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Article ID: 5013
Age Group: Adult
Posted: January 13th. 2003
Strange Therapy 
by Kerr Cuhulain
Many of the therapists instrumental in creating both the diagnosis and methods of treatment of SRA are like this. Most cannot present any evidence outside of the claims of their patients. For example, Dr Bennet Braun once stated that " I do everything by the rule of 5... Anything that I report will be well above the rule of 5, and that means from five separate people, often from different states."(114) And yet Braun admitted to his listeners that although he could not prove the claims that he was making, he was drawing his material from the reports of 80 victims of Satanic Ritual Abuse that he had either treated personally or whose cases he had personally supervised. Braun further asserted that, in addition to his own material, he had received material from hundreds of therapists form all over the United States. He had "gotten data from England, Holland, Germany, France, Canada and Mexico, which is (not absolutely identical) but real, real, real similar. Some of the symbolism is identical across these countries. The structure and the things people talk about, the types of abuse are very, very similar, so it's the same church, different pew phenomena".(115) Dr. Braun encouraged those to whom he lectured to forward their own case histories to him, assuring them that it will be locked away in a place safe. Braun further told them that all of the details which could indicate the real source of their data would be removed. This is all very well and good, but as a result we are left with only Dr Braun's word that this data has brought him to the conclusion that "we are working with a national-international type organization that's got a structure somewhat similar to the communist cell structure, where it goes from local, from small groups to local consuls, regional consuls, district consuls, national consuls and they have meetings at different times".(116) Dr Braun sought to mollify objectors to his methods and statistics, stating that "if even 10% of this stuff is true, then we're in big trouble."(117) If that is so, then what he says may have some validity. The trouble is that it isn't.
How do such therapists operate? A common scenario runs something like this: A female patient enters the therapist's office to complain that she is suffering from an eating disorder. Within a few minutes the therapist announces that the patient's eating disorder is a symptom of childhood sexual abuse. The patient declares that they do not remember any such abuse. The therapist assures the patient that they will eventually remember and hands the patient a book like The Courage To Heal.
The Courage to Heal was written by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis. Davis has written a Courage to Heal Workbook to go along with it, as well as the book Allies in Healing. Bass is the co editor of the book I Never Told Anyone. These two have presented workshops all over the United States on how to survive childhood sexual abuse.
Yet in The Courage to Heal Bass admits:
"I am not academically educated as a psychologist. I have acquired counselling skills primarily through practice. Since 1976, when I began working as a counsellor and group facilitator, I've had the opportunity to train with a number of excellent therapists. But none of what is presented here is based on psychological theories. The process described, the suggestions, the exercises, the analysis, the conclusions, all come from the experiences of survivors... I am also the partner of a survivor [Laura Davis]."(118)
Apart from allegedly being a survivor, Davis's only other claim to expertise is that she is a writer. In other words, neither of these individuals has any mental health qualifications. Dr Pamela Freyd states: "You wouldn't go to a dentist who had learned simply by watching other dentists. You wouldn't even hire a plumber on that basis. Yet here they are playing around with people's brains, their minds."(119)
In The Courage to Heal Bass and Davis list 14 specific instances that they would consider sexual abuse and then state:
"If you are unable to remember any specific instances like the ones mentioned above but still have a feeling that something abusive happened to you, it probably did... Children often cope with abuse by forgetting it ever happened. As a result, you may have no conscious memory of being abused. You may have forgotten large chunks of your childhood... So far, no one we've talked to thought she might have been abused, and then later discovered that she hadn't been. The progression always goes the other way, from suspicion to confirmation. If you think you were abused and your life shows the symptoms then you were."(120)
The basic technique espoused in The Courage To Heal is the same that I described as being used by Mike Moore and Richard Flournoy elsewhere in this article: Creative writing.
