IPT Book Reviews

Title: First Do No Harm: The Sexual Abuse Industry
Author: Felicity Goodyear-Smith
Publisher: Benton-Guy Publishing, 1993

Benton-Guy Publishing
P.O. Box 8180
Symonds St.
Auckland, New Zealand
09 377 0581; 09 377 0615 (fax)$27.95

While digesting this 167-page book, I was reminded of an international scientific conference on migraine I attended a few years ago: the most enthusiastic and innovative participants proved to be migraine sufferers themselves (like myself — advocating the use of prophylactic low dose aspirin). Dr. Goodyear-Smith is a general practitioner working in New Zealand. By coincidence, some of her relatives were falsely accused of having sexually abused children. When she started asking rational questions and provided the evidence that the alleged abuse was very questionable, she, herself, was attacked by fervent child protectors.

This raised her interest in child sexual abuse allegations and she started studying the subject. She questioned why, not only in New Zealand, but in many other western societies, the suspicion of sexual abuse is so often followed by emotional rather than rational reactions. This occurs not only with lay persons (particularly lay women), but, more dangerously so, also with professionals, such as social workers, physicians, psychologists, and lawyers. The result is that families are destroyed by poor professional performance and actual victims of child abuse are insufficiently cared for.

The result of her inquisitive mind, broad interests, careful research, and (admirably controlled) indignation about her own experience is a very readable book. Its English is easily understandable by non-native English speakers, such as myself, and its contents are suitable for lay persons as well as professionals.

The organization of the book is useful — there are a wealth of subtitles that guide the reader through the variety of disciplines that must be considered in order to properly understand the complicated and intriguing questions raised. The author reviews and synthesizes clinical, psychoanalytical, experimental, and social psychology, politics, history, religion, sexology, gynecology, and legal issues. She provides a summary of a number of infamous cases of collective paranoia (a term I prefer over the usual "mass hysteria") triggered by suspected child sexual abuse and she renders a refreshing discussion on what she calls "victimocracy," the considerable influence on modern western societies by "victims" of every sort.

The book ends with a useful, extensive bibliography and a name and subject index. The layout is attractive and I found only a few printing errors. This affordable volume may help diminish the unfortunate polarization that has emerged in the relations between, on one hand, a small group of fanatic child savers and, on the other, the majority of rational professionals and the groups of falsely accused citizens that have sprung up in several western countries.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who wonders how child protection could have become a caricature of what its initiators 100 years ago had in mind.

Reviewed by Jan Wind, Free University of Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Order this book: Hardcover

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