By: David Bloomberg
Re: Frontline Reviews
Review: John Leonard gives a brief review of
"Frontline: Divided Memories" 04/02/95 CBS, Inc.
Announcer: It's SUNDAY MORNING on CBS, and here again is
CHARLES OSGOOD, host:
Time now for a television review which means it's time for John
Leonard. Good morning, John.
JOHN LEONARD reporting:
Good morning, Charles.
In 1991, producer Ofra Bikel went to North Carolina to look
into accusations of child abuse against seven day-care workers on
429 counts of sodomy and rape involving knives, scissors, forks,
hammers and needles. She came back with angry doubts and a
"Frontline" documentary that won an Emmy and a du Pont Silver
Baton. In 1993, Bikel returned to the same small town to interview
everybody all over again, including a judge who second-guessed
himself, five troubled jurors and people who'd begun to wonder if
therapits--therapists hadn't planted some of this lurid stuff in
the heads of the kids, igniting a witch-hunt.
Now she's back, this Tuesday night and next on public
television, with "Divided Memories," a four-hour "Frontline" report
on the debate about repressed and recovered memory, and those
therapies, like hypnosis and reparenting and age regression, that
somehow always find the abuse they look for, destroying families in
(Footage from "Frontline: Divided Memories")
LEONARD: (Voiceover) There is the daughter who suddenly
remembers, after 20 years, that her father killed her best friend.
(Footage from "Frontline: Divided Memories")
LEONARD: (Voiceover) There's the doctor who has his doubts...
(Footage from "Frontline: Divided Memories")
LEONARD: (Voiceover) And a father who sues her daughter's
(Footage from "Frontline: Divided Memories")
LEONARD: (Voiceover) There are psychologists, even law
professors, who blame a lot on Freud for abandoning his seduction
(Footage from "Frontline: Divided Memories")
LEONARD: (Voiceover) There are those who doubt the whole idea
(Footage from "Frontline: Divided Memories")
LEONARD: (Voiceover) There are therapists who, using hypnosis,
regression and other techniques, discover not only abuse in
childhood but abuse, too, in previous lives.
(Footage from "Frontline: Divided Memories")
LEONARD: (Voiceover) A Harvard Med psychiatrist thinks we make
up stories about ourselves; some true, some not.
Unidentified Man #1: We all tell tales about ourselves, we all
have images of ourselves that are not entirely in keeping with the
reality of one's life, but we need to have a coherent version of
LEONARD: (Voiceover) But others seem to think it doesn't matter.
Unidentified Man #2: I said, `I don't care if it's true. What's
important to me is that I hear the child's truth, the--the--the
patient's truth. That's what's important. What actually happened is
irrelevant to me, doesn't matter.'
Unidentified Woman: Your job is not to be a judge or a jury,
and your job is also not to make the family feel better. Your job
is to help the patient make sense out of her life, make sense out
of her symptoms.
LEONARD: (Voiceover) Meanwhile, listen to the screaming.
(Footage from "Frontline: Divided Memories")
LEONARD: It's impossible in three minutes to do justice to the
texture of the first two hours of "Divided Memories," nor even hint
at the pain we see next Tuesday, when Bikel talks to the families,
and everybody sues everybody else for damages. Imagine the surprise
of the therapists, whose reports are often the only evidence a jury
has to go on, when they themselves are sued.
Like Frederick Crews in recent issues of The New York Review of
Books, Bikel is obviously suspicious of coaching, confabulation and
hysteria. She listens carefully nevertheless. She lets her camera
wince and shrug. We can't help thinking of the McMartin case in Los
Angeles and the Kelly Michaels case in New Jersey. Nobody here
denies an appalling incidence of incest in this country. And, of
course, we want to believe our children. But who told our children
what to believe? Cauldrons. Pentagrams. Satanism. Human
DON'T FORGET! `MEMORIES' PROBES PROVOCATIVE SUBJECT
THE SEATTLE TIMES
Throughout the 1980s, the subject of sexual abuse, especially
among family members, seemed almost to become a growth industry,
helped immeasurably by repressed memory, a therapy technique in
which patients recalled incidents, often from long ago, of such
TV talk shows explored the subject with a vengeance, TV movies
enthusiastically joined the bandwagon and bookshelves overflowed
with tomes on the topic. It is presently reported that of the
approximately 225,000 licensed psychotherapists in the U.S., many
thousands work specifically on incest-related disorders.
One of the most serious explorations of this subject can be
found in a two-part, four-hour edition of PBS' "Frontline," the
first two hours of which air at 9 p.m. tomorrow on KCTS-TV.
Titled "Divided Memories," it is the work of producer Ofra
Bikel, who is an extraordinarily fine documentarian and thoughtful
interviewer, possibly best known for her lengthy, probing
documentary about the daycare child abuse case in a small North
Carolina town, which aired on PBS a couple of years ago.
Bikel brings the same kind of exhaustive research to this
subject of repressed memory. "Divided Memories" is a mesmerizing mix
of interviews with victims, with therapists, counselors,
psychiatrists and psychologists, with both the accusers and the
accused. This week's two-hour segment offers many case histories of
women who have remembered sexual abuse. But next week's episode does
an equally compelling job reporting on the False Memory Syndrome
Foundation, a support network with 15,000 members designed to help
those who say they have been falsely accused of sexual abuse.
Bikel wants you to make up your own mind about this
controversial subject and both sides are allowed plenty of time to
make their cases. (There are a number of Seattleites who are
interviewed during the four hours.) And both sides are equally,
eloquently sincere. The pain of those who are shown in the process
of recalling traumatic incidents from their past certainly seems
real - but just as affecting are the cries of those who stand
accused but who deny the charges. (Of course, the therapists have
the last word: "classic denial," they sniff.)
Frontline tackles repressed memories head on
DIVIDED MEMORIES, airs tonight at 9 p.m. on Ch. 14
You say nothing is more important to you than your family. You say
that nothing in the world could possibly break the ties that bind
you to your parents, your brothers and sisters, your children.
