Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society
December 1999, Vol. 5, no. 4
At its annual membership meeting, on November 7, 1999, the Illinois FMS Society decided to reach out to the hitherto unorganized afflicted families in Wisconsin. A new organization was formed -- the Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society -- and an invitation was extended to all the concerned families and their friends in Wisconsin to join together with the Illinois group in one organization, which, like the Illinois FMS Society, will also be incorporated. A number of Wisconsin parents were already members of the Illinois FMS Society and many more have attended many of its conferences and received its newsletter.
The following members from Wisconsin were elected. Katie Spanuello was elected Vice President for Wisconsin of the new group and Larry and Louise K. and Leo Spanuello were named to its Steering Committee. The name Illinois FMS Society will still be retained, and used when appropriate, and the corporation of that name will continue to exist along side the new body which is to be incorporated in Illinois and Wisconsin.
After electing officers and the Steering Committee the membership meeting adopted by laws drafted by Cas, and a year 2000 budget as proposed by Gretchen. Reinder concluded the meeting by summarizing the highlights of the previous year’s activities of the Illinois FMS Society.
Elections for 1999-2000
Officers and Chairpersons:
Co-Presidents: Reinder Van Til and Sherri Hines
Vice President for Illinois: Marv Scadron
Vice President for Wisconsin: Katie Spanuello
Treasurer: Bill Lanz
Secretary: Liz LaPlant
Budget Chairperson: Gretchen
Newsletter editors: Walter, Gretchen
Other Steering Committee members:
Frank & Hildegard Baxpehler, Leo Spanuello, Mary Shanley, Larry & Louise K. Larry, Laura.
Bennett Braun: the end
Chicago psychiatrist Bennett Braun has come to the end of the road. In early October of this year, poised to go to trial before an administrative judge of the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation, he plea bargained. (Our readers will remember our numerous previous articles on Braun, especially in relationship to the Burgus case.) The terms of the pleas bargain are:
- Braun’s license is suspended for two years.
- This suspension is to be followed by a probationary period of five years during which he cannot treat any M.P.D. patients, supervise other physicians, and during which he must show the disciplinary order to anyone who hires him.
- In addition, he must undergo additional medical training during the probationary period.
- He must pay a $5,000 fine.
- To get off probation after 7 years, Braun, who is 59, must prove to the Medical Disciplinary Board that he is no longer a danger to the public.“It is going to be very difficult for him to seek employment in Illinois,” said IDPR spokesman Tony Sanders. Tom Glasgow, who originally prosecuted the case, was quoted as saying: “He’s never again going to have the chance to destroy someone’s life like he has destroyed the lives of so many in the past.” It should be added, also, that with eleven civil lawsuits against him, four or five settled and the rest pending, Braun is very unlikely ever to get malpractice coverage again.
Pat Burgus, who was the most instrumental in bring Bennett Braun to justice, summed it up the best when she said: “This is a strong message to all the therapists who practice this way … this is wrong, you are going to be punished, you’re going to be sued. You don’t use hypnosis to rewrite someone’s life.”
No so long ago, Bennett Braun was regarded as one of the top national authorities on multiple personality disorder and satanic ritual abuse. He did much to spread the popularity of these “diagnoses” and trained many others in the field. Think about it. Walter
Public library project
In order to get more books with an FMS perspective into public libraries we have put together a public library project. The packet of instructions, booklists and book reviews were handed out at the annual conference in October. Included in the packet are the core instructions: Suggestions for getting books accepted by public libraries. This project was put together by a professional librarian with years of experience in public libraries
Pamela Freyd of the FMS Foundation wrote to us: “The books-in-the-library material is outstanding. I will send it to all state contacts shortly and to individuals who have expressed an interest in doing something.”
Please let us know if you have used this packet, and let us know how well the approach worked. For more information or to request a packet please call or write the Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society.
News from Wisconsin
Hess Case: $862,000 jury award
On September 2, after five weeks of testimony, the jury found psychiatrist Juan Fernandez, III negligent in his treatment of Joan Hess.
