I can’t get myself to say what happened next. I cannot cope with even thinking about this let alone living with it.””It is so degrading and I try to forget, it hurts so much because she is my mother.”- Graham talks about being sexually abused by his mother
interview from Ross E. Cheit about The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children (Oxford University Press, February 2014).In the foreword to your book you mention a book titled Satan’s Silence was the catalyst for your research. Tell us about that. Cheit: Debbie Nathan and Michael Snedeker solidified the witch-hunt narrative in their 1995 book, Satan’s Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt, which included some of these cases. I was initially skeptical of the book’s argument for personal reasons. It seemed implausible to me that we had overreacted to child abuse because everything in my own personal history said we hadn’t. When I read the book closely, my skepticism increased. Satan’s Silence has been widely reviewed as meticulously researched. As someone with legal training, I looked for how many citations referred to the trial transcripts. The answer was almost none. Readers were also persuaded by long list of [presumably innocent] convicted sex offenders to whom they dedicated the book. If I’m dedicating a book to fifty-four people, all of whom I think have been falsely convicted, I’m going to mention every one of these cases somewhere in the book. Most weren’t mentioned at all beyond that dedication. The witch-hunt narrative is so sparsely documented that it’s shocking.
The witch-hunt narrative is a really popular story that goes like this: Lots of people were falsely convicted of child sexual abuse in the 1980s and early 1990s. And they were all victims of a witch-hunt. It just doesn’t happen to line up with the facts when you actually look at the cases themselves in detail. But it’s a really popular narrative — I think it’s absolutely fair to say that’s the conventional wisdom. It’s what most people now think is the uncontested truth, and those cases had no basis in fact. And what 15 years of painstaking trial court research (says) is that that’s not a very fair description of those cases, and in fact many of those cases had substantial evidence of abuse. The witch-hunt narrative is that these were all gross injustices to the defendant. In fact, what it looks like in retrospect is the injustices were much more often to children.
From Colin A. Ross, 1995: The writer is the brother of the man who co-founded the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. He is writing to WGBH about a program called 'Divided Memories', which you may have seen, that was supposed to be an investigation of memory. This letter also went to Congress and to the press, so it's a public letter. It's just unfortunate that the press, as far as I know, didn't pick it up. 'Gentlemen: Peter Freyd is my brother. Pamela Freyd is both my stepsister and sister-in-law. Jennifer and Gwendolyn [their daughters] are my nieces. There is no doubt in my mind that there was severe abuse in the home of Peter and Pam, while they were raising their daughters. Peter said (on your show, 'Divided Memories') that his humor was ribald. Those of us who had to endure it, remember it as abusive at best and viciously sadistic at worst. The False Memory Syndrome Foundation is a fraud designed to deny a reality that Peter and Pam have spent most of their lives trying to escape. There is no such thing as a False Memory Syndrome. It is not, by any normal standard, a Foundation. Neither Pam nor Peter have any significant mental health expertise. That the False Memory Syndrome Foundation has been able to excite so much media attention has been a great surprise to those of us who would like to admire and respect the objectivity and motives of people in the media. Neither Peter's mother (who was also mine), nor his daughters, nor I have wanted anything to do with Peter and Pam for periods of time ranging up to more than two decades. We do not understand why you would 'buy' such an obviously flawed story. But buy it you did, based on the severely biased presentation you made of the memory issue that Peter and Pam created to deny their own difficult reality. For the most part you presented very credible parents and frequently quite incredibly bizarre and exotic alleged victims and therapists. Balance and objectivity would call for the presentation of more credible alleged victims and more bizarre parents, While you did present some highly regarded therapists as commentators, most of the therapists you presented as providers of therapy were clearly not in the mainstream. While this selection of examples may make for much more interesting television, it certainly does not make for more objectivity and fairness. I would advance the idea that 'Divided Memories' hurt victims, helped abusers and confused the public. I wonder why you thought these results would be in the public interest that Public broadcasting is funded to support.
