Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.
The ORDINARY RESPONSE TO ATROCITIES is to banish them from consciousness. Certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to utter aloud: this is the meaning of the word unspeakable. Atrocities, however, refuse to be buried. Equally as powerful as the desire to deny atrocities is the conviction that denial does not work. Folk wisdom is filled with ghosts who refuse to rest in their graves until their stories are told. Murder will out. Remembering and telling the truth about terrible events are prerequisites both for the restoration of the social order and for the healing of individual victims. The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma. People who have survived atrocities often tell their stories in a highly emotional, contradictory, and fragmented manner that undermines their credibility and thereby serves the twin imperatives of truth-telling and secrecy. When the truth is finally recognized, survivors can begin their recovery. But far too often secrecy prevails, and the story of the traumatic event surfaces not as a verbal narrative but as a symptom. The psychological distress symptoms of traumatized people simultaneously call attention to the existence of an unspeakable secret and deflect attention from it. This is most apparent in the way traumatized people alternate between feeling numb and reliving the event. The dialectic of trauma gives rise to complicated, sometimes uncanny alterations of consciousness, which George Orwell, one of the committed truth-tellers of our century, called "doublethink," and which mental health professionals, searching for calm, precise language, call "dissociation." It results in protean, dramatic, and often bizarre symptoms of hysteria which Freud recognized a century ago as disguised communications about sexual abuse in childhood. . . .
Violators cannot live with the truth: survivors cannot live without it. There are those who still, once again, are poised to invalidate and deny us. If we don't assert our truth, it may again be relegated to fantasy. But the truth won't go away. It will keep surfacing until it is recognized. Truth will outlast any campaigns mounted against it, no matter how mighty, clever, or long. It is invincible. It's only a matter of which generation is willing to face it and, in so doing, protect future generations from ritual abuse.
Along with the trust issues, one of the hardest parts to deal with is the feeling of not being believed or supported, especially by your own grandparents and extended family. When I have been through so much pain and hurt and have to live with the scars every day, I get angry knowing that others think it is all made up or they brush it off because my cousin was a teenager. I was ten when I was first sexually abused by my cousin, and a majority of my relatives have taken the perpetrator's side. I have cried many times about everything and how my relatives gave no support or love to me as a kid when this all came out. Not one relative ever came up to that innocent little girl I was and said "I am sorry for what you went through" or "I am here for you." Instead they said hurtful things: "Oh he was young." "That is what kids do." "It is not like he was some older man you didn't know." Why does age make a difference? It is a sick way of thinking. Sexual abuse is sexual abuse. What is wrong with this picture? It brings tears to my eyes the way my relatives have reacted to this and cannot accept the truth. Denial is where they would rather stay.
... you sometimes had to force people to say things they would rather not articulate, just so they could hear their own words. It was interesting the way people could know things and not know them at the same time. Denial, he said, was like a thick stone wall.
If you are slightly different, if your face doesn’t fit, they judge you and consign you and throw away the fucking key. They never, ever stop to think that THEY might be wrong, that THEY are making a mistake. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been the victim of a massive miscarriage of justice - I’m not saying that - BUT I know what it’s like to be stinking judged before people have even bothered to find out what you are about. They have boxed me off into the ugly group even before I have opened my gob. SOCIETY IS SHIT.
Because the problem of ritual abuse and mind control has not gone away - the survivors are still there - many more therapists have learnt about it. Survivors have spoken out and written their stories, and therapists have learnt a great deal from those brave survivors who have discovered what was done to them. There is a large special interest group on Ritual Abuse and Mind Control within the International Society for the Study of Dissociation. Those therapists who have learnt in isolation or in small private online forums are once again sharing their knowledge widely, and books such as this one are beginning to be published again. The work is still very difficult and challenging, but we now know so much more than we did. We know that there is not one massive Satanic cult, but many different interrelated groups, including religious, military/political, and organized crime, using mind control on children and adult survivors. We know that there are effective treatments. We know that many of the paralyzing beliefs our clients lived by are the results of lies and tricks perpetrated by their abusers. And we know that, as therapists, we can combat this evil with wise and compassionate therapy.
This vacillation between assertion and denial in discussions about organised abuse can be understood as functional, in that it serves to contain the traumatic kernel at the heart of allegations of organised abuse. In his influential ‘just world’ theory, Lerner (1980) argued that emotional wellbeing is predicated on the assumption that the world is an orderly, predictable and just place in which people get what they deserve. Whilst such assumptions are objectively false, Lerner argued that individuals have considerable investment in maintaining them since they are conducive to feelings of self—efficacy and trust in others. When they encounter evidence contradicting the view that the world is just, individuals are motivated to defend this belief either by helping the victim (and thus restoring a sense of justice) or by persuading themselves that no injustice has occurred. Lerner (1980) focused on the ways in which the ‘just world’ fallacy motivates victim-blaming, but there are other defences available to bystanders who seek to dispel troubling knowledge. Organised abuse highlights the severity of sexual violence in the lives of some children and the desire of some adults to inflict considerable, and sometimes irreversible, harm upon the powerless. Such knowledge is so toxic to common presumptions about the orderly nature of society, and the generally benevolent motivations of others, that it seems as though a defensive scaffold of disbelief, minimisation and scorn has been erected to inhibit a full understanding of organised abuse. Despite these efforts, there has been a recent resurgence of interest in organised abuse and particularly ritualistic abuse (eg Sachs and Galton 2008, Epstein et al. 2011, Miller 2012).
DENIAL Defense mechanism in which the existence of unpleasant realities is disavowed; refers to keeping out of conscious awareness any aspects of external reality that, if acknowledged, would produce anxiety.
