FMSF NEWSLETTER ARCHIVE - January 8, 1993 - Vol. 2, No. 1, HTML version

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

This address and the phone numbers have changed as of July 15, 2000
  Special in this issue: CAROL TAVRIS piece from the New York Times.

Dear Friends,

  We thank you for your letters and cards and support. In less than a
year FMSF has documented a horrendous problem and made strides in
bringing that problem to the attention of the mental health
community. We are glad that we have been able to help people
understand the nature of the phenomenon and the issues surrounding
it. "How do we say thank you for saving our lives? We had planned to
no longer be on Earth for another Christmas. Because of the
Foundation, we are alive -- and ready to take on whatever comes."
  We are not going to dwell on the devastating effects. There will be
plenty of time later to study the stories and letters and analyze the
surveys and interviews from the perspective of trying to understand
how families have coped with the ongoing nightmare. Your stories tell
of profound anxiety about the safety of the children who have acquired
memories and redefined their histories, of deep anger and frustration
that such an outrageous and bizarre situation could actually be
happening in the 1990's and of hearts that have been broken.
  The stories from the people who have experienced recovering
"memories" are, frankly, worse. We will do our best to try to find
some frameworks for making sense out of what seems so senseless.
People have told us that learning about "cult-like" thinking has been
helpful to their understanding of the personality changes their
children have undergone, and so we will pass on what they have
  Our efforts in 1993 will be directed toward understanding how
reconciliations between accused and accusers may happen. Your letters
cry out for "closure." Most write that you want your families
restored, although one father wrote that things have gone too far for
that to be a realistic possibility. Yet we are aware of two families
reconciling even after legal actions. "This just doesn't go away. How
can you ever stop being a parent? They may be grown ups, but they are
in trouble. Where do you draw the line?"
  This newsletter is longer than usual because we have tried to
present the FMS phenomenon as we understand it at the beginning of
1993 through your stories and letters. The first describes one
family's experience of being sued by their daughter. Since most
families are at an impasse, we reprint two vignettes that we think
exemplify that situation: one from the parents and one from their
three accusing children's perspective. Some have taken the first steps
of reconciling, and we retell what they have told us.
  The formal organization of the FMSF enables us to learn about these
issues and to send out information. We try to be as efficient and
cost-effective as we can. The actual office work gets done with a
combination of many volunteers and some paid staff. There are fifty
state liaisons and thirty people who help us return phone calls from
their homes. There are task forces and committees working. People are
holding meetings on a regular basis, making contact with the media and
professionals. Hundreds of people are writing letters.
  When we began 1992, the term False Memory Syndrome had never been
used. We ended 1992 with so many articles about FMS that we are going
to publish a collection to make them available at low cost. We start
out 1993 with several outstanding articles: look for Ethan Watters'
article in the January issue of Mother Jones Magazine. We have
reprinted in this newsletter the essay by Carol Tavris that appeared
on the front page of the New York Times Book Review on January 3,
"Beware the Incest Survivor Machine."
   With each month, the number of families increases, the questions
that we are asked become more complex, and the piles of mail grow ever
bigger. Last month, if you happened to visit the office, you might
have noted some of us sitting on the floor or waiting in line to use
the phones. We think it is time to move to larger quarters. Please be
on the lookout for our new address.
  We know that the number of calls to FMSF will peak and begin to
decrease. A year ago we were naive enough to think that might happen
in months. We now know it will take longer. How long will that be?
Computer predictions can give us growth patterns, but we don't have
enough information yet to predict a peak. We simply have no crystal
ball. Lacking that, we will continue to do our best to study this
phenomenon and to make only those conclusions that are warranted by
the data, to inform people of our findings and of other related
research in order to help families reunite. We will try to record this
phenomenon as accurately and completely as possible.
  To do this we need to work together. Please continue to send us your
stories and complete the survey when you get it. Tell us about any
change in your family situation and what seemed to have brought it
about. This is how we can help others bring families together. Send us
articles or flyers for the archives. The FMS phenomenon will only be a
tragedy if we let it be. Let's take a positive approach: professionals
and families working together to collect information, to inform
ourselves, to stop the pseudoscientific nonsense and to find ways to
help families get back together.
/                                                                    \
|                  Do false memories really exist?                   |
|                                                                    |
| "There's no longer even any question among those acquainted with   |
| the scientific literature. Any therapist who says false memories   |
| do not occur is either incompetent or, as they say in the          |
| profession, 'in denial.'"                                          |
|            Michael Morris, Utah County Journal, November 26, 1992. |

                             OUR CRITICS
  Some of you have written to express concern about FMSF critics. We
replied that we expect criticism and view it as a natural consequence
of being effective in a situation in which we are challenging the
foundation of an industry. Be assured that the great majority of all
letters and calls are highly positive and most criticism is positive
and helps us to refine our thinking. We learn from criticism.
  Some criticism seems silly to us, but we report it as part of the
ongoing documentation of the phenomenon. We try to see what we can
learn about the phenomenon from it. To date our critics have accused
us of being a PR front for perpetrators and of being part of a satanic
conspiracy. The past month we have been told that we are supported by
insurance companies, that we are against feminism, and that we are
part of the pornography industry.
  INSURANCE SUPPORT? We learned of the supposed insurance company
connection through phone calls with some people who informed us that
this was the information going around in their support groups. Our
response is simple. We are a public charity and our books are a matter
of record. Auditors examine everything. No insurance company has
offered us any money. But this accusation leads us to think that some
therapists must be worried that insurance companies are going to look
more closely at diagnostic practices and at treatment plans.
  ANTI-FEMINIST? In an article by Cathy Wasserman in a recent issue of
Sojourner, "FMS: The Backlash against Survivors" FMSF is described as
"clearly part of the growing backlash against feminism." We respond by
reminding readers that our survey data indicate that approximately one
third of the accusations of active abuse are against mothers. These
accusations of active acts of abuse are in addition to the demeaning,
dehumanizing accusation that covers every other mother, sister, aunt
and grandmother -- of being "in denial," of being too dimwitted to
know what was going on. While not every father is accused, every
mother who questions has been accused. Although it is predominately
women in their 30's who are recovering memories, being accused is an
equal opportunity position.
  We ask, in return, if it might be harmful to feminism to portray
women as having minds closed to scientific information and as being
satisfied with sloppy, inaccurate statistics? Could it be viewed as a
profound insult to women to give them slogans rather than accurate
information about how memory works? Are not women really being cheated
if they are not expected to use critical thinking skills? Is it really
empowering to view one's life through the single lens of victimhood?
  Mature adults, men and women, accept the responsibility of their
accomplishments and of their failures; they may seek understanding
from events in the past, but they don't blame their problems on
someone else. Is that "anti-feminist?"
  PRO-PORNOGRAPHY? We were fascinated to learn that we have also been
accused of being connected to the pornography industry. We found this
somewhat ironic because just a few months ago some parents told us
that they had taken some of the best-selling survivor books to the
Texas Attorney General and to the Texas Department of Health and Human
Services to have them investigated for pornography. "Every description
is of deviant sex," they explained. "If these were scientific books
there might be justification, but these are not scientific."
  An anti-pornography advertisement appeared in the Los Angeles Times
on November 19. The ad showed three adorable young girls and the
headline read "1 in 3 American girls will be sexually molested by age
18." The very notion of child pornography is disgusting. But we are
also disturbed when sensationalist statistics are bandied about. In a
free society, we suspect that there will always be tensions in issues
relating to freedom of the press. It is a puzzle to us why anyone
would bring the issue of pornography into the discussion.
  One thought is that the accusation was made to discredit the
organization -- like saying that we are a PR front for perpetrators.
Another thought is that the people who say these things have a
tremendous lack of understanding about the nature of criticism. Their
attitude is "cult-like" to the extent that any challenge, any
question, any suggestion for improvement is viewed as "being on the
opposite side."
  One year ago the common wisdom was that if a person said s/he had
been abused s/he must be believed because "No one would make up
something so horrible and painful." FMSF has tried to understand the
underlying belief system for the assumption. We have presented
research from the field of memory and from what is known about human
suggestibility to say that it is possible in a therapeutic situation
that the diagnosis of a client could be biased by the preconceptions
of the therapist. We have tried to point out that memory is a very
complicated process and that memories are not stored like pictures in
a camera or data in a computer. If it is believed that "No one would
make up something so horrible and painful," then no person who is
accused can ever defend himself or herself. The accusation is taken as
its own proof. Does any rational person really believe that? That is
"witch-trial" logic. We hope that this is the end of the "silly"
  CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM: We received a thoughtful letter from an
anonymous woman who advised us that although she believed it is wrong
for therapists to "intentionally or unintentionally push clients to
search for sexual abuse on very little basis," she also believed FMSF
may be at fault for "not screening in any way those whom you count in
your numbers." She went on to describe the problem in her own family
and in particular to note that her husband had seized on FMSF
literature and set up a straw man and rationale. "Please be clearer in
your letters about criterion for whether what you are saying applies
to a given situation; otherwise you are aiding abusers-in-denial in
avoiding reality."
  Ordinarily, we do not respond to anonymous information, and we never
enter anonymous communications in our count of families. That is the
first step in screening. We have had people call us with what sounded
like very credible stories and information, but if there is no way
that we could follow-up, we do not use that information. For every
family that is included in our list, we have a name (sometimes, we
understand, a pseudonym) and an address so that any information we
have can be corroborated by other researchers. Because we mail
information to callers, addresses are automatically verified. In
addition, in the majority of cases, we phone back the person who
called and thus verify a phone number.
  We generally talk to first-time callers for 30 to 40 minutes. That
is why it is so difficult to get through to the office on the phone
and why we need at least 30 people to help us with the return calls.
That is the beginning. As we have said over and over again, we cannot
determine the truth or falsity of any story that we hear; we can
simply record and look for patterns. We are not clairvoyant.
  Only some of the people who tell us stories are included in our
counts. We try to filter out all but those stories in which "repressed
memory" is clearly an issue. There have been hundreds and hundreds of
callers who have told us stories of their children being taken from
them by human services organizations. These are not repressed memory
issues. There have been letters from people in prisons and there have
been people who have told us that indeed they were guilty of abuse but
not of the things for which they are currently accused. These are not
considered "clear" cases. We are happy to send information to each
person who calls if s/he wants it, but that does not mean that we
necessarily include the story in the count. In addition to the moral
considerations, FMSF has too much to lose to "harbor perpetrators."
  Are there mistakes in our list? We are human beings working in a
situation of uncertainty and ambiguity. Of course there must be some
errors. When resources permit we will be able to go back to records
and determine error rates -- if it is ever possible to know such
things. Now we are struggle to keep up with the flood of calls and
questions from desperate people.
  We ask that people be cautious and use their critical thinking
skills and evaluate each case on its own merits rather than rushing to
judgment. Hiding behind FMSF would be just as wrong as hiding behind
"in denial."
/                                                                    \
|             Where do 2,345 families live? - 01/01/93               |
|   AK(8)   AL(5)   AR(5)   AZ(66)  CA(356) CO(35)  CT(27)  DE(7)    |
|   FL(91)  GA(31)  HI(3)   IA(15)  ID(16)  IL(88)  IN(20)  KS(26)   |
|   KY(8)   LA(8)   MA(70)  MD(37)  ME(10)  MI(77)  MN(44)  MO(51)   |
|   MS(2)   MT(9)   NC(23)  ND(3)   NE(10)  NH(6)   NJ(73)  NM(15)   |
|   NV(14)  NY(104) OH(76)  OK(19)  OR(46)  PA(157) RI(7)   SC (9)   |
|   SD(5)   TN(13)  TX(84)  UT(123) VA(30)  VT(10)  WA(118) WI(100)  |
|   WY(5)   DC(6)   VI(1)  Canada - AB(4)   BC(23)  MB(26)  NS(2)    |
|   ON(91)  PQ(3)   SK(4) England(4)  France(2) Israel(2) Germany(1) |

  Many survivors are being encouraged to sue their parents. "Get
  strong by suing," is suggested in "Courage to Heal." "Shifting the
  Burden of Truth" by Crnich & Crnich tells how to do it. Seventeen
  percent of the people in our family counts have been threatened or
  actually sued. "We won but we lost," is the way some families
  describe their experience.

