Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society

August 1999 Vol. 5, no. 3

Exciting fall conference October 3rd


It is shaping up to be a very interesting conference. And different. The theme “Reuniting families”, is one close to all our hearts. Our panel of recanters at last year’s fall conference addressed this issue to some extent, from their individual perspectives. 

This year it is the turn of the professionals. The keynote speaker who will address this theme is Dr. August Piper. He is author of Hoax and Reality: the Bizarre World of Multiple Personality Disorder, whose title reveals its theme. He is a member of the Foundation Advisory Board and a Seattle psychiatrist with a distinguished career. A native of the Midwest, educated at Yale and Howard Universities, he was for quite a few years a faculty member at the University of Washington and now for nearly twenty years has been in private practice. In his private practice he has had some returnees among his patients. Dr. Piper was one of the expert witnesses in many famous cases: in the Braun, Humanentzky, and the Kluft and other cases. He is the author of more than two dozen professional publications in addition to his book, a presenter at many professional meetings and a consultant to a number of mental health organizations. Our panel of professionals who will also address the theme of “Reuniting Families,” is also a distinguished group. Both Carolyn Saari and Mary Kay Pribyl have had a number of returnees and recanters among their patients.

Dr. August Piper

Carolyn Saari is a long term member of the Social Work School of Loyola University in Chicago and a therapist in private practice for more than twenty five years. She has contributed widely to the professional literature and is editor of Clinical Social Work Journal. She is also a member of the Foundation Advisory Board.

Mary Kay Prybil is a clinical psychologist in private practice for more than twenty five year, the author of many professional papers and an influential member of the Illinois Psychological Association. Dr. Gary Almy is a psychiatrist with 26 years clinical experience and associated with our Society for a long time. He is the author of Addicted to Recovery, a long term faculty member at Loyola University School of Medicine and Associate Chief of Staff at Hines Veterans Hospital. Larry Kozlewski is a clinical psychologist from Wisconsin who is also an accused parent. We are also hoping for a representative of the Illinois Psychiatric Society to be on our panel.

A detailed program and a registration form are inserts in this newsletter. If you haven’t signed up yet, it’s not too late. Do it now.

Mailing to psychiatrists and psychologists

A mass mailing to all members of the Illinois Psychiatric Society and the Illinois Psychological Association is currently under way by members of our Society. The first batch of 1500 was handled by a team made up of Eileen, Liz, Larry, Walter and Gretchen. Another team will handle the remaining 1500 as we go to press. Several members have made special contributions to help finance this project. The mailing contains a letter of invitation to our fall conference with a copy of the program, two articles, and the Foundation’s Recovered Memories pamphlet. The two professional groups have provided us with their mailing lists for the project.

How Dr. Piper discovered FMS
The story of how Dr. Piper got involved with the FMS problem is interesting and revealing. In the late 1980’s and early 1990s he was a member of the Quality Assurance Committee of a small Seattle hospital. For a while he was also chair of its department of psychiatry. At that time he and his staff began noticing what to them seemed a strange phenomenon. Patients were being hospitalized, often for long periods of time, and only the therapists who had committed them could detect any real signs of pathology in them. The patients were mostly diagnosed with multiple personality disorder (MPD). And all these patients were under the care of a small handful of therapists. As Dr. Piper told us, “We began to think it was a big scam.” Research in the literature shed no light on the problem for Dr. Piper. He began writing and speaking about the problem of bogus MPD diagnoses and the use of sodium amytal in recovered memory therapy. These activities brought him to the attention of Pam Freyd who then invited him, in 1993, to join the FMS Foundation Advisory Board. And of course, eventually, Dr. Piper’s interest in MPD led
him to the writing of his book Hoax and Reality. He later also became a regular contributor to the Foundation newsletter.
In the meanwhile what had happened to the “MPD epidemic” at Dr. Piper’s hospital? A number of different pressures came to bear on the errant therapists. Dr. Piper’s Quality Assurance Committee brought their concerns to the hospital’s Medical Executive Committee. So did the nursing staff. And the errant therapists were called on the carpet. Insurance companies became critical. And then of course there were the well publicized lawsuits. The upshot of all this was that the number of cases of this kind at the hospital decreased considerably, but even today there are still some. A caution.

Report from Wisconsin:

the Hess case

Nine and one half years ago our daughter falsely accused us of childhood sexual abuse as a result of repressed memory therapy. Since then it has been a road of tears!

The road led me August 10th to Wausau, Wisconsin. Joan Hess 44, her ex-husband former mayor John Hess, and two children, 21 and 18 are suing Dr. Juan Fernandez III, a local psychiatrist, who treated Joan between 1991 and 1994. The Hesses claim Dr. Fernandez implanted false memories of childhood sexual molestation and satanic ritual abuse in Joan’s mind.

