Beware Of False Memories: Revised

August 31, 1999
By Chaplain Paul G. Durbin, Ph.D.

Due to a rather stressful job as a nurse's assistant, Beth Rutherford was having trouble sleeping. Her father, an Assembly of God minister, suggested that she go to Donna Strand for counseling to help her deal better with stress. Donna Strand was a counselor who worked at her husband's Park Crest Village Assembly of God Church. After three sessions, Beth, then 19 years-old was doing much better handling her stress and was sleeping better.

During one of those sessions, Beth told of a dream in which she and some friends were being raped in the presence of her father. She was told that those dreams were an indication of early childhood sexual abuse. Beth could not remember any sexually abuse. Over the next 64 sessions of which her parents were unaware, Donna Strand taught Beth how to enter a trance-like state of hypnosis. Under Mrs. Strand's encouragement, Beth began to record a string of horrifying memories which she identified as occurring between the ages of 7 and 14. During her trance states, she experienced her father using a curling iron to masturbate her, being raped by her father while her mother washed, and having a clothes-hanger abortion by her father.

After nearly two years passed, the Strands informed the General Counsel of the Assembly of God Church of accusations of sexual abuse of Beth by her father. He was confronted with Beth's allegations and though he denied that he had ever sexually abused his daughter, he was forced out of the church. Mrs. Rutherford said, "We were just blown apart, in shock... You think they have the wrong name, the wrong family." Rev Ruterford had a vasectomy when Beth was four years old. Later when asked why he did not tell church officials, he said, "I never told them because I was so personally outraged."

At the insistence of the family's attorney, Beth underwent a gynecological exam. It showed that she was a virgin. According to information received during Beth's Recovered Memory Therapy, she had been raped repeatedly by her father while her mother watched and had received a painful clothes-hanger abortions. Beth, now a registered nurse, fully recanted her story. Due to the fact that her father had received a vasectomy when Beth was 4 and medical test showed that she was a virgin, it would seem that Beth had experienced false memories as the result of Mrs. Strand's Recovered Memory Therapy. It is to be noted that the Rutherford's settled a defamation and malpractice lawsuit for one million dollars against the church and the Mrs. Strand. Beware of false memories.

Betty (named changed to protect the identity of the client) came to me with the presenting problem of "being caught up in a failure cycle." Betty explained that she was continuously setting herself up for failure. She went to college, but did not make it through the first semester. Her first two marriages had ended in divorce and she was experiencing problems in her third marriage. Betty wanted to improve her self-confidence and be set free from her failure cycle. She wanted to return to college but realized that she had to overcome her problems in order to succeed.

Betty was in therapy for ten sessions over a three month period. In the first session, she presented her basic problem as stated above. After listening to her talk, I told her about hypnosis; what it was and was not. I discussed several misconceptions and answered the few questions she asked. She was anxious to be hypnotized and believed it would help her gain self-confidence and get her off the failure cycle. During the first hypnotic session, I concentrated on suggestions for self-confidence and increasing self-esteem.

During a finger response in therapy, Betty indicated that there was an emotional problem or problems that contributed to her failure. She answered "yes" to the following questions, "Is there any conflict over sex that contributes..?. Are you using failure to punish yourself? Do you fail because you feel guilty about something? Is it ok with your subconscious for you to overcome this problem and succeed?

We discussed some of the above mentioned questions and she locked in on the question concerning sex. She mentioned that during high school she had a number of sexual experiences with different boys. Being raised in a North Alabama strict Bible belt religious atmosphere, she was told by her parents that good girls did not engage in sexual activities and the girls who did were bad girls. "They were no good and would never amount to anything." As she was told this time and time again, she experienced guilt because of her many sexual experiences. During her teens and throughout her three marriages, she seldom experienced a climax during intercourse; another example of failure.

She came to the next session very agitated. She explained that she had become very upset at seeing an uncle at her father's funeral. As the service proceeded, she remembered that her uncle had abused her when she was seven. During an age regression, she had experiences of her uncle touching her a few time since she was a baby until she was seven-year-old. All of the experiences with the exception of the one at age seven had been pleasant, but confusing. She experienced pain when her uncle tried to penetrate her at seven. After that he never touched her sexually again.

In another session, Betty experienced anger toward her mother for allowing her to be alone with her uncle on many occasions when she was young. She felt guilt for having enjoyed the experience up to the painful experience at age seven. In hypnosis, I asked her to look at those years through the eyes of an adult. At the time of the incidents, her mother trusted her uncle to take care of little Betty. I had the adult Betty take the little girl Betty into her arms and console her. Betty could forgive the little girl for feeling guilt about the experiences and at the same time forgive her mother for not suspecting her uncle of wrong. As she was able to forgive the little girl of the past, she felt better as an adult. As she forgave her mother, she was free to develop a more loving relationship with her mother.

I then had her experience God taking adult Betty, little girl Betty, and Betty's mother into His loving arms and forgiving each of them. This was a very meaningful experience for Betty. As she was able to forgive herself and her mother, she was able to experience God's forgiveness. As she was forgiven, she no longer felt guilty, not feeling guilty, she had no further need to be punished, therefor she was free to succeed. You may say that Betty had done nothing in her relationship with her uncle of which she needed forgiveness. I would totally agree with you, except in her mind, Betty needed forgiveness and experiencing forgiveness, she could began to succeed. Betty returned to college, earned her degree and has a good close relationship with her husband and mother. There are real memories and there are false memories.

We have one mind but two parts: the conscious and subconscious. The conscious and subconscious parts of the mind can be compared to an iceberg. The portion of the iceberg above the surface of the water is the conscious portion and the ice beneath the water is the subconscious portion. The conscious portion consist of about 10% of our thinking ability and the subconscious consist of about 90%.

Our conscious mind consist of what is available to our conscious thinking process. It is the analytical, rational, logical, two plus two is four part of the mind. The subconscious is not logical and it contains our emotions, habits, automatic responses, feelings, instincts, impressions and much of our memory.