Yet there is a force in North America that for the last 10 years or
so has been ripping apart and destroying literally thousands of
families -- families that, allowing for the usual range of
problems and conflicts of any close-knit group, had seemed happy
The force is the concept of repressed memory, and it is laid bare,
examined and powerfully dissected in Divided Memories, a two-part
Frontline documentary that premieres tonight at 9 on PBS (Ch. 14)
and concludes next week. The repressed memories at the heart of
this film, methodically and tenaciously produced by Ofra Bikel,
involve alleged incidents of child abuse so horrible and so
painful that the young victims could not deal with them.
Instead, the theory goes, their psyches protected them by burying
and ``forgetting'' the memories. Years later, the memories are
``recovered'' during psychological counselling sought for
Questions about the reliability of the memories and therapies
through which they surface began to percolate in the early 1990s.
The subject is now hotly debated in professional circles and in a
new round of books and articles. Divided Memories, however, is
TV's first in-depth look (four hours' worth) at the phenomenon.
Bikel, whose previous prize-winning work includes two documentary
mini-series about a controversial, North Carolina child-abuse
case, takes a measured and deliberate but relentless approach to
She devotes a great deal of time to adults who have no doubts about
their recovered memories of abuse as children, to therapists and
authors whose faith in the concept is unshakable and to group
therapy sessions during which memories are retrieved and dealt
with. But Bikel also speaks to other family members who speak
convincingly of the complete absence of any signs of abuse:
unexplained injuries and medical problems, changes in a child's
mood, behavior, affection toward family members, performance in
school and so on.
There are interviews, too, with former patients who denounce
treatment that bears an unnerving resemblance to classic
brainwashing. And Bikel offers up experts who point out that these
notions of repressed memories run contrary to all scientific
knowledge about human memory.
At the same time, the program acknowledges the terrible reality of
child sexual abuse and the early psychiatric theories that
shamefully dismissed such claims, attributing them to hidden
desires for forbidden sexual contact.
Bikel never explicitly takes a position on the controversy but her
position is clear.
She contrasts descriptions of terrible acts of abuse with home
movies of happy families enjoying time together, marrying the two
elements with a piano score of profound sadness. And she uses
repressed-memory therapists' own comments to discredit them. They
admit, for example, that they regard the truth of patient claims
of abuse as irrelevant to treatment, despite the awful
If Bikel's program intensifies the scrutiny of what has become a
psychological phenomenon with profound impact on thousands of
North Americans, it could turn out to be the most important TV
program of the year.
Controversial Memories // Documentary Explores False Accusations
(STAR) (STAR) (STAR) 1/2
Part 1: 9 to 11 tonight.
Part 2: 9 to 11 p.m. April 11.
Before 1993, the concept of "recovered memories" meant very little
to many Chicagoans, unless they were devoted talk show or
movie-of-the-week viewers. But in that year, Steven Cook accused
Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of sexually abusing him almost 20 years
earlier, claiming that he had remembered the incident only recently.
It wasn't until many painful months later that the young man admitted
that the incidents he had "remembered" during hypnosis had never
The cardinal was vindicated, but the concept of recovered or
repressed memories - championed by some mental health professionals
and scorned by others - was more controversial than ever. Detractors
said the case proved that recovered memories were false. Supporters
argued that one instance of false accusation proved nothing about the
stories of other victims.
In a fascinating two-part documentary, "Frontline" producer
Ofra Bikel examines the raging battle over whether memories of
traumatic childhood abuse can be buried for years and then
"recovered" in adulthood. But the programs, airing from 9 to 11
tonight and continuing from 9 to 11 p.m. next Tuesday, also delve
into the history of psychoanalysis, the politics of gender, the power
of talk shows and best sellers, the cult of addiction and the
symbolic meaning of sexual abuse in our culture.
If there is any weakness in this far-reaching, intelligent set
of films, it is that Bikel forsakes any discussion of memory in
neurological or empirical terms, instead favoring the passionate
theorizing of therapists, authors and psychoanalysts on both sides of
Bikel is no stranger to such territory. In two groundbreaking
films, "Innocence Lost" and "Innocence Lost: The Verdict," Bikel
examined the group dynamics of false accusation in Edenton, N.C.,
where allegations of abuse at a day-care center mushroomed into a
virtual witch hunt that destroyed lives, careers and the social
fabric of a small town.
In "Divided Memories," Bikel uses the compelling testimony of
adult children, parents and therapists to draw the boundaries of the
debate. Bikel, who clearly believes that the phenomenon of repressed
memory is suspect, presents several cases in which the "victims" have
imagined or invented outrageous claims of childhood abuse. In Part
2, for example, a young woman named Maura describes how a therapist
insisted she accuse her father of a rape that never really happened.
She also talks about a best seller that made it very easy to
attribute all of her problems - emotional and otherwise - to sexual
"In the back of the book that I read there was a list of
symptoms, and it was like a check mark," says Maura. "I think I
checked off almost every single one of those. I said, `Bingo! This
is sexual abuse.' "
But Bikel also presents at least one case that seems to prove
that repressed memory is indeed possible. In that instance, a mother
knew her daughter was sexually abused but never discussed the
incident with the little girl. The girl grew into a troubled young
woman but did not remember the incest until her mother told her about
it. At that point, the memories came rushing back.
"It just all fit together," she says. "I immediately could
remember what she was telling me. It was just a wave of memories."
While Bikel digs up many instances of psychological quackery and
presents a strong case that bad therapists and overeager authors have
turned false accusation into a thriving industry, she does not prove
that long-repressed memories are always false. Actually, the very
fact that memories can be "implanted" by a therapist suggests that
memmory is a mysterious, malleable thing, which makes it easy to
believe that childhood trauma could easily be repressed for years.
But the bottom line, as suggested by one doctor, is probably that
repressed memories should not be trusted if there is no objective
information to support the allegation.
Says Dr. Elizabeth Loftus: "There's no way for even the most
sophisticated therapist, clairvoyant, anyone to tell the difference
between a memory that is real and a memory that is a product of
suggestion unless you've got some corroboration."
`Frontline' focuses on `recovered memories' of abuse
THE FRESNO BEE
A major, two-part "Frontline" report, "Divided Memories" (8
p.m., Ch. 18; concludes next Tuesday), investigates one of the
hottest legal and psychological controversies blazing today: the
validity or lack thereof in "recovered memories" of childhood sexual
abuse. It's an issue of importance today, especially since repressed
memories are being cited in civil and criminal cases.
