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A MOTHER'S STORY
A Mother's Journey with FMS
We had always been a close famlly, and although my son lived 800 miles away, Lori was here in town and we invited her for dinner every week. She would come home to wash her clothes, and we would occasionally take her to a movie.
During the last part of 1991, for some reason, Lori had become very upset with one of her roommates, Mary, and had virtally kicked the girl out of her life. This was after being best friends with this girl for five years. She and the second roommate, Joe, got a new apartment that was only five miles from our house. The only thing Lori would say about the breakup was that Mary would act like such a child, never taking any responsibility, that Lori felt as if she was acting the part of a mother and Joe was acting the part of a father. She was tired of it; she felt Mary needed to grow up.
She and Joe found a new apartment after much discussion about how things would be between them. While she had always looked upon Joe as a brother, he felt more for her than that. She told him that she just didn't feel the same way, and she would get angry with him if he acted jealous when she went out on a date. They talked it over and smoothed out their differences, and agreed to live together as friends. I always hoped that she would eventually care more for Joe because he was really a nice person, and he genuinely cared for her.
After they moved into the apartment, she began to use the laundry facilities on the premises, and we hardly saw her. When questioned about saving money by bringing the laundry to the house, she said she liked meeting new friends at the laundromat. We began to see her only about every two weeks when I would call and invite her to dinner and/or a movie. At the time, we took it as a sign of her growing up and breaking the ties with her parents, even though we missed her.
It was the end of January, 1992, and Paul, my husband, had to go to Miami for a week on business. "Tough job," we thought as we dreamed of getting out of the cold. The weekend before we were to go I called Lori to ask her to dinner. She told me she was having dinner with the Whites.
Lydia White was in her late thirties/early forties and worked in the same office with Lori. For some reason, even though Lydia was old enough to be her mother, she had befriended Lori at their office and taken her into her home practically as a family member. For many years I had worked where Lori worked and had gotten her the job there several months before I decided to terminate my employment. There were a lot of wild rumors (that I have since been able to confirm) about Lydia, and I was shocked and somewhat concerned when she became Lori's "best friend." I confronted Lori about this, and she told me that Lydia had changed and that everyone there liked Lydia now.
She began to spend more and more time with Lydia's family. When I saw her, she would show me all these self-help books that Lydia would loan her. Every time I called, she couldn't be with us because she was going to Lydia's house, or taking Lydia's 13-year-old daughter somewhere. Lori told me Lydia's daughter was like a little sister to her and she was having a great time being the big sister. Inside I began to feel terribly jealous, but I said nothing.
We went to Miami and had a very good time. When I came back and invited her out, Lori made an excuse that she already had plans with Lydia's family.
In a couple of weeks, we had to make a week-end trip to nearby Small Town. I called Lori on Thursday to tell her where we would be in case she needed us over the weekend. I got her answering machine and left her a message.
Friday, after work, Paul and I left for Small Town. He had a seminar to give on Saturday morning, and we were coming back Saturday evening. After check-out time at the hotel, I went to the lobby, had lunch, then spent about three hours reading while waiting for Paul to return.
He picked me up about 3:00, and when we were settled in the car for our trip back home, he said he had something to show me that was bad news. I couldn't imagine what it was since he hadn't been anywhere to get any bad news. He pulled a letter out of his pocket and said it was a letter from Lori that had come in the mall on Friday. He had not shown it to me because he knew it would upset me and would have made it very hard to sit in the hotel lobby with this letter on my mind. He was right!
Lori's letter was addressed to Paul and Kathryn. It said we wouldn't be hearing from her for awhile, and she did not want us to contact her. She said she was working through some issues from her childhood, and she needed a total separation from family right now. She said she wasn't blaming anyone, just taking responsibIlity for her life because only she could fix it. If we tried to contact her, she would have her phone number changed. It was signed "sincerely." I cried.
This hit us like a ton of bricks. What had happened? What was she remembering about her childhood? It had been a wonderful childhood. We talked and cried all the way back to Big Town. When we returned, trying to respect her wishes and not call, we wrote her a letter:
February 23, 1992
Needless to say, we were shocked to read your letter. You indicate that something is wrong in your life, and the cause is something that happened to you in your childhood, which you are just now beginning to remember. And, since you don't want to have any contact with us while you are working through this problem, we can only assume that we are somehow directly involved.
It is quite devastating to have someone you thought you had a great relationship with all your life drop this kind of bombshell on you with no explanation at all. The worst part is not knowing what is going on and how long this estrangement might last. We don't know if this is temporaly or if we have lost our daughter forever. After hours of searching the past, we can 't think of anything we did that was bad enough to cause this kind of reaction.
If you are attempting to remember your past, we may be the best people you could talk with since no one was closer to you as you were growing up. Or have we done something so horrible that you can't discuss it with us? It also occurs to us that maybe the best way to work out problems with people close to you is to confront those people openly under the supervision of a trained counselor. With this approach, each person understands the problem, learns how everyone else is feeling and why, and with the help of the counselor, the problem can be resolved in such a way that eveiyone benefits individually and the relationship can then resume even better than before.
