FMSF NEWSLETTER ARCHIVE - February 5, 1993 - Vol. 2, No. 2, HTML version

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3401 Market Street suite 130,  Philadelphia, PA 19104,  (215-387-1865)

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

Dear Friends,

  "Please tell the readers that it now takes two people two hours just
to open, date and sort the FMSF mail each day," prodded the office
volunteer as we began this newsletter. "Tell them that on a quiet day
we average 60 calls, but that when FMSF is mentioned in the media, we
get 120 or 150 calls." As more and more people contact FMSF, so too do
more and more papers follow. Last week we moved to larger quarters and
for now, at least, we have space for desperately needed file cabinets,
desks, phones and a growing library. The new FMSF address is,

    FMS Foundation
    3401 Market Street - Suite 130

This address and the phone numbers have changed as of July 15, 2000
    Philadelphia, PA  19104

  "How big do you expect to get?" a reporter asked us last week. "We
have no idea," we replied and asked for her estimate. She didn't know
either. "Unbelievable, simply unbelievable," we agreed.
  The following story arrived in the mail the day after that
conversation. Does it hint at the scope of the problem or is it

  "Last Friday I met an old friend and colleague for lunch. We have
not met since my daughter made her accusation because I didn't feel I
could see him without telling him about the crisis in my life. I have
felt so perplexed that I just didn't want to talk about it. Now that I
understand how this happened, I was finally able to call my friend.
  We began with the ordinary pleasantries when suddenly he broke off
with --'But that's not what I want to talk about. I have to tell you
that there has been a terrible problem with my daughter. She has
accused me of sexual abuse.'
  As he began his narrative, I interrupted, 'I don't want to stop you
but I have to tell you first that I have exactly the same problem.'
  He then described being cut off completely from his daughter, a
forty-year-old with several children. The pattern is very similar
although in his case, the daughter consented to talk with her
mother. The family is a religious one and everyone is praying for
everyone else. The startling thing to me was to hear him say that he
has learned that his neighbor across the street has the same
problem. In that, he was luckier than me because he did not have to
live with this alone."

  There are other hints that this phenomenon is widespread. Two weeks
ago the first newspaper story about families affected by FMS appeared
in Great Britain. A German television crew filmed some families here
for a story to be shown there. The reporter told us that professionals
in Germany were well aware of the problem.
  We received an impassioned letter from a person in New Zealand who
represents an organization of families who are outraged at what is
taking place there. In New Zealand, she said, the funds that exist for
helping victims of crimes are depleted because so many people had
recovered repressed memories. A person who had been the victim of a
recent crime, such as rape, had difficulty being compensated. We wrote
back that a similar pattern had been found in the state of Washington.

Findings from a Study of Victims Compensation in Washington State

* Sexual assault claims represent an increasing percentage of the
total crime victims fund from 1987 - 1991.
* Half of the crime victims compensation filings in 1992 were for
sexual assault.
* Mental health services represent 90 percent of the cost of sexual
assault claims.
* Repressed memory claims are costing more than other types of claims
allowed. (non-family sexual assault: $1,552; family sexual assault:
$1,997; repressed memory: $9,127; all other types: $1,794).
* Repressed memory filings increased by a larger percentage than other
filings in 1992. ( non-family sexual assault: 10%; family sexual
assault: 114%; repressed memory: 187%; all other types: 30%).  (From
Washington State Institute for Public Policy, Community Protection
Research Project, Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington 98505
(206-366-6000) December 1992.)

  Do these bits and pieces begin to supplement the picture that we
show by our count of affected families? FMSF will get as big as it
must to document and study this phenomenon, to answer the questions
that people ask and to look for ways to foster reconciliation of
families in which all the members have been terribly hurt and
/                                                                    \
| "The accusation is like a rock hitting water, the ripples just     |
| affect everyone in the whole family."                              |
|                                             A Mother               |

                        DEAR PRIME TIME LIVE:

