Welcome to the English section of Traumaversterking
Welcome to the English section of Traumaversterking
During the 1980's many in the Netherlands expressed legitimate concerns over the problem of childhood sexual abuse. At the same time an increasing number of psychotherapists, who had started looking for new directions to help female clients with adult problems had read books such as: The Best Kept Secret (1980) by Florence Rush, For your own good, (1983)Thou shalt not be aware both by Alice Miller. Women's groups were also in the forefront of fighting violence done to women and children causing the government of the Netherlands to look at the problem. The Ministry of Social Affairs therefore commissioned a concerned feminist, who later turned out to be a repressed/recovered memory proponent and traumatologist, Nel Draijer, to write two reports, one of which appeared under the title: Een lege plek in mijn geheugen: Seksueel misbruik van meisjes door verwanten, [A gap in my memory: the sexual abuse of girls by relatives] Ministerie van Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid, Den Haag, 1988. These documents, which in 1990 became the basis of her doctoral thesis, with Draijer graduating cum laude, indicated that far more women were incest victims, than was ever believed.1) This book was to dominate public debate and guide government policy in this area for over a decade.
While childabuse is of course abhorrent, it is likewise deplorable that scores of therapists became involved in the misguided practice of suggesting to their clients that their problems and simptoms stemmed from abuse of which they clients never had any previous memory. Soon thousands of clients believed their therapists and believed that their dreams and flashbacks were indeed repressed or, as it later was called dissociated memories of horrible abused. Some of these clients brought criminal charges.
Around the middle of 1994 a number of older parents falsely accused of incest had joined a Dutch organization Ouders voor Kinderen (Parents for Children) originally started by younger parents, many involved in custody disputes, some of whom had also been falsely accused of incest. The older parents soon discovered that the cause of the false accusations differed substantially from the main group and hence formed a sub-group, initially named Working Group on Untrue Incest Memories, a year later becoming independent and renamed: Working Group on Fictive Memories (Werkgroep Fictieve Herinneringen - WFH) following the initiative of the US and Canada based FMSF. The word “false” (in Dutch ‘vals’) was avoided because in Dutch it may also mean: nasty, vicious, bogus or forged. The word “incest” was also dropped because people objected to receiving mail with that word on the envelope.
The group greatly benefited from the older experience of the FMSF and its documentation of the problem. Although in the Netherlands not much of a scholarly nature had been published critical of recovered memory therapy, academic professionals, notably memory specialist Prof. Dr. Willem Albert Wagenaar of Leiden University, had been well aware of what had been brewing in the U.S. and knew that many therapists in the Netherlands had already been infected by the notions of North American gurus teaching repressed memory, multiple personality, and even ritual abuse theories. Enough was found to produce a compolation of articles and a list of publications useful to inform people about the dangers of therapeutic malpractices that were causing vulnerable people to believe the fallacy that all kinds of adult problems are the result of childhood trauma of which they had no memory.
Working towards a solution
The work group set for themselves the following goals: to provide information for the accused, the accusers and therapists; to alert those involved in law enforcement and the judiciary; and to advise the affected families on how to deal with the problem. As in the U.S this was done through newsletters, telephone contact, regional and national meetings and letter writing.
In May 1994, the Ministry of Justice published a report on Satanic Ritual Abuse allegations (Netherlands language)Rapport Werkgroep Ritueel Misbruik. (1994) [Report Working Group on Ritual Abuse,] The Hague: Ministry of Justice (Chair: J.A. Hulsenbek). The working group concluded, that although it had thoroughly investigated many reports brought by victims alleging such abuse, it had been unable to find any verification. (p.39, 40) Nevertheless the Netherlands and Flemish Society for the Study of Dissociative Disorders, (Nederlandse en Vlaamse Vereniging ter bestudering van Dissociatieve Stoornissen), the organization responsible for the spread of MPD diagnoses, kept pushing for further investigation as late as 1998.
By the end of 1994 the WFH had reached the stage that it could provide sound information reminding government ministries, elected officials, the judiciary and mental health organizations about their responsibilities in the matter. Much effort went into informing the media and the seeking of support from academics whose areas of research involved therapy, memory and the law. Although progress was agonizingly slow, the WFH activities met with results.
A string of reports
In 1997 the Ministry of Justice commissioned an advisory body, the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Criminality and Law Enforcement ( NISCALE) to study the matter resulting in a report, available in English: Recovered crimes: Sexual abuse reported to the police after therapy – Advice to the Minister of Justice, Prof. Dr. Peter van Koppen, 1997. This book fully condemned repressed / recovered memory therapy and the Ministry took note, although as always it also took its time to act.
Coincidentally with Van Koppen’s report the WFH came out with its own publication: Een kleine fout, [A minor slip-up] a brochure documenting the problem of incest delusions resulting from psychotherapeutic malpractices and the work of the WFH since 1994 to expose them. The title was taken from an article by two leaders in the recovered memory movement, therapists Onno van der Hart and Kees van der Velden, who in a journal for therapists had stated:
“When therapists doubt the truthfulness of a patient’s reporting of sexual abuse and maltreatment, it is wiser to trust the patient than not to do so. Should it turn out that in reality the patient never was abused or maltreated, then the therapist has only made a minor slip-up by trusting her.” 2)
It ought to be obvious that to proceed treating adult patients for the after effects of childhood sexual abuse on the basis of unreliable information is malpractice, even more so if the patients earlier were earlier talked into believing that unremembered abuse could be the cause of the patients’ current problems.
In 1999 Van Koppen’s report caused the Minister of Justice to ask the College of Attorneys-General (the chief legal officers in each of the sixteen arrondisements) to create a team of top experts drawn from a variety of fields to deal with the matter of false sexual abuse reports made to the police. The team was called: Landelijke Expertisegroep Bijzondere Zedenzaken (National Expert Group on Unusual Sexual Crimes) and included experienced police investigators, jurists, forensic experts, research psychologists, sexologists, all of whom had dealt with sexual offenders. They went to work looking seriously at many dubious and clear cases of abuse, screening out those that would not merit prosecution.
In 2001 this group, which included people with solid insight into the problem of memory distortion such as psychotherapist, forensic psychologist and sexologist Prof. Dr. R.A.R Bullens of the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, forensic psychologist Prof. Dr. P.J. van Koppen, and memory researcher and rector magnificus at Leiden University Prof. Dr. W.A. Wagenaar, produced its first report called: De Feiten Beschouwd [Examining the Facts] verslag van de Landelijke Expertisegroep Bijzondere Zedenzaken over de periode 1 oktober 1999 - 31 december 2000, [Investigation report over the period from 1 October 1999-31 December 2000] again fully condemning suggestive memory retrieval practices.
This lengthy document, not available in English, analyzed 26 cases. These involved: allegations of: remembered abuse prior to age 3, Satanic / Ritual Abuse, and allegations based on supposedly repressed / recovered and often decades old memories abuse that only surfaced after suggestive therapy. In the end, two-thirds of the cases were dismissed. In nine cases the experts deemed the complaint incredible. In fifteen cases the experts found that the cases had been improperly investigated. Only in two dated, but always remembered cases, did the experts find solid evidence to support the allegations. The report criticized the methods of investigation, the leading questioning used by some police investigators, prosecutors and the biased attitudes of victim-assistants. As a result the College of Attorneys-General decided to upgrade the training of such officers.
