How psychologists saw things differently

Louise Olivier 19/4 Star Defence: Dr Louise Olivier arrives at the Johannesburg High Court where she took the witness stand for the defence in the Jacob Zuma rape trial. Photo: Steve Lawrence, The Star

By Karyn Maughan and Gill Gifford

Two prominent female psychologists have given evidence in support and defence of the rape allegation against Jacob Zuma.

While trauma psychologist Dr Merle Friedman claims the behaviour of Zuma's accuser is "consistent" with that of a rape survivor, forensic psychologist and You magazine agony aunt Dr Louise Olivier has suggested the woman could have perceived consensual sex as rape.

Here are their arguments:

Dr Merle Friedman - trauma psychologist who achieved fame about 20 years ago when she was kidnapped and used her skills as a psychologist to negotiate her release; heads SA Institute for Traumatic Stress and the Resilience Company; co-founder of Wits Trauma Clinic; serves on two international mental health boards.

  • Was aware of complainant's claims she was raped at five, 13, 14 and 19, appeared unaware of alleged rape claims against fellow church council member Nestor and a Namibian, Goeieman (now dead). She maintained: "I knew enough to get a sense of where she was coming from."

  • "Freezing" of Zuma's accuser during alleged rape "consistent with the behaviour of a rape survivor". "She froze because she was not able to believe what happened," she said.

  • The "father/daughter" relationship with Zuma explained complainant's "freezing" when woken by the naked figure of the man she regarded as a father figure.

  • Friedman stressed it was "not part of my brief" to take a full clinical history of the complainant. "I don't need to know about every aspect of her life".

  • Described the self-described "trance-like state" after the alleged rape as "disassociation, the response to very severe traumatic exposure". This explained the "confused" SMSes sent following the rape. She stressed that the "trance-like state" was "not hypnotic … it didn't mean (the complainant) was non-functional".

  • Complainant fulfilled "all six criteria for a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" - including experiencing flashbacks, having concentration problems and exhibiting an "exaggerated startle response".

    Dr Louise Olivier - registered as a clinical psychologist in 1976; a doctorate in philosophy in the area of psychology; trained further overseas and at Masters & Johnson; a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine; has completed theses in forensic psychology and human sexuality, author of several books, including Sex and the South African Woman.

  • Criticised Friedman for not going through the complainant's sexual history, failing to consider impact of previous rapes.

  • Maintained any mental status evaluation should include such things as the person's sexual history, medical history, mental problems, romantic involvements, traumatic experiences and the role of significant others in her life. Described Friedman's modus operandi as appropriate for clinical work, but insufficient for a forensic evaluation.

  • Would have performed differently to Friedman; would have done full mental status evaluation and studied behaviour of both the complainant and Zuma; would have interviewed significant others to determine complainant's typical response to traumatic events and then done forensic hypnosis.

  • Complainant's claim she had "frozen" was incompatible with her claimed past behaviour.

  • While Zuma might have been deputy president of the ANC and former deputy president of the country, this did not automatically mean she viewed him as a father figure or having a position of authority over her.

  • Suggested that an interview with specific questions, such as the Structured Clinical Interview for Dissociation test should have been done to determine the disassociative tendencies of the complainant. This test, she said, would have measured the woman's functioning and reflected any emotional trauma she was experiencing.

  • She saw the 10 alleged rapes and attempted rapes as a matter of concern, saying the number was "significantly high". Friedman failed to discuss the effect of the previous sexual traumas and so she could not accurately state that the post traumatic stress disorder diagnosis she had made was directly attributed to the rape incident before court.

  • The psychologist might have erred in warning the complainant she planned to make a noise before testing her response to sudden loud sounds.




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