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 Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society 
   My Journey Home and Back to Truth 
(A Retractor Speaks Part II)
          By Beth Rutherford 
Part I of Beth's story, her experiences in therapy which led to "memories" of parental abuse, was published in the FMSF Newsletter, January/February 1998.  Note: the paragraph headings have been added by the Webmaster.
Effects of therapy on Beth 
The first contact with her mother: why successful 
First contact with her father: important elements 
What helped to bring about final reconciliation 

Effects of therapy on Beth 

At the end of 2 1/2 years of therapy, I had come to fully believe that I had been impregnated by my father twice. I "remembered" that he had performed a coat hanger abortion on me with the first pregnancy and that I performed the second coat hanger abortion on myself. I also "recalled" that he had inserted a curling iron, scissors and a meat fork inside of me, and other "horrors." I came to believe this without a doubt and could "remember" it happening detail by detail. I was told by my therapist that I had to separate from my parents in order to break this cycle of "abuse" in my family. Otherwise, my therapist said, I would be at risk to abuse my own children some day when I became a mother. By the end of this 2 1/2 years of therapy, I had so physically deteriorated that my weight was down to 87 pounds, unable to eat because of the emotional and mental battle that was raging inside me. I was on medication and my mind was sinking deeper and deeper into blackness. With my last bit of energy and in an effort to begin to "get well," my middle sister, Lynette, and I renter a U-haul and moved away from my parents in Springfield, MO to Oklahoma City, OK. My youngest sister, Shara, went into hiding in Springfield, afraid that my father would murder her. Both of my sisters had come to believe my "memories" of abuse. We cut off all communication with my parents. 

However, moving away from my parents also put me out of direct contact with my therapist. This was the best thing that could have happened to me, although I didn't realize it at the time. After four months of continual phone contact with my therapist in Missouri, I was instructed by her to try and find a new therapist to continue my "treatment." But, I decided, I had participated in all the therapy I could handle and wanted a break from the tormenting sessions that dwelt exclusively on abuse events. This crucial decision was the beginning of my journey home. When you don't have someone interpreting your parents' every move and word, you begin to think on your own. After I left home, my father and mother were brought before the southern Missouri state leadership of our church. My father's ministerial credentials were taken from him because he was charged with molesting and abusing me as a child. My mother was accused of participating in some of the molestation by restraining me so my father could carry out his sadistic acts. 

Three months before these accusations were made, my father had lost his job at our denominational world headquarters, but he never knew the real reason why he was fired. Now, however, he began to realize what had really been going on behind the scenes. My parents were told that they were not to contact my two sisters or me. It was explained to them that if they didn't sign a statement of guilt, their file would be turned over to the district attorney's office and my father would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and he would face seven years to life in prison. My parents refused to admit guilt to our denominational leadership for something they had not done. 

All communication ceased between us. I fully believed that my parents had committed these atrocities as much as they fully knew that they had never done them. What changed my mind? What brought me to the truth? 

On April 19, 1995 at 9:02 AM, a bomb went off in Oklahoma City. My mother, a nurse like me, was working at the hospital that day in Springfield, MO. As she went from patient to patient, she overheard TV reports about the shocking devastation in Oklahoma City. A lot of horrible things happened that day, but one good thing came out of it all. 

My mom knew that two of her daughters were in Oklahoma City. She was worried about my sister and me, knowing we worked in the vicinity of the explosion. She also knew that she had been told that if she contacted her children it could be used in a court of law against her as harassment. But she decided, "There is no law against expressing love and concern for my children. If they want to lock me up for trying to find out if my daughters are alive, then let them." When worry overcame fear, she called. But I was not home, so she left a message on the answering machine. 

My sister and I were caught in the massive traffic on the interstate that day. We missed the phone call, but it is a day I will never forget. It was our first contact from home. You see, when I came home and listened to my mom's voice, it was the most soothing and comforting thing that could have happened. As I later learned, my mom had prayed for an opportunity to be able to show her love for her daughters, and kept her mind and heart open to any circumstances that would allow it. She didn't know if it would happen in months, years or even maybe never, but she was looking and hoping. With that thought in her heart, her words that day were ones of love and concern. She stated that if we needed anything to let her know and that they (my parents) were always there for us. She then hung up the phone. I can remember listening to that message and hearing that "past" mom that I had hidden away in my memory, and I thought of times when she would rock me at night as a little girl or hold me when I was upset. For a brief moment, good true memories crept into my thinking. I quickly shoved them back into the "closet," though, as I felt I had to keep hatred toward them alive. But, it was the next little step in my journey back home. 

My youngest sister, who during this time had been living in hiding from my parents in Springfield, MO, started making contact with my parents. She was the first to go home. She called and told me that after having a nine-hour talk with our parents, she was planning to move back home. I felt so betrayed. I told her, "Shara, you and I will always be sisters and in that context I will always love you. But, you have stabbed me in the back and I feel betrayed." I hung up the phone and turned to my sister Lynette and cried. I said, "Lyn, please don't ever do to me what Shara has just done." I can remember lying in bed at night and hurting over being so betrayed. 