The opener looks at therapies that allegedly access repressed
memories, including hypnosis, age regression (one therapist cites a
"woman that accessed a memory from when she was in the fallopian tube
and got stuck there, and this stuckness has hurt her in her adult
life") and even past-life regression (in which patients return to
The casualness of some therapists about whether or not such
memories are objectively factual can be breathtaking. One (who
supported the decision of a patient to sue her parents for $20
million based on supposedly recovered memories of childhood abuse)
says, "When I'm deposed in court cases, the attorneys say . . . `How
do you know it's true?' And I say, `I don't care if it's true.'
What's important to me is that I hear the child's truth, the
patient's truth. What actually happened is irrelevant to me --
Hysteria over memory
THE INDIANAPOLIS NEWS
AS LONG AGO as 1896, Sigmund Freud developed a theory to account
for the uncommon number of women who came to him with what medicine
in those days called "hysteria."
A number of them had been sexually abused in their childhood,
he announced in a paper read to the scientific community of Vienna,
Austria, where he was a practicing psychiatrist.
But instead of being greeted with applause, his "seduction
theory," as it came to be known, was met with total silence. No
one, in those days of Victorian sexual mores, wanted to touch it.
And so, a few years later, Freud himself announced he had been
mistaken. These women were not suffering from repressed memories of
incest. Their problems came from "repressed wishes for" incest,
which came out as memories. And he, himself, in his treatment, may
have encouraged them.
So matters stood for 75 years until, in the 1970s, women began
coming forth with what therapists called "recovered" memories of
childhood abuse to explain their current unhappiness. And
therapists and the public started taking them seriously.
In "Divided Memories," an important four-part report on PBS'
"Frontline" series, producer Ofra Bikel studies the issue of
recovered memory from all sides, trying to make sense of the debate
that surrounds it.
Can a person have a traumatic experience, lose all memory of
it, and years, even decades, later recover that memory intact?
Over four absorbing hours, from 9 to 11 tonight and next
Tuesday night, WFYI , you will hear stories of women in terrible
pain, whose only release came when they were able to locate the
source of that pain in repressed memories of childhood abuse.
You will meet therapists who believe that these memories must
be true, else why would the patient feel them so strongly?
You will meet therapists who believe they not only are not
true, but are inspired by the very therapists who are helping to
uncover them. And you will get some historical perspective on how
this came to be.
The memories tore apart families, increased the income of
therapists, but seemed, in a way, to help the victims find peace in
their lives. "Everything came together for me. I felt like a real
person for the first time," says one incest survivor, as these
people have come to be known.
In a way it's a reaction against the hundreds of years when
women's complaints were not taken seriously. Now, given the backing
of the women's movement and the recovery movement that also gained
power in the 1970s, therapists are programmed to believe what their
patient tells them.
And, if the therapist's job is to heal, and these people are
healed, what difference does it make whether the accusations are
Well, it makes some difference to the persons accused. They can
lose their jobs, their families, their reputations. The more they
protest their innocence, the more the survivors and their
therapists accuse them of being "in denial."
In tonight's two hours, you'll see how repressed memories are
brought to light, from sudden flashes to regression therapy. In
next Tuesday's two hours, the impact of such accusations on victims
and their families is explored. This is in many ways the more
frightening of the two.
For it becomes clear that, without even noticing, we have
opened up an area as emotionally charged as the Salem witch trials.
The memories keep mounting, the accusations get wilder and
wilder. And the media feeds the frenzy. It's almost fashionable to
be an incest survivor. After all, Roseanne is, and so is Oprah.
The strategy of the show, like the growing phenomenon, is to
start out with a small, seemingly normal situation, and watch it
escalate into accusations of Satanism, ritual abuse, even murder.
"The recovered memory debate has been cast so narrowly," says
producer Bikel, "that there is little room to figure out what is
true and what is not."
This is a warning bell to let you know what's happening.
PBS probes repressed `Memories'
Notes: Divided Memories -- PBS -- #### (out of four)
The billion-dollar recovery movement may need its own recovery
movement after a national TV audience gets a load of Divided
Memories, an exhaustively balanced and emotionally exhausting
dissection of the debate over repressed memory of child abuse. This
is Frontline at its most provocative; Part 2 airs next Tuesday.
At times, it will curdle the blood, boggle the brain and race the
pulse, with harrowing sequences of deeply pained adults (most always
women) eagerly led by therapists down a garish garden path of lurid
memory and - most disturbing - questionable validity.
This is the land of Oprah, Geraldo and Sally, but presented with
a depth and complexity that takes the sensational and renders it
unnervingly ambiguous. While never slighting the horror of abuse and
incest, these four hours show another abuse perpetrated: of the bond
between therapist and patient.
Producer Ofra Bikel leaves conclusions to the viewer, with a
meticulously analytical approach she used to great effect in
previous award-winning Frontlines: Innocence Lost and its sequel The
Verdict, about child-abuse charges at a North Carolina day-care
Divided Memories is their equal, and that is high praise.
As in Innocence Lost, Bikel calmly observes hysteria, with
stunning impact. Her access to bizarre therapy sessions is
remarkable and begs many questions: How authentic are these
horrific, long-buried memories of childhood abuse that erupt during
treatment? Are therapists inducing false memory, more concerned with
making their patients feel good than ascertaining the truth?
Critics say it's pandemic of pop psychology gone amok, that this
has nothing to do with reality and leaves families shattered by the
charges. Advocates argue there's a backlash against women speaking
out on what was once taboo.
What isn't in dispute is that, without external evidence, no one
can distinguish true memory from what's made up. For the therapists
interviewed, it doesn't even matter. "I don't care if it's true,"
says therapist Doug Sawin. "What actually happened is irrelevant to
Not irrelevant, of course, to the distraught families, who have
formed their own support group. But that's not the therapists'
concern. They're not detectives or fact-finders, they say, neither
judge nor jury.
What they often appear is arrogant, dangerously enabling
vulnerable patients' delusions to take a life of their own.