Please give this approach some thought. If you decide to let us help you, naturally we will pay any costs involved. On the other hand, if you want us to stay away for a while, we will respect your wishes. However, if that is the case, please have the heart to at least write and let us know if this situation is permanent or temporary, and please try to give us some idea of what you are remembering and what is wrong. We wouldn't ask this of you if we weren't going nuts over this.
Lori, we both love you very much and have nothing but the very best memories of our relationship from the time you were born to the present. We want you to know that we are here for you and will help you in any way that we can. All you need to do is ask. Looking back over our lives, we both feel that you are the best thing that ever happened to us, and you are certainly our greatest achievement. I guess one of our faults as parents is that we didn't tell you often enough just how much you mean to us, but we are telling you now. I just hope it's not too late.
Please let us hear from you soon
He said Lori had never mentioned anything wrong in her family relationship. Quite the opposite, in fact; she had expressed only feelings of respect and love for us. Knowing that lupus can attack the central nervous system and cause delusions, he agreed that her disease might at least be a contributing factor to her behavior. He said he would call her and encourage her to come in for a checkup, which he did, but she refused, and still has not been in to see him.
I then got in touch with Mary, Lori's ex-roommate, and her mom, Kay. When I went to visit them, Mary said Lori had felt, for a long time, that someone had sexually abused her, but she didn't know who it was. She had even thought it could have been her brother or father, but she couldn't remember anything - just a feeling. I was shocked, to say the least. Lori had never mentioned this to me. Kay also told me that she had thought it rather odd when Lori had told her that at the time the doctor discovered she had lupus I had cried, and that had made Lori very angry. She told me that Lori had said she hated me for crying. I just couldn't believe what I was hearing!
Then I talked to Joe. He told me virtually the same thing Mary and Kay had. He was able to add some information since he and Lori had originally dated before they had become just friends. He told me that when he would try to kiss her, she always acted a little odd, and he had always wondered if someone had hurt her. I began to put the pieces together. Lori never could sustain a relationship; she always seemed to get more enjoyment out of the chase. When she would catch a guy, she didn't seem to want him anymore. She always told me she didn't want to get serious about anyone because she wanted a music career, and she didn't want a relationship to get in the way. I just thought she had a one track mind and being a famous singer was her final goal. She always jokingly said she would get serious when she was about 27 or 28, but until then she was just going to have fun, so I took her at her word. Looking back, I guess I wanted to take her at her word because I didn't want to think anything was wrong with her.
I couldn't stand it. I stopped by her apartment one day with the excuse that I was dropping off some mail that had come to our house for her. When she came to the door, I asked her if I could talk to her. With a smile she said, "I can't talk now." "Oh, Lori," I said, "Can't you please explain what is going on?" She said, "I can't talk now." I asked her if she knew when she would be able to talk, and she said, "I can't talk now." She wouldn't say anything else. By this time I started to break down, and I couldn't talk through my tears. I handed her the mail along with a note I had written her about how I was feeling - crying all the time, unable to eat, stomach upset - pleading with her to please talk to us, and then I walked away. That's the last time I saw her. She was smiling and never changed her expression!
Joe called us again and wanted to come by and talk to us. By this time, Lori had kicked him out of the apartment, and he was confused and very hurt. He said Lydia had introduced Lori to a friend of hers who was a "psychic" named Ramona, and that she had been hypnotizing Lori and doing "past life regressions." He said that this Ramona had told Lori that she had been sexually abused in previous lives. He thought that Lori had somehow gotten things turned around in her mind and had come to believe that it had happened in this life. He questioned her about her visits with Ramona, and she said she would lay on a couch in Ramona's office and Ramona would use hypnosis and ask her questions. Joe said she had come home from Ramona's one evening and told him that she had to talk seriously to him. She then told him that Ramona had helped her "remember" her childhood and that her parents were really sick people. She said that we had done all manner of things to her and that they were too sick for her to tell him about. He said she told him that we had invited our friends or famlly in, and they had all abused her.
I was in shock. I wrote her another letter:
March 15, 1992
My dearest Lori,
I think I have talked to just about every friend that you have had in trying to figure out just what is going on.
The consensus is that you believe that someone has sexually abused you in the past. Lori, if this is true, you certainly have nothing to be ashamed of nor do you need to feel any guilt. I want you to know I love you very, very much. You were and are one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
My concern now is how to help you get over this, and I want to know who did this to you and when. You know that if I had known about it I would have taken action against this person immediately no matter who it was, and you also know that Daddy would have killed anyone who harmed you.
Yes, I was also told that you thought it might be Daddy. I want you to know that he is devastated that you would think this, and has said that he would be glad to take a lie detector test or sodium pentothal to prove to you that he had never done this. But, the thing we want most is to know what you are thinking and to be able to address that and take proper action against the offending party. Maybe we could do it with Rebecca [Rebecca Scott was a very good friend of ours, and a psychiatrist] or anyone else whom you might choose and just sit down and talk about this. I have searched my mind trying to remember every place that I have ever left you. I've wondered if anything had happened to you in church or in the day care that you had been in for a two year period.
But, whatever happened and whenever it did, I have a right to know and do something about it!