Dr Fink comments:
"There is a name for this- bibliotherapy...to give a book that espouses a narrow thesis of mental functioning is malpractice... I'd be careful about giving out books... The value of being a doctor is the Hippocratic oath- do no harm. This kind of behaviour is harmful, but the people doing it, for the most part, can't be called to task by the medical profession because they're not doctors. They should know better, but they don't."(121)
I chose this scenario carefully. Some therapists believe that there is almost a 100 percent chance that a woman with an eating disorder has been sexually abused as a child. Dr Lief states:
"That has been a myth for years. The American Journal of Psychiatry reported recently that there is absolutely no correlation between eating disorders and childhood sexual abuse. Yet many women are convinced that this is so, encouraged by the accounts of television celebrities including Roseanne Arnold, former Miss America Marilyn Van Derbur and LaToya Jackson."(122)
Hollida Wakefield, one of the directors of the Institute of Psychological Therapies in Northfield, Minnesota, describes the adult children who create false memories of abuse as follows:
"They are women who already have problems, such as personality disorder, and they're likely to be unusually suggestible... They see a therapist who believes that sexual abuse is very common and that it could be a factor behind many problems in adulthood. The therapist starts saying things like, 'Do you think you could have been abused? Don't you have some memories?' Under hypnosis, they're even more suggestible... My personal opinion is that the women who remember these events years later do have problems, and the 'abuse' offers a tidy explanation for their problems. Now they know whose fault it is that they can't establish decent relationships or get along with co-workers... It gives them closure... Some of these therapists take the position "It did happen, and you must believe it happened... These therapists are moralists, true believers, moral crusaders. They think they're helping people."(123)
Note that the fact that the patient cannot remember any abuse is taken by the therapist to be a symptom of the abuse. Therapists such as Graham-Costain and Laboriel describe attempts by children to resist therapists' invitations to engage in therapeutic activities "designed to facilitate disclosure" as a symptom of the abuse. "Alleged child victims of ritual abuse are described as never spontaneously disclosing the abuse."(124) In his paper "Child Abuse Accommodation Syndrome," Dr Roland Summit holds that if a child does not remember having been abused then this is a sign that the child has been abused. In 1987, Dr Roland Summit introduced a session on the recognition of cult phenomena, by reminding the audience that the type of experiences that the children have gone through "run a common basis for the development of MPD and other dissociative disorders... The worst thing that can happen to children will turn up in MPD... Sure enough, a striking finding has been the number of children speaking as alters through multiple personality, individuals who describe blood curdling kinds of experiences that have left us reeling in our incredulity."(125) SRA therapists such as Kathy Snowden attempt to justify this by theorizing that once disclosure begins, the hidden memories are suddenly made available to normal consciousness.
Sherrill Mulhern comments:
"Dr Summit's formulation is very revealing. Instead of referring to memories produced by an adult patient speaking in the voice of a child alter personality, he speaks of children speaking as alters. The two populations are blended into one silenced body. They have endured torture, they have murdered babies and they have cannibalised their victims. The child victim of long ago was allegedly forced to accommodate herself to her satanic family by a society which refused to believe. She is now heard crying out with the same voice as the child abused in day-care, whose terror at the threats and rituals of her tormentors engenders dissociation of traumatic satanic memories in a world which still refuses to believe the children."(126)
Dr Robyn Johns, a staff psychologist at the State Correctional Institution at Cresson, Pennsylvania, who has treated a number of children who allege Satanic abuse, states: "...children who have been victimized by rituals often have a knowledge of Satanism that is far more sophisticated than the adults."(127) Many of the therapists working in this field work exclusively with children, like Johns does. As we saw in the McMartin Day Care case, the fact that children use language beyond the normal vocabulary of a person their age and that their stories are more "sophisticated than the adults" as Johns says is that the therapists are either using suggestive questioning or other techniques that are implanting their sophisticated stories and language into the "disclosures" of these children.
