Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society
September 2000 Vol. 6, no. 3
"Moving on" theme of fall conference
So many years so many of us have been tortured by the problem: some have lost children never heard from, some have children who reach out to make contact and then withdraw, some have returnees who will not acknowledge what has happened. We want to make closure but we cannot. Our fall conference, on Sunday, October 15, whose theme "Moving on – getting on with our lives" will try to grapple with this agonizing problem.
Our opening presenter will be clinical psychologist Larry Koszewski, Ph.D. Dr. Koszewski is Clinical Director of Rehabilitation Center Central, Milwaukee County Mental Health Division, and he also has a private practice. At the Rehabilitation Center he teaches very difficult patients survival skills so they can return to the community. Above all he teaches his patients to hope. "We give stability and hope," he says. In his private practice Dr. Koszewski has had a variety of patients, including those falsely accused, to whom he has sought to teach coping strategies to deal with their situation. Drawing both from his clinical and personal experiences (his father is an accused parent) Dr. Koszewski will seek to address our theme. After his presentation he will moderate a panel of parents who have a variety of experiences. These parents will offer their own perspectives on how we might handle this stage in our lives.
The legal aspects of moving on will be dealt with by Martha Churchill, J.D., a very energetic and widely known FMS activist, a co-founder of the New Mexico Association and founder and now president of the Michigan Association for Responsible Mental Health Practices. She is an attorney in Milan, Michigan. Martha gave a lively and amusing presentation at the FMS Foundation conference earlier this year. She has written numerous articles for the Detroit News, Skeptical Inquirer, and for other publications. She has often acted as a consultant for people who are falsely accused, and has been involved in all kinds of mental health issues. Martha is the sibling of an accuser.
We will also be hearing from a retractor panel composed of Nadean Cool, Laura Pasley and Mary Shanley. Nadean Cool of Appleton, Wisconsin won a $2.5 million settlement in 1997. Since then she has spoken at a number of workshops and on TV shows, such as 60 Minutes. She is currently writing a book, part of which will deal with the subject of "moving on". Laura Pasley of Texas was one of the first recanters, and her story was featured in the book True Stories of False Memories. She has been very active in our movement. Laura has been a consultant to many attorneys, cooperated in the writing of many books, and appeared on numerous TV shows. She is currently webmaster of a recanter web site. Our own Mary Shanley, who now serves on our Steering Committee, has appeared a number of times in these pages. She won a substantial settlement from Bennett Braun and Rush Presbyterian and other treaters and hospitals in Illinois & Texas. She was a star witness in the Houston criminal trial of four therapists. Mary has also cooperated with researchers Ofshe, Pendergrast and Simpson in the preparation of their books. In addition Mary was one of those featured by Frontline in their "The Search for Satan" program. She is currently a supervisor for the Du Page Walk-in Ministry. Mary is both a recanter and a parent and is thus coping with two burdens.
Leah Franklin of California is the ex-wife of George Franklin of the famous Franklin case, the murder trial which first gave national prominence to the idea of recovered memory. Leah wrote an article for our last newsletter, and she will give us a mother’s perspective.
Our conference will close with small group round table discussions led by conference speakers and panelists to allow for more intense and intimate discussion of topics raised earlier. In addition, Betty Duffy will lead a group in discussing the subject of mediation. Betty is a trained mediator. She was formerly a member of our Steering Committee and is the mother of a falsely accused son. She has dealt with false accusation issues of all kinds and been associated with the National Coalition of Free Men, and Carol Hopkins’ Justice Committee.
Above all, the conference has built into it at every point lots of time and opportunity for parents, recanters and other attendees to share insights with each other. This sharing we have found to be the high point of our past couple of conferences. Details of the program and registration information are included as inserts in this newsletter. Walter
Conference saves family
The following letter arrived a few days ago - making us feel that for this one family alone our work has been worthwhile. It was the participation of all of you who came last year that made our conference so valuable to this family.
Dear Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society,
I attended your annual meeting last year. I had found out I was accused in June and had an upcoming meeting in October with all three of my children, and my daughter's therapist. I was so fortunate to find out about your organization and to attend the annual meeting. My wife and I talked with so many of you that day and found your meeting so informative and eye opening. We benefited tremendously from everyone's experiences.