He pulled my skirt up. I began to worry. Everyone knew he had broken in girls before and I didn't want it to happen to me. I said, 'No. Get off, please.' He pulled me down the alley and pushed me to the ground. As I lay on my back worrying about my new blue coat, he pushed his fingers up between my legs — and rammed himself into me. I was crying. His lips were pressed against mine but I was motionless, like a small corpse. He grunted and I knew it was over. He got up, I just lay there on the ground, my tights round my ankles. The clock was striking twelve. As he walked away, he turned and said, 'I've always wanted to do it to you. I like your mouth'. When I got in, my mum said, 'Tracey, what's wrong with you?' I showed her my coat, the dirt and the stains, and told her 'I'm not a virgin any more.' She didn't call the police or make any fuss. She just washed my coat and everything carried on as normal, as though nothing had happened. But for me, my childhood was over, I had become conscious of my physicality, aware of my presence and open to the ugly truths of the world. At the age of thirteen, I realised that there was a danger in innocence and beauty, and I could not live with both. (describing childhood rape)
(Talking about the movement to deny the prevalence and effects of adult sexual exploitation of children) So what does this movement consist of? Who are the movers and shakers? Well molesters are in it, of course. There are web pages telling them how to defend themselves against accusations, to retain confidence about their ‘loving and natural’ feelings for children, with advice on what lawyers to approach, how to complain, how to harass those helping their children. Then there’s the Men’s Movements, their web pages throbbing with excitement if they find ‘proof’ of conspiracy between feminists, divorcing wives and therapists to victimise men, fathers and husbands. Then there are journalists. A few have been vitally important in the US and Britain in establishing the fightback, using their power and influence to distort the work of child protection professionals and campaign against children’s testimony. Then there are other journalists who dance in and out of the debates waggling their columns behind them, rarely observing basic journalistic manners, but who use this debate to service something else – a crack at the welfare state, standards, feminism, ‘touchy, feely, post-Diana victimhood’. Then there is the academic voice, landing in the middle of court cases or inquiries, offering ‘rational authority’. Then there is the government. During the entire period of discovery and denial, not one Cabinet minister made a statement about the prevalence of sexual abuse or the harm it caused. Finally there are the ‘retractors’. For this movement to take off, it had to have ‘human interest’ victims – the accused – and then a happy ending – the ‘retractors’. We are aware that those ‘retractors’ whose parents trail them to newspapers, television studios and conferences are struggling. Lest we forget, they recanted under palpable pressure.
In all the interviews I have done, I cannot remember one offender who did not admit privately to more victims than those for whom he had been caught. On the contrary, most offenders had been charged with and/or convicted of from one to three victims. In the interviews I have done, they have admitted to roughly 10 to 1,250 victims. What was truly frightening was that all the offenders had been reported before by children, and the reports had been ignored.
I used to pray you know, pray to God that He would somehow stop it. All the nights of listening to my mother scream and things breaking. Of holding my brother and sister and listening to them cry and begging me to stop it.' My voice is slow and steady like a freight train at night. 'I was too young, and we were always told that they'd put us in foster homes where people would rape us if we ever said anything. So we explained away the bruises and my mom wore big sunglasses whenever she left the house. And we invented car accidents if the bruising was too bad to cover with make-up.
The survivor movements were also challenging the notion of a dysfunctional family as the cause and culture of abuse, rather than being one of the many places where abuse nested. This notion, which in the 1990s and early 1980s was the dominant understanding of professionals characterised the sex abuser as a pathetic person who had been denied sex and warmth by his wife, who in turn denied warmth to her daughters. Out of this dysfunctional triad grew the far-too-cosy incest dyad. Simply diagnosed, relying on the signs: alcoholic father, cold distant mother, provocative daughter. Simply resolved, because everyone would want to stop, to return to the functioning family where mum and dad had sex and daughter concentrated on her exams. Professionals really believed for a while that sex offenders would want to stop what they were doing. They thought if abuse were decriminalised, abusers would seek help. The survivors knew different. P5
Both incest and the Holocaust have been subject to furious denial by perpetrators and other individuals and by highly organised groups such as the False Memory Syndrome Foundation and the Committee for Historical Review. Incest and the Holocaust are vulnerable to this kind of concerted denial because of their unfathomability, the unjustifiability, and the threat they pose to the politics of patriarchy and anti-Semitism respectively. Over and over, survivors of the Holocaust attest that they were warned of what was happening in Poland but could not believe it at the time, could not believe it later as it was happening to them, and still to this day cannot believe what they, at the same time, know to have occurred. For Holocaust deniers this is a felicitous twist, for their arguments denying the Holocaust and therefore the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state capitalize on the discrepancies of faded memory. In the case of incest, although post-traumatic stress disorder, amnesia, and dissociation represent some of the mind's strategies for comprehending the incomprehensible, incest deniers have taken advantage of inconsistencies to discredit survivor testimony.
The truth is: Everyone will judge you. But this depends upon your intellectual capacity whether you are able to distinguish constructive criticism between an insult coming from other people's opinions about you.
For all this talk about us being a nation at war with child abuse, and for all the media hype about witch-hunts and false allegations — and don't ever let anyone use the word witch-hunts about this; there were no witches — the fact remains that in 1994, it is extremely difficult to come forward with allegations of sexual abuse. And the external forces of denial are almost overwhelming. If a case as verified as mine meets with denial, I dread to think about the experience of people who don't have the kind of corroboration that I do. And I really worry that we're getting close to a point where it's going to be impossible to prosecute child molesters, because we don't believe children, and now we don't believe adults. (Cheit "Paper presented at the Mississippi Statewide Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect" Jackson, April 29 1994.)
