Are We Manufacturing
Dr. Tana Dineen
on February 6, 1998 at the
Harassment Law Update 1998 Conference
The Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia
Vancouver, B.C. Canada
I have, undeniably, broken ranks;
I speak very critically of my own profession. And, in the next few
moments, I will begin to put my concerns, as they pertain to sexual
harassment litigation, "on the table." From the outset,
I would like you to know that I can back up anything I say, including
those statements which clash dramatically with widely accepted ideas.
I'm a serious researcher and an obsessional file keeper. I will
encourage your skepticism, welcome your questions, gladly provide
you with my sources, and invite you, at any time today or in the
future, to examine them and to challenge me.
I was, in fact, drawn to the
discipline of psychology by the intriguing questions that it asked
and by the insistence that any answers, and all statements, be examined
from every angle and seriously scrutinized. For almost 3 decades,
I worked as a clinician, trying to apply the knowledge from my discipline.
But Psychology has changed; today there are too many answers and
too few questions; the humble curiosity has given way to an arrogant
certainty. It seems that psychologists have discovered that Questions
don't pay, only Answers do.
Five years ago, I forced myself
to step back and take a cold hard look at what my profession has
become. I am still a psychologist by license here in B.C. and in
Ontario but I am NOT practicing. What I see being done under
the name of psychology is so seriously contaminated now by errors
in logic, popular myths and personal beliefs, and it is doing so
much harm to people, that I find myself in this strange role of
working to curb the pervasive influence of my own chosen profession.
Long ago I lost any expectation
that any necessary corrective actions would come from within the
profession; so, I find myself speaking most often now to people
outside my profession - to philosophers, to ethicists, to the clergy,
to educators, to criminologists and to lawyers. Last Fall, in Halifax,
I had the opportunity to address the Canadian Association of Provincial
Court Judges. The topic they gave me was: Judicial Skepticism:
Judging Psychology and Psychologists, and my message to them,
put simply, was that:
(1) psychology is an industry
masquerading as a profession,
(2) this industry is aggressively
targeting the judicial and legal systems as growth markets for its
(3) the current business
formula of this industry is:
(4) trusting psychologists
is so dangerous to the Justice System that judicial skepticism is
not only warranted but urgently needed!
The topic I was given for today's
luncheon talk is the question: Are we manufacturing victims?
The short answer is "YES;" now let me elaborate.
Over 30 years ago, I walked
into my first psychology class at McGill. The professor was a lean,
older man who walked with a limp. His name was Donald Hebb, and
he was one of the most respected neuropsychologists of this century.
I can remember him saying something to me which I have only recently
come to fully appreciate. He kept insisting that psychology must
than common sense;" that psychologists must be obliged to go beyond what people
commonly believe, to test out notions and see if they stand up under
scrutiny. He insisted on science - on investigation. Unfortunately,
psychologists seem so dedicated now to confirming their own notions
that the voices of those who remain committed to examining these
notions, testing them and disproving them are rarely heard. So,
it is the untested, unproven psychological notions which have come
to influence thinking and discourse. People, throughout society,
are mistaking "psychological notions" for "psychological
knowledge" or they are so enamored with these notions that,
even when the ideas make no sense at all, they refer to them as
The Justice System, and sexual
harassment litigation in particular, is an area in which such notions
are having a profound effect. I'd like to point them out and ask
each of you to consider the implications from your own vantage point.
First, I am going to ask you to consider a disturbing reality, that
is that the profession we call "Psychology" has actually
become "THE PSYCHOLOGY INDUSTRY."
1. THE PSYCHOLOGY INDUSTRY
We are accustomed to viewing
psychology as a scientifically based profession and psychologists
as healers and helpers, striving to reduce suffering and eradicate
social problems. But this is the promoted image - the public
image. I'm asking you now to consider an alternate image - that
of Psychology as big business and of psychologists as those
who profit from the sale of psychological products/services/influence.
What if Psychology is actually
an industry? And what if, like most industries, it is focused on:
protecting its own interests
expanding its market
increasing its influence.