In April 2000 the National Ombudsman, responding to requests from the WFH and its falsely accused parents, came out with a report, Rapport 2000/105, Nationale Ombudsman (Dutch language) fully detailing: the history and international scope of the problem. The report criticized the Ministry of Health's reluctance to intervene and the refusal of the mental health professions to act on the parents’ complaints.
In July 2000 the Minister of Health asked its professional advisory council on health (Gezondheidsraad) to tackle the problem. This body of eminent scientists did so in August, 2001, and appointed a commission that included recovered memory proponents Draijer and Van der Hart, and their detractors, memory researcher Wagenaar and research psychologist Merckelbach among others. Although the WFH wondered about the inclusion of Draijer and Van der Hart, the chair explained that if they were left out, large numbers of clinicians would reject the findings of the committee.
At long last the Netherlands Health Council “Gezondheidsraad”, released its report on January 2004. In 91 pages it answered many of the concerns of the falsely accused parents although the report also reflected a few of the opinions held by the recovered memory advocates on the committee. An executive summary of the report called Dubious Memories is in English can be read on http://www.gr.nl/adviezen.php?ID=888 The full report is called Omstreden Herinneringen, [Dubious Memories] Gezondheidsraad (Health Council of the Netherlands), 27 January 2004. The report noted that many clinicians did not seem to be aware of major, recent scientific research findings in the area of memory.
Major recommendations and findings of the Health Council:
- a broad recognition that memories recovered during suggestive therapy may be false, harm patients and those who are accused;
- therapists are advised not to diagnose past trauma in a client on the basis of a clinical pattern;
- therapists appearing as expert witnesses in civil and criminal cases must refrain from making judgements about the reliability of a patient's/client's testimony;
- the relevant regulated psychotherapeutic professional organizations have to set guidelines for safe practice to avoid the generation of false memories of sexual abuse in their clients. These guidelines will also be binding on unregulated alternative practitioners.
On February 26, 2004, The Ministry of Justice / College of Attorneys-General team called Landelijke Expertisegroep Bijzondere Zedenzaken (National Expert Group on Unusual Sexual Crimes) produced its second, even more detailed report dated November 2003. Again, unfortunately no English language version is available of this report entitled: De ontstaansgeschiedenis ontrafeld: Onderzoeksverslag over de periode 2001-2002 [The Genesis (of false sexual allegations) Unraveled: Investigation report over the period from 2001-2002]. The team had scrutinized 30 unusual cases. Ten of these cases involved allegedly repressed and in therapy recovered memories. Some of these included memories of sexual abuse prior to age three and memories of ritual abuse. In one case the complainant claimed always to have remembered the ritual abuse. In seven cases the complainants were not sure whether the abuse memories had been “recovered” or had always been remembered. Six of the cases originated from caregivers noticing symptoms in a child, which made them suspect that the child had been abused. The remaining six cases were highly complex.
As the title of the report stated, the experts were interested this time in tracing the origins of such false accusations. The following factors were found: personal problems of the complainant, divorce or separation, family conflicts, and credulity. The experts also found the following to be crucial: suspicions of abuse leading to a false belief that abuse had happened, direct influencing by third parties, dream interpretation, films or books about sexual abuse, therapy and counselling.
The report devotes a special chapter to these last two factors because in twenty-three out of the thirty cases, the accusers had been in therapy or counselling, in six of these cases even switching from one therapist or counsellor to yet another many times. The expert group strongly criticized to role played by qualified and regulated psychotherapists, as well as by alternative practitioners, in lending credence to the notion that their clients’ symptoms were sequelae of hitherto unremembered childhood trauma.
Other factors that led to change.
Apart from the tremendous effort by the parents, helped by the concerned professionals already mentioned, other factors also contributed to the raising of awareness about false memories. Among these are the lecture visits to the Netherlands by memory researcher Dr. Elizabeth Loftus and the 1996 publication of Loftus and Ketcham’s book The Myth of Repressed Memory, in a Dutch translation as: Graven in het geheugen, de mythe van de verdrongen herinnering, soon followed by Prof. Dr. Hans F.M. Crombag and Prof. Dr Harald Merckelbach’s, Hervonden Herinneringen en andere Misverstanden. [Recovered Memories and other Misconceptions], both written for non-professionals so that journalists, jurists and elected officials would understand.
Something that seemed like a setback, but instead turned out to bring publicity to the work of the parents of the WFH was a television documentary series on June 2000, called “Hidden mothers - incest pregnancies” with the TV producers breaking all codes of journalistic ethics by having alleged incest survivors tell gruesome stories of forced abortions and showing actual places. Parents who had not been warned saw themselves practically identified, scandalized and accused by daughters spinning wild tales confabulated during suggestive therapy.
During one of my visits to the Netherlands I spent a day with one of the families whose disturbed daughter had appeared on the TV series. Having listened to many accounts of falsely accused parents over the years, I again became aware of the enormous, irreparable damage that misguided talking therapy can do to a daughter sorely in need of proper evidence based mental health care. The devastation, which this monstrously sensational TV program had further added to the already deeply grieving, falsely accused, elderly parents, deserved to be met with the strongest punishment the law has to offer. I do not think that happened.
In reply to a WFH complaint, the TV network responded with: “Our docu-drama takes place on a loftier niveau than a mere search for Truth or Falsehood” . . . . . moreover, “perps are always in denial”. A spokeswoman for a government subsidized sexual abuse centre, called in by the network to represent professional expertise, remarked: “Truth has nothing to do with it; it is all about pain.”
Subsequent legal action forced the network to admit to serious error and pay restitution. The pregnancies and abortions were shown to be fiction. The network and its producer escaped facing prosecution for a similar, equally absurd 1992 docu-drama called De Ontkenning [Denial] which portrays Brigitte, a thirty-year-old woman, who came to believe that in her childhood her father sexually abused her for many years. Having been talked into believing that she had Multiple Personality Disorder, the voices of “inner child alter personalities” told her that, when she was eight, she was tied to a bed and raped at gun-point by a group of five men and that she was often beaten by her mother. The story gets worse after that. This film was used for many years to train therapists creating more MPD cases. RM and MPD therapy often make people suicidal, which also happened in Brigitte’s case.
The earlier influence of Nel Draijer's work which had began to wane, received a major blow when in August 2001, researcher Han Israels, a sociologist and Freud scholar, specializing in the history of psychology, as well as being an expert in exposing scientific fraud, analyzed the findings of Draijer's 1988 report and found that her figures did not quite add up. His book: Heilige Verontwaardiging: een onderzoek naar de feministische visie op incest, Amsterdam: Contact (2001), [Holy Indignation: an investigation into the feministic vision of incest] created quite a stir and although many clinicians condemned his work, beliefs in repressed / recovered memories were now well on the way out and those in government, although silent on the issue, took note.