  On behalf of more than 2,600 families, we thank you for your
outstanding production, "Devilish Deeds" on January 7, 1993. We
appreciate the courage that it took to cover this politically
sensitive and emotionally charged topic.
  You have done a tremendous public service. You have documented a
situation in which a therapist asked leading and suggestive questions
and shown how a memory could be induced. You have helped viewers
understand how counselors can inadvertently lead their patients to
fulfill their own expectations.
  The fact that therapist suggestion may be unwitting, speaks to the
need for radical curriculum change in mental health training
institutions. It speaks to the need for licensing and monitoring,
especially since in most states anyone can get a small business
license and hang out a psychotherapist shingle. Research has shown
over and over again how suggestible humans can be. Research has shown
over and over again that people can be led to believe they have
memories which are, in fact, not historically accurate. It appears
that we monitor the people who care for the hair on our heads far more
closely than people we let tamper with the inside of our heads using
very powerful tools such as hypnosis, guided imagery or relaxation
  We have lost track of the number of people who have spoken to us
about the segment with Dr. Hammond. Callers are shocked by his claim
that therapists are not responsible for verifying the information they
teach in workshops. Dr. Hammond conducts workshops in hypnosis and
ritual-abuse therapy yet has no empirical evidence that ritual abuse
conspiracies exist.
  We thank Dr. Ganaway and we thank all the people involved with the
Prime Time production for their help in understanding the FMS
phenomenon a little better.
/                                                                    \
| 17% of families are threatened with or involved in legal           |
| actions. These generally start with a letter from a lawyer such as |
| the one below.                                                     |
|                                                                    |
| Dear Parent:                                                       |
|    I wish to advise you that your daughter has been having trouble |
| thinking about her schoolwork because of something that happened   |
| in her childhood that she tried to suppress. She didn't want to    |
| talk about it with anyone. Since this has been bothering her for   |
| quite a while, she decided to take action last week. She made      |
| appointments with both a psychiatrist and also a hypno-therapist   |
| who put her under hypnosis and took her back to her childhood.     |
|    As a result, she recalled a sordid memory of a time when you    |
| molested her. This has been bad for her health. She has vivid and  |
| detailed recollections of your incestuous advances toward her.     |
|    Your daughter does not want to cause any problems for you, but  |
| she will require long term therapy which is expensive. She will    |
| also require counselling.  Your daughter has had to interrupt her  |
| studies, but she wants to return to school and complete her        |
| college education.                                                 |
|    If you wish to handle this in a discreet manner, I will obtain  |
| estimates of costs for the therapy she requires. We are most       |
| serious about this matter and will proceed accordingly if we must. |
| I expect to hear from you within seven days of receipt of my       |
| letter.                                                            |


(San Diego Union-Tribune, Monday January 18, 1993 by Jim Okerblom and
Mark Sauer)

  Jeff Younggren, a psychotherapy expert commissioned by the state of
California, has recommended to the state Board of Behavioral Science
Examiners that they "convene with the state Board of Psychology, which
licenses psychologists, in an effort to address the impact of ritual
abuse therapy in California and across the nation."
  "Ritual-abuse therapy has no basis in scientific fact," he said. "A
minority within the profession, those therapists who use techniques
such as hypnosis and age regression in efforts to unlock 'repressed
memories' of abuse may be guilty of malpractice," he suggested.
   "It's hurting lots of people and destroying families. Even worse,
it's really screwing up kids." If you are creating mythical memories
in children and adults which are damaging their families and other
people, then that is gross negligence under the law," Younggren said.
Younggren is urging an examination of whether "ritual abuse therapy"
violates ethical standards of the profession, or if it constitutes
gross negligence because it is an extreme departure from normal
standards of care."


  Of the stories that are told to FMSF, approximately 15% involve
memories of satanic ritual abuse conspiracies. In the stories we
record, all the memories seem to be "recovered" using the same
techniques. The same processes bring forth memories of past lives,
space alien abduction, satanic ritual, incest, and a host of various
kinds of abuse. We often see a pattern in which memories begin as
vague and uncertain suspicions. Over time memories become clearer and
then are elaborated. We see a pattern, for example, in which memories
of sexual abuse may grow to include abuse by many people and (in about
15% of the stories) grow to include memories of satanic ritual abuse.
Too late
  "Her problem is very serious and she has been diagnosed as having
Multiple Personalities. She has been to a therapist that she regards
as next to God who tells her what to do. She lives in another state
and because my husband was so sick it was very hard to try to see her.
I did make one trip but the therapist would not talk or meet with
me. He told me to stay away from my daughter and not to contact her as
it would trigger her to become someone else and she could do harm. I
have been unable to get any information about her condition and am
frantic that it may be too late if something isn't done soon to try to
help her.
  This accusation couldn't have come at a worse time for my husband
and myself. He was in the very last days of his life and it just
completely devastated him. He always loved his daughter and could not
believe that she could come up with this story....As you can tell, the
entire family has been destroyed. Of course, the saddest part in all
of this is the fact that my husband died trying to make her see that
she had made a terrible mistake. He did not die in peace." 
                                                              A Mother

