PAGE A20/ THE WASHINGTON
TIMES - LETTERS TO EDITOR
Tuesday, January 27, 1998
WESLEY PRUDEN, Editor in chief
WILLIAM E. GILES, Managing Editor
TOD LINDBERG, Editor of the editorial page
PRESTON E. INNERST, Sr. Deputy Managing Editor
MARY LOU FORBES, Editor of Commentary
WOODY WEST, Associate Editor
ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE, Editor at Large
TED AGRES FRANCIS B. COOMBS JR.
Deputy Managing Editors
BARBARA TAYLOR JOSEPH W. SCOPIN
Assistant Managing Editors
GEOFFREY H. EDWARDS, Vice President, General Manager
RONALD S. GODWIN, Vice President
KEITH COOPERRIDER, Chief Financial Officer
MICHAEL R. MAHR, Advertising Director
CRAIG SIMMERS, Circulation Director
PETER COURTRIGHT, Marketing Director
CHRIS AMBROSINI, Production Director
SARA COOPERRIDER, Computer Services Director
Recalling the facts about traumatic amnesia
Suzanne Fields’ column is replete with misinformation apparently culled
out of a False Memory Syndrome foundation press kit (“The inexact science
of the human mind,” Op-Ed, Jan. 19).
Why has she avoided reporting on the scientific research on traumatic amnesia
for childhood sexual abuse? At least, she could have noted the widespread disagreement
of mainstream practitioners with the royal College of Psychiatrists’ report.
But, the real question is: Can support groups for parents accused of sexual
abuse (and in some cases convicted or held liable) ignore or suppress what
research actually says, substituting instead their own denial as science? apparently
they can, and have even persuaded the media to help them.
There is a hundred years of research on memory loss or amnesia associated with
traumatic events such as combat, torture, natural catastrophes, accidents, abuse
and crimes. World War II produced some solid documentation of dissociation and
memory lass associated with the trauma of war. At least 36 recent studies demonstrate
the phenomenon of traumatic amnesia, and show that it is possible to accurately
recall suppressed memories of childhood sexual abuse.
Nevertheless, historical revisionism is alive and well, led by parents who
want to reframe their son’s and daughter’s memories in an effort
to blot out what actually happened. Some families have reconciled by pretending
happened or by blaming a therapist. The most courageous have faced the past
and themselves, forging new bonds based on empathy and responsibility -- the
qualities of caring parents.
In the future, I hope Miss Fields is prepared to explore the wealth of scientific
research supporting traumatic amnesia, and address the public health epidemic
of child sexual abuse our country is facing.
SHERRY A. QUIRK
President and Counsel
One Voice: The National Alliance for Abuse Awareness
Suzanne fields’ column “the inexact science of the human mind” was
a very irresponsible piece of journalism. Ignoring the facts about recovered
memory, she presented an inaccurate and biased view about a psychological phenomenon
that has a long, documented history.
None of us wants to believe that adults use children for sexual gratification.
but they do. Children who grow up being violated by adults close to them cannot
bear to feel the pain of such betrayal. Some children develop dissociative defenses
to protect themselves from the pain and to allow themselves to continue surviving
in an abusive environment. Although some children cannot block out memories of
abuse, it is common for those who are repeatedly abused to forget the experiences
until later in life. Just ask the victims of former priest james Porter. Or Ross
Cheit, the Brown University professor whose delayed recall of sexual abuse resulted
in a successful lawsuit against his abuser. Or Marilyn Van Derbur Atler, a former
Miss America whose father sexually abused her throughout her childhood.
Miss Fields should get information from clinical sources rather than the self-serving
rhetoric of advocacy groups made up of parents who have been accused of abusing
their children. her inaccurate and inflammatory piece has done a disservice
to the many victims of abuse who were silenced in childhood.
My dad abused all seven of his children. I didn’t remember some of it
until my 40s. My sister and I sued him for childhood sexual, physical and emotional
abuse in 1990 and won a $2.3 million judgment.
It took a lawsuit; a $2.3 million jury award; a 20/20 ABC news segment, “Incest:
A Crime never forgotten”’ a CBS television film, “Ultimate
Betrayal”; my getting federal legislation passed (Child Abuse Accountability
Act); and his nearly dying two years ago for him to stop his denial. I stopped
my denial, too. Dad had abused me and my siblings and I told him so. It took
guts to let go of the protection that denial had offered me for years.
Two years ago, my father was dying and I visited him for the first time in 16
years. He owned up and said he was not proud of what he had done. Shame is a
powerful inhibitor of truth.
I am proud of him. He stopped drinking the day he was served the lawsuit papers
and has stayed sober since 1989. From his hospital bed, he told me the truth
--that he had been in denial. We cried together and held each other -- father
Recently, we were talking about a lawsuit I have against a powerful insurance
company for its abusive insurance practices and I said, “Dad, what kind
of a daughter did you raise, anyway?” he answered, “I raised a daughter
who is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in and I’m proud of
you.” If we each had not broken throughout denial, we would not have
a relationship today.
SHARON RODGERS SIMONE