Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society
March 2001 Vol. 7, no. 1
Three daughters return
The other evening, one of my daughters invited my wife and me for dinner. We gladly accepted and as we were eating my mind went over the events of the last four months. My thoughts reminded me of the phrase from Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times."
A few years ago, my wife had a series of seizures that left her with dementia. I became her caregiver for however long it required. To our dismay, late last September, I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. There was an immediate requirement for my hospitalization and an even more urgent requirement for care for my wife. Since two of my daughters had made accusations and the other two sympathized with them I could only turn to close relations for the immediate help required. I later found live-in help to care for my wife and for me when I returned from the hospital.
I had been in the hospital for about a week, when on a Sunday evening, after normal visiting hours, our youngest daughter (one of the accusers) came into the room. I had not seen or talked with her for at least 10 years. She was accompanied by her new husband whom I had never known. She talked - I talked - we cried. She remained until very late and came back to visit again. The next day, another daughter who sympathized with her sisters, came to visit with her husband and son. We talked and she also came back again. A few days later, my granddaughters, whom I’ve not seen for over 11 years came to visit. They were attractive, very adult and interesting people. Their parents did well in raising them. The following week, after I returned home, another daughter who lives a distance away, came to visit with us accompanied by her husband. She is the other accusing daughter. The visit was very emotional.
None of the conversation with my daughters was about the past. At their request, the only thing of interest was the present and the future. It appears to me, that they really no longer remember the reasons for the accusations. Our fourth daughter has chosen not to make contact. The other daughters assure us that she is well and happy. They will not discuss anything else about her.
Prior to my illness, we had despaired not having an intact family, and my wife and I had resigned ourselves that we would never hear from or see our children and grandchildren again. Suddenly, with the exception of one daughter, everything was coming together. We are all on our best behavior although somewhat strained. I expect, that as the relations mature, they will open up and the fourth daughter will make contact.
My wife’s dementia has not improved. I’m still in chemotherapy with chances for a long remission. And here we’re eating supper at my daughter’s home as if nothing happened. I can accept that - I think.
$5 million jury award
After a three week trial a Wisconsin jury awarded Delores and Tom Sawyer 5 million dollars March 16. The jury decided that the Sawyers’ daughter Nancy Anneatra was a victim of abuse, but not at the hands of her parents or brother, but instead she was the victim of false memories planted by therapists Dr. H. Berit Midelfort and Celia Lausted. "This is a tragedy that has happened to the Sawyer family, and a lot of families" said Madison attorney Bill Smoler, one of the family’s attorneys.
In 1985, in her therapist’s office (after a year of therapy with Lausted), Nancy accused the Sawyers and her brother of abusing her. The Sawyers denied the abuse, but Nancy severed all her connections with them. A year after coming under the treatment of Midelfort she sued her parents (in 1988) seeking civil damages for the harm caused by the claimed abuse. The suit was dismissed. She continued therapy until her death from cancer in 1995.
After Anneatra died her mother was appointed administrator of her estate and obtained the treatment records. The Sawyers claim that only then did they discover the role her treatment had in the recovery of her "memories". In 1996 The Sawyers filed suit but the case was dismissed. It was appealed and made it to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. In 1999 this court decided the Sawyers had a right to seek damages for the pain caused by their daughter’s accusation. In its March 16th decision the Eau Claire County jury found Anneatra’s claims of childhood sexual abuse were grounded upon memories implanted by Lausted. These memories, the jury concluded, were inaccurate and reinforced by Midelfort.
This is a significant victory for the Sawyers and for parents who have been falsely accused. Officials say its outcome could have state and national impact. Quoting Pamela Freyd, "It’s the first case of its sort where a third part who has not been a party to the therapy has gone so far in terms of bring a lawsuit against a therapist." And now this lawsuit has been won!
The Sawyer’s attorney, Bill Smoler, will tell us more about this case and its implications at our Wisconsin conference April 22.
(Information taken from the Leader-Telegram Online, March 12 & 17. 2001, and from the FMS Foundation Newsletter, May 1998)
FMS Foundation’s goals next two years
In a letter to members dated January 23, 2001, the Foundation outlined three major projects it is undertaking in the next two years:
1. Family reconciliation and reunification - scholarly studies are to be initiated aimed at speeding this reconciliation.
2. Expand the Foundations web site to enable all concerned to have quicker access to needed information
3. Archive the Foundations’ extraordinary files and materials so that researchers can have ready access to this invaluable information on the development of FMS.
Where are we now?