But nothing in my previous work had prepared me for the experience of reinvestigating Cleveland. It is worth — given the passage of time — recalling the basic architecture of the Crisis: 121 children from many different and largely unrelated families had been taken into the care of Cleveland County Council in the three short months of the summer of 1987. (p18)The key to resolving the puzzle of Cleveland was the children. What had actually happened to them? Had they been abused - or had the paediatricians and social workers (as public opinion held) been over-zealous and plain wrong? Curiously — particularly given its high profile, year-long sittings and £5 million cost — this was the one central issue never addressed by the Butler-Sloss judicial testimony and sifting of internal evidence, the inquiry's remit did not require it to answer the main question. Ten years after the crisis, my colleagues and I set about reconstructing the records of the 121 children at its heart to determine exactly what had happened to them... (p19)Eventually, though, we did assemble the data given to the Butler-Sloss Inquiry. This divided into two categories: the confidential material, presented in camera, and the transcripts of public sessions of the hearings. Putting the two together we assembled our own database on the children each identified only by the code-letters assigned to them by Butler-Sloss. When it was finished, this database told a startlingly different story from the public myth. In every case there was some prima fade evidence to suggest the possibility of abuse. Far from the media fiction of parents taking their children to Middlesbrough General Hospital for a tummy ache or a sore thumb and suddenly being presented with a diagnosis of child sexual abuse, the true story was of families known to social services for months or years, histories of physical and sexual abuse of siblings and of prior discussions with parents about these concerns. In several of the cases the children themselves had made detailed disclosures of abuse; many of the pre-verbal children displayed severe emotional or behavioural symptoms consistent with sexual abuse. There were even some families in which a convicted sex offender had moved in with mother and children. (p20)
It is worth — given the passage of time — recalling the basic architecture of the Crisis: 121 children from many different and largely unrelated families had been taken into the care of Cleveland County Council in the three short months of the summer of 1987. Behind these headline statistics were decades of neglect and/or misunderstanding of the issue of child sexual abuse, a long-running dispute between police and paediatricians over who should have primacy in the investigation of such cases and the presence of two dedicated paediatricians at Middlesbrough General Hospital. Dr Marietta Higgs and Dr Geoffrey Wyatt had both understanding of, and training in, recognising the physical signs that a child’s body had been abused. One of these signs was — and still is reflex anal dilatation (RAD): a simple clue which is suggestive of anal penetration from outside. It had been recognised as a valuable weapon in the armoury of doctors examining children for many decades and was endorsed by both the British Medical Association and the Association of Police Surgeons. Yet by July 1987, the paediatricians were at the centre of a national storm of outrage — denounced by politicians, press, television and public opinion. The parents of the 121 children taken into care were lionised for their courage or portrayed as the victims of a monstrous witch-hunt. Their voices — sometimes their faces — dominated newsstands and television bulletins. When the courts seemed to be returning all their children to them, the nation seemed to breathe a sigh of relief, while simultaneously demanding the scalps of the paediatricians and social workers. (p18)In every case there was some prima fade evidence to suggest the possibility of abuse. Far from the media fiction of parents taking their children to Middlesbrough General Hospital for a tummy ache or a sore thumb and suddenly being presented with a diagnosis of child sexual abuse, the true story was of families known to social services for months or years, histories of physical and sexual abuse of siblings and of prior discussions with parents about these concerns. In several of the cases the children themselves had made detailed disclosures of abuse; many of the pre-verbal children displayed severe emotional or behavioural symptoms consistent with sexual abuse. There were even some families in which a convicted sex offender had moved in with mother and children. All of this information had been presented to the Butler-Sloss Inquiry. Virtually none of it had emerged from that inquiry into the public arena and certainly not into the vitriolic media coverage of Cleveland. To my colleagues and me this seemed initially impossible to comprehend: how could this have happened? How could truth have been turned on its head so completely? And why, given the apparent strength of the evidence, did the courts come to close their minds to these children's cases? (p20)
We can't leave the past in the past because, the past is who we are. It's like saying I wish I could forget English. So, there is no leaving the past in the past. It doesn't mean the past has to define and dominate everything in the future. The fact that I had a temper in my teens doesn't mean I have to be an angry person for the rest of my life. It just means that I had allot to be angry about but, didn't have the language and the understanding to know what it was and how big it was. I thought my anger was disproportionate to the environment which is what is called having a bad temper but, it just means that I underestimated the environment and my anger was telling me how wide and deep child abuse is in society but, I didn't understand that consciously so I thought my anger was disproportionate to the environment but, it wasn't. There is almost no amount of anger that's proportionate to the degree of child abuse in the world. The fantasy that you can not be somebody that lived through what you lived through is damaging to yourself and to your capacity to relate to others. People who care about you, people who are going to grow to love you need to know who you are and that you were shaped by what you've experienced for better and for worse. There is a great deal of challenge in talking about these issues. Lots of people in this world have been hurt as children. Most people have been hurt in this world as children and when you talk honestly and openly it's very difficult for people. This is why it continues and continues.If you can get to the truth of what happened if you can understand why people made the decisions they've made even if you dont agree with the reason for those decisions knowing the reasons for those decisions is enormously important in my opinion. The more we know the truth of history the more confidently we can face the future without self blame.
Children who are victimized through sexual abuse often begin to develop deeply held tenets that shape their sense of self: 'My worth is my sexuality. I'm dirty and shameful. I have no right to my own physical boundaries.' That shapes their ideas about the world around them: 'No one will believe me. Telling the truth results in bad consequences. People can't be trusted.' It doesn't take long for children to being to act in accordance with these belief systems.For girls who have experienced incest, sexual abuse, or rape, the boundaries between love, sex, and pain become blurred. Secrets are normal, and shame is a constant.