One of the peculiarities of the subconscious mind is that the subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between imagination and reality. One day while running, I saw a long crooked object which I perceived to be a snake. My heart beat increased, my breathing changed, and I felt fear. I was ready to run in the other direction when my eyes focused enough to see it was a stick. As long as I saw that stick as a snake, that is the way I reacted. In regards to memory; a thought, image, idea whether real or not repeated often enough or when emotionally charged becomes like a real memory to the subconscious mind.

There are many ways to define memory and how it is retained and how accurate it is once it brought to awareness. One of the belief is that memory is permanent and the only problem is to get to it and bring it to awareness. This is or probably has been the prevalent accepted idea about memory among psychiatrists, psychologists, hypnotherapists and other in the mental health care field. Forgetting something does not mean that the memory is gone, it just means that memory is not available to your conscious awareness. The idea is that memory is retained something like a video tape recorder which records what happens and stores it in your mind. It may also be compared to a computer. The memory is there for good or bad we are just consciously unaware of it. All one had to do is to tap into the subconscious at the right place and time and the memory will be available as it original occurred.

One way to get to those memories is through hypnosis. Hypnotherapist, psychiatrist, psychologist and other therapist often use "age regression" in their therapy. In discussing "false memories," I am not speaking out against "age regression." I am concerned about how we get to those memories and how they are used when recovered. If they are used to help a person adjust to the present that is what is desired. If the recovered memories are used to provide a client the information to sue someone, I have a problem with that kind of therapy. Many believe that a memory retrieved in hypnosis is true and accurate. I used to accept this assumption, but as I come to my understanding of the subconscious mind as previously stated, I realized that one can produce a false memory that can seem just a real as a true memory. As therapist, we too can produce false memories and there is evidence that the Recovered Memory Therapist have done just that as seen in the story of Beth.

Among the Recovered Memory Therapist, one may forget what they had for dinner ten years ago tonight and may or may not be able to get that information even with hypnosis or drugs, but repressed memories of sexual abuse works differently. The repressed memory of sexual abuse is said to be there in its original form and when brought to the individual's awareness are true. It does not matter to these people that logic and evidence points to the fact that the memory is not true.

Some therapist believe that childhood sexual abuse is the specific cause of numerous physical and mental problems which emerge in adulthood. Regardless of the problem, these therapist will began to look for and search for sexual abuse. These therapists are not discouraged to find that the client may not remember any sexual abuse in her history. If given time, they will help the client find the memories. I use the female pronoun because of the thousands of patients of Recovered Memory Therapy most are women. These therapists believe that children immediately repress all memory of sexual abuse shortly after it occurs so that it is not available to conscious awareness until it comes forth in therapy. I believe that some sexual abuse is repressed, but I am convinced that generally it is a single event or perhaps a number of events that happen very early in life such as Betty. I do not believe that a person can be repeated abused over many years including teen years and not remember it.

When giving classes or lectures on hypnosis, I used to say that there was no danger in the therapeutic use of hypnosis. Since studying Recovery Memory Therapy, I have changed my presentation. I now tell people that there is a danger when the therapist begins to insert the idea of sexual abuse when the client denies it. I tell people that if they go to a therapist without any recall of childhood sexual abuse and is told to read the book by Bass and Davis The Courage to Heal" leave that office and find another therapist.

I was first introduced to Recovered Memory Therapy about five or six years ago. A man called me from California. He said that he had got my name and phone number through the United Methodist Church. He had an adult daughter in New Orleans who had sent him a letter accusing him of childhood sexual abuse. She had recovered the memory while in therapy at a local psych-center in New Orleans. She wrote her father requesting that he pay for her therapy and should send her a specific amount of money each month as she was to emotional disturbed to hold a job. She was in her forties when she began therapy and was working and making a living. After a few months, she had recovered these memories of sexual abuse and had steadily gotten worse.

The father denied that he had ever touched his daughter sexual and was overcome with sadness and despair as a results of the accusations. He ask me for help. As his daughter was receiving counseling at another health care facility, I contacted the chaplain at that hospital to look into the situation. I talked to the father one more time and he said that he was trying to get an appointment with the therapist but had been unsuccessful. The therapist keep telling him that he was in denial and that the only way the daughter and therapist would meet with him was if he confessed that he had indeed molested his daughter when she was a child. He asked me if I had ever heard of the False Memory Syndrome and an organization called, "False Memory Syndrome Foundation" which had been formed for parents of adult children who had accused their parents of sexual abuse. I admitted that I had not.

Dr. John F. Kihlstrom, Ph.D. describes the False Memory Syndrome as a condition that results when the memory is distorted or confabulated so that a person's identity and interpersonal relationships are centered around a memory of a traumatic experience or experiences which are false but in which the person strongly believes. Note that the syndrome is not characterized by false memories as such. We all have memories that are inaccurate. The syndrome is diagnosed when the memory is so deeply ingrained that it orients the individual's entire personality and lifestyle and disrupting adaptive behaviors. The False Memory Syndrome is especially destructive because the person stubbornly refuses to accept any evidence that might challenge the memory. Thus it takes on a life of its own which is resistant to any effort to discover the truth. The person may become so focused on the memory that he or she may be effectively distracted from coping with the real problems in his or her life.

A few years after my contact with the father from California, a woman come to me stating that she had been to a psychiatrist who regressed her back to a supposed sexual molestation by her father. She was considering confronting her father and accusing him of sexual abuse when she was a little girl. Before confronting her father, she wanted a second opinion. Before Recovered Memory Therapy, she had no memory of abuse and had always felt very close to her father and was never consciously afraid of him. She had experience a proper and appropriate amount of affection from her father and in spite of her supposed 'recovered memory' loved him very much.

During a regression, I asked her to go back to any experience in her past that could clarify her situation in relation to her father. She went back to a situation that occurred when she was three years old and continued on and off for about two years. She used to like to have her dad rock her on his foot which she called, "riding the horsey." An activity that many small children enjoy without any sexual content. During this time of play, she experienced sexual pleasure and orgasms. Of the first time she experienced sexual pleasure, she said in a childlike voice, "Daddy is holding my hands while I ride the horsey and it feels good between my legs. Something is happening, if feels so good, but I don't understand. The good feeling is coming form where I pee pee."

