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     MindNet Journal - Vol. 1, No. 19
     V E R I C O M M / MindNet         "Quid veritas est?"


The following is reproduced here with the express permission of
the author.

Permission is given to reproduce and redistribute, for
non-commercial purposes only, provided this information and the
copy remain intact and unedited.

The views and opinions expressed below are not necessarily the
views and opinions of VERICOMM, MindNet, or the editors unless
otherwise noted.

Editor: Mike Coyle 

Contributing Editors: Walter Bowart
                      Alex Constantine

Assistant Editor: Rick Lawler

Research: Darrell Bross

Editor's Note:

The following was written by an author who wishes to remain


April 11, 1993

The California Therapist,
3465 Camino del Rio South
San Diego, Ca. 92108-3989

Dear Editors,

You have published several articles regarding the phenomenon of
recovered memories of ritual abuse (COMMON "PROGRAMS" OBSERVED IN
collaboration with Catherine Gould, Ph.D and Vicki
Graham-Costain, Ph.D., September/October 1991 and most recently
March/April 1993) These articles have appeared in the
"Professional Exchange" column and to my knowledge have not
received any published response that presents a viewpoint
contrary to that of the authors. I am left with an impression
that the arguments of these authors reflect your publication's
own position on this topic. At least I am unaware of any
editorial disclaimers.

I am responding to these articles as a victim of the therapeutic
process that your authors both defend and promote. I belong to a
family that has been devastated by the accusations accompanying
my sister's treatment by licensed practitioners who share the
theory and practice of your contributing writers and perhaps your
publication as well. I am not alone in this condition. I have met
members of several dozen families from just one part of
California whose story echoes my own. I am aware of similar
stories now numbering many thousand coming from all parts of the
United states, Canada, England, New Zealand and Australia.
Virtually every case involves a practicing psychotherapeutic
professional and/or group whose specialty is the recovery of
memory of intra-familial abuse. This phenomenon presents a
special challenge to anyone concerned with the current state of
psychotherapy. As a journal dedicated to that profession, I would
expect the California Therapist to attend carefully to the
details of this controversy. But the issue goes beyond a threat
to the publicly perceived legitimacy of specialized practice or
even that of the psychotherapeutic industry as a whole. It is of
even graver consequence than the wholesale shattering of families
and individuals accused in an area that offers them no defense.
This is a matter that will directly affect those who have
genuinely suffered abuse and whose voice may be drowned by a tide
of false claims. this predictable tragedy motivates me as much as
personal pain to address my story and argument to your editorial
staff, your publishers and the authors named above.

I come from a family of five children whose parents celebrated
fifty years of marriage several years ago. My eldest sister has
been in therapy with a specialist in recovering memories of abuse
since 1988. In the course of this therapy she issued a series of
accusations that progressed chronologically from sexual
mismanagement by my father to an indictment of our entire family
as members of a conspiracy dedicated to the will of Satan. She
detailed specific instances of ritual abuse involving ceremonial
infanticide, cannabism, rapes and murder that she claimed had
emerged from her stored memory with the help of her therapist. It
was this particular letter that shook my own sincere if tentative
support for her therapeutic process. It propelled me and my
brother into an intense investigation of literature and reporting
associated with psychology, hypnotism, memory, theories
concerning child abuse as well as historical accounts of
witchcraft and satanism. We became aware of the response from law
enforcement, legislation, trends in education and the
organizations and individuals concerned with issues of ritual
child abuse. I remained close to my sister with the same respect
conferred by childhood status as a youngest brother and an adult
role confidant and supporter. During the previous ten years I had
regular contact as a fond uncle to her children. I had
transmitted to the rest of my family critical stages of her
recovered memories. She frequently advised me to "get off the
fence" as I indeed had become a sort of family diplomat. Once I
declared informed doubt to her and her therapists, I was
dismissed along with the rest of my family as being "in denial."
Without apology for being on a "side of the fence" opposite to
both my sister and the prevailing viewpoint published in your
magazine, I would like to offer the following rebuttal to Mr.
Roger Melton's article in the March 1993 issue of California

Mr. Melton spends the first part of his article practicing a
technique familiar to successful salesman of insurance polices.
An effective pitch involves gaining a prospect's attention by
exhorting them to picture "your home burning and your family
menaced by flames" and allowing their imagination to pave the way
toward buying your policy. His example of the Holocaust is well
worn by specialists in the memory recovery field. My sister and
countless other "survivors" have compared themselves to victims
of Nazi concentration camps. It should be noted perhaps that he
actual victims of Nazi programs are rarely amnesic of their
suffering. On the other hand Melton advises that those victims
treated by the therapists he consults almost invariably exhibit
amnesia, dissociation or multiple personality.