The session with my family went extremely well, thanks to what we had learned at your meeting and subsequent conversations with several of the members. Had we not been given so much valuable insight, I am sure I would have attended the meeting angry, defensive, and determined to prove my innocence. Less than a year later, I have a better relationship with my two daughters than I have ever had. The accusing daughter has asked for and received my forgiveness. Thanks to everyone for helping us to realize that the most important thing was that my daughter was hurting and tormented and needed our full love, support, and understanding. I had to know that this situation was not really about me. I went to that family meeting determined that our family story would not be as tragic as the many I had heard from your members. Thank God her therapist wanted to promote the healing process. Many, many thanks again for a great conference and everyone's invaluable reaching out and sharing. Good luck and blessings to all.
The journey back
I have wanted to write about my experience with false memories for a long time, but every time I started to put something down on paper, I quickly found something else to do. This is a very painful topic for me to discuss, but I hope in writing it in this newsletter, I will help others.
In March of 1989, I started working with a therapist (psychiatric social worker) to deal with issues surrounding a breakup of a romantic relationship. By May 1989, it was very clear to me that I had bigger problems than just a failed romance. I was extremely depressed and felt very needy and a had strong urge to act out (threatening suicide and self mutilation.) One topic that my therapist and I discussed was my relationship with my mother. My therapist asked me to detail a list of the things that bothered me about my relationship with my mother. One of the items was that I was angry that when I six years old, I asked my mom to tell my dad to stop coming into the bathroom when I was taking a bath and she did not tell him. At the time of writing that item I truly thought no more of it than what it was-a six year old wanting some independence-and I again believe that to be true. When I read my list aloud to my therapist, she raised her eyebrows at that entry. That was it-that is when my false memories started. I can honestly say that my therapist did not "dig" into my brain and cause the false memories. They just happened. She did listen to whatever fabrication my brain came up with each week, and she was supportive of me talking about whatever the subject was, but she did not encourage me to any delve deeper. As the weeks went on, I became progressively sicker and very preoccupied in remembering things that did not happen to me. The book The Courage to Heal became my lifeline. I believed that that book and my therapist were the only things in the world I could rely on. I also became obsessed with the novel Sybil. On Labor Day weekend of 1989, I was hospitalized for the first time because of suicidal ideation. By November, I was sure that not only my father, but also a neighbor and a deceased, paternal aunt had sexually abused me. I began working with a psychiatrist who also listened and encouraged me to express my feelings, but he also did not strive to delve deeper into my past. He encouraged me to talk with my parents about what I was experiencing. Therefore, in November of 1989 I confronted my parents and told them that my dad and aunt sexually abused me and that my mom did nothing to stop it. This, by far, is the biggest regret of my life.
I separated myself from my parents for only one month, but the false memories haunted me for many years. I literally felt tortured by my thoughts. One moment I was sure that those horrible things occurred, the next I knew that I was lying and that something terrible was wrong with my mind. I have saved journals of this time that clearly indicate that I was in a vast amount of pain over those thoughts and false memories. I became extremely self-injurious-requiring numerous trips to emergency rooms to suture serious cuts in my arms, legs, and breasts. In addition, I had two suicide gestures-both were overdoses. Though my parents were not aware of these incidents, they knew that something was terribly wrong, because in April of 1990 I was hospitalized until March of 1991. My story also includes a "survivors" group that I know was detrimental to my mental health. It was an art therapy group that in the beginning was supportive and caring but was very damaging. The members of the group, with the assent of the therapist, pressed each other to remember and to express the tortures that were experienced as children. This group became important to me for a long time until I finally realized that many of the members had very similar memories. I felt ostracized because I refused to believe that my parents were part of a cult and I had been ritualistically abused. When I expressed my opinion that the group was unhealthy, it was made clear by the other members that I was in denial and I was injuring them by not believing their stories. With the support of my psychiatrist (who was now my therapist), I quit the group.
Over the years, my therapist and I have discussed that I will never know what is fact and what is false memory. By 1996, I was sure that most, if not all, of my memories were false. I have apologized to my father repeatedly. He refuses to discuss the issue. He will only say that he always knew that he did not do anything harmful to me and that he always loved me. I find it amazing that after all those terrible accusations he never stopped loving me. I will never know if or to what degree he was angry with me, because he will not talk about it. But he has every right to be very, very hurt and outraged by my actions. My mom was obviously angry and I am very glad she was able to express it. My parents joined a support group for families of the mentally ill. I know that it was a great source of help and comfort to them.