The implications are serious
and, before discussing them, let me first give you a bit of the
history of Psychology. At the beginning of the 20th century, it
emerged, first, as a discipline, comparable to philosophy or anthropology;
then, very quickly, it became a "a profession," like medicine
and law and; then, with virtually no-one noticing what was happening,
it became an industry. When the American Psychological Association
(APA) was formed just over 100 years ago, there were only a dozen
or so members; they were primarily physicians or philosophers; not
one of them was "a licensed psychologist." Now there are
151,000 members of that association alone and professional licenses
This credentialing actually
started as recently as the 1950's, when Medicine was threatening
to designate psychotherapy as a medical procedure. Basically, medical
doctors were saying that they, and only they, should diagnose mental
illnesses and treat people for psychological problems. To protect
themselves from becoming quickly unemployed, psychologists established
licensing boards, which means that they gave themselves licenses;
then, they used these licenses to create monopolies and to qualify
themselves for third-party payments. Protecting the public had nothing
to do with it; self protection did. Not surprisingly, Social Workers,
Marriage and Family Therapists, and a whole range of people, offering
mental health services followed their lead, establishing licensing
boards of their own. And, even as we sit here today, new credentialing
bodies are being formed.
For example, five counseling
organizations, including such groups as the B.C. Association of
Clinical Counselors and the B.C. Art Therapy Association, have applied
recently to the Health Professions Council of BC, for designation
under the Health Professions Act, in a move to have "counseling" designated
as a restricted act. Yet, there is no consensus or even clear idea
of what counseling means, and to qualify for membership in some
of these organizations, there is no minimum academic requirement
and no training is required other than experience. These people,
who claim their areas of service to include the counseling of "sexual abuse"
victims, if they aren't there already doing so, may soon be among
the "experts," who offer services to you and your clients.
Are they professionals? You decide. Is this a business move? It
Another group wanting to get
licensed, recently posted on the Internet the following statement:
"Certification is one of
the major ways in which unrecognized or under-recognized professions
achieve parity and recognition."
And that's precisely my point!
Licensing, certification, credentialing in psychology is about money.
It's about looking credible and getting paid.
When I use the term "psychologist,"
I use it with a small "p," referring to all of these people
who sell expert opinions, market their workshops about stress and
trauma, diagnose/label people as suffering from psychological injuries,
offer victim support and do counseling and psychotherapy. When I
use the term, "The Psychology Industry," it's the business,
the packaging, promotion and sale of these services that I'm talking
If we consider just the big
"P" licensed psychologists like me, we have per capita
1/4000 but if we consider all of them (including the Abuse Counselors,
Trauma Counselors, Social Workers, Crisis Workers,.) the estimate
would be about 1/250. Keep in mind that this is a better ratio even
than lawyers. An APA president has jokingly said that soon there
will be more psychologists than people in America and a Psychiatric
Association President (not joking at all) has said:
no less than the entire world is a proper catchment for present
day psychiatry (and psychology), and psychiatry need not be appalled
by the magnitude of the task... Our professional borders are virtually
Rome, 1968 President, American Psychiatric Association
Like anyone with something to
sell, these people need customers.
Now, there is nothing intrinsically
wrong in wanting to earn a living, even a good living. That's an
issue for all of us. But there is a problem when people, claiming
to be professionals, ignore both the lack of a knowledge base for
what they are doing and fail to acknowledge the existence of research
which suggests that their services may be ineffective or even harmful.
The increase in users of psychological
services looks something like this:
95-46% and some are projecting that, by the year 2000, 80% of the
population will be users.
II. THE JUSTICE SYSTEM
AS A GROWTH MARKET FOR PSYCHOLOGY
The Psychology Industry, while
trying to appear confident to its customers, is having its troubles.
As more and more competitors appear and, and as money for health
care decreases and along with it psychologist jobs, there is considerable
worry, even panic, being expressed. Listen to a couple of recent
quotes from Executives in Canadian psychological associations:
"Psychologists are expensive
to feed and painless to drown."
"Our profession is under
siege. Government spending cuts for research, health care
and education have gone well beyond the fat and are now deep into
the muscle and bone."
"Like it or not we have
got to do business differently. This is not a false alarm but a
wake up call; at issue is survival."
Finding new target populations
and new markets is a major activity and, progressively more, psychologists
are seeking their survival within the Justice System.
As early as 1976, the APA, in
its guide to career opportunities for psychologists, expressed the
"expectation that in the future forensic psychologists will
roam confidently and competently far beyond the traditional
roles of psychologists..."
A 1995 membership survey of
the APA indicated that almost 40% of members had been expert witnesses
in court proceedings; almost half of licensed psychologists consider
themselves to be experts and the courts agree.