Given the comparison to a dupe of Nazi policy, who could possibly
admit professional doubt to the veracity of a client's narrative,
however exaggerated and bizarre? Given the currency of published
professional opinion and the content of educational seminars
within the psychotherapeutic community, how could a concerned
practitioner do anything but nurture a client's expressed
victimization? Besides, a therapist has little to lose in
accepting a client's narrative and validating it as genuine
experience. As the BBSE informed me, there is no course of action
on the part of those who may consider themselves secondary
victims of a form of therapeutic abuse, such as a family ruined
by accusation. Nor is the care-giver required to substantiate in
any objective way the client's memory. On the other hand the
specialist has much to gain; a dedicated and grateful client
whose treatment may need to continue "ad impecunium", a heroic
role in a popularly perceived struggle between good and evil, and
the opportunity to join the ranks of best selling authors and a
lively lecture circuit.

This brings me to the argument which leads off the second part of
Mr. Melton's piece. he makes the same case applying to therapists
that the author's of THE COURAGE TO HEAL offer as a prevailing
condition among the general public; a tendency to avoid or deny
the truly horrific aspects of the world. If such a condition
actually applies to the public, it contradicts an observed
popular obsession if every manner of such horror.

Geraldo Rivera's expose of Satanic Ritual Abuse, for example,
garnered television's highest ratings ever. The most active
shelves in our nation's bookstores are lined with volumes
focusing on the intimate details of that horror. At the very
least I could note that two of the books thrust upon me by my
beyond a publisher's dreams of avarice. What would make
therapists inhabit a special set of the population that is
particularly cowed by humanity's dark and unpleasant face? I
would expect those entering a profession dedicated to healing the
soul to be especially well equipped to expect and handle
perversity. I might even hope that those so equipped would not be
tempted to exaggerate and perhaps compound their clients' darker

Mr. Melton does not name his opponents or repeat their specific
arguments countering the theory of widespread, organized ritual
abuse as the principal etiological factor in the growing
phenomena of recovered memories. In fact he alludes to that
theory rather than commit to describing it. So I must risk
inferring from his implications that he subscribes to belief in a
putative Satanic Conspiracy encompassing all levels of society,
existing internationally and maintained through generations. The
motivations of this conspiracy are to manifest the will of Satan
on earth and the methods are a program of ritual abuse of
children among other offenses such as murder, cannibalism,
infanticide and vampirism. this is the paradigm offered by my
sister and others to provide context for their recovered
memories. It is repeated in literature and seminars and has even
been described in a manual issued by the California Justice
Department. I must assume that those doubtful clinical and
academic psychologists who have published opinions Mr. Melton
calls "fancy theoretical tailspinning" include, among others
George Ganaway, M.D. of the Ridgeview Center for Dissociative
Disorders in Atlanta, Paul McHugh, who directs the Psychiatry
Department at John Hopkins School of Medicine, Richard Ofshe of
U.C. Berkeley Psychology Department, or Richard Gardner, M.D. of
Columbia University. He may even be referring to the writings of
social scientists such as Elizabeth Loftus or Sherril Mulhern.
Taken as a whole their published findings tend to affirm my own
opinion that the etiology of most recovered memories is
"iatrogenic." This opinion finds additional support in the
published research of law enforcement specialists such as Robert
Hicks or Kenneth Lanning of the F.B.I.'s Behavioral Science Unit.
Despite Mr. Melton's curt dismissal, I would recommend you take
look at these findings in the interest of balanced journalism if
nothing else.