At times, you feel you've stumbled into an absurdist episode of
The X-Files, as in a hypnosis session where a woman recalls being
abused by her baby sitter. Then she flashes back to a former life
where she says she abused the baby sitter, who was then her servant.
It would be funny if it weren't so scary. Divided Memories is one
long shudder of the national soul.
Repressed memories come to light on `Frontline'
THE DETROIT NEWS
The phone call was sudden and devastating.
Al Norris, a lawyer and a father of four, received a call
from his grown daughter, Ann. She knew, she said. She knew he had
sexually abused her as a child.
Norris seemed stunned, his wife tells PBS' Frontline in a
report titled Divided Memories at 9 p.m. Tuesday (Channel 56 in
Detroit), and which continues the following Tuesday.
"I went to grab the phone from him," Judy Norris says. "He
was in shock. It was just an unbearable sound, coming out of a
And then he went out and bought apples. "It's the only thing
I could think to do," he says.
Things would escalate, shattering the family. Ann sued her
parents, based on "repressed memories" she found during hypnosis
Then comes the catch: There's no way of telling if the things
she found were real or scenes concocted by her subconscious.
That point comes across in this devastating two-part report
from producer Ofra Bikel.
Bikel acknowledges the importance of facing the past and
confronting evil. But she also asks whether people are now being
battered by false memories.
Dr. Michael Yapko wondered that, while polling 850 therapists:
"I asked, `How do you distinguish a true memory from a
confabulation?' " Yapko says.
"And the unanimous answer, regardless of what side of the
issue they were on . . . was: Without external evidence, you can't."
Even the therapists who support digging for "repressed
memories" told Bikel they can't guarantee something is true:
"For the survivor, this is very real," says Laura Brown.
"For her, this is a reality."
"As a therapist, your job is not to be a . . . fact-finder,"
says Dr. Judith Herman. "Your job is to help the patient make sense
of her life."
"We all live in a delusion," says Dr. Douglas Sawin. "Do any
of us know the truth?"
Maybe not. Maybe it's fine to learn a possible truth, if it
helps someone put a life in order. But what happens after that?
Talking to Frontline, Yapko posed that question:
"If this patient is going to turn around and sue someone, and
say, `He abused me,' and is going to take him to court," Yapko
says, "it would be nice to know whether it really happened."
That's what Ann Norris did, backed only by Sawin's testimony.
When lawyers ask him, he tells Frontline, he makes no claim that a
repressed memory is true: "I say, I don't care if it's true. What's
important to me is that I hear the child's truth, the patient's
truth. That's what's important. What actually happened is
irrelevant to me."
It was relevant to the Norris family, as things dug deeper.
Ann (now also known as Kate) had found 27 personalities. She told
of torture, beatings, mutilations and satanic rituals by both
parents and by grandparents.
The evidence refuted all of that, Al Norris says. "She has a
perfect attendance record at school. . . . She never had a scratch
on her, her entire lifetime."
Her sister, Caroline, feels Ann's feelings were hurt by a
span when her mother was cold and distant. Her subconscious built
that into something huge and tangible. Then she confronted her
"It just crushed both of them," Caroline says.
"(It) just swept their marriage away, what was left of it. .
. . It was heartbreaking to see what they went through."
Repressed-memory debate may unnerve PBS viewers
You don't have to be a psychologist to know about this hot
button. The argument over "repressed memory" is a media favorite.
If you scan Oprah, Geraldo or the daily paper, you've heard the
scenario: After years of depression, anxiety or eating disorders, a
woman enters therapy - or past-life regression or hypnosis - and
discovers memories of having been sexually abused in childhood.
Suddenly, she says, everything clicks. Her phobias and nightmares
But the therapeutic community is split over whether repression
is even possible, whether the "memories" are real. In some cases,
the subject has retracted the charges. A national support group for
wrongly accused molesters has sprung up. And in laboratories,
scientists are proving that memory is an elusive, easily rearranged
Naturally, this being America, the obvious result of the
firestorm is a profusion of best-sellers and TV movies.
A more serious outcome is bitter haggling between therapists
and, most wrenching, in families where the debate rages.
Who can know for sure? Children accusing parents, lives ruined
by the mere charge of molestation, families denying allegations of
satanic ritual abuse, claiming the memories are not real. Lacking
evidence, it's impossible to judge.
Nobody would voluntarily make up these horrors or the
accompanying symptoms, one side argues.
Saying "trust me" isn't good enough, the other side responds.
Come to tonight's "Frontline" documentary with an open mind.
"Divided Memories," a two-hour jolt that's the first of two, begins
at 9 p.m. on Channel 6. The concluding program is slated for next
Tuesday, 9-11 p.m.
It's not easy television. "Frontline" rarely is.
Journalist and documentary producer Ofra Bikel has earned our
respect through the years with numerous critical studies and
even-handed documentaries for public TV. Most recently, she won a
slew of international awards for "Innocence Lost" and "Innocence
Lost: The Verdict," a scrupulous study of the charges of sexual
abuse at a day-care center in a small North Carolina town.
For her latest project, Bikel spent a year investigating the
furor over repressed memory. Offering credible arguments on both
sides, Bikel starts where Oprah, Geraldo and company leave off,
ultimately delving much deeper into the debate.
In the end, you have to wonder about certain of the 225,000
licensed psychotherapists who practice shrinking techniques ranging
from the old-fashioned talking cure to past-life regressions. Some
of the play-acting mumbo jumbo is distinctly creepy.
The first two hours are provocative but exhausting. We'll need a
week before tackling the next 120 minutes.
KBCO (1190 AM) has split from its higher-powered musical FM
sister station, as expected, to pick up available talk shows. The
switch takes effect this week but the shows aren't locked in,
according to Dave Baronfeld, general manager of KBCO-AM and Noble
Broadcasting's other talk outlet, KHOW (630 AM).
One unconfirmed possibility: the syndicated show by convicted
felon G. Gordon Liddy may join the lineup. If bought by KBCO-AM,
Liddy would air 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Jim Rome, a sports talker who was in a brouhaha on ESPN2 last
fall, is running 1-4 p.m.
