My Experiences with False Memories
All names in the story have been changed (except that of Elizabeth Loftus and Paul Ingram) to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.
During my years in graduate school I lived in a run down house in a run down dangerous neighborhood with other students. The neighborhood was mostly row houses and garbage was scattered on the side walk. There was beauty in that neighborhood though. Sometimes there were gardens enclosed by the row houses that were hidden from the street. The other beauty came from the occasional college girl that would step out of her tenement and past the garbage on her way to class. I remember once a beautiful college girl who could have been Venus stepping out of a shell except she was stepping out of a dump. It was one of the most incongruous sights I have ever seen.
I wanted to continue living in the run down house because of the cheap rent and so became responsible for finding students to rent the other rooms. One day a beautiful woman (I'll call her Lauren) called to look at a room that was available. I told her I'd escort her from her home to mine since the neighborhood was dangerous. She decided not to rent but decided she liked me. One day she left a note under my door asking if I could go to lunch with her. I joined her for a picnic and soon we were in an intense passionate relationship. Besides being a beautiful smart girl Lauren had a sweet innocence about her that I fell in love with. I asked her to marry me and we became engaged. I couldn't believe my good fortune. This dream girl was going to marry me!
During our relationship Lauren told me how she had been abused as a child. She used to tell me horrific tales of abuse by her parents and would be tormented by flashbacks to terrible scenes of abuse. Once she lay on my chest and told me about a dagger dripping with blood.
She told me how her parents were members of a cult, how a friend of hers from childhood may have been murdered by the cult, how the cult engaged in animal sacrifice and how her father had injured her with a corkscrew. These tales were hard to believe to say the least.
I remember sitting on a chair in her room one day. She was in a teddy and looked like the sexiest thing I had ever seen. She said something about how in order for us to continue I had to support her and believe her. That was like being offered a pact with the devil, believe these evil crazy lies and I'll give you the most beautiful girl in the world. I left the room but the story doesn't end there. She didn't dump me then. Instead I went with Lauren to her therapist for couples counseling (I'll call her therapist Dr. Herman). To my surprise Dr. Herman believed Lauren. I asked Dr. Herman how she could believe everything Lauren told her. Dr. Herman told me that "The therapist has to believe the patient". Her therapist believed that people who are abused often are not believed and they need someone to believe them and support them. Dr. Herman felt it was her obligation to do so. Dr. Herman screened Lauren's mail to protect her from harmful influences (like her parents). Dr. Herman said that I sounded like the terrible False Memory Foundation. I had never heard of them but decided they must know what is going on and they are probably not terrible at all. I found out where they were located (Philadelphia) and spoke with them. One of them started asking me questions. She asked "Has your girlfriend told you stories of animal sacrifices?" She asked several questions to which the answers were invariably yes. She then explained to me about how therapists are creating memories of abuse in their patients. Some therapists believe that problems such as bulimia and depression can be the result of forgotten childhood abuse. They believe that the cure for these problems is to help the patient remember that abuse. Inadvertently however they can create memories of abuse that never happened.
These therapists believe that there are widespread satanic cults with rituals such as animal sacrifice. That's why my girlfriend "remembered" animal sacrifice.
How can false memories be created? Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle, has done experiments in which she created false memories. An excellent article of hers Creating False Memories, appeared in Scientific American.
How do therapists create false memories of abuse? The therapist convinces the patient that repressed memories are the source of their problem and the only way they'll get well is if they remember. The patient keeps trying to remember and starts imagining stories of past abuse. If the patient has doubts that those stories are true memories their therapists assure her that she is having doubts because she doesn't want to believe the truth. Eventually the patient becomes convinced that she was a victim of horrific abuse from her loved ones and abandons or sues them. Once a patient has one false memory she is likely to develop many more. Lauren started to have disturbing dreams about me and started to suspect that somehow I had been involved in abusing her in the past.
I became convinced that Lauren was having recovered memories. I warned Lauren and her parents and told Lauren to stay away from her therapist. Lauren went straight to her therapist and together they decided I had to be stopped at all costs. Lauren wanted money from her parents for medical school so she could become a psychiatrist and was afraid that I would prevent them from giving her money. She told her parents that if they wanted her back they would have to take me to the police and tell me never to contact them again. She and her therapist convinced them that I was crazy and that I was making up stories about Lauren because Lauren had broken up with me and I was trying to get back at her.
Lauren also went to my supervisor at work and complained that I was harassing her. Luckily for me, my supervisor believed my wild sounding story about her false memories.
