Last week we discussed the “Fresh Start Foundation”, the SRA-promoting group which has sprung up in Scotland. One member of the FSF board of directors, Janine Rennie, objected to our take on the matter, and in particular our observations about another group she runs, Wellbeing Scotland (formerly Open Secret).
The conversation she initiated has been taking place on a several-days-old post, and as we know such debates can easily be buried by new material on the blog, we thought we’d bring it up front for the benefit of readers who haven’t seen it yet.
The opening salvo
On 25 January, Ms Rennie posted,
Looking forward to my book being published which sets the record straight about all of the above you have copied from being freely available on the internet amongst many positive articles so it would appear you don’t show balance in your posts.
We have a 24 year history as an organisation and a very positive 24 year history which sadly was affected by some very unfortunate circumstances. The truth behind them is evidenced and as I said will be published.
What concerns me is people wishing to fight against an organisation that is supporting many survivors (15,000 in our history and one complaint as you highlighted). What is your motivation to do so? Why do you want to stop Fresh Start seeking the truth? Some of the comments against Fresh Start Directors are actionable so the people involved must be very committed to discrediting those who would bring out the truth.
At best the comments on here are offensive and childish and I certainly hope none of you have contact with survivors as your behaviour is a risk. In this work ethics, morals and a balanced approach are essential.
Your site seems to have been established purely to identify hoaxes that you have no evidence are hoaxes so you could be calling the testimony of survivors untrue which is one of the most damaging things they can experience. I am very disappointed to see all of this and will not be involved in a protracted debate as it is unhealthy for all concerned. I really do hope you will all move forward in your lives in a more positive balanced way for your own sakes. [Paragraph breaks added for readability.]
Jake Blake pointed out that many who read or comment on this blog are sexual abuse survivors, while Sheva asked why disclosing the required details to funders was so problematic for Ms Rennie.
Ms Rennie responded that she wasn’t going to get into a protracted debate (though her later actions belied this), and claimed that much of HR is “naive and most of the evidence is links or rants from one to another where agencies like ours and we are not the only one know the direct evidence and testimonies”. She also stated, ” The testimonies we have published have been given by survivors and we have been asked to make them public”.
There followed the customary sabre rattling and threats to consult solicitors over alleged “actionable” comments regarding child abuse, and so forth.
Several readers, including Sheva, Common Porpoise, and UK Callum, pointed out that publishing videos and images of RD’s children online does constitute child abuse, and that Ms Rennie’s fellow directors at FSF had demonstrably been systematically targetting abuse survivors online—clearly problematic behaviour for a company which claims to support child sexual abuse survivors.
‘Poundland version of Camilla Batmanghalidjh’?
Commenter OMGNotthisoldshiteagain made this interesting comparison:
Janine, I notice that you claim that the reason that you have refused to supply the required data to your funders is because it would compromise client confidentiality. Your funders claim that this is not the case and that no compromising data was required. ~You also are on record as claiming that your clients were at risk of suicide if services were withdrawn.
This whole scenario sounds very familiar to me. You are coming across as a Poundland version of Camilla Batmanghalidjh. …
I also watched your video here:
and I noticed that one of your therapists is Therese McGoldrick.
I have checked out her credentials and I understand that she treats abuse survivors with a debunked new age therapy called Emotional Freedom Technique that is known to generate false memories.
Under the circumstances it is hardly surprising that you claim that your client group present with “memories” of ritual abuse.
You should be ashamed of yourself.
A strange invitation
Ms Rennie responded:
To repeat again the information we were required to hand over involved the full client files including case notes and I gave the full email where this was evidenced to STV hence why they publicised the issue.
I wonder why you would believe what the funder reported rather than a charity and make a presumption it was similar to Kids Company without knowing any of the facts.
I am very worried about this site and the people involved in it as anyone trying to discredit survivors has a very strange view of the world. I’m not sure where you have your view of EMDR from as the therapy Therese uses involves no creation of memories and it is evidence based practice. It is also not the only therapy we and others utilise.
We have thousands of positive evaluations of our work which you are welcome to come to our office to see. In fact that is an open invitation to anyone on this site. Come to our office and I will show you evaluations, relevant emails evidencing what I am saying and let you meet the clients who agree to waive confidentiality. Then you can come back and report the truth on this site.
You should note we have regular meetings with the police and are open with them about the rings operating. Some have already been evidenced as being fact. We also do not just have evidence of clients reporting abuse we have much evidence of perpetrators admitting the abuse so tell me how you would explain that away as a hoax. I look forward to meeting you just give me a relevant time to visit.
(A brief aside: Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a form of “energy healing” in which the therapist taps rhythmically on the patient’s “meridians” (energy lines said to flow through the body). EFT is the brainchild of Gary Craig, who is said to possess a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) was developed by Francine Shapiro, PhD, a graduate of the unaccredited and since defunct School for Psychological Studies. It involves the patient using back-and-forth eye movements while visualising, then “reprocessing” traumatic events. EFT and EMDR are not synonymous, as Ms Rennie seems to believe. However, the efficacy of both has been called into question. Right. As you were.)