  "Is there repression or isn't there?" we have been asked over and
over by parents, lawyers and members of the press. "That is not
something to which FMSF can give a definitive answer," we reply, "even
though we wish we could. The scientists who study memory are the
people who must speak to the scientific evidence of repression." Do
we, in fact, need a definitive answer to that question? Is that the
question we should ask?
  "Repression" is a relatively common word (Carroll, Davies, Richman,
Word Frequency Book, American Heritage, 1971.) It is commonly used to
describe forgetting of unpleasant things and in everyday language, few
people make a distinction between 'suppress' and 'repress.' An
unpleasant dentist appointment forgotten, for example, and a person
might say, "I must have repressed it."
  Our understanding of repression derives from an interpretation of
Freudian theory. There are various theories of repression. The notion
of repression in "ritual abuse therapy" or in "survivor therapy" is
based on the theory that people survive certain traumatic experiences
because there is an active mental mechanism that takes over and shuts
out what is going on. This is called dissociation. Scientists
generally agree about dissociation. It is both a part of common
experience and a process that has been clinically verified.
  "Ritual abuse therapy" and "survivor therapy" are based on another
assumption: the memory formed when a person is dissociated is
different from other memories. This is where the controversy begins.
  Memory researchers consider that forgetting is a normal process, a
_passive process_. People forget things. They don't have to put effort
into forgetting. It just happens naturally. Some things get
remembered, however. Things that are especially meaningful or
emotionally charged seem to be remembered. For example, the death of a
grandparent, the birth of a sibling, moving to a new house, the first
day at school, a scary story.
  "Ritual abuse therapy" and "survivor therapy" are based on the
assumption that a memory formed when a person is in a state of
dissociation is stored like a "time capsule." For this to be true,
there has to be something that "sits on the time capsule" to keep it
from being opened. There has to be an _active process_ to keep the
traumatic memory from being treated like other memories. That is,
repression (in ritual abuse therapy and survivor therapy) is different
from normal forgetting in that it applies only to some events
(traumatic ones) and involves a continuous active mechanism (the
repressed memories have to be "held down").
  Scientists agree that most memories are bits and pieces that are
reconstructed into a story. A repressed memory, however, is supposedly
untouched and intact -- like a time capsule.

                        WHAT IS THE EVIDENCE? 

  Whether there is or is not a mechanism of repression is far less
important than whether there is any data to indicate that a delayed
memory stays intact as if photographed by a video-camera. There simply
is no such scientific evidence. The memory, and the report, of a
human is absolutely not that of a video-camera, even if the person is
an accomplished artist (and in theory could draw the picture that a
video-camera takes). The human mind interprets the memories that it
has, and the memories reported include that interpretation.
  Since human memories, including any that may for some reason have
been blocked out -- either consciously or unconsciously -- are not
camera-like, there is certainly no reason to assume that uncovering a
memory that is "discovered" by the person some years hence would be
protected from the normal forgetting process or from the standard
reconstructive process.
  Rather, there is every reason to believe that like dreams and
fantasies, such "newly discovered" or "uncovered" memories include the
wishes, fantasies, and beliefs of both the child and the adult who
"finds" them. It is well known that the child is even more prone than
the adult to mix wishes and fantasies in with the events they
"remember." To assume that "uncovered" delayed childhood "memories"
are somehow exempt from childhood wishes and fantasies is folly and
not founded on any scientific studies.
  There is no question that the context in which a delayed memory is
brought forth can affect the memory report and the memory
itself. Repeated questioning about a specific topic can "shape" or
change the "memories" brought forth or "uncovered." To assume that
because a memory is delayed or "uncovered," it is not subject to the
context in which, or after which, it was "remembered" flies in the
face of all scientific data about memory reports.
   There is a solid body of scientific information about memory and
about human suggestibility. The myth that is perpetrated in the
"recovery of repressed memories" movement is that any delayed memory
has to be intact, untouched, veridical truth, the accurate "voice" or
video-camera of the "child within."

(Thanks to members of the FMSF Advisory Board, M. Orne and E. Loftus
for comments on this section.)
   Hit and Run
  "My daughter's accusation was made after several years of her being
depressed, medicated, hospitalized, and having several different
counselors. During these years she disassociated herself from many of
her friends, her relatives, her husband's relatives and my husband and
  "She made this accusation in a planned, supervised, and controlled
meeting within the Psychiatric Department of a hospital. My wife and I
were shocked at such an occurrence and were given no opportunity to
discuss this further by the hospital staff, even though we asked."

/                                                                    \
|  Many people seem to have the misconception that we store accurate,|
| unreconstructed video-recordings of the events we have experienced.|
| Scientific evidence, however, indicates that memory is             |
| reconstructed.  Memories are not like video-recordings.            |
|  Many people seem to have the misconception that the vividness or  |
| emotional force of a memory is a reliable indicator of the         |
| accuracy  of the memory. There is no scientific evidence to        |
| support this belief.                                               |


