Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society

December 2001 Vol. 7, no. 4


National FMS Conference

October 5-6, 2002

A National FMS conference is to be held in the Chicago area on October 5-6, 2002. It will be cosponsored by the FMS Foundation and the Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society. It is the first time that a national FMS conference will be held in the Midwest. Mark your calendars! Famous national FMS "stars" Dr. Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins and Dr. Elizabeth Loftus of the University of Washington have already agreed to participate. Many other interesting speakers, panels and round tables will also be featured. This should be an exciting conference. We aim to keep it as affordable as we can so as many of you as possible can attend. Registration material will be sent to you by mid-year.

Remember Richard

The holidays find Richard in the same place he was last year - in jail. This is a dismal place to be at any time, but especially during the holidays. (For Richard's story see "Wisconsin Dad re-imprisoned", Dec. 2000 issue.) His lawyers are exchanging briefs with lawyers for the state as the law pursues its usual leisurely pace in his appeal. If you haven't done so already, do send him a card, c/o Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society, P.O. Box 3332, Joliet, IL 60434.

Conversations With a Lost Son

At the urging of his oldest sibling who is serving as a family mediator, Jim wrote a note to us indicating that it was now time to talk and that he would call in a couple of weeks. Since we had not conversed in 11 years, the note got our attention. He did call three weeks later. It was a Sunday afternoon. My wife was out shopping. At first I could not hear who was on the phone saying, "Hello, who's there?" He replied, "It's your son, Jim." Words my spouse and I had longed to hear. We mostly engaged in small talk with me asking questions about his health, job and housing situation, performance in a downstate neighborhood theater production. I fretted that his Mom would not return in time, but after about 15 minutes she returned for some motherly chitchat.

Comparing notes afterwards, it was clear that he did not want to meet with us just yet. He said he'd call every month. His Mom sent him a phone card since he's between jobs as a preschool teacher. Two months later he called again, this time inquiring about our well being for the first time. He's even considering our open invitation to stop in over the holidays. Where this is going we do not know, but it looks like we might have a relationship with a lost son in the final stages of our lives. We just look forward to hugging him for the first time in 11 years. A Dad

Bloomington conference

On October 13th in Bloomington, Illinois we held our second mini-conference this year. As was the spring session in Wisconsin, it was a real success. Forty-one people attended and they came from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia and Pennsylvania as well as Illinois. The speakers, Zachary Bravos and Karen Johnson were excellent and the new method of presenting the round table was a great innovation.

Karen Johnson reviewed court decisions on past third party lawsuits. A report on the speech by Zachary Bravos follows this article.

There were three subjects for consideration at roundtable discussions. Normally, there would be a separate discussion group for each subject with persons attending the group of interest. However, the size of the meeting room and the unexpected large number of people attending, made the normal approach

impractical. Instead, each subject was approached with the entire group given an opportunity to present and air their viewpoints. The plan was to allow 20-30 minutes per subject.

"How to Deal With Various Types of Returnees" elicited comments from (a) accept them under any conditions, (b) accept the returnees with certain conditions and (c) do not accept them at all. The majority favored accepting them under any conditions and let time (and hope) become the major factor in having the returnee realize what they have done. It was not important that they humble themselves with a verbal apology, but more importantly, their deeds reflect the realization of the havoc caused by their transgression, and that they are responsible for their actions.

"Trying to Find Out About Lost Adult Children" had few comments, since most parents made no effort other than communications from and through other family members and friends. Very few took an active role in hiring professional help to locate their children. Those that did, had heartbreaking stories.

"How to Handle the First Meeting With An Accuser" had a large variety of comments ranging from (a) acting as if nothing had happened to (b) two antagonists talking past each other. However, no one reported that the first meeting was belligerent. Don't try to solve any differences in the first meeting, rather, make it as "newsy" as possible and lay the groundwork for the next and subsequent meetings.

This type of discussion, where everyone wanted to participate, could have continued much longer than the allotted time. It was very good to note, that accused parents are now willing to talk about their experiences, rather than try to keep them a dark hidden secret.