Dr Johns readily admitted to the reporter that "he knew of no Satanic involvement at the prison or locally." Yet Johns stated that he believed that "rural areas appeal to people in these groups" because of their relative isolation. This is clearly pure supposition on his part. Presumably he figures that, since he can find no evidence of Satanism locally, it must be hiding out in the country somewhere that it has not been discovered yet. Johns further speculated: "...the next issue waiting to be discovered by social service groups is the link between Satanism and the occult and child abuse."(128) Yet we have already seen time and time again that despite the best efforts of social groups no such link has yet been substantiated.
The real tragedy is that these patients often really do have problems that need attention. But the therapist mis-diagnoses the problem as Satanic Ritual Abuse and treats the disorder accordingly. Since this isn't really the problem, the patient doesn't improve. Instead of acting as a warning that the diagnosis is incorrect, this invariably leads the therapist to suspect that there must be even more repressed memories or "alters' interfering with the therapeutic process and redoubles the effort to find them. Thus the patient, in an attempt to give the therapist what they want and finally end the ordeal, provides disclosures that become increasingly bizarre. The patient is really in a no win situation: If the patient plays along and plays the part of a victim of abuse, the patient is treated for a condition that didn't exist. If the patient is truthful and says that he or she does not remember any such abuse, they are treated as being in denial. If family members or friends figure out that the therapy is harmful and try to intervene, the therapist assumes that they are cult members trying to draw the patient back into the cult. Either way the patient's real problems are ignored or even aggravated by the unnecessary and inappropriate treatment that follows.
Ultimately the thing that stemmed the growing tide of such SRA therapy was lawsuits. Dr Renee Fredrickson, whom I mentioned earlier in this article, is a good example of this. Fredrickson was sued for malpractice in April 1997 by Mary and James Sommerfeld of Arden Hills, Minnestota. The lawsuit alleged Fredrickson used hypnosis, dream interpretation, guide imagery, and suggestion to implant false memories of childhood sexual abuse in her client. The Sommerfelds also filed a complaint with the Minnesota Board of Psychology in February of 1997. Fredrickson settled the psychological malpractice suit out of court for $175,000.(129) On 7 May 1999 the Minnesota Board of Psychology placed restrictions upon Fredrickson's licence:
"[Fredrickson] is permanently restricted from providing therapy to clients whose therapy issues involve cult, ritual, or satanic abuse. [Fredrickson] is also permanently restricted from providing supervision or consultation to other therapists with respect to cult, ritual or satanic abuse."(130)
Another classic example is the case of Dr Bennett Braun. Braun was recognized as one of the major contributors to the ideas about MPD and Satanic Ritual Abuse. Feminist author Gloria Steinem thanks Braun in the credits to her book Revolution From Within. In a 1980 interview Braun stated:
"The reason these cases are so hard to diagnose is the patients develop so many personalities to hide behind as a means of protection. And unless these personalities can be coaxed out from the dark shadows of the patient's mind, you would never know they existed."(131)
In 1992 Dr Richard Kluft, himself a therapist treating "survivors," stated:
"Every MPD patient in the country owes a personal debt of gratitude to Buddy [Braun]. He's the first ever to get a unit set up for these people, and all the other units around the country follow the trail that he has blazed."(132)
Braun and his associates Dr Roberta Sachs, Elva Poznanski, and Ann-Marie Baughman were named in a $10.6 million lawsuit by Patricia Burgus and her family. Burgus had been referred to Rush Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center for severe post-partum depression. Braun and his associates diagnosed Burgus as having MPD. Burgus was treated by Braun, director of Rush Presbyterian's psychiatric trauma section, with high doses of various medications and hypnosis. Burgus now says that under this treatment "reality and fantasy 'blended together',"(133) Braun occasionally kept Burgus in leather restraints during 6 years of treatment that included two and a half years as an inpatient. Burgus became convinced that she was a member of a Satanic cult, that she had 300 "alters," that she had participated in ritual sacrifice, and that she had sexually abused her two children. None of this was true. Burgus was told that, "Until I hit bottom, until I dug all of this stuff out, I would never get better and I would never have a chance for any kind of a future for my children."(134)
Burgus was persuaded to hospitalize her two healthy children, then 4 and 5 years of age. These two boys were treated by Poznanski, the hospital's chief of child and adolescent psychiatry, for 3 years because Braun feared that these boys might be genetically pre-disposed to MPD. The older child was admitted first. The younger child was admitted on an emergency basis after Braun pressured the family, telling them that "unless Mikey was in hospital over Halloween, he would be in mortal danger."(135) The children were encouraged to develop "alters." They were encouraged to display MPD behaviours. Braun even exposed the children to handcuffs and firearms in order to 'encourage the children to 'remember' episodes of abuse as part of a supposed transgenerational, organized satanic cult."(136) The children were rewarded with stickers for telling "yucky secrets."(137) This treatment cost $3 million. Patricia and her husband Michael ultimately had to get a court order to get their children released from the hospital.