  The January 1993 issue of the Monitor of the American Psychological
Association reports a study of private psychiatric hospitals conducted
by Ira Strumwasser, executive director of the Michigan Health Care
Education and Research Foundation. The study concluded that "38
percent of the hospital admissions and nearly 40 percent of hospital
care days were unnecessary as were about 75 percent of admissions for
substance abuse." This information corroborates the abuses by
psychiatric hospitals found in the 1992 hearing by the House Select
Committee on Children, Youth and Families.
  "The exploitation of the families of the seriously mentally ill by
the for-profit private psychiatric hospitals may be the most
reprehensible behavior in the history of mental health care,"
according to Bryant Welch, JD, PhD, and APA's executive director for
/                                                                    \
|            Where do 2,624 families live? - 02/01/93                |
|    AK(8)   AL(7)   AR(6)   AZ(81)  CA(441) CO(38)  CT(33)  DE(7)   |
|    FL(115) GA(34)  HI(4)   IA(19)  ID(16)  IL(95)  IN(21)  KS(29)  |
|    KY(8)   LA(9)   MA(77)  MD(41)  ME(11)  MI(79)  MN(51)  MO(55)  |
|    MS(2)   MT(12)  NC(24)  ND(3)   NE(11)  NH(7)   NJ(77)  NM(17)  |
|    NV(15)  NY(112) OH(86)  OK(21)  OR(47)  PA(162) RI(7)   SC (10) |
|    SD(5)   TN(13)  TX(96)  UT(126) VA(33)  VT(10)  WA(131) WI(105) | 
|    WY(5)   DC(6)   VI(1)  Canada - AB(12)  BC(29)  MB(32)  NS(2)   |
|    ON(99)  PQ(4)   SK(5)   PE(1)                                   |
|    England(5)  France (2) Ireland (1) Israel (2) Germany (1)       |

                      WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

  "We live in state A and our daughter lives in state B. We do have
the names of her therapists although we were never allowed to talk to
them. We received most of our information from our son-in-law. He also
told us the hospital was closed in early 1992 for doing many things
wrong, such as medication, etc. The building now has a different type
of clinic in it.
  Our story started in 1989 and there were no changes until eight
months ago when her insurance ran out. Although she is still
associating with other patients she met in therapy, she did let our 4
grandchildren come to visit last summer. She is talking to me a little
more now but she still talks of flashbacks, etc. She makes fewer snide
remarks. We don't know where to go from here."

  "We had no idea why our oldest daughter suddenly and without warning
turned completely against us about a year and a half ago. We have
always been a close knit family and have kept in touch with each other
even though we are now scattered across the country. We are now in our
late seventies. We have five children and none of the other four
children seemed to know what the problem was. She has not contacted
her sisters. She did tell one brother who managed to find out about
your foundation and contacted you.
  "Apparently she can't remember anything specific (because there
isn't anything to remember) but she feels sure something happened.
  "A few days after Christmas, I called her to say that we were coming
up to bring the Christmas presents to the grandchildren. She told me
not to come and wrote me a little note that she needed time and
space. So I mailed the presents to her. They were returned
unopened. Since then I have tried to contact her but have had no luck
since she sends mail back unopened."

/                                                                    \
| "The deep pain in my heart never goes away. We try to live as      |
| normal a life as possible, but who can, when a piece is gone."     |
|                                                           A Mother |

                           MORE OPTIMISTIC

  The term "recanter" is not liked, especially by the people to whom
it was referring. Someone has suggested "returnee" and others
"retractor." We are going to avoid using any "label" if we can. For
the time being, at least, we will talk about people who had terrible
memories they now consider false.
  This month we have had two stories of daughters who have resumed
contact with their families after 3 and 4 years sparked, presumably,
by the birth of a baby. In these cases, like others that we have
reported, there has been no discussion or resolution of memories.
People seem to be picking up and moving on. Parents write that they
are not comfortable but are so glad to see their children that they
will continue this way. What do the children think?
  We wrote last month about a family whose daughter asked if she could
spend Thanksgiving at home. There had been no mention of the things
that had split the family. We received a letter last week, however, in
which we learned that after some "on again - off again " behavior, the
daughter is now questioning and discussing the memories. She is no
longer in therapy.
  We have been told stories by three families in which the daughters
invited their parents to spend Christmas with them. These were all
after 5 or 6 years of no contact.
  It's slow. We're learning.  Thank you for keeping us informed about
what is happening in your families. This will provide a foundation for
understanding and for helping others.

/                                                                    \
|                         Biting the Doctor                          |
|                                                                    |
|  A recent Ann Landers letter told of a patient who bit her doctor  |
| when he accidentally pinched her with an instrument during a       |
| pelvic exam. Many letters followed suggesting that the woman was   |
| sexually abused. An FMSF reader asked us "With feet in stirrups    |
| and flat on her back, the doctor at her feet, how could she bite   |
| the doctor?"  Isn't there more evidence in this story that the     |
| woman was a contortionist than that she was abused?                |