The switch to talk at KBCO-AM is intended to exploit recent
changes at KNUS (which is now all-news in conjunction with KCNC-TV)
and KYBG-FM (which, as 92Z, is grunge-rock, a.k.a. the Seattle band
A `Divided' Look at Recovered Memory
THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
When she made her superb two-part "Frontline" report "Innocence
Lost" on the Edenton, N.C., child abuse case, filmmaker Ofra Bikel
offered a kind of demilitarized zone for the small town's warring
All of their hopes and fears and paranoias surrounding stunning
claims of ritual child abuse in the hundreds were laid bare in
front of Bikel's camera. They all trusted her, even if you couldn't
help wondering whether she believed them.
The same dynamic propels Bikel's new two-part, four-hour work
for "Frontline," "Divided Memories." Now she has taken her camera
to a new but related psychosocial war front, pitting children who
claim repressed memories of being abused as children against their
This deeply emotional sparring, though, is heightened by a
parallel debate between a movement of psychotherapists practicing
"recovered memory" techniques and mental health scientists and
feminists who harshly condemn the movement as quackery and
Bikel's great achievement is to track both of these clashes
until it seems that the very heart and soul of the country is at
stake. Is there truly an unprecedented level of ongoing incest and
child abuse in the United States-as the recovered-memory therapists
and advocates claim-or is the "inner child" craze another example
of American infantilization? Are women the vast majority of
recovered-memory patients because fathers typically abuse
daughters, or is the new psychotherapy a new method of keeping
"Divided Memories" suggests that all of these could be true at
the same time, but, as in "Innocence Lost," Bikel is fascinated at
how the spark of vague fears can turn into a social wildfire.
In tonight's opening two hours, Bikel dwells on the claims of
recovered-memory patients. Some, like the case of Jane Sanders
(whose mother got an admission of incest out of her husband), come
off as very credible cases of incest and abuse. Some, like Ann
Rose, who changed her name to Kate, begin with the slightest sense
of a bad memory and develop into explicit, incredible accounts of
satanic ritual abuse and murder.
In Rose's case, after many years in therapy with Laguna
Beach-based therapist Douglas Sawin, she decided to sue her parents
and grandparents for $20 million in damages. Sawin, as do other
therapists, tells Bikel that he is trained to believe his clients
such as Rose. But when claims become lawsuits, more proof is
required than trust.
According to such recovered-memory critics as psychiatrist Dr.
Salvador Minuchin and former recovered-memory advocates as Paul
Simpson, trust is about all these therapists have. Minuchin states
emphatically that the scientific evidence to prove that removal of
repressed feelings can uncover memories does not exist.
"Divided Memories" becomes one of television's most
extraordinary investigations into the legitimacy of psychotherapy
itself-its pseudo-religious aspects, its penchant for launching pop
movements that soon fizzle, its preference for feelings over
reason. The children of Freud are now at an unprecedented crisis
TV Preview; Vicious Psyche; 'Frontline's' Frightening Look at
Byline: Tom Shales
THE WASHINGTON POST
Those who cannot remember the past are inclined to invent it.
That clearly seems one of the lessons to be gleaned from a
fascinating and frightening "Frontline" report that begins tonight
at 9 on Channel 26.
"Divided Memories" is about the controversy that surrounds a
raging vogue in psychotherapy: unearthing repressed memories of
abuse from a patient's childhood as a way of liberating the patient
from the grip of the past. The patients, mostly women, are
encouraged to dredge up long-suppressed horrors from youth as a way
of dealing with such current problems as depression, bulimia,
multiple personality disorder and panic attacks.
But what if the memory of abuse is not true? "I don't care if
it's true," one California therapist replies to that question. "What
actually happened is irrelevant to me. . . . We all live in a
delusion." Unfortunately, one of that very therapist's patients
became so convinced that her nightmare tales of ritual abuse were
true that she sued her parents and grandparents for $20 million.
She claimed that after years of repressing the nasty, nasty
images in her mind, she suddenly remembered that her parents and
grandparents had subjected her to sexual and physical torture from
infancy as part of their devilish duty in a satanic cult. It doesn't
matter to the woman or her therapist that not an iota of
corroboration exists and that none of her siblings remembers such
Producer Ofra Bikel includes clips from the talk shows of
Sally Jessy Raphael, Phil Donahue and Oprah Winfrey, but her
approach to the subject is much more scholarly than tabloid. And the
narration is for the most part calm and nonjudgmental; the
therapists and some of the patients are allowed to speak for, and in
some cases implicitly condemn, themselves.
A few of the cases have become famous, or infamous, like that
of a California woman who under therapy suddenly remembered that her
father had raped and killed a childhood friend of hers in front of
her 20 years earlier; her father went to jail on the strength of
this "evidence" alone. Another young woman destroyed her father's
life and career by insisting she had been the victim of his
incestuous lust as a child. This time, the father sued the
therapist, who he claimed had implanted the alleged memories. He won
a half-million-dollar judgment against her.
One aspect of the phenomenon only superficially covered in the
report tonight is the sexual politics of all this. For the most
part, but not exclusively, those speaking in defense of regression
therapy are women, and those speaking against it are men. Some of
the female therapists appear to believe that they are winning souls
for feminism each time a female patient remembers a previously
forgotten incident of abuse by a renegade daddy.
A male therapist who practiced regression therapy and then
abandoned it did so, he says, because he saw patients getting worse,
not better, as they rehashed traumas, real or fanciful, from their
early lives. "In many ways, psychology has become the religion of
this century," he says insightfully, and many of the patients who
claim that regression therapy has been their salvation sound a great
deal like the trusting souls who think the magical touch of a faith
healer somehow cured a lifelong ailment: "Evil spirits, out!"
The repressed memory theory also fits in with the
victimization epidemic in American culture. One's ills and failures
and problems of adjustment can be conveniently attributed to a
single demon hidden within buried memories. One patient, watched in
the midst of shrieking self-realization, comes to the conclusion
that many of her current difficulties are linked to her having been
momentarily stuck in a fallopian tube as a fetus. Another woman
blames her cancer on "emotional repression" over the years.
