Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society
September 2001, Vol. 7, no. 3
36 counselors instructed on FMS
I recently had the opportunity to speak about false memory issues with two groups of mental health counselors in the Midwest, as part of a professional in-service training. Each group consisted of 18 counselors. As a mental health professional myself, and as someone who has been fortunate to be able to get to know some returnees and recanters, I felt it was my obligation to provide information to these counselors about the imperative to “do no harm” when providing mental health services. I also had some trepidation, however, since I am also the wife of a falsely accused man whose daughter is now a returnee.
Before disclosing my personal association with this problem, I posed a number of questions to the groups of counselors. “Have you ever had a client tell you that they recalled an episode of incest during prior therapy, but they had no independent recollection of it before therapy?” “Have you ever had a client who told you they were diagnosed as multiple personality disorder by another therapist?” “Have you ever had a client who told you that they are falsely accused of sexually molesting their son or daughter?” For each question, half the group answered “yes.” All counselors answered “yes” to at least one of the questions. Quite frankly, I was amazed that so many of these professionals had some experience with this issue. Indeed, several of the counselors talked about therapists in their geographic area who are now discredited after lawsuits demonstrated the harm they committed by inappropriately diagnosing and treating, and in some cases actively mistreating, clients. Privately, one counselor shared the fact that a family member of hers had been falsely accused.
Since our discussion time was limited, I focused on things that counselors could do to deal with this problem: 1) Be skeptical about claims made at training/continuing education sessions. Just because the speaker touts himself as an expert, does not mean he is. 2) Use therapeutic techniques that have been sufficiently tested and have been demonstrated to not harm patients. 3) Read peer reviewed journals for scientific information, not industry magazines or trade periodicals. 4) Educate yourself about how to assist falsely accused families and clients who express doubts about recovered memories. 5) Take great care in making referrals to other treatment professionals.
Though our discussion time was brief, I was able to extend their learning by providing handouts on memory and false memory, contact information to the Illinois FMS website (which is an excellent resource!) and a copy of the book Lost Daughters: Recovered Memory Therapy and the People it Hurts by Reinder Van Til. One counselor told me the next day that she stayed up half the night reading the book. This entire experience left me feeling that there are many mental health professionals sympathetic to the plight of FMS families, that therapists are more aware of the dangers of bad therapy than we might suppose, and that outreach to educate therapists is appreciated.
I intend in the near future to give a similar workshop to a group of counselor supervisors and may give you a report on that in the next issue.
D.U. Schneider, MS, LPC, CEAP
Church packet available soon
The Steering Committee of the Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society has decided to put together for our members a packet especially focused on churches containing recently published materials dealing with the false memory problem. Most FMS literature does not have this focus. The packet will consist of recent pieces by Tom Rutherford, Paul Simpson and Richard Hammar. Richard Hammer serves as legal counsel to the General Council of the Assemblies of God. We reproduce his valuable article on the following page. The church packet will be designed to help you when talking to clergy or counselors from your church or other churches about the FMS problem. The whole packet will become available soon.
The Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society will shortly have our newsletter online, including some back issues. One of our new Steering Committee members is working on this project. Our web site is:
OARMHP, the Ohio FMS group has a new website. (Ohio Association of Responsible Mental Health Practices):
From GROW (Grandparent Rights of Wisconsin) come a helpful web link. GROW is the group who we heard from at our Wisconsin conference in the spring and works on issues involving grandparents barred from contact with their grandchildren.
Incarcerated Parents web page:
Elizabeth Loftus is one of this country’s foremost memory researchers. She has been in the forefront of pioneering memory research since the 1970s, much of it devoted to the subject of false memory. She has also been one of the most active members of the FMS Foundation’s distinguished Scientific Advisory Board, and has been one of the outstanding speakers at all our national conferences. She has given invaluable expert testimony in many FMS cases. She has also been a courageous champion of the truth about false memory in her profession and to lay audiences. Apart from innumerable professional articles and books, she is the author of the Myth of Repressed Memory (1994), Eyewitness Testimony (1979, 1996) and Witness for the Defense (1991) geared to more general audiences.