                     WHEN YOUR DAUGHTER SUES YOU

  This is a summary of the legal process, from our perspective, in the
recently concluded lawsuit against us by our daughter.
  While in therapy during 1990 and 1991, our thirty-five year old
daughter called our friends, neighbors, relatives, law enforcement
agencies and Child Protective Services in three states in her attempt
to establish the validity of her recovered "repressed memories" of
childhood sexual abuse. Her initial delusions of sexual child abuse
gradually evolved into "memories" of satanic rituals, murder and drug
abuse. It appears that her primary objective was to find someone who
could corroborate her beliefs. However, she told many of these
individuals that she intended to sue us, her parents. A few of those
whom our daughter called alerted us to her intentions.
  On October 3, 1991, we received a letter via Certified mail from an
attorney in another state. This attorney stated that she was
authorized by our daughter to negotiate a financial settlement for
injuries we had caused to our daughter when she was a child. The
letter gave a deadline for our response. (The attorney's address is in
State A; we live in State B; and our daughter lives in State C.) We
immediately delivered this threatening letter to our local attorney
who chose not to respond to the letter
  About six weeks later, on 21 November 1991, our daughter filed her
lawsuit against us in a Civil Action in Federal District Court in
State A. We had lived in State A twenty years prior, during part of
the time that our daughter alleged she had been sexually abused. The
charges against us were in great detail, totaled nine pages, and
covered a period of thirty years!
  We didn't know that the charges had been filed until 5 February 1992
when a deputy from the local Sheriff's office delivered to each of us
a Summons. The cover letter accompanying the Summons was from the same
attorney authorized by our daughter to negotiate a financial
settlement four months earlier. It was clear that the Summons had been
prepared by the same attorney. Our daughter was representing herself
(Pro Se) in her lawsuit against us, but she had hired this attorney to
prepare the Summons and to file it in Federal District Court. We do
not know why the Summons was delayed three months before it was served
  We immediately took the Summons to our local attorney who advised
that we obtain an attorney in State A where the charges had been
filed. We did not know any attorneys in State A, so we called friends
who happened to live in the same city where the Court is
located. These friends gave us the name of an attorney who had once
represented them. We in turn gave our local Attorney #1 the name,
address, and phone number of Attorney #2 in State A. The two attorneys
talked on the phone. Attorney #2 agreed to answer the Summons and to
start work on defending us. The Summons was immediately sent by Fax to
Attorney #2 and we mailed him a $1,000 retainer fee.
  Attorney #2 proceeded in our defense. In addition to answering the
Summons, he took care of other court requirements and began initial
phases of the Discovery Process. After a couple of months, he phoned
to ask us if we might have insurance coverage for the situation. We
did have insurance and sent to him via Fax a copy of a liability
policy we have had with Company (I) since 1967. At the same time, we
remembered we had a second policy with an insurance company which has
an office locally. We immediately delivered a copy of the Summons to
insurance Company (II) where we have had coverage only since 1986.
  Insurance Company (I) located in State D, replied to Attorney #2
that they refused to defend us because some of the charges in the
Summons were for time before 1967 and all charges were for actions
excluded by the Policy, i.e. willful acts of misconduct such as rape,
murder, cannibalism, etc.
  We argued that they had an obligation to defend us since the only
cause for the lawsuit was a mentally disturbed individual who was
suing and that none of the allegations were based on any facts and
that therefore their policy exclusions did not apply.
  Meanwhile, insurance Company (II), located in state B where we live,
initiated action to come to our defense. (Perhaps because we know the
local agent personally?)
  Before proceeding with the defense process by the insurance company,
we need to digress to explain some of the activity by the court and by
Attorney #2. The Judge in this case had issued an order to our
daughter that she obtain a lawyer to represent her. He gave her a
thirty (30) day deadline. Subsequently, our daughter requested an
extension to this deadline and with the concurrence of our attorneys
several extensions were granted. Meanwhile, the Court established the
trial date of February 1993, one year from the date of serving the
Summons. Dates for completion of Discovery, etc, were also
established by the Court. Our Attorney #2 and our daughter, Pro Se,
exchanged lists of probable witnesses and lists of records and
documents to be produced for purpose of Discovery. By mid-July 1992,
Attorney #2 had used up the second thousand dollars.
  We had begun to gather information and documents a year earlier when
we learned that our daughter was threatening to sue us. We acquired
affidavits from our other four children and twenty-five friends and
neighbors. In the very beginning, we offered our documentation to
Attorney #2, but he decided to have us hold the items until some later
  In March 1992, we learned about the False Memory Syndrome Foundation
(FMSF). They sent us considerable information about "repressed
memories." Up until that time, we thought we were the only parents in
the world with this problem. We had no idea what was going on with our
daughter that caused her to falsely accuse everyone in her family of
sexual child abuse, satanic worship, murder and drug abuse. FMSF gave
us names of other families who had the same problem as we were
having. It was from these families that we learned we should wipe the
cobwebs off those old storage boxes in the garage in search of family
  We collected photographs and compiled home movies that showed that
our daughter could not have had a baby at age eleven as she had
claimed. We worked night and day, around the clock, gathered up report
cards of all the children, family history, genealogy, awards, activity
cards, church records, employment records, medical records and
hundreds of letters our daughter had written that proved she was a
wonderful, loving, caring daughter...until she began therapy in early
1989. We were able to show we are a perfectly normal, hard working,
God-fearing, church oriented American family...not likely to have been
involved in satanic cult worship, drug abuse, murder, cannibalism, and
other depravities.
  By the time we received the letter from our Insurance Company (II)
in early July 1992, we had in hand a big stack of defense
documentation. Our insurance company gave us the name of Attorney #3
and Attorney #4 whom they had hired to represent us. The insurance
company agreed to pay for our defense, but at the same time they hired
Attorney #5 to represent them in a separate action asking the Court to
relieve them from responsibility to defend or pay damages in the event
we were found guilty.
  We were very relieved to know we were being represented by one
Insurance Company. We immediately called Attorneys #3 and #4 and
arranged to visit with them a few days later. We made photo copies of
all the documents we had prepared for our defense and drove 1,000
miles to the attorneys' office in State A. Attorney #3 and #4 and a
legal aide had allocated half a day to meet with us to discuss what
they called 'this interesting and unusual case.' Afterward, they
invited our Attorney #2 to join us for lunch.
  The situation had been made easier because a few days before our
meeting, our Attorney #2 had transferred his entire file to the new
law firm that had been hired by our insurance company. The new
Attorneys, #3 and #4, had reviewed our case before our arrival. They
were pleased that by this first meeting we had compiled so much
information about our family, thereby enlightening them as to the true
situation. They had borrowed from the library COURAGE TO HEAL and with
our information were able to understand they were not dealing with
sexual child abuse, assault and battery, and intentional emotional
stress as our daughter had stated in her Summons. It became clear to
them that the issue at hand was "recovered repressed memories" which
had been encouraged by this book and by our daughter's therapists who
had planted, propagated, and cultivated the seeds of delusion in the
mind of our beautiful daughter.
  The new attorneys were pleased to accept the documentation we had
accumulated and asked for specific additional items. During August and
September 1992, we mailed at least 2,000 pages of additional
documentation to our attorneys. This included newspaper articles and
research papers FMSF had sent to us about "repressed memories." Toward
the very end, when Discovery time was getting short, The False Memory
Syndrome Foundation mailed directly to our attorneys some research
papers on "repressed memories" by Dr. Elizabeth Loftus. FMSF also sent
other related articles on the subject.
  At the same time, a great deal of effort on our part was put into
identifying specific contradictions to our daughter's false charges
and statements. We used family photographs, affidavits from family and
friends, airline tickets that proved dates, military orders that
proved dates, old letters showing family activities... whatever we
could find in those old boxes to prove contradictions. In her most
recent weird "memories," our daughter had contradicted herself.
Although it was very difficult, because the things she had written
didn't make any sense, we studied her "memories" carefully...looking
for all contradictions.
  Since Insurance Company (I) had asked for relief from the Court, we
retained Attorney #2 to represent us against that action. Meanwhile,
Attorney #4 made another attempt to get Insurance Company (I) to come
into the case. After a length of time, Insurance Company (I) agreed
and joined Insurance Company (II) sharing the existing law firm and
the expenses of our defense. At the same time, Insurance Company (I)
hired a separate Attorney #6, to obtain relief from obligation to
defend and to pay damages. Attorney #6 filed a separate Civil Action
against us and against our daughter in the same Court. We turned this
second Summons over to our Attorney #2 who answered to the Court.
  In July 1992, our daughter's Attorney Advisor #7 had written us
stating they were willing to settle our of court and mentioned a
dollar amount. Our insurance companies were not willing to negotiate.
  By September 1992, we and our insurance companies had involved in
this case six different attorneys, a Federal District Judge, two
insurance companies, two lawsuits in which we are defendants, and
numerous Orders from the Court. Our daughter was still acting as her
own attorney in the case, but she was being advised and assisted by
her Attorney #7.
  Our Attorney #4 was demanding that our daughter produce all of her
therapy records. She had begun therapy after a lengthy and difficult
labor with the birth of her first child at age thirty-three. During
the course of three and a half years, she had seen six different
therapists, attended group therapy, joined support groups for
Survivors of Incest and Sexual Child Abuse, read volumes and volumes
of self-help books including COURAGE TO HEAL. She had traveled to two
different states to see specialists who gave tests to survivors of
satanic rituals.
  The final extension to the Court's deadline for our daughter to
obtain an attorney was drawing to an end.
  Our Attorney #4 had obtained the services of a psychiatrist and was
in the process of scheduling a psychiatric evaluation for our
daughter. (The state in which the lawsuit was filed gave us that
  Attorney #4 scheduled our daughter for one week of deposition before
a video camera and a court reporter. We had been invited and planned
to attend our daughter's deposition. Our daughter would be required to
pay her own travel expenses, food and hotel accommodations.
  Meanwhile, we sent another $1,000 to our Attorney #2 to look out for our 
interests in the conflict with our insurance companies.
  By the end of September 1992, our daughter was faced with the following:
  a.  She must produce her therapy records.
  b.  She must travel to State A for one week of Deposition.
  c.  She must travel to State A for psychiatric evaluation.
  d.  There is no one who can support any of her allegations.
  e.  There are no records or documents which can support her in any way.
  f.  Our insurance companies have filed actions to prevent having to matter the outcome of the lawsuit.
  On 29 September 1992, our daughter called Attorney #4 to say she
wanted to drop her charges. Upon advice from her Attorney #7, she
agreed to Dismiss with Prejudice if we and our insurance companies
agreed not to sue her for expenses we had incurred in the defense of
the lawsuit. (With Prejudice means that she can not file any of these
charges against us at any time in the future.)
  On 5 October 1992, the U.S. District Judge signed the ORDER OF
DISMISSAL WITH PREJUDICE that included the statement, "...this
Voluntary Dismissal with Prejudice shall operate as an adjudication
upon the merits of this lawsuit..."
  The corollary actions by both of our insurance companies were
dismissed within a few days following.
  Our daughter was being faced with additional problems which she
probably did not yet know about: 1) At our daughter's expense, our
Attorney #4 was in the process of scheduling depositions for many of
the sixty-seven people she had named as her witnesses located in
several states; and 2) our Attorney #4 was able to get permission from
both insurance companies to hire Dr. Elizabeth Loftus as our expert
witness. Dr. Loftus had just begun to study some of the case materials
when the case was dismissed.
  We would liked to have had the lawsuit proceed past the point where
our daughter would have had to provide her therapy records. We would
like to have known who it was that convinced our daughter that we had
sexually abused her as a child, tortured her, taken part in satanic
rituals and murdered babies.
  We would like to have had our daughter evaluated by the psychiatrist
that our attorney had selected. We had hoped the psychiatrist could
have made a proper diagnosis and could have advised a proper course of
  This has been the most trying experience in our forty-four years of
marriage! Some of the things we have learned: 