Truly, the human mind is a wondrously mysterious thing. So is
the human imagination. So is the human ego. Some of those who
eagerly divulge once-hidden secrets appear almost boastful: Look how
complicated I am, look what awful things happened to me. In group
sessions, there appears to be a kind of one-upmanship of the hurt
and wounded, with patients determined to prove the abuse they
suffered was more colorful and injurious than that of others.
Bikel's report is certainly not heartless or reactionary; she
does not say all such cases are bogus, or hold the patients up to
ridicule, or minimize the evils of actual child abuse. But the
impression one gets is of a kind of hysteria sweeping the land, part
of the eternal quest not only for explanations but for scapegoats.
In their zeal to portray themselves as victims, some of the patients
make victims out of others who may be utterly and helplessly
In next week's conclusion to the report, Bikel will examine the
effects that these emotional outings have had on some of the
families involved. If recovering memories has become something of a
cottage industry, so has dealing with the damage the recoveries have
caused; Bikel interviews founders of the False Memory Syndrome
Foundation, a 15,000-member group composed of people who say they
have been falsely accused of sexual abuse.
If Part 2 is as good as Part 1, it will be too gripping, and
too important, to miss.
TV REVIEW: `DIVIDED MEMORIES': PROBING DOCUMENTARIES
Are an adult's memories of childhood sexual abuse believable?
That is a central question of ``Divided Memories,'' a probing and
often affecting four-hour documentary that begins Tuesday night on
But like the memories themselves, Ofra Bikel's report has a far
wider reach. It touches on feminist ideology; fashions and hype in
psychotherapy; the responsibilities of therapists and their
attitudes toward truth; the impact of accusations of sexual abuse on
parents and families, and the ability of the courts to sort out fact
Ms. Bikel talks with therapists, with their clients, both
grateful and disenchanted, and with the clients' parents and
relatives. We hear from those who maintain that past sexual abuse is
at the heart of much of the distress that brings people, especially
women, into treatment, and from those who say that memories of abuse
are being induced and families are being destroyed.
``Divided Memories'' goes beyond ``Innocence Lost'' and
``Innocence Lost: The Verdict,'' Ms. Bikel's 1993 reports for
``Frontline,'' about the charges of sexual abuse at a day-care
center in Edenton, N.C., strong works that deserved all the awards
The repressed-memory cure or fad has its roots in the women's
movement's success in compelling the nation to acknowledge that many
children have in fact been abused and that later symptoms should not
be written off as hysteria, as psychologists since Freud had tended
to do. Now troubled women could find attention rather than
The narrator notes that the zesty brew of sex, violence and
victims quickly became the stuff of afternoon talk shows. (``I
personally have never met anyone who lied about being an incest
victim,'' announced Sally Jessy Raphael, mentor to millions.)
There were television movies, best sellers (with checklists of
symptoms for readers to determine whether they were sexually abused
as children), and celebrities like Roseanne telling the cameras
their own stories of recently remembered abuse. Sexual abuse quickly
became the diagnosis of choice for a growing number of largely
unregulated practitioners; memory recovery became a profitable
Wendy Kaminer, a skeptical feminist, gives this analysis tonight
of the recovery movement's appeal: ``If you're unhappy, as many
people are, and angry with your parents, as many people are, it is
not a great leap to go from seeing yourself as someone who has been
a victim of metaphoric abuse to seeing yourself as someone who has
been the victim of actual abuse in its ultimate form of sexual
The dispute has lately taken up many pages of The New York Review
of Books, where Frederick Crews, leading what some call a backlash
against recovered-memory therapy, has framed the issue this way:
``whether otherwise incredible tales, produced in a climate of
suggestion, should be allowed to ruin people's lives.''
The scenes of recovery therapists are revealing as they listen to
their clients, whom they call survivors, dredge up memories of
abuse. They seem to confirm the observation of one critic, Dr.
Michael Yapko, a clinical psychologist, that the therapists ``tend
to view problems in terms of a presumed history of abuse.''
He adds, ``And so by looking for abuse, expecting to find abuse,
it's no surprise when they uncover abuse.'' The memories can go back
beyond infancy. One woman, urged on by her therapist, is seen
bringing forth a recollection of being stuck in the fallopian tube.
It is like watching a birth, with the therapist as midwife.
Pressed by Ms. Bikel about how they can be sure the revelations
about events of 20 or 30 years ago, which have a way of growing more
detailed and elaborate under therapy, actually occurred,
practitioners say they are convinced by the emotions of their
One explains, ``When they access a memory, they are doing it out
of what's coming up from within them, and the body doesn't lie nor
does the psyche lie.'' Another says he does not have to know whether
a memory is true or not, that healing is not related to truth.
Still another, a professed sexual-abuse survivor himself who
supported a client in a $20 million suit against her parents for
sexual and ritual abuse that included the insertion of spiders,
wires and vegetables into her vagina, says: ``I don't care if it's
true. What's important to me is that I hear the child's truth, the
patient's truth.'' He says, ``We all live in a delusion.''
In that case, the family settled out of court for $15,000. But a
California man, whose family broke up after his daughter accused him
of abusing her 25 years earlier, was awarded $500,000 in his
malpractice suit against two therapists who he charged had implanted
false memories in his daughter. The judgment sent a chill through
the recovered-memory industry.
Next week, the cameras visit Genesis, a seven-year-old counseling
center in Philadelphia, where some 100 people are treated, at $75 a
session, by a social worker and an addiction counselor.
The theory here is that the clients, most of whom are found to
have been sexually abused, suffer from some sort of addiction; they
may be ``relationship addicts'' or ``people addicts.'' One of the
proprietors says, ``We're coming up with more addictions every
Highly emotional encounter sessions, some of which are shown, are
used to detach the clients from what are viewed as their
dysfunctional families. The words ``dysfunctional'' and
``detachment'' are mantras here. Most clients evidently believe the
treatment has helped them; a few tell of feeling manipulated, and
eight are suing Genesis for psychological damage.
Like parents who band together to combat cults that have drawn in
their children, several thousand people are now supporting a
campaign by the False Memory Syndrome Foundation against what they
say are false accusations that have destroyed their families. The
memory recoverers retort that such ``perpetrators'' are in a state
of denial, that denying an accusation of sexual abuse is virtually a
confession of guilt.