OMG responded to Ms Rennie:
You wonder why anyone would make a presumption that your situation was similar to Kid’s Company without access to the facts.
Let’s look at the facts shall we?
Your funders ask you for information about the service users of your charity. They state that they are not requesting any identifying or compromising data, simply data to justify the money they gave you, You refuse to hand over the data claiming that, if you were to do so it would compromise client confidentiality,
This is exactly the same situation that Kid’s Company was in an the excuse for not handing over the data is exactly the same.
You claimed that, if the funding was withheld from your project that your clients would be at risk of suicide.
Camilla Batmanghelidjh made exactly the same claim about Kid’s Company clients.
You claim that criticism of your charity arose because of an evil conspiracy of the powers that be because you have access to information regarding a sooper sekrit conspiracy of elite child paedophiles.
Camilla Batmanghelidjh made exactly the claim about criticisms of Kid’s Company.
In addition to this both Kid’s Company and your charities make use of widely discredited and debunked new age “therapies” of dubious origin – actually, to be clear a lot of these therapies had origins in cults and the human potential movement, itself heavily influenced by cults.
For example Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and related “energy therapies” and “body psychotherapies” had their origins in Esalen and the various hippie communes of the notoriously abusive cult leader Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh AKA Osho. Do you remember them? The Rajneeshees AKA known as the “orange people” who called themselves “Sannyasins. They are the ones who committed the first act of bioterrorism against the USA when they poisoned over 700 people with Salmonella in the notorious Rajneeshee bioterrorism attack.
The Rajneeshees made an obscene amount of money for their guru via combining sex and new age ideas with western psychotherapy.
It is an outrage and an obscenity that therapists use quackery like EFT to treat police officers with PTSD.
Talking of the Rajneeshees I wonder whether you have seen this video?
Her response to the interviewer’s question, along the lines of “what people do in their private lives is nothing to do with us”, followed by attempting to smear her critic with false accusations is exactly your response to criticism about the appallingly sexist and misogynist creative work of Bruce Hotchkies.
Seriously Janine, it seems to me that the only difference between you and Batmanghelidjh is the amounts of money that you have managed to obtain from funders.
On the topic of Satanic ritual abuse, OMG pointed out,
You say you are working with the police and you claim to have evidence of ritual abuse of children.
You are not the first person to claim to possess such evidence. This video shows a therapist / trainer claiming to possess all kinds of evidence of satanic ritual abuse:
The thing is, no matter how much therapists over the years have claimed to possess evidence of SRA none of them ever actually provide such evidence.
You invite us to visit your charity and meet “survivors”.
Why on earth would any of us posting here wish to meet people who claim to have been satanically abused?
Either people have been satanically abused or they have not.
If they have then it would be completely inappropriate for you to parade them in front of sceptics and rationalists just to prove your point. People who have suffered genuine child abuse, neglect and sexual abuse receive professional services where they are protected from press intrusion and the salacious interest of the media. Service providers never, ever parade such people around to try to gain funding or to limit damage to their reputations generated by controversies and scandals.
I have met several people who were brainwashed by therapists who implanted false memories of ritual abuse by using new age “energy medicine’”, “body psychotherapy” and hypnosis / trance induction. Such people are usually vulnerable and have been manipulated by deluded abusive therapists.
Such people should receive proper care from properly trained and accredited professional people who understand the catastrophic consequences of false memories, especially given that many people with false memories have either suffered genuine abuse at some point or are very unwell mentally and are thus extremely vulnerable and in need of care and protection.
I find it astonishing that you think that it is in any way appropriate to invite people from this blog to your project to meet “survivors”.
Ms Rennie’s response:
There is actually no point in continuing to enter into dialogue with people on this page. We know the facts so I actually have no concern about what you think as I don’t know you. However I will respond to your comment re survivors.
Our organisation is survivor led and survivors have expressed to us that they wish to meet people who have scepticism it is not me “parading survivors”. The reason they want to do so is they know there are very difficult individuals who would seek to discredit them.
So I’m guessing it is a no re visiting our charity to see the evidence that we have responded to all government requests apart from confidential data. I guess it would’t fit your aims to see proof.
However you have spent a great deal of time trying to show some kind of pseudo proof of some wrongdoing so I do think your time would be better spent meeting survivors. However you strike me as someone who should not be anywhere near any survivors so perhaps your instinct on this is right as we wouldn’t want survivors around dangerous people as those they usually meet are very respectable and responsible even those with scepticism. …
Oh and I should add the so called scandal was almost four years ago and we have been funded extensively by the Scottish Government ever since as it was proven to be malicious in court
And OMG wrote back:
If, as you claim, you have written evidence that your funders demanded compromising, confidential information from you why on earth do you not make such evidence public? Post it here or on your website. Surely cutting and pasting is not so difficult to do? I really do not understand why you keep on insisting that people should come and visit your project in person when all it would take to prove you are not lying is to post your evidence to an open source.
You must appreciate that, by withholding such important evidence, if it exists, you are simply continuing to tread the well worn path of Kid’s Company style denials and deflection.
