Tuesday, 16 December 2008

SUS’s SOUND-BITE: Metaphorical Middle Finger

by Susan Ryder

Yesterday morning I awoke to the news that former MPs Don Brash and Katherine Rich, together with author Lynley Hood were calling for a new enquiry into the Peter Ellis case. For those who were not in the country at the time, me included, the former Christchurch Civic Creche employee was jailed in 1993 for 16 counts of sexual offences against children, but has always maintained his innocence.

The last few posts have seen me speaking up for white men, (although God knows why -- there’s a few commenting here I’d gladly sacrifice to the feminazi godless!), arguing the merits of drug legalisation and open immigration, (guaranteed to make the blue corner see red, those two), and calling Muslim terrorism for what it is: terrorism by Muslims.

Being so close to Christmas and already having a seasonal message lined up for next week (bet you can’t wait!) I was in the mood for something light. I’d been toying with the idea of having a laugh at either a bunch of sopping wet green mush I came across in a magazine at the hairdresser’s last Friday or the .. wait for it .. Miss World 2008 contest I stumbled upon on TV yesterday while sitting down to lunch. This latest saga in the ongoing Peter Ellis story changed my plans in a trice.

I returned to New Zealand permanently in 1995 two years after Ellis’s sentencing, to find the case still raging. I cannot comment upon it per se, except to say that it sounded a mighty nasty affair.

The call for another enquiry prompted some interesting calls to Leighton Smith’s programme. Several men, all fathers and grandfathers, recounted their being frightened of bathing or even playing with their little children/grandchildren around that time, lest their actions be misinterpreted. I remember having a conversation with a late friend, then a father of little kids himself, on that very topic whereby he was adamant he was not going to acquiesce to the nonsense. I applauded him then and still hold to that viewpoint.

I’m quite dotty about little kids. They crack me up. I just don’t get those who don’t have an affinity with them. I blame it on my parents and grandparents, all of whom were and are the same. I’m the sort of person who openly coos at strangers’ babies. Provided you communicate with little people in tandem with their parents to rightly disarm the stranger-danger thing, nobody in my experience has ever taken offence. On the contrary, they have always been delighted that someone has taken the trouble to be nice to their kids. I’m sure it’s because most people share a soft spot where babies and little kids are concerned.

So it wasn’t onerous for me to be a nanny, au pair or mother’s helper, call it what you will, on several occasions in past travels. In all, I’ve cared for a dozen children aged from three months to 10 years, in various international locations. The duration ranged from a few weeks to 12 months, all consisting of feeding, washing and playing with kids together with light housework and ferrying them around. The upshot was that I found myself living in gorgeous places in affluent surroundings in between bouts of travel, meeting lovely people along the way.

One such job was in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, living with a great couple and helping out with their three children while they ran their business from home. They acquired membership of the nearby country club so I could take the kids to the pool whenever I wanted. It was a generous gesture: the membership was expensive and they personally loathed the place on account of its largely plastic members, who were all teeth, tan and little else.

If you can’t beat them short-term you may as well join them short-term so I befriended lots of the weekday Barbies, all of whom had little kids, too. (The Kens were all hard at work making squillions in Silicon Valley). I used to leave the baby at home with his parents, while I took their 5 year old son and his little sister, aged 3.

If it all sounds like a recipe for easy money, I’d be the first to admit that the jobs were not overly-taxing. But every time I buckled the kids into the car, I was conscious that I was responsible for their parents’ greatest treasures. You can double that responsibility where water is concerned, particularly in the world’s most litigious country, all of which brings me to the point of this wee story.

‘Missing children’ is the euphemism for snatched children in the US. I was acutely aware of this horror every time I poured a cup of coffee, milk cartons sometimes displaying images of missing children, together with relevant details. It is a family’s worst nightmare and beyond comprehension. On the strength of that, I tried to never take my eyes off the kids which, as any parent or guardian will tell you, is much easier said than done, especially in a busy, noisy pool environment.

Little people attract a disproportionate amount of stuff; the smaller they are, the more stuff required, which routinely saw me packed up like a carthorse. I used to grab a table close to the pool so that when I wasn’t in the water with the kids, I was only a couple of feet away. When it came time to leave, the 5 year old was understandably upset that I wanted to take him into the women’s changing room with his sister .. “but I’m a big boy, Sus!” .. and I wasn’t having him go into the men’s on his own on my watch, so I settled on a compromise: to quickly and quietly change them poolside, there and then.