The Health Ministry’s most recent action.
It may have been mere coincidence that on March 11, 2004 the Netherlands Minister of Health announced drastic cutbacks in government medical insurance funding for talk psychotherapies. Although the WHF only had expressed concern over recovered memory therapy, much more had gone wrong in the industry. Based on research by the National Health Council the minister had been told in 2001 (a) that talking cures were not effective and (b) that the longer the therapy the less effective it became in relation to money spent. The bulk of the talk therapy consumers were found to be middle class.
The Netherlands has generous health and social service provisions, but when the medicare bill reached 9.75 % of the Gross National Productivity, the government started looking where it could cut costs. Hence in December 2003 the minister announced that it planned to cut down paying for psychotherapy from 90 sessions to 30, This now has been further reduced to 25, but exceptions will be made for the seriously mentally ill.
The announcement is causing a minor revolt in the psychotherapy industry in the Netherlands, although it has nobody to blame but itself. It has refused to regulate itself by allowing all kinds of treatments to go under the name of therapy. It did abandon the scientific scrutiny of absurd alternative therapies and became rife with outlandish, guru-driven practices, most of which were absolutely useless talking cures and some of which were even dangerous, much of it paid for with tax-payers money.
It seems that thanks to the work of a few vocal people: the WFH, pointing out the farce of repressed /recovered memory therapy, helped by university researchers such as Wagenaar, Van Koppen, Merckelbach and Crombag, the ministry has finally seen the light. Billions of health money was spent on therapy for the physically fit, whose only problem was unhappiness.
- Draijer, Nel, Seksuele traumatisering in de jeugd: Lange termijn gevolgen van misbruik van meisjes door verwanten, [Sexual traumatizing during youth: Long term sequelae in girls of abuse by relatives] Amsterdam, Socialistische Uitgeverij Amsterdam, 1990.
- "Wanneer de therapeuten twijfelen aan het waarheidsgehalte van de mededelingen van de patiënt over seksueel misbruik en mishandeling, is het verstandiger de patiënt te vertrouwen dan dit na te laten. Blijkt de patiënt in werkelijkheid niet misbruikt of mishandeld te zijn, dan heeft de therapeut een kleine fout gemaakt door haar te vertrouwen." Prof. Dr. Onno van der Hart, University of Utrecht, en Kees van der Velden, psychotherapist, in Dth, tijdschrift voor Directive therapie [Journal for Directive Therapy], 2-5-1995.
I am greatly indebted to Mr Jan Buijs of the WFH for reviewing this article and was helped by much of the information on the WFH’s website.
Adriaan J.W. Mak, London, ON, Canada
Canadian Contact for Victims of Psychotherapeutic Malpractices
Rowland is my name, Please take the time to read my story to find out what can happen in therapy. In 1990 I was a troubled young man of 24. I had dropped out of university and was leading the bohemian lifestyle of Rainbow Gatherings and touring the Grateful Dead, hanging out with friends and partying. Yet, I was extremely unhappy.
In December of that year I was referred to a therapist. Six months later I came to believe that my father had anally raped me when I was two years old. After that, the dam burst and more therapy caused ever more memories of abuse to surface. My therapist practised Body Memory Work and Psychodrama, reliving the trauma of being raped as a child, which led to many powerful and energetic cathartic releases. Powerful emotions were released from deep inside of me and after therapy sessions, where these releases took place, I felt clean and free and in a safe place. But only for a short time, becoming more and more depressed between sessions. Therapy now became an addiction.
I was also given a whole new understanding of the world in which I lived. I was led to believe that sexual abuse was rampant in our society; that this awful truth lay hidden deep within those who had suffered such trauma, and that this abuse had been passed from one generation to the next over the millennia. This world-view made sense to me. Having always been one who is sensitive to suffering and injustice, this new belief explained why so many horrible atrocities and wars had occurred over the ages.
I was led to believe that my father lived in two realities, as I had prior to therapy. One, where day-to-day life was lived in denial, even blissful ignorance of the abuse. The other, where he would transform into a horrible monster that perpetrated the sexual abuse on his son.
Strangely, I came to see my father also in a forgiving light. In my mind, he also had been a victim of that eternal cycle of intergenerational childhood sexual abuse. He was merely passing on to me a sickness, which had been passed down in my family from one generation to the next, perhaps for centuries.
After one year in therapy, as party of the “healing process” I confronted my father about the abuse, but was warned to expect strong denials. I also wanted to contact the local children's aid office, on my therapist’s advice, but something in me stopped me from doing that. I told my father that unless he admitted and apologized for what he had done, I wanted no more contact with him. He said he could not apologize for something which he had not done. Although I pleaded with him, he as strongly denied the abuse. My therapist’s warning, that my father would be in denial, confirmed to me that he was guilty. Thus began a period of estrangement between me and my father that would last 8 years.
I entered into a peer counselling organization called Re-evaluation Co-counselling to help me to heal from my abuse. It did not seem to work. I also joined a Male Sexual Abuse Survivors Group, where I attended weekly meetings for 5 yrs. Here we reinforced each others’ beliefs in the abuse. I also began to study another type of body work (massage) useful as a technique to release hidden body memories and painful emotions, in the hope of becoming a counsellor myself.
After two years in therapy, I also believed that Satanic Ritual Abuse had been perpetrated by my father, seeing him as a member of some dark and secret society. I then switched to a new therapist. He was from the same school of therapy as the first, which was important to me because, I believed that this type of therapy was going to work for me. Instead when away from therapy and its emotional releases, I began to think of suicide, because the therapy failed to give me the self-confidence I once had as a youth.
After 3 1/2 years of therapy, however, still struggling to move forward in my life, I suddenly realized that I still lacked the initiative to return to formal schooling. That I was forced to stop attending therapy sessions, simply because I could no longer afford them, later turned out to be a blessing. I became less active in the peer counselling organization and eventually dropped my involvement completely. I still attended the weekly Male Sexual Abuse Survivors Groups, only because the other members helped to pay my share of the cost of the therapist and they wanted me to stay. My days were now empty and meaningless. I found that the group was no longer working for me at all. I therefore decided to leave the group. I thought if healing were going to happen for me, it had to happen a different way.
Throughout this period I fortunately had maintained contact with my mother. She, Initially had been very confused by my allegations of sexual abuse perpetrated by my father and eventually told me that she could not believe my recovered memories. We had a relationship based on a truce. We would not discuss my memories and thereby avoid argument. We both still valued the positive aspects of our relationship. I now realize how lucky I had been breaking the “survivor” rule by not to denouncing my mother as an enabler who had allowed my father to abuse me sexually.
With the birth of my daughter I received, via my mother, a birth card and Christmas card from my dad. There was also some money, but most importantly to me there was no mention of my "false accusations" or false memories". Various sporadic correspondences I had received from my father, via my mother. These always had mentioned these matters and I therefore never answered these letters. I had heard that he was active in an organization my therapists and survivor group friends believed was sheltering pedophiles: The False Memory Syndrome Foundation.
