SELF-HELP AUTHORS FREED FROM LIABILITY;
SUIT INVOLVING INCEST CLAIMS CONTINUES
San Francisco Chronicle (SF) - TUESDAY, September 6, 1994
By: Katy Butler, Chronicle Staff Writer
Edition: FINAL Section: News Page: A16
Word Count: 417
A Sacramento Superior Court judge has dismissed a portion of a
lawsuit involving the authors of ``The Courage to Heal,'' a popular self-help
text for incest survivors.
The suit, brought by Deborah David, her husband and her parents,
accused several therapists and the book authors with creating
psychological problems and leading David to confront her father and keep him
from seeing his grandchildren.
The suit, which asks for more than $4 million in damages, will continue
against the therapists but not the authors.
According to attorney Neil Shapiro, who represented authors Laura
Davis and Ellen Bass of Santa Cruz, the portion of the suit against the
writers was dismissed Friday because of constitutional protections of free
speech. Previous court rulings have held that book authors cannot be
liable for damages caused by their ideas.
According to David's suit, ``The Courage to Heal'' and ``The Courage to
Heal Workbook'' were suggested to her by therapists who tried to convince her
that she had been sexually abused. David could not be reached for comment
Shapiro said yesterday that statements in the books ``are not like
chemical equations that are right or wrong. These are ideas, and you can't
have a liability for ideas.''
The book was published by HarperCollins in 1988 and became an
underground best-seller, with more than 800,000 copies sold. A thick
compendium of advice about therapy, healing, self-care, family
confrontation, sexuality and relationships, it incorporates the poetry and
stories of more than 100 women who told the authors they had been sexually
abused as children.
It has been criticized widely by parents who say they have been falsely
accused by their children and by some women who have since withdrawn such
accusations. One sentence in the book suggests that people who think they
were abused probably were, even if they have no specific memories, and other
portions suggest ways that women can help themselves remember more.
A lawsuit similar to the one dismissed in Sacramento is pending in San
Luis Obispo County.
Laura Davis, one of the authors, said yesterday that she felt ``great''
about the ruling.
``Our book has had a big effect on incest survivors coming forward and
talking about their experiences,'' she said. ``That has been very
threatening to people. I see the lawsuit as part of an ongoing backlash
against survivors of sexual abuse.
``I'm glad that it was squashed quickly. If it hadn't (been), it would
have been a nightmare for any author in a free society.''
Copyright 1994 The San Francisco Chronicle
AUTHOR TARGET OF FALSE-MEMORIES LAWSUIT
Sacramento Bee (SB) - WEDNESDAY, May 4, 1994
By: Associated Press
Edition: STATE FINAL Section: SUPCAL Page: B3
Word Count: 299
SAN LUIS OBISPO - A woman has sued the author of a popular advice book,
claiming it was partly to blame for conjuring up false memories of sexual
abuse and satanic rituals.
In a lawsuit filed in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court, Kimberly
Mark accuses Laura Davis of negligence and misrepresentation for the views she
expressed in ''The Courage to Heal Workbook.''
Mark claimed the book's advice was partly to blame for false childhood
memories she conjured up during hypnotherapy sessions. The memories
included satanic rituals and sexual abuse by several people, including her
''This is the first time that I know of that this kind of (suit) has
happened,'' said Elizabeth Loftus, a University of Washington psychology and
law professor who doubts the reality of memories that emerge in
adulthood after extensive therapy.
The lawsuit, which was filed last week, could have trouble getting
around First Amendment guarantees of free published expression, said an
attorney who specializes in constitutional law.
Courts must generally find a direct cause-and-effect relationship before
holding someone liable for damages, said Los Angeles attorney Stephen
Neither Davis nor her agent immediately returned calls seeking comment.
The workbook is a companion and sequel to the best-selling ''The
Courage to Heal,'' co-written with Ellen Bass. Both books have been
criticized by mental health professionals who say claims of repressed
childhood sexual abuse are often exaggerated.
The first book has sold about 800,000 copies nationwide. Patrick
Clancy, a Walnut Creek lawyer representing Kimberly and husband William Mark,
said Davis holds herself out as qualified to help readers heal
psychologically from the effects of childhood sexual abuse.
Kimberly Mark's father is dead, Clancy said. Her ''memories'' changed
after she read a magazine article last year questioning hypnotherapists'
ability to bring back forgotten events, he said.