Ms. Bikel gives all sides a hearing and delivers no explicit
judgments about the scientific validity of repressed-memory therapy.
But her program makes its point in the sympathetic treatment of
distraught parents and in the self-exposure of therapists who claim
to be above the truth.
PBS, Tuesday night and next Tuesday
Written, produced and directed by Ofra Bikel. Karen O'Connor,
associate producer. Susan Sanschel, editor. Frontline is produced by
a consortium of public television stations: WGBH/Boston,
WTVS/Detroit, WPBT/Miami, WNET/New York and KCTS/Seattle. David
Fanning, executive producer for Frontline. Will Lyman, narrator.
From: romulus.ehs.uiuc.edu!saul.cis.upenn.edu!pjf (Peter Freyd)
Copyright 1995 Chicago Tribune Company
April 3, 1995 Monday, NORTH SPORTS FINAL EDITION
SECTION: TEMPO; Pg. 3; ZONE: C; TV previews.
LENGTH: 973 words
HEADLINE: PAST IMPERFECT; 'DIVIDED MEMORIES' CASTS SKEPTICAL EYE ON
BYLINE: By Steve Johnson, Tribune Television Critic.
The airing of Ofra Bikel's riveting new documentary probably will
be troubling to those who believe repressed memory is widespread and
its recovery is a profound therapeutic tool.
Do not expect this trauma to be buried in the subcionscious,
however, like the sexual abuse that so many believe they experienced
behind the facades of apparently unexceptional families.
"Divided Memories," the two-part, four-hour "Frontline"
airing Tuesday and April 11 at 9 p.m. on WTTW-Ch. 11, is likely to
provoke protest because Bikel casts an unblinking eye on this new
on the nation's psychological landscape, familiar from television
movies, ubiquitous talk show discussions and a recanted accusation
against Chicago's Catholic archbishop Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.
Simply by taking her cameras into the sessions, Bikel demonstrates
thatrecovered-memory therapy often looks a lot like bunkum. More
significantly, through interviews with experts on both sides, she
helps to place it as a political movement-mixing threads of feminism,
spiritualism and victimism, and relying on anecdote in its
defense-rather than a scientific one rooted in empirical evidence.
Her film, Bikel says, "is skeptical of the theory. It's-more than
anything-worried about the therapy I've seen that's going on in the
name of repressed memories. . . . I started with the utmost respect
for therapists and I'm very sorry that I lost a lot of it."
In what Bikel labels the "war" over repressed memory there is no
middle ground. If you express skepticism about the logic that lets
people pin their adult problems on fresh and unsubstantiated
recollections of being violated decades prior, you are in league with
pederasts. If you wonder: Isn't this doing somebody, somewhere, some
good, you are helping to tear decent families apart.
"I tried very hard not to come down with pronouncements, not to
experts who come down with pronouncements," says Bikel, a veteran
documentarian who is no stranger to the shifting sands of sexual
memory and accusation.
Her acclaimed "Innocence Lost" (1991) and "Innocence Lost: The
Verdicts" (1993), both made for "Frontline," explored a court case
that hinged on children's accusations of profligate sexual abuse by
day care workers in Edenton, N.C. Her work raised significant doubts
about the guilty verdicts and suggested that the town itself fell
thrall to a witch-hunt mentality.
Talking to patients and their families from cases famous and
unfamiliar, "Divided Memories" works on a bigger canvas than the
"Innocence Lost" films. But by again exploring what people can come
to believe, it again points toward a species of hysteria.
It does so with a steady hand, a seeming interest in presenting
best case both sides have to offer. Early on in the four hours, Bikel
talks with a woman who did indeed repress-or forget-childhood sexual
abuse. She learned of it when her mother told her. This is the only
case Bikel found where a claim of recovered memory could be backed up
by anything more substantial than a woman and her therapist believing
More typical is Kate Rose, who, her grieving family says, won't
examine school or medical records that prove impossible the Gothic
horrors she claims to recall. In a moment of shining truth, Bikel
Rose what hurts more, the constant ritual abuse or her mother's
admitted lifelong coldness.
"Every bit of desperation in my life," Rose responds, "is the lack
"Divided Memories" places recovered memory as an outgrowth of the
addiction movement, in which love is "enmeshment" and friendship is
"people addiction," and of pop-psych theory popularized during the
1980s about healing the inner child.
At the same time, society and psychology were recognizing that
sexual abuse was more widespread than had been thought and that it
could be talked about. A school of therapy developed believing that a
damaged inner child could be traced to a sexually abused child.
The seductiveness of all this permeates the broadcast: therapists
get to achieve dramatic results; patients get to find an external
source of blame for their problems.
Yet is sex abuse a one-stop answer? Bikel quotes a skeptical
expert, who paraphrases psychologist Abraham Maslow: "If the only
you have is a hammer, then everything around you begins to look
The therapists, though, contend it's no surprise that people
damaged by sexual abuse find therapists who specialize in it.
defenders add that so many therapists find incest and abuse because
it's so rampant. In this climate, doubting a woman who proclaims sex
abuse is like doubting Anita Hill: You don't just damage her, you
damage a cause.
What's chilling about this is that the gulf between the two camps
is so vast, yet they are united by apparent good faith. The people
believe in their rediscovered memories are dealing with emotional
that appears real and intense, whatever the explanation.
And the families that therapy dictates these women must "detach"
from seem extraordinarily stunned, like each new day is a fresh blow
to the solar plexus. One accused father, a union carpenter, is shown
forlornly picketing the counseling center that helped his daughter
find her abuse memory.
The ultimate question, though is, does any of this do good? Is it,
as the therapists say, empowering for women to find abuse and
it? Happiness is not transparent, but the women Bikel focuses on
after years of therapy, haggard and unsure of themselves.
In place of long if troubled lives, they have a new life that
with the definition of their victimhood. In place of parents,
siblings, spouses, even children, they have deep attachments to their
fellow victims and, especially, to their therapists.