Elizabeth Loftus has thus been one of our most valuable allies in the battle to reveal the truth about FMS and to bring about a change in public opinion, a change that has become increasingly evident in the past few years.
Loftus was recently honored by her professional colleagues, and she gave an eloquent acceptance speech on that occasion. We here reprint the award and her speech (slightly shortened) taken from the Foundation’s July/August 2001 newsletter, for those of you who do not subscribe to that publication.
Loftus 2001 award from American Psychological Society (APS)
"Elizabeth Loftus is an example of the rare scientist who is instrumental both in advancing a scientific discipline and in using that discipline to make critical contributions to society.”
"Beginning in the mid-1970's, following acclaimed basic research on the workings of semantic memory, she waded into relatively uncharted waters, investigating the critical issues of how and under what circumstances complex memories change, often quite dramatically, over time. Her innovative yet highly rigorous research on this topic brought her renewed praise in the scientific community. At the same time however, she realized the fundamental applications of her and related findings to the legal system, particularly in understanding the circumstances under which a sincere eyewitness may have misidentified an innocent defendant. It is not hyperbole to say that in response to her ingenious laboratory work and her ubiquitous public presence, both the quality of basic memory research and the fairness of the criminal justice system have advanced substantially."
"Over the past 15 years, Dr. Loftus's attention has turned to a related but considerably more controversial issue, that of the validity of ‘recovered memories’ of childhood abuse. As a result of her pioneering scientific work as well as her activity within the legal system, society is gradually coming to realize that such memories, compelling though they may seem when related by a witness, are often a product of recent reconstructive memory processes rather than of past objective reality. In bringing to light these facts of memory, Dr. Loftus has joined the ranks of other scientists, past and present, who have had the courage, inspiration, and inner strength to weather the widespread scorn and oppression that unfortunately but inevitably accompanies clear and compelling scientific data that have the effrontery to fly in the face of dearly held beliefs."
Loftus acceptance speech for award
June 14, 2001
Receiving this honor, the William James Fellow Award for scientific achievement, could not have come at a more meaningful or ironic time in my life. It has made me think about the purpose of awards: what we give them for, what qualities of the recipient or of his or her work we admire. And it has made me think about the purpose of science, that ideally dispassionate, empirical investigation of a particular set of questions.
For more than a decade, as I'm sure many of you know, I have been pursued by the enemies I created by virtue of my research on memory and my efforts to discredit recovered-memory therapy, which has done so much harm to individuals and families. The public thinks this epidemic is over. But many families have never recovered, and many promulgators and victims of the recovered-memory movement remain angry and vengeful. For so many years, I have tried to understand their position, sympathize with the emotionally disturbed young women whom I regard as victims of misguided or misinformed therapists, and find common ground.
Now I realize that for these people, there may be little in the way of common ground. I am their enemy -- scientific evidence is their enemy -- and I will not be able to persuade them otherwise, not with all the good data and good intentions in the world. This was a terribly difficult realization for me. The research findings for which I am being honored now generated a level of hostility and opposition I could never have foreseen. People wrote threatening letters, warning me that my reputation and even my safety were in jeopardy if I continued along these lines. At some universities, armed guards were provided to accompany me during speeches. People misinterpreted my writings and put words in my mouth that I had never spoken. People filed ethical complaints and threatened lawsuits of organizations that invited me to speak. People spread defamatory falsehoods in writings, in newspapers, on the Internet.
As I stand here, the happy recipient of an award that honors me for my research, I continue to be the target of efforts to censor my ideas. I am gagged at the moment and may not give you any details. But to me, that itself is the problem. Who, after all, benefits from my silence? Who benefits from keeping such investigations in the dark? My inquisitors. The only people who operate in the dark are thieves, assassins, and cowards. Those of us who value the first amendment and open scientific inquiry must bring these efforts to suppress freedom of speech into the light, and tonight I vow to you that when my own situation is resolved, that is precisely what I'm going to do….