1. Liability insurance in our society is essential, but don't expect
the insurance companies to run to your defense. Some will not. Retain
an attorney who is experienced in dealing with insurance companies to
represent you against your own insurance company.

2. Insurance companies should provide for your defense, but should be
encouraged not to settle out of court. If insurance companies didn't
pay off so easily there would be less incentive for lawsuits.

3. If we had counter-sued our daughter, it would have brought her
homeowners insurance into her defense and provided her an
attorney. That might have meant taking the case to jury. We understand
that jury decision is absolutely unpredictable, no matter how absurd
the charges.

4. In our legal system, one is supposed to be held innocent until
proven guilty. However, in these cases it appears to be necessary to
prove one's innocence. Concurrently, it is necessary to make sure all
parties understand the reality of "repressed memories." It is
essential to read and pass on to your attorney everything available on
the subject.

5. It appears anyone can sue anyone for anything. And in a civil case,
one apparently doesn't need to provide evidence to get a case into
court. This case had no merit whatsoever. No evidence, no witnesses,
and no corroboration. Even so, we spent about $5,000 and our insurance
companies spent many thousands more (we don't know how much, yet.)

/                                                                    \
| "But finally we must accept that the therapeutic situation has     |
| limitations that cannot be transcended. These have already been    |
| noted: the therapeutic situation cannot get around the problems of |
| therapist bias and suggestion, patient expectation, and direction  |
| of causality. Our theories can only be tested through experiments, |
| whether designed by humans or by nature."                          |
|                                       Samuel B. Guze, M.D. (1992). |
|                            Why Psychiatry Is a Branch of Medicine. |
|                                            Oxford University Press |

  The "Meeting with your child's therapist" booklet is at the printers
and will be mailed separately to FMSF members. Because we will soon
have a new address, it seemed sensible to wait to print it when we
could include our new address.


  The following columns by Thrity Umrigar are reprinted with
permission of the Beacon Journal, Akron, Ohio. These vignettes seem to
us to capture what we perceive to be the case in most of the stories
that we hear: people care about each other but they don't know how to
get together.

                           December 7, 1992
                      REMINDED OF WHAT NEVER WAS
*Was father responsible for breaking up family, or was it therapists?

  My caller was persistent. We spoke on the phone several times, with
me scanning her tone, her words, for anything that could be my excuse
for hanging up. I found nothing. She was intelligent, dignified,
articulate. She also sent me information on the topic she wanted me to
write about -- false memory syndrome.
  The syndrome refers to cases when an adult undergoing therapy
remembers previously repressed memories of childhood incest and sexual
abuse that actually did not occur. The woman says she and her husband
were victims of that syndrome -- victimized by their three adult
daughters who all accuse her husband of incest.
  Now, I know what you're thinking. I did too. Three daughters? All
saying the same thing? How could they all be deluded? But the woman
has a ready answer. All three daughters went to the same therapist --
a therapist, the woman claims, who has convinced her children that
they were abused by their father.
  The Akron couple is now attending a support group in Cleveland for
victims of the false memory syndrome. There is a False Memory Syndrome
Foundation in Philadelphia. Psychologists from universities such as
Harvard and Stanford are on its advisory board.

Make no excuse
  I was reluctant to do this column because I didn't want to give even
one perpetrator an excuse to hid behind. What changed my mind was the
rational language of the brochures the woman sent me. Each one of
these acknowledged that numerous cases of incest occur every year and
that perpetrators should be dealt with severely. But they also
questioned the thinking of those therapists who see childhood sexual
abuse as the cause of all of the adult's problems today.
  I don't know if the father, a former executive of a rubber company,
is guilty. But I do believe my caller, a nurse, is convinced her
husband of 38 years is incapable of such actions. "If God came down
and said, 'Yes, he did it,' I'd say 'No he didn't,'"she said. "And I'm
a religious person."
  The couple have handled their problem differently than many
others. Instead of hiding from the world in shame, they have sought
out the support of their friends. They have spoken to their
priest. The husband called his sons-in-law and told them the
accusations were false. They have seen a psychologist to deal with
their loss.
  And a loss it is. The annual trips to the ocean with the entire
family are now a thing of the past. There are too many happy memories
swirling around for the woman to face going back. In grocery stores,
the cookies and candies are constant reminders of the seven
grandchildren she can no longer see or buy things for. Each
Thanksgiving, the house used to bustle with company. No more.

Tampering with memory
  Ray Hyman, professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, is
on the advisory board of the False Memory syndrome Foundation. He says
some patients take their cues from the therapist and believe what they
suggest happened. "By the way the questions are asked you can insert
things into memory."
  Research done by Elizabeth Loftus, psychologist at the University of
Washington in Seattle, has shown how easy it is to "implant" false
  In one study, Loftus had family members of the people in the study
drop small suggestions that the subjects had been lost at age
5. Later, the subjects had detailed "memories" of being lost.
  Truth is an elusive thing. The woman believes she knows the truth of
what did not occur. Her children obviously believe they know the truth
of what did occur. Somewhere, a secret lies, locked in a human heart.

                          December 14, 1992
 *After mother defends spouse on incest claims, daughters reaffirm it

  A week ago, I wrote of an Akron couple whose three daughters have
accused the father of incest. The mother believes the abuse never
occurred and that her children's long-repressed memories were brought
about by an overzealous therapist.
  This week you will hear from the three adult children. Like their
mother, they too feel the loss of family. But their loss is compounded
by the fact that for a time they also lost their trust in the
world. As the eldest daughter said, "Everything I thought was true,
was not."
  Watching the women's faces as they describe the torturous road to
discovery they have walked down the last two years, it is hard to
imagine that their memories of abuse are false.
  "When the memories came back I thought I was going to die," the
youngest said. "You lose all you ever had."
  Her sister said that it was because she was beginning to get slivers
of memories that she decided to see a therapist in 1990. After a year,
that therapist referred her to one that specialized in sexual
abuse. Soon, her other two sisters also started going to her
therapist. All three said the sexual abuse occurred from the time they
were children through their teen-age years. 

Heart of darkness
  The women paint the picture of a well-to-do, socially respected
family that gave the appearance of health and normalcy, but one which
was nursing a dark secret. It was this heart of darkness, the sisters
say, that finally ripped the facade of happy family vacations and
elegant dinner parties.
  "What the alcoholic hides behind is alcohol," the second daughter
said. "What my father hides behind is his goodness."
  When the mother defends her husband of 38 years against her
daughter's charges, it is this goodness she refers to. The daughters
themselves seem ambivalent about whether she knew of the abuse. What
they are not ambivalent about is their feelings of betrayal by her.
  These women, who have children of their own, speak almost wistfully
of their longing for a mother. They resent the fact that she believes
her husband rather than them.
  The sisters all have had problems with alcohol. The second daughter
was also bulimic. She started throwing up when she was 15 -- and says
her mother never knew. The eldest said that her parents got therapy
for themselves to deal with her drinking -- but never for her.
  Despite their journey through hell, they all agree that the freedom
they now experience was worth the pain. "You lose your life to gain a
new life," the second said. "Praise God, the three of us are on the
other side with our families intact." 

Walls and bridges
  The women said that despite the hurt, they pray for their
parents. Their mother has said she prays for them too. The sisters
want their father to admit his guilt and seek help. They want their
mother to believe her children.
  The mother wants her children to admit that they are wrong, that
their father is incapable of the crimes they accuse him of. Both sides
say that unless each side recants, no relationship is possible.
  But while nothing else in this tangled, sordid story is clear, this
much I would like to hope for -- that from the mother's tears over the
loss of her children and from the sisters' obvious longing for
affirmation and nurturing, perhaps something is buildable, some tiny
bridge of acceptance and reconciliation. Because if this family has a
heart of darkness, it also has many wounded hearts.
  And this Christmas, I wish for all these wounded hearts a little
solace, a little peace.