Marv Scadron

Extending the right to sue

Zachary Bravos spoke at our recent Bloomington conference. Ken Merlino was the scheduled speaker, but he was unable to speak as .he was in trial in Chicago and ordered by the Judge to take a deposition on the Saturday of our meeting. He asked Zachary Bravos to speak in his stead and inform us of some recent legal developments. Mr. Bravos spoke on several theories, developed by Ken Merlino, for expanding the statute of limitations in suits brought by patients against RMT therapists.

Normally, a patient would have just two years from when they knew or should have known that malpractice was committed in order to bring suit but in no event more than four years after the end of treatment. This has prevented many former patients from bringing suit because it often takes them more than four years to realize that they have been harmed. However, several theories have recently been successful in expanding the time for bringing suit. These include Fraudulent Concealment and Equitable Estoppel.

Fraudulent concealment.

The Statute of Limitations does not begin to run if the wrongdoer fraudulently conceals the fact that he has committed malpractice. In a recent case, Mr. Merlino was able to argue that the actions of the doctors in RMT therapy effectively concealed from the patient that there were grounds for a lawsuit, even after treatment ended. This is because they intended that the effects of their treatment would last even after formal treatment ended. Aspects of treatment such as staying away from family and guarding against any doubts of the accuracy of the "memories" recovered during therapy prevent the patient from exercising independent judgment. Mr. Merlino successfully argued that these actions by the doctors effectively concealed from the patient that they had a right to sue and thereby extended the statute of limitations date.

Equitable estoppel

Mr. Merlino also was able to use the concept of Equitable Estoppel in a recent case. This means that it would be unfair for a therapist to tell a patient that their condition was in fact due to multiple personalities or repressed abuse and not a result of their treatment and then later assert the statute of limitations. Had the therapists not constantly reassured the patient that they really had MPD or repressed memories, then they would not have delayed filing suit. This is a rule of fairness and prevents someone from causing the delay in filing suit and then benefiting from that delay.

Legal Disability

Although not yet successful, Merlino also feels that some patients will be able to argue that the treatment they received made them legally disabled. Statutes of Limitations do not run against disabled persons. Unfortunately, there is an Appellate Court decision that applies the wrong standard for determining legal disability. Mr. Merlino has hopes that newer cases will overrule this decision and allow former patients to use this theory also.

Many of these developments are important in allowing patients to bring suit long after treatment has ended. These suits have been effective in stopping the spread of RMT and MPD theories and treatment. The acceptance by the Courts of these new theories is a significant development.

RMT strikes again

Last year Peggy Salinger, the daughter of J. D. Salinger, famous author of Catcher in the Rye, published a book that described him as a manic-depressive, bulimic misogynist who drank his own urine and neglected his kids. Peggy's brother Matt questioned his sister's credibility. "My sister had often told me gothic tales of our supposed childhood," he wrote. "We all remember events and people very differently indeed." But the most revealing thing that Matt said about his sister in this piece was that Peggy was in therapy and used hypnosis to recover her memories. Need we say more?

Book Reviews

Daniel L. Schacter, The Seven Sins of Memory, Houghton Mifflin, 2001. 272 p. $25

Daniel Schacter is chairperson of Harvard's Psychology  Department and one of the country's leading memory researchers. You may have heard of his work in demonstrating the difference in brain activity, between true and some false memories, as recorded in MRI's and PET scans. This most recent book of his is a valuable introduction to the latest research on the imperfections of memory - the seven sins of the title. A reviewer for The Skeptical Inquirer calls the book "the best popular book on memory I have ever read."

The two sins of memory that our readers will be particularly interested in are the "sin of misattribution " and "the sin of suggestibility." Misattribution is a widespread phenomenon in which current experiences get mixed up with memories of past events. For example, current vivid images caused by reflection or by guided imagery are misattributed to memories of past events. Numerous experiments show that when we imagine seeing an object or mentally rehearse carrying out an action we sometimes later claim that we actually did see the object or did carry out the action. Or, we may correctly remember something but misattribute it to the wrong person, place or time. For example, a British rape victim identified as her attacker a psychologist who had been, at the moment of the rape, giving a live interview on TV, which she had just been watching. The bearing of this phenomenon on the problem of eyewitness identification needs no belaboring.