"I nearly died," Burgus said later, "The memories I was being told were in my mind were so terrible that I could not live with myself as that kind of person... They have taken my past, rewritten my past, contaminated all of the memories that I have as a person, and I'm supposed to go on and live my life as though this had never happened. It's just not possible."(138)
Rush Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center ended up paying $3.5 million to the Burgus family. Braun and Poznanski settled out of court and are on the hook for the remaining $7.3 million. Sachs and Baughman are currently appealing the case to the Illinois Court of Appeal. Braun called the settlement a "travesty" and said that the out of court settlement was done over his objections.(139) Braun claimed that he had used "standard psychotherapy" and claimed that Burgus had brought up the claims of Satanic involvement herself. Poznanski issued a statement saying, "On the basis of the knowledge available at the time, I would not change the treatment of these boys."(140)
In 1995 Braun, Sachs, Jerry Simandl, Dale Giolas MD, Elane Shepp, David McNiel, Karen Gernaey, Raymond Kozial and Frank Leavitt were sued, this time by Mary Shanley. They filed a motion to dismiss in December 1997 but this was rejected by the court. The defendants settled out of court for a confidential amount.
In 1989 Shanley was hospitalized in Braun's unit after undergoing a serious medical operation. Using the same techniques that Braun had used on Burgus, Braun concluded that Shanley had a dissociative disorder caused by Satanic Ritual Abuse. Shanley's husband was told that he should protect his young son from ritual abuse by Shanley. Shanley was told that she needed to "'[prove] herself' by coming up with information to identify other Satanists in her community and 'save' her son from the Satanic cult."(141) In 1991 Shanley was transferred to Spring Shadows Glen Hospital in Houston. Her young son was sent to the children's unit where he too was diagnosed with MPD. Shanley was given high doses of medication and denied access to the outside world. She was allegedly told that she faced criminal prosecution and involuntary commitment if she attempted to leave her "voluntary" treatment.
As a result of this "treatment" Shanley lost all ties with her son, was divorced by her husband, lost her teaching career and ended up with $2 million in medical expenses.
Judith Peterson was the clinical director of the dissociative disorders unit of the Spring Shadows Glen Psychiatric Hospital in Texas. Peterson treated alleged survivors of Satanic Ritual Abuse. Ultimately a few of her patients sued her for creating false memories in them. One, Lucy Abney, went to Peterson to be treated for depression. Peterson diagnosed Abney as having over 100 personalities. After two years of therapy Abney was having "flashbacks of cannibalism, blood drinking, orgies and the sacrifice of three of her babies."(142) Abney reports that Peterson told her that her "husband was a high priest in the Satanic cult"(143) and that some of Abney's "personalities could be turned off or on by a 'secret programming code'."(144) Mark Smith of the Houston Chronicle reports that the state Board of Examiners of Psychologists had recorded five complaints against Peterson, but declined to give any details of the complaints. The state department of Mental Health Retardation, after inspecting Spring Shadows Glen Hospital, cited the following violations: "overuse of physical restraints on patients, censorship of patient mail and phone calls and, in one case, making a patient's discharge contingent upon safety from a 'satanic cult'."(145) Abney expanded on this, saying that her husband had been turned away after trying to deliver a carnation to her. Apparently the staff believed that the flower might be a subtle cue that would trigger alleged destructive programming by the cult. Remember Simandl's lecture and how he told us about cuing?