Where are we now in our struggle to enlighten our sons and daughters, the general public and the professionals and in our efforts to stop the practice of recovered memory therapy (RMT)? Based on our own personal knowledge, it would seem we have had a fair number of returnees, fewer recanters. It would be useful to have hard numbers. Maybe the Foundation could do a survey; maybe our Illinois-Wisconsin Society could do one among its membership. Again based only on our personal knowledge, the returnees’ "returning" is often harrowing to parents because of its unpredictable endless back and forth nature. What influences are at work that causes any one of our children to become firmly and unalterably committed to "returning" is still a riddle wrapped in an enigma.
There are fewer new parents contacting us and the Foundation. But to what extent is this a reflection of a decline of FMS related stories in the media? We can’t tell.
Clearly the recovered memory movement has lost whatever intellectual standing it ever had. A significant number of its erstwhile leaders, such a Braun and Kluft and many others, have been successfully sued or lost their licenses, or have been otherwise entangled with the law.
According to Chris Barden, some time ago most hospitals closed down their MPD units. When even such a fervent believer in the value of therapy as Ann Landers uses such tough condemning language about RMT as she did recently (see article p.6), then you get the feeling that those of the general public that are aware of the issue now regard RMT as beyond the pale.
But then think of how little progress there has been in the area of church counseling. See Tom Rutherford’s comments in the "Presidents Corner" (p.7) on that issue. Then also go into a local Border’s or Barnes and Noble bookstore and look at their section on "Self help" or whatever they call it. There you will likely find quite a significant number of new and old bad books on RMT and few if any books from our perspective. The Courage to Heal and its Workbook (the latter never revised since 1989!) are still top sellers, even best sellers for all we know. Read some of the nearly sixty glowing, passionate reader reviews of The Courage to Heal on the Amazon.com web site - many written quite recently. A significant number of these reviews say "recommended by my therapist."
Of course the smarter folks use new terms. It’s no longer repression but dissociation, for instance, but it’s the same disreputable old game that is being peddled. To take a case in point, there is the recently published Stranger in the Mirror: Dissociation: the Secret Epidemic of our Times by Marlene Steinberg and Maxine Schnall. This book was beautifully debunked by Elizabeth Loftus in Psychology Today (Nov./Dec. 2000) and reviewed in the Jan/Feb 2001 FMS Foundation Newsletter. According to this book, if you have Dissociative Disorder it’s likely evidence of being abused as a child. And Steinberg has devised a "sure fire" test to tell if you have the disorder, a test so vague that almost anybody who takes it can be tagged Dissociative. Whoa! Isn’t this where we came in back in the 1980’s? And what about another new book: The Body Remembers: the Psychophysiology of Trauma and Treatment whose title is its message, and the several new memoirs from supposed multiples? Pamela Freyd recently compared the recovered memory belief complex to a weed with roots stretching beneath the surface so that when it is plucked up in one spot it quickly pops up in another. It is only a foolish gardener who believes a few seasons’ treatment will keep his lawn permanently weed-free.
Wisconsin conference April 22nd
Mark the day on your calendar - Sunday, April 22nd. That is the day our Society will hold a mini-conference in the Milwaukee area. It is the first such conference since the Illinois - Wisconsin merger. Featured speaker will be Bill Smoler, well known Wisconsin attorney in a number of FMS cases. His cases include the Cool Case (in which he won a $2 million + settlement), the landmark Sawyer case (third party lawsuit), just concluded with a $5 million jury verdict (see p.1) and the Karen Johnson case, which is another landmark third party lawsuit due to be argued before the Wisconsin Supreme Court April 6th (Johnson vs Rogers Memorial Hospital). Bill Smoler should have some very interesting things to tell us.
A second speaker will be from the group called Grandparents Rights of Wisconsin (G.R.O.W.) See an article about this group on p.5. The conference will be rounded out by round tables on various topics and a box supper. This should be a great meeting and a good chance for our Wisconsin and Illinois members to get together in an informal setting. A conference program, registration form and return envelope can be found as inserts in this issue. Sign up now!
Public library project
What is the best way to reach your accusing son or daughter with the truth about their condition? Mailing them material directly is the least effective way by universal agreement. Getting good books on FMS into public libraries is one of the best ways. There these books sit quietly waiting for the day your son or daughter has those first doubts. How often have we heard from recanters that it was to their public library that they turned to at that moment! Please, don’t let anyone who is in that boat come away without good material in his or her hands.