  What kind of "therapy" destroys families? The parents refer to happy
memories. The children refer to "happy family vacations and elegant
dinner parties." Both parents and children have memories of happy
family times. The children say their family appeared normal and
healthy. One daughter describes her father as hiding behind "his
goodness." The mother is praying for the children. The children are
praying for their parents. Surely here are signs of people who care
for each other. What is keeping them apart?
  We are not clairvoyant and do not pretend to know the truth or
falsity of any stories that we hear or read, but stories such as these
raise many questions for us. We understand that the _diagnosis_ was
incest. We don't know if all evidence was examined and if alternative
hypotheses were considered. True or false? Right or wrong? We don't
know about the accuracy of the diagnosis. But we can and should ask,
"What kind of _treatment_ plan takes a family that all seem to agree
had much happiness over the years and tears it asunder on the basis of
newly recovered 'repressed memories'?"Did the data warrant such
drastic action?"
  Children are not born into this world the exclusive property of
their parents. Children are born into a social and cultural structure
that is part of their birthright. Did the data warrant a treatment
plan that denies children any contact with their grandparents -- their
memory could reflect a true past event, but it might not. In order to
fully evaluate the authenticity of a memory report, it must be
examined in light of current knowledge about how memory works.
Certainly it is the case that people remember things that they haven't
thought of or remembered for quite some time. But when someone claims
sudden memory for a series of horrible events spanning years and
years, a serious question about whether any current theories of memory
can accommodate this arises. When three people make the same claim,
the issue of a scientific explanation is all the more strained. We
need to see the scientific evidence that this can be possible and how
probable. We need to know, for example, why there were never such
reports from people who experienced the documented horrors of World
War II. At the same time, we do have both scientific and clinical
evidence of the power of suggestion. The 1978 Jim Jones mass suicide
is one of the most dramatic.
  We understand that the three women have total belief in their
memories. They have experienced horrific pain in their memories of
abuse, in the thoughts that their parents betrayed them, and in the
loss of contact with people for whom they say they are praying. They
have had a complete reinterpretation of history. "As the eldest
daughter said, 'Everything I thought was true, was not.'"
  "The sisters all reported that they abused alcohol. The second
daughter was also bulimic." Are those supposed to be signs of abuse?
Research evidence indicates there is not necessarily any cause and
effect relationship between bulimia and sexual abuse. ( American
Journal of Psychiatry 149(4) April 1992). Research in the past decade
has shown genetic factors to be linked with alcohol abuse. We don't
know from these vignettes how the sisters have dealt with their own
feelings of conflict about their personal responsibility in the issue
of alcohol abuse.
  We were told, however, that, "Both sides say that unless each side
recants, no relationship is possible." We understand that many parents
and children and sisters and brothers share these feelings that
nothing can happen until there is a recanting. Is this a necessary or
realistic prerequisite for families to start to get together?

/                                                                    \
| "We know that events, including traumatic ones, can be recalled    |
| accurately. Even very young children can remember and describe     |
| experiences. However, memory is not always accurate or complete    |
| and is subject to influence. This applies to children and adults.  |
| Many factors have been identified as affecting accurate recall,    |
| including the nature of the experience, the role of the actor,     |
| length of exposure, passage of time, age, and how the memory is    |
| tested."                                                           |
|                                                                    |
|            Berliner & Loftus (1992). Sexual abuse accusations: |
|                                Desperately seeking reconciliation. |
|                    Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 7 (4) p 571. |


  In past newsletters we have reprinted two stories of families that
had reconciled after the people with memories had recanted. In these
cases the women had confronted their families and one even initiated
legal action. In both of these cases, three years elapsed between the
move away from the "therapy memories" and the reconciliation In
another case, the family was never actually confronted, although
extended family members had been told, and the span of time from the
realization that the "therapy memories" were not accurate and
reuniting with the family was eight months. These women and others are
currently writing their stories for publication. These are "happily
ever after" stories and we hope that we hear thousands of such
  Our understanding of the reconciliation process is "informal."
Although structured interviews and demographic surveys are in process
with people who have told us that they have been through the
experience of recovering memories they have since concluded were
false, that information is not yet ready to report. We are working as
fast as resources allow. At this time, we report our informal
observations from the stories we have heard and from the letters we
have received.
  The majority of the people (approximately 45) who have told us they
had experienced false memories are women in their 30's who had been in
therapy for five to ten years and who left for some reason. These
reasons included loss of insurance, death of parent, suicide attempt,
missed appointment, etc. Many of these women told us that it has taken
about three years for them to get on their feet again. FMSF played no
role in their experience although several have written to say that the
material we have sent has been helpful to them in understanding their
own experience and that they would like to help others who have had
similar experiences. People who have met or talked to these women
describe them as kind, courageous, intelligent, articulate and
struggling intently with their feelings about what they many have
thought or done in respect to their family. Professionals and family
members who have heard them speak at meetings write of their great
respect for these people.
  In the past three months, families have written to tell us about
lots of little changes that they feel may be positive. These include a
number of stories in which the person with memories has agreed, for
reasons that we wish we knew, to consult another therapist with whom
the parents also felt comfortable.
  We are aware of seven situations in which contact has been resumed
without the intervention of a therapist. We are going to tell about
three of these situations. These are not "and they lived happily ever
after" stories. These are not situations in which the individual with
memories has had three years to work things out.

Part 1 - How did contact come about? 

  Family 1. "How it came about was that her two sisters decided enough
was enough and telephoned her. They left a message on her machine
since no one was home. She returned a call to the sister who happens
to be the most vulnerable, and said she was happy someone had broken
the ice." After reassurances and after two years of no contact, the
daughter called the mother.
  Family 2. The person with memories received a copy of a letter her
sister wrote to her therapist. " I'm K, D's oldest sister. I'm writing
this after my most recent phone conversation with D. I found it to be
very disturbing and it prompted me to write this letter."
  " I felt as though I was talking to a complete stranger. Someone who
is so full of anger, bitterness and self hate. Little by little she's
being destroyed inside inside. She's pulling away from her family, the
ones who love and care about her the most. Each time I speak to D,
instead of seeing her become healthier, she's becoming more and more
self destructive. I can't stand to see that happening to her." The
letter continues for several pages.
  The family believes that it was this letter that prompted a phone
call from the daughter before Thanksgiving asking if she could spend
the holiday with the family. "It is as if nothing ever happened! No
recanting, but complete (apparent) return to normal. D spent
Thanksgiving day with us; stayed overnight instead of returning to her
apartment and she "camped out" in her sister's room even sleeping in a
pair of my flannel pajamas! We spent the next weekend at her apartment
for dinner. She was affectionate and loving, to all of us, her buoyant
"old" self. We are all flabbergasted, but I think K's phone call
preceding the letter must have started it."
  Family 3. Family three has taken aggressive action since the
accusations began. This has backfired for them on several occasions
and once their daughter picked up and moved across the country (for
whatever reason). Before the holidays, they made contact once again
and working with in-laws and friends arranged a meeting. This time
they took the advice of a psychiatrist who perhaps helped them to be
more sympathetic to their daughter's perspective. Rather than project
their own anger, they let their daughter know that they understood
that she was suffering and in pain and that her pain was very
important to them. They reminded their daughter of some of the happy
times they had had together and told her of their very real love. They
also said that they knew that some of their actions must have
contributed to her anger and suggestibility. After several years of no
contact, the daughter said that she would come home for the holidays
and attend her sister's wedding. The daughter apologized for some
things but not others.with happy endings. That is what we hope to
  It is important that we do not draw unwarranted conclusions about
the results of the "proactive" stance in each of these stories. We do
not know, for example, how many families have been equally "proactive"
with no results. We do not know if "proactive" stances have further
alienated most victims. That is always a problem with reporting
"cases." It is all too easy to draw conclusions. The information we
learn from case studies can help us to formulate questions which can
then be studied in a more objective manner. While case studies are
critically necessary to understanding, any conclusions apply only to
the cases under observation.
  We suspect that this issue is one that contributes to the different
perspectives that clinicians and researchers have expressed on the
reality of repressed memories. To use again the metaphor of our
understanding of our solar system. Case studies for millennia have
indicated that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. That is
the experience of each of us on this Earth. We have learned, however,
that the scientific reality is that it is the Earth that is doing the
moving around the Sun. Case studies have profound meaning to the
people involved but do not necessarily represent scientific

Part 2 - What happened next?

  Family 1. The mother and daughter in this story had a meeting with
the daughter's therapist whom the mother felt was not very
professional. "He kept trying to set me up so that I would say 'it
could have happened." The mother reported that after the meeting "I
told her that I feel for her pain and I really cared otherwise I would
not have traveled so far to have this meeting." They spent the rest
of the day together and left on good terms. A few weeks later a family
celebration brought the extended family together and the daughter
came. The mother reports that there were undercurrents of
tension. Some of the siblings and in-laws are still extremely angry
about the trauma the accusations have brought to this family.
  "My eldest daughter and I discussed the situation. She wanted to
know how I felt. I've tried to have a positive approach. My therapist
tells me he can't believe these children grew up in the same
house. Unfortunately there seems to be a veil I can not lift. There is
a feeling that our relationship will never be what it once was. Until
she realized after seven years of therapy with this man that it is
time for a change or until I agree that 'it could have happened' the
family relationship will be tenuous and mundane."
  Family 2. "We have our fingers crossed. We are accepting everything
at face value, but remain ready for anything. But I think her
liberation from the medication, and her sense of growing past her
therapist are more than just positive signs. The therapist must be
furious. I imagine she could still scuttle things, but, if she's got
any common sense at all, she must realize she's up against a family
unity that can, in the end, overwhelm her."
  We received another letter from this family in which they were
concerned that their daughter was pulling back into former patterns.
  Family 3. We received a phone call several weeks after the news of
the approaching holiday reunion to hear that the reunion plans were
off. A few weeks later we received a call that the reunion plans were
on again.

  Part 3.  Waiting

  You will just have to wait with us to hear the rest of these
stories. The scripts have not been written yet.


  "On again, off again", "tensions", "tenuous", "mundane."
Reconciliation will not be easy. Inevitable hurts that have been
felt. There are some families who tell us that they would do almost
anything just to see their children and grandchildren. There are
others who say that unless there is recanting and their names are
cleared, reconciliation is impossible. We think these three stories
were particularly interesting because from them we may learn that the
time frame of the process may be greatly shortened if people can put
their "hurts" aside and not insist on prerequisites to begin the
process of bringing families back together. There may be many routes
to stories STOP ABUSE BY COUNSELORS is a national client-advocate
organization which may be reached at P.O. Box 68292, Seattle, WA
98168, (206) 243-2723. This does not imply STOP ABC endorsement of any
FMS literature, speeches, or political stance.