Yet, I decided to break another “survivor” rule and that I would invite contact with my father. I would of course not retract my allegations of abuse, but neither would I demand again an apology. I thought perhaps we could have a relationship based on a truce as I had done with my mother. After all I did believe my father was sick with an illness that he did not ask for. And I was not a hundred percent certain that he was even conscious of the abuse which he had perpetrated. There were stories told in the survivor group of fathers who had dissociated (or repressed) the memories of abusing their children. The resumption of our relationship seemed tolerable to me and better than the alternative.
When I met my Dad I acknowledged to myself the doubt I had always had about the veracity of my memories. As a “survivor” I saw this doubt as a natural by-product of the fact that I had spent many years in denial of the truth of the abuse. I now, for the first time in years, acknowledged that there might be another reality, one in where the abuse had not happened.
There were, I thought, two realities. Each of them equally viable and self supporting. I did not reveal my doubt to my father. What was the point? I had to be certain. I also was very reluctant to admit I had could have been wrong all these years.
I also decided that I had to take charge of my life. I had to make a start at building a better life for me and my family. I began to see the world again as a positive place, instead of as a negative one. I began to see myself as a capable person instead of as a failure. It was within the context of these new personal and world views that I had an awakening! How could I have been so blind!
I was changing my 20 month year old daughter’s diapers. She was the same age and size as I had been when, as I in the therapeutically recovered memory, that first painful and violent incidence of anal penetration I fully believed had been perpetrated by my father. I looked at her anus and realized that a man would have a tough time inserting an adult erect penis in that opening. It hit me. This abuse memory I had constructed in therapy could never have happened. If that memory of abuse was not true than all the "memories" I had "recovered" in therapy could also be false.
I phoned my father immediately and I shared with him my rediscovery of the truth. I wondered, then, how had I come to believe these horrific and vivid confabulations?
I realized that people are creatures who fall for beliefs. So, had it also worked between myself and my first therapist. She fully believed I was a victim of horrific abuse well before I did. Slowly, over time, in order to get better I had been converted to her beliefs. Once I believed that I was a victim of horrific abuse I had started living the false reality of a being survivor of horrific early childhood sexual abuse.
I now felt a need to speak to parents who like my father also had been falsely accused. I have to admit when I went to my first False Memory Foundation annual meeting I was afraid. But I did not find the powerful members of a secret society ( i.e.. those whom had also perpetrated Ritual Abuse). I found instead a group of aging parents and siblings saddened at the loss of someone they had loved.
I have learned that I was a victim of a dismal trend in psychotherapy most current in the early 1990's, when many therapists came to believe that their clients problems were the result of early childhood sexual abuse, usually perpetrated by that client's father. I heard that only 8% of those who recovered memories in therapy and made accusations of abuse, have since retracted their allegations. Many families remain needlessly separated. Ours has been one of the lucky ones.
It had taken a painful leap of faith to accept to being a survivor of incest. Now, It took courage to stare down that lie and look truth in the face and admit to others and to myself that I had been mistaken. It has needlessly been a painful decade for me and my family.
Here is a very brief chronology of my experience with my son's Rowland descent into therapy, his re-emergence into the real world and how I dealt for 10 years with the false accusation of incest.
Let me introduce myself first. I am a retired high-school teacher, an amateur organist, interested in philosophy, scepticism, science, and humanism. Although my wife and I separated well after my son and daughter had left the home, my son tells me that this separation did not cause the problems he encountered later and for which he went into therapy.
My son, Rowland, grew up in a family where he experienced much love and care from both his parents in addition to three square meals a day. He was a very good son, sensitive about fairness and justice, concerned about the suffering of many people in the world, asking me questions about life and death at a very early age. I used to take turns with my wife reading stories and singing to him and his sister at bed time when they were small children. He and his sister were able to read and do some math before they entered grade school.
As a family we did the usual things that middle class parents do to give our children the best of opportunities. I took Rowland and his sister to swimming lessons, soccer practices, piano and flute lessons, and much more. I became active in the governing board and work group organization of the summer camp my children used to attend every year. We had many good discussions. My wife told me that I was a good father and she certainly was a good and devoted mother. Perhaps some might have called us permissive parents, but then my son and daughter gave us little reason to restrictive.
Although Rowland had a few problems in elementary school, because he was then tall for his age and older boys and girls teased him, in high school he blossomed, became a popular athletic student, an excellent camp counsellor, a fine flautist. We made lots of good music together. At times I saw at camp a totally different side of him as he entertained young people being the comedian. He was a good and forceful public speaker. was an all round athlete, swimmer, basketball, soccer and football player. Many people liked him. Girls considered him "a catch" so I was told.
In 1984 he graduated from high school with the highest marks in his graduating class, was elected valedictorian, delivered a very serious - humorous address and received several top awards at his graduation ceremony including offers of scholarships to four Universities. I want to stress that we as parents did not push him. He was entirely self-motivated as was his older sister.
He entered into the mathematics programme at The University of Waterloo, but dropped out in the first year. He needed "to find himself" Of course I was concerned, but reasoned that some time in the real world would teach him self-reliance and show him where to go. I had done the same myself when I was young. I trusted his good sense although I knew that his openness and gullibility could get him in trouble.
It is my view now that perhaps after leaving the shelter of his family, he gradually lost control, but he should be the judge of that himself. He went to Toronto where he found employ in a succession of unskilled labour jobs.
In the summer of 1991, I met him and he told me that he was going into therapy to straighten out his life and deal with personal problems. I hugged him and said that I fully supported that decision. I remember his last words: "I love you, Dad."
In mid December 1991 I received a call that he wanted to drive to London, Ontario, a 3 hour drive west of Toronto, to tell me about something very important. Since he had to rent a car to do so, I offered to visit him in Toronto instead.
After some chit chat over tea, showing me a guitar he had bought, he invited me to go for a walk in a nearby park. During that walk he told me in a monotonous, almost trancelike voice that while in therapy he had recovered lost memories that I had sexually abused between the ages of two and four. These had been anal rapes. I was of course in total shock. I was told to hold my tongue until he was finished.
He did not give me much chance to respond, but when I finally challenged him to give any other evidence, such as reports from his mother or that he had evidence I had inclinations towards homosexual pedophilia, after all he had seen me as programme director in a camp and I would have had the opportunity to be seen to be interested in small boys, he told me that, as he had been led to expect from what his therapist had said about this confrontation, that I would be "in denial" and that my denial confirmed my guilt. With that he left me standing in the street. His world and my world at that moment had totally changed I was to realize later.
We had a few telephone conversations thereafter. In each of these he became more and more insulting and unreasonable. He did tell me that he had become suicidal. I wrote letters which went unanswered, except once when he simply told me to stop writing and that he would only open a blue envelope containing a full confession.
Contact through his mother or sister was also rejected. I phoned his therapist, an unqualified counsellor I discovered later, who also hung up after telling me that I "needed help".
For the next three months I experienced for the first time in my life what depression is. My reaction to overcome this debilitating effect of the false accusation was to become active and do something about the mess my son had become involved in.
