Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society
April 2002, Vol. 8, no. 1
Pam Freyd’s letter to members on church abuse
Dear FMSF Friends,
There has been an explosion of articles about clergy abuse since the Geoghan scandal broke in Boston. The cases are unrelated to FMSF cases. However, a number of FMSF members have contacted me with their concerns about the uncritical references to recovered and repressed memories. For example on March 18, the New York Times printed the following:
“What it has been for Mr. Serrano is more than two decades of healing that included, first, coming to grips with his abuse, and progressing to counseling sessions, sorting through repressed memories that sometimes bubbled up as flashbacks and, now, speaking out."
Jones, R.L. "Former Altar Boy Describes Years of Abuse, Then Years of Silence." ( New York Times, March 18, 2002)
But it is important to note that on March 19 the same paper also printed the following:
"Alan cannot easily forget what has happened to him because traumatic memories are processed and encoded in the brain in a way different from routine memories. They just don't fade with time. This explains, for example, why you can constantly misplace your keys but never forget that you were raped."
Richard A. Friedman, M.D. "This Time 'Forgetting' Is Healthy" (New York Times, March 19, 2002).
A reading of the first article describes a person who said he was abused from 1974 to 1981 (ages 9 to 16). In 1985 Serrano reported the abuse to the church officials. So it is not at all clear what the writer had in mind when he used the term "repressed." In many of the articles is appears to have been used to mean the deliberate avoidance of thinking about something unpleasant. The concern in the March 18th article, as in most of the articles about the abuse in the Catholic church, was that the church did not properly handle the reported abuse.
I think the words of the FMSF Advisory Board are important to keep in mind: "Because exactly what is meant by the terms of 'repression' and 'dissociation' is far from clear, their use has become idiosyncratic, metaphoric, and arbitrary."
Scientific Advisory Board of the FMS Foundation Statement on Recovered Memories, 1998.
It seems to me that the greatest immediate need is to educate reporters about repressed and recovered memory issues. We seem to have a new generation of reporters who have not been immersed in the recovered/repressed memory issues. Because these cases involve clergy abuse, the reporters often are those who cover religion instead of science or the law. Presumably these cases will be around for a while and there will be more articles. Getting information to reporters should help to ensure that future stories contain more accurate information about memory.
It will be helpful if you contact the reporters who have written the articles and send them information such as the " Recovered Memories: Are They Reliable” pamphlet. It will be helpful if you send them articles that you think are insightful and if you direct them to our website at: www.FMSFonline.org
The Foundation will continue to contact reporters as we become aware of the need. We can do a better job if you help. If there is a reporter to whom you would like us to send information, please forward us a copy of the article and also a way to contact the reporter. We will do our part from the office to support your local efforts.
(Editor’s note: “Recovered Memories: are they Reliable” is posted on the Foundation website: http://www.FMSFonline.org, and on our website: http://www.IllinoisFMS.org.)
"The phenomenon of memory repression, and the process of therapy used in these cases to recover the memories, have not gained general acceptance in the field of psychology; [they] are not scientifically reliable."
William J. Groff, Presiding Justice,
N. H. Superior Court, May 23, 1995.
Vivid “flashbulb” memories: how
Extremely vivid memories that result from very stressful, emotional events often called “flashbulb memories”, are frequently thought to be especially authentic by laymen because of their vividness and seeming completeness. False memory victims also have often attributed their sense of certainty about the truth of their recalled memories to the vividness with which they have experienced them. I remember one recanter telling us that in recalling a supposed satanic ritual abuse experience she actually felt heat of the fire that was part of the recalled scene.
The events of the morning of September 11th are a classic example of the kind of experience that results in “flashbulb memory.” Research by Harsch and Neisser after the Challenger explosion had already established that such memories, when recalled later, can contain numerous inaccuracies. Dozens of psychologists began flashbulb studies within days of September 11 th asking the usual “where were you?” “what did you see?” type questions, and planned to re-interview their subjects nine months to three years later. Kathy Pezdek, Ph.D. did not have to wait so long. She interviewed 690 subjects seven weeks after the events and found that three quarters of them recalled seeing the first plane hit the tower in video footage aired September 11th. This footage was not shown until the next day!
(Reported in Psychology Today, March/April 2002, p. 15)
National FMS conference
As we told our readers in the last issue, the FMS Foundation and the Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society are co-sponsoring a national conference for families on October 5-6, 2002 in Glenview, Illinois. Program details are nearly complete at press time.