From Colin A. Ross, 1995: The writer is the brother of the man who co-founded the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. He is writing to WGBH about a program called 'Divided Memories', which you may have seen, that was supposed to be an investigation of memory. This letter also went to Congress and to the press, so it's a public letter. It's just unfortunate that the press, as far as I know, didn't pick it up. 'Gentlemen: Peter Freyd is my brother. Pamela Freyd is both my stepsister and sister-in-law. Jennifer and Gwendolyn [their daughters] are my nieces. There is no doubt in my mind that there was severe abuse in the home of Peter and Pam, while they were raising their daughters. Peter said (on your show, 'Divided Memories') that his humor was ribald. Those of us who had to endure it, remember it as abusive at best and viciously sadistic at worst. The False Memory Syndrome Foundation is a fraud designed to deny a reality that Peter and Pam have spent most of their lives trying to escape. There is no such thing as a False Memory Syndrome. It is not, by any normal standard, a Foundation. Neither Pam nor Peter have any significant mental health expertise. That the False Memory Syndrome Foundation has been able to excite so much media attention has been a great surprise to those of us who would like to admire and respect the objectivity and motives of people in the media. Neither Peter's mother (who was also mine), nor his daughters, nor I have wanted anything to do with Peter and Pam for periods of time ranging up to more than two decades. We do not understand why you would 'buy' such an obviously flawed story. But buy it you did, based on the severely biased presentation you made of the memory issue that Peter and Pam created to deny their own difficult reality. For the most part you presented very credible parents and frequently quite incredibly bizarre and exotic alleged victims and therapists. Balance and objectivity would call for the presentation of more credible alleged victims and more bizarre parents, While you did present some highly regarded therapists as commentators, most of the therapists you presented as providers of therapy were clearly not in the mainstream. While this selection of examples may make for much more interesting television, it certainly does not make for more objectivity and fairness. I would advance the idea that 'Divided Memories' hurt victims, helped abusers and confused the public. I wonder why you thought these results would be in the public interest that Public broadcasting is funded to support.
There have been extensive human rights violations by American psychiatrists over the last 70 years. These doctors were pad by the American taxpayer through CIA and military contracts. It is past time for these abuses to stop, it is past time for a reckoning, and it is past time for individual doctors to be held accountable. The Manchurian Candidate Programs are of much more than "historical" interest. ARTICHOKE, BLUEBIRD, MKULTRA and MKSEARCH are precursors of mind control programs that are operational in the twenty first century. Human rights violations by psychiatrists must be ongoing in programs like COPPER GREEN, the interrogation program at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Such programs must be carried out within CIA units like Task Force 121 (The Dallas Morning News, December 1, 2004, p. 1A). Information pointing to ongoing human rights violations by psychiatrists is available in publications like The New Yorker (see article by Seymour M. Hersh, May 24, 2004). Yes the indifference, silence, denial, and disinformation of organized medicine and psychiatry continue. One purpose of The CIA Doctors: Human Rights Violations By American Psychiatrists is to break that silence.
In the specific case of the use of the term false memory to describe errors in details in laboratory tasks (e.g., in word-learning tasks), the media and public are set up all too easily to interpret such research as relevant to false memories of abuse because the term is used in the public domain to refer to contested memories of abuse. Because the term false memory is inextricably tied in the public to a social movement that questions the veracity of memories for childhood sexual abuse, the use of the term in scientific research that evaluates memory errors for details (not whole events) must be evaluated in this light." From: What's in a Name for Memory Errors? Implications and Ethical Issues Arising From the Use of the Term False Memory for Errors in Memory for Details, Journal: Ethics & Behavior 14(3) pages 201-233, 2004
This monograph by Special Agent Ken Lanning (1992) is merely a guide for those who may investigate this phenomenon, as the title indicates, and not a study. The author is a well known skeptic regarding cult and ritual abuse allegations and has consulted on a number of cases but to our knowledge has not personally investigated the majority of these cases, some of which have produced convictions. p179 [refers to Lanning, K. V. (1992) Investigator's guide to allegations of "ritual" child abuse. Quantico, VA: National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime.]
Some readers may find it a curious or even unscientific endeavour to craft a criminological model of organised abuse based on the testimony of survivors. One of the standard objections to qualitative research is that participants may lie or fantasise in interview, it has been suggested that adults who report severe child sexual abuse are particularly prone to such confabulation. Whilst all forms of research, whether qualitative or quantitative, may be impacted upon by memory error or false reporting. there is no evidence that qualitative research is particularly vulnerable to this, nor is there any evidence that a fantasy— or lie—prone individual would be particularly likely to volunteer for research into child sexual abuse. Research has consistently found that child abuse histories, including severe and sadistic abuse, are accurate and can be corroborated (Ross 2009, Otnow et al. 1997, Chu et al. 1999). Survivors of child abuse may struggle with amnesia and other forms of memory disturbance but the notion that they are particularly prone to suggestion and confabulation has yet to find a scientific basis. It is interesting to note that questions about the veracity of eyewitness evidence appear to be asked far more frequently in relation to sexual abuse and rape than in relation to other crimes. The research on which this book is based has been conducted with an ethical commitment to taking the lives and voices of survivors of organised abuse seriously.