/                                                                    \
| The Commerce Department estimates that the cost of health care     |
| will be over 14% of the U.S. economy in 1992.                      |
|                                   New York Times, January 5, 1993  |

                            RESEARCH NOTES

  Thank you to all who have completed the 20 page family
questionnaire. We understand that answering some of the questions is
emotionally very difficult. We are currently entering this information
into the computer and this week we have mailed survey forms to another
250 families. We will continue to collect this important information
as quickly as our resources allow.
  For those of you who have only contacted the Foundation in the past
few months, you may be unaware that we have been collecting as much
data about the demographics and family circumstances as we can in
order to help understand what is happening. We are making every effort
to do this in a systematic manner that can be reviewed and checked by
others. In past newsletters, we have reported on various questions
from the first 140 surveys that we received as we analyzed the
information. We are now putting that information into a single paper
and updating our numbers with the new data as quickly as we can.
  We have data from 342 questionnaires that parents completed about
therapists. 100 of the respondents did not know anything about the
professional qualifications of the therapist that they felt had
influenced their child. Of the remaining 242 we found the following

psychiatrists/doctors   9%
psychologists          25%
social workers         18%
counselors/therapists  48%  (religious, alcohol, family)

    Do these percentages reflect the percentage of therapists in each
professional category or do they say something about training for
psychotherapy? We thought it might be interesting to compare these
percentages with professionals who have called the office to ask for
information about FMS. We took the first 300 names for which we had
comparable information.

psychiatrists/doctors  33%
psychologists          34%
social workers          8%
counselors/therapists  25%
/                                                                    \
|           The following story generated a great deal of            |
|               public interest in Canada  last fall.                |
|                                                                    |
|                ALBERTA REPORT     November 2, 1992                 |
|                     "My abusers made me do it"                     |
|                                                                    |
|   A Canadian letter carrier, G, was arrested in 1989 after taking  |
| $1,200 in cash on a credit card that she had stolen. When arrested |
| she was in possession of two other stolen credit cards. She        |
| pleaded guilty in 1989 and received a one year suspended           |
| sentence. She was fired from her job.                              |
|  The Canadian Union of Postal Workers who took G's case to         |
| arbitration argued that G was suffering from post-traumatic stress |
| disorder as a result of sexual assault she suffered at age five.   |
|  A Canadian Federal labour arbitrator ruled that "The letter       |
| carrier must be reinstated in her job with Canada Post because her |
| theft was a result of childhood sexual abuse compounded by later   |
| sexual harassment on the job."                                     |

                          RESEARCHER REQUEST

  Do you have "therapy letters" written to relatives by those
suffering from memories of abuse? Researcher would like to analyze
such letters to help learn about the range, nature and extent of the
alleged sexual abuse. The results of such an analysis should add to
our understanding and perspective of the problem -- especially in
cases that are not clear. It would be helpful, although not necessary,
if a return mailing address and phone number from the correspondent
could be provided in case there are questions about the contents of
the letter. If you are interested in helping with this research,
contact Martha L. Rogers, Ph.D., 17662 Irvine Boulevard, Suite 12,
Tustin, CA 92680.

/                                                                    \
| "There is no profile of a child or adult victim or of an offender  |
| that can be used to accurately classify individuals in either      |
| group (abused or abuser). Nor is there any reliable way to         |
| distinguish true from false accusations or denials. Is there a     |
| typical abuse scenario? Not really. Abuse occurs in various        |
| contexts and includes a whole range of circumstances and           |
| activities."                                                       |
|                                   Berliner & Loftus (1992)     |
|   Sexual abuse accusations: Desperately seeking reconciliation     |
|                Journal of Interpersonal violence, 7 (4), p 570.    |

                          MEETINGS / NOTICES 

Professionals and Parents in Support of the FMS Foundation.

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

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

January 16, 1993
Call Chuck, 206-364-4711 or Phil 206-364-1643

February 6, 1993
Pam Freyd, Guest Speaker
Call Jim at 602-860-8981 

February 7, 1993 
Clark University
Call Joe for directions  508-752-0554

Sunday February 7, 1993 
Guest Speaker, Eleanor Goldstein
Author of Confabulations
Call Eileen for details 516-379-5285

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

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. 

                      FMS FOUNDATION  CONFERENCE


Date:   April 16-18, 1992

Location: Valley Forge PA Convention Center. 
  Hotel information is included in this newsletter. 
  Registration information will be mailed in February.

Planned Format: Day and a half academic conference followed by a day
and a half convention. On April 16 there will be invited research
presentations by speakers who represent a variety of views. On April
17, additional papers and also a panel of recanters followed by
concurrent sessions on topics of interest to families.

                           By Carol Tavris

                        Originally appeared in
           The New York Times Book Review, January 3, 1993.
      Copyright by Carol Tavris, Ph.D. Reprinted with permission
  How often do you suffer from the following symptoms?
* You feel that you're bad, dirty or ashamed.
* You feel powerless, like a victim.
* You feel that there's something wrong with you deep down inside;
that if people really knew you, they would leave.
* You feel unable to protect yourself in dangerous situations.
* You have no sense of your own interests, talents or goals.
* You have trouble feeling motivated.
* You feel you have to be perfect.
  This checklist, from Ellen Bass and Laura Davis's book "The Courage
to Heal," is supposed to identify the symptoms of incest. The trouble
is that the same list could be used to identify oneself as someone who
loves too much, someone who suffers from self-defeating personality
disorder, or a mere human being in the late 20th century. The list is
general enough to include everybody at least sometimes. Nobody doesn't
fit it.
  "The Courage to Heal" is the bible of the incest-recovery
movement. It was published in 1988 and according to its publisher,
HarperCollins, has sold more than 500,000 copies. It begat "The
Courage to Heal Workbook," which begat the authors' "Allies in
Healing," as well as Wendy Maltz and Beverly Holman's "Incest and
Sexuality," Beverly Engel's "Right to Innocence" and E. Sue Blume's
"Secret Survivors." To read these handbooks is to learn that almost
any problem you have may be an indicator of abuse. Ms. Blume offers a
34-item "incest survivors' after effects checklist" of symptoms, which
range from fear of being alone in the dark to multiple personality
disorder -- with phobias, arthritis, low self-esteem, wearing baggy
clothes, the desire to change one's name and sexual difficulties in
between. For Ms.  Engel, the checklist includes feeling ugly and
worthless, having a tendency to apologize inappropriately, feeling
like a failure, jeopardizing chances of success, feeling helpless,
having problems with sex or in relationships. . . . Why, it's the
all-purpose female checklist.
  TO want to throw a small wrench into the abuse-survivor machine is
like opposing censorship of pornography: nowadays, you feel you have
to apologize for any support you might be providing to molesters,
rapists, pedophiles and other misogynists. This need for
throat-clearing is itself a problem, one that results from the
terrible polarization that has emerged on the subject of the sexual
abuse of children.
  One side, primarily committed to protecting children, emphasizes the
appalling prevalence of the abuse of children and the tendency of
adults, in every generation, to deny or diminish the reality of this
abuse. The other side, primarily committed to protecting adults, is
concerned that in the contemporary hysteria too many innocent adults
are being unjustly accused. The polarization among professionals is
now so bad that researchers are quickly branded as being on one side
or the other, and their work discounted by the opposition.
  And both sides marshal horror stories as evidence. Read only one
case of a child being treated for gonorrhea of the throat -- the
evidence that helped convict a man in Miami of child molestation --
and you will feel a wave of nausea at what adults are capable of
inflicting on children. Read only one false-accusation case, and you
will feel misery and anger at what bureaucrats are capable of
inflicting on parents. To further confuse the issue, the reality of
the victimization of children is being obscured by a chorus of adults
clamoring that they were victims too -- if not as children, then as
infants; if not in this life, then in a previous one. The evidence
that abuse is more common than we knew is being trivialized by
unvalidated claims made by pop-psychology writers that abuse is nearly
universal, and that if you can't actually remember the abuse, that's
all the more evidence that it happened to you.
  Women abused as children are indeed more likely than others to be
depressed and to have low self-esteem as adults, although there is no
good evidence from longitudinal studies showing that such abuse
invariably causes the entire litany of women's problems. Nor does it
follow that all women who are depressed, are sexually conflicted or
wear baggy clothes were abused as children. Yet many are being
encouraged to rifle their memories for clues that they were.
  Thus E. Sue Blume: If you doubt you were abused, minimize the abuse
or think "Maybe it's my imagination," these are symptoms of
"post-incest syndrome."
  And Ellen Bass and Laura Davis: "If you are unable to remember any
specific instances . . . but still have a feeling that something
abusive happened to you, it probably did. . . . If you think you were
abused and your life shows the symptoms, then you were."
  And Wendy Maltz and Beverly Holman: "When survivors cannot remember
their childhood or have very fuzzy memories, incest must always be
considered a possibility."
  And Beverly Engel: "If you have any suspicion at all, if you have
any memory, no matter how vague, it probably really happened. It is
far more likely that you are blocking the memories, denying it
happened."  And if a woman suspects that she has been abducted by
U.F.O.'s, that the F.B.I. is bugging her socks or that a satanic cult
forced her to bear a child that was half human and half dog, must she
(and we) likewise assume that "it probably really happened"?
  The sexual-abuse-victim story crystallizes many of society's
anxieties about the vulnerability of children, the changing roles of
women and the norms of sexuality. It draws like a magnet those who
wish to invoke a measure of sympathy in these unsympathetic times. It
is no wonder that publishers and talk shows have a thriving business
exploiting stories of abuse for commercial reasons, for these are
stories that sell. The childhood abuse explanation of all one's
current problems, true or exaggerated, with or without the incest
variation, is now de rigueur for any aspiring celebrity autobiographer
(Patti Davis, Frances Lear, Suzanne Somers, Roseanne Arnold, La Toya
  As individual works of confession and advice, abuse-survivor books
are often reassuring and supportive. They encourage victims of
childhood molestation to speak up, to understand that they are not
alone and to find help. The problem is not with the advice they offer
to victims, but with their effort to create victims -- to expand the
market that can then be treated with therapy and self-help books. To
do this, survival books all hew to a formula based on an uncritical
acceptance of certain premises about the nature of memory and
trauma. They offer simple answers at a time when research
psychologists are posing hard questions.
  To raise these questions does not mean that all "reawakened"
memories are fraudulent or misguided. It does mean that we should be
wary of believing every case of "me too!" that makes the news, and
that we should be asking why these stories (and the advice books that
play off them) are so popular now. We should also ask where these
stories lead, with what consequences for individual well-being and
social reform.
  The great Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget once reported his earliest
memory -- nearly being kidnapped at the age of 2. Piaget remembered
sitting in his baby carriage, watching his nurse defend him from the
kidnapper. He remembered the scratches she had on her face. He
remembered a police officer with a short cloak and a white baton who
chased the kidnapper away. But none of it happened. When Piaget was
15, his former nurse wrote to his parents to confess that she had made
up the entire story. Piaget wrote, "I therefore must have heard, as a
child, the account of this story . . . and projected it into the past
in the form of a visual memory, which was a memory of a memory, but
  The harvest of incest-survivor books reflects the popular vision of
mind and memory, in which the mind is a camera or tape recorder: all
events that happen to us are recorded in memory, although trauma often
causes them to be "repressed" until a significant event "unleashes"
them and reveals at last what "actually" happened. This is a view of
memory inspired partly by psychoanalysis and partly by contemporary
metaphors of the mind, which historically have followed major
inventions. Thus, during the Industrial Revolution, the brain was
likened to a machine; after the invention of the telephone, to a
switchboard; after the invention of movies, to a camera; after Univac,
to a computer.
  Today many psychotherapists assume that everything significant that
happens to us is imprinted somewhere in there, or maybe filed away in
a dusty drawer (a metaphor for those of us who came of age before
computers). Yet this view is increasingly at odds with that held by
most academic psychologists. Researchers who study memory and the
brain are discovering the brain's capacity to construct and invent
reality from the information it processes. Their studies support what
poets and novelists have always known: that memory is not a fixed
thing, with its own special place or file drawer in the brain. It is a
process that is constantly being reinvented. A "memory" consists of
fragments of the event, subsequent discussions and reading, other
people's recollections and suggestions, and, perhaps most of all,
present beliefs about the past.
  Thus, in the laboratory, the eminent memory researcher Elizabeth
Loftus and her associates at the University of Washington have been
able to inject false memories into people's minds by the mechanism of
suggestion ("Remember when you were lost in that shopping mall at the
age of 5?"). Similarly, the Canadian psychologist Nicholas P. Spanos
and his team at Carleton University in Ottawa have created false
memories of previous events and even of previous lives (at least in
volunteers who believe in reincarnation). These scientists are finding
that in the formation of a memory, current beliefs about past events
are more important than what actually happened. This is why an event
that seemed trivial when we were children can be reinterpreted and
given new emotional significance when we are adults -- and vice versa.
  The mind does not record every detail of an event, but only a few
features; we fill in the rest based on what "must have been." For an
event to make it into long-term storage, a person has to perceive it,
encode it and rehearse it -- tell about it -- or it decays. (This
seems to be the major mechanism behind childhood amnesia, the fact
that children do not develop long-term memory until roughly the age of
3.) Otherwise, research finds, even emotional experiences we are sure
we will never forget -- the Kennedy assassination, the Challenger
explosion -- will fade from memory, and errors will creep into the
account that remains.
  THIS is not easy news to take. We all get very huffy about the
accuracy of our memories, and no wonder; they are the table of
contents of our lives. That is why the debate over the vision of
memory held by academic researchers and the one held by many
therapists and laypersons is so fraught with consequences, legal and
psychological. Families are being torn apart by adults who, in
therapy, said they remembered their parents abusing them, and now feel
the need to confront, to sever relations entirely or to sue for
damages. In 1989, the state of Washington passed legislation allowing
people to sue their alleged molesters for damages within three years
of the time they remembered the abuse, and to date at least a dozen
other states have enacted similar laws. Is such legislation warranted?
How many children who are abused repress the memory -- and how many
have trouble forgetting?
  Two recent books, scholarly yet highly readable, beautifully
illuminate these complexities. In "Hidden Memories: Voices and Visions
>From Within," Robert A. Baker, a retired professor of psychology who
taught at the Massachusetts Insitute of Technology, Stanford
University and the University of Kentucky, reviews the research on the
processes by which perfectly normal individuals can come to believe
passionately that they were molested in the crib, abducted by U.F.O.'s
or victimized by a satanic cult. And in "Trauma and Recovery," Judith
Lewis Herman, a psychiatrist who teaches at the Harvard Medical
School, weaves together clinical and empirical evidence in exploring
the nuances of trauma in all its varieties.
  You would get none of this information or nuance, however, if you
picked up any of the popular abuse-survivor books, such as "The
Courage to Heal." None of the authors are trained in research, which
is not a comment on their ability to write or to do therapy, but which
does seem to be one reason for their scientific illiteracy. The
authors claim to be "experts" because (a) they were themselves
molested, (b) they are social workers who treat incest victims in
therapy, or (c) they wrote a book. Writing a book confers further
expertise, because the authors then become "nationally recognized"
lecturers who conduct workshops and train other psychotherapists. In
what can only be called an incestuous arrangement, the authors of
these books all rely on one another's work as supporting evidence for
their own; they all endorse and recommend one another's books to their
readers. If one of them comes up with a concocted statistic -- such as
"more than half of all women are survivors of childhood sexual trauma"
-- the numbers are traded like baseball cards, reprinted in every book
and eventually enshrined as fact. Thus the cycle of misinformation,
faulty statistics and unvalidated assertions maintains itself.
  Consider this, from "Secret Survivors":

