Lies save trouble now, but may return in thunder and lightning. – Mason Cooley
For years, Melissa Farley has advanced her misandrist, anti-sex, anti-sex worker agenda with lies, distortions, omissions, out-of-context quotations, bogus studies and false generalizations, violating every ethical standard which is supposed to govern her avowed profession (psychology). Since she long reserved her attacks for a marginalized group nobody in her own country would defend, she grew increasingly bold and began to extend her attacks to those who were not quite so marginalized, with predictable results; she at last has gone too far, and Dr. Calum Bennachie of the New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective has filed a complaint with the American Psychological Association asking that they revoke Farley’s membership for gross ethical violations. Here’s the full text of the complaint (including its nine attachments) in PDF form, but since it’s quite lengthy (17 pages plus 98 pages of attachments), I figured most of my readers would prefer a synopsis. We’ll start with the introductory letter:
Over the years, Dr Farley has published a number of papers and documents about sex work, making claims that all sex work is a form of violence against women. She has used several of her studies to back this up. In 2008 Dr Farley published the paper What Really Happened in New Zealand after Prostitution was Decriminalized in 2003? [attachment 2] on her website critiquing the Report of the Prostitution Law Review Committee. This critique contains several errors of fact that appear to be deliberately designed to mislead people. Many of the false allegations made by Dr Farley in this paper have been repeated by her in her efforts to stigmatise sex workers and keep them criminal. Dr Farley appears to have read the complete report, but has only reported or critiqued those parts that match her ideology. In investigating her comments on this paper further, it was discovered that Dr Farley had completed research in New Zealand in 2003 without seeking ethical approval from the New Zealand Psychological Society (NZPsS). It was also discovered that during the course of this research, she claimed to be able to diagnose sex workers as having post traumatic stress disorder, despite using a flawed questionnaire [attachment 7], and not doing in depth interviews. It is noted that Dr Farley has also completed other studies overseas, and investigations this year indicate that she never sought ethical approval, and sought to deliberately deceive the groups who facilitated the research for her. She has also been cited as an expert witness, yet the testimony given is false or misleading. Finally, the Canadian courts have found Dr Farley to be a less than reliable witness, finding her evidence “to be problematic”. For the reasons in the text below, I believe her work is unethical, unbecoming of a psychologist, and is in breach of at least sections 5.01 and 8.10 of the APA’s Code of Ethics, perhaps more. I believe that because of these breaches, Dr Farley should be removed from the membership of the APA.
Just so we’re all on the same page, here are the relevant sections Dr. Bennachie cites; I think y’all will be able to immediately see how Farley violates them:
(a) Public statements include but are not limited to paid or unpaid advertising, product endorsements, grant applications, licensing applications, other credentialing applications, brochures, printed matter, directory listings, personal resumes or curricula vitae, or comments for use in media such as print or electronic transmission, statements in legal proceedings, lectures and public oral presentations, and published materials. Psychologists do not knowingly make public statements that are false, deceptive, or fraudulent concerning their research, practice, or other work activities or those of persons or organizations with which they are affiliated.
(b) Psychologists do not make false, deceptive, or fraudulent statements concerning (1) their training, experience, or competence; (2) their academic degrees; (3) their credentials; (4) their institutional or association affiliations; (5) their services; (6) the scientific or clinical basis for, or results or degree of success of, their services; (7) their fees; or (8) their publications or research findings.
8.10 Reporting Research Results
(a) Psychologists do not fabricate data. (See also Standard 5.01a, Avoidance of False or Deceptive Statements.)
(b) If psychologists discover significant errors in their published data, they take reasonable steps to correct such errors in a correction, retraction, erratum, or other appropriate publication means.
After the initial letter, Dr. Bennachie explains his points in depth. We already covered Justice Himel’s criticism in my column of July 24th, 2011, so let’s look at Bennachie’s other complaints:
Farley claims that street prostitution increased 400% after decriminalization. In 2003 the streetwalker population in Auckland was estimated to be 360, so according to Farley there should now be 1440; in actuality there are 230. Since Farley read the report, her claim of a 400% increase can only be an outright lie.
Farley claims that the “Law Review Committee was biased and blatantly favored the sex industry”. In actuality, the Committee included a former police commissioner, a Catholic nun, a criminologist and the coordinator of a group doing outreach to streetwalkers; considering that some of these people had spoken against the Prostitution Reform Act when it was being debated in Parliament, the claim that they were biased in favor of sex work is hardly credible.
Farley’s research in New Zealand was conducted without the approval of the New Zealand Psychological Society, and when she first arrived she hired a research assistant named Colleen Winn, who quit the job almost immediately over ethical concerns Farley refused to address. For example, two Māori prostitutes reported that their first sexual experience of any kind was at 9, but Farley misrepresented that as “Māori women enter prostitution as young as 9 years.”
Farley has exploited sex worker rights groups in a number of countries (such as South Africa) where she is not as well-known as she is in North America, recruiting them to assist her “research” by claiming to be an advocate for sex workers and then distorting the data they help her to collect in order to argue for increased criminalization and persecution of sex workers.
Since 1998, Farley has claimed to be able to diagnose sex workers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after the completion of a 15 minute self-administered questionnaire despite the fact that the National Center for PTSD states:
For making a diagnosis of PTSD…structured interviews will generally yield more valid results…[but those] that begin with a single gate-keeping item have poor validity for particular types of traumatic experiences. Also, structured interviews with brief, single-item, closed-ended questions for each PTSD symptom are likely to be no more valid for making a diagnosis than self-report measures…Proper assessment of PTSD is complex, and in a forensic setting, it should include substantial attention to corroboration of self-reports through a records review and collateral information…
Farley’s repeated assertion that “67 percent [of sex workers] meet criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD” is therefore not supportable by her methods.
In 2006, Farley told a Canadian Parliamentary Committee that since the PRA “organized crime had increased dramatically in New Zealand, while trafficking in persons had not declined”; there was no evidence for such a claim in any published study.
Farley deliberately misstates New Zealand law to make it seem “child prostitution” is out of control since decriminalization by claiming that police “have no right of entry into brothels, and have no right to ask for age-identification papers of those in prostitution.” In actuality, police are only forbidden from entering brothels without a warrant (except in certain emergencies), just as they are forbidden from entering any other business place without a warrant practically everywhere else in the free world. Furthermore, the New Zealand Bill of Rights states that no individual can be forced to provide information to the police (like American Miranda Rights); however, the police can certainly ask a brothel owner to provide proof of age for the workers, since such proof is required by law.
Farley represented statements that decriminalization had failed to decrease violence as coming from sex workers, when in fact they were unsupported statements made by members of anti-prostitution NGOs.
In attachment 6, Dr. Bennachie identifies and documents a total of 23 errors in Farley’s “critique” of the Prostitution Reform Act report. In his conclusion, he compares Farley’s methods and ethical violations to those of Paul Cameron, the anti-homosexual psychologist who was expelled from the APA in 1983, and asks that Farley be expelled in the same way and for the same reasons, namely gross ethical violations in furtherance of an anti-sex agenda. Here’s hoping the APA listens; though her disciples will only cling to her more, Farley would no longer be able to claim legitimacy to the government entities through which she does her worst damage.
One Year Ago Today
“Heart of Gold” explores the truth about the archetypal “Tart with a Heart.”