I asked her, "Is there anyone else in the room with you and your father? She replied, "Yes, my mama and my brother and when I get through riding the horsey, my brother can ride." From this regression, it appears that her father was totally innocent of any abuse and was just playing a normal child's game with his daughter the same way that he played with her older brother who wanted to "ride the horsey."

I then asked her if it would be alright for me to regress her to the session with the psychiatrist and she said, "Yes." I then said, "Go back in your mind to your session with the psychiatrist." She came to talk to the psychiatrist about an eating problem. After taking some history, the psychiatrist asked her if she had ever been sexually abused. She said "No." He said "Well it is my experience that the great majority of women with your problem was sexually abused as a child. The fact that you say 'No' indicates that you were indeed abuse and that you are in denial. You were probably abused by your father." He lead her into a hypnotic state and programmed her molestation. He suggested that her dad was holding her in his lap. The psychiatrist asked, "He is placing his hand on your leg? He is moving his hand up your leg? He putting his hand on your 'pee pee' hole. He rubbing you 'pee pee' hole? Now tell me what it feel like and what he is doing?" At the close of the session, he told her to buy and read The Courage to Heal by Bass and Davis.

Following that session, I began to read everything I could on the False Memory Syndrome. I decided that I would prepare a seminar and write an article on "Beware of False Memories" I did this because of the pain and harm that Recovered Memory Therapy was inflecting on clients and their families. Aging parents accused of sexual abuse were often being sued by their adult children because of "recovered memory" without any verification of the reality of their abuse.

Beware of false memories because of the trauma caused to the client who experiences these false memories. Beware of false memories because of the hurt and pain experienced by parents who are accused. Beware of false memories because of the damage to families that results from false memories. Beware of false memories for your own well-being. Many families and retractors (individuals who experienced false memories and are now refuting those memories) are suing the therapist who developed the false memories.

A Texas District Court on February 28, 1995 found the treating therapist, a M.S. L.P.C., guilty of negligence and that his actions were the cause of damage to his former client, Diana Halbrooks. The complaint stated that Ms. Halbrooks was not treated for her presenting problem but that instead he began to convince her that she suffered from MPD and had been the victim of childhood sexual abuse. It was alleged that the therapist was negligent in his examination, evaluation, and treatment. The treatment provided included improper exposure to "support" groups and to certain therapeutic techniques which caused her to become overly dependent on her therapist. She came to believe that the memories he created were literal reality. By this course of treatment, the courts ruled that the therapist created new problems and thereby caused harm to Ms. Halbrooks and her family.

Recently Gary Ramona of California won a law suit against his daughter's therapist. After seeing a therapist about an eating disorder, Mr Ramona's adult daughter decided that her father raped her when she was a child. Mr. Ramona, a vineyard executive, lost his job and his wife who came to believe ever word of the charges produced in therapy. With deep fervor, the woman proclaimed that mothers have a gut feeling about their children and everything happening to them and that these gut feeling about her daughter's experience were all the proof she needed.

Ms Ofra Bikel who produced a documentary, "Divided Memories" for the TV program Frontline pointed out to Ms. Ramona what she had said and then asked "You said you were happily married for 25 years, so where your gut feelings." It is interesting to note that she mumbles a reply that the "gut feelings" like the rape memories, only began with the visits to the therapist. Mr. Ramona became the first accused parent to sue a therapist for implanting false abuse memories; a malpractice suit which he won. Thanks to his daughter's accusations he lost job, his family and has not seen his children in seven years so he ask the question, "So tell me, what did I win?"

A Seattle Post article by Ellise Conklin (5/21/96) stated that Patrice Rice, 51, sued a Washington state hypnotherapist for planting false memories of satanic childhood abuse. She alleged that she went to the hypnotherapist to lose weight and stop smoking. Instead, memories of sexual abuse by satanist were implanted by her therapist through the use of hypnosis. Rice said that she came to believe that the cult was going to kill her because she "remembered" what they had done. As a results of these beliefs, she drove around Oregon for two days because she thought that the cult was following her. She caused a head-on collision when she drove across the center line into oncoming traffic, all the while believing that a "good witch" was "telepathically directing her to safety." A person was killed in the accident and Ms. Rice was tried for first-degree murder. She was found "guilty but insane." She is now free and in therapy, but will remain under the supervision and control of the court for 20 years. Her therapist was ordered to pay a 700,000 settlement to Ms Rice.

A few years ago, a new therapy system referred to as "Recovered Memory Therapy" caught on with many professional therapist to include psychiatrist, psychologist, social workers, ministers, counselors, and hypnotherapist. In this group, I do not include those who use hypnosis and other counseling techniques to discover past history that might contribute to a present day problem and use it to help the person live better today without destruction of others. I do not include those therapist who work with individuals who have always remembered that they were sexually abused and are working in the here and now to overcome any problems initiated by that abuse.

I am including those therapist who plant false memories and encourage their clients to confront, hate, break with and sue parents for something that may or may not have happened years ago. These therapist generally believe that just about any adult problem is caused by sexual abuse and this is especially true of women. For example all women with eating problems were sexually abused as a child whether they remember it or not. I consider Recovered Memory Therapy to be based on bad assumptions and the results is bad therapy.

From books and other materials which I have read, a pattern tends to occur with striking frequency. These sessions began with a client coming to the therapist with a presenting problem other than sexual abuse. Regardless of the presenting problem, the therapist tends to assume that if a person has certain symptoms that is proof of childhood sexual abuse. The abuser is usually assumed to be the father and/or perhaps the grandfather, and may also include the mother and grandmother well as others. The symptoms that indicate that the person has experienced sexual abuse includes but is not limited to eating disorders, headaches, vaginal infections, sleep disorders, stomachaches, dizziness, problems maintaining stable relationships, warring baggy clothes, obesity, depression, or low self-esteem. Anyone may face one or more of these symptoms during their life time, but the Recovered Memory Therapist acknowledge only one cause: repressed memories of childhood abuse.

With this motivation, the therapist next step is to convince the client that she was abused whether she can remember abuse or not. If the client says she was not abused, the therapist will often respond that the denial is another proof of her childhood sexual abuse. It is similar to the witch trails at Salem. Those suspected of being witches were thrown into a pond. If they floated they were guilty and burned. If they sank, they were innocent but dead.