There is one thing that Kay told me that I wanted to explain to you. She said that you had told her that when I found out you had lupus that I cried, and you said that you hated me for crying She thought that maybe you had felt guilty because you were sick. Lori, there was no reason for you to feel guilty because you were sick. You didn't ask to have lupus just like I didn't ask to have headaches. I cried because, when we lived in Small Town, I worked with a teenager in our church who had lupus. She had a severe case and at that time they really didn't have anything to treat it with except cortisone. She was very thin, and when they would treat her, her stomach would swell up to the size of a basketball, and her face would swell all out of proportion. Her family was from Mexico and, although I was fairly close to her, one day out of the blue I found out that she had returned to Mexico. She was 16 at the time. Her family told me that she had returned to Mexico because there was a well-to-do family there whose son wanted to marry her. Because of the lupus she wasn't expected to live much past 20 so they let her go so she could have that experience.
So you can see that in my mind, lupus meant a death sentence, and I was devastated at the thought of losing you. I know now that there are different types of lupus and more advanced medicines for treatment. But that is why I cried.
Lori, I love you dearly, but this is the last letter I will write to you. It's your choice whether you will ever contact me again. I am hurting as much now as if I had already lost you and am devastated at the thought of never hearing from you again. Please, Lori, let's talk this out. I need this so I can get on with my life one way or another. I want to know who might have hurt you to the point that you no longer want me as your mother.
I don't even know how to sign this so I'll just say,
Needless to say, from the start of all this, I was going crazy. I cried hysterically for weeks on end and lost 15 pounds in a month. We finally called Dr. B. back and asked him to recommend a psychiatrist who was famlliar with lupus and its effects on the psychological makeup of patients. We wanted to know if the lupus could be causing all this. We also wanted to ask a psychiatrist if there was any possibillty that we could have committed such horrendous crimes and then completely put them out of our minds. We didn't think so, but we were looking at all avenues to try to explain this madness.
Dr. B. gave us a referral, and we made an appointment with a psychiatrist, Dr. J., and told him the whole story. He said the lupus could be playing a part, but he was very noncommittal. He said there was no way we could have sexually abused our daughter and forgotten, unless we had a habit of dissociating. We asked him what it meant to dissociate. He said that if we ever felt like we were outside of our bodies or had lost time, we could have been dissociating. Since neither of us had ever experienced situations like this, we knew we were right in assuming that we could not have done this terrible thing and forgotten it.
As time went by, we received a second letter from our daughter. She told us that her memories were of sexual abuse. She stated that although there were some others, primarily her abusers were the two of us. She stated that these were her memories, whether we remembered or not, "I know what I know, and I have to deal with it and heal my life." She told us that she had plenty of support, many new friends and an "excellent" counselor. She stated that she was doing well. I replied to her letter right away:
April 14, 1992
Thank you for communicating with us. If you really believe the things you said, then it must have been veiy difficult for you. You will never know how difficult it was for me to read it.
Lori, I don't know where these memories are coming from. I know right now they seem real to you, but we never, never did anything of a sexual or abusive nature to you.
I only have good memories of you growing up. From the day I brought you home from the hospital you were the most wonderful child in the world. I remember listening to you "sing" to yourself when you went to bed and when you awoke in the morning; sitting on pins and needles the first time you performed at your middle school; and then hearing the first song that you put to music and sang. I recall seeing you off to first grade; watching you graduate from high school. I can picture the mornings over on the street where we used to live, when I would call to you from your bedroom doorway that it was time for you to get up; you would get up sleepily, walk across the room and hug me in the doorway. I would stand there and hug you back, and think to myself "just stand here and let her hug you as long as she wants to because someday she'll be grown-up and won't be home to give you hugs." So I would stand there and just feel your love for me until you would break away and start getting ready for school. That is one of my fondest memories.
Lori, I don't quite know how to say this, so I will just say it: It seems to me that if you ever felt anything for us, you would be hoping your memory was somehow wrong. And, you would be doing everything in the world to find out why you remembered something as horrid as you describe. If it were me, and I realize you are not me, I would be wanting to get some professional help to understand if what I was remembering was real or possibly had some other source. It frightens me to think of anyone abusing you, but if it happened we would have to face it. No matter what, we love you very much.
By professional help I mean someone who has had years in school learning to deal with situations like this--a psychologist or psychiatrist. Dr. B. recommended a doctor by the name of Dr. J. We met him last week and will see him again tomorrow. As I expected, since Dr. B. recommended him, he was very nice. I am enclosing his card in hopes that you will see him also. We, as well as Granddaddy, need very much to understand what's going on. If you can't talk to us directly, maybe you can talk to us through him. Please try to do that. We'll pay for anything your insurance doesn't cover or all of it if the insurance doesn't pay anything.
Please, let us hear from you as soon as you are able. I miss you so very much I can hardly stand it.
By this time, I had quit my job. At first I had been able to confine my crying to the car going to and coming from work. Eventually, however, I would have to get up from my desk and go to the rest room where I would cry and then try to get cleaned up so I wouldn't have to go back with a red and swollen face. I didn't want to have to answer questions from my co-workers. What do you say? "My daughter has accused me of sexually abusing her."