You raise an interesting point when you state that the “survivors” amongst your clients are keen to meet people who are skeptical of their narratives.
I am a victim / survivor (I dislike both terms as they have been so misused of late) of child sexual abuse and I have met and discussed child sexual abuse with many other survivors, I cannot say exactly how many but numbers possibly running into the hundreds. Child sexual abuse is incredibly traumatic and distressing and often effects people for their whole lives. The vast majority of the survivors I know are open about their experiences of being sexually abused only amongst their closest friends, in therapy groups, or with their therapists. Many hide their experiences even from close family members, often so as not to cause them distress. The only exception to this is probably on the internet where the anonymity offered (more properly assumed) allows people to share experiences openly with strangers.
The level of shame associated with CSA/CSE is significant and, at least at a residual level, stays with survivors into adulthood. Another unconscious feature of the subjective experience of being abused as a child is that one develops a distinct feeling that speaking out can be dangerous and that one’s words carry the potential to cause great destruction. I believe that this is a residual effect of the common “our little secret” element common in CSA/CSE. A person who grew up in a family where speaking out could destroy the family and send a parent to jail is likely to carry an unconscious anxiety that their words can be destructive and that speaking out is dangerous.
The point that I am making is that, while the effects of child abuse do vary from child to child, it is usual for survivors to feel disinclined to speak out publicly for all sorts of reasons. It takes immense courage to openly describe an experience of child sexual abuse without the cover of anonymity. The brave people who do speak out and who relinquish their anonymity generally keep some things private and also receive much support from friends and professionals in terms of limiting the information they provide to the media.
It is extremely important for survivors to understand that, even if they “go public” about their experiences, that they are entitled to privacy and are allowed to decline requests for further information if they feel uncertain or uncomfortable. Professionals supporting survivors are aware of the salacious interests of the media and the public at large and thus typically do a lot of work with survivors exploring the implications of public disclosure and inviting survivors to explore their feelings around boundaries. Sensitive persons are aware that there is a real danger that people who have been abused as children can have their boundaries violated yet again by the press or by curious members of the public who have a prurient interest in CSA/CSE.
I have encountered a lot of people, all female, who claim to be the survivors of satanic ritual abuse. One of the unusual features I have noticed about these people that differentiates them from survivors of ordinary, mundane, disgusting child sexual abuse is that SRA survivors seem extremely motivated to provide the most graphic and gruesome details of their alleged abuse to anyone who will listen to them. It is not unusual for people who claim to be SRA survivors to create websites, publish “memoirs” and generally make a lot of noise about being an SRA survivor, very often disclosing their real name and even making videos and uploading them onto youtube so they can trumpet their experiences of SRA, quite openly, to a massive audience around the world.
2 women of my acquaintance expressed a desire to relinquish work so they they could dedicate their lives to visiting schools and youth clubs and “educate” children about “the terrible reality of SRA”. They aspired to become full time SRA “educators”.
Pausing briefly on this point: the sense of reticence and feelings of shame which OMG describes in survivors of child sexual abuse echoes the responses described in a Swedish study of children who’d been rescued from producers of commercial child sexual abuse images and videos. Conversely, those who claim to have been victims of Satanic ritual abuse seem fascinated about their own experience, and rarely turn down an opportunity to “tell their story”.
Back to you, OMG:
I find it interesting that the therapists “supporting” the “SRA survivors”, rather that encouraging them to consider carefully all the emotional and practical consequences of going public about CSA, had encouraged them to relinquish confidentiality and talk about their “memories” to anyone who will listen.
I find this interesting and very disturbing in relation to your project. Surely, if you genuinely believe that your clients are SRA survivors, it is potentially very risky to exploit them by inviting them to meet up in real life with a group of SRA sceptics, even if your clients express an interest in such a meeting? I do not understand how you can justify this to yourself or to anyone else and I would welcome your thoughts on the issue.
There is one other aspect of your posts that I think needs to be addressed and that is the important of understanding the difference between personal testimonials and peer reviewed evidence. Anyone familiar with researching health and “wellness” frauds, scams and quackery will be aware of the tendency of quacks to use testimonials rather that peer reviewed evidence. You claim to have evidence but are only offering personal testimonials from people who possess “memories” of ritual abuse and who are clients of a project with a controversial history and that provides quack therapies, known to generate false memories, to its clients.
Finally Janine, you claim that the fact you are still receiving funds as proof that the controversies that engulfed your projects have been resolved satisfactorily.
Again I am reminded of Kid’s Company. Despite numerous whistleblowers, controversies and warning signs the charity continued to receive funding, including a payment of £3,000,000 just before it collapsed.
I am concerned that your project continues to receive funding. The similarities with Kid’s Company are so evident that I think it highly likely that your project will follow the same trajectory.
Of course your project has been funded on a much smaller scale than Kid’s Company. I suspect that when it does eventually implode, rather than making a spectacular crash like Kid’s Company it is likely to generate a small gust of noxious gas and a sound akin to that of a small mammal, possibly a Jack Russell terrier, breaking wind.