The client is told that only by believing in the sexual abuse and recovering memories of abuse can she be healed. Whether the clients accepts the diagnosis or continues to deny, they are are often encouraged to read one of the so-called survivor's books like The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis, The Courage to Heal Workbook by Laura Davis, Secret Survivors: Uncovering Incest and Its Aftereffect in Women by Sue Blume, The Emotional Incest Syndrome by Patrica Love, Repressed Memories: A Journey to Recovery From Sexual Abuse by Rene Fredrickson, and The Sexual Healing Journal: A guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Wendy Maltz and a host of other survivor books.

Once the client is convinced that her problems can be cured by remembering childhood memories of abuse, the therapist uses a variety of techniques to help the client uncovered repressed memories. Among these techniques used are hypnosis, sodium amytal, guided imagery, age regression, progressive relaxation with suggestions, trance writing, body memory, group survivors work and many other such therapies to get to the so-called repressed memories.

Recovered Memory Therapy is bad therapy because it makes assumptions that are not valid, it rewrites a persons history with very painful results, it makes the client very dependent on the therapist, separates clients from their natural families, it causes the client to induce some very emotionally painful experiences which comes only from the imagination and quite often makes the client worse instead of better.

To the question, does recovered memory therapy make clients better or worse, I share with you some data from the Washington State Crime Victims Compensation Program. This information was presented by Elizabeth Loftus at the Southwestern Psychological Association meeting in Houston on April 5, 1996 A review of 183 of the approved claims were made from which 30 were randomly selected for closer examination. Of the 30 closely examined claimants, there were 29 women and 29 were Caucasians. The median age was 39 (15 to 67 years-old). Master-levels therapist treated 26 of the 30 people. Two patients saw a Ph.D. therapist and two saw an M.D. For 26 of the claimants, the first memory surfaced when they were in therapy. All of the 30 claimants were still in therapy three years after their first memory. Eighteen of the claimants were still in therapy five years after the first memory. Only 3 claimants thought of suicide or attempted suicide before recovering their first memory but 20 did so after memories. Two people had been hospitalized prior to their first memory while 11 were hospitalized after memories started. One person engaged in self-mutilation before memories but 8 did so after memories.

29 claimants reported memories of satanic ritual abuse (the average age at which these memories were said to have begun was 7 months.) The number of murders reported by this group of patients was 150. 22 patients claimed memories of birth and infant cannibalism. 20 patients recalled memories of being tortured with spiders and 29 remembered physical torture and mutilation. The records of these patients showed no corroboration medical evidence of torture or mutilation. Not one of the allegations were confirmed by police investigations.

Two thirds (21) of the patients had graduated from high school and seven had post high school education. Before therapy 25 had been employed. After three years of therapy, 3 still had jobs. Before the first memory, 23 of the patients were married. Three years after getting memories, 11 of those 23 were divorced. 100% of the patients were estranged from their extended family. The average cost of non-repressed memory claims was $2,672 while the average cost for repressed memory claims was $12,296 (median was $9,296). The total cost to the Crime Victims Compensation Program for this group of 30 repressed memories was $2,533,000.

Perhaps nothing fueled the flames of the fires of recovered memory therapy as much as the books by survivors mentioned above. Do these books provide good advice to help women recover memories or do they tend to implant memories? During the twentieth century, few books have done more harm than the Bass and Davis book The Courage to Heal which is considered the bible of the Recovered Memory Therapy movement. Early in the book the claim is made "If you are unable to remember any specific instances like the ones mentioned above and still have a feeling that something abusive happened to you, it probably did." The book continues "Often the knowledge that you were abused starts with a tiny feeling, an intuition... Assume your feelings are valid." Another statement to prepare the soil of the mind for implanted memories is "If you have unfamiliar or uncomfortable feelings as you read this book, don't be alarmed. Strong feelings are part of the healing process. On the other hand, if you breeze through these chapters, you probably aren't feeling safe enough to confront these issues. Or you may be coping with the book the same way you coped with abuse - by separating your intellect from your feeling." They have got you whether you are feeling uncomfortable or if you are feeling nothing. Either way the authors assumes that you were sexually abused and they will go to any lengths to recover the memories without regards to the truth.

The authors assume that anyone reading their book was abuse for they write, "To heal from child sexual abuse, you must face the fact that you were abused. This is often difficult for survivors. When you've spent your life denying the reality of your abuse, when you don't want it to be true, or when your family repeatedly calls you crazy or a liar, it can be hard to stay clear in the knowledge that you were abused."

The authors encourages women to separate themselves from their "family of origin", to sue their parents, to disassociate with anyone who does not support their claims and hate those who they discovered abused them. The book tells of one woman who claims that she was abused by her grandfather went to his deathbed and , in front of all the other relatives, angrily confronted him right there in the hospital. Forgiveness may be considered, but is not encouraged and in fact is discouraged.

I believe that forgiveness can contribute much to healing. Habitual grudges, resentment, smoldering rage, the war within plays havoc with our health and well-being and weakens our resistance to disease and/or emotional illness. A recent newspaper article by a medical doctor stated more heart trouble is caused by inner tension, guilt, and resentment than are caused by smoking, drinking or fatty substances in the blood. We need to forgive those who have harmed us. That does not mean that we condone what they did nor do we need to have a close relationship to that person. By forgiving them, we release ourselves from the power that they hold over us. We need to forgive even when the person who has harmed us do not ask for nor deserves our forgiveness. Whether the person is living or dead, we need to forgive in order to free ourselves from the power that person has over us. This is true regardless of what has happened to us including sexual, physical or emotional abuse.

I am reminded of Sandy who came to me for counseling. Sandy was a 21 year old lady who had been sexual abused by an older brother who was seven years older than she. She could not be freed until she could forgive him. He had not asked her for forgiveness nor was he visibly sorry for his abuse. The forgiving act of Sandy did not change her brother, but it did change her. After several sessions covering many issues, she said that she was ready to forgive her brother. I said, "In your imagination, you are setting in a chair on the stage in front of your brother. Now prepare to forgive him even if he does not request forgiveness nor deserves forgiveness. She said, "I forgive you brother for the sexual things you did to me as we were growing up. I forgive you Robert. In so doing I release myself from the power that you have had over me. The power that made me feel guilty, has prevented me from fully enjoying sex with my husband and has weakened my self-esteem. I am now free to live my life joyfully." Sandy lives a much happier life and responds joyfully during sexual relations with her husband.

