FMSF NEWSLETTER ARCHIVE - June 12, 1992 - Vol. 1, No. 6, HTML version

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3508 Market Street suite 128,  Philadelphia, PA 19104,  (215-387-1865)

This address and the phone numbers have changed as of July 15, 2000

Dear Friends,

  Since we moved into University City Science Center on May 3, we have
received over 200 more calls from families who tell us the now all too
familiar story of a child (mostly daughters in their 30s) who suddenly
recovers memories of abuse during therapy, of a child who confronts
(often with a letter) and then refuses all contact with the parents,
of a therapist, often unknown, unwilling to have any contact with the
parents. Like the previous 300, these stories are chilling. We hear
over and over again about successful, thoughtful, gentle, loving
children who enter therapy and become obsessed, selfish, cruel. "The
body is my daughter's, but that is not my daughter," a mother told us.
  "Why the refusal to have contact?" we are asked by reporters. "We
don't know," we admit, "You'll have to ask our children and their
therapists." It is, however, the radical behavior change (frequently
sudden) and the cutting off by adult children who before therapy had
satisfactory if not excellent relationships with parents that is the
hallmark of the false memory syndrome stories that we are hearing.
  The psychological status of repressed memories is an issue for
research and a topic that can be discussed. Different versions of
history can be reconciled. But how can this happen if therapists and
their clients refuse to meet with the parents whom they so hastily
accuse? We must, then, ask the same question the reporters ask us,
"Why the refusal to discuss these areas of difference?" Many of the
parents who contact us say this is cult behavior, not therapy.
Another view of the behavior, however, is that it represents the
feminist perspective that family therapy is inappropriate and that it
is bad to have conjoint sessions because it tends to "perpetuate the
status quo that helped create the incestuous act at its inception."
"Therapists must recognize their roles as political agents." (Barrett
et al. Feminist-informed family therapy for the treatment of
intrafamily child sexual abuse. Journal of Family Psychology, 4(2),
1990, p 155. The writers argue for family oriented therapy in this
article.) Male power seems to be the dominant issue in this way of
  The belief that the family is a terrible organization also is held
by people who are part of the Recovery Movement as exemplified by the
writings and work of John Bradshaw. From the Recovery Movement
(12-Step) perspective, over 90% of families are dysfunctional and
parents so hopeless that there simply is no point in involving them in
the therapeutic process. Addiction seems to be the main issue.

  FMS Foundation families do not view the situation in which they are
so inextricably caught from these perspectives, obviously, nor from
the "talk show perspective" of opposite sides. Although the children,
therapists and the media seem to view the world as one in which people
are either "in recovery" or "in denial," that is not the parents'
view. The action of FMS Foundation families arises from the conviction
that a very dangerous situation has arisen in the mental health
field. Why it has arisen will be the stuff of dissertations for years
to come.
  Foundation members are deeply concerned that unless some leash is
put on the growing phenomenon of false accusations that:
  a) more families will be unnecessarily destroyed;
  b) a reaction will set in such that once again children and women
will not be believed when they tell of sexual abuse;
  c) disrespect for the mental health community will ensue and
  d) patients will not receive appropriate care. We do not want these
things to happen. We are hopeful that if the public understands that
memory is a creative process, that memories are reconstructed and
reinterpreted, that the mind does not store information like a camera
or like a computer, then people will begin to question rather than
automatically make an assumption of guilt in cases in which claims of
sexual abuse are made from memories recovered in therapy by people who
never before had them.  


  The domain of recovered memories is broad: during the 1950's many
clients recovered memories of their trip through the birth canal and
of "engrams". In 1991, 15 people in the town of Lake Elsinore, CA
recovered vivid memories and accurate details of a previous life in a
small Virginia town during the Civil War. Since 1984, thousands of
people have recovered memories of satanic ritual abuse conspiracies
(for which no empirical data has been provided). In 1991 and 1992,
millions of people have recovered memories of sexual abuse by space
aliens (1992 Roper survey). We know of no psychological principle that
allows us to say that memories of incest are to be believed but
memories of space aliens are to be suspect. Yes, it is more probable
that people are sexually abused by parents than by space aliens. But
the issue is the mechanism of recovered memories. Our question is:
What makes the process of recovering repressed memories of incest
different from the process used for past lives and extra-terrestrials?
Why believe in one and not the other?