After four years of treatment with Fernandez Joan was constantly shifting among more than 75 personalities. She was severely suicidal, depressed, unable to work and no longer had a relationship with her family. She was getting worse and worse. She claims Dr. Fernandez paid little attention to her depression, but used hypnosis to implant in her mind horrific memories of sexual and satanic abuse at the hands of her father and other family members that included murder and cannibalism. It was after she started therapy with her present therapist, Ron Potter-Efron, that she began her slow return to normalcy. Hess today believes none of these memories and does not have multiple personalities.

By the time I arrived in the third week of the trial, psychologist and memory researcher Elizabeth Loftus, sociologist Richard Ofshe, and psychiatrist Paul McHugh had all testified as to the how and when of the implanting of memories. I had heard these experts at the Nadine Cool trial and they were riveting. They explained to the jury, in layman’s terms, how the implanting is done. In essence the jury get a “master’s class” in memory, influence, hypnosis, and psychiatric care. I understand they were every bit as impressive in the Hess trial as they had been when I heard them two years ago.

Another witness I missed was Betty Cameron, Dr. Fernandez’s nurse at the time of Hess’ treatment. Under Dr. Fernandez, Hess underwent a surgical hysterectomy for psychological reasons . When Hess’ attorney Bill Smoler questioned Cameron, a moment of high drama occurred. Betty removed her glasses and started to weep! She stated she would never be able to forgive herself for the part she played in the hysterectomy. She continued her story and there was not a dry eye in the court room.

Joan Hess was on the stand when I arrived. Her statement “I went to them for help” is haunting. I had never met her and indeed knew only that this was a false memory case. I thought Joan withstood the cross examination very well. She appeared calm and thoughtful in her responses. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to get up there, as Joan and her family have done, and tell he most intimate feelings and parts of one’s life.

The courage shown by the whole family is remarkable! An example for all of us to follow. Don’t give up.

After Joan finished, her present mental health care provider, Ron Potter-Efron from Eau Claire, Wisconsin took the stand on Joan’s behalf. He has a masters of social work. During Joan Hess’ therapy, he took no position on whether her memories were factual, but, let her come to those conclusions herself. He stated that in 1995 he didn’t know much about repressed memory therapy. He treated her with a great deal of compassion and care and she slowly got better. He finished his court room testimony by saying “She will always be wounded. She will always have scars. Those scars will not be erased from her soul. She will always have things to deal with that most human beings don’t have to deal with.”

When I returned to my room I was drained! My God, how dare people like Dr. Fernandez trash people’s lives and families. People like me, my daughter, my poor daughter!

Milwaukee psychiatrist Herzl Spiro testified all day Wednesday. He was superb! I had never heard him before. His credentials are remarkable just like those of the other experts. He stated that Fernandez’s care was negligent. Starting the first day Dr. Fernandez began as her psychiatrist, he diagnosed and treated her improperly. From that first moment, Spiro said, Dr. Fernandez was a “disaster”.

Dr. Spiro said Hess suffered from depression and said it was a relatively easy case to work with had it been handled properly. “ If Dr. Fernandez had performed as poorly on his medical exams as he did while treating Hess, he would not be an M.D. today.” Dr. Spiro .has helped to design board exams. He said Joan had “her guts pulled out.” He was reminded of Korean POWs he had worked with. Dr. Spiro is an expert on posttraumatic stress disorder.

Dr. Spiro is clearly a man of integrity, and his career attests to his skill in his profession. He appeared to be personally affronted that anyone, much less a doctor who was trained, would misbehave in such a notorious fashion.

It seemed clear to me by Dr. Fernandez’s demeanor in the court room that he acknowledges no wrongdoing in any way. He smiled often! I, of course, wanted to jump the court rail and throttle him!

I’m home now and it’s Saturday. The other side starts Monday. Now we wait for them to present their case (two weeks) and hope and pray for a just verdict.

The attorneys, Bill Smoler and Pam Schmelzer, are doing an awesome job. Their knowledge in the F.M.S. field is second to none. They also represented Nadine Cool. I will also say from personal experience, they are people of integrity and character - they really do care!. In the meantime, I wipe away the tears, take a deep breath and get ready for the next trial - in Monroe, Wisconsin in November - and continue to educate anyone who will listen about FMS.

Katie Spanuello

Elephant in the room:

A returnee story

Last fall we were moving into a smaller home and had to do a great deal of downsizing our things, including those things that belonged to our three children. Those that belonged to our accusing daughter were very difficult to deal with. We prayed, talked and prayed as to what to do. We decided to call and leave a message on her machine when we knew she would be at work. We told her we were moving and if she wanted her things to call us and come and get them. Much to our surprise she called that same night and said she wanted them. When she came and got her things she acted like nothing had happened. It has been seven years since we had contact with her! When we did not hear from her at Christmas we thought she wanted no further contact.