I was pianist and choir director in a Unitarian Church at the time. During the service there is always time given for people to bring personal concerns to the attention of the congregation. In the last December 1991 service I announced that I had been falsely accused of incest by my adult son and would welcome information and help as to how such a false belief could have taken over my son's life. Although there were therapists in the congregation they did not speak to me.
I also searched the University of Western Ontario library for information and found, after reading much information about incest that was always remembered, a recent (1988) book: The Courage to Heal. The authors of that self-help book, neither of them trained psychotherapists, made the astonishing claim that many incest victims have no conscious memory of the repeated acts of sexual abuse, but may recover these lost memories, some of them involving years of abuse, later in life. The associate minister of my church told me however that this was an excellent book.
I also remembered an article in the Skeptical Inquirer of 1987 about false memories of alien abductions and satanic ritual abuse. This put me into contact with its author, Robert Baker, emeritus professor of psychology in Kentucky, who told me that he was just putting the finishing touches to a book he was to call: Hidden Memories: Voices and Visions from Within. He was one of the first I contacted, an expert on hypnosis and memory, who had spotted the links between the growing fad in psychotherapy, repressed memory therapy and the satanic abuse / alien abduction nonsense that had been doing the rounds.
After reading the first article of a series, the first such in Canada, on false accusations of incest caused by suggestive therapies, written by Bill Taylor in the Toronto Star (May 1992) I called the number of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation mentioned in the article and joined that organization of falsely accused parents and concerned mental health scientists.
My call was answered by Pamela Freyd and since that time I have been active in that organization ever since as guest on T.V. shows, the first was together with Pamela. I participated as guest on Radio shows, became an organizer, newsletter editor, and recently try to inform people concerned about quack therapies, by sending out information such as newspaper and research articles and book reviews on the topic, maintaining daily contact via e-mail with people locally, nationally and internationally.
There are now branches in the U.K., other European countries, Australia and New Zealand. I have written dozens of letters to newspapers and appeared on more Canadian Radio and Television shows since. I helped translate into English a booklet commissioned by the Netherlands Ministry of Justice and prepared by Dr Peter van Koppen of a forensic research institute attached to the University of Leyden, to be used by crown attorneys, prosecutors, police officers and others investigating claims of child sexual abuse made by adults following suggestive therapies. I forwarded that booklet to the RCMP, and provincial large city police forces of Canada. All this was excellent therapy for me.
I have attended in the early nineties several court cases where falsely accused parents were to face the ordeal of having to defend themselves. I have kept a record of 240 such cases in Canada. In some of these the verdict went against the parent and a few have served time in prison. Allan Rock and Anne McLellan, ministers of Justice during these years, to whom many parents have written about their plight, have ignored the problem.
First, Canadian defense lawyers, notably Allan Gold, and soon after also Canadian judges discovered the fallacy of amnesia for childhood sexual abuse and as far as I know since 1996 there have been very few convictions where the testimony was based on allegedly repressed memories, supposedly recovered in therapy. In most of these cases where people were convicted, the defense lawyers were not properly prepared to defend their client. Often, in these cases the same two particularly ill-informed Canadian psychologists, believers that traumatic memories hide for years in the unconscious, acted as expert witnesses for the crown.
Confusion of course exists not only in the minds of some therapists, but among the public at large as to what "repression" is. Freud, who first used the term, even used the term ambiguously, sometimes meaning consciously suppressing a memory. True believers nowadays prefer the term" dissociative amnesia". They believe that victims for years or even decades on end may have no conscious memories of a history of many traumatic experiences, such as childhood sexual abuses, but may retrieve the memories of these events later in adult life. True believers in the "repression" of traumatic childhood memories have never properly defined "repression".
Contact with my son was re-established in 1999 when my son called me, announced that I had become a grandfather, and that he wished for me to see my granddaughter. He informed me that this did not mean that he was retracting the allegations of incest. We were not to discuss that issue he told me.
Since that time I visited his family regularly. In 2000 he called me out of the blue to tell me that he had come to see that his allegations of incest were false. I told him that I would be right over to hear about that.
Again we walked through streets as he explained what had made him change his mind. I heard for the first time that in addition to what he told me eight years before, he had acquired additional beliefs that he and I had been involved in a Satanic Ritual Abuse cult, and that when he began to realize how absurd these ideas were, he also began to doubt the other beliefs he had acquired in therapy.
He warned me however that he well remembered that there had been emotional abuse. I was disappointed about that and asked him to put that in a letter to me so that I could discuss it with his mother and sister. That letter never came. Instead my son told me soon thereafter that there had not been any emotional abuse either.
On Nov 3, 2001, my son described to a meeting of Toronto and area parents how he acquired his false beliefs about being a victim of incest and what his years in therapy and being a member of "survivor groups" were like. Since that time he has spoken to Justice reporter Kirk Makin of the Globe and Mail. When his story appeared in that paper, I was surprised to read that as a young child he was always afraid of me. A true believer in repressed memories, still thinking that I am guilty of child abuse, triumphantly pointed that out.
When sometime later I asked my son about his childhood fears for me, he told me that he had just said this to Kirk Makin as a sort of excuse for believing the false memories. Giving up false memories can be a slow and embarrassing process.
Another fad in psychotherapy has run its course. While in the early nineties thousands of parents were reporting cases of false accusations after their adult sons or daughters had been in therapy, only a dozen or so in 2001 reported such cases in the U.S. and only one in Canada.
Many of the therapists, most of them so-called "traumatologists” once involved in the Recovered Memory craze of the eighties and nineties, began to advertise their services as distress and bereavement counsellors. The U.S. Government and businesses did set aside huge funds to help those distressed by the events that happened on Sept 11 and following get therapy from these quacks. As one U.S. critic of the trauma therapy scene observed: "Good grief!"
For many parents the problem is far from resolved. Their daughters still reside in the limbo of their false memories. At present I act as clearing house for newspaper and research articles on FMS, RM and MPD/DID that reach me from all over the "civilized" world, that is those areas where RM and MPD therapy has wreaked havoc with families: North America, Western Europe, Israel, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. The rest of the world was blissfully unaware, having better and more urgent things to do than to engage in navel gazing therapies. In spite of the fact that Recovered Memory therapies are in rapid decline, Japanese psychotherapists, unfortunately have discovered Multiple Personality Disorder a.k.a. Disssociative Identity Disorder, so we may have to add Japan to the still psycho-therapeutically misguided world.
Canadian psychiatrist Dr Harold Merskey, who has been of such tremendous help to many parents, well before the MPD craze infected a number of young therapists, wrote articles condemning this new trend in psychiatry. His 2004 article series, co-authored with Dr August Piper, in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, may well drive the final nail in the coffin of one of the most absurd of diagnoses. Some film makers and novelists seem still fascinated about this disorder, which as Merskey and Piper know, belongs in the same garbage can as beliefs in goblins, UFO's, spiritualism and similar so-called paranormal phenomena.