In his review of The Courage to Heal for the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Campbell Perry writes, "Another questionable assumption is the belief in hatred as an effective method of healing, one that holds that fantasies of castration and/or murder of one's abuser are beneficial therapeutically... As an offshoot of the book's advocacy of hatred as a leading method is the advice that abused individual's "get strong by suing."...Earlier, Bass and Davis also advise that readers "are not responsible for proving that you were abused." (Oct. 1994)

Laura Davis's book The Courage to Heal Workbook continues with the assumption that the female child has been sexual abused and the book is to be used to confirm that the abuse actually happened. The Workbook goes on to encourage homosexual activities. The author is aware that a person who has been hetero-sexual might have problems with their first homosexual encounter, she writes, "You don't have to be physically aroused to begin sexual activity, simply willing to begin." So what begins with the desire to help people overcome their adult problems, becomes an attempt to seduce the person into a different sexual life style.

Sue Blume list 34 items as "Incest Survivor's Aftereffect Checklist." She includes such problems as ambivalence or intensely conflicting relationships, phobias, anger, feeling crazy, feeling different, eating disorders, fear of dark, low self-esteem, gagging sensitivity, or even wearing baggy clothes. It is not surprising that Blume writes, "At any given time, more than three quarters of my clients are women who were molested in childhood by someone they knew." Most of them did not know they were survivors until they came to Blume for counseling. She continues, "Many, if not most, incest survivors do not even know that the abuse ever occurred...Most survivors need many years and often many therapists, before they can face the truths of their past"

Some, such as Patricia Love in The Emotional Incest Syndrome, are not satisfied with the common accepted understanding of incest. She includes those who loved their children too much and overprotected them. "To the casual observers, the parents may appear loving and devoted. They may spend a great deal of time with their children and lavish them with praise and material gifts. But in the final analysis, their love is not a nurturing, giving love - it's an unconscious ploy to satisfy their own unmet needs."

Love has the client to ask ten question and if she answers "yes" to three or more, that means she probably experienced incest. (1) I was the source of emotional support for one of my parents. (2) I felt closer to one parent than the other. (3) I got the impression a parent did not want me to marry or move away from home. (4) Any potential boyfriend or girlfriend was never "good enough" for one of my parents. (5) I felt I had to hold back my own needs to protect a parent. (6) I felt responsible for my parents' happiness.(7) I sometimes felt invaded by a parent. (8) One of my parents had unrealistic expectations of me. (9) One of my parents was preoccupied with drugs/alcohol, work, outside interest, or another sibling. (10) One of my parents was my best friend. Regardless of how many "yes" answers are given, these experience do not qualify as incest.

Renee Fredrickson in her book Repressed memories: a Journey to Recover from Sexual Abuse writes, "Denial is overcome only by patient growth in the opposite direction... In reading this book, whenever you find yourself worrying 'What if I'm wrong?' try to always to ask yourself the opposite question, 'What if I'm right?'" She ask suggestive and leading questions such as, "How old do you think you were when you were first abused? Write down the very first number that pops into your head, no matter how improbable it seems to you. Does it seem too young to be true? I assure you it is not."

Fredrickson advises "Seat yourself comfortably and take a few relaxing breaths before you begin the actual work. Most people prefer doing imagery work with their eyes closed. Outside stimulation is kept to a minimum, and you can focus all your attention on your internal reality... Whoever is guiding the memory will ask questions to help you picture or sense what is happening in relation to that focal point. If nothing surfaces, wait a bit and then give your best guess in answer to the questions. If you feel resistance or skepticism, try to go past it. Whether what is remembered around that focal point is made up or real is of no concern at the beginning of the process. (Durbin's impute nor at any other time, for these people the only thing they want is an abuse memory regardless of whether it is true or not. It make no difference to Fredrickson, but it sure does to the ones who are going to be confronted, accused, and perhaps sued.)

In her book The Sexual Healing Journey: A guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse, Wendy Maltz advises readers, "Don't try to force recall. Memories will emerge when you are you are ready to handle them." Maltz suggest that patients "spend time imagining that you were sexually abused, without worry about accuracy, proving anything or having your ideas make sense. As you give rein to your imagination, let your intuition guide your thoughts... Ask yourself or have a support person or therapist ask you these questions, 'What time of day is it? Were are you? indoors or outdoors? What kind of things are happening? Is there one or more person with you? Male or female? What types of touch are you experiencing? What parts of your body is involved? What do you see, feel or hear? What parts of your body are involved? How do you feel emotionally? Angry, scared, excited, confused... Who would have been likely perpetrators? When were you most vulnerable to sexual abuse in your life? Why would it have been important for you to forget what happened."

There are many techniques that Recovered Memory Therapist use to produce the false memories. I would like to point out that any of these therapy with the possible exception of sodium amytal can be used very effectively in therapy. It is not the technique that I have a problem with, but the use of the technique. One of those techniques is hypnosis. I think that all of us would agree that hypnosis can be extremely helpful in therapy, but it can also be abused. Some therapist gives the impression that one cannot lie while in the hypnotic state. Of course that is an untrue assumption for hypnosis does not prevent a persons from intentional or unintentional lying, deception or experiencing false memories.

In his book Suggestions of Abuse Michael Yapko gathered data from 860 therapist (Most of those surveyed were psychiatrist or psychologist) concerning their opinion on hypnosis. He writes, "I was dismayed, to say the least, by what I found. It is not an exaggeration to say that many therapist appear to practice their profession on the basis of sheer myth." Nearly one in five believed that one could not lie under hypnosis." Interestingly, 19% accepted the myth that "someone could be hypnotically age regressed and get 'stuck' at a prior age." The surveyed showed 64% "believed that hypnosis can be used in such a way as to create false memories." But 27% did not think that hypnosis was capable of generating false memories.