The same year the Practice Directorate
of the APA addressing the issue of income security, stated that
"diversification is a viable form of self-preservation... Psychologists
may still get a steady stream of clients paying out-of-pocket, but
not enough to replace third-party payments...Forensics offers
broad opportunities for psychologists."
In September of last year the
1997 APA president stated: "I believe that forensic psychology
is a growth area within psychology."
The December issue of the APA's
flagship journal, American Psychologist, featured an article
about a conference at Villanova Law School in which participants
agreed that psychology "is poised to grab a more prominent
role in law after years of hanging in the sidelines."
If psychology is an industry
and if it is, as seems evident, targeting the Justice system as
a major market, what does this have to do with sexual harassment?
Well, psychologists are earning money diagnosing your clients -
putting labels on them, providing treatment, and, of course, offering
their "expert opinions" to the Courts.
Remember the business formula?
That's what they're using, not
consciously, - I don't mean to imply that an official business strategy
has been adopted or to suggest an actual conspiracy but, if you
look at how the Psychology Industry is operating, the formula fits.
And here is a very quick overview of how I see it working.
I would suggest to you that
there are three types of sexual harassment 'victims':
REAL VICTIMS are
the people who have been trying to deal/cope with a difficult
situation; they are the women and men who come forward with
reports that are true; they are the people who really have been
sexually harassed or even stalked or sexually assaulted. I don't
question the existence of this group and I doubt that any one
of you does. These people exist and they should be given respect
and offered whatever protection and compensation is appropriate.
Unfortunately, I see them being "used" by the Psychology Industry, which profits from focusing
on psychological consequences, interpreting for them (and you)
what they are going through, using terms like Chronic Stress,
Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder (PTSD), and low self-esteem
to label them, and promising eventual recovery but only through
treatment. The Psychology Industry, in many, if not most cases,
is creating/intensifying/prolonging these psychological consequences.
By describing how the typical victim reacts, telling us what
we all supposedly need to know about stress and trauma, it forces
these individuals into a stereotype of a "victim"
and turns them into patients. The research, extensively reviewed
in my book, does not support any of these notions and, in fact,
suggests that turning real victims into stereotypic victims
is unwarranted and may be harmful in many ways.
are the liars, the self-made victims who learn to fit this stereotype
by making use of the scripts provided by the Psychology Industry.
For a variety of reasons, which you can likely list as well
(or better) than I, people make false claims, often in a very
convincing manner, covering up inconsistencies with confusion,
managing to sound believable. And when exposed, their "crying
wolf" stories, as well as hurting those they accuse and
being costly to the system, have the effect of making it more
difficult for real victims to be believed. Last year there was
a dramatic, very public case at Simon Fraser involving an attractive
female student and her swim coach. It certainly disturbed people
and started many wondering just how many cases like this one
there were, and how to deal with the reality that some alleged
victims do lie. Most, if not all of us here, would concede that
Counterfeit Victims exist and that they present a disturbing
But there is a third type of
victim you may or may not already be aware of and I would suggest
that this third type, which I refer to as Synthetic Victims, presents
an even more disturbing problem than Counterfeit Victims.
are the people who become persuaded that they have been sexually
harassed and often they appear to be truly suffering the psychological
consequences. These people are the "honest liars."
They are, for example:
- the woman (or man) who seduces
a boss or coworker and then, feeling disappointed when it ends,
remembers it differently;
- the hard worker who, needing
to find an explanation (besides him/herself) for not getting an
expected raise or promotion, rethinks some incident;
- the person who, having experienced
incest or some more recent real sexual abuse or assault, is hypersensitive
to sexual cues and already trapped in some self image of being victimized;.
- the person who describes a
scene to a co-worker, a spouse or maybe to a psychologist or even
a lawyer and is provided with encouragement to think about it differently,
perhaps as an incident of harassment or assault.
Memories change; reactions change;
feelings change AND stories change. Relatively trivial events can
become dramatic; they can be moulded, edited and modified to fit
the sexual harassment script which people can easily find in pop
psychology books, women's magazines and on talk shows and now even
on the Internet. As Mordecai Richler puts it in his most recent
book Barney's Version,
these are people who "are tinkering with memory, fine-tuning
It is interesting that, although
most of us would have no problem accepting the idea that Counterfeit
Victims exist and might even be willing to consider the possibility
that there are Synthetic Victims, the Psychology Industry gives
some very authoritative and, I think, seriously misleading messages
which discourage us from doing so. While I was preparing this talk,
one of the first things I did was pull up on the Internet a Public
Affairs document, intended to educate the public (including the
legal community) about sexual harassment. It was an official statement
posted by the APA. If anyone wants to take a look at it I'll tell
you where to find it but let me now give you just one of the stated
"Research shows that
less than one percent of complaints are false. Women rarely file
complaints that are false."