My aim is to corner and recruit as many people who have computers and can write brief letters to editors to comment on articles about the disastrous effects of repressed and recovered therapies. So far only in one country, The Netherlands, has a government fully condemned recovered memory therapy, warned the professionals to smarten up and re-educate themselves about avoiding suggestive methods and acquaint themselves with the most recent findings in memory research.
People accuse their parents of childhood sexual abuse, only to realize many years later that they were wrong. This happened to Kitty Hendriks. With her it was a therapist who talked her into believing false memories. "Instead of dealing with trauma, we generated trauma"
Kitty Hendriks is now sure: she was never in her youth abused by her father, neither by his friends nor the dog. She never attended secret sex orgies in cellars with red curtains, nor were other children present.
"It clearly is not true, I finally realized. These are false memories. I was talked into believing them by a therapist to whom I had surrendered myself at the time. And I am not the only one to whom this happened. There are many, many more. Only shame prevents them from coming forward; hence therapists seldom are called to account"
"Many such victims much rather push away their doubts", says Hendriks speaking from experience. "To realize now that it never happened is hardly a relief. You just do not want to face that fact; it is dreadful to have to admit that you adopted lies about your own life and that you ruined your parents in the process. How can you ever admit having made such false accusations, especially against those who where always there there to support you?"
Kitty Hendriks (38) wrote a book about her experiences and opened a website with information for others like her in distress. She hopes that by doing so other women say farewell to their false memories. "Dim Past" (Vaag Verleden) is the first book [in the Netherlands] that from the perspective of a patient describes the risks that arise when a therapist gets fixated on tracking sexual abuse. Mainly in the nineties did some therapists get carried away too far in doing so - with disastrous results for their clients.
Four years ago Hendriks entered therapy because she wanted to became less vulnerable. "I had recently been raped by someone staying in the house and as a teenager went through some nasty experiences as well." Earlier therapy had failed to strengthen her from falling into the same trap. "Hence I was ready to enter serious therapy and go the whole way with another therapist and was willing to try far out solutions. I was not alone. All women in my my group had experienced some nasty sexual encounters. But instead of dealing with these mishaps, we were given to believe in entirely new ones. For me the false memories I was talked into believing were far worse and more traumatic than the real rape I had experienced. This time our very souls were violated.
Even during the first session the therapist - who had no formal training and was unregistered - told that she could see that Kitty had to be a victim of Satanic Rirual Abuse: 'Your whole demeanor gave that away'. "All kinds of signals led her to the conclusion that I had been abused by a whole sect'" says Kitty, "From the way I drank from a glass of water, she could see that my 'suction-reflex' was impaired. That of course was proof of having been forced into oral sex as a baby. Eventually you begin to believe that. I even was made to relive what I believed had been actual events. Take for instance the newspaper clippings file about false memories my father had collected; he had become alarmed because I had written him a letter. That file according to my therapist was proof that he had abused me. Wasn't that evidence enough that he was preparing for a defense? Thus the therapist had an explanation for everything. Yet, on my way home on the train after the end of a session, nagging doubts often set in.
Two years into therapy, Kitty became unemployable and qualified for disability payments; she had broken off all contacts with parents and friends and felt more miserable than ever in her life. She trusted no-one. "The therapist was my only anchor. We adored her. She needed that; rereading my journaling notes I realize that she above all wanted control and power."
An incident caused Hendiks and two other women to quit therapy. The therapist had advised a client to sleep with her husband. The women complained to the Health Council inspectorate. "We had to provide proof and lined up the evidence. Suddenly, one of the women said: "I was not ritually abused". Another then also got up courage enough to admit that she never believed that her grandfather had abused her. I then checked my journals again and it became clear that all the "new memories" had been suggested to me by the therapist. These were false. To no good purpose at all had I allowed my life to be ruined. At last, and fortunately, contact with my parents could be restored. Now, I see them again on a regular basis."
The complaint against the therapist did not get far; the inspectorate could only take action against regulated, registered counsellors. A civil lawsuit had no prospect of success. "No records of therapy had been kept, no files, no reports. Proving that therapy made you ill is nigh impossible" says Hendriks.
Her story is not an isolated case, she maintains. In two earlier therapies, Kitty had run into therapists who were convinced that her father must have abused her. "I did not believe them then and my father denied it" 'All perps deny they did it', the therapists said. They did not continue excavating more memories, but I still broke of all contact with my father, something I now deeply regret.
Ten women reading her website have contacted her describing similar experiences. Some of these women received treatment from regulated, licensed therapists, for example in a registered government funded psychiatric clinic. No-one seems to have any idea how many women became victims of this kind of manipulation, says Hendriks. She fears there must be hundreds [in the Netherlands]. A workgroup formed by falsely accused parents has received over threehunderd complaints. On the basis of what I know now, I fear that in all of these cases the accusations make no sense. It did not happen, but many still in therapy are too afraid to admit that.
Trouw 20 november 2004
(Translation: Adriaan J.W. Mak)
Two books about the sometimes treacherous workings of the mind provide new ammunition for the Memory Wars among psychologists.
'I feel it happening. Once more I can feel penises in my mouth and pressuring against my lips. Gagging and feeling disgusted I endure yet another repeat of it occurring. For days it will again leave me feeling sick and nauseated'.
So runs a violent passage from the recently published memoir: "Dim Past: How I came to believe in fictive memories" [ Vaag verleden. Hoe ik ging geloven in fictieve herinneringen] by Kitty Hendriks. Written in the manner of a diary, the book describes how she sank into ever deeper despair, while under the influence of a therapist to whom she had turned for help with mental problems that where the result of sexual abuses experienced in her teens.
Ever more horrible memories surfaced during the therapy: she had been abused during her parents' sex orgies, also by her father, and she remembered that her aunt forced her to engage in sex games with a dog. Hendriks fell victim to nightmares and panic attacks, stuffed herself with junkfood, got into a drinking habit and became strongly dependent on her therapist, who toyed with the client by playing a game of attracting and rejecting.
Hendriks' first doubts about her "recovered memories" arose when a woman in the therapy group stated that she no longer believed that she indeed had been a victim of satanic ritual abuses. Hendriks then started to read books on this very topic, and came across the writings of American memory researcher and psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, the foremost scientific authority in the heated debates that soon became known as the Memory Wars.
That opened Hendriks' eyes: yes, she absolutely had experienced sexual abuse while in her teens - that had of course been her reason for seeking therapy - but all of those additional "recovered" memories had been false, she at last concluded, because these were the result of the strongly suggestive methods employed by her therapist. A complaint to the Health Care Inspectorate bore no results, because the therapist was an unregistered and unregulated practitioner. To prevent others from developing fictive memories of traumatic events, Hendriks, in the Netherlands being the first "retractor" - as such patients are called in the United States - decided to put her experiences in writing.
Professor Harald Merckelbach, who teaches experimental psychology at the University of Maastricht, is pleased with the publication of the book. 'It is significant that retractors have the courage to put their story on paper, so that people get to know how false memories are created. Outsiders often assume that any memory which surfaces in therapy is to be believed and must be accurate. Hendriks' account demonstrates that is not necessarily the case and moreover also indicates what dire consequences such pseudo-memories may have.