I'm just asking you to accept that there are some people who will go to extraordinary lengths to cover up the facts that they are abusing children.What words are there to describe what happened to me, what was done to me? Some call it ritual abuse, others call it organised abuse. There are those that call it satanic. I've heard all the phrases, not just in relation to me, but also with regard to those I work with and try to help. Do you know what I think? It doesn't matter how you dress it up, it doesn't matter what label you put on it. It is abuse, pure and simple. It is adults abusing children. It is adults deciding - actually making a conscious decision, a conscious choices that what they want, what they convince themselves they need, is more important than anything else; certainly more important than the safety or feelings or sanity of a child.However, there can be differences which are layered on top of that abuse. I'm not saying that some abuse is worse than others, or that someone 'wins' the competition to have the worst abuse inflicted on them, but ritual and organised abuse is at the extreme end of the spectrum. If we try to think of a continuum where there are lots of different things imposed on children (or, for that matter, anyone who is forced into these things — and that force can take many forms, it can be threats and promises, as well as kicks and punches), then ritual and organised abuse is intense and complicated.It often involves multiple abusers of both sexes. There can be extreme violence, mind control, systematic torture and even, in some cases, a complex belief system which is sometimes described as religion. I say 'described as' religion because, to me, I think that when this aspect is involved, it is window dressing. I'm not religious. I cried many times for God to save me. I was always ignored — how could I believe? However, I think that ritual abusers who do use religious imagery or 'beliefs' are doing so to justify it all to themselves, or to confuse the victim, or to hide their activities. Ritual abuse is highly organised and, obviously, secretive. It is often linked with other major crimes such as child pornography, child prostitution, the drugs industry, trafficking, and many other illegal and heinous activities. Ritual abuse is organised sexual, physical and psychological abuse, which can be systematic and sustained over a long period of time. It involves the use of rituals - things which the abusers 'need' to do, or 'need' to have in place - but it doesn't have to have a belief system. There doesn't have to be God or the Devil, or any other deity for it to be considered 'ritual'. It involves using patterns of learning and development to keep the abuse going and to make sure the child stays quiet.
Mum was pregnant, then there was Sharron. [...]I wanted to keep him away from her - but for the wrong reasons. In my head he was mine, he was my special person but, of course, as I was getting older, his interest in me was waning anyway. I don't know whether it was because he had lost interest in me, or because the abuse elsewhere was so horrific, particularly without him in my life to make things seem better but, whatever the reason, I soon moved from wanted him to leave Sharron alone for my sake, to wanting him to leave her alone for the right reasons. She was tiny, just a toddler, and the thought of him touching her or abusing her horrified me. I started trying to attract his attention whenever he looked at her. I'd dance, I'd sing, I'd sit on his lap. I'd do a hundred things that were completely out of character - anything, anything to avoid seeing that look in his eye when he glanced at the baby.I knew that he was planing to do to her what he had done to me. I tried to get in the way, I tried to get him to play with me, but once Sharron was about three, the penny finally dropped. I had always thought he wasn't in the same category as the others; they weren't nice, and he always was. But as she began to replace me, it made me face up to things. What Uncle Andrew did wasn't right. [...]Even though I loved my uncle, and craved his attention, the thought of him coming into my bed was starting to repulse me. sharron slept in my bed, too, by then, and I wanted that to continue because I wanted to protect her.Of course, there were plenty of times when I wasn't there. I was still being taken away to be abused. I was at school; Sharon was often left unprotected. Something must have been happening because she started wetting the bed almost every night. This was a sign that even I couldn't turn away from. Sharon was being abused. I was sure of it. But I wouldn't stand for it, not for much longer.p209-2010
There was nothing you could be sure about, it was all lies, and it was all done to mess with minds because the control and the power trip was so important to them, as well as it being necessary in terms of screwing up anything you might remember from an evidential perspective.They would also build up your hopes, in terms of any tiny thing you did like or were less scared of, so I'd be told that it would be a nice night because Uncle Andrew would be coming, but then it wouldn't be him. There would be someone else There would be someone else who I was told was my Uncle Andrew as he was raping me. Sometimes, this other person would have a mask on but I would know that it wasn't really him. They would be the wrong height or the wrong weight or, sometimes, even obviously a woman. There were occasions when I would be told to call the person Uncle Andrew and then when I did, they would ask me why I was doing that. Sometimes he would be there, too, but that was rare.Was it Satanic? I don't know. Personally I don't believe in God or Satan or any of those things, but abusers use whatever they can to silence children because if you go to the police and say something about Satan, you are so much less likely to be believed. I personally think they were just a group of likeminded people who had no beliefs other than that they wanted to get satisfaction out of abusing children and it's as simple and horrible as that. My uncle certainly doesn't have any satanic beliefs — he just thinks that he loves children and is allowed to get sexual satisfaction from them. Why is there sex involved if it is just about Satan? Why does it always come down to them getting off? No matter what they do that's all it is, whether masturbation or penetration or humiliation, that's what it's about. I encountered people who just liked to humiliate — they wouldn't allow you to go to the bathroom, you would be given drink after drink, fizzy drinks, whatever, so you ended up absolutely desperate and that's where they got off — that's when they started to masturbate themselves, as you stood there peeing yourself. That was just awful, so humiliating. Where is God or Satan in that?(her Uncle was convicted for abusing her and jailed)