                         BELIEF OF THERAPISTS

  We wonder if one of the underlying factors that has fed the growth
of this phenomenon is the fact that very many therapists work with the
principle of total belief in the client and that any less belief would
undermine the therapy. These therapists do not seem to believe that it
is their job to look for verification. From their perspective the
"narrative truth" is of more importance than the "historical truth"
since it is the client's belief system that must be addressed in
  To the extent that this principle operates within the bounds of a
therapist's office, it is the business of the mental health community
and the people involved. When this belief that the "narrative truth"
is sufficient gets mixed with the politics of feminism, however, we
get a cauldron in which false memories of incest and false accusations
may bubble to the surface. Consider the following statements from
Courage to Heal, the bible of the survivor movement,: "get strong by
suing," "you are not more moral or courageous if you forgive," "you
must give up the idea that your parents had your best interest at
heart," "you can heal with anger," "just because you don't have any
memories, that doesn't mean you were not abused."

/                                                                    \
|                    Where do 507 families live?                     |
|    AK(1)   AR(1)   AZ(18)  CA(40)  CO(5)   DE(1)   FL(8)   GA(4)   |
|    IA(2)   ID(3)   IL(11)  IN(9)   LA(4)   MA(5)   MD(4)   MI(18)  |
|    MN(4)   MO(1)   MS(1)   MT(1)   NC(4)   NJ(19)  NM(1)   NV(3)   |
|    NY(17)  OH(30)  OK(5)   OR(5)   PA(97)  SC(2)   TN(1)   TX(13)  |
|    UT(49)  VA(4)   VT(1)   WA(12)  WI(21)  DC(1)                   |
| Canada -   ON(71)  BC(6)   NS(1)   PO 1)   SK(1)     Abroad (1)    |


  Suing the only set of parents you will ever have in life is clearly
a most desperate action. It has been suggested that therapists and
lawyers who encourage such actions do so because they are greedy. An
alternative view is that these professionals have belief systems that
hold that the family as we have known it throughout history is bad and
should be destroyed. Yesterday we read the following in a booklet that
came in the mail. "Over the last decade, many countries throughout the
world have begun to recognize the family as a potentially dangerous
institution." Reichert, Perceptions of domestic violence against
women: A cross-cultural survey of international students. RESPONSE
78(14) 1992.
  Just what percentage of the families are involved in legal actions?
We have two sources of information: the preliminary survey results 
(N= 131) and detailed and consistent records of incoming phone calls
between May 3 and June 5 (N=180). The data are foreboding.

  From the survey we learned that 78% of accused either had or were
willing to take a lie detector test. 12% told us they had already done
so and one stated that he did not pass. 22% of the respondents wrote
that they had been advised to go along with the charges and to confess
in order that they could have contact with their children and
grandchildren. We learned from the survey that 15 % of the respondents
had been threatened with lawsuits, had restraining orders placed on
them or were involved in civil suits brought by their children. More
than 50% of the families in the survey indicated that they were
worried that their children would sue them.
  The incoming phone calls give about the same statistics: 17% of the
families are being sued or are threatened with legal action by their
children. This may be viewed with some concern about the future. As
the memories become instantiated and anger flamed by the politics of
the time, more lawsuits will surely follow -- especially as the
statutes of limitations are extended or dropped state by state. Every
parent, every teacher, every doctor, every therapist, every adult may
be accused of sexual abuse and sued on the basis of recovered memories
at any time for the rest of his or her life.

  One consistency in the stories we are told is that as survivors
follow the course of "memory work" that includes hypnotism, drugs,
trance writing, etc. the memories of abuse grow. A feeling that one
has been abused seems to become reality with a flashback which is then
confirmed by a body memory. What was at first an accusation of sexual
abuse grows to include satanic ritual abuse and more and more people
are accused. Except that these stories include sexual abuse and arise
in the course of therapy, they bear all the markings of "urban
legends" and, indeed, are studied as such by folklore scholars.
  As we get a feel for the survey data and as we listen to ever more
stories, we are increasingly convinced that explanations for the
phenomenon are not going to be found from individual pathologies
(i.e., the accusing children were sick or disturbed). We suspect that
understanding will come out of social psychology and the role that
narrative truth plays in people's lives.
 But speculating on the obvious eventual understanding of this
phenomenon does not help people caught in the current hysteria. In
spite of the fact that most stories don't make sense, are improbable,
and have no confirming evidence, many parents are being sued and many
more are worried that they will be. Even parents who have told us they
have "won" their cases (meaning the charges are dropped) often lose
their houses and savings. Therefore with this newsletter we have
enclosed an FMS Legal Issue paper which is a compilation of many
things that you have told us have been helpful.