There is a case history by Dolores Spiegel and Charles Romig which was published in the American Journal of Family Therapy that is a good illustration of implanting of false memories. Sue entered therapy because she was afraid that her finance would break off their engagement. She also reported fears of the dark and had difficulty sleeping alone. She told the therapist of dreams of being in her crib as a child and someone tickling her. In the course of the session, she mentioned that she sometimes felt anger toward her father but also insisted that she had a "fine and loving relationship with him." The information received at that first session lead the therapist to believe that Sue had been sexual abused as a child and that her father was the likely abuser.

Because Sue continued to deny that she had been sexually abused by her father, the therapist decided to use an indirect approach. While Sue was in a hypnotic trance, the therapist told this story. "There was a small kingdom with a powerful but friendly king who was well liked by his subjects. He was very pleasant and was willing to meet with almost anyone to talk about anything. He had a family of two sons and a daughter... It was a happy kingdom, but something uneasy was going on in the castle. Like most kings, this king had a wizard, who was very wise and powerful. The wizard was very loyal to the king, which was important because the wizard had a powerful secret word that would remove all the king's ability to rule if the wizard ever spoke it. If the word were ever said, the king would not only lose his crown, but his family would probably stop respecting and loving him, as would most of the king's subjects. Only the king and the wizard knew about the magic word. Since the king loved the wizard and needed the wisdom and power of the wizard, and since the wizard was very loyal to the king, the king never feared that the wizard would say the magic word. They lived happily until one day the wizard wanted to visit other kingdoms to learn more and become a better wizard. This frightened the king because the king was afraid the wizard might meet someone and want to marry. The king was afraid the wizard would change loyalties to someone else and someday might say the magic word. The king and wizard had many arguments about this, and finally the king told the wizard to leave and return only when the king gave permission. The king even convinced himself that he had enough power to overcome the power of the wizard's secret word. Bitter words were exchanged, and the entire family felt much sadness as the wizard left, for you see, the wizard was the king's own daughter."

At the end of the session, Sue was greatly upset. At the next session, she expressed a belief that her father might have sexually abused her while she was a child. What was Spiegel and Romig's analysis of these sessions. "The story gave her the option of choosing how to respond to her own experiences, which paralleled those of the fictional characters of the story. She choose to stop denying her victimization and approach her abuse directly, thereby setting the stage for therapy to began." Because the father became upset at the daughters plan to leave home and his fear of the "magic word" which was of course "incest", the assumptions could be that false memories were implanted by the therapist by use of the story?

I believe that a therapist can plant seeds of abuse in the subconscious and thereby lead a client to believe and become convinced that sexual abuse actually happened. Unfortunately, it is a fact that under hypnosis (formal or informal) people can confabulate or create memories. These people are often unable to distinguish between memories created in the hypnotic state and memories held prior to the hypnotic session. While attending a meeting of incest survivors in a San Francisco Church, Stephanie Slater tells of one young woman who said that she remembered her mother using scissors to mutilate her genitalia. As she wept, she concluded her talk with, "I know I should have scars from it but I don't" Sounds like Beth who was suppose to have had abortions by her father, but when examined by a physician was still a virgin .

Hypnosis can be misused because of the power of suggestion. The mind, conscious and subconscious, is greatly influenced by suggestion. Suggestion is a natural characteristic of our humanity. It can be used in education, worship, politics, advertisements, human relationships and propaganda.

Used in the hypnotic context, suggestions are the acceptance of an idea or belief to the point of causing changes in an individual's actions, body responses, attitudes, emotions or characteristics. Just as anything else in human experience, it can be used for good or bad. To show how a suggestion can be used to produce a desired outcome, please close your eyes. With your eyes closed and using your imagination, I am going to ask you two questions and notice your responses. "Do you see the bird?" Now let that though go and respond to this question, "Do you see a bird?" Let that thought go and open your eyes. What was your experience as a response with the first question? What was your response to the second question. What was the difference between the two questions. The first presupposes a bird, "Do you see the bird?" That question suggest that a bird is to be seen. The second question leaves for you determine if a bird is seen. But truthfully, both bring to mind a bird. A Recovered Memory Therapist may ask, "Do you see his penis?" or "Do you see a penis?" both questions are very suggestive of a penis being present.

Another technique for the Recovered Memory Therapist is the use of guided imagery. Mark Pendergrast in his book Victims of Memory wrote of a recovered memory patient who told this story. My Therapist "made me visualize a safe place. It was like a ring and I would lie down in the middle of it. She'd talked to me through a guided imagery, with this really soothing voice. 'Now just imagine that you're this little girl in the white sweater. Imagine you're a helpless, vulnerable, defenseless little girl.' I told her how I used to go to a day care center and lie under the piano, staring up at it. So she took me back to the scene. I was totally seeing all of this as she said it. 'Are you scared?' She asked, and I found that I was. 'Do you see somebody?' I saw this piano repair man. 'Does he come and sit by you?'"

"And then suddenly I visualized him lying on top of me. Tricia was really silent at this point, letting me live this scene. I imagined this man taking off my pants and sweater and totally licking me and kissing me from my crotch to my neckline." Though the patient had said nothing, The therapist asked, "is he hurting you?" "Yes, yes,' I whispered. Then I opened my eyes and screamed, Stop, stop! I want out of this. Tricia was calm, really calm, and she was smiling. I grabbed my stuff. I was hyper ventilating. She said, 'If you need to stay here a minute and settle down, that's fine. But I have another client coming.' As I walked out the door, she said, 'You're probably going to feel self-destructive, because flashbacks are really hard. So call me at any time. (Durbin, The therapist gave the client a suggestion for a flashback which is totally irresponsible and unethical.)

"Eventually, I came to believe that six men had abused me, including my grandfather, Dad and my brother Jerry. Tricia would take a real incident and help me turn it into something awful. 'Olivia, remember when you and your brother were fighting downstairs, She said during one guided imagery session. 'He throws you up against the wall. What is he doing?'. 'Now I'm on the ground.' 'Is he on the ground too? I said, 'Oh my God, we're rolling around on the ground together.' And then I saw him raping me. That night I went home and cut all my long, curly hair off, my pride and joy. I think I wanted to punish myself for thinking this about my brother."

