‘Expert’ advice on informing victims’ parents questioned

Labour party officials defended their decision not to inform parents of the victims of the alleged sexual assaults at the Young Labour summer camp.

Stuff: Labour Party confirms sexual misconduct at camp – parents and police not told

Labour’s general secretary has defended not telling the police or parents about complaints teenagers were sexually assaulted at a summer camp last month.

Andrew Kirton, the Labour Party’s general secretary, said he stood by the way the party had handled the situation, which he said was done with a “victim-led” focus on the back of advice from a Wellington sexual violence charity.

Parents of the victims hadn’t been told about the incident because “we wanted to deal with the young people in the first instance,” Kirton said.

“We didn’t want to assume the young people involved had told their parents. They’re 16 so that had an impact on that decision and that was the advice we got.”

But the advice Kirton says he received is universal ‘best practice’.

I have received a copy of a professsional counselor’s advice on confidentially not being absolute when dealing with young people suffering trauma.


I have recently had a chance to catch up with the news regarding the sexual assault allegations perpetrated against 4 young people at the NZ Labour Party Youth Camp at Waihi, and I find myself feeling simply appalled by the role of the Counsellors in this saga.

In my professional practice opinion, gleaned from over 17,000 hours of practice, the decision by the so-called “experts” to not tell parents about what had happened to their children at the camp flies in the face of common sense and ethical decency.

This decision is also at odds with the evidence of what constitutes best practice.

There are a number of logical inconsistencies within the narrative of those who were charged with providing a safe environment for these young people – so many in fact as to risk eroding parental And caregiver confidence in the ability of the “experts” to actually make reasonable and rational decisions regarding people in crisis under their care.

This story is one of many to have emerged over time, under the mis-represented umbrella of “client confidentiality”.

Confidentiality (in any profession) is not absolute.

For Counsellors in this story to claim that confidentiality is absolute, is to incur an inconsistency with their own ethical Codes of Practice.

I know this, because I have had cause to review the Codes of Ethics for the six main Professional Associations that operate within the social service delivery space, a review that also included the Privacy Act 1993.

Every single one of the aforementioned documents accepts breach of confidentiality without client consent in four instances of disclosure: risk to self, risk to others, risk from others, and disclosure of illegal intent or action.

These breaches have particular significance for clients under the age of 17, which all of the alleged camp victims were.

Part of the informed consent process for clients in Counselling is for the Counsellor to advise clients at the beginning of the first session that some exceptions to confidentiality exist, prior to any disclosure being made.

Failure of the Counsellor to conduct an adequate informed consent process can result in the Counsellor adopting a level of responsibility for the client and families welfare that they have no right to claim in the absence of parental involvement and awareness (as has happened in this case).

Offering an illegitimate blanket of confidentiality also risks further alienating a young client from the enduring available support structures available within the family unit.

There is also a logical inconsistency in the reasons given by the experts not to tell the parents about what occurred in the camp, and it goes like this.

The experts in this saga claim that the alleged victims of the sexual assault were traumatised by the actions against them, yet it is these same traumatised minds that the experts choose to trust in terms of the victims (who are most likely fearful, confused, and in shock themselves) being able to make a reasonable decision about who to tell or not tell about what happened, because of the risk of re-traumatisation?!

This isn’t (as the experts claim) best practice – it’s rather professional abdication of a legitimate responsibility for the Counsellor to skillfully navigate the child towards their family so that the family can manage the issue at hand, with assistance from the Counsellor, if required.

The oft-repeated acclaimed rights of children and young people thus become misguided ideological nonsense when contrasted against the sanctity of the parent-child relationship which informs the right of parents to decide what is best for their children.

There is now a plethora of longitudinal population research studies that reveal that the higher order brain centres (e.g. the pre-frontal cortex, responsible for integrating sensory information and reasoning) don’t fully develop until the early-mid twenties.

To therefore assume (as the experts in this case have) that young people in crisis are capable of making a rational decision about what is best for them in the absence of parental or caregiver guidance is a classic example of present day ideology attempting to supersede historical and empirically revealed common sense.

Perhaps the lesson for the Counselling profession is this: when working with clients, and particularly younger clients, those who claim to be “helping” need to be very cautious of claiming a responsibility for a young person’s welfare or situation that is not theirs to claim.

A life may well eventually depend on the application of such professional discernment.

41 Comments

  1. Corky

     /  March 16, 2018

    ”Flies in the face of common sense and ethical decency.”

    Little more needs to be said, except suggest not voting Labour.

    • lurcher1948

       /  March 16, 2018

      Of course National has much higher ethical standards (choke gasp) tui ad

      • Corky

         /  March 16, 2018

        You have just proven my point , Lurchy. Thankyou. The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.

    • Blazer

       /  March 16, 2018

      not voting Labour or in fact for any party…eh..Corky.

      • Corky

         /  March 16, 2018

        Correct. Especial those that put ideology before ”common sense and ethical decency.”

        • Blazer

           /  March 16, 2018

          That must be them…all obviously.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  March 16, 2018

            People who are too lazy to get off their arses and go and vote have to find some excuse for their feebleness and justification for their criticism of a regime that they did nothing to change.

            • Corky

               /  March 16, 2018

              Hows voting going for you, Kitty?

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  March 16, 2018

              It isn’t at the moment. There is no election until 2020 so nobody’s voting. You really are out of touch, aren’t you ?

            • Corky

               /  March 16, 2018

              ,

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  March 16, 2018

              Blank space – how appropriate.

            • Corky

               /  March 16, 2018

              ”It isn’t at the moment.”

              No imagination and such a literalist. Anybody else would know what I am hinting at. But they aren’t trying to be cheap point scoring prat.

              Blank space? You can’t post a blank space.

            • Corky

               /  March 16, 2018

              * a.

            • Gezza

               /  March 16, 2018

              Should that be “eh?” 🤔

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  March 16, 2018

              Don’ start that childish literalist rubbish again, it’s a lie and everyone knows it and is probably as bored as I am by it. It’s old, tired, a stupid lie and a waste of time.

              The blank space – or as near as one can have – was appropriate because it represents you and your ideas.

              You asked about voting and how it was going. What else could you have meant by this but that it was going on now ? It would be a stupid question even by your standards, which are low, to ask how voting was going if you knew that none was, because no election was,

              I won’t ask what sort of voting you did mean, I am not that interested in what your tiny mind contains.Would you ask someone how their holiday or new job was going if they were not on one or doing one ? Then why ask how voting is going ? You are a fool.

            • Corky

               /  March 16, 2018

              You sure waste generous time on a fool. Kind of makes me feel like not a fool. Fool.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  March 17, 2018

              Diddums wazzums, den ?

  2. Blazer

     /  March 16, 2018

    ‘Expert’ advice varies…and is available for anyone that wants to pay for it.Former P.M John Key,would basically say you could get an expert to confirm…any position.

    • Corky

       /  March 16, 2018

      You are deflecting. John Key is a political nonentity. Jacinda and Labour are our government.

    • What is the obsession with John Key?
      Maybe it has eluded the brain for labor but he is.
      a) Not in Parliament
      b) Not Prime Minister

      • Blazer

         /  March 16, 2018

        ‘has anybody here,seen my old friend John,can you tell me …where he’s gone…he conned alot of people,but when I look around …he’s…gone’….haaas…anybody…

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  March 16, 2018

          There is not the slightest evidence of John Key being a conman. This is libellous and a scurrilous thing to say about anyone. I imagine that you have trouble realising that people who make money do so honestly so that you can delude yourself that this is why you have not done so.

  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  March 16, 2018

    “Experts” who rely on controversial opinion rather than science and who claim experience in justification should be treated with scepticism.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  March 16, 2018

      If the teenagers themselves didn’t want anyone to be told, their wishes should be respected. It would be a gross invasion of anyone’s privacy to go over their head and repeat something that they wanted not to be repeated.I wonder if this would be breaching some law.

      • chrism56

         /  March 16, 2018

        There is a set of circumstances not that far different from the current case that show the problems with your stance Kitty. What do you do if a teenager tells their teacher or doctor that they are being molested by their stepfather, then says they don’t want anyone to know that?
        I believe in that situation, the professional being told is breaking the law by not reporting it. If that is the case, what is the difference here?

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  March 16, 2018

          These people were not children. A high scbool certainly cannot go over the pupil’s head, and nor can a doctor. I imagine that if it was a small child they might be able to, but certainly not a teenager. This isn’t anything like someone being sexually abused by a stepfather, so there is no comparison.

          • chrism56

             /  March 16, 2018

            There was one there aged 15. That makes them a child in the law and this is what the police say
            http://www.police.govt.nz/advice/personal-and-community-advice/school-portal/information-and-guidelines/child-protection

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  March 16, 2018

              It would be difficult in a case like this where it’s a one-off at a drunken party. Most teenagers wouldn’t call themselves children.

              This is quite different to a primary school.

            • chrism56

               /  March 16, 2018

              It would help if you actually read the Crimes Act Kitty, rather than just winged it off the top of your head. Especially the bit that goes “Everyone who is a parent, or is a person in place of a parent, who has actual care or charge of a child under the age of 18 years is under a legal duty “(a)
              to provide that child with necessaries; and “(b) to take reasonable steps to protect that child from injury.””
              If the person is under 18 and the camp got forms signed by parents giving them permission to go, then the organisers are a “person in place of a parent.”
              I don’t care what teenagers call themselves, it is what the law does.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  March 16, 2018

        I would say the problem is that the experts were commenting after the fact and the decisions were being made in a coercive environment by officials keen to protect the Labour Party. Imbalance of power for sure.

        • Gezza

           /  March 16, 2018

          And you agree this applies also to female interns at law firms predated on by older males in positions of power, so that’s not inconsistent.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  March 16, 2018

            Maybe not quite the same where the interns were still students just visiting? Their complaints could be taken to their professors. Also it seems at least two of the offenders were actually fired after complaints.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  March 16, 2018

              Also as at least 19-yr-olds (only second year students?) reporting to parents is not as appropriate.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  March 16, 2018

              The sex acts were between students, as I understand it, so there’s little that anyone could do.

              I find the idea of women as helpless victims when it comes to consensual sex a patronising one. It’s unflattering to men to class them as predators and to women to class them as children who can’t make their own decisions but are duped by sex-mad men.

              There is no verb for predator, it’s like doctor or impostor. Predate means go before. Doctors and impostors don’t doct and impost.

            • Gezza

               /  March 16, 2018

              True. Delete ‘predated’. Substitute ‘preyed’.
              Thanks.
              Ignoring the rest.

      • Maggy Wassilieff

         /  March 16, 2018

        The abused kids weren’t being advised by a disinterested party.
        We have no idea if they came to the decision not to inform parents independently and without any pressure (peer or otherwise) being applied.
        Perhaps the 4 abused girls and boys were mature enough to make their own decision, but one or more of them might have been scared, naiive, unsure, vulnerable…
        We have no idea.
        All we know is that the Labour hierarchy have been controlling this narrative, not the abused kids.

  4. chrism56

     /  March 16, 2018

    Things are going from bad to worse for Labour. Even Chris Trotter has rubbished their (mis) management.
    http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.co.nz/2018/03/school-for-scandal.html

    • Gezza

       /  March 16, 2018

      Could be worse, I suppose. Only one comment in there at 2211 hrs.

  5. Andrew mcloughlin

     /  March 17, 2018

    Pete,

    thanks so much for your insight. I have been searching for intelligent and informed professional commentary on this since the event happened.

    As a parent I would be utterly outraged if this had happened to my daughter and it had been kept from me. I can’t understate that. I would rain hell down on the Labour Party.

    In terms of their response on the approach they adopted… it’s utter nonsense. How could I help and guide my daughter to deal with this if I didn’t even know about it. To suggest a traumatized 16 year old could make rational decisions and deal with the trauma themselves is irresponsible at best.

    Your comments resonate with me and the logic is sound. I am mortified that victim organizations such as HELP preach this confidentiality-above-all nonsense as expert opinion. I find it misleading and dangerous. It’s nothing but ideology wrapped in purported ‘counsel’. And it all seems very convenient in terms of covering up unfortunate facts too.

    Thank you for bringing informed comment to this debate. Please please take this to the media and to these supposed support organizations so they have proper facts and information to report and act on. That would be a valuable community service in my view.

    Thanks again.

  6. Griff

     /  March 17, 2018

    6.2 Exceptions to Confidentiality:

    a. Counsellors shall only make exceptions to confidentiality in order to reduce risk.

    b. When counsellors need to pass on confidential information, they should provide only the minimum of information necessary and only then to those people to whom it is absolutely necessary.

    c. Exceptions to confidentiality occur when:

    there is serious danger in the immediate or foreseeable future to the client or others,
    the client’s competence to make a decision is impaired,
    legal requirements demand that confidential material be revealed,
    responding to a complaint about counselling practice.

    d. Wherever possible, the decision to make an exception to confidentiality is made:

    after seeking the client’s co-operation, unless doing so would further compromise the safety of the client or others,
    after consultation with a supervisor.

    6.3 Confidentiality and the law

    a. Counsellors are encouraged to seek legal advice about their rights and obligations under the law, when the counsellor’s work with clients involves contact with the legal system.

    b. When issued with a search warrant or subpoena to give evidence in Court, or other legal processes, counsellors should pursue the status of privilegedcommunication, in accordance with the client’s wishes, until all legal avenues have been exhausted.

    http://www.nzac.org.nz/code_of_ethics.cfm

    If your child chooses not to share with you the fault is yours not anyone else.

    As far as I know the Councillor who wrote the comment is unprofessional and would be censured by the breaching their code of ethics if they did inform parents against the wishes of the client in this situation. There was no further risk to the girls after the incident so in no way would it be ethical to disclose confidential information to anyone including the parents.

    In my professional practice opinion, gleaned from over 17,000 hours of practice, the decision by the so-called “experts” to not tell parents about what had happened to their children at the camp flies in the face of common sense and ethical decency.

    This comment jars with what I know about professional counseling .When I catch up with the Girl Monday I will discus this post with her. The Girl is a lecturer in counseling.,