Katie Spanuello continues her account of the trial that she began in the August 1999 Newsletter:
I was not in attendance for all of the last week of the trial. I did, however, hear Carolyn Decker (a therapist who treated J. Hess and settled out of court) describe her treatment of Joan. At one point in her treatment she sent Joan Hess to a psychic. When attorney Smoler questioned her we found out it was the same psychic Decker used! The therapist, however, declined to use the word psychic and instead insisted upon “intuitive”. She would/could not give a definition.
Decker also claimed she had not used repressed memory therapy and that she had used self esteem therapy. As I listened to her testimony it became clear to me that therapists haven’t stopped using R.M.T. they are just calling it by another name.
They no longer find many M.P.D.s (multiple personality disorder), but a lot of people are suffering from Dissociate Identity Disorder. R.M.T. is out so they use self esteem therapy with guided imagery to remember.
The trial went to the jury Monday afternoon.(August 30) Tuesday and Wednesday were very long days. On Thursday afternoon the jury reached a verdict. Dr. Juan Fernandez III was found negligent in his treatment of Joan Hess. The jury awarded J. Hess and family $862,000.
I cried with joy that finally someone (the jury) could see and call to account what horrific damage so many in the mental health field have been doing. I was disappointed in the size of the award. The cost of defending a case like this is so high. The insurance companies seem to have unlimited funds and private law firms do not.
The insurance company has not yet decided if they will appeal. As of now no dollars have been distributed. I’ll keep you posted.
It is interesting to me that in a quiet state like Wisconsin we have seen so much R.M.T. legal action. Let me remind you:
1997 - Naden Cool was awarded a 2.4 million dollar settlement in Appleton against Dr. K. Olson. The story was on 60 Minutes.
1999 -Supreme Court ruling in the Sawyer case allowed 3rd party lawsuits in R.M.T. This will affect the entire country.
Black River Falls - Three students who had been treated with repressed memory therapy by therapist Karen Burgoyne received a $650,000 settlement. One of the student’s father was part of the lawsuit settlement.
Seasons Greetings and Happy New Year to all our readers
Reuniting families: a professional view
On October 3rd seventy six people gathered for our annual conference. Five therapists were in the audience. As usual the conference was very stimulating and informative. Space permits only a mention of the highlights. What follows is the personal reaction of one parent (Gretchen) to the conference. She said:
“The conference gave me a new perspective which has been very helpful in my dealings with my accusing children. The concept of our children being in a delusional state gives me a better ability to be patient. Dr. Piper described how therapists deal with delusional patients. You should not confront the delusion directly. It only hardens and makes a person more firm in his or her thinking. You have to work to gradually undermine the delusion by presenting information that gently challenges the false ideas. For us that often means any contact we can have with our children, or any experience we can give them which might remind them of their real past. As others have said, memories of their real past and contact with real parents can make them uneasy about their falsely constructed world.
Along with the idea of working with delusional people, another concept that I found useful was presented by Mary Kay Pribyl - cognitive dissonance. She described how positive views of their childhood and contact with the real family can gradually make a person uncomfortable about their directly contradictory beliefs. ‘How can the person who is behaving to me this way be the monster I think he is?’
Also helpful was the information that this is a very slow process. Much as we want to hurry along any change, we have to remember that change can come too quickly for some people. If the cognitive dissonance is too sharp or sudden it can be very threatening to some of our children.. So the conference gave me the message: be patient. The conference also gave me again a picture of what our children have often endured –the hypnotic and other suggestive techniques, the excessive medication, the amytal, the fraudulent self-help books, the so called support groups, and the numerous cultural suggestions all hinting ‘you have been abused’. Their minds have been deeply affected and, as Dr. Piper pointed out, the false images they have thus acquired are exceedingly difficult to remove. Change therefore will only come slowly, sometimes very slowly.”