Some Recovered Memory therapist use sodium amytal commonly called "truth serum" which can produce hallucinations that can seem as real as a true experience. People given sodium amytal have given details of their history such as events, places, names and dates that were not true. As with hypnosis, the individual is more susceptible to suggestions while under the influence of sodium amytal Patients under the influence of sodium amytal fail to reliably discriminate between reality and fantasy.

The use of dreams to uncover false memories is not uncommon among Recovered Memory Therapist. To me it is not surprising that ideas, thoughts, readings, that a person deal with all day long can show up in some form during a dream. Remember that the key which set off Beth's therapist toward recovered memories was a dream in which Beth and friends were being raped as her father looked on and did nothing to stop the attacks?

Recovered Memory Therapists use automatic writing or journal writing to help their clients recover memories. The client is encouraged to just began to write down anything that comes to mind without concern for sentence structure. While the client thinks of insect, she is to write down anything that comes to mind while they think of incest. Another use of automatic writing is to just write down a story of insect concerning the client without concern for it being real or imagined. The client is to write the story as quickly as possible. Fredrickson states "The unconscious can be relied on to select traumatic incidents from your past for most or all of the 'story' since it is easier to rely on experience rather than imagination when you do something quickly." The use of these techniques suggest that memories are there and they are just waiting for the right time to come up, but are they real or false?

Fredrickson also recommends the use of art therapy. Art therapy assesses two types of unconscious memory which are acting-out memory (forgotten memories spontaneously and physically enacted) and imagery memory (memory that appears in the conscious mind as images). With art work the client can trigger the recovery of repressed memories.

Body memories are described as memories which are retained in body cells as well as in the brain. During the years before language is fully developed, memories are stored in the body's cells. They believe that physical and emotional problems of adulthood can be the results of the body's memories of childhood sexual abuse. As with symptoms, dreams, art work, the notion of the bodies memories becomes a means of indoctrination into recovered memories.

A client is often told to join a survivors therapy group so that she can realize that she is not the only one who has been abused and that she can receive help from the group. A therapy group for people who have always remember their abuse can be beneficial if the group is there to help each other deal with present life situations. For individuals without memories of sexual abuse, these groups are deceptive, dangerous, and another means of implanting memories. In many recovered memory groups, the members try to out do the other in their descriptions of abuse and they encourage those who have no memories to get out of denial and remember.

There is a concerted effort to make the patient experience the emotional pain of rape, sexual abuse and other horrible experiences through abreaction. They have the client relive the supposed abuse and thereby releasing its power. (Most hypnotherapist use abreaction as a releasing technique, but most of the time the therapist will have the patient distant themselves from the pain and view the experience from a safe place or as if it were on a TV screen.) The Recovered Memory Therapist persuades their clients to literally feel the pain of the rape and torture and the humiliation of their supposed experiences.

In their book Making Monsters, Richard Ofshe and Ethan Watters state, "Therapist sometimes induce these abreaction weekly over years of therapy. In describing the intense torment they subject their patients to, therapists often portray themselves as if they were heroic doctors who could save their patients' lives only by performing amputations without anesthesia." The authors continue, "Although we don't suggest that these recovered memory therapist take sexual pleasure from these abuse 'recreations,' some recovered memory therapist perhaps deserve recognition as a new class of sexual predator."

Anger and rage are encouraged by Recovered Memory Therapist. The Courage to Heal has a chapter "Anger-The backbone of Healing" and the client is advised, "Whether you express your anger directly to the abuser or you work with it yourself, it's essential that you give it some outlet. You can speak out, write letters (ether to send or purely for the chance to get your feelings out), pound on the bed with a tennis racket, break old dishes, scream (get a friend to scream with you), create an anger ritual (burn an effigy on the beach), take a course in martial arts, visualize punching and kicking the abuser where you do aerobics, volunteer at a recycling center and smash glass, dance an anger dance. The list is endless. You can be creative with your anger, And ultimately, you can heal with anger."

Some quotes from the the book are "I have such venomous hate. I pray to God that [my father] comes down with some terrible disease. I'd like him to get AIDS. That or Alzheimer's. I can't wait for his funeral ...this hatred affects me in a positive way" "I'd watch Perry Mason to get ideas about how to kill my father. It was really the best of times. Every day I would get a new method."

"I'd like to cut off his little huevos (penis). I've had offers from people who said they'd go with me." "As a child ... you could not think about killing your father when you relied on him to feed you." "I go through real revenge periods. I imagine walking into my parents' house with a shotgun aimed right at my father's balls. "Okay, Dad. Don't move an inch. Not one step, you sucker. I'm gonia take 'em off one at a time. And I'm gonna take my sweet time about it, too.'" "If your abuser has died, you may be glad he is dead. This is a perfectly reasonable feeling to have. One woman said she couldn't wait for her father to die so she could spit on his grave." These are statement of women who have gone through recovered memory therapy and their memories may well be false.

The client is encourage to have a confrontation with their abuser and/or abusers This is usually done in the therapist office with strict guidelines. Supported by the therapist and perhaps others, the client generals reads from a prepared statement. They lists a variety of accusations such as "you molested me when I was six months old, you raped me when I was four until I was seventeen. Mother you let it happen. You did nothing to stop him and in fact you assisted him and molested me also."

The parents are not allowed to challenge the accuser and if they say that the abuse never occurred, they are accused of being in denial. Sometimes the accusations are made over the telephone or in a letter with similar letters written to other family members and friends. During these confrontations there is usually a demand for the parents to pay for therapy and additional sums of money for the pain they caused the survivor. If they don't get what they want from the confrontation, they quite often sue and most of the so-called survivors books encourage them to do so.

Flashbacks are a common occurrence for clients of Recovered Memory Therapist. In an article for The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (Oct 1994) Dr. Fred H. Frankel states that flashbacks are unbidden, often vivid, images that occur while the patient is awake. The images are usually reported as having a haunting quality, distressing to the patient. They may recur again and again. The patient often relates the origin of the flashback to an earlier frightening experience.

The term "Flashback" was popularized by the Haight Asbury drug scene where individuals who had been on drugs would flashback unexpected and similar to the drug experience. Later the term was to describe the experience of some Vietnam veterans who had flashbacks of some situation they experienced during the war. Many trauma patients such as victims of crime, combat, accidents, or other emotionally charged events can experience flashbacks. Do these flashback always reflect an actual experience?

