To: ehsnet!f2112.n2430.z1.fidonet.org!David.Bloomberg Date: Thu, 8 Dec 94 03:19 EST (c) Pl
From: romulus.ehs.uiuc.edu!m-net.arbornet.org!aaron (Aaron Larson)
Date: Thu, 8 Dec 94 03:19 EST
(c) Playboy, October, 1992, Vol. 39, No. 10, Pg. 84
Cry incest; victims of childhood sexual abuse
By Debbie Nathan
Incest has become a media obsession. Self-described victims are fodder
for talk shows, TV movies, People magazine cover stories, celebrity bios
and PBS specials. Lurid stories force America to think about the
unthinkable. But what if not all the stories are true?
"When someone asks you, 'Were you sexually abused as a child?' there
are only two answers: One of them is 'Yes,' and one of them is 'I don't
know.' You can't say 'No.'"
-- Roseanne Arnold, on The Oprah Winfrey Show
"Even if your memories are incomplete, even if your family insists
nothing ever happened, you still must believe yourself."
-- From The Courage To Heal, by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis
"It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards."
-- The White Queen, in Through The Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll
Eileen Franklin-Lipsker had a flashback. She remembered that she had
watched her father molest and murder her eight-year-old friend 20 years
Her father was later convicted of the crime.
In therapy, Carolivia Herron, a professor at Mount Holyoke College,
had flashbacks. While still a preschooler, she was raped by a relative.
Her aunt pimped her in Washington, D.C., whorehouses; at home, Herron
watched several people murdered. The aunt is dead, the relative denies the
charges and a retired Washington policeman says that the murders likely
Roseanne Arnold had a flashback that her parents had molested her and
her sisters, starting when Roseanne was only six months old. Her parents
and sisters deny the charge.
Is every memory of incest true? Must we always believe? If some aren't
true, where do false claims come from? Is it possible to forget a horrible
experience and to remember it years later?
To find out, I immersed myself in the incest survivors' movement. I
spoke with psychologists and psychiatrists about memory. I read popular
and professional literature about incest and incest therapy. I attended
meetings of Incest Survivors Anonymous (ISA), a group modeled on
Alcoholics Anonymous' 12-step program. I met women who were trying to deal
with real incest-rape by male relatives who were drunks, druggies and
plain sick jerks -- while resisting attempts by therapists to persuade them
that their relatives were actually members of organized satanic cults. I
met women wearing sweat shirts emblazoned "I SURVIVED," as if childhood
were the equivalent of an earthquake or deportation to Buchenwald. I met
women clutching teddy bears, women who, coaxed by support groups and
therapists, were only beginning to remember and who were starting to have
weird dreams of sex with their fathers.
I attended a marathon retreat for survivors of abuse. These are the
images that occupy my memory:
Donna* already knew about the mattresses and the rubber hoses, but she
balked at getting graphic with me. We were sipping coffee at a conference
center in the woods outside an East Coast city. Near us sat three dozen
other women from all over the U.S. and Canada. We would soon start a
four day retreat for survivors of childhood abuse. The retreat was
advertised as a place for dealing with the scars of all sorts of trauma --
physical, emotional and sexual. But I had polled several women at
breakfast, and from what they said about themselves, it seemed we would
focus on incest.
Donna told me this was her second retreat, but she paused at my
neophyte's question. "The first thing that happens? I don't want to lay it
out for you in advance. It's better to just go with the flow," she
answered. "But, uh, torture. We'll be doing something like torture." She
In fact, the first thing we did was crowd together in a room furnished
only with mattresses. In front of us sat six therapists, one of whom wore
a T-shirt that sported an ancient Egyptian face and the words "JUST CALL
ME CLEOPATRA, QUEEN OF DENIAL." The rest of us clutched stuffed animals. I
have attended enough 12-step meetings to know that cuddly toys are a must
for "inner children," and that if my inner child wasn't evident in the
next few days, people would become suspicious.
I glanced over at Donna. She was gazing at the therapists. Yet when
they asked us to tell our first names and why we were here, she suddenly
looked less cheerful.
"I'm Lucy and I'm an incest survivor," said one woman.
"Marion, sexual abuse by a neighbor," continued another.
"Physical and sexual abuse by my father."
"Incest. My mother."
"Satanic ritual abuse -- I think."
"Torture by my family's devil-worshiping cult."