Where, one might ask, does this
"fact" come from? In this instance, I did what I have
done on many other occasions; I searched out the source. First,
I posed my question in a e-mail message to the Public Affairs Directorate
which had posted it. No response; so, I tried again. No response.
So, after a week, I phoned the Secretary of APA and he suggested
that I contact the CEO which I did, sending to him copies of all
unanswered requests for information. The CEO contacted the Public
Affairs Directorate and, finally, I received a response saying that
the document was written by two psychologists, Louise Fitzgerald
and Lenore Walker and directing me to the senior researcher, Dr.
Fitzgerald. I contacted her by e-mail and she responded in a style
which has become painfully familiar to me, saying: "There are
so many resources that it is difficult to know exactly where to
start." She mentioned a few books, such as No Safe Haven
and The 9 to 5 Guide to Combatting Sexual Harassment,
which she said were "more basic for the lawyer crowd"
and ended her message with "Good luck." I wrote back saying
that I was quite familiar with this literature, could find no data
in it to back the statement and asked her again for a response to
my question. This time she wrote back a long, friendly message saying:
"The actual study, which appeared in Signs some years
back, which is the only systematic study ever conducted on
this topic as far as I know, found that only 1% of claims were fabricated;
this determination was made by the actual institutions against whom
the claims were made. I always forget the exact reference, but I
can look it up for you if it is important." Well, facts
are important to me; so, I e-mailed her back that "yes, it
is important" and asked her to look it up of me. That was a
couple of weeks ago now and I am still waiting for the reference.
Now, in the same response in which she had mentioned that study,
she said that "There is a similar study, although I'm not sure
it was quite as good, that appeared in Working Women magazine
a while back. I think it was done by Freda Klein in Boston; it is
referenced in the Bravo book (I think.)" So, I did look that
one up and what I found was a survey reported in the December issue
of Working Woman. It was a survey of Fortune 500 managers
and the conclusion was based on statements like this: "Every
story I hear is very specific and detailed, too much so to be made
up." Now, aside from being a decade out-of-date, there are
serious flaws with this survey. One of the most glaring of these
is the notion that believing a story to be true proves that
it is factual. I'll get back to that topic shortly.
Right now, I just want to stress
that it is important to ask where such numbers and "fact statements"
come from. The type of information, such as that posted on the APA
Sexual Harassment web-site and derived from such surveys can be
considered to be "advocacy data:" numbers created to make
a point or support an argument. This intentional misuse of numbers
to set policies or win court cases has been termed "data rape."
My concern is that such statements
serve to influence people, those who make reports of sexual harassment
and those who listen to these reports. Individuals become more likely
to misinterpret situations, to see themselves as victims and to
become unintentionally caught up in deceit and false claims. And
all of us become more likely to accept, at face value, the stories
both they, the Synthetic Victims and the intentional liars, the
Counterfeit Victims, tell.
I don't know what proportion
of sexual harassment claims are false. But I have no reason to accept
this "less than 1%" figure. When I asks lawyers, I get
quite a range of responses and generally these are much higher.
A few weeks ago, a US lawyer who specializes in this area, said
that he suspects that now about 10-15% of the claims being filed
are made by Counterfeit Victims and about 60-70% of the claims being
filed are made by Synthetic Victims. Has it gone that far? Well,
I don't know but I think that, because we don't know, investigation
in these cases becomes extremely important.
Aside from the influence of
advocacy data, there are three pervasive ways in which the Psychology
Industry contaminates sexual harassment litigation: psychologizing,
pathologizing, and generalizing.
PSYCHOLOGIZING- ("turning life
into a theory")
As a society, we have become
accustomed to seeking psychological explanations for every part
of life and to relying on experts or specialists to give guidance,
direction or approval. Who questions the notion that psychologists
can see inside people's heads and hearts, know their thoughts, intentions,
motives? Who questions what the experts have to say about our lives
from birth to death? Who questions that psychologists know best
how to parent, make marriages work, combat violence, resolve conflicts,
I'll take just one of these,
Grieving, as an example. Virtually everyone is familiar with the
idea that there are stages: anger, denial, etc. and that it is basically
a good thing to get people to talk, express their feelings and tell
their story. But how many people are aware of the research which
shows that grieving is a very personal, individual experience and
that the idea of stage is just an unproven theory? And how many
people are aware that there is research to suggest that when we
encourage people to talk, express feelings and tell their painful
stories, we may actually, in the long run, be interfering and preventing
them from "getting over it"?