There is unmistakable proof that abusers do get together in order to share children, abuse more children, and even learn from each other. As more cases have come into the public eye in recent years, this has become increasingly obvious. More and more of this type of abuse is coming to light.I definitely think it is the word ritual which causes people to question, to feel uncomfortable, or even just disbelieve. It seems almost incredible that such things would happen, but too many of us know exactly how bad the lives of many children are. A great deal of child pornography shows children being abused in a ritualised setting, and many have now come forward to share their experiences, but there is a still tendency to say it just couldn't happen.Why not?Why, given what we now know about paedophiles and about what they do to children? Would they have limits? It was all done to me and I have enough experiences to write many more books than this one, but this will have to do for now. I've tried to make sense of it and I've tried to tell you my story in a way that will, hopefully, let you understand how it was done, and how they managed to get away with it, but I haven't told you a big part of it yet. I haven't told you what happened that finally ended it all for me.There was something else.When I was eight, someone else came into my life and made a huge difference to what was happening and how things would turn out. I didn't know it then, but I see the whole picture now.Something I have often wondered is whether Andrew was there while I was being abused. Lots of people hide their faces, and there were often masks worn, so he certainly could have been. I have no evidence one way or another though, so I will leave it to the reader to decide whether it would seem in a paedophile's character to watch abuse continue when it has been masterminded by him. But I do know that it wasn't just me who he abused - I know that because I saw it.Andrew was away a lot with the Army until I was at high school, then he left that position. He was instrumental both in my abuse and in setting the scene, but when I was eight, something happened which would distract him and which would, at times, take his attention from me. My mother very kindly provided him with a new victim - my little sister.
It was after a Frontline television documentary screened in the US in 1995 that the Freyds' public profile as aggrieved parents provoked another rupture within the Freyd family, when William Freyd made public his own discomfort.'Peter Freyd is my brother, Pamela Freyd is both my stepsister and sister-in-law,' he explained. Peter and Pamela had grown up together as step-siblings. 'There is no doubt in my mind that there was severe abuse in the home of Peter and Pam, while they were raising their daughters,' he wrote. He challenged Peter Freyd's claims that he had been misunderstood, that he merely had a 'ribald' sense of humour. 'Those of us who had to endure it, remember it as abusive at best and viciously sadistic at worst.' He added that, in his view, 'The False memory Syndrome Foundation is designed to deny a reality that Peter and Pam have spent most of their lives trying to escape.' He felt that there is no such thing as a false memory syndrome.' Criticising the media for its uncritical embrace of the Freyds' campaign, he cautioned:That the False Memory Syndrome Foundation has been able to excite so much media attention has been a great surprise to those of us who would like to admire and respect the objectivity and motive of people in the media. Neither Peter's mother nor his daughters, nor I have wanted anything to do with Peter and Pam for periods of time ranging up to two decades. We do not understand why you would 'buy' into such an obviously flawed story. But buy it you did, based on the severely biased presentation of the memory issue that Peter and Pam created to deny their own difficult reality. p14-14 Stolen Voices: An Exposure of the Campaign to Discredit Childhood Testimony
While many experts insisted that children seldom lie about sexual abuse, others claimed that young children often failed to distinguish between fact and fiction and might be susceptible to suggestion and pressure on the part of investigators. As more of these allegations arose in custody and divorce cases in which one parent was being accused, the issue of deliberate malice and vindictiveness on the part of the accusing parent became a matter for consideration. Were these parents intentionally coaching their children to lie in order to punish a hated ex-spouse or to gain advantage in a divorce settlement? There were many professionals—lawyers, judges, clinicians, psychiatrists—who became convinced that this was the case. Articles in respectable publications like Time and Newsweek cited statistics indicating that fictitious allegations made by divorcing parents were on the rise, and lawyers were quoted describing sex abuse allegations as the ‘atom bomb of custody disputes.’ There were also parents—predominantly mothers—who found evidence suggesting a good possibility that their children had been sexually molested by ex-spouses. Sometimes a child’s disclosures or physical or psychological symptoms led a mother to seek medical or psychological advice. Often the suggestion that abuse had occurred came not from the mother but from a doctor or a psychologist. Initial shock and disbelief on the part of these mothers was followed with the hope and expectation that the proper authorities, to whom suspicion of abuse was reported, would conduct appropriate investigations and take the steps necessary to protect their children. Rapidly they found that the systems response was very different from what they had expected. As protective mothers in cases against fathers, these women were automatically labeled vindictive, malicious, and paranoid, regardless of evidence to the contrary. Suddenly they found themselves in a Kafkaesque labyrinth of courts and state-run systems, among lawyers, judges, social workers, and experts, where the end result was almost always the same—returning or delivering the child to the alleged molester. Could this really be happening in America? Coverage of high-profile cases in the respected print media tends to reflect the attitudes of a handful of very vocal, self-styled ‘experts.” They have fueled the widespread public perception that false allegations of child sexual abuse are appearing with increased frequency in custody cases. Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, this belief has been adopted by many in the legal profession and by a sizeable segment of the mental health community. The purpose of this book is to challenge these misconceptions. Sex abuse allegations that occur during custody disputes are frequently presumed to be false because they have arisen during or just before a custody case, regardless of the evidence. Because of this presumption on the part of private professionals and public officials, when children who suffer incest become the subjects of custody disputes, often their outcries are not believed and they are not protected. Custody of such children is likely to be given to the very adults accused of molesting them. (page x)
One hundred twenty-nine women with previously documented histories of sexual victimization in childhood were interviewed and asked detailed questions about their abuse histories to answer the question "Do people actually forget traumatic events such as child sexual abuse, and if so, how common is such forgetting?" A large proportion of the women (38%) did not recall the abuse that had been reported 17 years earlier. Women who were younger at the time of the abuse and those who were molested by someone they knew were more likely to have no recall of the abuse. The implications for research and practice are discussed. Long periods with no memory of abuse should not be regarded as evidence that the abuse did not occur. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol 62(6), Dec 1994, 1167-1176
A cult is a group of people who share an obsessive devotion to a person oridea. The cults described in this book use violent tactics to recruit,indoctrinate, and keep members. Ritual abuse is defined as the emotionally,physically, and sexually abusive acts performed by violent cults. Mostviolent cults do not openly express their beliefs and practices, and theytend to live separately in noncommunal environments to avoid detection.Some victims of ritual abuse are children abused outside the home bynonfamily members, in public settings such as day care. Other victims arechildren and teenagers who are forced by their parents to witness andparticipate in violent rituals. Adult ritual abuse victims often includethese grown children who were forced from childhood to be a member of thegroup. Other adult and teenage victims are people who unknowingly joinedsocial groups or organizations that slowly manipulated and blackmailed theminto becoming permanent members of the group. All cases of ritual abuse, nomatter what the age of the victim, involve intense physical and emotionaltrauma.Violent cults may sacrifice humans and animals as part of religious rituals.They use torture to silence victims and other unwilling participants. Ritualabuse victims say they are degraded and humiliated and are often forced totorture, kill, and sexually violate other helpless victims. The purpose ofthe ritual abuse is usually indoctrination. The cults intend to destroy thesevictims' free will by undermining their sense of safety in the world and byforcing them to hurt others.In the last ten years, a number of people have been convicted on sexual abusecharges in cases where the abused children had reported elements of ritualchild abuse. These children described being raped by groups of adults whowore costumes or masks and said they were forced to witness religious-typerituals in which animals and humans were tortured or killed. In one case, thedefense introduced in court photographs of the children being abused by thedefendants In another case, the police found tunnels etched with crossesand pentacles along with stone altars and candles in a cemetery where abusehad been reported. The defendants in this case pleaded guilty to charges ofincest, cruelty, and indecent assault Ritual abuse allegations have beenmade in England, the United States, and Canada.Many myths abound concerning the parents and children who report ritualabuse. Some people suggest that the tales of ritual abuse are "masshysteria." They say the parents of these children who report ritual abuse areoften overly zealous Christians on a "witch-hunt" to persecute satanists.These skeptics say the parents are fearful of satanism, and they use theirknowledge of the Black Mass (a historically well-known, sexualized ritual inwhich animals and humans are sacrificed) to brainwash their children intosaying they were abused by satanists. In 1992 I conducted a study toseparate fact from fiction in regard to the disclosures of children whoreport ritual abuse. The study was conducted through Believe the Children,a national organization that provides support and educational sources forritual abuse survivors and their families.