                          GOVERNING AGENCIES
  Recently we were contacted by a parent who has a daughter in New
York State. We thought that parents in other states might want to read
what she wrote. This mother has suggested that all the parents who
have adult children residing in NY and who have recovered memories and
cut off contact might call the Office of Professional Discipline to
report what is happening to them. Parents need only use their first
names and describe what is happening to their family. If parents know
the name of the involved therapist, they might want to report his/her
name. They also might want to ask for the forms needed to file a
formal complaint against the therapist. (This does not mean that they
will then have to file said complaint.) The objective is to inform the
governing agencies what is happening in the therapy field. If we are
quiet, these agencies will not know there is a problem. Here is how
she went about it:
   "Hello. My name is (first name). My spouse and I are very upset
because something terrible has happened in our family. Our daughter
(or son) is now in therapy and we believe she is not being properly
diagnosed. In fact, we believe that her therapist may be helping to
create her illness. We are worried and distraught as our daughter has
been behaving so strangely since she entered therapy. This has been
going on for quite some time now.
  "Just recently she announced to us that all of her problems are
related to her having been sexually abused by (name of person --
father, mother, etc.) when she was a child. This is absolutely not
true, and we don't know what to do as she now refuses to talk with us
or contact us in any way and we have been left devastated. We believe
she is suffering from the False Memory Syndrome. We don't know where
to turn and we were hoping you might be able to help us." Conclude:
  Ask for forms to file a formal complaint or state: "Even if your
office can't help us, we just wanted you to know what is going on in
the therapy field." Remember: The voices of many sound much louder
than the voice of one person.
  If you would like help with making this important phone call, please
contact Evelyn at 201-835-4647 (NJ) or through the FMSF office. If you
live in New York State but your adult child resides in another state,
call the Attorney General's office in that state and inquire where you
can call and/or file a complaint against a therapist.

Office of Professional Discipline 315-445-2111
Tecumseh School -- Room 11
Nottingham & Waring Road
Jamesville, NY 13078

New York Metropolitan Area
Office of Professional Discipline  212-870-4369
163 West 125th Street
New York, NY  10027

Parents who know that the therapist is a licensed social worker might
also want to contact:
Camille Claymon, Ph.D., ACSW 518-463-4741
Executive Director
National Association of Social Workers
New York State Chapter
225 Lark Street
Albany, NY 12210

                       RESULTS OF MAKING NOISE

  Making noise is starting to produce some action. In Utah,
appropriate agencies have listened to parents and concluded that they
are telling credible stories.  Discussions are beginning on model
licensing procedures that will begin to address the problem on one

                             OUR CRITICS

  It seems that this is getting to be a regular part of the
newsletter. The criticism that we've heard about this month is of a
more organized nature.
  In Utah, there is a group that refers to itself as Survivors of
FMSF. We don't know what an organization such as that does. They have
not contacted us or requested information that we know of. We are
sorry that FMSF is so threatening to these people. We hope that they
are interested in improving the mental health situation in their
state. We would be pleased to discuss their concerns with them.
  In Sacramento in November there was an invitational seminar at the
University of Pacific McGeorge School of Law, entitled, "Defining and
Responding to the Backlash against Child Protection." The list of
participants was published in Nasvonews 11 (1). Nasvonews is a
newsletter for the VOCAL organization. We have been informed that FMSF
was discussed at this meeting. Perhaps in the near future, we can sit
together and discuss their concerns.
  We invited several people who have published papers that are quoted
in the survivor literature to speak at the April Conference. One
person declined stating that s/he declines many invitations in any
case but that this conference would make him/her sad because s/he
would have to say that many people in the audience were guilty. We
thought that quite amazing.
  Another person who declined said that s/he would not speak because
FMSF is an advocacy organization. We puzzled over that. We are not set
up as an advocacy organization. Finally, we realized that yes, indeed,
we did advocate "critical thinking."
  We were asked by at least three reporters to comment on the fact
that members of the FMSF Advisory Board were resigning in droves. The
rumor that is being spread is that they are resigning because of
"sleezy" operations on the part of FMSF. That is not the case. Indeed,
we have been remiss in updating our Advisory Board. One member of the
current board has asked to resign for personal reasons, Dr. Jon Baron.
His help in understanding attentional bias has been immeasurable and
we give our greatest thanks for his help. There are many outstanding
professionals who will be joining the board and/or a Board of Fellows.
Time to do this properly has been in short supply. The fact that this
rumor is being spread indicates that we should address this
immediately. We thank everyone for patience and understanding.
  We have been informed that this rumor is being spread in survivor
workshops. We suspect that this is yet one more effort to discredit
FMSF, like calling FMSF an organization for perpetrators, satanists,
anti-feminist, aligned with pornography industry or supported by
insurance companies and who knows what else.
  None of these slurs is true and are instead an indication of the
types of pressures that have been brought to bear on individuals who
have attempted to speak out and say, "Stop and think. Where does the
information come from? Can conclusions legitimately be drawn from that
  To question does not mean to be "against." Cult-like thinking
demands total unquestioning belief. The types of rumor-spreading and
slurs are an indication of the cult-like nature of the survivor
movement. The world and its issues are not black and white. Where
there is uncertainity and ambiguity there needs to be discussion to
help clarify and understand. Throwing stones will not help.