What one serious researchers
who investigates the fascinating questions about how people experience
loss and how they "get over it," has termed the "bereavement
industry," is flourishing; The Association of Death Educators
and Counsellors (ADEC) boasts 2,000 members. When this researcher,
George Bonanno attended the Association's annual meeting last year
to present the results of experiments, which clearly bring into
question much of what these people are selling, there was virtually
no reaction. These "professionals" simply continued to
share their success stories and talk about the importance of the
'caring' and 'healing,' they provide, quite oblivious to the implications
of his research.
Whether we are talking about
grieving or about sexual harassment, what we are encountering are
these ever-so-popular theories that imply that psychologists know
how "victims" react, the stages they go through, the psychological
consequences and the support that is required for recovery. Who
is questioning them? Well, I am hoping that you will watch for the
theories and examine them carefully to determine the extent to which
they are nothing more than biassed opinions and unsubstantiated
The next time you listen to
an expert, either in or out of court, I'll ask you to think about
this example of what a prominent psychiatrist, a professor at Harvard
Medical School has said. This man has testified in many high profile
cases involving accusations of sexual abuse/assault/harassment,
presenting the expert opinion that all memories are valid and suggesting
that a witness's testimony must be true. This is an excerpt from
a transcript of an interview on "Frontline:"
VAN DER KOLK:
"Every time people tell a story, it's
basically a story that is looking for somebody to believe you to
- be convinced. Of vital importance for a person's well-being, own well-being, is to make a narrative
of their own life that makes sense to them. And for people's own
well-being, the accuracy of one's own story about oneself is not critical. We all
tell tales about ourselves. We all have images of ourselves that
are not entirely in keeping with the reality of one's life, but we need to have a coherent version of
"So what do you do? How do you ever know what the
patient is saying actually happened?
VAN DER KOLK:
reading a novel. You read a bad novelist, after a while, you put
the book down because the story doesn't cohere. The story doesn't make
sense. People don't talk this way and people don't
interact this way and the book is lousy. If you read a great book
and the characters are true to life, that's how people really feel and interact with each other.
And eventually, when you do clinical work with people, the internal
coherence of the story, how it all hangs together, is not very different
from what the great novelists do."
Apparently, all you need in
order to be a credible witness is to have a good script, an interesting
story, something that fits with the expert's theory.
There is, in fact, a considerable
body of research, which demonstrates that clinicians, such as this
expert are as bad, or even worse, than most of us at distinguishing
the truth from the lies and the fiction from the non-fiction. And
most people, even the people who conduct the surveys on sexual harassment,
seem either unaware or unconcerned. They accept the naive idea that
if someone believes a story to be true, it is true. Think back for
a moment to the survey from which the conclusion that less than
1% of sexual harassment claims are false. Remember the quote from
one of the managers about how he knew a particular story to be true?
"Every story I hear is very specific and detailed, too much
so to be made up." We need to recognize how difficult it is
to distinguish the truth from the lies and the fiction from the
non-fiction and, to realize that when we bring in psychologists
to help at any stage of the process, we may well be compounding
Fiction, fantasy, lying and
deception have been aspects of clinical practice since its inception,
and something to which clinicians have adjusted. Janet, a contemporary
of Freud, said that it is sometimes in the best interest of the
patient to lie for "there are some to whom as a matter of strict moral obligation,
we must lie."
Such an attitude is not the
exception with many psychologists humming the same tune that it
is not a matter of whether something is true or not, it is a matter
of what the client believes and what makes her or him feel better.
Dan Sexton, Director of the
National Child Abuse Hot Line, stated publicly: "I'm not a
law enforcement person, thank God! I'm a psychology person, so
I don't need the evidence. I come from a very different place,
I don't need to see evidence to believe... I don't care what law
enforcement's perspective is, that's not my perspective. I'm a mental
health professional. I need to find a way to help survivors heal
to the trauma that they had as children and to help support other
clinicians who are trying to help survivors and victims of this
kind of crime."