Lauren called me and told me she wanted me to go see a different therapist with her. In the past I had encouraged Lauren to go with me to a different therapist so I agreed. I found out the location where she wanted me to go was the university police station. I agreed to go anyway and a few days before gave the police officer at the station literature about false memories. The day I had to go I bought her flowers and gave her a letter from someone who had recovered from false memories and who I had asked to help me rescue Lauren. I bought the flowers partly to make her feel guilty about what she was going to do to me.
Lauren and I walked into the police station and all the police started flirting with Lauren. She ignored them and walked past into the room where we were supposed to go. A policeman came in and yelled at me to leave Lauren alone. I said I was trying to help Lauren and he yelled that Lauren didn't want my help. He told me not to contact her parents anymore. I told him her parents would have to tell me that. He went into another room and bought her parents and her sister in with him. I had communicated a lot with her sister previously who had appeared to believe me and my warnings and I was surprised to see her siding against me. I remember the scene very clearly. Lauren's sister was holding the flowers, the policeman was yelling at me and Lauren was saying over and over again "I need more therapy". I was told by Lauren's mother not to communicate with them anymore.
Several months later I received a call from Lauren's sister. A lawyer had contacted her parents with questions and information that confirmed what I had told them. Lauren's sister told me that she now knew I was telling the truth and gave me her phone number and told me to feel free to contact her any time I wanted to.
Ironically the crisis I created bought Lauren and her parents together. Instead of her against them it became everyone against me. I was the scapegoat they needed in order to become reunited. They made a deal with her that if she moved in with them they would give her a car and she did.
Lauren then dated someone who I happened to have met at a singles function. This acquaintance was a psychiatrist by profession (We'll call him Dr. Levine). I told him the whole story. He asked me if he should date her and I said "She's going to date someone so it might as well be you. At least you know what's going on now."
I had just lost a woman who I was passionately in love with. I rationalized that she was being controlled by her therapist. I thought she was a sweet innocent victim and I was determined to come to her aid, stop her therapist from hurting people, and reunite us. I hired a private detective to help me get evidence supporting my story about the therapist, I found a deprogrammer who had successfully treated false memory patients in the past (I'll call her Dr. Rudkin) and I found out that there was a newspaper article about Lauren's therapist. In the newspaper article it said how her therapist was being sued by former patients for creating false memories.
Two months had passed since Lauren had left me and I was about to send the article to Lauren's parents when Lauren showed up at my job and told me that Dr. Levine didn't love her and she wanted to come back to me. I told her that I would let her back under condition that she met my therapist. (I didn't have a therapist this was my way to get her to the deprogrammer I had found.) She said OK. That weekend I had to leave town and when I came back I found out that she had gone back to dating Dr. Levine. He had called her and told her that as a psychiatrist he knew that things would not work out between Lauren and I and that therefore she should return to him. I feel that he abused his position as a psychiatrist. Lauren left me a note in which she wrote that she would see my therapist but only for 10 minutes in order to establish separateness between us.
I intentionally came 10 minutes late. When I came I found that in those 10 minutes the therapist/deprogrammer had established an intense rapport with Lauren. Lauren stayed for over an hour instead of 10 minutes. Lauren was a very bright girl and guessed that the therapist was associated with the False Memory Foundation. The therapist was honest about this, to my surprise. To my even greater surprise Lauren did not go storming out of the room when the therapist was honest with her about it. Lauren did decide to come back to me shortly after that therapy session.
There were a few months when we were happy together. I think Lauren was taking an antidepressant at the time and that antidepressant appeared to calm her down and make her a lot less angry. Lauren started making comments how she wanted a man who could support her in the style with which she was accustomed to live. I was only a poor graduate student. Her beauty made it easy for her to find men who could support her in a lifestyle better than she was accustomed to.
A major blow to my relationship with Lauren was when a close friend of mine, who asked me to be his best man refused to invite Lauren to his wedding. He and his bride discussed the matter at length and decided not to do it. They did not like how Lauren had treated me, they may have feared that she would engage in disruptive behavior, and did not want someone like that at their wedding. Lauren blamed me for this and in a rage, came to my apartment, cut in half a nightgown I bought her with a scissors and showed me pictures of her dating Dr. Levine.
I told her to get out of my apartment, partly because I was afraid of what she might do next. I managed to direct her to the door at which point she grabbed the sides of the doorway. I pushed her hands away and in the process inadvertently caused some welts around her wrists when I grabbed her hands to take them off my doorway so that I could close the door. She then went to someone who I had considered a good friend showed him the welts and accused me of abusing her and started dating him.