Shara and I had very little conversation on the phone from then on. I can remember thinking that if I proved to Shara that she was wrong, she would come back and "join my side" again. I decided that the best way to do this was to show my parents how much better off I was without them in my life and Shara would perhaps see how cruel my parents were to me when I was with them. After all, my parents were horrible monsters and only mean things would come out of their mouths at me. In my desire to prove Shara wrong and to show my parents I really didn't need or want them in my life, I made another contact. In retrospect, it was actually another giant step toward home. I called up my mom and asked her if she wanted to go shopping with me. I told her that I would meet her halfway (in Tulsa, OK) where my aunt and uncle lived, and we could shop together if she would agree not to talk about "the situation." She agreed and off to the mall we went!! So many important things happened in that one afternoon that were so vital to my coming back home. I want to share them with you and explain why it was so helpful to me. 

The first contact with her mother: why successful 

1. WE MET IN A NEUTRAL PLACE. By meeting in a neutral place there were no emotional attachments to it. If I had met my mom at their home, it would have been too emotionally threatening. If I left that day thinking good and warm thought about her, I would have later chalked it up to having been emotionally manipulated into feeling that way. It needed to be a place that had no emotional components. 

2. WE MET IN A PLACE OF ACTIVITY. By meeting in a place surrounded by action and noise, the pressure was not there to talk. If we had met in a favorite restaurant, it would have been difficult for me-too much eye contact, too much quietness. It would have been very uncomfortable for me to sit across a table staring at my mother and struggling to talk about something. In fact, I probably would have gotten up and walked out because of the sheer awkwardness that would have been present. However, at the mall there was no pressure for conversation. 

3. WE DISCUSSED NEUTRAL TOPICS. Since we are both nurses, we talked about work and our frustrations and enjoyments about a career in nursing. We talked about our dog, Ginger. I missed her dearly and my mother talked about the newest crazy thing she had just done. We never talked about my dad or what was occurring in our lives because of my belief in the sexual abuse. By my mother keeping her agreement not to address the "situation," I soon came to realize that my parents would respect the boundaries that I had placed and that they could be trusted. My mom and I laughed together and for a few hours our relationship was just like what it had always been. 

4. SHE ASKED MY PERMISSION TO DO THINGS. While at the mall, my mother asked me if she could buy me a loofah sponge. I said, "yes," and she bought it for me. I can remember standing at the counter and holding back tears as she paid for it. You see, I knew my father was unemployed and I knew that she didn't have money to be spending. Watching my mother's love in action was something I thought about after we had parted ways. Also, when my mother asked me if she could buy something for me, it left me with the consequences of my decision. If I had said "no," I couldn't have walked away thinking "See my mother doesn't even care about me. She never even offered to do something for me." If I said "yes," I couldn't walk away and say, "My mother feels guilty for what she did to me as a child, so she is buying me gifts to make up for it." By her asking me, I couldn't misinterpret her gift. 

These basic elements in our meeting together for the first time made such an impact on me. How could such an evil parent be loving and warm toward an accusing daughter? I began to think for the first time that this picture wasn't lining up. However, I didn't allow myself to dwell on those thoughts for too long. You see, it would be too conflicting on the inside to do so. It was easier to just ignore thoughts of love and affection for or from my mom. Fortunately, this was a short-lived pattern. Although my mom wondered what good the shopping trip had done, little did she know that as I drove back to Oklahoma City I dwelt on every word said, every twinkle in her eye and her smile. Her objective of showing LOVE had been accomplished, but only I knew that. Since my experience with my mother had gone so well, we kept in touch and I became more open to the idea of seeing my father. A short time after the shopping visit, my mom began asking me repeatedly if I would allow my father to see me. I repeatedly told her "no." I explained to my mom that I would vomit if I saw my father. I still believed that he was a monster of a human being. My mom, again, respected my answer but continued to gently prod on. I finally agreed to see my dad. It happened at my uncle and aunt's house in Tulsa, OK. I came down from upstairs and walked into the kitchen. I was a nervous wreck! Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my dad coming across the kitchen toward me. I closed my eyes and was waiting for the impact of his fist. I thought he was going to hit me, as I believed he was an evil man. Although he had never hit me with his fist before, I had come to believe through therapy that this was a common occurrence in my growing-up years. 