The theme of the conference is going to be: “Family Reconciliation: Where Do We Go From Here?” Our main speakers will be Dr. Paul McHugh, Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, Dr. Herzl Spiro, Dr. Harold Lief, and attorney William Smoler. McHugh and Loftus will be well known to most of you from their appearance at previous national conferences and their prominent role as FMFS Advisory Board members. Loftus, of course, has been one of the nation’s leading memory researchers, specializing in the area of false memory since the 1970’s. And McHugh, chair of Johns Hopkins department of psychiatry, has long been an important leader in his field. Spiro is a Wisconsin psychiatrist who has been an administrator, a prolific researcher and author, with dozens of books and articles in his field to his credit. He totally reorganized the giant Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex and has had distinguished appointments at Johns Hopkins, Rutgers and the University of Wisconsin. Both he, McHugh and Loftus have been expert witnesses in a number of FMS cases.
William Smoler is the brilliant attorney who won the Hess, Cool, Sawyer and Johnson cases in Wisconsin. He is currently at the cutting edge of third party litigation nationally. The noted Philadelphia psychiatrist and leading Advisory Board member Harold Lief will analyze the results of the Foundation’s survey of recanter and returnee experiences.
In addition to the above, three panels, including a panel of therapists and one composed of recanters will tackle the conference theme of family reconciliation. Roundtables on a variety of issues will also be featured. The conference will be held at the DoubleTree Inn. It will last a day and a half, concluding about noon on Sunday, and it will be of moderate cost to attendees. Registration materials should be in your hands by June or July.
Gerald Amirault is once again a victim of politics. Acting Governor, Jane Swift, rejected the unanimous recommendation of the Massachusetts’s State Parole Board and decided not to commute Amirault’s sentence. He has already served 16 years of a 30 to 40 year sentence. A juror in the Amirault case wrote to the Parole Board in April saying he was convinced Gerald Amirault was innocent. The Parole Board was not allowed to revisit the question of Amirault’s guilt, but only considered whether he has improved himself in prison and whether his sentence was unfair. “It must be acknowledged, however, that it is clearly a matter of public knowledge that, at the minimum, real and substantial doubt exists concerning petitioner’s conviction,” the Board wrote.
A Boston Herald editorial commented that “The Parole Board also took notice of the fact that his mother (now deceased) and sister, who had also been convicted in the case, were freed in 1995 and that keeping Amirault in prison longer would ‘constitute gross unfairness.’”
The Wall Street Journal also had a long article on the case. They wrote that Governor Swift “could not say how she had come to her conclusion because she had promised ‘anonymity’ to people who had come to argue against freedom for Gerald Amirault. This is fitting, in its own perverse way. The anonymity claim is a powerful reminder of how the Amiraults were prosecuted, in what has come to be known as the modern Salem witch trials: the hearsay testimony, the parade of accusers assured of complete anonymity, and prone to plead their case on television disguised in wigs and dark glasses….
The odor of politics is of course never far away from a decision such as this. And the appointed Governor Swift, confronting an uphill fight for election in her own right this autumn, faced a ferocious lobby of interest groups opposing Mr. Amirault’s release. They included, not least, District Attorney Martha Coakley, who went to work to organize the families of the now adult accusers.”
It is ironic that Governor Swift subsequently withdrew from the Governor’s race.
Source: A Boston Herald editorial (2/21/02), Wall Street Journal (2/21/02), and an E-mail from Peter Freyd based on an Associated Press release (2/20/02);
“The family itself is an instrument of sexual and other forms of child abuse… [which] is permitted because it is an unspoken but prominent factor in socializing and preparing the female to accept a subordinate role…In short the sexual abuse of female children is a process of education that prepares them to become the wives and mothers of America.”
These words, spoken at a conference of New York Radical Feminists in 1971, which brought the audience roaring to their feet, were the opening shot in a decades long obsession with father-daughter incest by radical feminists, viewed by them as a raging epidemic. This obsession was a powerful contributor to the development of recovered memory therapy. As Andrea Dworkin summed up these feminists’ ideas, “For a woman, the home is the most dangerous place in the world.” Rael Jean Isaac ably traces these feminist roots of the recovered memory movement in the Summer 2001 issue of the Women’s Quarterly. (Ms Isaac’s article can be found on the web at: http://www.iwf.org/pub/twq/summer2001c.shtml). What is especially noteworthy is that this article is printed in the pages of a feminist journal. This is another indication that portions of the feminist movement have come to see what a bizarre aberration the recovered memory movement has been. This parallels the printing of the introduction to the second edition of Diana Russell’s The Secret Trauma (1999) in the pages of the newsletter Coalition Commentary published by the feminist Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault. In this new introduction (as we reported in June 2000, p. 4) Russell makes a powerful argument that a high percentage of recovered memories are false, a view contrary to the one she held before. The full text of this new introduction can be found on
Russell’s website at: http://www.dianarussell.com/incestintro.html She also complains on that website that when RMT advocates found out that we had published our review article the sales of her book suffered. It looks like some of our readers are recovered memory advocates, possibly even victims. Wonderful!