I am still working with the same therapist/psychiatrist. He was the first to tell me about FMSF [the FMS Foundation]. In retrospect, I believe that I am the one that is responsible for my actions. I was in intense pain because of my personality type. I needed a way to explain the pain and my father was my scapegoat. I have a personality disorder. I work daily-actually moment to moment-to remember that my thoughts and misconceptions of life are not necessarily reality. I also have to daily remind myself that I do have normal thoughts, and not every negative feeling I have is abnormal. I have a tendency to have very punitive feelings toward myself because of the false memories. I still have them-false memories-though they are very rare. I still have strong urges to self mutilate, but I do not and have not for a long time.
What was most helpful to me was that I knew my parents loved me despite my allegations and that they never distanced themselves from me. In addition, I feel very fortunate that I have a therapist who educated me about false memories and pointed me in the direction of FMSF.
(Reprinted from the March 2000 newsletter of the Ohio Association for Responsible Mental Health Practices with their permission)
Mental Health Parity Bill
The Mental Health Parity Bill (HB0111: Amendment to the Illinois Insurance Code) may be brought up for a vote in this fall’s veto session of the legislature. The original intent of the bill was to provide for the same reimbursement for serious mental illness as for other medical conditions. The bill allows for an open ended number of conditions to be added to the ones spelled out in the bill. Our organization is urging our state legislators to include a paragraph in the bill to insure that reimbursement only applies to mental health treatments proven safe and effective. On August 21 our Vice President, Marvin Scadron, sent a letter to Senator Kathy Parker, a leading sponsor of the bill, urging the addition of this paragraph. An excerpt from that letter follows:
Dear Senator Parker:I am writing to you regarding the above referenced legislation that may be considered in this fall’s Veto Session. The intent of it is excellent, but I have some suggestions that may help in having this legislation favorably considered.The letter also refers to and quotes from Dr. McHugh’s article in the Dec. 1999 issue of Commentary magazine in which Dr. McHugh describes the problem of using DMS IV as a basis for determining a reimbursable illness:
The amendment, as currently written, could be easily improved with the addition of paragraph (e) to the amendment. The paragraph would read:
(e) Reimbursement should apply to only those mental health treatments scientifically proven to be safe and effective.
The addition of this paragraph would permit the insurer to refuse reimbursement claims for treatments that are not acceptable and/or "fad" therapies. Specifically, line 5 in paragraph (b) of the amendment reads: "Examples included, but are not limited to, the following, as described in the most current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Health Disorders (DSM),.… The original intention of the underlined phrase was to facilitate consideration of new diagnoses and treatment for disorders that are scientifically proven to be real and accepted by the scientific community, and that the corresponding treatments have been scientifically proven to be safe and effective.
As currently written, weird and "fad" therapies would be eligible to reimbursement and would cause the insurance premium to be excessive. The nine listed serious mental disorders all have standard treatments that have been scientifically proven to be safe and effective. …..
Dr. McHugh says that DSM is not a reliable document for listing of diagnoses. Also, the DSM does not list treatments for the diagnoses listed therein…."The new DSM approach of using experts and descriptive criteria in identifying psychiatric diseases has encouraged a productive industry. If you can describe it, you can name it; and if you can name it, then you can claim that it exists as a distinct ‘entity’ with eventually, a direct treatment tied to it….Embedded within these hundreds of pages are some categories of disorder that are real; some that are dubious, in the sense that they are more like the normal responses of sensitive people than psychiatric ‘entities;’ and some that are purely the inventions of their proponents."Copies of the McHugh article will be available at our October 15 conference.
The amendment, as currently written, does not provide to the insurer’s "gatekeeper" a criterion for approving or rejecting claims for reimbursement for treatment. This could result in tremendous conflict, loading the courts with litigation, and reflecting badly upon the legislation as written.
Once a year in this issue of our newsletter we go all out to urge you, our members, to attend the annual October conference of the Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society—and this newsletter is no exception. Every October your steering committee affords members as a group the opportunity to get together for the purpose of renewing old friendships, of meeting new people in the same predicament for support and solidarity, and of learning not only from our speakers but also from the roundtable discussions and the many informal conversations. Those who have attended in the past have reported being engaged in a stimulating experience, and we believe that this year we have a program that will even more helpfully answer members’ needs and questions than we have had in previous years.
