show the relevant scientific evidence
prior to this project demonstrates "high levels of stress are associated
with better memory." The summary statement of the research project
by Goodman is "Our general finding was that stress had a facilitative
effect on children's reports. Specifically, planned comparisons revealed
that children at the highest stress levels recalled more information than
the other children and were less suggestible. Interestingly, the children
had to reach a level of great distress before beneficial effects on memory
were evidenced" (p. 37). Thus the scientific evidence available that
bears directly on the point at issue says exactly the opposite of the claim
by Dr. Summit. Far from producing inferior testimony, high levels of stress
appear to produce more accurate, more complete, and more reliable testimony
from children. Again this may appear counter intuitive so we encourage the
court to look at the consistent and replicated findings of the scientific
effort to assess the impact of stress or emotional arousal on memory.
IX. In summary, the scientific evidence available suggests that opinions
based on experience alone should be carefully weighed. The scientific research
producing credible empirical data strongly suggests the least harm will
be done to the children involved in this case by a single trial with the
emphasis on as swift a resolution of the issues as possible. Furthermore,
the scientific evidence suggests there is no decrement in the quality of
children's testimony if the courtroom experience does turn out to be stressful.
We declare that the foregoing is true and correct.
Executed this _____ day of ______________, 19____, in Northfield, Minnesota.
Hollida Wakefield, M.A. Ralph Underwager, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist Licensed Consulting Psychologist