Colin Ross - He’s still at it!
Colin Ross, you may recall, was long a stalwart of the recovery movement, though in the middle 1990’s he tried to squirm away from it a bit. He was a co-founder with Bennett Braun of the International Society for the Study of Multiple Personality and Dissociation and is a past president of the group.
Colin Ross has a new book out. It’s entitled Deliberate Creation of Multiple Personality by Psychiatrists. With a title like that you might think Colin Ross has finally realized that the recent epidemic of MPD was created by the very therapists who were supposed to be helping their patients. But Ross still believes in the genuineness of the MPD epidemic and the aim of the book is not just to expose a CIA conspiracy, but also to argue that all the thousands of cases of MPD diagnosed since 1980 were not caused by therapy, that “the creation of iatrogenic multiple personality requires muchmore control and influence than is possible in one or two hours of outpatient therapy per week” (p.267). Till 1970, the whole of medical literature had reported only about 100 cases of MPD altogether.
Colin Ross believes in conspiracy. The psychiatrists he criticizes for helping the CIA in their mind control experiments were supposedly creating multiple personalities. As Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi points out in his review of this book, the CIA did conduct mind control experiments. In some cases psychiatrists under contract to the CIA subjected their “unwitting victims to horrifying experiments”. When this project (known as MK-Ultra) became known in 1977 it ended. But Colin Ross believes the CIA was doing much more and that their program involved the deliberate creation of multiple personalities in people to carry out CIA tasks. According to the review: “While the CIA realized a long time ago that its various ‘mind control’ programs were a failure, Ross does not. He believes that Manchurian candidates programmed with the required multiple personalities, are roaming the earth ready to carry out their secret missions. The technology utilized to create these agents remains just as much a secret (or a fantasy) as it ever was. Actually, Ross believes that ‘in the interest of national security, it is important that the CIA and military intelligence agencies have mind control programs in place. This is true, for one reason, because mind control methods are being used by leaders of destructive cults, dictators and terrorists’(p.266)….
Colin A. Ross demonstrates in this book once again that the fringes of psychiatry, where ideas about ‘mind control’ and Satanism proliferate, are actually quite wide, and sometimes reach pretty close to its center.”
Source: Book review by Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, PhD. on February 2, 2002 sent by e-mail by Herman Ohme.
Tom Rutherford responds to our church packet
After receiving our church packet Tom Rutherford sent the following e-mail:
Your packet of information - your effort - etc. is very excellent. I’m certain that you have done the mailings by now and have sent the things to those parties, churches, pastors, radio stations, etc. I always thank the Lord for folks like yourself. I remember well the horror of those years when our family and our lives were in shambles. And there was the FMS family that was in existence - were active in our area and we “plugged in” - thank the Lord that they were there. It is information like this that is like a flashlight in the dark for some people who have never heard of this voodoo therapy called FMS. It will give them a sense of direction and a place to turn. Plus, help to warn those who are seeking professional help to stay away from certain counselors.
Please feel free to use things as they would relate to us in any public effort to stop a sick therapy that is out of control.
May God continue to bless your EVERY EFFORT.
After we sent out letters to our members describing our church packet, we got many requests for the packet. The information is designed to help you when talking to clergy or counselors from your church or other churches about the FMS problem. It consists of recent pieces by Tom Rutherford, Paul Simpson and Richard Hammar. Richard Hammar serves as legal counsel to the General Council of the Assemblies of God. 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.
Our Steering Committee will soon send a similar packet to 12 Illinois Christian radio stations with a letter encouraging them to air information on the FMS problem on their stations. We suggest to them that members of our organization could help by sharing their families shattering experiences.
Psychologist Peter Barach
Peter Barach, a leading light and former president of the International Society for the Study of Dissociation (Bennett Braun’s old outfit) received a seven months suspension of his license and a reprimand from Ohio’s State Board of Psychology seemingly in connection with an unlicensed assistant. The therapy by this assistant seems to have involved “treating” for satanic ritual abuse.
