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 Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society
Therapist Not Needed to Recover Memories

See the account by Retractor from Victoria, BC at the Foundation web site

A Recanter's Perspective:
Some causes of the false memory tragedy

I would like to offer my own thoughts on how the profanation of sexuality is an important piece of the picture in the whole false memories tragedy. In the little I've been reading and talking with parents, I think there's a tendency to blame parts of the feminist movement. While I don't want to in any way minimize the effects of a subculture that all too often provides inappropriate validation of a victim mentality, and also too frequently promotes mistrust of men and heterosexuality, I think there are other just as powerful forces at play. 

A question that is important to ask is, Why is the social crisis of false memories taking a particularly SEXUAL form? Why are these young people not accusing their parents of, let's say, economic exploitation? Why are the memories not of sweatshops, but of sexual abuse? Why is it primarily women making the accusations, and not men? The women who make accusations are feeling raped, exploited sexually in the very core of their being. They (we) are hurting in a specific way - why? I hope to try to begin to answer these questions. 

The world I grew up in had sexual content everywhere. Every time I turned on the television set, every time I opened a newspaper, every time I encountered any form of advertising, I was confronted with a woman's body being used to sell a product. I don't know the statistics of how many hours most teenagers spend in front of the television set, but we all know that it's staggering. Interestingly enough, there's a lot of talk about the effects of violence on television on both kids and adults, but the impact of the intense doses of sexuality on TV goes less noticed. On an average night of viewing, how many sex scenes are there? How many women appear wearing clothing that emphasizes their bodies rather than their dignity? How often is a subject which should be treated with respect, sensitivity, and maybe even awe, handled with just the opposite values? 

I think it is impossible to minimize the impact these images have on a young woman's sense of self. I'm sure that many women who grew up in the fifties didn't feel so secure about themselves and the way they looked, but the pain my generation, and those growing up now, feel about their bodies I think could be unprecedented. It is no accident that eating disorders, and the accompanying misery, exists in such terrible numbers at the same time as such a rampant media explosion. The messages that the media gives, "What's important about a woman is her sex appeal". I know of no woman in her twenties who has not had to struggle with making peace with her body. 

Many of us, on one level or another, dealt with the messages by buying into them, and internalizing the idea that what's most important about you is the fact that you have sex to offer. In this climate of loose sexual boundaries, there are plenty of men around who are willing to validate that perspective, and it's pretty easy to act on it, especially when in need of some love or affection. This attitude, of course, leads a woman on her deepest level to feel exploited, undervalued, and degraded. 

My parents' generation, while it was hardly free from objectification of women, suffered much less from this plague. Mary Pipher, in her analysis of young girls' misery in Reviving Ophelia, discusses how if parents spent a day living in the shoes of their teenage girls, watching what they watch, talking about what they talk about, listening to their boy classmates, they would be shocked and alarmed. The social climate that was normal for me, because it was the norm, would be seen by a previous generation as maybe crude, coarse, or even disgusting. 

It makes a huge amount of sense, then, that a sensitive young woman or man who cared about such things such as the objectification of women in the media would identify with feminist causes. When I was at Columbia, I used to hand out stickers that said, "This offends women" that we used to slap on ads. We were right. It was in the effort to create a space that would be emotionally safe for women from the constant media noise where things got warped and destructive. 

Additionally, the utter chaos in the area of sexual mores is very confusing and hurtful to women. Clear boundaries and expectations of acceptable social behavior between men and women have been sacrificed in the name of sexual freedom. A man and a woman, or a boy and a girl, meet - what does he want? What does she want? A relationship? Sexual? Non-sexual? That elusive fantasy, a "Platonic" relationship? The capability of self-delusion, often especially pronounced among women in areas of romance, can lead to terrible problems. A woman may sleep with a man with whom she has no relationship, in which case she has made herself extremely vulnerable to someone who doesn't really care about her; she may sleep with a man with whom she WANTS to have a relationship, but he may reject her, in which case her disappointment and pain is even more intensified than if she hadn't; she may sleep with someone with whom she has "a committed relationship," which is somewhat more secure, but still leads to terrible heartbreak when the relationship ends. (If she doesn't sleep with anyone, she may wonder what's wrong with her.) 

All of this is a recipe for disaster. Between the media and lack of sexual standards, the most private, sacred, intimate aspect of human contact is being terribly damaged. Areas of vulnerability most essential to self, most subtle, instead of being gently nurtured into adulthood in true, real, satisfying relationship, are leading to intense confusion and pain. I know for myself, and I would imagine for many other young women who went through the ordeal of FMS, that the feelings of exploitation, anger, and pain were so profound that the explanation of sexual abuse made perfect sense. The social climate both in the media and "relationships" can leave her feeling exploited and violated, but she doesn't have the distance from the culture to be able to accurately name the sources of her pain. She picks up a copy of a self-help book about sexual abuse, or goes to a rally, or goes to a badly-trained therapist, and gets steered in the wrong direction. 

I imagine that this perspective might sound extreme, that the reader may be thinking, "Oh, I hear her point, but it can't be that bad. She's projecting her own experience." Obviously, coming to terms with what I went through has informed my views, but my professional contact with young American women in an educational setting has confirmed my assessment. My colleagues who are also involved with these women are also concerned about their body image, ability to function healthily and happily in marriage, and sense of sexuality. I wish that I was wrong. Thank God, not every young woman today goes through all of this emotional turmoil, but I think it would be a mistake to underestimate the impact of the media and change in sexual norms. 
I hope this angle will be helpful to people in their understanding of these issues, and I welcome any form of feedback. Lastly, about FMS in general, I strongly encourage you to not give up hope, and please try to stay patient. May G-d bless you and help you all in your struggle and efforts to reunite your families. 

---- Rachel 

 (Reproduced from the November 1998 issue of the printed Illinois FMS Society Newsletter.

Laura Pasley's letter

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