In 1990 Peterson and Houston therapist Cynthia Zarling were the co-authors of a case study concerning four family members that Peterson described as being members of a "transgenerational orthodox satanic cult" that was presented to the 7th International Conference on Multiple Personality/Dissociative States in Chicago in 1990.(146) Peterson's study matches the story of Kathryn and Dennis Schwiderski and their children. Dennis sued Peterson for malpractice. Peterson and Zarling's report alleges that:
"The mother was born into the cult and the involvement can be traced back two generations... The major memories as documented nationally by other cult victims were found in this family, including details about human sacrifice, cannibalism, black hole [sic], shock to create alters (other personalities), marriage to Satan, buried alive, birth of Satan's child, internal booby traps, forced impregnation and sacrifice of her own child."(147)
Peterson has since tried to down play this report, claiming that "The paper wasn't about blood and babies and all that. It was about dynamics within a family."(148) Schwiderski's suit claims that his family was selected for treatment of SRA "not because his family had in fact been part of a 'cult', but because it would be very profitable."(149)
Profitable indeed. Dennis Schwiderski, an executive for Conoco Inc., together with his medical insurance company, paid Peterson more than $2 million for treatment.(150) Dennis, now divorced, was investigated by a Grand Jury for abusing his son as a result of the disclosures obtained by Peterson. The investigation revealed no evidence of such abuse. Dennis contended that "therapists created false memories as part of a scheme to collect millions of dollars in fees for treatment of non-existent abuse at the hands of a Satanic cult."(151)
Kathryn was originally admitted for treatment of mild depression. The treatment lasted about seven years, ending in February 1992. Houston Chronicle reporter Mark Smith reports that: "...Kari Scwhiderski, 20, alleges in her suit that she spent her junior and senior years of high school locked up in a psychiatric ward 'being treated for abuse by a non-existent satanic cult.' The suit claims that Peterson diagnosed Kari as suffering from multiple personality disorder attributable to her by participation in 'a satanic cult from Tomball [Texas]... Peterson, along with the staff at Houston Northwest Medical Center, often placed Scwiderski in restraints,... 'ordered her to recall purported cult activities, and punished her by restriction of her hospital privileges if she failed to do so.' Peterson,... also told Schwiderski that she had 'killed babies in cult rituals but had repressed these memories' and that both her parents had 'sexually abused and tortured her.'... Kathryn Morgan Schwiderski, claims in her suit she was 'often placed in physical restraints' and was threatened with punishment if she did not describe her alleged participation in cult activities.'"(152)
Kathryn is now divorced and has no contact with her children. She was subjected to criminal investigation and interrogation and reported to the Child Protection Services after Kathryn became convinced that she was a member of a Satanic cult. Kathryn was made to believe that she had physically and sexually abused her own children. Kelley, one of the Scwiderski children, now 22, was led to believe these stories of Satanic abuse and gave the Harris County Sheriff's a statement. One of the Harris County detectives spent two years investigating Kelley's allegations. He found no evidence to support them.
Peterson denies the allegations and explains the Schwiderski's behaviour by saying "It's real normal for people to recant things that they have either difficulty dealing with or they have lots of shame about, or they feel they might go to jail about. That's one of the big problems with my parents- recanting, because that's a good way out for them."(153) Now Peterson claims that she no longer believes in Satanic cults. Her new theory is that "memories of ritual abuse ...might actually be several layers of memory implanted in patients by 'organized crime' to sidetrack therapists and law enforcement officials."(154)
Peterson was ultimately indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in Houston, Texas, on charges including mail fraud and criminal insurance fraud. "The prosecution claimed that Peterson willingly and knowingly misdiagnosed a patient as having DID and intentionally implanted false memories in that patient for the purpose of keeping the patient in hospital and thereby collecting fraudulent insurance reimbursements for her treatment."(155) Bennett Braun, Roberta Sachs and Corydon Hammond were named as unindicted co-conspirators in this criminal fraud case involving the Schwiderskis.