  Following are some books and articles that pertain to legal issues
that you have recommmended for other FMS Foundation members.

Courage to Heal. (1988).
By: Bass & Davis 
Publisher: Harper and Row.
Describes for survivors how to file a lawsuit against parents and also
contains a list of lawyers willing to do so. We urge professionals to
read and review this "best-seller". Although the publisher is
unwilling to provide the number of copies sold, a newspaper account
claimed that over 200,000 copies had been sold as of March 1990. A
representative for the publisher has said that it "has done very well
for them."

Domestic Torts: Family Violence, Conflict and Sexual Abuse. Family Law
  Series. (1989).
By: Leonard Karp & Cheryl L. Karp, Ph.D.
Published: Sheppard's/McGraw-Hill Inc. 
Address: P.O. Box 1235, Colorado Springs, CO 80901.
Valuable for any person looking for legal precedents.

True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse: A Guide for Legal and
Mental Health Professionals.
By: Richard Gardner, M.D.
Publication: 9/1992, Creative Therapeutics
Address: 155 Country Road, P.O. Box R, Cresskill, NJ 07626.
Valuable for scholarly understanding and insights. 

"Recovered memories of alleged sexual abuse: Lawsuits against parents"
Paper delivered at American Psychological Society Annual Meeting, San
Diego, CA, June. By: Hollida Wakefield and Ralph Underwager.
Address: Institute for Psychological Therapies, 13200 Cannon City
Boulevard, Northfield, MN 55057.  
Valuable for scholarly understanding and insights.

Shifting the Burden of Truth: Suing Child Sexual Abusers - A Legal
Guide for Survivors and Their Supporters . (1992).
By: Joseph Crnich, J.D. & Kimberly Crnich, J.D. Published: Recollex
Address: 333 S. State St., Suite 326, Lake Oswego, OR 97035. Advice
for survivors to use in suing.

  While we cannot assess exactly what the following summary of a
Pennsylvania Court decision means, several lawyers have told us that
it would be of great interest to any people involved in litigation. We
therefore include the following:

Com v. Dunkle,__Pa.__, 602 A.2d 830 (1992)
Opinion by Cappy, J.

  The defendant was charged with rape and other sex crimes resulting
from a complaint made by his step-daughter. During the trial, the
prosecution called an expert witness to testify on "child abuse
syndrome". The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that admission of this
expert testimony was reversible error.
  The court noted that the expert did not relate any of her testimony
to the child in question. Finding that "abused children react in
myriad ways" and that abused and non-abused children often exhibit
similar behavior patterns, the court found that "[t]he existence of
child abuse syndrome as either a generally accepted diagnostic tool or
as relevant evidence is not supportable" and, therefore,
inadmissible. The court also determined that the expert's testimony
failed to meet the threshold determination of relevancy and
  Finally, the court found that the expert's testimony concerning the
reasons abused children delay reporting an incident of abuse to family
members, why abused children omit details of the abuse, and why a
sexually abused child may be unable to recall dates and times of abuse
were "not beyond the ken of the average layman" and, thus, were
inappropriate subjects of expert testimony.

Need for information
  The desperate need of lawyers for information about the phenomenon
of false memory syndrome has been brought home to us in several ways
this week. Every day we do get calls from lawyers. We are pleased to
help them by talking and sending material, and we feel sure that you
want your contributions to be spent in this way. Most of the lawyers
with whom we have talked have been disturbed by the cases they have
been asked to defend. This afternoon we spoke with one lawyer who said
that the woman making the accusations had started out accusing one
person but that she was now accusing 15 people of satanic ritual
conspiracy. The lawyer said, "It just could not have happened. How did
this case get so far? This is a small town. I know all these people. I
know what is going on."
  Other people who have not been lucky enough to find lawyers who had
skepticism told us other stories. One family, in their 70's, told us
that when their daughter sued, they were advised not to fight because
they were not rich and the cost of expert witnesses at $250 or more
per hour was too much. They settled and their daughter got
approximately $12,000. But now, they say, everyone assumes that they
were guilty because they didn't fight.
  Another person, a professor, wrote that when he told his lawyer
about the claims his daughter had made, the lawyer advised him to
settle out of court. The fact that there was no evidence of any kind
meant nothing. What teacher can hold his or her job when accused of
sexual abuse or incest? This man wrote to say that he is now paying
$700 a month to his daughter for three years and that he hoped that
this did not happen other professors. When we shared this story with a
friend, he said, "Why, that is blackmail!"