The themes that exercised the minds of survivor movements and their allies within the health and welfare professions generated a political project: how to revolutionise medical and judicial approaches to injured adults and children, how to raise awareness so that other people didn’t have to suffer the same, and how to understand, and then challenge, offenders who so love what they do to children that they can and must shut their minds to the feelings of children who have put their trust in them. P4
As a child I had been taken to see Dr Bradshaw on countless occasions; it was in his surgery that Billy had first discovered Lego. As I was growing up, I also saw Dr Robinson, the marathon runner. Now that I was living back at home, he was again my GP. When Mother bravely told him I was undergoing treatment for MPD/DID as a result of childhood sexual abuse, he buried his head in hands and wept. Child abuse will always re-emerge, no matter how many years go by. We read of cases of people who have come forward after thirty or forty years to say they were abused as children in care homes by wardens, schoolteachers, neighbours, fathers, priests. The Catholic Church in the United States in the last decade has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for 'acts of sodomy and depravity towards children', to quote one information-exchange web-site. Why do these ageing people make the abuse public so late in their lives? To seek attention? No, it's because deep down there is a wound they need to bring out into the clean air before it can heal. Many clinicians miss signs of abuse in children because they, as decent people, do not want to find evidence of what Dr Ross suggests is 'a sick society that has grown sicker, and the abuse of children more bizarre'. (Note: this was written in the UK many years before the revelations of Jimmy Savile's widespread abuse, which included some ritual abuse)
Mum was pregnant, then there was Sharron. [...] I wanted to keep him away from her - but for the wrong reasons. In my head he was mine, he was my special person but, of course, as I was getting older, his interest in me was waning anyway. I don't know whether it was because he had lost interest in me, or because the abuse elsewhere was so horrific, particularly without him in my life to make things seem better but, whatever the reason, I soon moved from wanted him to leave Sharron alone for my sake, to wanting him to leave her alone for the right reasons. She was tiny, just a toddler, and the thought of him touching her or abusing her horrified me. I started trying to attract his attention whenever he looked at her. I'd dance, I'd sing, I'd sit on his lap. I'd do a hundred things that were completely out of character - anything, anything to avoid seeing that look in his eye when he glanced at the baby. I knew that he was planing to do to her what he had done to me. I tried to get in the way, I tried to get him to play with me, but once Sharron was about three, the penny finally dropped. I had always thought he wasn't in the same category as the others; they weren't nice, and he always was. But as she began to replace me, it made me face up to things. What Uncle Andrew did wasn't right. [...] Even though I loved my uncle, and craved his attention, the thought of him coming into my bed was starting to repulse me. sharron slept in my bed, too, by then, and I wanted that to continue because I wanted to protect her. Of course, there were plenty of times when I wasn't there. I was still being taken away to be abused. I was at school; Sharon was often left unprotected. Something must have been happening because she started wetting the bed almost every night. This was a sign that even I couldn't turn away from. Sharon was being abused. I was sure of it. But I wouldn't stand for it, not for much longer. p209-2010
Treating Abuse Today 3(4) pp. 26-33 TAT: No. I don't know anymore than you know they're not. But, I'm talking about boundaries and privacy here. As a therapist working with survivors, I have been harassed by people who claim to be affiliated with the false memory movement. Parents and other family members have called or written me insisting on talking with me about my patients' cases, despite my clearly indicating I can't because of professional confidentiality. I have had other parents and family members investigate me -- look into my professional background -- hoping to find something to discredit me to the patients I was seeing at the time because they disputed their memories. This isn't the kind of sober, scientific discourse you all claim you want.
The Legend of Robert Halsey This article examines the criminal conviction of Robert Halsey for sexually abusing two young boys on his school-van route near Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Mr. Halsey's name has been invoked by academics, journalists, and activists as the victim of the witch hunt in this country over child sexual abuse. Based on a comprehensive examination of the trial transcript, this article details the overwhelming evidence of guilt against Mr. Halsey. The credulous acceptance of the false conviction legend about Robert Halsey provides a case study in the techniques and tactics used to minimize and deny sexual abuse, while promoting a narrative about ritual abuse and witch hunts that apparently requires little or no factual basis. The second part of this article analyzes how the erroneous false conviction narrative about Robert Halsey was constructed and how it gained widespread acceptance. The Legend of Robert Halsey provides a cautionary tale about how easy it is to wrap even the guiltiest person in a cloak of righteous witch hunt claims. Cases identified as false convictions by defense lawyers and political activists deserve far greater scrutiny from the media and the public. journal: Cheit, Ross E. "The Legend of Robert Halsey." Journal of child sexual abuse 9.3-4 (2002): 37-52.
We propose that use of the term false memory to describe errors in memory for details directly contributes to removing the social context of abuse from research on memory for trauma. As the term false memories has increasingly been used to describe errors in details, the scientific weight of the term has increased. In turn, we see that the term false memories is treated as a construct supported by scientific fact, whereas other terms associated with questions about the veracity of abuse memories have been treated as suspect. For example, recovered memories often appears in quotations, whereas false memories does not (Campbell, 2003).The quotation marks suggest that one term is questioned, whereas the other is accepted as fact. Accepting false memories of abuse as fact reflects the subtle assimilation of the term into the cognitive literature, where the term is used increasingly to describe intrusions of semantically related words into lists of related words. The term, rooted in the controversy over the accuracy of abuse memories recalled during psychotherapy (Schacter, 1999), implies generalization of errors in details to memory for abuse—experienced largely by women and children (Campbell, 2003)." from: What's in a Name for Memory Errors? Implications and Ethical Issues Arising From the Use of the Term False Memory for Errors in Memory for Details, Journal: Ethics & Behavior
I feel that some people have a hard time with the truths around us, not only the sexual abuse by priests, but all bad things. I call it chosen ignorance. This modified form of ignorance is found in people who, if confronted with certain truths realize that they have to accept them and thereby acknowledge evil, and that scares them. Opening up and letting the truth in might knock them off their perceived center. It is too hard, period.
All I wanted to do was hide away from the world, but I still had a role to play. I had to be 'Girl A' - the key witness in the trial that finally saw my abusers locked up. Girl A - the girl in the newspaper stories who had been through the most hideous experience imaginable. When I read those stories, I felt like I was reading about somebody else, another girl who was subjected to the depths of human depravity. But it wasn't. It was about me. I am Girl A.