Dr. Michael Yapko begins his book Suggestions of Abuse by telling the story a man who told his wife that he simply couldn't deal with the scars remaining from Vietnam. In more than twenty years of marriage, there had been plenty of episodes that led her to believe him. One night, he went berserk, apparently in reaction to the sneakers she happened to be wearing. After he calmed down, he told her that he had been a prisoner for fifteen days after a carried-based F-4 jet fighter on which he was navigator was shot down. His Vietcong captors wore similar sneakers when they came to the bamboo cage in which he was keep prisoner. They regularly beat and degraded him by urinating on him. He said he escaped after strangling a guard, who, incidentally, was wearing the same kind of sneakers.

He finally went to see a therapist for his problems, describing in detail his terrible experiences in Vietnam and his pervasive symptoms. He was diagnosed as suffering from "posttraumatic stress disorder" and was treated for severe depression, extreme guilt, and explosive anger. Treatment did not help quickly enough, however. Less than three years later, he ended his troubled life by inhaling carbon monoxide.

After his death, his wife attempted to get his name placed on the state's Vietnam memorial, declaring him a casualty of the war as surely as if he'd died overseas. His therapist wrote a letter in support of her petition. Only then was his background researched. How could anyone have known that he had never been to Vietnam? (p. 15)

Among many stories told by Eileen Franklin of how she recovered memories of her father, George, raping and killing her friend years before was from a flashback. She told her brother that she recalled the incident while under hypnosis. She told her sister that the she became aware of the killings from a dream. At her father's trail, she told the jury that she had remembered the murder during a flashback triggered by when looking at her own daughter's face. Based upon Eileen testimony of the recovered memory, George was convicted of murder and sent to jail.

Recovered Memory Therapist encourages clients to give up their natural families to included any relatives who does not agree with the client concerning the alleged abuse. The authors of The Courage to Heal suggest that one should separate themselves from the cause of their problems which in their terms is "the family of origin." Their tendency is to picture the family as poison for the client and destructive to the client. Fathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles and added to that list; mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and aunts who either participated in the abuse, allowed it to happen without interfering, or did not believe the accusation of the survivor.

I share with you a "before therapy" letter and an "after therapy" letter to parents as printed in the False Memory Syndrome Foundation Newsletters, (before therapy) Mom and Dad, Hi, just thought I would drop you a line to say 'hi.' I have been so busy lately that I have forgotten to tell you guys how much I love you. You two have done so much for me...You have continually supported me, loved me, and helped me work through my various problems and adventures... I just wanted you guys to know that you are appreciated. I seldom tell you how I feel or how much you guys mean to me..I love you more than words can say. Love, your daughter."

(After therapy) "Dear First Names, Why am I writing this letter: To state the truth - Dad I remember just about everything you did to me. Whether you remember it or not is immaterial - what's important is I remember. I had this experience the other day of regressing until I was a little child just barely verbal. I was screaming and crying and absolutely hysterical. I was afraid that you were going to come get me and torture me. This is what sexual abuse is to a child - the worst torture... I experienced what professionals call a 'body memory.' My body convulsed for hours - the pain started in my vagina and shot up and out of my mouth... I felt I was a small child being brutally raped. I knew I was remembering what I had experienced as child... I asked who could have done such a thing - initially I thought Mom, since I had a vague dream about her - but that did not fit - then I blurted out, 'Oh my God, my father repeatedly raped me'... I needed your protection guidance and understanding. Instead I got hatred, violation, humiliation and abuse... I don't have to forgive you... I no longer give you the honor of being my father.. I'm not the victim anymore..." As the letter ended, I wonder if she was not the victim of an overzealous Recovered Memory Therapist!

Pamela Freyd, Ph.D., whose husband was accused of the abuse by their adult daughter, Jennifer, is the Executive Director of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. The Foundation's Scientific and Professional Advisory Board is composed of prominent researchers and clinicians from the field of psychiatry, psychology, social work, and education. The Foundation provides information on memory and therapy practices. It advises and is a sounding board for accused parents. It acts as a clearing house for information, puts families in touch with resources which enables them to better cope with their situation, built a library used by scholars, attorneys, families, and the media, and produces a very good and informative Newsletter that keep thousands informed on issues of interest to therapist, families and others.

About 20% of adults who remembered childhood sexual abuse while undergoing Recovered Memory Therapy eventually recalled being victims of satanic ritual abuse (SRA). A recent survey funded by the US government stated that among 6,900 psychiatrists, psychologist, and social workers; 70% had never seen an SRA client, most of the rest had handled one or two, but l.4% had over a 100 cases. Much of the current beliefs about satanic ritual abuse goes back to four books: Michelle Remembers, Satan Seller, Satan's Underground, and He Came to Set the Captive Free. All of these books were written by authors who claimed to be either victim or perpetrator. The most influential of the four is Michelle Remembers by Dr. Lawrence Pazder and Michelle Smith. SRA survivors have similar memories of abuse. They remember evil, robe-covered adults, candles, knives, an altar and countless horror stories of being breeders, having to kill their babies and eat the babies, of being put in graves with snakes and spiders, and other such experiences.

The adult victim generally begins therapy for a seemingly unrelated problem such as a sleep or eating disorder, depression, or marital difficulties. During the course of treatment, the therapist will raise the possibility of repressed memories of SRA. At first the client usually deny a past history of SRA but after many session of intensive therapy, the client will gradually develop a complex personal SRA history. Usually the therapist decides that the repression was facilitated by a dissociative state and thus diagnosis multiple personality disorder (MPD). After more long term, intensive therapy and support group involvement, including "abreacting," or "reliving" each of the traumatic "memories," the Recovered Memories Therapist may help the patient to integrate her personalities and be healed.

For many years policeman, Randy Emon believed in SRA and conducted presentations on the validity of satanic crimes. As time went by and due to the continued lack of hard evidence of SRA, he changed his mind and position. Over the years, he interviewed a large number of abuse survivors. One common link was that each had emotional problems and sought counseling from a therapist. After le

Educational DVDs and Videos