We were surrounded by tables, chairs, umbrellas and bags for Africa; in other words, barely visible. I dried them from the waist up and put their tops on, then whipped their togs off, drying & dressing them in seconds. Sandals and hats on, bags repacked and loaded (on me) and we were gone. I never thought anything of it.

I should have. The first pilgrims were Puritan by name and puritanical by nature and more than 300 years later, I discovered that the feeling was still mutual. Nothing was ever said to me, but casually mentioned to the couple with whom I lived. They, bless them, responded that they were delighted I took their kids’ safety so seriously in their absence and that you’d really have to wonder at the sort of adult who was offended at the very brief sight of child nudity, impeded by outdoor furniture to boot! The three of us rolled our eyes at the silliness and shared a good laugh at their expense.

Needless to say I continued to visit the pool, smile and acknowledge everybody and then discreetly dry them poolside before leaving every day, joined by my Australian and Norwegian au pair friends who did the same with their charges. Nobody said a word.

And the moral of this story, ladies and gentlemen? Never be cowed by collective stupidity and small-mindedness. Stand up and scorn it. Laugh at it loudly. Give it the metaphorical middle finger if you feel so inclined. It deserves no better.

* * Read more of Sus at Sus’s Soundbites * *


  1. At that time, a lady working in the creche, though not one of those charged, was a good friend of mine. Nothing went on in that creche, it was just Ellis's flamboyant personality meeting, as you say, the null mentality of the medieval witch trials. A bunch of PC, and in this case religious nutters, gone berserk.

    That whole saga would be a shameful indictment on the justice system of any country. A disgrace. No amount of compensation can ever give Ellis his life back, which he has lost at the jackbooted feet of an hysterical mob mentality, and an out of control State.

    I'm currently reading Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being. In that book, Sabrina, who escaped Czechoslovakia after the Russian tanks rolled in over 1968, cannot make her emigre friends understand why she will not demonstrate against the Communists through the streets of Paris. She puts it like this, and it relates equally to this case and those times in Christchurch:

    Regarding why she could not join the protests with her friends, "She would have liked to tell them that behind Communism, Fascism, behind all occupations and invasions lurks a more basic, pervasive evil and that the image of that evil was a parade of people marching by with raised fists and shouting identical syllables in unison. But she knew she would never be able to make them understand.

  2. Actually, I think I may have been a little mixed up between your article, Sus, and another I read yesterday which compared this case to the Salem Witch Trial hysteria in America over 1692 :)

    My point remains the same though.

  3. Yes it does, Mark.

    I thought of Salem yesterday, too. Ever been there? It's not far from Plymouth where the Pilgrims first landed. Like any place that has played host to a dodgy past, it's odd to correlate the past madness with its current normality.

    Had I known more about the Ellis case itself, I'd have invoked Salem as a comparison because the material I have read certainly gave me the impression of a witch-hunt of sorts.

    Instead I chose to highlight the importance of laughing in the face of silliness. How absurd and tragic that a grandad should think twice about cuddling his small grandson!

    In my case, I love the irony. Because in changing the kids in public, I was also protecting myself against any possible charge of sexual impropriety.

    It's a strange world, sometimes.

  4. Interesting, Mark

    I have a friend who was working in Christchurch at the time who supported some witnesses in the trial. He swears that he saw Ellis threaten these witnesses. The guty is not a religious nutter he is actually a Gay man.

    BTW Medieaval witch hunts is a misnomer. I think you are refering to a phenomina the Inquistion was one of the first bodies to condemn which occured in the Reinassance.

  5. Threaten how Matt?

    And does that incriminate him on the charges laid? Any such threats, and I can't comment on that, could equally be read as a man who was being destroyed becoming frantic that someone tell the truth?

  6. 'Witch hunt' refers to the hysteria, and the mob mentality, that became concomitant with the conduct of this case in Christchurch at the time.

    And that's not even touching on the conflicts of interest/emotion that the chief policeman involved in this case was under.

  7. I'm reading about this one at the moment. Apparently some of those devilish creche workers had constructed a series of deep underground passages complete with dungeons and torture rooms. There were all sorts of terrible implements for creating great harm hidden in there. Little babies were eaten alive. It was shocking stuff. Ellis got convicted of it. Children, as is well known, don't tell lies, so it must have been true.


  8. Mark

    Are you implying sexual liason with a "concerned mother"? Should there have been a resignation from the investigation due to conflict of interest?