It was Donna's turn. "I'm a survivor of emotional abuse," she began
calmly, then her face contorted with sobs. "See," she said between tears,
"I feel like I don't deserve to be here. I'm ashamed, because I have no
memories of incest."
The head therapist, a social worker named Beth, wasn't fazed. "How
many of you have no memories of your abuse?" she asked. Eleven women
raised their hands. "Look around you," Beth told us brightly. "Look at all
the people who have no memories. You all deserve to be here. No matter if
you can or can't remember. No matter what happened or didn't."
Donna squeezed her teddy bear and stopped crying. Within a few
minutes, she and several other women were squatting over the mattresses,
brandishing rubber hoses. On each mattress was a telephone book. "Pretend
the phone books are your perpetrators," Beth instructed us. "Get mad at
them. Beat the fuckers with the hoses. Scream! Scream as loud as you can!
Hit as hard as you can! Challenge yourself to get angry. Then your inner
children will take over. Your rage will come. Your healing. And your
The women nodded, got down to work, and suddenly the room sounded like
a cross between the third degree in some Depression-era jailhouse and a
Sixties primal-scream workshop. Thwock! Bang! Bash! went the hoses. "You
bastard! Abuser! Molester! Kill you! I want you dead!"
A petite, pageboy-coiffed woman who seconds before looked as prim as a
Senator's wife now shrieked at the top of her lungs.
"I hate you." Bam. "I hate you!" yelled another. "Slice off your
penis!" Whack. "Bury it in the grave!"
Donna bent over a mattress. She thought she had a perpetrator -- her
father. But this first day, with hose in hand, she had no memories and no
words. She screamed and flailed, anyway, and shreds of the Yellow Pages
filled the air.
How widespread is incest? No one knows the real numbers. Less than a
generation ago, medical literature estimated that, at most, five cases per
1,000,000 people occurred every year.
But between 1940 and 1978, several studies revealed that as many as
one third of American women remembered sexual experiences with men that
they had as children. Some occurred within the family: At least four women
in 100 remembered sexual experiences -- from witnessing exhibitionism to
being propositioned to actual sexual contact-with a relative, and one in
100 said the perpetrator was her father or stepfather.
The secret was out, and for feminists -- who had a special interest in
understanding female sexuality, as well as in combating violence against
women-that was progress. Unfortunately, given conventional understanding
of molestation and incest, not all the progress was justified in fact. The
work of sociologist Diana Russell, for instance, typifies some of the
After interviewing several hundred women in San Francisco, Russell
reports in her book, The Secret Trauma: Incest in the Lives of Girls and
Women, that 16 percent were incest victims -- much higher than previous
studies' findings. Further, one woman in 22 reported that she had been
abused by her father or stepfather, more than four times the incidence
But it took some scrutiny to realize how drastically the numbers were
inflated. Incest perpetrators weren't just fathers or uncles or older
brothers anymore. They were any relatives. Russell's definition of abuse
also included acts such as sexual kissing, stroking a leg or grabbing at
clothed breasts or buttocks. And the perpetrator didn't actually have to
accomplish these things. For Russell, a botched attempt carried as much
weight as a successful one.
In reporting their reactions to these episodes of incest, 54 percent
of the women termed themselves extremely upset over intrusive or
disturbing advances. Slightly more than half felt the incidents had
inflicted a range of problems: self-hatred, shame, depression, anxiety and
nightmares. A smaller group (27 percent) described the trauma as minimal,
and 22 percent reported no long-term effects at all. A few women reported
Russell was profoundly suspicious when respondents said they had not
suffered grave trauma. She introduced the idea that such women were
victims of repression and denial. She also assumed that her statistics
underreported the prevalence of incest because she felt it was common for
victims to forget incidents, especially those from early childhood.
Since Russell's Secret Trauma was published in 1986, denial,
forgetting and repression have become catchwords for incest diagnosis and
treatment. If you've forgotten the abuse, how do you come to suspect your
past? The clues are everywhere: Does sex feel dirty? Do you have an eating
disorder or wear baggy clothes? Do you feel different? Are you
quiet-voiced? Suffering from breast lumps? Do you feel powerless? Find it
hard to trust your intuitions? Have trouble expressing your feelings? Are
you unable to say no? Super alert? Interested in religions? Afraid of
coffins? Do you have a desire to change your name? Are you constipated?
Stuck on welfare? A workaholic? Suffering from the need to control
everything? Do you feel terminal vagueness?
