Promoting evidence-based practice

Understanding and acting on scientific evidence underpins all aspects of my work. Often this challenges strongly held beliefs and personal or financial interests of some groups in our society.

This has left me open to attack over the years, including deliberate campaigns of misinformation and attempts to destroy my professional credibility and career.

Hell hath no fury like vested interest masquerading as a moral principle. (Source unknown)

Felicity Goodyear-Smith

Photo by Phil Fogle
Link to high resolution version [3.5 MB]

My work has  encompassed  a number of roles:


See my Curriculum Vitae here:  Goodyear-Smith CV Feb 2024

Controversial areas of work that threaten vested interests and ideologies

Recovered (repressed) memories of sexual abuse – disseminating evidence that these may be false has led to claims that I am in denial of true sexual abuse, especially by counsellors whose income depended on recovered memory therapy. In no way do I deny the reality of true sexual abuse and the damage it may cause.

Sexual abuse medical aspects eg: can tampons tear the hymen and what is an intact hymen? These are evidence-based reviews of the literature.

False allegations of sexual abuse. In have worked for both prosecution and defence. My work for the defence as a forensic physician has led to me being accused of being an ‘apologist for paedophiles’ and supporting rapists. This is of course not true. I have always acknowledged that sexual assault occurs and have never condoned it. I have no desire for guilty people to escape punishment.

Children may get gonorrhoea non-sexually. I believed all gonorrhoea in children was caused by sexual abuse until I found evidence that it may also be transmitted in other ways.

Domestic violence involves both men and women. This work threatens groups operating on the premise that all men are aggressors and all women victims. I in no way deny that domestic violence occurs, and do not condone it.

Screening for domestic violence. My work challenges guidelines promoting screening all women for partner abuse on the basis that they do not meet established screening criteria.

Work for Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). Most of this is about physical injuries. Colleagues and I conducted a single study in 2005 that looked at ACC-funded treatment for sexual abuse. In 2010 NZ psychotherapists and counsellors wrongly assumed I was responsible for new clinical pathways which required a diagnosis of mental injury to be made before ACC would pay for counselling. This led to many therapists’ incomes being greatly reduced. A smear campaign was conducted in the media and on line claiming that my work for ACC was tainted by my ‘ideological standpoint’.

Mandatory reporting of abuse. My assessment is that mandatory reporting may lead to more harm than good because it:

  • runs the risk of increased numbers of false reports with unnecessary stress and damage to affected families
  • might deter parents from bringing their children to their doctor
  • could lead to unnecessary reporting of minor problems which are better dealt with by interventions such as assistance with parenting skills
  • could mean that doctors avoid their responsibility to identify social problems in a family and then help parents address these issues
  • is likely to overwhelm services

Abortion certifying consultant and researcher. This is challenging to the anti-abortion ‘right to life’ movement.

Immunisation research towards improving vaccine coverage. This work antagonises anti-immunisation groups.

Genetically modified food
benefits and harms. This work was unpopular with those against genetic modification.