Braun was ultimately brought before the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation. Braun lost his license for two years, was fined $5000, got five years probation and was directed to take additional medical education. Braun may apply to be removed from probation after five years, but he may not treat patients diagnosed with MPD. He cannot supervise any other health professionals. The prosecutor in this case, Thomas Glasgow, stated that the settlement "sends a 'very powerful message' that doctors should not be practising 'hocus pocus psychiatry.' [Glasgow] added that there is not now, nor was there at the time of treatment, any scientific evidence that Braun's methods were accepted. [Glasgow] noted that doctors are supposed to be scientists, and Braun acted in an unacceptable manner. Glasgow said that it is his opinion that Braun 'got a kick out of being the leader in the field.'"(156)
The large number of people complaining about the abuse of this therapeutic process resulting in cases like this led to the founding of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. FMSF Director Dr Pamela Freyd reported in 1992 that more than 650 parents had contacted her organization to report that they had been falsely accused of childhood sexual abuse. Freyd reports that it is usually a grown daughter who makes such allegations.(157) As of November 1993, the FMS Foundation was aware of 140 persons who had retracted their earlier stories of having been abused.
As we saw earlier, when confronted with this problem the therapists supporting the SRA myth often claim that it doesn't matter if the memories of childhood abuse aren't objectively true. They often say that they treat such memories as symbolically true, thereby removing their responsibility to corroborate the stories. In other words they are claiming that unlike law enforcement, they don't have to prove that the stories are true. They just have to believe. Renee Frederickson, in a letter dated August 16, 1993, stated:
"Many established professionals who work with sexual abuse have maintained that the False Memory Syndrome Center is an organized, well-funded group of accused sexual abusers. As such, the group functions as a tool to harass, intimidate, and aggressively silence adults who have delayed memories of sexual abuse. The group falsely claims to serve as a grass roots response to child abuse hysteria, painting professionals who work with child sexual abuse as irresponsible, incompetent 'witch hunters'."(158)
Thus we see the therapists caught up in this SRA hysteria labelling any who are sceptical or non-believers as the enemy.
What can we do about this situation? Some of the "therapists" involved in this sort of activity have minimal training, consisting of a weekend workshop or two. There are no licensing requirements or examinations to pass. Anyone can set themselves up as a counsellor. Maybe its time that the government looked more closely at this situation and come up with some sort of standards that would exclude untrained and unstable individuals from this sort of enterprise.
As for the educated people who have developed paranoia about Satanic cults and by into urban legends like this? We can only hope that the law courts and medical licensing boards continue to scrutinize the "therapy" conducted by such people and hold them to account.
| ABOUT... |
Location: Surrey, British Columbia
Bio: Kerr Cuhulain the author of this article, is known to the mundane world as Detective Constable Charles Ennis. Ennis, a former child abuse investigator, is the author of several articles on child abuse investigation that appeared in Law & Order Magazine. Better known to the Pagan community by his Wiccan name, Kerr Cuhulain, Ennis was the first Wiccan police officer to go public about his beliefs 28 years ago. Kerr is now the Preceptor General of Officers of Avalon. Kerr went on to write four books: The Law Enforcement Guide to Wicca (Horned Owl Publishing), Wiccan Warrior and Full Contact Magick: A Book of Shadows for the Wiccan Warrior. (Llewellyn Publications), as well as a book based on this series: Witch Hunts: Out of the Broom Closet (Spiral Publishing).
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