  This is not a nice business.

                             IRS APPROVAL

  The Internal Revenue Service has sent us notice that our application
for recognition as a publicly supported tax exempt public charity has
been approved. Donors may deduct contributions to FMS Foundation
(including contributions previously made).
  At the time that we applied for this status, we were asked to
project the number of families and the amount of funding that we would
receive during 1992. You may be interested to learn that we exceeded
our predictions in the first three months of our existence.

                         WHERE ARE WE GOING?

  The rate at which we are receiving calls from families continues to
increase. Where is all this going to lead? How is it going to end?
When will we be able to talk to our children or give our grandchildren
birthday presents? What will happen to our children? We know they must
forever carry these awful memories with them. What if they begin to
doubt them? What will they think and feel if they ever come to
recognize what they have done? We must work to find ways to welcome
them back and make the process as easy as possible. This will end. We
can work to speed up the process and to minimize the hurt.

                         WHAT ARE FLASHBACKS?

  A month ago, we wrote asking for information about flashbacks and
body memories. Richard Gardner addresses these topics in his
soon-to-be-published book, True and False Accusations of Child Sex
Abuse: A Guide for Legal and Mental Health Professionals. We thought
that you would be interested in what he has to say on the subject of
flashbacks and he gave us permission to print the following passage in
the newsletter.
  "Another area of memory with which the therapists described here
take liberties relates to the phenomenon of the flashback. A flashback
is basically an eruption into conscious awareness of a buried memory
that has generally been traumatic. Usually, the flashback is brought
into conscious awareness by some external stimulus that evokes
it. Often the stimulus has some similarity to the original traumatic
event. An example would be the war veteran who has been traumatized in
battle. Years later, exposure to situations that might be peripherally
similar to the original battlefield conditions may evoke visual
imagery (asn[??] associated thoughts and feelings) of actual
battlefield scenes.
  "An important element in the flashback phenomenon is that there is
generally no prolonged period in which the traumatized individual is
completely free of flashbacks. Rather, as time goes on, their
frequency diminishes, sometimes even to the point where they will be
rare. Obviously, the greater the trauma, the longer will be the period
of flashbacks and the less the likelihood that they will disappear
completely. Individuals who suffer from flashbacks do not generally
have the experience of many years of freedom from them and then their
sudden reappearance 15, 20, or 30 years later. There are just too many
environmental stimuli that can potentially evoke the flashback to
allow for such a prolonged symptom-free period.
  "Therapists of the kind I am describing here do not subscribe to
this well-established principle. Rather, they believe that a girl who
was sexually abused at three can be completely free of flashbacks for
many decades and then, at age 43, for example, can suddenly experience
flashbacks about her experiences. Sexual intercourse with her husband
(even after years of marriage) may have served as the evoking
stimulus. Although the woman may have had sexual relations with her
husband hundreds of times, and although she may have had multiple
sexual experiences with other lovers (past and present), this
particular sexual encounter -- one that occurred in the course of
treatment -- now becomes the evoking stimulus for the flashback. Or,
if she is not in treatment, it may have occurred after she read an
article about it or learned about a friend who had this
experience. (We see here once again the power of human suggestibility
and gullibility.) In either case, the flashback is considered to be
"proof" of the abuse, and the therapist is likely to point to the
phenomenon's inclusion in the DSM-III-R as one of the manifestations
of the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the diagnosis most often
applied to people who have been raped and/or sexually traumatized in
other ways.

                          HOW CAN YOU HELP?

* Perhaps the most important thing that you can do is to keep a
written record of your feelings and of the events in your family as
they unfold. FMS Foundation will keep an archive of these records so
that scholars in the future will have a source of information about
this phenomenon.
* Your written record is something that you will be able to share with
your grandchildren at such time as reconciliation begins. It will be
one way that the grandchildren can begin to understand that we did not
abandon them. Many grandparents tell us that they write to their
grandchildren on a regular basis and file the letters for that
longed-for day.
* Please continue to send us clippings and notices of "survivors
meetings". We are growing so rapidly that we are not always able to
acknowledge each piece that you send. Rest assured that each is a
treasure that is cataloged. Please try to include the location and the
date with your clipping or notice or tape.
* Continue to reach out and tell your story. The reason that we have
been getting increasing amounts of media coverage is because you are
are making the contacts. The people that you tell know you and they
know your family. That gives them a framework with which to make some
judgment about the phenomenon. If you know a writer or reporter who is
interested, please give us a call and we will support your efforts
with a press packet and anything else that is needed.
* The ads that you have been placing are resulting in calls. If you
want to place an ad, we recommend the following: Have you been falsely
accused on the basis of "repressed memories." You are not alone.
Please help us document the extent of this problem. Contact: False
Memory Syndrome Foundation, Suite 128, 3508 Market Street,