Another preoccupation fed into this dynamic relationship between discovery and denial: does sexual abuse actually matter? Should it, in fact, be allowed? After all, it was only in the 19070s that the Paedophile Information Exchange had argued for adults’ right to have sex with children – or rather by a slippery sleight of word, PIE inverted the imperative by arguing that children should have the right to have sex with adults. This group had been disbanded after the imprisonment of Tom O’Carroll, its leader, with some of its activists bunkered in Holland’s paedophile enclaves, only to re-appear over the parapets in the sex crime controversies of the 1990s. How recent it was, then, that paedophilia was fielded as one of the liberation movements, how many of those on the left and right of the political firmament, were – and still are – persuaded that sex with children is merely another case for individual freedom? Few people in Britain at the turn of the century publicly defend adults’ rights to sex with children. But some do, and they are to be found nesting in the coalition crusading against evidence of sexual suffering. They have learned from the 1970s, masked their intentions and diverted attention on to ‘the system’. Others may not have come out for paedophilia but they are apparently content to enter into political alliances with those who have. We believe that this makes their critique of survivors and their allies unreliable. Others genuinely believe in false memories, but may not be aware of the credentials of some of their advisors.
Today, acknowledgement of the prevalence and harms of child sexual abuse is counterbalanced with cautionary tales about children and women who, under pressure from social workers and therapists, produce false allegations of ‘paedophile rings’, ‘cult abuse’ and ‘ritual abuse’. Child protection investigations or legal cases involving allegations of organised child sexual abuse are regularly invoked to illustrate the dangers of ‘false memories’, ‘moral panic’ and ‘community hysteria’. These cautionary tales effectively delimit the bounds of acceptable knowledge in relation to sexual abuse. They are circulated by those who locate themselves firmly within those bounds, characterising those beyond as ideologues and conspiracy theorists. However firmly these boundaries have been drawn, they have been persistently transgressed by substantiated disclosures of organised abuse that have led to child protection interventions and prosecutions. Throughout the 1990s, in a sustained effort to redraw these boundaries, investigations and prosecutions for organised abuse were widely labelled ‘miscarriages of justice’ and workers and therapists confronted with incidents of organised abuse were accused of fabricating or exaggerating the available evidence. These accusations have faded over time as evidence of organised abuse has accumulated, while investigatory procedures have become more standardised and less vulnerable to discrediting attacks. However, as the opening quotes to this introduction illustrate, the contemporary situation in relation to organised abuse is one of considerable ambiguity in which journalists and academics claim that organised abuse is a discredited ‘moral panic’ even as cases are being investigated and prosecuted.
Although the terminology implies scientific endorsement, false memory syndrome is not currently an accepted diagnostic label by the APA and is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.; American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Seventeen researchers (Carstensen et al., 1993) noted that this syndrome is a "non-psychological term originated by a private foundation whose stated purpose is to support accused parents" (p.23). Those authors urged professionals to forgo use of this pseudoscientific terminology. Terminology implies acceptance of this pseudodiagnostic label may leave readers with the mistaken impression that false memory syndrome is a bona fide clinical disorder supported by concomitant empirical evidence.(85)... ... it may be easier to imagine women forming false memories given biases against women's mental and cognitive abilities (e.g., Coltrane & Adams, 1996). 86
[Refers to 121 children taken into care in Cleveland due to suspected abuse (1987) and later returned to their parents] Sue Richardson, the child abuse consultant at the heart of the crisis, watched as cases began to unravel: All the focus started to fall on the medical findings; other supportive evidence, mainly which we held in the social services department, started to be screened out. A situation developed where the cases either were proven or fell on the basis of medical evidence alone. Other evidence that was available to the court, very often then, never got put. We would have had statement from the child, the social workers and the child psychologist’s evidence from interviewing. We would have evidence of prior concerns, either from social workers or teachers, about the child’s behaviour or other symptoms that they might have been showing, which were completely aside from the medical findings. (Channel 4 1997) Ten years after the Cleveland crisis, Sue Richardson was adamant that evidence relating to children’s safety was not presented to the courts which subsequently returned those children to their parents: I am saying that very clearly. In some cases, evidence was not put in the court. In other cases, agreements were made between lawyers not to put the case to the court at all, particularly as the crisis developed. Latterly, that children were sent home subject to informal agreements or agreements between lawyers. The cases never even got as far as the court. (Channel 4, 1997) Nor is Richardson alone. Jayne Wynne, one of the Leeds paediatricians who had pioneered the use of RAD as an indicator of sexual abuse and who subsequently had detailed knowledge of many of the Cleveland children, remains concerned by the haphazard approach of the courts to their protection. I think the implication is that the children were left unprotected. The children who were being abused unfortunately returned to homes and the abuse may well have been ongoing. (Channel 4 1997)
In her book claiming that allegations of ritualistic abuse are mostly confabulations, La Fontaine’s (1998) comparison of social workers to ‘nazis’ shows the depth of feeling evident amongst many sceptics. However, this raises an important question: Why did academics and journalists feel so strongly about allegations of ritualistic abuse, to the point of pervasively misrepresenting the available evidence and treating women disclosing ritualistic abuse, and those workers who support them, with barely concealed contempt? It is of course true that there are fringe practitioners in the field of organised abuse, just as there are fringe practitioners in many other health-related fields. However, the contrast between the measured tone of the majority of therapists and social workers writing on ritualistic abuse, and the over-blown sensationalism of their critics, could not be starker. Indeed, Scott (2001) notes with irony that the writings of those who claimed that ‘satanic ritual abuse’ is a ‘moral panic’ had many of the features of a moral panic: scapegoating therapists, social workers and sexual abuse victims whilst warning of an impending social catastrophe brought on by an epidemic of false allegations of sexual abuse. It is perhaps unsurprising that social movements for people accused of sexual abuse would engage in such hyperbole, but why did this rhetoric find so many champions in academia and the media?