Within the subtext of Melton's argument is an assertion I have
often stumbled on in debating this issue. The challenge is;
"ritual abuse exists, believe it." I'm stuck with denying a
reasonable fact because I understand admission to a particular
instance will validate a set of assumptions I would not
personally leap to. I recall the same problem when a racist would
try to force me to admit that there undoubtably are instances of
lazy Blacks, avaricious Jews, retentive Chinese etc. Or the
sexist who supports his general theory citing examples of
manipulative women. Likewise, when reason and observation require
me to admit that ritual abuse and an entire unspeakable realm of
child abuse does exist. I must forcefully add that this admission
does not reinforce the intended conclusion Mr. Melton, my sister
or the host of others wish to draw.

The next set of arguments in this article are also very familiar
to me; "why would anyone fabricate memories about torture, group
rape and extreme physical pain inflicted upon their own person?"
Had this question not been posed by psychotherapists, I would
have referred it to that very profession. But my own lay
observations refute Mr. Melton's assertions regarding the
difficulty survivors face in exposing their horrific experience.
I refer not just to broadcast forums such as talk shows on radio
and television, or even printed media. Has a month gone by in
five years in which survivors have failed to tell that media's
attentive audience vivid details of their personal horror
stories? A more direct attention proliferates throughout this
country and abroad in support groups which focus on members'
reported suffering. If the theoretical construct of Narcissism
Mr. Melton cites as an established motivation applies generally,
might it serve to explain the rewards of being not merely a
victim, but a heroic survivor of evil beyond imagination? What of
intellectual and cognitive motivations such as the urge to create
singular, inclusive theoretical constructs that "explain"
observed or experienced symptoms and anomalies? The literature of
psychology is replete with descriptions of such a force
motivating cases of paranoia. A patently mundane motivation,
money, may deserve at least some attention. Lawsuits arising
against the parents of adult children in therapy have become
something one lawyer describes as deserving a Stock Exchange
listing as a growth industry.

Finally Mr. Melton conjures a vision of the future in which his
perceived demonic substructure is generally recognized and those
present day doubters harshly judged. I respect his sincere
commitment both as a professional and an individual. I also
believe that both he and fellow adherents to his cause share a
noble motivation with the historical judges and executioners of
witches and others who feel outside popular consensus. It would
be naive of me to think our modern society immune to the
psychological forces that fueled historical witchhunts. The harm
I have experienced and observed I attribute to a flourishing
trend within the very institutions that secular society relies on
for guidance; psychotherapy and law enforcement. What is taking
shape as a result of this trend closely resembles history's
account of a time ruled by fear of spectral malevolence.
therefore I can easily share Mr. Melton's vision of the future,
although from a less delighted perspective.

It is beyond my ability to predict the future. But I can project
a scenario very different from your author's. Imagine a society
in which the justice system has lost all public confidence. An
entire legal apparatus has been compromised in the wake of a mass
hysteria that has ensnared and convicted innumerable innocent
individuals. Picture a community in which average citizens fear
and detest such agencies as the Child Protective Service as an
additional threat to their family's well-being. Envision the
mental health profession an object of public scorn and ridicule;
a system utterly discredited for its' inability to define
objectives and omit dangerous practice. Now take a close look at
the saddest feature of this landscape; a genuinely abused child.
Those who would most effectively respond to this child's plight
have been deafened by a howling storm of false accusation. The
unthinking fervor of professionals, whose calling and duty it is
to protect, has served to compound and perpetuate the tragedy of
this child.

I realize have employed the same techniques I criticized Mr.
Roger Melton, M.A. for using in his article. But my warning may
not be mere hyperbole. What is being currently reported indeed
indicates a backlash gathering significant momentum. While I
sympathize with the emotion that powers this backlash, I
sincerely feel the subject of child abuse requires a far more
refined response than either the rhetorical bombast of writers
like Melton or the furious reaction from people in situations
like my own. I actually hope that your won organization, The
California Association of Marriage and Family Counselors, could
produce from its ranks individuals with the moral courage and
capacity of critical thought to address this issue in an
effective and mediative way. That is unlikely unless you provide
your readership with some variety of viewpoints on the subject. I
will happily supply a detailed bibliography and even addresses of
authors in the mental health field who articulate challenging
opinions. It could only show respect for your subscriber's
judgement to publish something from their perspective. It may
help slow the spread of what I believe is a virulent
"psychiatrogenic" epidemic. this plague serves your profession as
poorly as it does families like my own, who number among its'
growing list of victims.

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