The sin of suggestibility is of even greater significance as far as our readers are concerned. The two sins together account for the production of the kinds of false memories that our offspring or siblings have become involved with -- detailed, strongly held recollections of complex events that never occurred. Schacter defines suggestibility as the tendency to incorporate misleading information from external sources - other people, written material, media, etc. - into personal recollection. Suggested memories can seem as real as genuine ones, he says. (It should be noted that false memories can therefore arise from reading, etc., without the intervention of any other person.)

Schacter describes what he calls "a kind of research war" declared by research psychologist in the 1990's on the subject of suggestibility, as a result of the recovered memory controversy. Here are some examples: Building on famed researcher Elizabeth Loftus' earlier work on false memory creation, she and others showed that one could created false childhood memories of mild traumas in 20-40% of the subjects of experimental groups. Others then showed that one could create false childhood memories of major traumas, such as serious animal attacks, accidents or attacks by another child.Then there was the work of Spanos and others that demonstrated repeatedly that 40-50% of adult experimental groups could be induced to recall supposed memories before age 2, even from the day after birth (a total impossibility actually) if told that they should be able to do so. Many adult subjects are likely to interpret fuzzy images or vague feelings of familiarity as signs of an emerging childhood memory, especially if told to expect that such recollections are possible. Much research also showed that suggestibility had an even more devastating effect in the questioning of pre-school children. Of course the effects of suggestive questioning of adults by therapists and police can also be overwhelming. The most extreme examples of these effects are cases of false confessions to murder in which those confessing believe in the truth of their own confession, the falsity of which is shown later by incontrovertible evidence.

Suggestibility can wreak more havoc than any of the other sins, but, as Schacter points out, it is the easiest to neutralize if the will is there to do so. If therapists and the police and others use simple, open-ended questions and avoid risky techniques (hypnosis, guided imager, etc.), much of the harm of suggestibility can be avoided.


New book debunks Satanic Ritual Abuse

In a recent e-mail, Herman Ohme sent us a review from Publishers Weekly of the book Demons of the Modern World, by Malcolm McGrath (Prometheus, $32). The following is an excerpt of the review:

McGrath, a doctoral candidate in political philosophy at Oxford University, contends, "The illusion of a world of demons lurking behind our day to day reality is built right into the structure of modern western culture." This concept of a "demonic illusion" is the book's central thesis. McGrath views satanism scares as akin to a mass hallucination, since psychological theories supporting such cults "were in fact no more than unfounded urban legends, spread about by therapists and social workers."

He opens by juxtaposing the 1692 witchcraft accusations with the false claims of organized satanic rituals at California's McMartin Preschool. Mapping boundaries between fantasy and reality, McGrath looks at modern-day witch-hunts generated through unreliable child witnesses, rumor mills, urban legends and pseudo-science Dangers of false memories are detailed, alien abduction is dismissed, and the 1991--94 collapse of Multiple Personality Disorder and recovered memory therapy are picked over.

From Publishers Weekly 10/15/2001

Mandatory videotaping of suspects

The Chicago Tribune, much to its credit, is continuing its campaign to make videotaping mandatory in the case of all custodial police interrogations and confession in Illinois. (See their editorial on December 1, 2001.) The paper's campaign has been buttressed by recent stories focusing on evidence that certain confessions by people who were imprisoned were false because DNA evidence or other information make it certain that the confessions were false. For example, in the case of the four men convicted (after confessions) of raping and murdering Lori Roscetti in 1986, there is now new evidence that they didn't do it.

Only two states - Minnesota and Alaska - currently require mandatory videotaping, although others, such as Michigan, are thinking about adopting it. No state has yet, to our knowledge, made videotaping of potential child witnesses mandatory while being interrogated. That may be a next step if videotaping of suspects is adopted.

Mary Shanley

Our Co-President Mary Shanley recently had an accident while speed walking.Among other things she broke two fingers and cracked her ribs. She seems to be recovering as well as can be expected. We wish her a speedy recovery and send her a warm hug at this holiday season.