Although all of us are at slightly different stages in the estrangement-healing cycle with respect to our adult children, siblings, or grandchildren, we are all seeking to "move on... to get on with our lives." For that reason we have made "moving on" the theme of our conference. Rather than bringing in professionals—psychologists or psychiatrists who have published books on various angles of the recovered memory therapy (RMT) problem—or representatives of the national FMS Foundation organization, as we have in the past, we have scheduled fathers and mothers, siblings, and retracting adult children to play the lead roles in this autumn’s conference. We want to place in the foreground the questions and issues that continue to be on the everyday agenda of parents and their returning and/or retracting children who are seeking reconciliation.
Larry Koszewski, Ph.D.(Milwaukee), whose father was accused by one of Larry‘s siblings, will speak from his clinical as well as from his personal experience as son, brother, and father. He will also moderate a panel discussion of parents on the subject of "moving on." Leah Franklin (San Mateo, California), whose former husband spent years in prison because of their daughter’s murder accusations in the famous Franklin-Lipsker case, will update that case for us and will speak of her own efforts toward forgiveness and reconciliation in families. Martha Churchill (Milan, Michigan), who as an attorney and a sibling has been very active in FMS cases (and gave a memorable presentation at the April national conference in New York), will speak on legal implications of "moving on" and of the RMT problem and will lead a discussion with a group of retractors whose lives have become important legal test cases and whose stories have become well known through the national media: Nadean Cool of Appleton, Wisconsin; Laura Pasley of Dallas; and Mary Shanley from right here in the Chicago area. We have found that question-and-answer periods are very popular with our members, and thus we’ve scheduled even more time than in recent years for Q & A sessions, as well as a significant afternoon session for roundtable dialogues with all the speakers and panel members
Your steering committee feels that, though we did not schedule famous writers or professionals or FMS Foundation board members for this year’s conference, we are offering the enthusiastic and profound insights of parents, siblings, and retractors who have courageously made their stories public—whether from Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Texas, or California—and have come together to compose the well-known national quilt of the recovered memory therapy/false memory syndrome saga. We look forward to learning from and sharing support with these fellow travelers.
Reinder Van Til
"I was certain, but I was wrong"
Many of our children have a sense of absolute certainty for their "memories." This sense of certainty buttresses their confidence that their memories are true. Research long ago established that a sense of certainty about a memory is no guarantee of its truth. But there is nothing like a personal account to drive home this point.
In an account published in The New York Times, June 18, 2000, Jennifer Thompson told the following story. In 1984 she was raped. During her ordeal Ms. Thompson studied every single detail on the rapist’s face. Based on her memories of that event she identified the man she thought was her attacker from police photos and later from a police line up. "I was completely confident. I was sure…I knew it. I had picked the right guy…" The man she identified, Ronald Cotton, was sentenced to prison for life. A year later the case was retried because another man, Bobby Poole, was bragging about being the real assailant. Confronted with Poole in court she said, "I have never seen him in my life. I have no idea who he is." Ronald Cotton was sentenced again. Eleven years later DNA evidence showed that Bobby Poole was the real assailant and that Ronald Cotton whom Jennifer Thompson had identified so emphatically on so many occasions, was absolutely innocent. Ronald Cotton was released from jail and Bobby Poole confessed to his crime and went to jail instead. Despite her sense of absolute certainty about her memories, Jennifer Thompson’s memories were wrong, dead wrong.
NOTE -- Our new phone number:
Laura Brown Charged
Laura Brown a clinical and forensic psychologist and well-known FMSF opponent was charged on August 25th with unprofessional conduct by the Washington State Department of Health. In 1997 Dr. Brown ran for the presidency of the American Psychological Association (and lost) on what was described as "anti-FMSF platform." She will be the keynote speaker at the up-coming Midwest Conference on Child Sexual Abuse and Incest
Information from a e-mail postings by Peter Freyd
Renee Fredrickson Disciplined
Renee Fredrickson was disciplined by the Minnesota Board of Psychology in May 1999 after she settled a lawsuit for $175,000 for allegedly "implanting" false memories of childhood sexual abuse. The disciplinary order informed her she was "permanently restricted from providing therapy to clients whose therapy issues involve cult, ritual or satanic abuse and from providing hypnosis except under supervision or training.
Fredrickson is one of the nations leading proponents of recovered-memory therapy and the author of a 1992 book Repressed Memories: a Journey to Recovery from Sexual Abuse."
(Information from the Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio, December 6, 1999)
Katie Spanuello reports that the case in Monroe, Wisconsin that was supposed to gave gone to trial has been postponed because the judge has cancer. This case involves a civil suit against a therapist.