As I mentioned in one of my earlier letters, we have a friend, Rebecca Scott, who has been a practicing psychiatrist for about five years. We have known each other since the time our husbands were in law school together. When all this first happened, before I had talked with Lori's friends and found out that she was accusing us of sexual abuse, we had given Rebecca a call to see if maybe she could help us in trying to find out why Lori didn't want to see us. We were surprised when she said, "That's funny you should call today. Lori called last night and is bringing her boyfriend over tonight. She said she wanted to play some of her new songs for us." This was Saturday, and she said she would call us back Sunday morning after church, and we would get together for lunch if she had anything to tell us. When she called us back Sunday, she said she didn't have anything to tell us. She said Lori never mentioned anything. She said she took Lori aside before she left and told her that we called and that we were worried about her. Lori told her there was nothing to worry about and that she was trying to work out some things on her own right now.
We left it at that but made plans to meet Rebecca and Don, her husband, for dinner the next week. By the time we met, I had talked with all of Lori's friends and had found out the problem was sexual abuse, even though we had not yet received Lori's letter with her formal accusations. Nothing was said about Lori at our dinner meeting. How do you bring up something like sexual abuse in a crowded upscale restaurant? After dinner, Rebecca and I went to the restroom. No one else was there, so I told her what I had found out and asked if she had ever heard of anything like this before. She acted totally shocked. The look on her face was genuine. She said Lori had not menfioned anything like this to her. I told her if there was any way she could think of that would help, to please let us know. I didn't hear any more from her.
About a month later, still going out of my mind trying to figure out where all of this was corning from, I decided to call one of my former co-workers who had been a friend and still worked with Lori. It was a difficult move, but I had to hear some news about her. This friend was very kind. I had worked with her from the time Lori was 15. She was aware of the friendship that Lori had with Lydia and she told me that she worried about Lori going to lunch with Lydia every day. She told me that everyone at the office still felt the same about Lydia; that there had been no change in her. She said she was aware that something was wrong between Lori and her family, but she hadn't known what. She was very sympathetic and said, "Everyone at the office knew Lori hung the moon as far as you were concerned." I couldn't believe what my friend then told me. The first shocker was when she asked, "Didn't your son come down and spend his spring break with her?" I couldn't believe this! Our son's wife works as a school teacher and he is a student. I knew that they didn't have money to buy airplane tickets. The next surprise was when my friend told me that she thought Lori was living with some of our friends. She described how Lori talked about them--you guessed it, Don and Rebecca Scott!
At this point we had not brought Josh into the situation because we didn't want to aiarm him until we could figure out what was going on. I called Josh and asked him about his clandestine trip. He admitted to it and said it was bothering him, but he had promised Lori not to tell he had been here. He said that Lori had wanted him to go see Ramona, the psychic, with her and he did. He cautioned me that this Ramona was a dangerous woman and that she was a fake. He said that when Lori brought up the subject of suing her parents for abuse, Ramona told her not to sue because that would just make Lori feel more like a victim. Ramona said she knew because she had two people suing her!
I had been trying to find this Ramona person for weeks. She wasn't in the phone book. I had gone to every psychic bookstore in Big Town and questioned workers and patrons alike trying to find out who this person was. I pored over new age newspapers and advertisements trying to find her. Finally, although Josh didn't know her last name, he was able to describe where her building was, and from that I was able to locate her office. I walked into her office, and picked up one of her business cards without anyone seeing me.
My husband asked, "Now that you've got her card, what are you going to do with it?" That was a good question. I wanted to go see Ramona and confront her with the things she was telling my daughter; everyone in the family cautioned me against doing this. I was having such a hard time dealing with it, and I didn't know what to do. My family kept telling me to put this behind me and go on with my life, but how could I - this is my daughter!
My husband then called Rebecca to tell her that we understood that Lori was living in her home and that we would like to get together and talk. We wanted to tell Rebecca and Don our side of the story and all the things we had learned about lupus and the effects it can have on its victims. She wouldn't see us! She said she would have to talk to Lori and Don about it and see if Lori would approve of us meeting. Paul and I talked about this for hours. We couldn't understand why she had to have Lori's permission. We couldn't understand why Lori had to know! We just wanted to explain what we were going through and find out how Lori was doing, but they wouldn't talk to us.
As the days went by, I began to think more and more about how Lori was being damaged by Ramona and that the further it went the harder it would be to recover. I began to stew and obsess with these thoughts and had a very difficult time just getting by. I knew we had to try again to talk to Don and Rebecca. I wanted to let them know that Lori was seeing a "psychic" who was using hypnosis to put these ideas into her head.
Paul was so upset with Don and Rebecca that he refused to call again. That left it up to me. For most people it wouldn't be a problem, but I am somewhat shy and have what I call "phoneaphobia," which makes it very difficult for me to call people on the telephone. But whenever I have been concerned for my children, somehow that mother instinct comes out, and I can do anything.