This address and the phone numbers have changed as of July 15, 2000
Philadelphia, PA 19104. 1-800-568-8882. If you would like the office
to help you place an ad, please call us.
* Continue to monitor the media. If only one side of the survivor
story is told, ask to have the other represented.


Saturday, June 27, 1992
1:00 P.M.
Holidome Inn West
Meridian and Highway # 40
Oklahoma City

Persons may make own reservations
Ask for FMS Foundation Southwest rooms
($49. outside of Holidome, $59 inside)

Agenda being developed.
Lynn, one of the young women who has restored her real memories, will
share her experiences.

Meeting is being planned.

For details call
Paula, 705-522-2809

Meeting is being planned

For details call
Chuck, 206-364-4711


Thursday evening June 25
 Speaker: Dr. Raskin

Call Helen at 801-537-7401 for details

  We expect to put out two newsletters during the summer: one in July
and one in August. If you have information that you think should be
shared with members, please send it to us and we will try to include

it. Deadlines are July 15 and August 15 for those months.

                               What If
                        SEXUAL ABUSE MEMORIES
                              Are Wrong

                            By Bill Taylor
                             Toronto Star
                             May 16, 1992

       Reprinted with permission -- The Toronto Star Syndicate

    There's growing concern that too many therapists are jumping 
    on the "Sex abuse bandwagon," unearthing recollections that 
    aren't real and undermining the credibility of legitimate cases.