Betrayal is too kind a word to describe a situation in which a father says he loves his daughter but claims he must teach her about the horrors of the world in order to make her a stronger person; a situation in which he watches or participates in rituals that make her feel like she is going to die. She experiences pain that is so intense that she cannot think; her head spins so fast she can't remember who she is or how she got there.All she knows is pain. All she feels is desperation. She tries to cry out for help, but soon learns that no one will listen. No matter how loud she cries, she can't stop or change what is happening. No matter what she does, the pain will not stop. Her father orders her to be tortured and tells her it is for her own good. He tells her that she needs the discipline, or that she has asked for it by her misbehavior. Betrayal is too simple a word to describe the overwhelming pain, the overwhelming loneliness and isolation this child experiences.As if the abuse during the rituals were not enough, this child experiences similar abuse at home on a daily basis. When she tries to talk about her pain, she is told that she must be crazy. "Nothing bad has happened to you;' her family tells her Each day she begins to feel more and more like she doesn't know what is real. She stops trusting her own feelings because no one else acknowledges them or hears her agony. Soon the pain becomes too great. She learns not to feel at all. This strong, lonely, desperate child learns to give up the senses that make all people feel alive. She begins to feel dead.She wishes she were dead. For her there is no way out. She soon learns there is no hope.As she grows older she gets stronger. She learns to do what she is told with the utmost compliance. She forgets everything she has ever wanted. The pain still lurks, but it's easier to pretend it's not there than to acknowledge the horrors she has buried in the deepest parts of her mind. Her relationships are overwhelmed by the power of her emotions. She reaches out for help, but never seems to find what she is looking for The pain gets worse. The loneliness sets in. When the feelings return, she is overcome with panic, pain, and desperation.She is convinced she is going to die. Yet, when she looks around her she sees nothing that should make her feel so bad. Deep inside she knows something is very, very wrong, but she doesn't remember anything. She thinks, "Maybe I am crazy.
She was so upset about a blog that maybe a total of six people read yet had no compassion for her granddaughters who had suffered the physical and emotional pains of sexual abuse and whose lives were changed forever. The two cannot even be compared, yet when someone is in denial about what happened, they cannot perceive what is true. It seemed too hard for her to let her mind go there and believe her grandson could do such terrible things.
Along with the trust issues, one of the hardest parts to deal with is the feeling of not being believed or supported, especially by your own grandparents and extended family. When I have been through so much pain and hurt and have to live with the scars every day, I get angry knowing that others think it is all made up or they brush it off because my cousin was a teenager. I was ten when I was first sexually abused by my cousin, and a majority of my relatives have taken the perpetrator's side. I have cried many times about everything and how my relatives gave no support or love to me as a kid when this all came out. Not one relative ever came up to that innocent little girl I was and said "I am sorry for what you went through" or "I am here for you." Instead they said hurtful things: "Oh he was young." "That is what kids do." "It is not like he was some older man you didn't know." Why does age make a difference? It is a sick way of thinking. Sexual abuse is sexual abuse. What is wrong with this picture? It brings tears to my eyes the way my relatives have reacted to this and cannot accept the truth. Denial is where they would rather stay.
Treating Abuse Today 3(4) pp. 26-33TAT: I see the agenda. But let's go back: one of the contentions the therapeutic community has about the Foundation's professed scientific credibility is your use of the term "syndrome." It seems to us that what's happening here is that based solely on anecdotal, unverified reports, the Foundation has started a public relations campaign rather than a bonafide research effort and simply announced to the world that an epidemic of this syndrome exists. The established scientific and clinical organizations are taking you on about this and it's that kind of thing that makes us feel like this effort is not really based on science. Do you have a response to that?Freyd: The response I would make regarding the name of the Foundation is that it will certainly be one of the issues brought up during our scientific meeting this weekend. But let me add that the term, "syndrome," in terms of it being a psychological syndrome, parallels, say, the rape trauma syndrome. Given that and the fact that there are seldom complaints over the use of the term "syndrome" for that, I think that it isn't "syndrome" that's bothering people as much as the term "false."TAT: No. Frankly it's not. It is the term "syndrome." The term false memory is almost 100 years old. It's nothing new, but false memory syndrome is newly coined. Here's our issue with your use of the word "syndrome." The rape trauma syndrome is a good example because it has a very well defined list of signs and symptoms. Having read your literature, we are still at a loss to know what the signs and symptoms of "false memory syndrome" are. Can you tell us succinctly?Freyd: The person with whom I would like to have you discuss that to quote is Dr. Paul McHugh on our advisory board, because he is a clinician.TAT: I would be happy to do that. But if I may, let me take you on a little bit further about this.Freyd: Sure, sure that's fair.TAT: You're the Executive Director of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation - a foundation that says it wants to disseminate scientific information to the community regarding this syndrome but you can't, or won't, give me its signs and symptoms. That is confusing to me. I don't understand why there isn't a list.