The theme of “Reuniting families”, from the perspective of professionals was tackled by the keynote speaker Seattle psychiatrist August Piper. Reinder Van Til, our co-president, then spoke on “The culture of victimization.” After lunch a panel of therapists (see photo at left) composed of Drs. Piper, Mary Kay Pribyl, Larry Koszewsky and Gary Almy, with Reinder Van Til as moderator, also tackled the conference theme. A vigorous discussion with the audience followed the panel and closed the conference. A conference evaluation from is enclosed. We would appreciate it if you filled it out.
Illinois Statute of Limitations changed
The statute of limitations for criminal sexual abuse of children in the State of Illinois was changed by the Illinois General Assembly in 1999 and HB 329 was signed into law by the Governor on August 11, 1999.
In the previous statute of limitations for criminal sexual abuse of children in Illinois, the limitations period was one year after attaining the age of 18, or three years after the commission of the offense, whichever expired later.
The Criminal Code was amended to allow prosecution to be commenced within 10 years of the commission of the offense if the victim reported the offense within 2 years, or if the victim was under 18, 10 years after the victim became 18. (PA 91-0475).
Essentially, the statute of limitations has been changed from age 21 to 28 years old (from 3 years to 10 years after age 18). The statute of limitations in civil cases has not been changed.
Have you handed out some “Recovered Memories” fliers lately?
Our Web site goes online!
On November 10th the Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society’s web site went online. The URL (web address) is www.IllinoisFMS.org. (We bought our domain name before the idea of joining with Wisconsin was conceived.) The web site is still under construction but has enough content to warrant going public now. The site will both serve our internal needs to quickly communicate the latest news about legislation, court cases, media events, etc. and our need to make our case to the world, especially to our accusing children. It is hoped eventually to have all our past newsletters available at the site, as well as the full text of some important documents and talks such as some from our recent conference, for which there is no room in our newsletter. Down the road we may perhaps add a bulletin board where members may air their views.
So log on and take a look!
Readers without Internet access can go to their public library, most of whom now have free Internet access. Let us know what you think.
Year 2000 membership renewal
By the time you receive this newsletter the new year and new century will almost be at hand. You will find an envelope enclosed for your membership renewal. If you can afford it, try to give more than the minimum $20. With your dues we defray, among other things, the cost of printing and mailing this newsletter, maintain our toll free number and the web site, subsidize our annual conference and do special mailings, such as the recent one to 3000 therapists. Please do your bit.
Tragedy in Wisconsin
My dad’s experiences as an accused FMS father have included reasons for hope, combined with a cascade of things gone wrong. Our family experience begins much like that of many other families. My sister became involved in Recovered Memory Therapy in the early 1990’s and infected our family with the notions of incest and child molestation. When these issues hit our family, it exploded in hysteria, speculation, and accusations. The accusations initially focused on Dad, but in time grew to include several others who had been rash enough to challenge them.
Dad maintained his innocence from the beginning, and has ever since. After the accusations were reported to authorities, he was charged with Sexual Assault of a Child. Isolated, and upon the advice of his lawyer, he agreed to an Alford Plea. In an Alford plea, the defendant acknowledges that, unchallenged, there is sufficient evidence for a conviction, but also is allowed to maintain his or her innocence. There was no evidence against Dad other than the accusations themselves. At the sentencing, Dad got engaged in an exchange with the judge, steadfastly maintaining his innocence, and received a prison term of ten years. When this was pronounced, Dad looked as though his heart had been ripped form his chest, and he was just waiting for gravity to pull him to the floor.
After a year in prison, with the help of two wonderful attorneys, Marty Kohler and Mia Sefarbi, we were able to obtain a resentencing. In a legal miracle we will always be thankful for, Dad was released from prison, and sentenced to ten years of probation. Since then most of the family has reconstituted, save for the accusers. Dad had been serving his probation well, following his rules for six years, when the cascade of wrongs began to spill over again. Following changes in Wisconsin’s practices in treating those convicted of sexual offenses, Dad was assigned to a “Denial Group.” It is the focus of this group to elicit admissions of guilt. The “therapists” running the group use highly confrontational tactics, including repeated threats that Dad would be reimprisoned unless he offered a confession. Dad continued to maintain his innocence, and they made good on their threats. On October 1, of this year, Dad was confronted one last time by his probation officer. When he refused to provide a confession, he was handcuffed and taken into custody. He is currently being held at the Racine Correctional Institute. Because he is “only” on probationary hold, he has had fewer visiting and other privileges than the other inmates. He is cold at night, bored during the day, and frightened about his safety.