  There is anguish in John Brown's eyes but his voice is steady.
  "I did not beat my daughter. I did not molest my daughter. I did not
rape my daughter. I did not sodomize my daughter.
  "If I were accused of murder, I would be presumed innocent until I
was proved guilty. But because she says I did these appalling things to
her when she was a child, there's no presumption of innocence.
  "Instead, it's: 'Well, there can't be smoke without fire.' And 'Why
would she say it if it wasn't true?'
  "Or people would say: 'The girl must be crazy, a severe mental case'
But that's not true, either. Nothing could be further from the truth."
  John and Jean Brown (not their real names) are among a growing
number of parents across North America who are denying accusations by
their adult children of childhood sexual abuse supposedly recalled
while undergoing therapy.
  They are alarmed that their children seemed to be living normal
lives, usually with fulfilling and well-paid jobs, until they
consulted a therapist about a minor problem, unrelated to sexual abuse.
  It is the therapists, the parents believe, who are inducing patients
to recall "repressed memories" of childhood abuse.
  Many mental health experts agree that underqualified, overzealous
therapists may be at fault. They fear a possible backlash effect with
genuine victims of sexual abuse not being believed when they tell
their stories.
  The experts warn that human memory is unreliable at best and
hypnotism -- a popular tool of therapists -- is even more so.
  "This whole area attracts a lot of flakes," says Dr. Saul Levine,
head of psychiatry at Sunnybrook Health Science Centre and Professor
of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. Levine co-authors The
Star's Youth Clinic column.
  "It becomes trendy," he says. "Everybody wants to jump on the
bandwagon. It attracts a lot of people making statements about
themselves or others that are patently invalid.
  "A lot of the time we don't know what's real and what's not."
  Dr. Harold Lief, a Philadelphia psychiatrist and longtime specialist
in sex research, therapy and education, calls the situation "a social
phenomenon, a sex abuse industry."
  Therapists, Lief says,are offering "evidence" of childhood sex abuse
as the reason for problems in adulthood ranging from depression to
marital breakdown.
  University of California psychiatrist Richard Green has urged his
colleagues to "have the courage to demand legitimate, nonpolitical
clinical investigation and intervention...not to be intimidated by the
fervor of these 'sex abuse is everywhere and explains all
psychopathology' fanatics."
  One of the worst consequences of this, Green wrote in a letter to
Lief, "is the disbelief that will be afforded to genuine abuse."
  TV comedian Roseanne Arnold last year accused her parents of
sexually abusing her as a child and said the memories stayed buried for
some 30 years. Her parents have denied the allegations.
  Even the doubters admit there are indeed legitimate cases of women
suddenly recalling childhood abuse years later. In a Brampton court
case this week, an 86-year-old man pleaded guilty to repeatedly
molesting a neighbor's daughter 24 years ago. The charges were laid
after the woman, now 32, experienced "flashbacks" of the abuse.
  The Browns approached The Star with some trepidation. They realize
their daughter may recognize herself from this story and be further
distanced from them.
  They do not seek to clear themselves in the public eye of any
wrongdoing. Very few people know of the Browns' daughter's accusations
so the stigma against them is largely a private one.
  "We cannot prove our innocence," Mrs. Brown says. "How can we? But
we are innocent.
  "We're distressed, devastated, but we're not ashamed."
  The Browns have joined the FMS Foundation formed in February in the
United States. FMS stands for false memory syndrome. Having felt for
months that they were totally alone, they now want to spread the word
to other parents who may be in a similar situation and suffering in
  The FMS Foundation was started with the support of Institute for
Psychological Therapies in Northfield, Minn. The institute's clinical
director, Ralph Underwager, was one of the first psychologists to
speak out on behalf of parents who say they have been wrongly accused.
  Underwager, appearing on Geraldo River's TV talk show with three
women who claimed to have remembered childhood abuse, told the
audience the women were indeed victims.
  "They're victims not of parents but of misguided, mistaken mental
health professionals," he said.
  The Foundation's aims include helping accused parents establish
their innocence -- with methods including lie-detector tests -- and
providing support and counseling for both them and the accusers who
come to realize their parents did no wrong.
  The Browns are both well-paid professionals -- intelligent,
articulate, comfortable in their roomy home.
  Their elder daughter, now 30, has included her mother in the
accusations against John Brown. She has written of her hatred for Mrs.
Brown for not stopping the systematic abuse she says began when she
was 2 and continued until she was 15.
  Jean Brown pulls from her purse a photo of her daughter.