(Information received from Herman Ohme )
I can clearly recall one accusing sister who announced her accusations by saying, “I have something to tell you that is going to change your life.” She probably had only a vague concept of how sweeping and enduring that change would be to her listener. Indeed everyone who is affiliated with the false memory phenomenon, whether they are accuser, accused, sibling, recanter, returner, attorney, or scientist, has been changed.
One change we’ve all gone through is the new sensitivity we have toward news accounts that have some relationship with our experience—and many topics in the news seem to. For example, the discovery of an American, John Walker Lindh, affiliating with the Taliban struck us as a story with some eerily familiar circumstances. How could a California teenager suddenly turn up amidst forces hostile to his country of origin? How could he make statements that showed he might think the worst of America, and, apparently act upon his beliefs to the point of bearing arms? As the story unfolded we learned of a gradual process of change in his belief systems through reading and study, social affiliation, and, apparently, misplaced reliance on authority. He seemed to provide his parents less and less information about his beliefs, excepting for some bits and pieces that seem ominous only in retrospect, until disaster occurred. How familiar this seems to family members who witnessed a drastic change in belief systems, followed by disastrous accusations. Our hope is that some accusers find that Mr. Walker Lindh’s experiences resonate with theirs, recognize the similarities in process, and find their way back to their families.
A second issue in the news regards the evidence of fundamentally inadequate handling by the Catholic hierarchy of accusations of child molestation by priests. Like all Americans, our sympathies go to those who were harmed by such trusted figures. How disheartening it is to learn that much of it could have been prevented and was not. However, in addition to these sentiments, we read the news with an extra sensitivity to the rights of the accused--a sensitivity acquired from very difficult experiences. Unfortunately, at least in the Milwaukee area, the press seems to pay little attention to the distinction between accusation and guilt. News accounts seem to refer only to the numbers of priests “accused,” with a seeming presumption that all who are accused are guilty. Particularly following the painful experiences of Chicago Cardinal Bernardin, who was widely and falsely accused, we would hope for a thorough and fair evaluation of each accusation, so that justice is served to prevent injury to children, and to ensure that any falsely accused priests are exonerated.
Another way we have been changed is that we now want to effect some changes around us, so that the type of accusations that befell our families are not visited upon others. As you have read elsewhere, the Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society has undertaken an effort to educate clergy and members of religious organizations of the manner in which false memories and accusations may develop. This effort, led by Cas, involves mailings of educational packets, and, if possible, providing speakers for various church-related audiences. If you know of anyone who would benefit from receiving such a packet, please contact us.
The one change we don’t want to make is toward adopting a stance of bitterness regarding our experiences. We wish to be able to reconcile with our lost family members in a productive and forgiving way. If family reconciliation is not in our future, then we would wish for the grace to reconcile our experiences with the larger issues in life, and move on with optimism. To this end, we have devoted the primary focus of our fall 2002 conference, which we are proud to hold jointly with the national False Memory Syndrome Foundation, to the issue of reconciliation. Please plan to attend.
One last note: In previous issues, these pages have carried the story of a gentleman we have called “Richard”, who is in prison in Wisconsin because of a storm of false accusations that arose in his family after his daughter began recovered memory therapy. He was initially imprisoned in 1992, but released on probation in 1993. However, his probation was revoked on October 19, 2000 because he has steadfastly maintained his innocence, and was therefore deemed to have failed to “participate” in therapy. He has appealed this revocation. A decision on his appeal should be rendered some time in the next week or two. Please keep your fingers crossed and you prayers flowing for him.
Patient’s right to know:
Ohio legislation and Illinois bill
Ohio has passed legislation signed by the governor, to require its State Board of Psychology to post information on its own disciplinary actions regarding psychologists on its web site. This will include the Board’s reprimands, suspensions and revocations. The Board regulates clinical and school psychologists. Details of the new law will appear on its web site within a month or so. We will include a more detailed story on the new law in our next issue.
Ohio’s law would be a very desirable innovation in Illinois and Wisconsin also, we think. Rep. Mary Flowers of Illinois has a bill in the hopper supported by the Coalition for Consumer Rights to require malpractice disclosure about physicians by the Department of Professional Regulation. This is the agency that regulates all licensed professionals in Illinois. Ben Edmonds, spokesman for the Coalition, said: “Our main issue is that we want the Department of Professional Regulation to keep its web site of doctors updated” and make it more user-friendly. “People need to be able to find out if their doctor has been sued for malpractice or convicted of a crime” Edmonds was quoted as saying, “It’s difficult to get accurate information.” Those wishing to reach Rep. Flowers can reach her at 773-471-5200.
We would of course like to see the Department post such information on all the therapists it licenses.
(Daily Southtown, Jan. 30, 2002)