My birthday was shortly after Christmas. Much to our shock and surprise she came to our new home with a birthday card and a gift. I didn't even stop to think. I hugged her and cried and asked her in. She stayed a couple hours and we talked chit chat. We did not hear from her again until Mother's Day. Again she came with a card and gift. Same on Father's Day. Her birthday was shortly after Father's Day. We took her a card and gift. She was very pleased. We wonder what will happen next. How do we feel? There is 'an elephant in the room' each time we are with her. We feel very uneasy. But more important we feel it is a start. We feel she cannot believe those horrible things she said we did to her or she would not have made the contact. Prayer helped us keep our sanity the past seven years and is helping us to make it through now.

Mom and Dad

A veteran feminist speaks out about FMS

In courtrooms and scientific communities all over the world, a debate rages over the existence and reliability of recovered memories of child sexual abuse. The American Medical Association has issued a warning to doctors that recovered memories may not always be accurate and need to be verified. The British Royal College of Psychiatrists has banned the use of memory retrieval techniques such as hypnosis, guided imagery and regression therapies to uncover past sexual abuse. Nor are recovered memories faring well in the courts: the Supreme Court of New Hampshire and the Court of Appeals in California, among others, have ruled that recovered memories are not sufficiently reliable to be admitted as evidence.

But in mainstream feminist circles, it is still considered taboo to challenge the veracity of any recovered memories. An unwritten law in the women's movement dictates that we must accept every claim of sexual abuse by another woman, or else we are not being supportive of survivors. Many campus feminists act as though the recovered-memory debate were moot and dismiss it as part of the increasing reactionary backlash against women.

A few years ago, I worked as a collective member at a local university women's center. One day, I walked into the center carrying a copy of Mark Pendergrast's book, Victims of Memory, in the hope of discussing it with other women. An investigative journalist, Pendergrast has written an exhaustive, well-researched treatise that favors the false memory syndrome perspective. His own two daughters, after being in therapy, accused him of unspecified acts of sexual abuse and cut off all contact with him.

Pendergrast and I disagree on the extent of true recovered memories. While he acknowledges (and documents) corroborated cases in which people forgot sexual abuse and then remembered it later, he does not believe in massive repression in which years of traumatic events are completely forgotten and later recalled. I believe that massive repression is possible and that many recovered memories may be essentially accurate reconstructions of events. Nonetheless, we both concur that false memory syndrome is a serious problem for the women who have rewritten their pasts and for parents who are on the receiving end of unwarranted accusations.

Imagine my surprise when I sat down with a group of six female students in the women's center and asked if anyone had read Pendergrast's book. The women visibly shuddered. They raised their voices. They called Pendergrast a "perp" and me a "perp defender" because I had an ongoing correspondence with him. One woman shouted, "Too many trees died to make that book." All of the women refused to read the book. Some barely spoke to me for months afterwards and referred to me behind my back as "that friend of Pendergrast's."

I was astonished that such closed-mindedness could exist in academia. At the age of 44, I have been active in the women's movement for 25 years. I have worked in women's centers in three universities, headed task forces for the National Organization for Women, and sat through the original mover-shaker consciousness raising groups of the '70s. Over the years, I have engaged in heated conversations on topics as volatile as the exploitation of sex trade workers, the safety of S&M, and the role of pornography in male violence. Yet I have never encountered a topic as contentious as that of recovered memories of sexual abuse.

How could these students have assumed that Pendergrast was guilty of incest without knowing anything about the science of the recovered memory debate? According to the students, false memory syndrome was merely a legal defense contrived by accused perpetrators. If FMS does not exist, parents like Pendergrast who are accused on the basis of recovered memories have to be guilty.

This logic ignores the retractors -- individuals, usually female, who have declared that their therapists have recklessly and erroneously encouraged them to believe that they were victims of sexual abuse. According to Pamela Freyd, Executive Director of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, more than 300 retractors have contacted the foundation. Students at the women's center viewed the retractors as "survivors in denial." They did not want to hear the stories of the retractors' anguish in therapy. They did not wish to read the works of cognitive psychologist Elizabeth Loftus or of sociologist Richard Ofshe, who are critical of recovered memory. They did not want to hear about the FBI report by Kenneth Lanning indicating that there is not a shred of evidence for the existence of multigenerational satanic cults in which children are subjected to ritual sexual abuse.

There should be no place in academia for such a rigid refusal to hear both sides of an argument. In "Professing Feminism," dissident feminists Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge speak of the "silencing" and "ideological policing" that often occur in women's studies classes to prevent women from espousing beliefs that run contrary to the feminist party line. I felt silenced at this university women's center. I have been made to feel guilty on countless occasions because I have argued for false memory syndrome, although I believe strongly in recovered memories as well.