  "She's a nice, normal person, attractive in every way. This is a
terrible combination of vulnerability and the wrong therapist."
  She and her husband tell the story that began in 1990.
  "We also have a daughter two years younger," Mrs. Brown says. "We
were a very close family. We could afford to travel, to give them a
good education. We lived for them."
  "When they were in their teens, we felt they should be spending more
time on their own, with kids their own age," her husband says, "They
went off to a summer camp and when they came back they said: 'We'd
rather spend our holidays with you.'
  "At one point, I was concerned that our elder daughter was too
dependent on us. When she went skiing, she wanted me to go with
here. If she went for a walk she wanted me or her mother to go, too."
  The Browns' elder daughter found "a professional job, a good job," her
father says. "But she wasn't happy in it. She was quite depressed.
  "She came home for Christmas and she seemed a little bit distant...
not as warm as we were used to."
  Phone calls, which had been frequent, began to dry up. Then their
daughter called and told her mother she was seeing a therapist.
  "She said, 'It's a family therapist,'" Mrs. Brown says. "And then
she said: 'May I talk to Daddy?'"
  "She said she was suffering from mild depression because of her
job," Mr. Brown says, "Then she said "But also because of you, because
you used to beat me when I was 4.'
  "She became very hostile. She said I must be suffering from
  The Browns' daughter began avoiding her parents.
  Several months after the beating accusation, she called her sister
and told her, Mrs. Brown says, that she had "recovered memories between
11 and 15 years of age of being sexually abused. Of her father coming
  "Her sister said: 'This didn't happen. What are you talking about?'
It was such a shock but at the same time it was absurd."
  Through Dr. Elizabeth Loftus at the University of Washington, a
specialist in "false memories," the Browns were put in touch with a
Philadelphia family.
  "It was incredible," Mrs. Brown says. "Their story could have been
about us. The parents and the daughter were educated and accomplished.
There was a small problem, the daughter went to a therapist and there
was this abrupt change."
  Loftus says therapists are often the first to raise the question of
childhood sexual abuse, urging patients to get in tough with "blocked
off" memories. There is no evidence that these "memories" are real,
she says. Nor is hypnotism to be trusted.
  The Browns told their elder daughter they know of her accusations.
She was, they say, "very hostile, businesslike, abrupt, cold," but
arranged for them to see her therapist.
  "She said she wanted us to explore our own childhood," Mrs Brown
says. "Her therapist's treatment is based on uncovering early
childhood traumas rather than on analyzing and treating the real
problem at hand."
  The therapist "kept repeating that we should look into our own
childhood and he was willing to help us do it," Mr. Brown says. "He
spoke about telepathy, emanations. That our daughter would know we
were doing this. She'd know by telepathy."
  The she wrote them a letter "accusing her father of sexually abusing
her from the age of 2. Things you can't imagine," Mrs. Brown says.
"Sodomy, of attempting vaginal penetration at the age of 3."
  "She said: 'You deserve to be locked up for life.' She said:
'Mother, you deceived me. You were the only person who could stop him
and you didn't. I hate you for it. I hate you.'"
  She pulls out a letter her daughter wrote several years ago, for Mrs.
Brown's 50th birthday. It is warm and tender, filled with love,
respect and admiration for her parents.
  "But now it was: 'I don't want to ever meet you again until you
admit your responsibility, admit what you did,'" Mrs. Brown says.
  "Do we say that we raped her? We can't say that because it never
happened. And yet we want her back.
  "I phoned her twice, I made silly little excuses, just to hear her
voice. She said" 'Please don't phone me. I told you I never want to
speak to you again.'"
  The Browns have a letter from the therapist in which he refers to
their daughter's "experience of listening to interpretations -- however
erroneous or incomplete -- filed by infant and childhood brain cells
years ago..."
  "'However erroneous or incomplete,'" Mr. Brown says. "What do those
words tell you?
  "I asked him to his face: 'Do you believe I committed these terrible
  "He said: 'I don't give a damn. It's immaterial. I'm not judgmental.
The important thing is something happened that made her hate you.'
  "I said: 'Well, can't we address that and find out what it was?' But
again, all I got was 'Address your inner self.'"
  The Browns' younger daughter 'reluctantly" stays in touch with her
  "She's our only hope, our only link to her sister," Mrs. Brown says.
  "I'm much more worried about our daughter than about us," Mr. Brown
says. "I feel anger, but not against her. She's not gullible and yet we
feel she's been brainwashed."
  "We want her to realize that she's wrong, that she's making a tragic
mistake," his wife says.
  "We don't want revenge. We want our daughter back."
  For more information about the FMS Foundation call (215) 387-1865.