All these items come from checklists in E. Sue Blume's Secret
Survivors: Uncovering Incest and Its Aftereffects in Women, from pamphlets
distributed by ISA, from The Courage to Heal (a women's sex-abuse recovery
guide by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis) and from John Bradshaw's Bradshaw on
Dig, they say, and the memories will come -- from beyond the cradle if
need be. An ISA pamphlet claims "there are many ways a survivor can be
victimized between conception and birth." One woman claims to remember a
conversation her mother had about aborting her -- while she was in utero.
But how accurate are these memories? Researchers agree that memories
can apparently erupt to consciousness years later, when triggered by
ordinary or unusual events. Are such memories accurate? They can be, says
University of New Mexico psychology professor Henry Ellis. But some recall
is evoked under intense pressures. And whether spontaneous or induced,
"there is virtually no scientific documentation of the reliability of
these kinds of memories," warns University of Washington psychologist
Elizabeth Loftus, an expert on memory and suggestibility. Her research has
shown that leading questions can trigger forgotten memories. Sudden
recollections from childhood, she thinks, are even more problematic.
Enough is already known to cast doubt on some memories. Emory
University cognitive psychologist Ulric Neisser is particularly suspicious
of recollections dating to early childhood. His research indicates that
people can't recall what happened before they were two years old unless it
was a repetitive act, such as drinking from a bottle. Before the age of
one, they probably can't remember anything. The hippocampus -- where the
brain processes episodic memories -- doesn't mature until then, Neisser
notes, and neither do necessary psychological structures.
Where does that leave Roseanne Arnold, who says she remembers incest
from the age of six months? And what about her later memories, which her
sisters staunchly contradict?
For years, both professionals and the public have likened memory to
recording devices such as VCRs, which store everything they're exposed to.
For access, you hit rewind -- using hypnosis, perhaps, or therapy.
But not everyone accepts this analogy. As Yale University psychologist
George Bonanno noted in a 1990 article in Psychotherapy, research shows
that memory is far from archival. Memory resembles an incoherent,
dreamlike world where the past is constantly reinterpreted and re-created
with material drawn from the present.
But some people contend that the truth of memory doesn't even matter.
"If you think you were abused and your life shows the symptoms, then you
were," Bass and Davis assure readers in The Courage to Heal. "If you don't
remember your abuse, you are not alone. Many women don't have memories.
This doesn't mean they weren't abused."
Bass appears to be proud that she has no academic training in
psychology. Davis' claim to expertise is that she is an incest survivor
(who did not remember her now-deceased grandfather abusing her until she
was an adult). Since its publication in 1988, Courage has sold more than
half a million copies. At the survivors' retreat, many women kept it on
their dressers by their contact-lens solutions and their New Testaments.
Donna had a copy.
Donna didn't sleep well last night. Nobody did. When the therapists
asked how the mattress work made us feel, people answered, "Sick to my
stomach," "Scared," "Angry," "Like being in a concentration camp." Nobody
had retired peacefully, even after we'd made a circle and sang songs like
KumBa-Yah and On Top of Spaghetti, and even though a therapist named Ina
read aloud Bedtime for Frances. Donna told me she had strange dreams, but
about what she couldn't quite remember.
She told me about herself. She was 33, a college grad who seemed
impressively normal. Unlike several other women I chatted with, Donna had
never spent time in a psychiatric hospital. She had a job, one that she
liked very much, running an English-language school for refugees. She had
lots of friends, too.
But she suffered from "relationship" problems. She was
supercompetitive and a control freak. These problems, her therapist had
told her, most certainly stemmed from incest. Indeed, upon reflection,
Donna realized that she hated her father -- though, before therapy, she
used to think this was because he was cold and hypercritical. She had
always felt that he wanted a son, not a daughter.
Now Donna was rethinking everything. Why couldn't she remember incest?
She had a theory that her father was a pedophile, but that she was so
young that she'd repressed everything. Still, she'd done some mental
detective work. Such as remembering a time when she was out of college and
working in her dad's office, and one day walking in unannounced and
finding him having sex with his secretary.
"That's what I think he did to me," Donna said.
"But this secretary," I asked, "wasn't she a woman? An adult woman?"
"Well, pedophiles aren't attracted to adults."
"Yeah, but, oh, I don't know. All I. know is that I have this
I didn't say anything else. Beth had warned us not to intrude on
anyone else's "work," and especially not to question their reality. To do
so, she said, was the same as "perpetrating" on them.