/                                                                    \
| "Nancy was 10 minutes into her weekly co-dependency group before   |
| she realized she was at the wrong meeting. Instead of a group for  |
| people with eating disorders, the 42 year-old writer for public    |
| television in New York was surrounded by adults who were           |
| habitually messy.                                                  |
| "I got there late, and evidently they had changed rooms," she      |
| said. "What is upsetting was that there were several other people  |
| from my eating group, but they hadn't noticed either, because the  |
| vocabulary was the same....                                        |
|  "The notion that scars etched deep in childhood resurvace as      |
| negative behavior in adults is under attack from a number of       |
| directions.  "Recovery movements under critical glare"             |
|                       Elizabeth Mehren of the Los Angeles Times.   |

                           Sara Overstreet
                 Reprinted with permission of author
        Sentinel & Enterprise,Fitchburg, MA, January 15, 1993

A few years ago, my good friend, a social services attorney, and I
were having one of our regular Women's Days. Several times a year, she
and I drive to a resort halfway between the two cities we live in and
spend the day shopping, eating and talking.
  We were discussing some psychotherapy she had recently started, and
she shook her head. "My therapist said he thinks I was an incest
victim as a child, that I have all the classic symptoms," she said. "I
told him, 'Hey, if I thought there was a chance it had happened, I'd
tell you. But it didn't happen."
  Now when this friend says something didn't happen, it didn't
happen. She's the most uncompromisingly honest person I've ever met,
and she doesn't flinch from anything. She wasn't one of the incest
survivors I'd seen on Phil or Oprah, simply blocking out too horrible
  Her statement staggered me, because a therapist had told me almost
the same words not too long before: "You have all the classic symptoms
of an incest survivor." We'd been digging up the bones of my failed
marriage, and the therapist had already labeled me as "co-dependent"
because I'd shown all the "classic symptoms" of that, too. (After
several months of sessions and two pop psychology books,
"co-dependency" still sounded to me like a person who took seriously
the lessons he or she had learned in Sunday School, trying to deal
with other people who didn't; but that's another column.) 

Research that hurts
  My therapist's conjecture of incest became a recurring mental boxing
match because of its very nature: I believed it was preposterous, yet
one of the hallmarks of such abuse is supposed to be its denial. Was I
sure it never happened? Always I was sure. If nothing else, having
planted the possibility in my mind, the therapist helped me reaffirm
the care I did receive.
  This issue simmered in my consciousness for several years, but came
to a full boil when I read a review in The New York Times recently of
several popular books dealing with incest. In an article titled
"Beware the Incest-Survivor Machine," author and social psychologist
Carol Tavris points to several alarming similarities among books about
incest survivors. First, there are the "symptom lists" by which one is
supposed to be able to tell if one has survived incest. One could
easily find oneself on the list if one has led anything less than a
100 percent fulfilled, assertive and happy life.
  Then Tavris cites research on the nature of memory that points to a
biology of constantly re-creative rehearsing and encoding of data, of
brains highly sensitive to suggestion and especially hypnosis, a
technique widely used by therapists to unearth supposed hidden incest
memories. She illustrates with examples from the biggest sellers in
the incest-survivor field, and a lot of them reveal pretty weak
stuff. This is my favorite, from "Secret Survivors":
  "It is my experience that fewer than half of the women who
experienced this trauma later remember or identify it as
abuse. Therefore it is not unlikely that more than half of all women
are survivors of childhood sexual trauma."
  I give up. If we believe this, half of us might as well just pick a
therapist, sign up for the lifetime plan and buy said therapist a new
house in the suburbs.
  Incest does happen and it's horrible, and that's why it is so
important not to cook the numbers and make it seem more common than it


  There are a number of papers that are frequently cited as evidence
that the memories that people recover must be true. We will review
some of these from time to time. In general, most of the studies that
are cited are based on either clinical populations (which means that
there is no base rate or standard for interpreting the results for the
general population) or the studies rely on retrospection (reports from
the past are notoriously unreliable). A study by Linda Meyer Williams,
"Adult memories of childhood abuse: Preliminary findings from a
longitudinal study," (Summer 1992). "Advisor," newsletter of American
Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (Chicago) avoids those
pitfalls. We will describe the study very briefly and then report on
a critique by Robyn Dawes that shows why the conclusions that the
author draws from her results are not justified.
  The study is an effort to determine the prevalence of child sexual
abuse in our society. The problem has been that "many women do not
remember the abuse or chose not to tell, " so that statistics may be
underestimated. The Williams study is an effort to see how common
amnesia is in a community sample. She follows a group of 200 females
(infant to 12 years) "who reported sexual abuse in the early
1970's. Details of the sexual abuse were recorded as part of the
National Institutes of Mental Health study of the immediate
consequences of abuse shortly after the abuse was reported and, thus,
are not subject to recall biases." The women from the original study
were interviewed and asked about childhood abuse. "Those who did not
report the abuse during the follow-up interview were asked if they
recollected going to the hospital as a child."
  "The results showed that thirty-eight percent of the women were
amnesic for the abuse or chose not to report the abuse to out
interviewers 17 years later. Qualitative analysis of these reports
and not-reports suggests that the vast majority of the 38% were women
who did not remember the abuse."
  The author concluded that "these preliminary findings confirm the
reports from clinical samples that a large proportion of women do not
recall childhood sexual victimization experiences."
                           Dawes critique.