First contact with her father: important elements 

Beside me, I heard muffled sobbing. I opened my eyes and there next to me stood my dad. I stood in disbelief. Why is he crying? He quietly whispered through his tears, "Thanks for letting me see you. . . I thought I had lost you forever. . . . I didn't think I would ever see you again . . . Can I say your name?" I nodded my head quietly in a "yes" motion. He began to say my name over and over. He explained "It just hurt too much to say it before." You see, I was expecting an angry man to come at me with accusations and tones of hatred. I expected that he would demand answers and give me ultimatums or threats of permanent alienation. But he displayed the exact opposite. He showed a heart of a real dad, full of love. I remember standing at the kitchen counter that day. It was a tender moment that my dad and I share to this day. It still brings tears to our eyes when we talk about it together. But standing there that day, I was blown away in my thinking. How could such an ugly monster be so caring, loving, broken and tearful? I started to wonder if all those memories were true. After all, this just wasn't lining up. Let me explain some things that began to turn my thinking around that day. 

1. MY FATHER AVOIDED ANY KIND OF ANGRY TONE OR HOSTILITY. Had my dad told me that I was all wrong and that if I ever wanted to see him again, I must apologize, I would have promptly gotten my keys and gone home. If he had wanted to hash out all of my accusations and go over them, I also would have left. But, by wanting nothing more than to see me and by not bringing up a single detail of the wreckage of his life, I went away thinking only of his tears and gratitude toward me for allowing him to see me. 

2. MY FATHER LET HIS EMOTIONS SHOW THROUGH. This perhaps had the biggest impact on me, for I had never seen my dad cry like he did that day. I learned that my father did not let this devastating experience harden him. Instead, it softened and broke his heart and that softness was what won mine. 

3. WE WERE ONLY TOGETHER FOR A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME. Had my father and I spent all day together, it would have been too emotionally overwhelming for me. The short encounter allowed me to dwell on the details in a better way. It also kept him from saying the wrong things! In other words, I didn't have too much to remember from our meeting, and what I did have to remember weren't the wrong kinds of things. 

Remember (parents), the therapist suggests that you are monsters. Be careful to do and act in whatever manner that keeps you from looking like and acting like a monster or someone you are not!!! That doesn't mean it is easy to do. If you were to ask my parents, they would tell you that there were times when they wanted to come to Oklahoma City and barge into my place. For they thought that if I would just see them, it would "snap me out of it." But, this would have been the worst thing they could have done. I would never have come home. I became a returner before I became a recanter. 

Over the next few months, we began to talk on the phone. The conversations were neutral and short. Finally, I told my parents that I wanted to talk with them. They came to Oklahoma City and came to my place for the first time. My parents battled between themselves over whether or not they should address my accusations with me. But, they decided to let me bring that subject up when I was ready, and in my case it was the right thing to do. 

I eventually brought up the subject, and when I did we had an eleven-hour talk. We even went to a fast-food drive-thru so that we didn't have to stop and make dinner. We talked the whole way there and the whole way back!! It was in those 11 hours that I first heard the words "false memories." Over time I came to understand what had happened to me. My parents did a lot of the right things in that first discussion of the whole situation. (Although if you were to ask my parents, they would say, "We had no idea what we were doing. We felt like we were walking on thin ice not knowing from one moment to the next if we might say the wrong thing and ruin the progress made.") These are some of the things they said that really helped me: 

What helped to bring about final reconciliation 

  • ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS OUT OF MY PARENTS' MOUTHS WHEN I ANNOUNCED I WANTED TO TALK ABOUT WHAT HAD HAPPENED IN OUR FAMILY WAS, "BETH, WE DON'T CARE WHAT IT WAS THAT BROUGHT YOU TO BELIEVE THESE THINGS ABOUT US. What matters most is that we have you." My parents continually reassured me that no matter what I told them about my therapy sessions or the beliefs I once held about them that they would always love me and want me in their lives. As the conversation progressed, so did the feeling of guilt on my part. It was their reassurance of love that kept me continuing the path back home and not shutting the door for fear I would cause them to want to desert me.
  • MY PARENTS UNDERSTOOD WHAT HAD HAPPENED. By my parents' understanding what happened to me even before I understood it, I found I wasn't shocking them as I unfolded details of my therapy. They were already aware and familiar with the therapy process. It made me not feel so stupid when I realized I wasn't the only one who had had this kind of therapy. 
  • MY PARENTS WERE NON-THREATENING. I never felt like "a big punishment" was going to be given to me when I walked in the front door. They accepted me just as I was, pieces and all. In time, my parents and I sat down and talked about the whole ordeal. This included everything that my mom and dad had been through. My sisters and I have talked, too. We have asked my parents for their forgiveness and they willingly and quickly gave it. 

  • My prayer to God shortly after we were reunited was, "God, pour so much Elmer's glue over us that we won't ever be separated again!!" And God has answered my prayer. My family and I love each other so much and we're as close as before, but I'd say even closer because we've individually and collectively survived this almost fatal nightmare.Yes, we are still a normal family with our differences of opinion and personalities, but we cherish our times together as never before, knowing we almost lost each other. Family love is strong and resilient. Love prevails . . . It bears all things, believes through all things, hopes through all things, endures through all things. We now walk our life's journey TOGETHER. 
 (The above first appeared in the April 1998 FMS Foundation Newsletter and is reproduced here with the Foundation's and the author's permission.) 

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