After breakfast we sang more songs:
"The echoes of childhood whisper violence.
Cold wind beating out of the past.
Rage in your throat, muffled silence.
Hold on, I will stand fast."
As we sang, women sobbed. Yesterday this had struck me as odd and
disturbing. By now, I was often teary-eyed myself. In a way, all this
crying felt deliciously self-indulgent, sort of like visiting the Lancome
counter at a department store and getting a good makeover. But it was also
assaultive, as was the unremitting violence emanating from the rubber-hose
sessions. My ego was starting to feel mugged by mass emotion. And we still
had three days to go ! Next on the itinerary was "sharing." That meant we
would take turns sitting in front of everyone else and talking about our
abuse. Many women looked fearstruck. But Beth said we had to do this. For
one thing, she said, hearing the other stories might trigger memories.
First up was Andrea. She was short, overweight, in her early 30s and
from a family she said belonged to a satanic sex and-torture cult. Andrea
talked disjointedly about the rituals practiced when she was a child.
Black robes, candles stuck up a child's vagina and anus. Knives and swords
fatally impaling a child. A sacrifice. Body parts consumed to glorify the
She shook and cried while speaking, and seven other women moaned in
sympathy like some strange Greek chorus. They, too, were ritual-abuse
survivors. Most suffered from multiple-personality disorder.
Andrea had a terrible problem: In her memories she saw her mother in
the cult. Yet her mother was a good person, Andrea loved her. So what did
this mean? "I don't know if what I'm remembering is really true!" she
sobbed. "I don't want the memories to be true! I don't want them to!"
Distraught, she burrowed into Beth's bosom.
Beth clucked philosophically. "Andrea, all the wants in the world
can't change what you know. You really know inside what happened, but you
spend all your energy saying, 'No, it didn't.' You need to face those
memories, that rage. I want you to get onto a mattress. Now."
After Andrea, a competition began over satanic abuse. Cathy said she'd
been in a cult where she killed three children. Babies! And not only did
she wield the fatal knife but she also excised the livers. Of her own
kids! After Cathy hobbled hysterically to the mattresses, Teresa told us
that her father was the king of a cult with headquarters just a few miles
down the road. Just three weeks earlier, he had summoned her to the
headquarters and raped her. The idea, Teresa said, was to impregnate her,
let her go, then capture her in nine months and sacrifice her newborn.
Everybody gasped at this horrible conspiracy involving a rapist active
in the local area, as well as a plan to murder someone. But not one person
suggested calling the police. I didn't either -- I didn't want to be seen
as a perpetrator interfering with Teresa's work.
"God," Donna said later. "People who were sexually abused in satanic
cults. After that, who wants to listen to how Dad used to criticize my
schoolwork?" Indeed, a good ritual-abuse story at this retreat was about
as hard an act to follow as a confession in Salem village -- and,
according to many experts, just as bogus.
Myths about evil adults torturing children are universal. Such tales
express people's anxieties about their own infantile aggressive and sexual
impulses, fear of other groups and forebodings about social change. The
Romans accused Christians of sacrificing Roman babies. The Christians
leveled similar charges against Gnostics, and later against Jews for
slaughtering gentile children to make Passover matzo.
But what if a thoroughly modern adult talks about growing up in a cell
of a transgenerational, international satanic megacult, being raped on an
altar, suffering ritual abortions and eating fetuses? Since the early
Eighties, hundreds of women -- and some men -- have claimed they
remembered such scenarios. Once, they would have been labeled hysterical,
schizophrenic or borderline-personality fantasizers. Today, many are
diagnosed as suffering from multiple-personality disorder.
Because this disorder is thought to resuit from severe childhood
abuse, many therapists now take the ritual-abuse survivors' stories
The problem is, no one can find evidence to back up these stories.
With hundreds of people talking about thousands having killed tens of
thousands, one would expect to run into something -- a body, skull, finger
bone, missing-children reports or the cults' financial ledgers. Yet
despite extensive police investigations, nothing has turned up. Lack of
evidence has made skeptics of officials such as Kenneth V. Lanning, the
FBI's expert on ritual-abuse claims. In a recent issue of the journal
Child Abuse & Neglect, he concluded that because "victims'" stories are so
unsubstantiated, it is now "up to mental health professionals, not law
enforcement, to explain why victims are alleging things that don't seem to
Day three, and I was half deaf from the banshee mattress noise, sick
of hearing every emotion and statement fractured into humanoid slivers.