Being Scared-off by EvilLastly, we deny the presence of evil because we are terriﬁed by the horrendously hurtful, cruel, and bloody kinds of evil people tell us about—if we are willing to listen. This was poignantly brought home during an interdisciplinary case conference involving a resident who was counseling for the ﬁrst time a woman who had been sexually abused. As we worked with him, it became clear that he was resisting entering what he called the 'psychic cave" of her sealed—off experience from which she was shouting for assistance. Because of his resistance, he was not providing her the support and guidance she so desperately needed, and he was not facilitating her working through the abuse and hurt that were continuing to impact her life. As he was confronted about this at one point in the conference, he stated tearfully: "I'm afraid if I help her move into her memories. I will have to go with her, and if I go with her, my view of the world as a basically good and safe place will be shattered. I'm not sure I can handle that for myself, or be able to think about the fact that my wife and kids may be more vulnerable living in this world than I can be comfortable believing" (Means 1995, 299).
All I wanted to do was hide away from the world, but I still had a role to play. I had to be 'Girl A' - the key witness in the trial that finally saw my abusers locked up. Girl A - the girl in the newspaper stories who had been through the most hideous experience imaginable. When I read those stories, I felt like I was reading about somebody else, another girl who was subjected to the depths of human depravity. But it wasn't. It was about me. I am Girl A.
Who are we to say getting incested or abused or violated or any of those things can’t have their positive aspects in the long run? … You have to be careful of taking a knee-jerk attitude. Having a knee-jerk attitude to anything is a mistake, especially in the case of women, where it adds up to this very limited and condescending thing of saying they’re fragile, breakable things that can be destroyed easily. Everybody gets hurt and violated and broken sometimes. Why are women so special? Not that anybody ought to be raped or abused, nobody’s saying that, but that’s what is going on. What about afterwards? All I’m saying is there are certain cases where it can enlarge you or make you more of a complete human being, like Viktor Frankl. Think about the Holocaust. Was the Holocaust a good thing? No way. Does anybody think it was good that it happened? No, of course not. But did you read Viktor Frankl? Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning? It’s a great, great book, but it comes out of his experience. It’s about his experience in the human dark side. Now think about it, if there was no Holocaust, there’d be no Man’s Search for Meaning… . Think about it. Think about being degraded and brought within an inch of your life, for example. No one’s gonna say the sick bastards who did it shouldn’t be put in jail, but let’s put two things into perspective here. One is, afterwards she knows something about herself that she never knew before. What she knows is that the most totally terrible terrifying thing that she could ever have imagined happening to her has now happened, and she survived. She’s still here, and now she knows something. I mean she really, really knows. Look, totally terrible things happen… . Existence in life breaks people in all kinds of awful fucking ways all the time, trust me I know. I’ve been there. And this is the big difference, you and me here, cause this isn’t about politics or feminism or whatever, for you this is just ideas, you’ve never been there. I’m not saying nothing bad has ever happened to you, you’re not bad looking, I’m sure there’s been some sort of degradation or whatever come your way in life, but I’m talking Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning type violation and terror and suffering here. The real dark side. I can tell from just looking at you, you never. You wouldn’t even wear what you’re wearing, trust me. What if I told you it was my own sister that was raped? What if I told you a little story about a sixteen-year-old girl who went to the wrong party with the wrong guy and four of his buddies that ended up doing to her just about everything four guys could do to you in terms of violation? But if you could ask her if she could go into her head and forget it or like erase the tape of it happening in her memory, what do you think she’d say? Are you so sure what she’d say? What if she said that even after that totally negative as what happened was, at least now she understood it was possible. People can. Can see you as a thing. That people can see you as a thing, do you know what that means? Because if you really can see someone as a thing you can do anything to him. What would it be like to be able to be like that? You see, you think you can imagine it but you can’t. But she can. And now she knows something. I mean she really, really knows. This is what you wanted to hear, you wanted to hear about four drunk guys who knee-jerk you in the balls and make you bend over that you didn’t even know, that you never saw before, that you never did anything to, that don’t even know your name, they don’t even know your name to find out you have to choose to have a fucking name, you have no fucking idea, and what if I said that happened to ME? Would that make a difference?
I would like to turn in my skin and change it for a new epidermis. It feels as if I will never be able to rinse the sadness from my soul. All the while I am cognizant of the fact that I am trying to purge myself of my feelings. I start with my shell. I am in the water at least an hour. I immerse my head. My long, thick mane is so heavy, but I feel the lightness of my hair as it floats. I can hear my heart beating in my ears. I wonder what would happen if I died in this water. I drain the bathtub and refill it. I scrub my skin until it stings. I still don't feel clean. I close my eyes.I switch to lying on my back. I gaze at the heavens through the skylight on the ceiling above the tub. I am thinking about Isabella. I am struck by the feeling of uncleanness that I have been immersed in that day. I would imagine that this child feels unclean always, in body and in mind. I am hoping that the sheets in her foster home are snow white and fragrant. I am hoping that she felt safe. I am worried that she is so deeply alone and frightened. I know somewhere deep inside of me that the decisions and choices I made today were sound. I am praying, with eyes glued to the stars, that I will not awaken in the night with my heart beating out of my chest; that I will not be haunted by Francis's diseased body; that I will not perseverate on ever nuance of my day - the smells, the cockroaches, the piercing torment of Isabella's unseeing eye, her father's sore-ridden penis penetrating her tiny body. Yet in many ways this is an experience I hope never to forget. The pearls. I must not forget the pearls that I have promised her.