I am honored to receive this award. I accept it on behalf of the ideals and goals of science that we all hold so dear, and which we must now redouble our efforts to defend.
Here we go again!
On September 5th, on Barbara Walter’s 20/20 show, Anne Heche did a spilling your guts type of interview, of the kind that Jerry Springer audiences love. Anne Heche is the former partner of Ellen DeGeneres of the TV series “Ellen”, and is the continuing subject of intense media buzz because of that connection. Anne Heche told Walters the following: she has been “crazy” (her term) for 31 of her 32 years as a result of being repeatedly sexually abused by her gay father from “before I could speak,” that is younger than age two, and her father died of AIDS in 1983, when she was 14. At about age 25 she went into therapy and acquired another personality, Celestia, who came from another planet and was an incarnation of God and had all kinds of extraordinary powers. This story bears the classic earmarks of a “recovered memory” case – memories from before age two (scientifically impossible), appearance of multiple personality in the context of therapy and other implausible details. Because of Barbara Walters’ soft questioning, it was not established when Heche’s “memories” had emerged. Heche’s book Call Me Crazy, detailing the same story, was published on the day after the interview.
According to statements posted on the Internet (Previewpoint.com) on September 6th, Anne’s mother and sisters reject her version of their family history. Her mother, Nancy Heche, wrote: “I am trying to find a place for myself in this writing, a place where I as Anne’s mother do not feel violated or scandalized. I find no place among the lies and blasphemies in the pages of this book.” Anne’s sister, Abigail Heche, wrote: “…Anne, in the past, has expressed doubts herself about the accuracy of such memories [of being abused by her father]. Based on my experience and her own expressed doubts, I believe that her memories regarding our father are untrue.”
Annual business meeting November 4th
All members are invited to attend the annual membership and business meeting of the Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society November 4th. We will elect new officers, provide financial information and discuss our plans for the future.
This meeting is a good opportunity to meet with our Steering Committee and see what we do to keep our organization running. We especially welcome any members who would like to get more involved in helping our organization. Call 8l4-827-1056 for further information.
Bloomington, IL conference
We hope you are already signed up to attend our first downstate conference in Bloomington October 13th. It should be an interesting afternoon and a good chance to get together. The Johnsons will discuss third party lawsuits. They had a major legal breakthrough in Wisconsin with their third party lawsuit, as we reported in our June issue. The Johnsons have been the leading Missouri FMS activists as long as we can remember. In earlier years they were very active in leading the attempt to get legislation passed in Missouri to protect consumers against bad therapy.
The featured speaker at the conference will be Ken Merlino who is an associate of Todd Smith, the lead attorney who successfully handled the $10 million settlement for the Burgus family. Ken is currently with the prestigious Chicago law firm of Power, Rogers & Smith. Formerly he was with Mayer, Brown & Platt, one of the country’s leading law firms. He will discuss current FMS litigation that he is dealing with -- two cases in Illinois and one in Texas – as well as other recent cases.
We conclude with round table discussions, which give everyone a chance to exchange ideas and information. It is not too late to sign up. Call 847-827-1056 or see the conference program and registration insert for detail. Hope to see you in Bloomington!
Bennett Braun still in the news
The Montana State Board of Medical Examiners said in August that it is investigating a psychiatrist who joined the staff of a children’s hospital Montana after his medical license was suspended in Illinois.
Dr. Bennett Braun began working at the hospital about seven months after his license was suspended in Illinois in October 1999 amid allegations he used drugs and hypnosis to convince an Illinois patient she killed scores of people in satanic rituals. The patient was Patty Burgus, who received a 10.6 million dollar settlement in her lawsuit against Dr. Braun and Rush Presbyterian hospital.