Don and Rebecca are members of a certain church where we were also members for eight-and-a-half years. Because of a difference in opinion, we left this church about eight years ago to attend a Protestant church. Being aware of the beliefs of this particular denomination, I knew that its families are very patriarchal, with the man making most of the decisions for the family. I decided that if Rebecca wouldn't talk because she felt she had to confer with her husband first, then I would skip Rebecca and go directly to the head patriarch himself, so I called Don at his office. I left a message for Don to please call me at his convenience. (Again, let me reiterate that we have known these people for 17 years.) Don called me back around 11:00 a.m. After I talked with him I was so consumed with rage, I decided to write down our conversation right away so that I would never forget a word of it. Before I repeat that conversation for you, let me say that Don has a beautiful, melodious voice. We always told him he should be on the radio because he has such a lovely voice. When I talked to him, he really turned his "radio voice" on. There was no recognition in his voice that he even knew me; his voice very formal and business-like. It was like he was talking to a complete stranger, like I was a prospective new client whom he had not met yet. This is what I recorded about that conversation when he returned my call:
Wednesday, May 6, 1992
I broke down and was crying hysterically. I told him what I knew of what was happening to Lori and that I really needed to talk to someone who had seen her. He said he saw her now and then but not very often. He told me she was seeing a counselor who he believed was a psychiatrist, but he didn't know who it was, although he thought Rebecca probably did.
I asked him to have Rebecca call me if she knew anything else. I thanked him for talking with me to which he replied, "Well, it's always a pleasure talking with you." I hung up without saying good-bye!
Even though I broke down and was crying throughout the entire conversation, he remained very formal, talking to me as though I were a stranger. He never once said, "I'm sorry this is happening to you; we're your friends; if there is anything we can do;" nothing.
Paul and I just couldn't understand their reaction. Had they really bought Lori's story so completely they didn't even want to hear our side? Were they judging us guilty without even a trial? This left us with feelings of disbelief, betrayal, anger, and great sorrow. We kept thinking how we would be handling the situation differently if it was one of their four children who came to us. It was still so hard to understand.
Some time later I called our son Josh again to talk with him further about what was happening. As I was talking with him his voice suddenly changed and grew very low, almost to a whisper. He said, "I think Daddy abused me, too." I think I stopped breathing!
We had always been very close to Josh until he was 17, and then out of the blue he just decided he didn't like us anymore. I think the problem was a common one in that he was just trying to find his own individuality. He had met his future wife to whom he gave his allegiance, and we just got in the way. He also got upset with us when we refused to pay to send him to a small private college that he wanted to attend. At the time, we told him we would pay all of his tuition if he went to an in-state school. Or, we would give him that amount of money, and he would have to make up the balance if he insisted on going to this private college that cost $14,000 per year. He was very angry with us because he felt we were withholding funds from him because we didn't want him to be near his girlfriend (which, we felt, was the only reason he wanted to go to this small, private school). He didn't understand that just because his dad was a lawyer, it didn't mean we had unlimited supplies of money. Our relationship deteriorated so badly that, at the time, I didn't think we would ever have a chance at putting it back together. During this time, Lori had always been a complete angel - never doing anything wrong-and we treated her accordingly. Because of our reaction, I'm sure Josh felt that we probably cared more for her than we did for him which, I might add, was completely untrue.
Several things happened that worried us during that time. One was that my husband had found one of Josh's darts stuck in the tire of his car. Since it belonged to Josh, we assumed he had done it. We blamed him even though he kept saying he did not do it. We tried to get Josh counseling, but after a few times, he absolutely refused to go back. When we tried to find out what was bothering him, he would just say we'd have to ask Elizabeth (his girlfriend, and now his wife). When he finally decided he was moving out of the house, I was a little relieved. I loved him so much, but I just didn't know how to handle him any longer. I figured we had done the best we could and the psychologist we all saw said he thought it was just a case of Josh always having things so good growing up that it was difficult for him to leave home. The doctor said sometimes kids feel they have to make things difficult so they have a good excuse to leave.
I have to admit, my first thought when Josh said Paul had abused him was, "Why is he saying this?" I wondered if maybe Josh still felt a lot of anger toward us, and this was just his way of getting back. He told me that he was so upset and depressed after seeing Lori that he had been to see someone with an MSW (Master of Social Work) for counseling three times. While working with her, using relaxation techniques, he had regained his "memories." He told me what he "remembered." It was of one-time abuse, supposedly taking place in his bedroom, which was directly across the hall from ours. We were still living in Small Town and Paul was in law school. Josh said he could see the episode in his mind just as if he were watching a television screen, but he couldn't see the perpetrator's face. Nevertheless, he was sure it was his dad. After the attack, he said he went into the backyard for awhile and then came back inside. He kept telling me he was really afraid for me, and he really sounded like he was. He didn't want me to tell his dad because he was "worried about my safety." After listening to him, I couldn't even talk. I had to tell him I would call him back later.
