FMSF News Alert - September 6, 2013
A modern parable tells of a carrot, an egg, and a handful of coffee beans all being exposed to the adversity of boiling water.
The carrot goes in strong and is softened from the experience.
The egg is at first fragile, but is rendered more durable.
The coffee beans change the environment of the water.
Over the past twenty years, there have been many who have helped to "change the water" surrounding repressed memory accusations.Today we honor two such men:
The Integrity and Fortitude of Dr. Charles Johnson
In a scenario known too well by many FMSF families, Dr. Charles Johnson ("Chuck" to his friends) and his wife Karen were confronted in a therapist’s office with allegations they had abused one of their adult daughters - memories she believed she had "repressed" and later "recovered" in therapy. Soon after, the Johnsons were hit with a restraining order, preventing them from discussing the allegations with their daughter -- and shortly thereafter with a letter from an attorney seeking a monetary settlement for their daughter’s suffering.
Chuck, a respected surgeon, was aware that such allegations themselves could be ruinous to his career. From a financial standpoint, it made sense to save his reputation and settle with the attorney. But what message would that send to their daughter? Chuck Johnson took a stand from which there would be no negotiating: He would fight as hard and as long as necessary to prove that his daughter had not been a victim of abuse by her family, but a victim of "repressed memory therapy". It was a decision that would affect every aspect of the rest of his life.
Chuck and Karen Johnson’s lawsuit against Rogers Memorial Hospital and the treating therapists spent fourteen (14) years in the Wisconsin courts. Issues of a therapist’s duty to a 3rd party took the case to the state supreme court in 2001, as did access to privileged counseling records in 2005. Ultimately, the Wisconsin Supreme Court concluded: "There is a public policy exception to the therapist-patient privilege and to the confidentiality in patient health care records where negligent therapy causes false accusations against the parents for sexually or physically abusing their child. The exception is not unlimited and is implicated only where the plaintiff can establish a reasonable likelihood that negligent therapy occurred and the trial court after conducting an in camera review agrees that the records contain relevant information regarding negligent treatment."
In the meanwhile, Chuck and Karen reached out to other accused families, hosting regional FMSF meetings and joining Christopher Barden’s fight for consumer protection in mental health practices.
In January of 2011, the Johnson’s lawsuit finally reached a jury. Chuck and Karen were awarded $1M for the malpractice visited upon their family. "Almost fifteen years!" exclaims Karen Johnson today, "I don’t know what it cost us. We just wanted to make a difference. We wanted to break through."
The Johnson’s attorney Bill Smoler recalls, "While we awaited the trial and Chuck’s health continued to deteriorate, there were numerous opportunities to fold the tent. Each time Karen would ask Chuck whether he wanted to persist. Each time the answer came back that he wanted to move forward. During the trial there were days when he had to return to his hotel room because of his health. Every time he showed up the next day ready to continue the fight. He always said they needed to continue for the benefit of all the other families who were counting on him."
A year after the verdict, in January of 2012, Dr. Charles Johnson passed away, leaving behind his devoted wife, four deeply adored children, four grandchildren, many friends, and a grateful coterie of FMSF supporters. Two of his daughters were at his side when he passed.
Rest in peace, Chuck. We thank you for your example of integrity and fortitude.
The Tenacity and Humor of Mr. George Bergen
Several years before the FMS Foundation would be established, George Bergen was already fighting against fraudulent therapies in Winnipeg, Canada. Mr. Bergen’s sister-in-law began recovered memory therapy in 1985 and committed suicide a year later. Soon after, Mr. Bergen’s wife entered therapy and came to believe that she too had been a victim of abuse by a satanic cult.
Fearing that his wife had become unstable, George Bergen filed a lawsuit to protect his children from falling into the hands of his wife’s therapists. Although he was unable to proceed with a lawsuit against the therapists themselves, he was successful in gaining custody of both of his sons, whom he raised on his own as a single father from that point forward.
In 1992, Mr. Bergen helped to organize a Manitoba FMSF group where he assisted others facing similar issues. Retractor Roma Hart recalls how he took the subject matter seriously, but never lost his sense of humor:
"George made me laugh. George would lighten the mood in the [FMSF meeting] conference room by drawing silly pictures of trains heading towards a stick figure of [my therapist], or some other silly depiction. I remember when we flew out to Toronto for an FMSF conference and he was so silly with his jokes, I thought we were going to be banned from ever flying again. But, he never minced words when it came to recovered memory therapy. For him, this therapy was a "fraud", plain and simple, and the people who practiced it were "criminals.""
In May of 2002, Roma accompanied Mr. Bergen as he made an impassioned speech to the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, requesting a review of all criminal convictions based on recovered memories. He expressed his outrage at their lack of action: "If you detect a sense of anger in my voice, I make no apologies for it. The time is long overdue for politicians in Canada to recognize the incredible amount of harm done by the ravages of fraudulent recovered memory therapy."
His full testimony can be found here: www.gov.mb.ca/hansard/business/hansard/37th_3rd/la_02/la_02.html
When George Bergen passed away in February of 2013, he was surrounded by the love of his two sons and three grandchildren. Knowing that his time was short, he’d already packed away his nearly thirty years worth of documentation related to these therapies and passed the information along to others to carry on his long fight.
Thank you, George. We’ll take it from here, and remember to smile whenever we think of you.
As Pamela Freyd said while choking back tears in her introduction to the 2000 FMSF Conference, "If you accuse people in their 70’s and 80’s you know what’s going to happen. People have health problems. .... If there is anything that has ever been the hardest part of my job, it has been losing so many friends. I’ve not trained for that."
The work of these two men exemplifies the work of countless others. We thank them. We thank you.
J. Bean and Pam