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Mothers Story from Netherlands

FMSF News Alert - March 5, 2013

Dear FMSF Friends,

The following story from a mother in the Netherlands reminds us that in spite of all the scientific research, some people still get trapped in the belief of recovered memories. Sadly, as this story shows, there are still poorly trained therapists.

This story happened in the Netherlands, but it could have happened anywhere. The pain and sadness for each new family is as great as it was 20 years ago.

--Pam

A Mother’s Story : How memories were abused to turn a dream into a nightmare

By Anja, a mother.

(Translated by Adriaan Mak)

Names have been changed to protect family members.

After therapy sessions in 2008, Marieke accused her father and brother of sexually abusing her when she was an infant. In the story that follows, Anja describes the painful consequences that her daughter’s tales had on her family: her husband Rik, her son Tony, her daughter-in-law Rinske, and her grandchildren.

A part of me wants to scream from the rooftop about the collapse of our family, about our helplessness, and about the injustice done. Another part of me wants to be silent because of the stigma attached to the subject of child abuse. I have been living with a secret that is not of my invention, but one forced on me. Now I raise my voice to help others who may recognize themselves in my story.

Our nuclear family consists of four people: my husband Rik to whom I have been married 48 years; our son Tony who is married to Rinske and who are parents of a daughter and son, and our daughter Marieke, who is a mother of three daughters.

Four years after Rinske was born, we had another son who lived for only ten months. Family therapy helped us work through the grief of this painful period. We were thrilled four years later when Marieke was born. She was joyful, sensitive, social, creative and good humoured. Despite the age difference, Tony and Marieke had strong loving bonds. We seemed a good family.

As the children grew and eventually became independent, we continued to enjoy a good relationship with them and with all the grandchildren.

We worried about Marieke, however, because she had problems with post-partum depressions. Her pregnancies were difficult and after the birth of each child, she seemed to have trouble coping. This was especially so after the birth of her youngest daughter. We helped Marieke as much as we could to get the rest that she desperately needed.

Our daughter relied on the services of a holistic manual therapist (in the Netherlands called osteopaat*) who worked in the same building as the therapist she later consulted. Marieke told us that this second therapist was connected with a life coaching practice and helped her pro bono to discover what profession or career she wanted to pursue. When she started to see the life coach, she began to distance herself from the family and her visits became less frequent.

Marieke described a weekend that she spent in intense therapy sessions with little time left for rest and sleep. She said that the sessions focused on a woman who was in denial about an incest past. According to Marieke, the therapist wanted to force a breakthrough and had the woman stand in the center of the group. The woman tried to escape, but the group members repeatedly pushed her back to the center. The group screamed that she should come out of denial by admitting that she was an incest victim. Finally the woman broke down and told about incest in her childhood.

Marieke opined that she supported the woman, calling the experience remarkable and liberating. As a family we disliked this form of therapy. We worried over the change that had come over Marieke. Later Marieke told us that she was attending a study course called "the shadow sides of my youth."

My husband and I noticed that a friendship was developing between Marieke and her husband and the therapist and his wife. The therapist and his wife took care of our grandchildren, taking them to amusement parks and other places. From the website of the life coach, I discovered that Marieke did administrative work for the practice. We grew increasingly concerned that Marieke and her family were becoming dependent on the therapist.

The number of disturbing events increased. On the first birthday of our youngest grandchild we were ignored. When my husband called our daughter, she made light of his concern. When I called, I was told to let "bygones be bygones." When I expressed sadness over the loss of connection my daughter said: "I am not responsible for your pain." Later, in an email, Marieke told us that she needed a time-out to discover herself. In spite of many attempts, we have not been able to make contact with her since that email.

Our contact with our grandchildren with whom we had close ties was also broken. After a few weekly Saturday phone calls to our eldest granddaughter, she began to be cold and distant. Soon we could only reach an answering machine at the life-coaching institute. A receptionist of this counseling center connected us to our granddaughter who told us that she would rather watch television than talk to us. Then she cancelled a visit she was supposed to have with us saying that she was going to visit another person from the life coach institute. We were filled with grief.

The unthinkable happened

While my husband and I were on vacation abroad, our son received an email message from Marieke that for safety reasons our oldest granddaughter would no longer be allowed to stay with him and his wife or with her grandparents. Marieke then warned her sister-in-law Rinske to protect her own children, especially her daughter. Marieke said that her therapist had told that her dreams about sexual abuse were flashes of true memories.

Marieke defended her therapist emotionally: "He is an energetic therapist, paranormally gifted and he can feel that." Marieke’s husband then took the phone and stated that at first he could not believe it either, but that the therapist had affirmed that the incest allegation had to be the true.

After we returned home, I asked my daughter by phone for clarification. She told me that in 1980 when she was six years old her father and brother had sexually abused her. She also said that she was forced to watch her father sodomize her brother who was then fourteen. This was supposed to have happened while I was abroad for a family visit. I was not abroad when Marieke was six. Marieke further added that she had also taken her oldest daughter to the therapist. The therapist claimed that at one time her grandfather might have become excited but that he had not harmed his grandchild.

We went from dismay and doubt to anger, grief and pain. It felt as if she had struck a knife in my heart. My husband took many weeks to recover his balance. Together we were left with hundreds of questions without an answer.

Currently, Marieke refuses to have any contact with us. She refuses to agree to our proposal to meet with another psychologist acting as a consulting arbiter. She does not react to friendship cards or flowers or notes such as: "We love you," or "We miss you."

The worst that can befall a mother is the loss of one child. I lost two. The certainty that my daughter is a victim of therapy makes it all the worse.

After four years of anger, hurt, grief and frustration, I reached a point where I felt a need to meet those who had suffered the same fate. I found consolation from the story of the Rutherford’s. An excellent article by Asha ten Broeke in the Dutch Newspaper Trouw ** helped me. Elke Gerearts, a memory researcher and psychologist at Erasmus University in Rotterdam read this article and wrote to me. I met other casualties of suggestive memory therapy. I gained the strength to continue from these encounters. By caring for those others also affected by the grief, I hope to regain the strength needed to engage in actions that may to prevent others from having to experience injuries from misguided searches for traumatic childhood events that never took place.

To my daughter I have the following to say:

Dear Marieke,

I hope that all will go well with you and your children. I miss you and remember the wonderful times and things we once shared. I look forward to the day that you will get the courage to come to us. You will be embraced. My door will always be open. I love you and we will never lose hope that you will return.

With dear affection,

Mom.

So Close Yet So Far Away: Postscript to a Mother’s Story

This past December our granddaughter (our son’s daughter) called her cousin to wish her a happy birthday. Since that call, the two girls have chatted nearly every day and they have exchanged photos.

Sadly, our accusing daughter has forbidden her daughter to see anyone else in our family.

Is this progress?

*) The original Netherlands uses the word "osteopaat" not to be confused with the US term "Osteopath" or D.O., which implies a medical degree. No hard scientific evidence exists that osteopathy as practiced in the Netherlands is effective.

**) Trouw