  It is possible to "prove" -- a lot of confusion -- if one looks only
at one row or one column of a 2 * 2 table.

actual   y   a  b
 abuse   n   c  d
             y  n
         Reported Alone

  Noting that "b" is not equal to 0, Williams recommends a
reassessment of a + b, claiming it must be greater than a + c. But she
has no evidence about the second row -- specifically, the prevalence
of c, which is the concern of FMSF.
  To put it bluntly, it just makes no sense to conclude that:
"retrospective studies which rely on self-reports of childhood
experiences of sexual victimization are likely to result in an
underestimation of the true prevalence of such abuse." (p 20)
  In fact, her results are perfectly consistent with the possibility
that retrospective reports result in an overestimation.
  Suppose, using her somewhat broad 18-year old definition, 24% are
abused and one out of four of them say "no." (That's between her 38%
and 17% figure.) All it takes is more than 8% of the remaining 76% to
answer "yes" and reports overestimate true prevalence. At 8% (.08 *
.76 = .06) we have a match.
actual  y  .18  .06
abuse   n  .06  .70
             y    n
        Reported abuse
Only under the assumption that c --> 0 can she make the inference she
does, and that's the whole question. Moreover, in other contexts, we
do not find extraordinarily low instances of saying "yes" when it
didn't happen.
  The principle that one can't reach a conclusion about a 2 * 2 table
without considering all 4 cells really should be taught in elementary
school. (No, it's not true that because the HIV screening test is "95%
accurate" you have a 5% chance of being infected after you test

We welcome a reply to this critique. 
                          MY SISTER'S STORY

  The vast majority of the stories that are told to FMSF involve young
women who entered therapy for help in dealing with normal life events
such as weight problem or relationship problems. This story is
different. This is the story of someone with a serious and recognized
mental disorder which can be managed through current medical

  My sister and I came to Canada from Latin America when we were young
children. We became a blended family with my father and his two sons.
We had a fairly average childhood, with good times and bad times and a
few adjustment problems, as you might expect. We all went to Catholic
school, where my sister and I quickly learned English. From the very
beginning, my sister excelled at everything she did; she was confident
and charismatic and very beautiful. Everyone seemed to like her and
she had a great many friends. She was an A student and an exceptional
athlete, having earned an invitation to the Olympic qualifying tryouts
as a middle distance runner. She was also a very accomplished figure
skater. It was her plan to study medicine and go to a poor Latin
American country as a volunteer doctor.
  About the time she graduated from high school, my sister's
personality began to change in a very frightening way. She would
unexpectedly become very angry for no reason and fly into an
uncontrollable rage. At other times she would suddenly start to laugh
or cry without any cause. Se seemed to be talking to people that
weren't there sometimes. Soon she had cut herself off from all her
nice friends and was associating with people like astrologers,
herbalists and "new age healers." She physically attacked our parents
several times and as a result she had to move into her own place. She
didn't go on to university as planned, and stopped caring about her
hygiene. She became preoccupied with "healing" and went to
"channelers" and "past lives" hypnotists. I can see now that she was
very terrified about what was happening to her and desperately trying
to find help. It was during this period that she started seeing a
"counselor." She had started to abuse drugs and alcohol, and wanted to
stop, because this was not really her true nature.
  As soon as she started to see the counselor she became obsessed with
finding our about our childhood. She collected every old photograph
she could find, and started asking countless questions about our
parents, our grandparents in Latin America. Then one day she came to
the house and told us that she had been sexually abused as a
child. She was very angry, and accused our parents of concealing
information from her. She didn't seem to know who had abused her, but
was working to remember.
  My sister started to go down hill very rapidly. She started to be
terrified that Michael the Archangel was coming to rape her and gouge
out her eyes. She climbed to the top of a local mountain in the middle
of the night to talk to "star people" and to look for rocks which had
baby stars inside. Then, a few days later, an elderly couple brought
her to our home, half frozen. She had been hiding in a crack in the
rock right next to the ocean for over 24 hours, dressed only in a thin
exercise suit. My mother, who is a nurse, was able to warm her up in a
lukewarm bath. When my sister had been revived, she became extremely
hysterical. She was convinced that my father had chopped me up and
buried me in the back yard, and that he had murdered my mother and
replaced her with an android. My parents had to call for help, and an
ambulance came with two police cars to take her to the hospital.
  At the hospital, the attending psychiatrist had to tell my parents
that my sister was very ill, suffering from paranoid
schizophrenia. This psychiatrist is a marvelous doctor. He put my
sister on medication, and spent a lot of time with her. She improved
rapidly: she became quite relaxed and happy, the way she had been two
years before. She started to make plans to get a job planting trees,
then resume her education.
  At this point, just when things were going so well, her counselor
started to visit her in the hospital. This counselor told my sister
that psychiatry was a conspiracy of the "patriarchy" and that its
purpose was to take power away from women. She also told her that
there was not such thing as schizophrenia and that all the symptoms
were caused by a person's mind trying to blot out memories of sexual
abuse. According to her, my parents had put her in the hospital to
shut her up. She convinced my sister that her medication was to take
away her will and make her forget, so she stopped taking it.
  Before we know what was happening, my sister had discharged herself
from the hospital. The counselor picked her up and helped her carry
her stuff. My sister started going to survivors groups for two hours
every day, where she was told to smash up plates with a baseball bat
and to think up fantasies of mutilating our father.. She came to the
house a couple of times to stand on the front lawn and shout about the
  The next thing we knew was that we got a call from a friend of my
sister in another city who told us that she was terrorizing people on
the street. We went to her and when we arrived we found that my sister
was living under a tree in the woods and had shaved off all her
beautiful hair. She accused me or raping her and told my mother that
she had no memories of the sexual abuse, but that the counselor was
"helping her to remember." At one point she went out in the snow at 3
o'clock in the morning to cleanse herself in the river.
  She received some money from social services for an apartment but
she used it to buy a plane ticket to another part of the country
because she believed that aliens might try to follow her. That is
where she is now, terrified and alone, and afraid of the people who
love her.
  Our family, like any other family, has its shortcomings, but we have
managed to cope with many difficulties. We would have coped with my
sister's schizophrenia if the counselor had not convinced her that
repressed memories was the source of her problems.