There should be a public outcry about what happened to me and other women in the name of our government! But history has shown the customs of society and laws of the State allowed it to crush my aspirations and barred me from the the pursuit of almost every object worthy of an intelligent, rational mind.45 What law has the right to entrust the interest of myself and my children into the hands of such an evil bunch of men? I did not occupy my rightful place in 1976. 45. (paraphrased from Gurko, Miriram, The Ladies of Seneca Falls; the Birth of the Women's Rights Movement, 1974.
Allegations of multi-perpetrator and multi-victim sexual abuse emerged to public awareness in the early 1980s contemporaneously with the denials of the accused and their supporters. Multi-perpetrator sexual offences are typically more sadistic than solo offences and organised sexual abuse is no exception. Adults and children with histories of organised abuse have described lives marked by torturous and sometimes ritualistic sexual abuse arranged by family members and other care-givers and authority figures. It is widely acknowledged, at least in theory, that sexual abuse can take severe forms, but when disclosures of such abuse occur, they are routinely subject to contestation and challenge. People accused of organised, sadistic or ritualistic abuse have protested that their accusers are liars and fantasists, or else innocents led astray by overly zealous investigators. This was an argument that many journalists and academics have found more convincing than the testimony of alleged victims.
Treating Abuse Today (Tat), 3(4), pp. 26-33 Freyd: You were also looking for some operational criteria for false memory syndrome: what a clinician could look for or test for, and so on. I spoke with several of our scientific advisory board members and I have some information for you that isn't really in writing at this point but I think it's a direction you want us to go in. So if I can read some of these notes . . . TAT: Please do. Freyd: One would look for false memory syndrome: 1. If a patient reports having been sexually abused by a parent, relative or someone in very early childhood, but then claims that she or he had complete amnesia about it for a decade or more; 2. If the patient attributes his or her current reason for being in therapy to delayed-memories. And this is where one would want to look for evidence suggesting that the abuse did not occur as demonstrated by a list of things, including firm, confident denials by the alleged perpetrators; 3. If there is denial by the entire family; 4. In the absence of evidence of familial disturbances or psychiatric illnesses. For example, if there's no evidence that the perpetrator had alcohol dependency or bipolar disorder or tendencies to pedophilia; 5. If some of the accusations are preposterous or impossible or they contain impossible or implausible elements such as a person being made pregnant prior to menarche, being forced to engage in sex with animals, or participating in the ritual killing of animals, and; 6. In the absence of evidence of distress surrounding the putative abuse. That is, despite alleged abuse going from age two to 27 or from three to 16, the child displayed normal social and academic functioning and that there was no evidence of any kind of psychopathology. Are these the kind of things you were asking for? TAT: Yeah, it's a little bit more specific. I take issue with several, but at least it gives us more of a sense of what you all mean when you say "false memory syndrome." Freyd: Right. Well, you know I think that things are moving in that direction since that seems to be what people are requesting. Nobody's denying that people are abused and there's no one denying that someone who was abused a decade ago or two decades ago probably would not have talked about it to anybody. I think I mentioned to you that somebody who works in this office had that very experience of having been abused when she was a young teenager-not extremely abused, but made very uncomfortable by an uncle who was older-and she dealt with it for about three days at the time and then it got pushed to the back of her mind and she completely forgot about it until she was in therapy. TAT: There you go. That's how dissociation works! Freyd: That's how it worked. And after this came up and she had discussed and dealt with it in therapy, she could again put it to one side and go on with her life. Certainly confronting her uncle and doing all these other things was not a part of what she had to do. Interestingly, though, at the same time, she has a daughter who went into therapy and came up with memories of having been abused by her parents. This daughter ran away and is cutoff from the family-hasn't spoken to anyone for three years. And there has never been any meeting between the therapist and the whole family to try to find out what was involved. TAT: If we take the first example -- that of her own abuse -- and follow the criteria you gave, we would have a very strong disbelief in the truth of what she told.
But nothing in my previous work had prepared me for the experience of reinvestigating Cleveland. It is worth — given the passage of time — recalling the basic architecture of the Crisis: 121 children from many different and largely unrelated families had been taken into the care of Cleveland County Council in the three short months of the summer of 1987. (p18) The key to resolving the puzzle of Cleveland was the children. What had actually happened to them? Had they been abused - or had the paediatricians and social workers (as public opinion held) been over-zealous and plain wrong? Curiously — particularly given its high profile, year-long sittings and £5 million cost — this was the one central issue never addressed by the Butler-Sloss judicial testimony and sifting of internal evidence, the inquiry's remit did not require it to answer the main question. Ten years after the crisis, my colleagues and I set about reconstructing the records of the 121 children at its heart to determine exactly what had happened to them... (p19) Eventually, though, we did assemble the data given to the Butler-Sloss Inquiry. This divided into two categories: the confidential material, presented in camera, and the transcripts of public sessions of the hearings. Putting the two together we assembled our own database on the children each identified only by the code-letters assigned to them by Butler-Sloss. When it was finished, this database told a startlingly different story from the public myth. In every case there was some prima fade evidence to suggest the possibility of abuse. Far from the media fiction of parents taking their children to Middlesbrough General Hospital for a tummy ache or a sore thumb and suddenly being presented with a diagnosis of child sexual abuse, the true story was of families known to social services for months or years, histories of physical and sexual abuse of siblings and of prior discussions with parents about these concerns. In several of the cases the children themselves had made detailed disclosures of abuse; many of the pre-verbal children displayed severe emotional or behavioural symptoms consistent with sexual abuse. There were even some families in which a convicted sex offender had moved in with mother and children. (p20)