("That's your inner two-year-old crying," the therapists would tell anyone
who started weeping. To anyone who joked, argued or cursed, they would
say, "What a cute, rebellious inner teenager you have!") It was also
tiresome to be handed a piece of hose and ordered to pretend a phone book
was my mother or father. ("I can't," I would say, "I'm not that mad." They
urged me to just fake it.)
But it was never tiresome to hear the complicated reality that poked
through the most bizarre stories, and that could be found on top of even
the ordinary ones.
The improbable accounts, for instance, seemed fraught with guilt about
normal sexuality. Ritual-abuse survivor Cathy fingered a crucifix as she
recited, in rote tone, details of eating the livers of newborn babies.
Real emotion didn't come until she told of having "fallen in love with a
married man when I was in school," in the early Sixties. "I was a virgin
then -- at least I thought I was until I remembered the cult stuff
recently -- and the first time we had sex, I got pregnant. He wouldn't get
a divorce. So I had an abortion. I killed my own baby! My own baby. The
worst thing I've ever done!"
Louise seemed bored when describing how her mother administered
electroshocks to her vagina when she was four months old. Yet, she moaned,
mortified, as she remembered getting pregnant in high school and having
her mother send her away to give up the baby.
There were also stories that were so prosaic in their detail that they
could be nothing but real. Carol covered her eyes as she told about the
time her mother was hospitalized, and Carol was starving for attention. At
night her father started getting into her bed and fondling her genitals.
At first she was grateful for the affection, but then she knew it was
wrong. Later, when she told her mother, the family had a powwow. Her
father said, "What's the problem? I didn't penetrate her! Besides, she
wanted it." Then her brothers beat her black and blue for embarrassing
A housepainter who worked mostly alongside men, Kim had an
exceptionally generous take on the world (she tried to deal nicely with
co-workers who called her things like honey or bitch). But she was
terrified of male violence. During the Vietnam war, she said, if she and
her sisters suggested that Nixon shouldn't bomb Cambodia, her Army colonel
father would beat them until the girls said, "Yes, Daddy, yes, we support
Stories like these seemed too unadorned and too concrete to be
concocted, intentionally or not. They moved me to tears, and to anger --
anger at the big and little indignities girls and women commonly suffer at
the hands of men and patriarchy. But anger, too, at the swimsuit
competition atmosphere of this retreat. At least at Atlantic City, I
thought, you'd be allowed to take the stage if you presented the requisite
tits, ass and coiffure. Here, you couldn't go on unless you qualified as a
victim -- and not just any victim. The only kind that cut it here was one
who'd suffered the stigmata of rape, torture and black robes. Then there
was the talent show. You had to demonstrate how perfectly you could mother
your sweet, innocent inner child. The therapists kept talking about how we
were uniting here to heal from incest, how this was so liberating for
womankind. I couldn't quite see it. From Miss America to some postmodern
Virgin Mary? Is this how far we'd come? The prospect seemed discouraging.
The reward -- to mount those mattresses and go noisy and muscular with
anger -- was tempting. Clearly, the women here lusted to do this. And why
not? As we sat bunched together, I remembered the old Sixties'
consciousness-raising groups, those dialogs about our daily lives,
histories and miseries, where we hammered out how they all formed
patterns, and how we should change things politically. Now we were in the
Nineties: monologs, higher powers, stuffed animals. Still, it was
seductive to pound on things, to scream, to say dirty words as loud as we
could, to cry.
But what happened to people who couldn't remember their victimization?
Marilyn, who had been only battered, ran around raging in piteous
frustration: "No one's paying attention to me!" she wailed. Lee, a
stockbroker whose mother was merely alcoholic, shrugged in disgust and
vowed never again to attend a retreat. Others felt abashed but resigned.
"I have to live with the fact that I may never remember anything," one
In another city not far from this room full of mattresses, a woman who
calls herself Jane Doe sat working. She is one of a growing number of
people whose children are accusing them -- wrongly, the parents say -- of
Many alleged abusers are grandparents, if not retired. Their offspring
are long grown. These adult children are claiming their parents did
terrible sexual things to them when they were small, and even when they
were not so small. Jane's 33-year-old daughter, for instance, has accused
her father of molesting her from when she was three and raping her between
the ages of 14 and 16. Yet she did not remember any of this until two
years ago, when she went into therapy. She revealed her memories to her
parents during the Christmas holidays in 1990, when she invited them to
fly cross-country for a visit to her home, and then kicked them out hours
after they got off the plane. She told them they couldn't see their
Jane and her husband have known each other since they were young
children, and she swears he is psychologically incapable either of
committing incest or lying if he had. Robert Brisentine, Jr., a nationally
known polygraph expert, has given Jane's husband a lie detector test and
concludes he is truthful when he denies abusing his daughter.
