One of the most well recognised tactics that abusers of all types use, and this is confirmed time and time again in the clinical literature, is to “blame the victim.” The classic example of this being when a woman is blamed for being attacked due to having dressed too provocatively.
That’s why I was so shocked to read the report last week in the New Zealand Herald when ACC responded to accusations that the new pathway was blocking access for clients by blaming clinicians and professional organizations:
“Some might also suggest that the scaremongering being undertaken by certain lobby groups has also put off some clients from seeking ACC help. Today’s description of the new process as a ‘rapists’ charter’ is one such example.”
So why refer to it as a “Rapists Charter?” That’s a bit over the top isn’t it? Why do therapists, counsellors and social workers feel so vehemently about these changes?
Well first it requires an understanding of the dynamics of the types of families that sexually abused children come from.
Research and clinical experience tells us that families where abuse occurs tend to be chaotic, unpredictable, invalidating of the emotional world of others (particularly the children) secretive, socially isolated and poorly supported.
Okay, so what? Well the main way that abusers tend to be able to continue to maintain to have sex with children (or adult men raping women for that matter) is to completely deny the impact of their actions, through denying the emotional response of the victim and blaming the victim for being provocative, enjoying it or having in some way been complicit in the abuse.
So when ACC tells a claimant that their sexual abuse, when they were 12, with an 18 year old abuser who was allowed to live with the family by dysfunctional parents (real example I’m afraid) is not abuse because the sex is judged to be “consensual” they are acting in exactly the same way as an abuser.
I mean it’s not “a little bit like it,” not therapists “reading too much into things” it’s right there “your months of terror and rape when you were a child was not abuse, you’re wrong to feel and believe the things you do.”
Also ACC seems isolated, unsupported and able to behave any way it chooses, much like an abusive family, where everyone is too scared or too brainwashed to hold the abuser to account. Our feedback is that the Health and Disability Commission has no ability hold them to account, nor do any other health body. The only body that has any power to oversee ACC is the Government via the Minister for ACC, currently Hon. Nick Smith, and he explicitly supports this Rapists Charter.
So what about chaotic and unpredictable? Where do I start…
The kindest thing one can say about this process from start to finish is that it has been incompetent (as opposed to malicious.) Inconsistent answers, different answers to the same questions from different people, inconsistent application of the new pathway rules to different cases, last minute changes to the pathway; the list goes on…
And don’t even get me started on the complete lack of transparency.
So is this a Rapists charter? It most certainly is. ACC could hardly have done a better job of designing a system that would be guaranteed to re-traumatize claimants if they’d tried. It’s an amazing accident; I’m not for one moment suggesting that it is deliberate because that would require reading the clinical literature, and it’s clear they haven’t done that.
So this is why I am no longer taking any ACC referrals.
I just can’t knowingly put clients through this traumatizing invalidation of their trauma, I’ve tried and I now feel certain that to do so is unethical and irresponsible. I have a small number of clients that I currently see, and will continue to see and a small number I am currently battling ACC about and will also continue to do so.
In this vein the results of my online poll are in. To quickly summarize:
Only 10% surveyed intended to continue offering a service under the new pathway;
85% rate ACC’s service and communication as worse or terrible over the last six months;
84% disagree or strongly disagree with the compulsory use of the DSM-IV in the new pathway.
My colleague Gudrun Frerichs has designed two excellent surveys, one for clinicians and one for clients to assist us in recording the injustices of this new pathway in anticipation of the review early next year. The clinician’s version is here and the clients here.
Lastly this (tui yeah right.ACC) is from a client, which seems a much more efficient way of saying everything I’ve just said.