Research by the University’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society has been used to uphold a landmark court case in New Zealand.
A New Zealand Judge has upheld an appeal by a man who was sexually abused as a child and was subsequently diagnosed as having ‘schizophrenia’.
Heavily reliant on research
The appeal relied heavily on research published by psychologists Professor John Read and Professor Richard Bentall including a 2012 editorial in the British Journal of Psychiatry, and a review of the research the same year.
The man’s claim for compensation for lost earnings, to which survivors of sexual abuse are entitled in New Zealand, had originally been denied on the basis that there was no research evidence that child abuse can cause schizophrenia.
Researchers at the University of Liverpool, however, have found that traumatic events can cause psychosis. And have demonstrated a relationship between childhood sexual and physical abuse and psychotic symptoms, including schizophrenia.
The judge also cited as a precedent the 2006 case of A vs The Archbishop of Birmingham, in which a High Court judge ruled that ‘the plaintiff was suffering from schizophrenia, and that the only possible cause was the sexual abuse he had suffered’
Response to adverse life events
Professor Read said: “It is gratifying that years of research on this issue are now impacting the judicial system. These rulings also mean disclosures of sexual abuse by severely disturbed patients should be taken seriously and investigated appropriately and should not be dismissed as either irrelevant or imagined.
“Our research has shown that that what biological psychiatry says are symptoms of a brain disease called “schizophrenia” are actually best understood as responses to adverse life events. The voices that abused people hear are the actual voices of the perpetrator of the abuse.”