Blaming therapy, social work and other caring professions for the confabulation of testimony of 'satanic ritual abuse' legitimated a programme of political and social action designed to contest the gains made by the women's movement and the child protection movement. In efforts to characterise social workers and therapists as hysterical zealots, 'satanic ritual abuse' was, quite literally, 'made fun of': it became the subject of scorn and ridicule as interest groups sought to discredit testimony of sexual abuse as a whole. The groundswell of support that such efforts gained amongst journalists, academics and the public suggests that the pleasures of disbelief found resonance far beyond the confines of social movements for people accused of sexual abuse. These pleasures were legitimised by a pseudo-scientific vocabulary of 'false memories' and 'moral panic' but as Daly (1999:219-20) points out 'the ultimate goal of ideology is to present itself in neutral, value-free terms as the very horizon of objectivity and to dismiss challenges to its order as the "merely ideological"'. The media spotlight has moved on and social movements for people accused of sexual abuse have lost considerable momentum. However, their rhetoric continues to reverberate throughout the echo chamber of online and 'old' media. Intimations of collusion between feminists and Christians in the concoction of 'satanic ritual abuse' continue to mobilise 'progressive' as well as 'conservative' sympathies for men accused of serious sexual offences and against the needs of victimised women and children. This chapter argues that, underlying the invocation of often contradictory rationalising tropes (ranging from calls for more scientific 'objectivity' in sexual abuse investigations to emotional descriptions of 'happy families' rent asunder by false allegations) is a collective and largely unarticulated pleasure; the catharthic release of sentiments and views about children and women that had otherwise become shameful in the aftermath of second wave feminism. It seems that, behind the veneer of public concern about child sexual abuse, traditional views about the incredibility of women's and children's testimony persist. 'Satanic ritual abuse has served as a lens through which these views have been rearticulated and reasserted at the very time that evidence of widespread and serious child sexual abuse has been consolidating. p60
Treating Abuse Today (Tat), 3(4), pp. 26-33 Freyd: I see what you're saying but people in psychology don't have a uniform agreement on this issue of the depth of -- I guess the term that was used at the conference was -- "robust repression." TAT: Well, Pamela, there's a whole lot of evidence that people dissociate traumatic things. What's interesting to me is how the concept of "dissociation" is side-stepped in favor of "repression." I don't think it's as much about repression as it is about traumatic amnesia and dissociation. That has been documented in a variety of trauma survivors. Army psychiatrists in the Second World War, for instance, documented that following battles, many soldiers had amnesia for the battles. Often, the memories wouldn't break through until much later when they were in psychotherapy. Freyd: But I think I mentioned Dr. Loren Pankratz. He is a psychologist who was studying veterans for post-traumatic stress in a Veterans Administration Hospital in Portland. They found some people who were admitted to Veteran's hospitals for postrraumatic stress in Vietnam who didn't serve in Vietnam. They found at least one patient who was being treated who wasn't even a veteran. Without external validation, we just can't know -- TAT: -- Well, we have external validation in some of our cases. Freyd: In this field you're going to find people who have all levels of belief, understanding, experience with the area of repression. As I said before it's not an area in which there's any kind of uniform agreement in the field. The full notion of repression has a meaning within a psychoanalytic framework and it's got a meaning to people in everyday use and everyday language. What there is evidence for is that any kind of memory is reconstructed and reinterpreted. It has not been shown to be anything else. Memories are reconstructed and reinterpreted from fragments. Some memories are true and some memories are confabulated and some are downright false. TAT: It is certainly possible for in offender to dissociate a memory. It's possible that some of the people who call you could have done or witnessed some of the things they've been accused of -- maybe in an alcoholic black-out or in a dissociative state -- and truly not remember. I think that's very possible. Freyd: I would say that virtually anything is possible. But when the stories include murdering babies and breeding babies and some of the rather bizarre things that come up, it's mighty puzzling. TAT: I've treated adults with dissociative disorders who were both victimized and victimizers. I've seen previously repressed memories of my clients' earlier sexual offenses coming back to them in therapy. You guys seem to be saying, be skeptical if the person claims to have forgotten previously, especially if it is about something horrible. Should we be equally skeptical if someone says "I'm remembering that I perpetrated and I didn't remember before. It's been repressed for years and now it's surfacing because of therapy." I ask you, should we have the same degree of skepticism for this type of delayed-memory that you have for the other kind? Freyd: Does that happen? TAT: Oh, yes. A lot.
from: The Portrayal of Child Sexual Assault in Introductory Psychology Textbooks - Elizabeth J. Letourneau, Tonya C. Lewis One of the central questions surrounding the debate on memories of CSA is how often false or repressed memories actually occur. The APA working group (Alpert et al., 1996) and other experts (e.g., Loftus, 1993a) noted that no reliable method can distinguish between accurate and inaccurate memories. Therefore, no one can determine the prevalence of false or repressed memories. Nevertheless, six texts (30%) implied that false memories occur frequently (see Table 1). Of these, three included the opinionated suggestion that a "witch hunt" may be occurring in which innocent parents are routinely accused of, and then severely punished for, CSA. Two texts suggested that false memories of CSA must occur because an entire support group (the FMSF) has been formed for falsely accused parents. These authors apparently failed to consider that some members of the FMSF may actually have sexually assaulted children but are motivated to appear innocent. (85)
interview from Ross E. Cheit about The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children (Oxford University Press, February 2014). In the foreword to your book you mention a book titled Satan’s Silence was the catalyst for your research. Tell us about that. Cheit: Debbie Nathan and Michael Snedeker solidified the witch-hunt narrative in their 1995 book, Satan’s Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt, which included some of these cases. I was initially skeptical of the book’s argument for personal reasons. It seemed implausible to me that we had overreacted to child abuse because everything in my own personal history said we hadn’t. When I read the book closely, my skepticism increased. Satan’s Silence has been widely reviewed as meticulously researched. As someone with legal training, I looked for how many citations referred to the trial transcripts. The answer was almost none. Readers were also persuaded by long list of [presumably innocent] convicted sex offenders to whom they dedicated the book. If I’m dedicating a book to fifty-four people, all of whom I think have been falsely convicted, I’m going to mention every one of these cases somewhere in the book. Most weren’t mentioned at all beyond that dedication. The witch-hunt narrative is so sparsely documented that it’s shocking.