When we began researching the film on behalf of Channel 4, which had commissioned and paid for it, the response from individual child protection workers inside and outside Cleveland was universally positive. Everyone we met wanted what they saw as the true (and hidden) story of Cleveland to be told at last: the story of how very young children - many of them pre-verbal - had been abused, first sexually by an adult, then systemically by courts and lawyers who returned them to abusive families. Each of these workers had knowledge of individual children from the crisis. Some were still working in the Middlesbrough area. Yet none had any contact with the families, none had been allowed to retain documentation and none knew of any official child protection agency that had tracked what happened to the children after the three fraught summer months of 1987.The key to resolving the puzzle of Cleveland was the children. What had actually happened to them? Had they been abused - or had the paediatricians and social workers (as public opinion held) been over-zealous and plain wrong? Curiously — particularly given its high profile, year-long sittings and £5 million cost — this was the one central issue never addressed by the Butler-Sloss judicial testimony and sifting of internal evidence, the inquiry's remit did not require it to answer the main question. Ten years after the crisis, my colleagues and I set about reconstructing the records of the 121 children at its heart to determine exactly what had happened to them.(p19)In the film we dealt with several of these cases. One case concerned one of the first families to be ‘reunited’ — the word, the very loaded word, used by all newspapers and television covering the case — with their children. Yet the social services file not apparently considered by the courts — makes very uncomfortable reading. It shows that the family — mother, father and three children — had been known to social services for some time prior to the 1987 crisis. • All three children were said to have behavioural problems - including an incident in which they dug up the floorboards and set fire to the family home. • They were listed as having an alarming number of bruises and scars on their young bodies. • All were seriously underweight. • They had contact with a close family relation who was recorded as having abused other children as an adolescent. • One of the children had drawn a picture for a National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) officer working with him — a picture of an adult man apparently buggering a boy. • At least one of the three children had expressed extreme reluctance to return home. This information and the risk to those children it implies was never properly tested in court. Faced with the juggernaut of press reporting and public opinion, the protection of children took a back seat. (p21)
I am saying that very clearly. In some cases, evidence was not put in the court. In other cases, agreements were made between lawyers not to put the case to the court at all, particularly as the crisis developed. Latterly, that children were sent home subject to informal agreements or agreements between lawyers. The cases never even got as far as the court. (Channel 4, 1997)”Nor is Richardson alone. Jayne Wynne, one of the Leeds paediatricians who had pioneered the use of RAD as an indicator of sexual abuse and who subsequently had detailed knowledge of many of the Cleveland children, remains concerned by the haphazard approach of the courts to their protection. I think the implication is that the children were left unprotected. The children who were being abused unfortunately returned to homes and the abuse may well have been ongoing. (Channel 4 1997)
Those who were molested or beaten as children or teenagers might later be vulnerable to sexual abuse or violence, because their natural impulses to protect themselves and protest (physical and verbal) were extinguished. Expectation of hurtful treatment by others or one's own failed capabilities can stubbornly persist despite overwhelming evidence that such is no longer the case.
Naw, I say. Mr ____, can tell you, I don't like it at all. What is it to like? He git up on you, heist your nightgown round your waist, plunge in. Most times I pretend I ain't there. He never know the difference. Never ast me how I feel, nothing. Just do his business, get off, go to sleep.She start to laugh. Do his business, she say. Do his business. Why, Miss Celie. You make it sound like he going to the toilet on you.That's what it feel like, I say.She stop laughing.
It’s hard to feel supported when you can’t tell people everything. People haven’t really got a clue what it’s like. It’s hard to trust anyone. It’s hard to believe people won’t let you down. I’m feeling like I want to cry. My body feels hollow. Empty. I don’t feel like I’m 17. I feel young. I’m not sure how old, maybe about 10 yrs. It’s hard to accept that I can’t get all the support 1 need from one person. From any person. It’s hard that no one can fully understand. It’s hard for me to admit that inside I feel a really lonely person. What do I need to do to take care of myself right now? Well I need to cuddle my teddies — it sounds silly, but I need some comfort... I was still cuddling teddies when I should have been cuddling boys. The sick imagery in my mind, rather than making me sexually active, had closed that door completely.