********************************************************************** 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 thinking. 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. PAMELA ********************************************************************** DOMAINS OF RECOVERED MEMORIES 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 therapy. 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." ______________________________SIDEBAR_______________________________ / \ | 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) | \____________________________________________________________________/ ********************************************************************** LEGAL ACTIONS AGAINST PARENTS 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" (1992). 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 probativity. 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. ********************************************************************** MEETINGS SOUTHWEST AREA Saturday, June 27, 1992 1:00 P.M. Holidome Inn West Meridian and Highway # 40 Oklahoma City Persons may make own reservations 405-942-8511 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. TORONTO, CANADA AREA Meeting is being planned. For details call Paula, 705-522-2809 NORTHWEST AREA (WASHINGTON) Meeting is being planned For details call Chuck, 206-364-4711 UTAH AREA 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 solitude. 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 amnesia." 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 upstairs..." "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 crimes?' "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 sister. "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 happiness. "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 happened." "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. "Often...it is the story that creates the memory, rather than vice-versa." "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 dilemma." "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 claiming. "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 sexual." 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 therapists." Lief calls The Courage To Heal "a very dangerous book." "Neither of the authors has any mental health qualifications whatsoever." 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 minds." 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 dangerous."