The investigation will determine whether Braun has practiced medicine without a license at Shodair Children’s Hospital, said Charlene Norris, legal counsel for the board. Former Shodair employees have claimed that Braun had an active role in treating patients and gave advice on diagnosis and treatment. Braun and hospital administrator Jack Casey have denied those claims. But in a meeting with officials from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, Braun acknowledged he offered opinions to staff on treatment and drug therapies and gave advice on dealing with disruptive patients.
Dr. Braun was also in the news earlier this year when he amended a lawsuit filed against his insurance company, the risk managers and former defense attorneys, in the case mentioned above, which he claimed was settled against his wishes. Braun added to his suit the American Psychiatric Association and groups that administer the APA’s liability insurance program under which he was insured. Braun claimed that his career was destroyed because the APA and its insurance programs take actions that protect their own interests and not those they represent in lawsuits.
As we reported in the June 2000 newsletter, Bennett Braun was expelled from the Illinois Psychiatric Society and the American Psychiatric Association following a hearing held in June 1999.
Bennett Braun, who could be eligible to regain his license in October 2001, was quoted in the Daily Herald that he never will return to Illinois to practice medicine, but he did not close the door on a return to medicine in another state some day.
(Information from the Chicago Tribune, August 4, 2001, and the July/August 2001 FMSF Newsletter.)
“Today, our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature,” President Bush’s words on September 11, 2001, elicited a very personal and emotional response. Mine, along with the lives of other individuals and their families who have experienced the False Memory Syndrome phenomenon have been changed by evil. The origin of the evil experienced by this nation and the magnitude of its effects on our nation are very different. However, I have come to understand that the roots of evil often sprout from an individual or small group that believe that they have an absolute truth which gives them permission to impose that belief system on others, regardless of its devastating effects on others lives. It is irrational. It feeds on a false sense of power and thrust for monetary gains. I have also witnessed how a small group of committed people with shared experiences can come together and have a worldwide effect. With a focus on education, and motivated by a growing understanding and search for reconciliation, the FMS families have changed the fields of psychology and law. By sharing our personal journeys and a growing body of scientifically based knowledge, we are moving toward understanding and reconciliation with our loved ones and ourselves. We are healing and moving on with our lives. I would not have believed my own personal strength or capacity for compassion, at the beginning of my recovery. This gives me great hope for our nation.
I was overjoyed when I read the Wenatchee update and Amirault update in the Legal Corner of the Foundation newsletter. Let us not forget Richard; a Wisconsin man who is still being falsely accused of sexual abuse and unjustly imprisoned. Attorney Bill Smoler has agreed to consult on his case. This is promising news. But Richard and his family need our encouragement and support. His health is deteriorating. He has suffered a fractured black, is diabetic, and has arthritis and an aortic aneurysm. He lives daily in physical pain and tries to move forward within a system that places him in a catch-22.
His recent appeal was denied because the facility where he is housed doesn’t have a treatment program. On the other hand, “treatment” consists of daily harassment trying to get him to admit his guilt. Richard continues to adamantly deny the accusations. You can support Richard and his family by sending cards and letters to the IL-WI FMSS post office box. We will forward your words of encouragement to Richard and his family. Richard enjoys word puzzle and crossword puzzles.
October 13, 2001 is the date for the fall mini-conference in Bloomington, Illinois. Attorney Ken Merlino from the law firm Power, Rogers and Smith will speak on current Illinois cases. He is knowledgeable about Illinois laws, which may affect FMS families now. And there is exciting news about the possibility of third party lawsuits that will be discussed by Karen and Charles Johnson. There will be ample time for questions and answers. There is always a wealth of information and poignant sharing during the round table discussions. Please join us for an afternoon which promises to be well worth your efforts to attend! Details will be found in the insert
The Steering Committee has issued the following statement on behalf of the Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society:
“Words cannot express the anguish we feel about the events of September 11th and the rage we feel at their perpetrators. Along with all Americans, our heart goes out to all those families who have lost loved ones.”