Psychologists fight bogus therapies

In "The Pursuit of Pseudoscience", Psychology Today Magazine quotes Jeffery Lohr, Ph.D., professor of psychology at University of Arkansas: "You can't fault people for wanting substantive relief, but you can fault the scientists who can't see through a worthless treatment." Lohr as president of the Science and Pseudoscience Review Special Interest Group of the Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy is on a crusade to help clinical scientists identify bogus therapies. He wrote about EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) in an article in Clinical Psychology Review: "EMDR is being touted as a breakthrough therapy, but as more and more objective testing is performed, the treatment proves less and less effective." Practitioners claim this treatment can liberate people from post-traumatic stress disorder and it can do so in a matter of weeks

How can you distinguish pseudoscience? According to Scott Lilenfeld, Ph.D, founding editor of the new journal Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, "you can usually tell [what is pseudoscience] because there's a lot of marketing around these treatments, but there's no controlled evidence. Support consists of almost all anecdotes and personal testimony." He cites Rebirthing Therapy as an example: "There's no evidence whatsoever that this works. We know for a fact that individuals cannot remember anything before age 2." This controversial procedure aims to heal painful memories by physically recreating the birthing process. It proved fatal to 10-year-old Candace Newmaker in Colorado last year (see our Newsletter June 2001, p.2)  Both Lilenfeld and Lohr are promoting solid research and questioning shaky and potentially deadly theories. "Eventually," says Lohr, "people can avail themselves of services based on the best treatments and get better."

Source: Psychology Today, July/August 2001, p.24-25

Dorothy Rabinowitz wins Pulitzer Prize

Seeking justice for the wrongfully accused is the forte of Dorothy Rabinowitz, the 2001 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, according to the Jerusalem Post. Ms Rabinowitz is quoted, "We're living in the age of victims now. There's a hard-core feminist leadership that would not allow the thought that there could be any false charge of child abuse, and, even if you did not believe it, you could not expose it."

She is credited with reopening the case of day-care and nursery school workers who were falsely imprisoned on charges of sex abuse. Due to Rabinowitz's reporting many of the accused have gone free, including Kelly Michaels in New Jersey, Grant Snowden in Florida, Carol and Mark Doggett in Washington, and Violet and Cheryl Amirault in Massachusetts. Violet's son, Gerald, is still serving a 30 to 40 year sentence and Rabinowitz is still writing about his case. In fact two of Rabinowitz's prize-winning entries, "A Hearing in Boston: Gerald Amirault makes a plea for freedom" and "A Jury Has Second Thoughts: I Am convinced that Mr. Amirault was innocent," provided coverage of the ongoing case.

In discussing her coverage of the Wenatchee case in Washington state, she said "These cases were Orwellian, in that you could get a society to believe the most fantastic and preposterous charges, and in the interest of a higher social good, the war against child abuse." When asked why other reporters were not interested, she replied, "Because those reporters were, politically, right there with everyone else. They believed everything the prosecutor told them."

Pam Freyd summed up Rabinowitz's achievement when she said that Rabinowitz has been a strong educative force, and has done an amazing amount for people in prison, especially the Amiraults, and Kelly Michaels.

Source: The Jerusalem Post Magazine, May 11, 2001

A spiritual healer ?

I recently attended an Elderhostel with my wife. A person we met there, also an attendee, reminded us that recovered memory therapists are found in all sorts of guises. The lady in question called herself a "spiritual healer" and quite readily admitted to me that she uses guided imagery and deep relaxation and "does some recovered memory work." She got into this line of work through martial arts she explained and has never had any conventional therapist training, and of course had no credentials of any kind and was operating outside of any institutional framework. One shudders to think how many such people there are, blithely practicing their horrible mischief, probably quite immune to any lawsuits, and maybe even hardly aware of all that has been learned about recovered memory during the past decade. Is there any way to reach such "healers", or their hapless victims?


Church packet now available

A letter will be going out soon to our members describing a packet meant to be used with churches of recently published materials dealing with the false memory problem. Most FMS literature does not have this focus. It consists 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. The church packet is designed to help you when talking to clergy or counselors from your church or other churches about the FMS problem. Contact the Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society P. O. Box 3332, Joliet, IL 60434 or call 847-827-1056 if you would like us to send you a packet.

Time to renew

your membership!

Membership year starts Jan. 1st

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Season's Greetings and

Happy New Year

to our readers