Jane believes her husband unstintingly. After she published an
anonymous article about her family in the journal Issues in Child Abuse
Accusations, and after The Philadelphia Inquirer mentioned the episode,
both publications were deluged with calls from people reporting similar
Concerned parents in Philadelphia formed the False Memory Syndrome
Foundation. The foundation has heard from more than 550 parents throughout
North America. Their children are scattered around the country, too, but
all seem to share one experience: Only after they were exposed to therapy
did they recall incestuous abuse that their relatives swear didn't happen.
A spokesman for the False Memory Syndrome Foundation says they reveal
common patterns. Most accusers are well educated, from upper-middle-class
families with the usual tensions. Some have serious problems: Roseanne
Arnold's father, for instance, who with his wife belongs to the
organization, admits to having beaten Roseanne once. Often, the group
says, children's letters of accusation arrive on Mother's or Father's day.
Some accusers sue their putative molesters for damages. Even if things are
resolved before they reach court, families can be estranged.
Janice Haaken, a professor of psychology' at Portland State
University, has written about the relationship of fantasy, memory and
reality. She is disturbed that some therapists fail to distinguish the
difference. In The Courage to Heal, readers are assured that "no one
fantasizes abuse." "Only 'real' memories are deemed worthy of attention,"
Haaken says. "If you say, This actually happened to me," the therapist's
concern is elicited. If you describe a fantasy, it isn't." Haaken thinks
she knows why the incest recovery movement -- even one based on false
memories -- is so seductive. "Women are experiencing tremendous splits. On
one level they have achieved tremendous gains, fundamentally challenging
traditional gender roles and discrediting discriminatory practices. Yet
much is still the same, and though women may feel more competent in their
public roles, their personal lives feel harder. The contradiction can make
them feel troubled, preoccupied with primitive rage."
According to Haaken, women and their therapists are often at a loss to
justify this rage. "Many of my patients are feminists," she says. "They've
drawn on concepts of goodness in women, and they don't know what to do
with psychic material that expresses aggression." Therapists may seek easy
ways to assure women that their aggressive impulses lie outside them. A
simple way to do this is to conclude that violence really happened, to
seek out literal culprits and traumas. "This kind of therapy assumes women
have no aggressive fantasies, none of their own sexual agency," says
But the therapeutic rush to fracture women cripples their ability to
understand themselves and reality. If this is unfortunate for family
members who may be illogically and falsely accused, it evokes another
tragedy. "I worry about the cry wolf phenomenon," says Richard Green, who
teaches law and psychiatry at UCLA and who edits the Archives of Sexual
Behavior. "We may one day look back at this period as just another fad in
psychiatry, part of an antisexual backlash we're experiencing in many
areas now. But meanwhile, there really is abuse out there, and if enough
people make false accusations, eventually no one's going to believe
On the retreat's final day, we sang Little Rabbit Foo Foo and Michael
Row the Boat Ashore, and Kim the painter stood up to say how wonderful it
was that we'd made a community of women here in these woods. The
therapists nodded, and people cried and hugged. Then Donna addressed the
"I had a dream last night," she said. "An incest dream." She looked
calm, relieved. "Besides my father, other people were there. It felt good.
But that makes me feel ashamed."
Beth the therapist answered on cue. "Donna," she said, "you've made
your start. When your kids inside are ready, more memories will come."
The retreat was ending. People were already signing up for the next
one. Beth gave us titles of books to read to help us with our healing. One
was by the daughter of a dead Hollywood screenwriter. This screenwriter,
his daughter says in the book, used to stick a fire poker and parts of a
doll up her vagina, but she didn't remember it until she was in her 40s
and was hypnotized. Learn how to hypnotize yourself, she says. And don't
give up hope, because victims are sometimes visited by "beings of white
Donna put down her teddy bear and began taking notes. I did, too. I
will keep her last name in my notes. I wonder when her parents will show
up in the False Memory Syndrome Foundation files.
* The names of the women at the retreat have been changed.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank