The Sunday Times, 19th December 1993
AN AMERICAN psychologist whose evidence has been widely used to discredit child witnesses in sexual abuse cases has claimed that men who have sex with children could defend their behaviour as part of God’s will.
Dr Ralph Underwager, who made the statement in an interview with a paedophile magazine, has been a key witness in some of the most controversial child abuse investigations, including the 1987 Cleveland inquiry.
He opposes many of the investigation methods and medical techniques used to establish abuse, which he believes leads to men being falsely accused.
Underwager, who lives in the United States, travels the world as an expert court witness. He claims to have advised defence lawyers for Woody Allen when the actor was unsuccessfully accused last year by his former partner Mia Farrow of molesting their seven-year-old daughter. Three weeks ago in Liverpool he defended a father denied custody of his children because of child abuse allegations.
Last night Underwager admitted that his credibility had been damaged by the interview, in which he urged paedophiles to defend themselves publicly. He denied that he approved of the behaviour, but added that ”scientific evidence” showed 60% of women sexually abused as children reported that the experience had been good for them. He contended the same could be true for boys.
He confirmed that he had approved the article in the journal Paidika, subtitled the Journal of Paedophilia, before publication. In it he stated: ”Paedophiles need to become more positive and make the claim that paedophilia is an acceptable expression of God’s will for love and unity among human beings.
”The solution that I’m suggesting is that paedophiles become much more positive. They should directly attack the concept, the image, the picture of the paedophile as an evil, wicked and reprehensible exploiter of children.”
Underwager, a Lutheran theologian, runs the Institute for Psychological Therapies in Minnesota with his partner, Hollida Wakefield. He is extensively quoted by the Irish Catholic lobby group in Dublin that opposes the republic’s new child abuse prevention programme, Stay Safe, on the grounds that it is alarmist and introduces children to sexuality unnecessarily.
He has been forced to resign from his high-profile position as a founding member of the False Memory Society (FMS) following the article. The FMS, which has branches in America and Britain, was set up to examine the phenomenon of adults in therapy who falsely recall being abused as children. It told Underwager he could remain a member only if he was prepared to state that any sexual contact between a child and an adult was always destructive.
”I am a scientist and I could not agree to that because it is ot a statement based on scientific research,” he said this weekend.
Underwager claimed that his interview was an attempt to to get paedophiles to state their beliefs openly so they could be discussed. He said he hoped it would lead to a less hysterical climate in which research could be done into paedophiles and their relationships with children.
Underwager said he stood by the interview. ”The feminists in America have circulated an edited version to discredit me which takes what Holly and I said out of context,” he said. ”We made it clear that paedophiles could say that they believe their pursuit of intimacy and love was part of God’s will, but that they would have difficulty persuading other people that they were right.”
Underwager said he believed feminists were jealous of men’s ability to love other men or children and had stirred up hysteria over paedophilia. ”The point where men may say that maleness can include the intimacy and closeness of sex may make women jealous,” he said in the interview. ”This would hold true for male bonding, and paedophile sex too.”
Paidika was established five years ago and is sold in 11 countries, including Britain. Its editor, Joseph Geraci, a rare-books dealer based in Amsterdam, said yesterday: ”Ralph’s remarks have been taken out of context to satisfy the hysteria in society. People are not used to a reasoned discourse on sexuality.”