To me, Paul is probably the world's best husband. He is always there for me, he builds my self-esteem, he loves to surprise me, he helps me with anything and everything, he has always been a wonderful father, and never in his life has he ever been violent. Sure, sometimes he gets angry, but it is over as fast as it comes. I hung up and went to our bedroom and cried until Paul found me and wanted to know what was wrong. I told Paul what Josh had said. It was like I had hit him with a brick! He was shocked, angry, hurt. We kept going over and over every point of his story saying there's no way something like that could have happened. The story that Josh told, including a claim that he had a tiny scar from the experience, almost sounded like the stories you read about people who say they have been abducted byspace aliens. I kept saying there was no way he could have been sexually abused right across the hall from me with all the doors open, and then gone outside in the middle of the night without being heard. The kids were only five and eight at the time, and if someone had abused them at the house, there would have been telltale signs of it, especially in the laundry. Even realizing that, we kept trying to figure out if the perpetrator could have been a visitor, or maybe Josh spent the night with someone who had abused him. And maybe, because he was still angry, he had assumed Paul was the perpetrator. We tried to look at every possible angle and figure Out an answer. We must have talked halfway through the night; we certainly didn't sleep!
The next night I was more composed and had made out a list of questions that I wanted to ask Josh and some things that I wanted to point out to him. He was much calmer the next night, and we both found it easier to talk. We were on the phone for a couple of hours, and I told him many of the things that Paul and I had discussed: how I had been a light sleeper; how his open door had been directly across the hall from our open door in a very small house (about 1100 sq. ft.); and how I had always heard him even when he coughed. I ended by asking him to be open-minded, to give it more thought. I suggested that he talk with a good therapist and that we would help him with the cost. He also made an appointment with a urologist to try to determine where the scar had come from.
I would call and talk with him every few days, and fmally he said that whoever had abused him, he was now sure that it wasn't his father. He kept saying he couldn't remember any of his childhood. I began to remind him of a few things that had happened and he kept saying, "Oh yeah, and I did such and such," and he would pick up the story and run with it. It was like he just needed to be reminded. We talked about anyone who had ever spent the night at our house-what they looked like, etc.; about his school and the day care he had attended; how I had taken him to see a psychologist when he was in the second grade because his teacher had thought he was hyperactive and how the doctor's report said he was just a normal boy. I sent him a copy of that report in which the doctors said he was extremely bright and seemed to think highly of himself. They had also commented how they had left me alone in one of their small rooms with Josh and Lori for about two hours and, even though the children had been very active, I had handled them very well, never yelling at them, but turning their attention to other things.
I made up a package to send him. In it, I included a copy of that report, and a copy of all his drawings and stories I had saved over the years. I also went through scrapbooks and pulled pictures of everyone who had ever come to our house and spent the night. I taped each one to a separate page and wrote down everything I could remember about the people and their visits. I drew a floor plan of the house we lived in when he claimed to have been abused.
After awhile, I spoke to him again. At this time, he was absolutely positive that his dad had never abused him. In fact, he said, he was positive that he had never been abused by anyone! The urologist had told him his scar was a birthmark. He assured me that he was okay now, and he was anxious to see us as soon as we could get together.
* * * * * *
We continued to see the psychiatrist, Dr. J., for about a month. He was very nice - not blaming - but I just didn't feel like I was getting any help, nor did Paul. Dr. J. had told us that four other couples had come to him within the last two years telling him of false accusations and mentioned that maybe it was time to start thinklng about a support group. As the months went by, I couldn't seem to do anything. I wanted to sleep most of the time. I got in the habit of going to bed about 3:00 in the morning and sleeping till about noon. I didn't clean. I didn't cook. I only washed an occasional dish when the sink would be overrun. I scoured bookstores, reading about child abuse and trying to find any book I could that might explain what was happening. There were NO books on families falsely accused. When I wasn't reading or sleeping, I was watching every talk show I could since just about every other one is on child abuse. I thought maybe I would find something that would help me.
One night, on a Prime Time live (ABC) segment, there was a story about unlicensed "therapists" who were treating people and causing them to believe that they had been sexually abused by their parents or by satanic cults. I just knew this was what was happening to Lori! I was going crazy because there just didn't seem to be anything I could do about it. I couldn't even find any information on it to read.
I really needed help, and then I remembered a certified hypnotherapist whom Lori had met and gone to see a couple of years ago. She had liked her so much that, at the time, I decided I would go see if she could help me lose some weight. Jane was a very friendly person, very easy to talk to, and I liked her immediately. I spent a couple of months under her care before I decided she couldn't take me any further. So now, in our time of need, even though she was not a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist, and therefore against Paul's better judgment, he agreed to go with me to see her because he knew I was hanging by a thread. We went together and told her everything that had happened. She volunteered the information that she and Lori had talked about a lot of things, but sexual abuse was never one of them. She told us that Lori kept her feelings bottled up and that maybe she was angry over something and had held it in for so long that it was now coming out in this manner. She didn't feel Lori was doing it on purpose, but rather it was just how her subconscious mind had worked. She said that while she could do nothing for Lori, she thought she could help us work on ourselves so that when Lori did decide to come back we would be able to handle it better. Because of a "boundary" problem, she wanted to work with each of us separately. We both made appointments to come back the next week. Thus began our training in "Co-Dependency and Dysfunctional Families," "trauma therapy" and our misadventures (and education) in modern day "pop" psychology - or how to blame your troubles on someone else!