The feminist view that self-proclaimed survivors of sexual violence must be believed under all circumstances arose in response to a centuries-old history of callously dismissing women's and children's complaints of abuse. It is a sign of social progress that victims of sexual abuse are taken more seriously today. However, the feminist community must acknowledge that repressed and recovered memories are extremely controversial.

When I was growing up, my brother and I had political disagreements at the dinner table. Often, he would jokingly interrupt me to say, "Excuse me! I didn't mean to confuse you with the facts." This served as a reminder to me that I had not armed myself with enough information to hold up my end of the debate. Certain segments of the women's movement are currently suffering from the same righteousness that I had in my twenties. Regardless of the ultimate cost of sacrificing principles in favor of rhetoric, these feminists do not wish to confuse themselves with the facts. Sigrid Macdonald

(From the Women’s Freedom Network Newsletter (1997), with author’s permission)

Fellow Rush psychiatrist agrees to testify against Bennett Braun

The Illinois Department of Professional Regulation (IPDR) settled with psychiatrist Elva Poznanski in its license revocation case against her. It is also prosecuting Dr. Bennett Braun, and psychologist Roberta Sachs. (See May 1999 newsletter.) Bennett Braun is charged with gross mistreatment of the Burgus family.

Bennett Braun’s case will proceed as planned with the next pre-trial hearing Oct. 5. The trial itself will commence on November 2, 1999 and will continue for most of the month. (As many members as possible are urged to attend as many hearing and trial sessions as possible at the State of Illinois Building in Chicago.) Since Braun’s attorney did not provide any additional defense material by the June 1 court deadline, he will not be able to add any new experts, witnesses, etc. other than the ones already listed.

The IDPR settled with Poznanski, according to information from prosecutor Tom Glasgow, to obtain her cooperation in the case against Bennett Braun and Roberta Sachs. According to the consent order she will testify against Braun and Sachs in any IDPR hearings, and will continue to help in any further cases. The order also requires that she must step down as head of child psychiatry at Rush hospital within two years and not provide any recovered memory therapy or satanic ritual abuse therapy to any patients. As reported, according to Glasgow, she will write to the Board of the IDPR explaining what she did wrong and why. Glasgow also said that the Department agreed to settle with Poznanski because of her age (70), her cooperation, and because she was the least culpable of the three. The Burgus family also agreed with the terms of the settlement.

(Source: The REALL News, July 1999)

President's Corner

Dear Illinois FMS Members:

Over the last year or so, we have had much good news in our organization--both on the national level in positive trial outcomes and on the local and personal level in significant changes in some estranged children and siblings. The use of MPD and SRA diagnoses has come in for strong professional and legal sanctions; and even recovered memory therapy itself has been further discredited in the media and among the public at large. On the personal level, some sons and daughters of our organization's members have made positive steps toward rapprochement with their parents; and some of our members who have been engaged in long legal battles against professionals who brainwashed their sons and daughters and devastated their lives have seen their lives move on and resume some semblance of normality. These are all developments for which we can be grateful and from which we can derive hope.

And yet I believe that there are very good reasons to maintain and strengthen our resolve to continue to fight this scourge of recovered memory therapy. Recently in my travels I have heard from two different young people of the efforts of professionals (a school counselor in one case and a medical doctor in the other) to convince them they had been sexually abused as young children because of a presenting emotional or physical problem. (In the one case, the young man had no presenting emotional problem, but his doctor tried to make him believe his parents' abuse had caused his colitis.) In these two cases the young people involved each had the strength and courage to tell their "caregivers" to go to hell and to walk out of their respective offices. But another two cases I heard about were of women who had mortgaged their homes and virtually everything they owned for the privilege of being told by a certain Illinois psychiatrist that their early lives had been ones of ritual abuse and membership in satanic cults. These two latter adults are now living in poverty and fear, emotionally dependent and yet alone and alienated from family, still convinced that the lies fed to them by this "doctor" are the truth.

What I am saying is this: not one of these four individual cases is known to the FMS Foundation, nor to any legal or professional authorities. That's because none of these four different people has reported what happened to them to the Foundation, nor do I think any of them (or their concerned relatives) had heard of the Foundation before I spoke with them We often try to think about or talk about the real people whose real lives are behind the numbers and statistics; the four cases I have mentioned are not even counted in the statistics. They are the unknown casualties of this terribly mistaken pathway of psychotherapy. We can only hope that these casualties will emerge from the wreckage before this cruel hoax is all over with. And we must continue our work in that direction.

Finally, I would like to urge you to come to the great fall conference that we have organized and that will take place Sunday, Oct.3rd. A detailed program and a registration form are included in this issue, for those of you who have not yet signed up.

See you there!

Reinder Van Til, Co-President