I loved Lauren and despite all her abusive and treacherous behavior I tried to hold on to our relationship. People said she must have had mental problems to begin with or she never would have developed false memories. I have seen a video which I obtained from the False Memory Foundation of women who recanted their memories. These women said that false memories could happen to anyone who puts their trust in a therapist who does recovered memory therapy. I don't think one has to be mentally ill to develop false memories. Dr. Elizabeth Loftus developed false memories in emotionally healthy people to demonstrate that it can be done simply through talking.
People also tell me that Lauren must have really been abused at some point in her life for her to believe in all this abuse. I think it only takes one kind of abuse to bring on this paranoid insanity and that's psychological abuse from a therapist. I'm not saying Lauren was never abused as a child. I once asked her if there was any abuse that she remembered before therapy as opposed to after therapy and she said she did. Maybe someone did abuse her at some point in her childhood.
One never knows what would have happened if one hadn't acted so I don't know what Lauren's fate would have been if I had never intervened. I do know that years later she admitted that she must have been very sick to believe the things she believed. I also know that her flashbacks stopped while she was dating me. I know she returned to her family after having left them for over a year and she told me the crisis I created speeded up their unification.
There is a video distributed by the False Memory Foundation of women who did not get help but who managed to recover on their own. The tales they tell are tragic and incredible. If one wants to understand what is going on one should watch this video especially the testimony of Melody Gavigan. It is likely that there are women who have not recovered and who are living in a nightmare. Lauren was living a nightmare of flashbacks when I met her and that nightmare could have become worse.
People have told me that if I had any self respect I wouldn't want anything to do with Lauren. Even Lauren once said to me something like "If I'm so bad why do you want to be with me?" I have also been told that I'm lucky that she didn't marry me. My efforts to hold on to her was irrational but sometimes desire and love are irrational. People are complicated and there was beauty and goodness and ugliness and evil all inside Lauren. I was in love with the sweet loving girl but her paranoia and the ugly side of her that I didn't want to see destroyed our relationship. Lauren is married now and has broken off all contact with me. I probably am very fortunate that she did. Who knows what accusations she might have leveled against me if we had stayed together. On the other hand towards the end she seemed to be letting go of her delusions. The only thing that I think remained was her paranoia toward me.
What happened to me is nothing compared to what happens to fathers who are abandoned by their daughters and even sued by them as a result of False Memories created by delusional therapists. People have been locked up for years because of accusations based on false memories.
Although after reading my experiences with Recovered Memory Therapy, you may say to yourself this is an incredible story, this story is nothing compared to the story of Paul Ingram or the story of the St. George's Episcopal Church's Wee Care Day Care Center in Wenatchee. A TV movie called Forgotten Sins was made about Paul Ingram's story because it was so incredible. Helicopters were flying over the State of Washington looking with infrared sensors for graveyards in order to corroborate the stories of his daughters who accused him. (Of course those graveyards were never found). Paul Ingram is still in prison for a crime he didn't commit. For ways you can help click on the link to the Ingram Organization.
The Cost of False Memory Creation:
Rick Ousten wrote an article called Compensation for 'false memory syndrome' costly for B.C. taxpayers (Vancouver Sun, March 12, 1999, Page A1) about the findings of an employee of the Washington department of labor and industries who examined 183 claims that involved repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse. He wrote that:
She then took 30 of those cases at random and found the average age at which first memories were reported was seven months -- although scientists say human beings cannot truly recall much of anything before the age of two years.
Also troubling were findings that all 30 claimants were still in therapy three years after recalling the first memory, 67 per cent of them reported self-mutilation after recovering memories compared to just three per cent before, and the numbers considering suicide had similarly skyrocketed.
While just two people were hospitalized before recovering memories, 11 (37 per cent) were hospitalized after. Employment had plummeted, marital breakdown had increased, all were estranged from their extended families. A total of 150 murders had been recalled, 22 people remembered infant cannibalism and eating body parts and all recalled torture or mutilation.
Not everyone undergoing Recovered Memory Therapy just considers suicide. There have been suicides by people undergoing this therapy which may have been caused by the therapy. Perhaps the worst abuse of all is from radical feminist therapists determined to help their female patients.
Links to Other Pages on False Memories
Doctors Hijacked My Mind
A Home for Recovered Memory Retractors
Down Pseudo-Memory Lane
False Memory Foundation
c o p y r i g h t ( c ) 1 9 9 9 - 2004 Karl Ericson Enterprises. All rights reserved
Table of Contents