One of the greatest things about working with Jane was that you really felt like you were participating in improving yourself. She recommended books for us to read, and through talking with her and each other about what we read, we began to make progress getting out of our depression with her guidance. I began to take my mind off of Lori and really concentrate on myself. She first told us to read Bradshaw On: The Family, by John Bradshaw (Health Communications, Inc., 1988). I hope all of you Bradshaw fans will forgive me for saying this, since many people talk about Bradshaw being the best communicator on the face of the earth today, but I just can't see it. That was the most difficult book to understand I have ever read, and I read a lot. The man has some good ideas, but he really has a hard time getting his ideas across - of course you have to learn a whole new vocabulary. As Paul said, if you are able to stick with the book long enough, you will eventually understand what he means. Instead of stating his ideas simply, he runs round and round the bush. He repeats himself over and over again saying the same thing in different ways until you finally say, "Oh, so that's what he means!" Paul stuck with the book. I couldn't get through it because I was bored to tears.
Jane kept saying I needed to learn how to feel anger. We talked about my mother, who had been deceased for 15 years. For two days, I sat at home thinking and writing about things my mother had done when I was growing up that made me angry and how those things had affected my life negatively. I got into the real spirit of it - "Yes, I was angry!! It's no wonder I sometimes doubt my self-worth after the way she treated me," I reasoned. When I went to see Jane the next week, I told her that I had really gotten angry at my mother for a couple of days, but I was over it now. I told her I didn't like trying to hold on to that anger when I didn't feel it any more. I told her I had made peace with my mother before she died and, even though I didn't agree with everything my mother had done, I still loved her very much. I could see now, with the eyes of an adult, that the things she had done to make me mad were done because she loved me and had my best interests at heart. Bottom line, I love and respect my mother and her memory very much! "No, no, no," Jane said. It had taken me years to get to where I was. I couldn't just expect to be rid of the anger in a couple of days. It was still there, she said, festering. I had to get it out.
I decided I would try Bradshaw's second book on my list, Healing the Shame That Binds You (Health Communications, Inc., 1988). This one was a little easier. Then I read Home Coming, also by Bradshaw (Bantam Books, 1992). This book included some questionnaires for the reader to answer so you could see just how badly off you were. The more "yes" answers, the more your "inner child" was supposed to be wounded. Keep in mind our "codependent" mind-set at this time. Paul completed the questionnaire first, and out of 16 questions he answered "yes" to eight. Then, I took it and answered 10 with "yes" responses. All sorts of abuse, including sexual, were suggested as ways your inner child could be wounded. Oh my gosh, we both thought, is it possible that someone abused us as children? Here was a man who was supposed to know, writing with authority on this subject, and we both began to question our own memories. Were we remembering everything about our childhood? Could something have happened to us that we had blocked out? What had happened that was so terrible we had repressed it? For days we talked about it but neither one of us could come up with anyone in either of our families who would have done such a thing. We finally began to calm down and come back to earth. We could see the fallacies in Bradshaw's theories and realize that he was just like any other "how-to" author. You have to use common sense when reading. What is good, use it - what is bad, discard it!
I also bought Melody Beattie's audio cassette on "Co-Dependent No More." I decided I was very co-dependent and should release Lori to live her own life. I kept telling Jane I just couldn't turn my back and let go. I said, "What if she were sick with some disease, such as cancer?" I wouldn't turn my back on her then. In fact, if I did, I certainly wouldn't be considered a good mother. To me it was the same thing; whether physical or mental, she was suffering from some disease. How could I just turn my back and abandon her? Jane said, "What if she had cancer and she told you she didn't want you taking care of her?" My answer was, "I'm her mother and she's my daughter. I would want to find out why she did not want me, because there would have to be a reason, and then I would still take care of her." In my mind, all I could think of was, "What kind of mother wouldn't stay with this thing until she had her daughter back?"
* * * * * *
I bought Melody Beattie's book Codependents' Guide to the Twelve Steps Prentice Hall/Parkside Recovery Book, 1990), which at the time I thought was the best book yet. I really liked Ms. Beattie's writing. It was very easy to understand and seemed to speak to me. I began to read it and tried to practice each step, examining myseif with a magnifying glass. One thing Ms. Beattie said that seemed particularly to touch me became my prayer each night. It went as follows:
I'm willing to let go of preconceived notions about what should happen.
I just knew that now I had the right attitude and that God would step in and make things all right. I prayed and prayed and prayed. I got no answer. Nothing was changing, and as this self-examination went on, I began to realize that this "co-dependent therapy" had done nothing to make me feel better about Lori. It had simply taken my mind off Lori and caused me to spend all my time thinking about me, me, me! But, in the meantime, Lori was just drifting farther and farther away. I don't think she was picking up on my "psychic vibrations," knowing that I was sending her unconditional love and thinking about her, as the therapy said she would.
I began to think more and more about Ramona, the psychic. I kept thinking I'd like to meet her and give her a piece of my mind. If I could find out who was suing her and why, maybe I could jump on that bandwagon. I even thought if I wrote to her, she would perhaps listen to reason. This is what I wrote:
June 7, 1992
I have been wanting to meet you for a long time. It took me so long to locate you. By asking questions everywhere I went, I finally met someone who had heard of you. They didn't know your last name or how to get in touch with you but they were able to explain which building your office was in. I walked into your office and looked over the different brochures on a table until I spotted your card. I took it and walked out without anyone noticing me.