GRAPHIC: PHOTOPHOTO: Kate Rose, shown with her therapist Doug Sawin,
recalled repressed memories of sexual abuse. A two-part "Frontline"
looks at the issue.
LEISURE & ARTS -- Television: All-New Sins of the Fathers
04/03/95 WALL STREET JOURNAL
In her new "Frontline" documentary, "Divided Memory," Ofra Bikel
takes on the issue of repressed memory and what's come to be known
as the "recovery movement" generally. For the therapy schools in
question, this is most certainly not good news. The reason will soon
be clear to anyone watching this grimly captivating, occasionally
hilarious, plainly masterful two-part work, beginning Tuesday (9-11
p.m. EDT on PBS; PBS air dates and times vary so check local
listings). Ms. Bikel's tone is scrupulously calm and searching. The
show has been publicized as a look at a "controversy" and the title
itself is intended to suggest a scholarly evenhandedness, but make
no mistake -- this is a killer assault. An assault, moreover, of
extraordinary texture, for which Ms. Bikel deserves all the awards
The therapists now making careers inducing memories of parental
abuse that supposedly occurred in childhood (if not in utero) are
given every opportunity here to air their analytic views and show
their therapeutic techniques in practice. This exposure, it hardly
needs saying, is more devastating than any direct comment the
filmmaker might offer. Ms. Bikel indeed asks few questions, though
when she does she is deadly.
There is, for instance, her report on the case of Gary Ramona of
California -- whose adult daughter decided, after seeing a therapist
about an eating disorder, that her father had raped her when she was
a child. Mr. Ramona, a vineyard executive, lost his job, his
children and his wife, who came to believe passionately in every
word of the charges produced in therapy. With deep fervor, the woman
proclaims that mothers have gut feelings about their children and
everything happening to them, and that these gut feelings about her
daughter's experience were all the proof she needed.
Pouncing, Ms. Bikel points out, "You said you were happily
married for 25 years -- so where were your gut feelings?" It is
quite something to see the woman realize, as she mumbles a reply and
stops, that everything she is about to say gives away the true
answer -- that those "gut feelings," like the rape memories, only
began with the visits to the therapist. Mr. Ramona became the first
accused parent to sue therapists for implanting false abuse memories
-- a malpractice suit he won, along with half a million dollars. The
fact still remains, Mr. Ramona points out in a bitter summation,
that thanks to these accusations he lost his family, and has not
seen his children in several years. "So tell me, what did I win?" he
The other accused parents interviewed here had better luck at
least regarding family support. Part one of "Divided Memory," for
example, tells of a promising music student whose entry into therapy
led to immediate charges that her father had assaulted her when she
was a child. In due time the accusations against her father are
extended so that they include her mother and grandparents, too --
and the charges are no longer only rape but Satanic abuse with
wires, vegetables, electrodes, tools. Another accused father, who
had spent his entire working life as a union organizer, is so
infuriated at his daughter's (and her therapist's) contention that
he raped her as an infant that he does the only thing he knows how
to do to express outrage: He pickets the therapist's office.
The therapists themselves are another story -- and what a show
they make. Here are psychologists confidently explaining that
whether the patients' "recovered" memories of abuse are factual or
not is irrelevant -- for there is no such thing as truth -- and,
after all, the most important goal of therapy is to make the patient
feel powerful. Everybody has memories of abuse, it appears. One
psychologist here tells how, in the midst of helping her patient
recover memories of early childhood molestation, she had to stop --
she too had suddenly begun to recover abuse memories of her own. A
One school of therapy shown here has to do with something called
cellular suppressed emotion. In this section, which turns into a
family epic, we meet Heather, who has entered therapy because, as
she says, she isn't as happy as she should be. Next we meet the
therapist who explains, while working on Heather, that it is in the
shoulders that all memories are stored. Following this invaluable
insight we learn that Heather, evidently looking to shoulder many
more revelations, is also seeing three other therapists to help her
recover memories of abuse.
Next comes Heather's mother, Pam, a teacher, who wants to know if
she too might have repressed memories of sexual abuse. It hardly
needs saying that the woman does not go away disappointed. We also
meet patients abused not only in childhood but in their earlier
lives. One woman, whose recovered memories are at least as credible
as any of the others dredged up in these sessions, recalls her
stomach being slashed "in the first century A.D."
One of the more vivid displays of healing efforts shows clients
acting out their alleged recollections amid much shrieking and
pillow pounding. One decidedly hefty woman among them tells the
interviewer that she works hard pushing men away and that in fact
what she would like is "to overpower men." On hand to help her with
her flashbacks is a therapist who directs her to "bring the fullness
of your womanhood" to the struggle.
In the roster of interviewees, there are of course critics of the
recovered-memory syndrome and its allied pathologies -- one of them
a therapist who turned his back on what he soon determined to be
nonsense -- nonsense of a highly damaging kind.
Speaking of which, there is also a segment on John Bradshaw and
his inner-child rant, which has consumed so many hours of
public-television time. One of Ms. Bikel's most invaluable services
here has been to put her finger squarely on one of the prime sources
of the babble about the dysfunctional family, addictions and
co-dependency that has now infected the entire culture. Around the
emissions of Mr. Bradshaw and his like there has grown up a
million-dollar industry in recovery-movement books, workshops,
cruises, Inner Child toys and other gifts. In the end, though, the
film's most telling scene is the one in which a band of therapy
patients who have supposedly recovered their memories of abuse sit
around grimly discussing their new-found happiness, and how they now
enjoy the full range of emotions. Each seems to have discovered his
inner child. With luck they will lose them.
In a msg to All on , David Bloomberg of 1:2430/2112
DB> Memory-based conviction voided
DB> Judge rules trial in 20-year-old murder was unfair
DB> It would have been nice to see the actual "memories" discussed
DB> but it seems this trial was a tragedy of errors all around...
I heard more about this on Dateline NBC, and they did say that the
judge mentioned stuff not discussed in this article. For example,
he cited the complete lack of physical evidence, and he said the
defendant's attorney should have been allowed to present evidence
showing that there was a lot of news coverage of the murder, from
which Franklin's daughter could easily have read about the murder.
Still, as I said, the trial appears to have been a tragedy of errors.