  9. Given the nature of the case, I would have thought it self-evident that those investigating have no links whatsoever with any of the participants, on either side.

    Totally inappropriate, and a conflict of interest.

    But worse than that, regarding conflicts of interest:

    * Two jurors in the case had relationships with people involved in the case which had not been disclosed to the court.

    * The detective on the case, Colin Eade, admitted that he was mentally unwell during the investigation and that he later required treatment for depression. He subsequently formed sexual relationships with the mothers of two of the child complainants. And those connections would trouble be greatly.

    Furthermore, and my memory is being stretched now, Eade was some type of Christian fundamentalist wasn't he? I stand to be corrected on that one, but do remember a certain Christian hysteria in the press along with everything else.

    Plus, again please help my memory, the woman who laid the first complaint, had made such complaints before, elsewhere, and had the look of a victim looking for an offender. The flamboyant Ellis happened to thus meet her agenda nicely.

    ... Just looked up Wikipedia:

    The case began in November 1991 when a mother, who was a sexual abuse counsellor and self-diagnosed victim of sexual abuse, allegedly heard her four-year-old son say that he "didn't like Peter's black penis." Ellis was placed on leave subject to an internal investigation. When formally interviewed by the Department of Social Welfare [DSW] the boy, and five other children suspected of having been abused, made no disclosures of sexual abuse. No charges were laid. The boy who made the original complaint was moved to another creche where his mother again accused a male creche worker of sexually abusing her son. No charges were laid.

    In December 1991, Detective Colin Eade advised the creche's employer, the Christchurch City Council, about the allegations. Eade wrote: "To date there have been no disclosures of any sort of indecent touching by any person employed at the Child Care centre…[t]he reasons the parents, Ms Sidey [DSW] and myself were so concerned at the start of this enquiry, were that the children were displaying some behaviour that we often attribute to sexual abuse".

    And surely we all remember this:

    Contrary to best practice guidelines[9], parents and interviewers discussed children's abuse-allegations that had been previously elicited by parents. Department of Social Welfare specialist interviewers Lynda Morgan and Sue Sidey both testified that they would then try to elicit the same allegations from the child. They would not try to determine if the allegations were reliable nor explore all possible origins of the children's allegations. One mother reportedly told her son's interviewer that she had repeatedly asked him direct questions. She said she was told she had done nothing wrong (Bander, 1997).

    During the forensic interviews, children were asked if they had anything to say about the Civic Creche. Few allegations of abuse emerged during this phase of the interviews. Later in the interviews, many specific and direct questions were employed to elicit allegations that children had made to their parents. A number of suggestive and leading questions were asked. Questions were sometimes repeated when the child had already provided an answer. Children were seldom advised that it was acceptable to say "I don't know" or "I can't remember". Sue Sidey testified that "don't knows" and "can't remembers" were often "anxious responses". She provided no evidence to support her claim.

    As I said, the entire way this case was (mis)handled was a disgrace, and the product of a ruthless mob mentality turned against someone who stood out for his difference.

  10. The bit I find damming is that the female crèche workers were accused by the children of exactly the same behaviour. The women escaped but Peter did not. Either they were all guilt or all innocent! You cannot have it both ways.

  11. One of the children did retract her accusation against Peter Ellis. She said, that she made it up.

  12. So there were no dungeons at the creche?

    But surely all those educated people couldn't have been just a hysterical mob, could they?

    And that mother who was a sexual abuse councellor couldn't have been wrong?

    And the sexual abuse expert couldn't have been wrong? Surely she wouldn't have employed flawed techniques or fibs?

    Surely these people weren't fibbing.

    Surely not.

    People are educated and far too clever and far too aware these days.


  13. I would not take too much notice of what is said on Leighton Smith's show. Right wing, reactionary listeners attracted by a host.

    He has the government he was looking for I presume (although a stronger ACT presence would have suited him better).

    Have not heard what he made of Parliament under urgency, but even the Maxim Institute has been critical. BUMP!

  14. That's mostly true, Anon. However these guys (callers) were genuinely worried at the time.

    But my frustration at their, dare I say, impotence at scoffing at the nonsense outweighed any sympathy I felt for them.

    As for the govt LS "was looking for", that's not quite right. He's actually more libertarian than conservative -- really -- but those blue genes stubbornly persist in certain areas.

  15. Forgot to add that his largely pro-Nat/ACT audience provides good material for us. :)


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