  "Incest is easily the greatest single underlying reason why women
  seek therapy or other treatment. At any given time more than
  three-quarters of my clients are women who were molested in
  childhood by someone they knew. Yet . . . many, if not most, incest
  survivors do not know that the abuse has even occurred! . . .

  "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."

IN spite of Ms. Blume's emphases and exclamation marks, not one of
these assertions is supported by empirical evidence, and her own
experience of her own clients does not constitute such evidence. Ms.
Blume seems utterly unaware, for example, of the selection process
that might bring incest survivors to her office.
  To reach their inflated statistics, the survivor books rely on
definitions that are as expandable as a hot-air balloon. In these
books, the rule is: If you feel abused, you were abused. According to
the authors of "The Courage to Heal," "Violation is determined by your
experience as a child -- your body, your feelings, your spirit. . . .
Some abuse is not even physical." It doesn't matter if no sexual
contact occurred; anything your parents did that you didn't like is a
violation. Beverly Engel didn't like the way her mother would plant a
"wet" kiss on her, look at her in ways that made her feel "queasy" and
walk in on her in the bathroom. "It was not until very recently," she
writes, "that I came to terms with my mother's behavior and saw it for
what it really was -- sexual abuse." This is a textbook example of the
reconstructive nature of memory, showing how an adult belief can
transform childhood experiences into "memories" of trauma.
  What is wrong with a therapist's belief in the "epidemic" prevalence
of incest? Aren't we just quibbling about numbers, when the problem
itself is real? Not to researchers such as Nicholas Spanos, who are
worrying about the rise in what they call "pseudomemories" that are
induced by some therapists and hypnotists -- not only of incest, but
also of past lives, multiple personalities and participation in
satanic cults.
  Mr. Spanos, who has conducted dozens of studies, has concluded that
"suggestion-induced reports of perceptual and memory change" offered
by hypnotized individuals should not be treated as actual descriptions
of events. The "central component" in studies of hypnosis, he finds,
is the willingness of hypnotized individuals "to bias their responses"
as they believe the context demands.
  Of course, all clients in therapy are influenced by the therapist's
theoretical framework. This is why people in psychoanalysis have
Freudian dreams, people in Jungian therapy have archetypal dreams,
people in primal scream therapy remember being born and people in
past-lives therapy remember being Julius Caesar (or whoever). Yet
there is a sensitive line between any therapist's normal probing for
evidence of certain psychological problems and literally creating them
by the force of suggestion. Wendy Maltz and Beverly Holman, therapists
in Eugene, Ore., make the process explicit in "Incest and Sexuality":
"It may take considerable digging on the part of the therapist," they
say, "to discover incest as the source of the symptoms being
experienced by the client." When does "considerable digging" become
undue persuasion?  On this subtle matter, the books are silent.
  One other simplistic theme promulgated by the abuse-survivor books
affects the survivors themselves and the solutions we seek, as a
society, to the problem of childhood abuse. Uniformly, these books
persuade their readers to focus exclusively on past abuse as the
reason for their present unhappiness. Forget fighting with Harold and
the kids, having a bad job or no job, worrying about money. Healing is
defined as your realization that you were a victim of sexual abuse and
that it explains everything wrong in your life.
  Beverly Engel even offers a list of stages in which the victim
proceeds from darkness into light. In the first stage, she, like "many
victims of childhood sexual abuse," has no conscious memory of having
been abused, so she denies her symptoms. In the next stage, visiting a
therapist or reading one of these books, she begins to suspect she was
abused. In the third stage, she still doesn't know that she is a
victim because she doesn't realize that what happened to her was
abuse. In the fourth stage, she knows she was sexually abused but
fails to connect her "symptoms" with the abuse. In the last stage of
healing, she knows she was abused and connects the dots to her present
  You can see this process at work in Betsy Petersen's "Dancing With
Daddy: A Childhood Lost and a Life Regained" (1991). According to Ms.
Petersen, the incest (which she never actually remembers) explained
her nightmares, eating disorders, compulsive cleanliness, shame about
sexuality, anxieties, drive for self-improvement, colon problems, back
pain, insecurity about money, difficulties in wishing for something
for herself, impatience with the obnoxious behavior of her sons, and
even why she cooked a hot breakfast for her dogs every morning. It
explained, as if no other woman had this problem, her vulnerability to
fad diets. It explained, as if no other new parent had this problem,
her awkwardness with her firstborn son. It explained, as if no other
modern adult had this problem, her malaise of alienation and
  For Ms. Petersen, all current events are processed through the lens
of incest. "Before I knew my father had molested me," she says, "the
feelings cycled endlessly and attached themselves to the world outside
my skin: If only my children weren't so demanding, I would think, I
wouldn't feel so crazy." Exactly! One day her son, whining to be taken
out for fast food, screamed and cursed her, and threw his shoe. She
writes: "And suddenly I was so mad. My stomach hurt." Was she angry
about this behavior? Oh, no; she was angry at her father.
  Betsy Petersen seems to have completely shut out "the world outside
my skin," and ultimately that is the problem and the appeal of the
survivor narrative. It places responsibility for the common problems
in women's lives on a single clear villain, someone safely in the
woman's past. The victim doesn't have to do anything except understand
the origins of her problems. Her partner doesn't have to change, as
long as he is sympathetic to her early trauma. And she gets a love
bath from her friends and supporters. Who could resist? In this
respect, the sexual-survivor narrative, like other popular theories
based on female psyche and biology, locates the origins of women's
victimization, powerlessness and unhappiness inside the woman. It's in
her; it's up to her to fix herself.
  In 1978, Louise Armstrong wrote one of the first incest-survivor
books, "Kiss Daddy Goodnight." To Ms. Armstrong and other feminist
writers, incest and other forms of child abuse were not the
aberrations of a few sick men, but the results of a system that endows
men with the sense of entitlement to own and abuse women and children.
Today the survivor movement has shifted from an emphasis on social
change to one on psychological solace. Reflecting in a revised edition
of her book on how public conversation about incest changed in the
decade since its publication, Ms. Armstrong mused: "Where is
everybody? I sometimes ask, meaning the survivors. The voices of
no-nonsense, unsentimental, unromantic reason. Oh (the answer comes
back), they're in therapy. Nothing wrong with that. We all need help
and support." But, she continued, "exclusively personal solutions do
nothing to defy the ongoing tacit permission for abuse."
  Contemporary incest-survivor books encourage women to incorporate
the language of victimhood and survival into the sole organizing
narrative of their identity. It becomes their major story, and its
moral rarely goes farther than "Join a group and talk about your
feelings." Such stories soothe women temporarily while allowing
everyone else to go free. That is why these stories are so popular. If
the victim can fix herself, nothing has to change.

 Carol Tavris, a social psychologist, is the author of "The Mismeasure
 of Woman."

                       February 14 and April 4
           (The first batch ends with a reply from Tavris.)