And here is a similarly oblivious
statement made by a local physician/hypnotherapist, described as
an internationally recognized authority who, just a few weeks ago
in an article published in the Vancouver Sun, tried to "speak
up on behalf of therapists" whose credibility was wavering
in the light of some disturbing publicity about an unsuccessful
prosecution of a teacher for alleged sexual abuse recalled during
therapy. Marlene Hunter said: "I am a therapist; I discover
dissociation, not lost memory."
This blurring of the boundaries
between fantasy and reality is rampant in the Psychology Industry
and so too is the predominant theory that says that, "victims"
of anything, from a brutal rape to an off-colour joke suffer serious
psychological consequences. Now that theory takes us directly to
the second process what I call Pathologizing.
PATHOLOGIZING - ("turning situations
By pathologizing, I mean the
turning events, feelings and problems into a variety of disorders
requiring professional services without which the individual would
get worse or society would be at greater risk.
Consider this statement:
"Verbal abuse is literally
dangerous to our health, in the same way that contaminated food
and polluted water and toxic waste are dangerous. There's nothing
"metaphorical" about this danger; it's real."
This was another claim for which
I sought out the source. When I posed my question to the author,
she responded with the usual line about there being so many resources
that it is difficult to know where to start and ended up being unable
to provide a single study to support her claim. Her statement is
another example of advocacy data and one which makes use of "fear
appeal" - a particular advertising strategy which is listed
in the Marketing Dictionary. Fear appeal is what advertisers use
to encourage us to rush out and buy products such as burglar alarms
and earthquake insurance. And it is what is used to promote a wide
range of psychological services, including those pertaining to sexual
The monthly newspaper of the
APA, in the January/98 issue, states that sexual assault/ harassment
is among the most serious of what, according to the APA are "hate
crime." The victims, it is claimed, need five years to overcome
the emotional distress as compared to only two years for other,
what psychologists call, "non-bias" crimes. (Five years
of treatment at $100/session, given 4 weeks vacation per year; amounts
to $24,000 and that's not bad for business!)
Going back now to the Web-site
posted by the APA to educate the public (including the legal
community) about sexual harassment, listen now to what it says about
the consequences of being sexually harassed::
Being sexually harassed
can devastate your psychological health, physical well-being and
vocational development. Women who have been harassed often change
their jobs, career goals, job assignments, educational programs
or academic majors. In addition, women have reported psychological
and physical reaction to being harassed that are similar to reactions
to other forms of stress. They include:
Anger, fear, frustration,
feelings of betrayal
of being powerless
Phobias, panic reactions
Is all of this based on any
objective research? NO! It is yet another example of "fear
appeal" advertising and of pathologizing. If people really
have (or think they have) been sexually harassed, such lists and
statements can serve to suggest to them that they will begin to
experience one or more of these problems. As well, psychologists
argue that comments or behaviours are abusive or harassing if they
lead to "poor self-esteem, depression, psychological sequellae requiring
therapy, etc." So, events, which had at the time seemed only
annoying, can come to be reinterpreted as episodes of sexual harassment.
Back in 1961, in the first edition
of his now classic book on psychotherapy, Jerome Frank wrote:
The demand for psychotherapy
keeps pace with the supply, and at times one has the uneasy feeling
that the supply may be creating the demand...Psychotherapy is the
only form of treatment which, at least to some extent, appears to
create the illness it treats.
Now, just as I would never question
the existence of sexual harassment or of sexual assault or of discrimination,
I would never question the existence of serious mental illness.
The diagnosis of Paranoid Schizophrenia does, I think, mean something
but labels such as PTSD, Depression and Chronic Stress are more
often than not inappropriately applied and serving not to identify
an actual illness but rather to make people appear sick and disabled.
Some of you may actually have seen cases in which you have suspected
that such labels have actually gotten in the way of clients ever
getting back work or getting on with their lives.
Aside from this psychologizing
and pathologizing there is a third way in which the Psychology Industry
is applying it's formula and that is what I call "Generalizing."
GENERALIZING - ("it's
just as if...")
By generalizing, I mean the
turning of progressively more trivial events into dramatic incidents.
The verbal abuse quote that I mentioned earlier is one example.
It seems that, while, as kids, most of us might have chanted "sticks
& stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me,"
and learned to shrug off the occasional nasty comment, we are now
being taught that words do hurt and that our emotional injuries,
especially if we ignore them, are every bit as debilitating as physical
Getting back now to sexual harassment,
the process of generalizing is remarkably evident.