Merkelbach expects that Hendriks' book will make therapists more alert as to what may happen in the therapy room. "Some therapists will regard her story as an attack on the institution of psychotherapy, but that would be unjustified. The therapist who was at work in this instance, lacked the necessary professional acumen, she clearly demonstrated that in her interview reported in NRC Handelsblad. [A leading Dutch newspaper]
In court cases involving recovered memories where Merckelbach acted as expert witness, it became apparent to him that regulated therapists were seldom involved, but nearly always alternative practitioners. "Often these were therapists who had not bothered to keep up with the professional literature on memory and still believed that certain symptoms indicated repressed memories of sexual abuse. Do not believe that talk therapy is always harmless, make sure to seek therapy from an experienced and well-trained and mainstream therapist, The average therapist working for one of the government supported mental health institutes is qualified to use only science and evidence based methods and understands the risks inherent in therapy."
Merckelbach endorsed the proposal of health minister Hogervorst to force therapists to issue to the client pamphlets containing information about the efficacy and counter indications of the particular method they intend to follow, just as is done in other medical procedures. "We know the success rates of various interventions and what may go wrong. Such knowledge should not be kept from clients. It would also help to discipline psychotherapists when on the basis of the pamphlet one my demonstrate that the clinician went too far"
Kitty Hendriks' experiences are not unique, Merckelbach emphasizes. In his soon to be published book: "How a CIA-agent recovered his memory - and other true stories" [Hoe een CIA-agent zijn geheugen hervond en andere waargebeurde verhalen] he gives many more examples of the mind creating misleading memories, both in and outside therapeutic settings. He recognizes three kinds of memories: total inventions, believed-in imaginings, and nearly accurate remembering. "The truth is that psychologists and psychiatrists are unable to tell these three apart. Of course, we may be able to reconstruct the circumstances under which each of these memories arose and hence surmise that some may have arisen during questionable practices".
Merckelbach stresses that the patients' physical reactions to memories are treacherous. That was demonstrated by the research of the American psychologist Richard McNally with alien abductees, people who are convinced they were carried off by extra terrestrial beings. "Abductees react unexpectedly strongly when reliving their reputed kidnappings. They get a faster heartbeat, transpire and tense their muscles. Such strong reactions leave the patients, as well as others, soon with the impression that their story, though improbable, must be true. Hendriks' likewise describes memories, later proven to be false, which were nevertheless accompanied by violent bodily reactions."
Diagnostic tests exist which determine whether someone has personality traits that make one prone to generate pseudo-memories. Merckelbach: 'Therapists might adopt the standard practice of administering such tests with patients claiming abuse. They would do well then with such vulnerable clients to refrain from guided imagination, or from urging them to daily record their emotions; using hypnosis is fully dangerous. Yet, you're never fully at ease here, knowing that your client leads a strong fantasy life, because they may also well have been a true victim of all kinds of misery."
In the introduction to : Dim Past, the Amsterdam forensic psychologist Peter van Koppen takes issue with the report on recovered memories , published this year by a commission of the Netherlands Health Council [a government advisory body], because it left room for alternative opinion about memory function than that offered by memory specialists, who insist that it is impossible to totally ban traumatic experiences from ones consciousness for a long time and then to retrieve them later. He specifically takes aim at commission member psychologist and therapist Nel Draijer, university professor in the department of psychiatry at the Free University [Amsterdam]
She feigns surprise at the attack. Her own [recent] clinical and research experiences have convinced her, just like Merckelbach and Van Koppen, that strongly leading practitioners may generate beliefs in experiences that never took place. "Still I am convinced that people may re-remember traumatic events that point to emotionally laden incidents in their past history. In contrast to psychologists like Merckelbach and Van Koppen, I have an "and - and" point of view. That also was the view of the commission of the Netherlands Health Council. Memory psychologists claim to see not a single reason to believe that the memories of traumatized persons function differently than those of ordinary people. I think we just do not know enough about the traumatized memory to maintain that position', Draijer maintains.
She does research with patients suffering from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, who among other things exhibit the chronic after effects of childhood sexual abuse and who have big problems in relating, because they have become deeply distrustful of others. "This group of patients exhibits a poorer short term memory and show a greater lack of ability to concentrate than adults without this complex disorder. Their memory certainly operates differently, although we are not quite certain what functions differently in their brains. It is well known that stress affects memory function".
Possibly our differences of opinion stem in part from the fact that memory research psychologists see relatively few patients, opines Draijer. "Much research is done with student populations. Memory researchers use as the measure of their knowledge scientific experimentation, but with serious trauma that is just not very well possible. Hence, co-operation between clinici and experimental researchers is essential if we want to deal with seriously traumatized patients."
Merckelbach also recognizes possibilities to resolve the enmities between the opposing ideas. Nothing will cause him however, to believe in repressed memories, but he can conceive that patients during therapy arrive at re-interpretations of incidents that always were present in their minds. "For example they always were aware of having been abused by a member of the family, but did not immediately experience this after the event as abnormal. Only during therapy as adults did it dawn on them that the abuse was not acceptable. Of course this recognition was shocking and with the patients' new realization it may feel as if they repressed it for years."
Traumatized people in general claim to have vague autobiographical memories about other events. That, according to Merckelbach, is not caused by repression, but because people tend to gauge their traumatic experiences against all the successive experiences. "These other, less important experiences disappear when placed against the background of the dominant traumatic theme in their lives. They do not register the details of those uneventful experiences, because they consider them unimportant, hence the vague memories. It stands to reason that such people come to believe that their paucity of memories is caused by repression. Let's hope a better understanding of these kinds of phenomena may lead to an end of the memory wars"
Frank van Kolfschooten
(Translation: Adriaan J.W. Mak)
For seven years they were the accuser and the accused in a bitter case of sexual abuse, until Sarah Dresser realized that her dreams were … simply dreams
Coming home, they cuddle together for warmth as bitter gusts of wind blast them. Mother and daughter laugh at their red noses and numb ears and the antics of their poodle, Max.
Than onlooker, there is no doubting the closeness and affection these two women feel for each other. But Linda Bolland and Sarah Dresser know that their relationship is as fragile as new skin growing over a wound.
For seven years Linda, 52, and Sarah, 28, have been accused and accuser in a bizarre and destructive case which tore their family apart.
Looking at them now, it is impossible to believe that Sarah accused her social worker mother of the vilest sexual abuse imaginable. But in 1992, at the age of 21 and deeply depressed, she recounted some disturbing dreams to a therapist who treated them as recovered memories - and an appalling chain of events was set in train.
Linda lost her daughter and her job with the Barnardo's charity. She was branded a sadistic abuser and put on a government paedophile register solely on the evidence of a troubled young woman and her dreams.
At the root of the nightmare was the controversial Recovered Memory Therapy which is based on the belief by some psychiatrists and psychotherapists that troubled adults must have been the victims of sexual abuse as children - even if they cannot remember it. Dreams and drawings are used to help 'abuse survivors' remember and recover memories which - no matter how bizarre or impossible are treated as true memories.