              Copyright 1993 The New York Times Company
                          The New York Times
                      February 14, 1993, Sunday

To the Editor:
  As a professional authority on incest and one of the few writers
whom Carol Tavris cites with respect ("Beware the Incest-Survivor
Machine," Jan. 3), I must protest her meanspirited and completely
gratuitous attack on incest survivors. I also wish to affirm my
solidarity with the grass-roots women in the incest-survivor movement:
the social workers, popular authors and victim advocates for whom
Ms. Tavris displays such contempt. Self-help books make an easy target
because they try to reduce complex issues to simple language. They
often contain errors, exaggerations and just plain sloppy
thinking. However, they also serve a valuable social purpose. They
reach millions of people who feel isolated and ashamed, bringing them
words of compassion and understanding.
  Books on incest are so popular because there are so many victims.
The best research data indicate that between 25 and 38 percent of
girls are sexually abused, usually by men they trust. Very few child
victims (under 10 percent) disclose the abuse at the time it occurs.
Most, intimidated into silence, reach adult life still bearing their
secrets. Books like "The Courage to Heal" inspire many survivors to
speak out for the first time.
  Ms. Tavris exhorts survivors to stop whining, to stop blaming other
people for every little problem, to get out and do something useful.
How little she knows about the legacy of incest! Most survivors
complain far too little, not too much. False complaints are rare
indeed. Most survivors unfairly blame themselves, not others. Most
survivors are already leading useful lives in spite of their personal
suffering, often serving others at their own expense. If Ms. Tavris is
really so tired of hearing about incest, she should stop trashing
other women and join with us to try to end the epidemic of sexual
                                             JUDITH LEWIS HERMAN, M.D.
                                                      Cambridge, Mass.

To the Editor:
  As the chief of the only inpatient psychiatric unit in the New York
metropolitan area specializing in the treatment of incest survivors
and dissociative disorders, at Holliswood Hospital, I was encouraged
by Carol Tavris's evenhanded approach. The current incest-survivor fad
is partly an outgrowth of fuzzy 1980's notions of the "dysfunctional
family" and the "inner child." Despite these excesses, it is important
for readers to recognize that child abuse and child sexual abuse are
not rare phenomena.
  Survivors often suffer from suicide attempts, self-mutilation,
substance abuse, repeated abusive relationships, nightmares and even
multiple personality. There is sound scientific data linking these
ailments to an increased frequency of child sexual abuse. Proper
identification of these syndromes and the history of abuse often leads
to significant improvement, ending years of stalemated therapy.
  In addition to those with clear histories of abuse, we are also
familiar with patients who desperately hope to discover survivorship,
a quest inspired by the incest-survivor juggernaut. But the story does
not end here. Childhood traumatic experiences themselves enhance the
victim's suggestibility, even years later, and thus may predispose the
survivor to adopt the facile formulations of the self-help literature
and its followers. This suggestibility magnifies the struggles of
treatment, particularly for the unwary therapist.
                                                    ANDREW LEVIN, M.D.
                                                    Holliswood, Queens

To the Editor:
  We cannot go back to square one in our understanding of incest,
although Carol Tavris's essay is a good try.
  A decade or so ago, the state of the art on incest was limited to
the work of a half-dozen professionals -- among them Judith Herman,
Karin Meiselman and David Finkelhor -- who bravely researched and
treated and pondered the forbidden ancient taboo. Enlightened
treatment for victims was limited to a few women therapists. The
courts, presided over by male judges, coddled perpetrators. The
police, disbelieving and demeaning, further damaged victims.
  Much has changed, but not enough. There is no Federal law defining
incest; punishment for the abuser is stymied by reluctant juries.
What, then, would Ms. Tavris have victims do? Not take a leaf from the
A.A. bible? Not gather together in self-help groups? Not buy books
that are, at the least, comforting? And would anyone seriously suggest
that women who are depressed and without healthy egos not look for
childhood abuse? Celebrities who talk about their own experiences
inspire other victims to identify with real -- and successful --
people. Two and a half pages of my autobiography were about incest.
Should I have left the memory out? For what reason? To reinforce the
  There are things we do know. We know that many answers lie in the
legal community, that lawmakers and law enforcers need clarification
of a crime that begs not to be seen. We know that the psychiatric
community will, as its practitioners become younger and more of them
are women, recognize a history of abuse in patients. We know that the
expanding field of social work will develop new and effective
treatment methodology. And we know the inestimable value of support
  We also know the power of the written word. One hopes that each time
incest is written about, the writer will be as care-taking of the
subject as she or he would be of any abused child.
                                                          FRANCES LEAR
                                                              New York

To the Editor:
  As an incest survivor myself, I was deeply disturbed by Carol
Tavris's indictment of current therapeutic approaches to healing from
sexual abuse. By questioning the validity of memories that are
wrenched with such reluctance and with so much pain from their hiding
place in the mind, Ms. Tavris has done a tremendous disservice to
survivors, whose strong need to disbelieve their own stories is a
common phenomenon.  What must be understood by those who have not been
abused as children is that sexual assault places victims in a nearly
insoluble dilemma: either they are sexual perverts for "imagining"
these horrendous events, or people upon whom their very life depended
were perverts. These are both intolerable ideas; therefore, memory of
the abuse is repressed.
                                          (The Rev.) DOROTHY A. GREENE
                                                       Larchmont, N.Y.

To the Editor:
  I read Carol Tavris's essay with great interest. As someone who
treats many young women who have questions about sexual abuse, I found
the essay a welcome breath of fresh air in an atmosphere polluted by
hysteria and irrational treatment. All too often, talk show hosts and
overeager therapists jump on the bandwagon of abuse, with no good,
much less scientific, basis for their conclusions.
  I applaud Ms. Tavris's efforts to bring clarity and the voice of
reason to what is unfortunately becoming a cacophony of slippery lies
and half-truths.
                                                  EILEEN BAZELON, M.D.

To the Editor:
  Carol Tavris condemns our book "The Courage to Heal" and the
incest-survivor movement in general. We'd like to respond to her
  Ms. Tavris makes a potpourri of criticisms -- that repressed
memories of child sexual abuse are unreliable, that substantial
numbers of perpetrators are falsely accused, that many of those who
say they are incest survivors have been brainwashed by therapists or
book publishers who are out to create victims for profit and, lastly,
that incest survivors are so busy seeking personal solutions they
aren't contributing to social change.
  This assault does not arise in a vacuum. All of these criticisms are
part of a backlash against survivors, their supporters and the
significant social progress they have made. There has been a plethora
of articles and talk shows that have attacked the credibility of the
incest-survivor movement.
  Adult survivors of child sexual abuse now have a voice and the power
of community. Survivors are changing laws; educating the justice
system, the medical profession, mental health workers, teachers, law
enforcers; and establishing abuse-prevention programs for children.
And now the credibility of these survivors is being challenged on the
front page of The New York Times Book Review. Why? We believe Ms.
Tavris's article, and those like it, appeal to a basic need -- the
need to distance ourselves from human cruelty.
  It is painful to face the reality that so many children were
horribly abused. It is far easier to call it fantasy, manipulation,
fabrication; easier to say that someone has been brainwashed into
believing he or she was abused than to face the fact that this person
-- as a child -- endured such torments.
  This is not to say that our movement is beyond rebuke. There is
truth to some of the criticisms being leveled at the survivors'
recovery movement; excesses that we, too, are concerned about. We've
heard stories of overzealous therapists who have told clients they
were sexually abused before those clients had a chance to find out for
themselves. For-profit hospitals have created programs based on the
use of powerful drugs to elicit memories. False allegations of abuse
have been made by desperate parents in custody cases. These excesses
need to be confronted. But they in no way diminish the pain and abuse
that has been suffered by the vast majority of men and women coming
forward to say they were sexually abused -- nor the integrity of the
dedicated professionals who work with them.
  As to the research basis for "The Courage to Heal," we have never
made claims to be Ph.D.'s or research psychologists. We are lay people
who did one thing exceptionally well -- we listened to hundreds of
people who had been sexually abused, digested what they told us and
gave back to survivors an accessible, compassionate guide to healing.
                                                            ELLEN BASS
                                                           LAURA DAVIS
                                                    Santa Cruz, Calif.

To the Editor:
  Frequently incest survivors, like war veterans and torture victims,
suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. One of the symptoms of
this syndrome is the obliteration of the memory of the trauma. This
repression is actually a coping mechanism that allows children to
survive the terror of their past. Dennis Charney, a neuroscientist,
found that trauma actually alters the chemistry of the brain. Studies
report that the average age of remembering childhood incest is between
29 and 49. It is for this reason that the statute of limitations for
reporting abuse was extended in Washington State.
  "Is such legislation warranted?" Carol Tavris asks. Many critics of
our legal system believe we do more to protect the accused than the
victims. According to an article written by Heidi Vanderbilt for
Lear's magazine, eight of our states have no incest statutes.
  Twenty-seven states deem vaginal penetration necessary for incest to
have occurred. Thus a father who sodomizes his child or forces him or
her to perform fellatio would not meet the legal definition of incest.
Add to this list the trauma experienced by children who testify in
court, the stringent requirements for proof and the minimal penalties
for those found guilty. Then ask if we need legislative reform.
                                                          LYNDA CUNJAK
                                                   Highland Park, N.J.

To the Editor:
  I anticipated a challenge like Carol Tavris's when I wrote the
courtroom fantasy in "Dancing With Daddy" and created the red-faced
prosecutor who insists that my story of being molested by my father
"is nothing but a tissue of lies from start to finish!" But I never
expected such charges to come from a writer I admire, one who
apparently considers herself a feminist.
  Ms. Tavris's assertion that I "never actually remembered" being
abused by my father puzzles me, since one of the themes of my memoir
is the very process of remembering what happened. Certainly we all
interpret our experiences; finding meaning in life is the
quintessentially human activity. And certainly there is ambiguity
wherever we look. Indeed, this is another important theme of "Dancing
With Daddy": the "gentle, compassionate, temperate . . . lovable"
physician was the same man who raped his daughters.
  Ms. Tavris also finds in my book the message that "the victim
doesn't have to do anything except understand the origins of her
problems" as long as she "locates the origins of women's
victimization, powerlessness and unhappiness inside the woman."
According to Ms.  Tavris, the survivor excuses herself from political
action, soothing herself with the fantasy that "if the victim can fix
herself, nothing has to change."
  Does Ms. Tavris believe that the personal and the political
represent diverging paths? For so many of us, the strength to act in
the world depends on introspection and support. Surely both personal
growth and political growth involve a balance between listening to the
inner voice and speaking out, between withdrawing to grow strong and
going out into the world to spend that strength.
                                                        BETSY PETERSEN
                                                         Metairie, La.