Here is one example of a survey
question used to determine the occurrence and frequency of Sexual
Harassment: "Have you
ever been looked at in a way that made you uncomfortable?"
and another "Has anyone ever said to you anything with sexual
content that made you uncomfortable?"
In a mailed self-report survey
of 916 US female family practice residents, reported by the American
Medical Association (AMA), it was stated that 37% reported having
suffered from Sexual Harassment. However saying "yes"
to ever having been "the target of malicious gossip" could
classify a person as having been sexually harassed. What, one might
ask, do people mean by "malicious gossip" and how does
it get translated to mean "sexual harassment?"
A Canadian Medical Association
Journal (CMAJ) article on abuse of medical students considered
to be a form of verbal abuse, "prearranged time for teaching not followed up or canceled"
a form of emotional abuse, and "use of sexist teaching material" a form
of sexual abuse. The psychological effects of such abuse were said
to be indicated by "diminished
interest in or enthusiasm for courses or studies."
I understand that, recently,
the term "Covictimization" was coined to refer to the
"victims" of second-hand knowledge of sexual harassment,
an occurrence which is said to be high, especially among women.
So now, just knowing, or hearing, about "sexual harassment
is in itself a form of harassment" and a cause of psychological problems. Likely most if not
all of you, given that you hear about such cases, could easily be
diagnosed as suffering from this condition.
As you may know, there is a
well known lawyer/feminist who has advocated charging construction
workers who whistle at passers-by not merely with sexual harassment
but with sexual assault. When someone wrote an unflattering review
of her book, she claimed that the effect was that of rape: "He
wanted me as a violated woman with my legs spread." There may
be unflattering reviews of my book too but I cringe to think that
these reviews would turn me into a rape victim and the reviewer
into a rapist.
This "slippery slope"
logic is blurring the distinction between ordinary, everyday events,
which many of us women are not only be able to cope with but might,
on occasion, even enjoy, and brutal assaults, such as rape. And
it is also blurring our understanding of legal concepts. How does
one determine now when sexual harassment becomes sexual assault?
I wonder sometimes whether, if the Justice system continues to be
influenced by this definitional ooze, there will come a day when
every issue you are dealing with now has become a criminal issue.
For not only are we manufacturing victims; we are also manufacturing
crimes, but that's another topic and I'm running out of time.
So here I will end my rendition
of what, at the beginning, I described as "a disturbing reality."
A prominent Toronto psychologist has dismissed my concerns, calling
my book, MANUFACTURING VICTIMS, "The Ripley's Believe
It Or Not of Psychology." However, I doubt that these concerns
can be so easily dismissed. The endnotes in my book, which number
about 1,000, cite material which is neither obscure nor merely freaks
of nature. And, once again, I will invite you to scrutinize my sources
and, as I end, I will express my hope that you will:
1) Scrupulously investigate
any sexual harassment report that lands on your desk, looking not
only for corroborating evidence, but, also, for possible contamination
by the Psychology Industry. This contamination can take place, not
only directly in psychotherapy but indirectly through pop psychology
books, self-help manuals, media reports, support groups, comments
made by family or co-workers, and even information posted on the
Internet. For anyone interested, I have recently had my attention
drawn to a new set of guidelines, from the Minister of Justice in
the Netherlands regarding investigation of sexual assault allegations
following psychotherapy which, I think, could be adapted to fit
the investigation of sexual harassment claims.
2) As much as possible, try
to help people avoid becoming labelled as suffering from PTSD, Depression,
Chronic Stress or "low self-esteem" and from getting themselves
caught up in the "victim stereotype." Do what you can
to avoid, and to help others avoid, the notion promoted by the Psychology
Industry that people who make reports of sexual harassment go through
a particular series/sequence of reactions and the suggestions that
they are likely to suffer specific psychological consequences.
3) Try to prevent your clients,
including those who are real victims of sexual harassment, from
being turned into patients. Whenever possible, resist the conversion
of cash settlements into payments for counseling or therapy. Get
the money directly to the victims of sexual harassment and not into
the hands of the industry which profits from maintaining them as
4) Do what you can to stop the
Justice System from being turned into a bogus healing process and
used as a cash cow for the Psychology Industry.
I will leave you with one final
One waits in vain for psychologists
to state the limits of their knowledge.
I have been waiting a very long
time and now I look to people outside my profession, and especially
to lawyers, to set limits on the Psychology Industry.