Dad is scheduled for a hearing on January 20, at which it will be decided whether or not his probation will be revoked. The stakes are high. If we lose, he will return to serving his ten year prison term where he left off, with no credit for his six years of uneventful probation. The grounds he is being held on are three: First, he allegedly refused to successfully complete “Denial Group.” (In other words, he maintained his innocence.) Second, during a recent polygraph exam, he allegedly engaged in “irregular breathing” during a question. (He has “passed” two previous polygraphs, and reportedly “passed” the other four questions on this exam.) Third, he allegedly provided his probation officer with “false” information, when asked for a confession. (Again, he maintained his innocence.)
We have retained a good attorney, and maintaining the hope that we will prevail at the hearing. If we do not, we must then file an appeal, which will further delay his release. At the age of seventy-two, Dad fears he will not survive the ordeal. His spirits are up and down. As Reinder Van Till once comforted me, sometimes one must live on faith, and that is what we are now doing.
As you know, our organization is changing. At the annual membership meeting in November, we officially expanded our representation to include the state of Wisconsin. At last count, nearly two hundred families in Wisconsin were known to be affected by the tragedy of FMS, apart from those suffering in silence and isolation. Up until now, all efforts in Wisconsin have been through the concerted action of dedicated and tireless individuals-- there has been no local organization to offer support, solace, and an outlet through which affected families could fight the malignancy of FMS. Now all that has changed and we look forward to joining forces with our energetic neighbors to the north.
At this juncture, it seems appropriate to reflect a bit on what we’ve done, and where we have been, both in Illinois and in Wisconsin.. The Illinois FMS Society has been a vocal and visible advocate for Illinois families touched by FMS since 1993. We host annual and other conferences featuring nationally renowned experts. We have published this newsletter quarterly since 1994. The media and public officials have been kept well-informed about the devastation recovered memory therapy has wreaked. We have also lobbied the Illinois legislature, as for example, on the Hypnotherapist bill. Just recently we made a mass mailing to 3,000 mental health workers and we prepared a public library project to get more of “our” books into public libraries. Also we discussed our concerns with representatives from the Illinois Attorney General’s office. And this list is just a sample.!
In Wisconsin, concerned families initiated a letter-writing campaign to protest the appearance of Ellen Bass at Sinai-Samaritan in Milwaukee. These families lobbied the hospital, and Marquette University, the sponsor. Two state-wide FMS conferences have been hosted.. Also the annual Midwest Conference on Child Sexual Abuse at the University of Wisconsin has repeatedly been lobbied by some individuals, resulting in significant media exposure about the devastation of FMS. Wisconsin families were a constant presence at the Supreme Court session dealing with the third party lawsuit case. And this, too, is just a sample of what has been going on in Wisconsin!
We can’t go wrong with this sort of energy behind us. An exciting year awaits us with our new expanded identity, and I look forward to many of our Wisconsin friends joining our Society. Our combined voices add up to a might shout.
This month marks the end of our co-president Eileen Schmidt’s term. In Reinder’s and my time with Illinois FMS, nobody has been a more dedicated and selfless worker in our cause than Eileen. Whether it was presiding over meetings or planning major events or organizing protests or simply doing the computer dirty work --Eileen did it all with efficiency, dignity, and without complaint.. We will miss her energetic work and magnanimous spirit at the helm, and we wish her the best in what she continues to do.
Finally, do not forget to renew your membership for the year 2000. Try, if you can, to make a contribution larger than the $20 minimum. Envelopes are enclosed for that purpose.
Reinder and I want to wish you all a wonderful new year and extend a warm welcome to all our friends in Wisconsin to come and join us in our new group. Seasons greetings and happy new year!