I find it disturbing that one anthropologist's readings of transcripts are being listened to more seriously than 40 senior health service clinicians. [Referring to Jean La Fontaine's 1994 research paper for the DOH]
Treating Abuse Today 3(4) pp. 26-33 The national discussion regarding the veridical truth of memories of childhood abuse will have a beneficial effect. Therapists will be reminded that dire consequences can ensue from poor practice, careless technique, and unchecked countertransference and parallel process. Hopefully, it will also stimulate legitimate research into the nature of traumatic memory. Unfortunately, the polemic often has been hysterical, scapegoating, accusatory, speculative, rumor driven, biased and antiempirical. Since many members of the FMSF, Inc. Scientific Advisory Board are frequent professional witnesses for the defense in cases of alleged sexual abuse, we questioned whether the organization was acting more as an advocate for a previously determined position or whether it was truly taking a scientific approach to determining the veridical truth of recollections of child abuse.
It is often said that Vietnam was the first television war. By the same token, Cleveland was the first war over the protection of children to be fought not in the courts, but in the media. By the summer of 1987 Cleveland had become above all, a hot media story. The Daily Mail, for example, had seven reporters, plus its northern editor, based in Middlesbrough full time. Most other news papers and television news teams followed suit. What were all the reporters looking for? Not children at risk. Not abusing adults. Aggrieved parents were the mother lode sought by these prospecting journalists. Many of these parents were only too happy to tell — and in some cases, it would appear, sell— their stories. Those stories are truly extraordinary. In many cases they bore almost no relation to the facts. Parents were allowed - encouraged to portray themselves as the innocent victims of a runaway witch-hunt and these accounts were duly fed to the public. Nowhere in any of the reporting is there any sign of counterbalancing information from child protection workers or the organisations that employed them. Throughout the summer of 1987 newspapers ‘reported’ what they termed a national scandal of innocent families torn apart. The claims were repeated in Parliament and then recycled as established ‘facts’ by the media. The result was that the courts themselves began to be paralysed by the power of this juggernaut of press reporting — ‘journalism’ which created and painstakingly fed a public mood which brooked no other version of the story. (p21)
The book argues that even though many cases have been held up as classic examples of modern American witch hunts, none of them fits that description. McMartin certainly comes close. But a careful examination of the evidence presented at trial demonstrates why, in my view, a reasonable juror could vote for conviction, as many did in this case. Other cases that have been painted as witch-hunts turn out to involve significant, even overwhelming, evidence of guilt. There are a few cases to the contrary, but even those are more complicated than the witch-hunt narrative allows. In short, there was not, by any reasonable measure, an epidemic of witch hunts in the 1980s. There were big mistakes made in how some cases were handled, particularly in the earliest years. But even in those years there were cases such as those of Frank Fuster and Kelly Michaels that, I believe, were based on substantial evidence but later unfairly maligned as having no evidentiary support.
TAT: I find I'm still left wanting to know how to tell if my patient has false memory syndrome. What's the test? How do I determine if my patient is suffering from this syndrome? Freyd: What are the tests if some body is suffering from " repressed memory syndrome?" TAT: Well, I can give you several symptom clusters - dissociative, cognitive, affective, somatic effects they're well documented. But, I'm asking you the question. You're telling me, David, as a clinician: you must be aware of the possibility your patients may have false memory syndrome. Okay, how should I be aware of that? How am I going to know? How do I test for it? Freyd: David, I'm going to ask Dr. Paul McHugh to talk to you because he is a clinician and I have stated from the beginning that I am not. TAT: I appreciate that, Pamela. But here's my issue with you not knowing. If I was talking to the Executive Director of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, who presumably is also not a clinician, I'll bet he or she could give me the signs and symptoms of muscular dystrophy. But in the case of false memory syndrome, so far no one seems to be able to say. Treating Abuse Today, 3(4), pp. 26-33
Treating Abuse Today 3(4) pp. 26-33 TAT: I see the agenda. But let's go back: one of the contentions the therapeutic community has about the Foundation's professed scientific credibility is your use of the term "syndrome." It seems to us that what's happening here is that based solely on anecdotal, unverified reports, the Foundation has started a public relations campaign rather than a bonafide research effort and simply announced to the world that an epidemic of this syndrome exists. The established scientific and clinical organizations are taking you on about this and it's that kind of thing that makes us feel like this effort is not really based on science. Do you have a response to that? Freyd: The response I would make regarding the name of the Foundation is that it will certainly be one of the issues brought up during our scientific meeting this weekend. But let me add that the term, "syndrome," in terms of it being a psychological syndrome, parallels, say, the rape trauma syndrome. Given that and the fact that there are seldom complaints over the use of the term "syndrome" for that, I think that it isn't "syndrome" that's bothering people as much as the term "false." TAT: No. Frankly it's not. It is the term "syndrome." The term false memory is almost 100 years old. It's nothing new, but false memory syndrome is newly coined. Here's our issue with your use of the word "syndrome." The rape trauma syndrome is a good example because it has a very well defined list of signs and symptoms. Having read your literature, we are still at a loss to know what the signs and symptoms of "false memory syndrome" are. Can you tell us succinctly? Freyd: The person with whom I would like to have you discuss that to quote is Dr. Paul McHugh on our advisory board, because he is a clinician. TAT: I would be happy to do that. But if I may, let me take you on a little bit further about this. Freyd: Sure, sure that's fair. TAT: You're the Executive Director of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation - a foundation that says it wants to disseminate scientific information to the community regarding this syndrome but you can't, or won't, give me its signs and symptoms. That is confusing to me. I don't understand why there isn't a list.