                          MEETINGS / NOTICES 

     Professionals and Parents in Support of the FMS Foundation.

  To place a notice in this column in March, please be sure that we
receive the information in writing by the 25th of February. 

  Contact your state liaison to find out about meetings in your
area. Not all meetings are listed.

February 20, 1993
9:30 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.
Pam Freyd, Guest Speaker
Holiday Inn Executive Center 
at I-70 and Stadium Road.
To confirm reservations, call 314-445-8531
Call on or before 2/10
Room cost is $64 per night. 

Sunday March 7  2:00 P.M. - 5:00 P.M.
 meeting will be in Pomona Valley
Pam Freyd - Guest Speaker
For details call  
Marilyn 909-985-7980
Carol  909-982-7369

 Second Saturday of each month
Same time, same place, March 13
Call the office for details.

March 14, 1993  
1:00 P.M. - 5:00 P.M.
for details contact
Grace 201-337-4278
Renee 718-428-8583
Ethel 516-676-0939
Evelyn 201-835-4647

Wyoming and Nebraska
Saturday March 27, 1993
2:00 P.M.
meeting will be in Arvada, Colorado
For information Judy at 303-674-4278 
or Eunice at 303-422-2292 

March 13, 1993
Call Liz and Roger 708-827-1056

February 27, 1993
Call Kathleen  907-333-5248

                      FMS FOUNDATION  CONFERENCE

                          April 16-18, 1992
                  Valley Forge PA Convention Center. 

Conference announcement, hotel information and registration
information are included in this newsletter. The schedule is
tentatively planned as follows:

6:00 - 9:00 Hospitality Room

Friday, April 16
 9:00   A Mental Health Crisis
12:00   Lunch
 1:15   Memory: The Research to Date
 3:00   Round Tables
 4:15   Theoretical Perspectives on Recovered Memories: 
          Trauma vs Conflict
 6:00   Reception 

 8:30  Epidemiology of FMS
10:30  Legal Issues
12:30  Lunch
 2:00  Panel of People Who Have Experienced FMS
 4:00  Round Tables
 5:30  Dinner Break
 7:00  Reception

 9:00  Early bird Round Tables
10:30  Professional Responses to Crisis
 1:00  Closing Lunch

  The Round Table sessions will give people an opportunity to talk
about the sessions in small groups and also to meet in interest

  We expect to have a copy service available for people who want
copies of papers.

  We plan to set up a video room and have available all of the
television shows that have addressed the subject of FMS.

  Many of the people who have recognized that they have experienced
false memories have told us that they would like to come to the
Conference but that they need help in paying for the ticket. We are
looking for sponsors to help defray transportation expenses for these
people who can tell us so much.