To the Editor:
  Bravo! Thank you for publishing "Beware the Incest-Survivor
  If I weren't a member of a family in which one member, for what
appeared to be extremely self-seeking reasons, declared herself to be
an "incest victim" (and, after analysis, an "incest survivor"), I
would find it hard to believe the hysteria of this new trend. Perhaps
most extraordinary is that if, as a family member, you do not
immediately believe, then sympathize with, then extol the "survivor,"
you are immediately labeled a co-dependent of the perpetrator or,
perhaps more generously, yet another victim in denial.
                                                    JENNIFER L. BESTOR
                                                    Menlo Park, Calif.

To the Editor:
  If one is looking for current books about incest and sexual abuse,
scholarly ones that are genuinely helpful, there are not many
available. As a survivor of incest, uncovering memories of abuse
during the past year, I have searched the libraries and bookstores for
books and journal articles that would teach me about the process of
memory repression and memory retrieval. I have also sought books that
would help me make some sort of sense of my experience. A very helpful
book, Judith Herman's "Trauma and Recovery," is rightfully touted by
Carol Tavris in her essay. Unfortunately, Ms. Tavris is right when she
says that most of the available books on incest are not as well
documented as Dr. Herman's. However, in spite of their limitations, I
have found popular books, including "The Courage to Heal," useful in
my healing process.
  Ms. Tavris rightly questions the absence of empirical evidence to
support assertions in some of the popular books on incest. Lack of
research and evidence certainly limits their usefulness. However, Ms.
Tavris could also be accused of having no real evidence that women are
inappropriately being coaxed into an "incest-survivor machine" or that
significant numbers of unethical therapists are luring women into
remembering incest that did not occur. Ms. Tavris sounds a bit like
Freud when he claimed that reports of incest were merely the fantasies
of hysterical women.
                                                            CEIL MALEK
                                               Colorado Springs, Colo.

To the Editor:
  As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I am deeply disturbed by
the cynical and cavalier tone of Carol Tavris's critique of "the
abuse-survivor machine." Most offensive is Ms. Tavris's equation of an
admittedly unsubstantiable claim of childhood sexual abuse with other
equally unprovable claims: "If a woman suspects that she has been
abducted by U.F.O.'s, that the F.B.I. is bugging her socks or that a
satanic cult forced her to bear a child that was half human and half
dog, must she (and we) likewise assume that 'it probably really
happened'?" This thoroughly trivializes the matter of sexual abuse,
and the incredulity expressed in this equation is exactly the reason
that so many of us have lived in silence for so many years.
                                                           TRACY MYERS
                                                          Newark, Del.

To the Editor:
  Carol Tavris's essay was merely the latest wave of the backlash
attempting to deny the emerging truth about the abuse that is
inflicted on children in our society. There is indeed the dramatic
polarization Ms. Tavris describes, and her essay places her directly
on the side of those who provide support for "molesters, rapists,
pedophiles and other misogynists," a side one certainly should
apologize for choosing.
  When people like Ms. Tavris are frightened by the number of women
who are described by checklists such as mine, their solution is to
attempt to kill the messengers, professionally speaking, by impugning
their methods or motives. Despite Ms. Tavris's assertion that "Secret
Survivors" presents groundless theories, unsupported by research, my
conclusions are compiled from extensive interviews with survivors and
from field observation, and are supported by many studies.
  It is Ms. Tavris's argument that false memories of child abuse can
be created by overzealous therapists that is groundless. There is no
evidence that anyone who was not sexually abused can be persuaded
otherwise, let alone made to suffer post-incest syndrome.
  How do I know that the majority of my clients are incest survivors,
even when they almost never identify incest as their reason for
seeking help? The terror and despair and self-hate and death wish that
they struggle with on a daily basis tell me that something real,
something horrible, was done to them. Their belief that sex is what
you must pay back for love, the fact that all sex may feel like rape,
indicate that the trauma was of a sexual nature. Their inability to
trust or bond, their deep sense of loss, their belief that they are
entitled to nothing in life tell me that the trauma was at the hands
of someone with whom they had a dependency bond.
  If there was no abuse, why does a client gag every time she
swallows?  Why does she wake up in the middle of the night screaming?
Why does she see her father's face and penis every time she tries to
have sex? Why did she not get better with all the previous
interventions, and why is she getting better now?
                                                          E. SUE BLUME
                                                        Freeport, L.I.

Carol Tavris replies:
  Of course I expected anger. I also expected misreadings of what I
said -- accusations that I am denying the reality of abuse, that I am
contributing to the backlash against women's rights and so forth. My
hope is that when the anger has passed, we will be able to address the
real problems that plague us -- child neglect and battering, incest,
the appalling pervasiveness of violence against women. I fear that the
current sad and destructive impulse to see abuse in every home, and to
manufacture memories where none existed, is creating a dangerous new
set of problems. To raise this concern does not make me antifeminist,
any more than criticizing some policies of my Government makes me
  I apologize if I implied a dichotomy between Ph.D. researchers and
mental health practitioners who hold other degrees. Skepticism,
scholarship and therapeutic skill do not fall on only one side of the
credential line.
  I know that many feminists have been reluctant to question the
excesses of the recovery movement because they do not want to support
society's custom of disbelieving what women say. I share this concern,
because I know what a struggle it has been to get physicians, lawyers,
police officers and politicians to listen to women and to hear them.
(In this respect, though, we might ask why so many therapists don't
believe the mothers who tell a different story about their daughters'
therapeutically induced memories.)
  But women are not helped, nor is feminism advanced, by the mindless
acceptance of any doctrine that oversimplifies a complex issue. If we
wish to improve the health and status of women, we need to understand
not only how women are helped by the recovery movement, but also how
some are harmed. Shouldn't we worry if the movement is, however
unintentionally, contributing to a national mood of sexual hysteria,
parents' fears of hugging and kissing their children (let alone of
walking around naked in the house) and cruel condemnations of
nonabusive parents who merely made normal mistakes?
  The abuse-survivor movement relies on formulas: this symptom means
that cause; all abuse, from unwanted fondling to repeated rape, does
produce the same results. I refer interested readers to the January
1993 issue of the scholarly journal Psychological Bulletin. In their
paper "Impact of Sexual Abuse on Children: A Review and Synthesis of
Recent Empirical Studies," Kathleen A. Kendall-Tackett, Linda Meyer
Williams and David Finkelhor conclude: "No one symptom characterized a
majority of sexually abused children. . . . The findings suggest the
absence of any specific syndrome in children who have been sexually
abused and no single traumatizing process." That's the point.

              Copyright 1993 The New York Times Company
                          The New York Times
                        April 4, 1993, Sunday
                            INCEST STORIES

To the Editor:
  Carol Tavris's essay "Beware the Incest-Survivor Machine" (Jan. 3)
has just been brought to my attention. I feel it borders on a
dangerous trend in psychology, blaming the victim -- something that
harks back to the Freudian days when all stories of incest were
sloughed off as patient fantasies.
  I have had a great deal of experience with incest survivors. I
therefore can cite specific human experiences, not statistical data.
When a patient relives the original scene, it is precise in every
detail, not fabricated. An incest story can be embellished when a
patient recounts an early childhood event through the veil of the
adult cortical mind. This is because the early trauma does not have
full access to consciousness, so clearly the story must be added to
for it to have coherence. When the patient is back in the grip of the
child mind, where there is total access of an early event to
consciousness, the memory is exact.
  To say that the patient fabulates means that what she or he says is
not to be taken at face value -- one step removed from the old
Freudian position of not believing anything the patient said. If one
could see the hundreds of hours of agony it takes to relive one early
event of incest, one would know that no one could do that as a
"pseudomemory." And why on earth would a patient want to fabricate
such agony? Just to wallow in pain?
  We have filmed and measured by sophisticated electronic instruments
the reliving process, in which the body temperature can rise three or
four degrees, in which the blood pressure and heart rate can double in
a matter of minutes when the patient is deep into the memory. That is
an unfakable experience. No one has to "focus" a patient on the abuse
as the reason for present unhappiness. Not only is incest the reason
for the unhappiness, it is also the most psychosis-producing of nearly
all childhood traumas. Only academics could deny such a fact and do
such an injustice to suffering human beings.
  Unfortunately, incest is a major story, not one that a therapist
decides is a major story. The victim does have to fix herself. That
does not exclude also doing something about her present life. Let me
ask you, Ms. Tavris: if "the origins of women's victimization" are not
inside the woman, where are they?
                                                          ARTHUR JANOV
                                                        Venice, Calif.

To the Editor:
  As the author of "Confabulations: Creating False Memories --
Destroying Families," I have spoken to hundreds of parents of adult
children across the United States, Canada and England. They all have
the same remarkable story: their children accuse them of abuse after
decades-delayed discoveries that emerge in therapy from repressed
memories. It often takes years of therapy to recover memories.
  The parents are accused of sadistic acts of incest or ritual abuse,
and unless they confess are cut off from any communication. No defense
is allowed, and any other family member or friend who does not believe
the survivor is also no longer allowed to communicate.
  The acts of cruelty to so-called perpetrators are amazing -- angry
letters written to all family members, public disclosure, notes passed
at weddings, deathbed encounters and lawsuits. All this fits a formula
described in "The Courage to Heal" and other self-help books that say
you don't need any proof to accuse a perpetrator: "If you think you
were abused and your life shows the symptoms, then you were."
  The issue is not incest, which is a crime, or repressed memories.
The issues are:

  1. The way repressed memories are solicited -- by hypnosis, dream
  interpretation, imaging, group "therapy," workbooks, body work and
  other questionable techniques.

  2. The way corroboration is not considered necessary for accusing a
  suspected perpetrator.

  3. The way "families of origin" are abandoned for "families of
  choice," according to suggestions in self-help books. Data exist
  that show thousands of families are suffering from the effects of
  false memory syndrome. Every adult is at risk of being accused of
  abuse on the basis of repressed memories. The issue merits
  investigation by unbiased experts, without delay.
                                                     ELEANOR GOLDSTEIN
                                                      Boca Raton, Fla.

To the Editor:
  As a male survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I was greatly
disappointed by Carol Tavris's essay and by the ensuing letters ("Real
Incest and Real Survivors: Readers Respond," Feb. 14).
  This discussion was framed mainly in the context of female
survivors.  The number of male survivors reporting incest is
increasing and needs to be acknowledged. It is difficult for boys and
men to report childhood sexual trauma to a society that does not want
to admit that males can be -- and are -- victimized, even by their
female care givers. Children's sexual trauma is not an issue of
gender, either of the victims or of the perpetrators. It is an issue
of power and control. Incest does not discriminate as it cuts across
socioeconomic, racial and gender lines.
  Despite the fact that many of the self-help books in the
incest-survivor field were written for a female audience, all
survivors are indebted to the works of these pioneers. My recovery
began with my reading "The Courage to Heal," a book written ostensibly
for women survivors. A text for men was available at the time, yet I
preferred to work with "Courage" because it best told my story: a
story of human suffering and healing.
                                                            D. WICKMAN
                                                        Amherst, Mass.