                            TRUE OR FALSE
            The Psychiatric Community Knows Incest Is Real,
But Worries That When Over-Eager Therapists Uncover Repressed Memories
                   Of Sexual Abuse That Are False,
                Families Can Be Needlessly Torn Apart

                            By Bill Taylor
                             Toronto Star
                             May 18, 1992

       Reprinted with permission -- The Toronto Star Syndicate

  Unfounded accusations of childhood sexual abuse are tearing apart
families all over North America, Pamela Freyd says.
  "Exactly how many, we don't yet know," she says. "We fear that there
are a great many, in Canada as well as the United States."
  Freyd is executive director of the Philadelphia-based FMS
Foundation, formed to aid the victims of what is being called false
memory syndrome. Since it came into existence in February, the
Foundation has been contracted by almost 400 families.
  "The stories we hear pretty much follow the same basic script," she
says. "They only vary in the incidental details: well-educated parents
with a good income, an adult daughter -- it's almost always a
daughter, not a son -- who is also well educated has a good job. She
develops a problem, with her weight perhaps, or mild depression, and
sees a therapist.
  "And suddenly, sometimes after months in therapy, she begins to
believe she remembers her father or both parents sexually abusing her
when she was a child."
  Freyd says that while many reports of incest and sexual abuse "are
surely true, these delayed memories are too often the result of false
memory syndrome caused by a disastrous "therapeutic" program.
  "Some of these so-called therapists are doing brain surgery with a
knife and fork," she says.
  "The real tragedy is that the patients end up with nothing and no
one. They lose their families, they lose all memory of childhood
  "Do I believe children are sometimes abused by their parents?
Absolutely. But to the degree that we are being asked to accept?
Absolutely not."
  Dr. Saul Levine, head of psychiatry at Sunnybrook Health Science
Centre and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto says
that, for decades, "the view of specialists in psychiatry and other
mental health professions was that this (childhood incest) never
  "But we are learning that an extraordinary amount has happened to
girls and boys in families; usually to girls. The pendulum has moved
so far and so fast.
  "But I do have definite reservations about sweeping accusations. I've
been involved with some people making accusations and I have real
trouble believing them."
  Dr. Harold Lief, a Philadelphia psychiatrist who for 30 ears has
specialized in sex research, therapy and education, says a "sex abuse
industry" has grown out of the flood of these cases.
  "There are hundreds, if not thousands, of therapists who are poorly
trained and/or have terrible biases of their own. They have the
assumption that all these people have been abused. And patients are
suggestible, easily swayed.
  "They're eager to find a reason for their problems, so they can say:
'It's not me.'"
  Lief, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at the University of
Pennsylvania and Emeritus Psychiatrist to the Pennsylvania Hospital,
says he is "very skeptical" that memories of repeated sexual abuse can
be repressed.
  "One traumatic incident, a few episodes of abuse...yes, that can be
repressed. But when it's repeated, especially when the person is in
her teens, it's very difficult to conceive of that kind of experience
being repressed. I haven't seen any evidence of that."
  Nor, he says, is memory reliable.
  "There's alway some memory distortion," he says. "I love the line:
'There is no immaculate perception.'"
  In summarizing several studies of memory, Robyn Dawes, Professor of
Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and head of its
Social and Decision Sciences Department, wrote last year: "Memory is
basically a reconstructive process. We quite literally make up stories
about our lives, the world and reality in general.
  " is the story that creates the memory, rather than
  "Many therapists routinely use hypnosis," Lief says. "I don't want
to condemn it out of hand. It can be an effective tool.
  "But one has to be incredibly careful in judging the veracity of
what is said under hypnosis. You can bring out memories that are
grossly distorted."
  Lief says many therapists believe there is "almost a 100 per cent
chance" that a woman with an eating disorder has been sexually abused
as a child.
  "That has been a myth for years," he says. "The American Journal of
Psychiatry reported recently that there is absolutely no correlation
between eating disorders and childhood sexual abuse.
  "But if, as a therapist, you have this false belief and you follow it
up, then the patient frequently forms vague memories which are taken
to be real."
  Lief says the situation is aggravated by the public accusations of
celebrities such as TV comedian Roseanne Arnold, former Miss America
Marilyn Van Derbur and LaToya Jackson.
  "Roseanne seems off the wall to me," he says. "She claims to have
memories from 6 months old. We know a child doesn't have the level of
brain development at that age."
  He and Levine agree that psychotherapists are in "a terrible
  "How do you judge the veracity of the adult patient who makes the
accusation or the parent who says the family if being ripped apart?"
Lief says.
  Levine recalls "one man who came in and said his daughter, in her
30s, was making crazy accusations about him."
  "The daughter wouldn't talk to me., But I met with his wife and the
siblings and they said this was something the daughter had made up.
  "Six months later, the wife came to me with the daughter and said
everything the daughter had accused her father of was true. I had no
way of knowing."
  Dr. Isabelle Cote, a consulting psychiatrist at St. Michael's
Hospital, says she tries to persuade patients not to confront their
parents until they are certain of the nature of the abuse they are
  "Maybe they claim they've been sexually abused when they have not,
but they need to make that claim to get away from the family," says
Cote, who works with women suffering from dissociative disorders.
  "For them it's just an attempt to get control over their lives. In
the end, it's quite possible the person will come back to the family
once they've worked through their past and they know what they're
dealing with.
  "You may not have been abused the way you thing you were. But abuse
can be as traumatic when it's psychological as when it's physical or
  Cote says fantasies can be "so vivid that they can be as believable
as an uncovered memory.
  "That should not be an indication they are false," he adds, "but
that they are an attempt (by the patient) at imaginative solutions."
  The Courage To Heal, a book published in 1988 by Ellen Bass and
Laura Davis, is widely regarded as the bible of incest survivors.
Therapists often recommend it to their patients.
  Last September in his Toronto Star "Youth Clinic" column, Levine
called the book "one of the best on the market."
  "I wouldn't say that now," he says. "At the time, I hadn't read it
as assiduously as I should have. These two people are not qualified
  Lief calls The Courage To Heal "a very dangerous book."
  "Neither of the authors has any mental health qualifications
  Bass writes in the book: "I am not academically educated as a
psychologist. I have acquired counseling skills primarily through
practice...I've had the opportunity to work with a number of
therapists. But none of what is presented here is based on
psychological theories."
  "You wouldn't go to a dentist who had learned simply by watching
other dentists," Freyd says. "You wouldn't even hire a plumber on that
basis. Yet here they are playing around with people's brains, their
  Bass and Davis tell readers: "If you are unable to remember any
specific instances...but still have a feeling that something abusive
happened to you, it probably did."
  "That's their form of science," Lief says, "Dangerous, very