A Royal College of Psychiatrists report has since damned such techniques as 'potentially dangerous methods of Persuasion' but at the time there was no one to challenge Sarah and her believers.
It was only when the former medical secretary stopped her therapy that the awful truth emerged: it was all fantasy and all the suffering she had inflicted was for nothing.
Sitting beside her mother on a sofa in the family home on the outskirts of NewcastIe upon Tyne, she is brutally honest about the struggle she faced to admit that her allegations were false. 'I used to be terrified of going to sleep because my dreams were so awful but when I got out of therapy, I stopped having them,' she says.
'I suddenly had time to think about what I was saying. It was like coming out of a fog. I started to realize how different these "memories" were from my other memories. The problem was I couldn't admit my doubts.
'To me, it was better that it had happened and so Mum deserved what happened to her than to admit that it wasn't true and take responsibility for the terrible consequences of my accusations.'
There are many astonishing aspects to this case, but perhaps the most striking is the lack of bitterness on Linda's part. An elegant, articulate mother of two girls - Sarah and Jane, 31 - she is just grateful to have her daughter back.
Her anger is directed at the therapists who allowed her daughter's accusations to spiral out of control until they became depraved beyond reason.
'Sarah and I were at their mercy,' she says. 'Nothing was ever questioned or checked, even though a medical examination could have proved her allegations were not true.
'I was told by one of Sarah's friends that my daughter did not want to see me, speak to me or hear from me. But I still loved her and was prepared to wait.'
Turning to her daughter, she says: 'I realised it might take years for you to come back, but I kept the door open by sending birthday and Christmas cards and the occasional letter. All I wanted was for you to know I was here whenever you could find your way back. You were never forgotten or abandoned.'
There is nothing mawkish about her words or the sentiment behind them. It is a statement of such searing sincerity that we all sit in silence for a moment. The enormity of what bas happened to these two women is hard to grasp.
Linda, who was divorced from Sarah's father in 1972 when the little girl was two, says: 'At the beginning, when I was told by my employers what I was accused of, I was in total shock. The previous day I had hugged Sarah and waved her off on a holiday and then this.
'As time went on I fought the injustice of my sacking through an industrial tribunal, but I was totally concerned about what was happening to my daughter. What were they doing to her? If Sarah was believing these things, what sort of mental anguish must she be going through, thinking that her mother had done such things?'
Sarah, who had a history of inventing problems, including having AIDS and being pregnant, did come to believe that her mother had inflicted appalling suffering on her as a child
Her initial claim that her mother abused her came after a disturbing dream, but was rapidly established as 'fact' when a psychologist read her a list of sexual practices and asked if her mother had done these things to her. The troubled girl nodded or shook her head in answer.
More outlandish allegations also emerged from Sarah's dreams while receiving psychotherapy. But, she claims, her therapists treated them as actual memories. without question or the simplest attempt at corroboration. Checking, they later said, was not their job.
Sarah explained: 'At first I thought I was going barmy, but the people around me were totally believing what I said and I started to believe it, too. It made sense of everything if it was true.'
Her belief was bolstered by the book her psychotherapist, Alison Grant, gave her, The Courage To Heal, by American authors Ellen Bass and Laura Davis. It is the bible of 'abuse survivors' and tells its readers: 'Many women who were abused don't have memories, and some never get any. This doesn't mean they weren't abused.'
Sarah claims that as a child she was abused and raped by a former stepfather - an accusation she first made at the age of 15 after taking an overdose. The allegation was denied by Linda's ex-husband, who is now dead, and is still questioned by some members of the family.
But the young woman insists that it was this which led to her troubled adolescence, her fantasies and obsessions with older men and, eventually, to therapy at Claremont House, the Regional Department of Psychotherapy in Newcastle.
'I had moved into my own flat and everything just fell apart. I couldn't cope and it was suggested I go to group therapy,' she says.
Too shy to cope with that, and after more nightmares, she wrote to Claremont House saying her mother had been involved in the abuse. She was asked to come in and talk to consultant clinical psychologist Lindsey Shrubsole.
'We sat in this room and I looked at the floor,' says Sarah. 'She had this list that she read out, a list of questions about what Mum had done. I just had to nod or shake my hood. I did not say a word throughout the interview.'
Ms Shrubsole later claimed during an investigation by Linda's employers: 'I had no intention to lead Sarah … it is not possible to suggest something to someone unless they want to be suggested to.'
This charade led to Sarah's referral to psychiatric social worker Alison Grant. Sarah explained: 'She was very interested in my dreams. She called them memory dreams and l had to keep a journal of them and my feelings. I wrote about the sexual abuse I dreamed of. There was new stuff coming up all the time, more bizarre things.
'Alison treated them as facts, memories of what had happened.'
Blinking behind her glasses, Sarah, who is consulting lawyers about taking legal action against the therapists, says: 'I take full responsibility for starting the whole thing, but I am very angry about how it was dealt with after that. My therapists were always kind to me so it is hard to be angry with them, but they did not allow me to question what I was saying. They just kept saying they believed everything and so it continued.'
It ended when Alison Grant left for another job and the troubled young woman dropped out of treatment.
Linda, until recently a part-time lecturer on Equal Opportunities, listens quietly as Sarah tells her story. 'I couldn't go back to my mum even though I missed her so much, because I was frightened she and the rest of the family would hate me,' she says. 'And I was scared of losing my new friends who believed in my abuse.
'I was drinking myself into oblivion and hurting myself with razor blades because I felt so guilty.
'Mum kept trying to talk to me, but I kept pushing her away because I couldn't face the truth. Then my grandfather was taken ill and we talked properly. She said then, "You don't really believe those things?" and I said, "No" and burst into tears. It was like a dam bursting.'
They smile at each other, bookends on a small sofa, All the hurt and pain is being gradually exorcised during long and emotionally exhausting talks.
Linda admits that she has questioned Sarah's account of abuse at the hands of her ex-husband, but is now convinced it was happening without her knowledge.
She gives a hollow laugh, remarking: 'In many ways I have paid the price for not realising the abuse was going on.' She is also adamant that she bas forgiven her daughter without reservation.
She is not so forgiving of Barnardo's which, despite losing the tribunal and receiving intense criticism for its handling of her case, refused to remove her name from the paedophile register. It was the Department of Health which took the unusual action of overruling the charity.
She says: 'I would sue Barnardo's for the stigma I suffered if I could afford the legal fees.'
And the rest of the family? Sarah's new stepfather greeted her with a hug the first time she walked through the door. The others have followed in their own time.
For Sarah, the relief is total. She says: 'It is so wonderful - I am very, very lucky to have such an amazing family.
'It is like a new life now - I have real moments of happiness and contentment. But sometimes the realisation of what has happened, what I did to my mum and the pain she must have felt, is overwhelming. I still feel so guilty.'
Linda brushes the remark aside and hugs her daughter to her.
And she adds suddenly: 'I hope people see this as a story with a happy ending.
'We have been through so much, yet we have come out the other side as different but better people.'
The Mail on Sunday - December 13, 1998