Remember, too, your accusing child’s friends or supporting relatives may be the ones who have gotten doubts about the truth of the accusations, and it is they who may be on the search for materials, and it is they who may then help to awaken doubts in you son or daughter’s minds. Think, too, about the newly accused parent. Yes, there are such. Just last week the Steering Committee heard from such a parent who frantically rushed to her public library in Niles, IL and found three good books there, books that led her to the Foundation and from the Foundation to us. Thank you Niles!
If you no longer have your public library project materials, or you never had them, you can get them by contact us at 847-827-1056. You can also go to our web site at www.IllinoisFMS.org where you can find most of what you need.
Writing online book reviews
Several people in the FMS community have been promoting this idea and it’s a good one. We would like to urge you to give it a try. For those of you who do not know what the project is about here is the gist of it. Go to the web sites of online books sellers, like www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com, that permit customer reviews of their titles and write favorable reviews of "good" books and unfavorable reviews of "bad" books. A few hints: keep the review really short, make it sound knowledgeable (read the book!), don’t rant. Remember, most public libraries now have free internet access and you can consult our list of "good" and "bad" books that are included in our public library project mentioned above. There is also a list of good books to be found on the www.stopbadtherapy.com site that is extensively annotated.
of WI, Inc.
"When a Child is Born, a Family
Receives Two Precious Gifts..…
And….. a Grandparent"
Back in 1982, a group of unhappy grandparents assembled in a small living room in Plymouth, Wisconsin. There was a common link between these grandparents. All had been denied the right of visitation and contact with their grandchildren. The consensus was that they were being treated unfairly and that they had to do something to change matters.
Thus, Grandparents Rights of WI., Inc., (G.R.O.W.) was formed. In 1984, the group was incorporated as a non-profit corporation. Today, G.R.O.W. is a Wisconsin state-wide organization dedicated to preserving, protecting and restoring the bond between grandparent and grandchild.
Until recently, there were virtually no laws that protected the rights of Wisconsin grandparents to maintain contact with their grandchildren. The same goes nationally. Through the efforts of G.R.O.W. over the past few years, there are now laws that provide grandparents in many circumstances the right to petition the Court for visitation with their grandchildren. The most recent being the Out-of-Wedlock visitation law. As always, the standard is that any visitation granted would be in the "best interest of the children".
Although Wisconsin does have at least four statutes on the books, that does not guarantee that visitation will be granted. However, it is a good start. The laws only mean that grandparents now have legal standing to petition the Court for visitation.
There is nothing more heart rendering for a child or a grandparent, than to be isolated and cut off from someone you have loved and developed a strong emotional bond with.
It is well documented that neglect and loneliness are extremely destructive forms of child abuse.
Grandparents provide a valuable element of stability and unconditional love to grandchildren. This contributes a great deal to a child’s sense of security, confidence and overall development into a successful, productive member of society.
One of the services that G.R.O.W. provides is for a support group. It is common knowledge that, like FMS, most people cannot comprehend the suffering that someone is feeling unless they have had a similar experience themselves. Through the years, the G.R.O.W. organization has continued to provide comfort, support and advice on how to cope and how to understand the situation they find themselves within. State-wide support meetings are held monthly in the Milwaukee area year around. Guest speakers are scheduled 4-6 times a year to help educate grandparents on the how’s and why’s of dealing with various issues within the social service or court system and to better understand how they can achieve a desired outcome as it pertains to a continued relationship with their grandchildren.
G.R.O.W., Inc. can be reached by calling: 414-535-1218 in Milwaukee.
Moment of truth at the diaper table
In an e-mail to our Reinder Van Til, Adrian Mack, Ontario coordinator of FMS, tells how his accusing son discovered that he was wrong about his accusations. Adrian’s son was diapering his own baby when he realized that his father couldn’t have done what he had been accusing his father of doing to him when he himself was an infant!
"No special link between child abuse and dissociation"
In a New Zealand study, 180 women who recalled childhood sexual abuse were compared with a control group who did not recall such abuse. The first group were found not to have any greater tendency to have Dissociative experiences or defenses than the control groups. Many recovered memory therapists and theorists have always maintained that dissociation is one special consequence of childhood sexual abuse and that it is dissociation that causes such phenomena as multiple personality and amnesia.
(From The Harvard Mental Health Letter, August 2000, p. 7-8)
"False memories are more vivid than real memories"
With the passage of time real memories tend to blur while false memories are judged more vivid and come more readily to mind, according to the research of Peter Frost in Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 2000, 7(3), 531-536.
Fall 2001 conference
The Fall 2001 conference of the Society will be on Oct 7th or Oct 14th. We are hoping to obtain the nationally famous Professor Paul McHugh as the featured speaker. Prof. McHugh is Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, one of the nation’s foremost medical schools. He is also a veteran expert witness of many FMS cases, author of numerous articles about the FMS problem, and a much beloved speaker at national FMS conferences. Mark your calendars!
Ann Landers on "charlatans"
Dear Ann Landers: You printed a letter from "Crushed in California". whose daughter "Norma"… made horrible accusations about her parents…
Norma’s odd behavior and hostile accusations sound a lot like those false recovered memories that were so popular a few years ago. This now-discredited type of therapy was based on the flaky theory that all adult problems are the result of some childhood trauma, the memories of which have been repressed….Under this so-called "therapy," patients are taught to recover these non-existent memories…
Lloyd in British Columbia
Dear Lloyd: You’ve used some extremely harsh language, but I go along with every word you have written. Thanks for another opportunity to unmask those charlatans who destroy families…
(Excerpt from Ann Landers column in The Chicago Tribune Oct. 2, 2000)
We want to bring you up to date on Richard’s heart-breaking story that we have been following in this newsletter for the last several issues. (See "Wisconsin Dad re-imprisoned" in Dec. 2000, and earlier issues.) Richard’s son reports the completion of his dad’s hearing before an administrative judge about his re-imprisonment for failure to "cooperate" in his therapy, i.e. for maintaining his innocence. The judge’s decision should com in late March. It will be appealed to the regular court system if the judge rules that Richard must continue to be imprisoned. In the meantime Richard suffered a compression fracture as a result of a fall, which has caused him endless agonizing pain. So far he has not yet been seen by an orthopedist for this problem, only by a nurse practitioner. One recent good bit of news for Richard was that a son, who is part of the accusing family, has said he may be willing to write a letter to the judge asking that his dad be released. We will keep you posted. But come to our mini-conference in April and Richard’s son Larry will be there to give you the latest developments. Wouldn’t it be wonderful (but we hardly dare think this) if Richard could be there in person to tell us?
As the days grow longer and warmer and new life breaks through the hard ground of winter, I hope that you too are renewed. I am pleased to announce the Spring mini-conference in Wisconsin. Mark you calendar for the afternoon of Sunday, April 22, 2001. The conference will start at 1:00 p.m. and conclude at 5:00 p.m., followed by a catered box supper. It will be held at Falk Park Pavilion, conveniently located off Interstate 94 at the south end of Milwaukee County. Registration is $15 for individuals and $25 for families, including the boxed supper. A registration flier is enclosed with this issue.
Attorney Bill Smoler will speak on the Sawyer trial that he has just won (see p.1) as well as on other FMS cases he has been involved with.. There is ample time allocated for Mr. Smoler to answer your questions. There will also be a presentation by Grandparent Rights, Inc. of Wisconsin who will share with us an update on their efforts and answer your questions.
In early February, I had a lengthy conversation with Tom Rutherford. I am happy to report that he has been rehired as a minister of The Assembly of God Church. His family is doing well. During the last five years he has concentrated his efforts in trying to make Christian churches throughout the U.S. aware of the devastating effects of repressed memory therapy. Unfortunately, he has had limited success. Both the Foundation and Tom have received many calls from families that have been rejected by their churches after being falsely accused. However, many church leaders still appear to believe that FMS is not a problem in their individual congregations. We suggest that members continue to provide education and FMS materials to their individual churches. At one of our Spring mini-conference round tables, those of you who wish to do so will be able to discuss what, if anything, our Society should do about reaching the churches.
I am pleased to pass along news of a major development in which the FMS community had a role. Jaye Bartha, a recanter, recently testified before a Colorado Senate committee in support of "Candace’s Law", so named for a young girl that died while being restrained during "rebirthing therapy". The bill would make rebirthing therapy a misdemeanor according to the Foundation. Jaye reports that the Committee passed the bill unanimously and we hope that the full legislature will enact this law soon. Trial for the therapists and adoptive mother involved in this death is set to begin in early April and may receive quite a bit of press notice. This may be the first time that practice a of a particular therapy has been outlawed. The idea of rebirthing has also been found in some types of recovered memory therapy.
The fruits of your FMS Society membership continue to flourish because of your persistent dedication to educating the public and professional communities of the devastating effects of repressed memory therapy. I commend each and every one of you that has been involved in this process and hope that this spring brings a renewed sense of hope and dedication to our efforts. I urge those of you who have not yet renewed your 2001 membership in the Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society to do so.