I have carried that card around in my wallet for a month now trying to decide what to do with it. As I said, I would like to meet you but I was afraid if I called and gave my name you would refuse to see me. I thought of calling and making an appointment using a fake name or my maiden name, but I am not the type of person who can present myself under such a falsehood.
Who am I? My name is Kathryn Anderson and my daughter is Lori. I don't know what has gone on in your office or how in the world Lori came up with "memories" that we abused her. I need for you to know that nothing could be further from the truth and to tell you how much I love my daughter.
From the time she was born, she has been everything I ever wanted in a child. As a baby, even before she could talk, she would express herself in such sweet ways. It was as though God planned this little baby just for me! I realized then, as the old saying goes, that the dust could wait, and I just allowed myself to marvel in my daughter. When she was born, and for a long time afterwards, I felt like I was walking on a cloud with her - to have had such a sweet baby girl. That time was so precious!
As she grew, I never got over the wonder of Lori. I was so tickled to have a little girl. I wanted to sew for her so badly, but I put it off until she was about five years old because I was so fearful that I would drop a pin and that she would pick it up and swallow it. When she was old enough and started school I think I made all of her clothes that year, and loved every minute of it.
I would sit for hours and read to both her and Josh, our son, because I loved being with them. No one was more hurt than I when I had to go back to work when Lori started school because more than anything, I wanted to be a good mother to my children.
When we lived in Small Town, I had to leave them in day care, but I always returned for them as soon as I could get off work, and we would talk about their day on our way home. When we moved back to Big Town, I was fortunate enough to have family members that could stay with them after school but even then they didn't have to wait long before I was home from work.
We always tried to give both children everything they wanted or asked for, and sometimes that meant asking my parents to give it to them. Whenever they were interested in anything, we always tried to support them or get them lessons, or pay for school trips they wanted to go on. We always tried to plan vacation spots that they would like and kids' activities that they would enjoy, such as water slides; goofy golf and amusement parks.
We tried to be open with the kids and to let them know how we felt about things. One of Lori's complaints to me a few years back was that our family never got angry, never yelled at each other. My husband and I have always gotten along. We love each other very much, and we never felt like yelling at each other because neither of us thought that would solve anything. Back then we were taught (from books) that parents should not argue in front of their children, so if we did have a disagreement, we discussed it in private. I would always tell the kids "maybe," so I could discuss things with my husband before giving them an answer; when they were about six and nine, they jokingly told me one day that my "maybes" always meant 'yes."
As Lori grew, we thrilled with each success she had. I used to help out with her school plays by teaching her schoolmates to dance. I made costumes for her choral performances, and the first time she performed solo in front of an audience I was thrilled. I can remember making her costume and taking some black shoes to work with me and sewing sequins on them during breaks. This wasn't an easy task, my fingers were sore for days. But this was my little girl and if that was what she wanted, then she would have the best costume going! We watched her grow and her talent mature. We read with awe the stories she wrote in school and marveled at her talent. Then she began to write songs and, for the talent show her senior year in high school, she secretly worked to put her first song to music and performed it as a surprise for my husband and me. You just can't imagine how proud we were, and are, of her.
Ramona, what I'm trying to tell you is that both Paul and I love Lori very much. There is no way in this world that we could or would have done anything intentionally to hurt her. She won't even tell us what types of things she remembers, except for one letter she wrote us where she tells us that she believes we, and others, sexually abused her. There is no way either of us would have done this to anyone, much less to our own children. We have always loved them, nurtured them, and given them the best we had to give. We weren't perfectparents but I don't understand what is behind this accusation.
It's even worse that she will not communicate with us. I want to know what is going on in her mind so maybe I can understand where this is coming from and help her. I want to know if someone did abuse her, and who that someone might be. If she doesn't feel like she can talk to us I wish she would at least write us a letter, or communicate with us through a counselor, or better yet, talk to us with the counselor present. If she wants you to be the counselor that would be fine with us. I told her that I would leave her alone, and that I wouldn't write to her or bother her if that was what she felt she needed, but Ramona, I love her so much I can't just forget her. I don't want to run her life. I just want to solve this and have her know we love her unconditionally and have her love us again.
Ramona, I have been told that you pick up psychic vibes from the things you hold of others. I have tried to tell you how I feel here and I have carried this letter around with me for awhile, so it has been close to me. I urge you to hold it and know that there is only love in my heart for Lori. Neither my husband nor I would be capable of committing such acts.
I don't even know if Lori is seeing you any more. If she is not, then there is nothing you can do but if she is, please, let her know how very, very much we love her, and how much we wish to be reunited with her.
SincerelyAfter careful consideration, I never mailed the letter because I was afraid that Ramona would use it against me. She could use some of the details in the letter to further convince Lori of her psychic powers.
* * * * * *
Finally, one morning a real breakthrough happened. I was still sleeping late, but I would videotape the morning talk shows and listen to them when I got up. I was listening to Sally Jesse Raphael. The guests were two families that had been falsely accused of child abuse and another woman who had falsely accused her father of abuse only to realize later that the psychiatrist had caused her to believe this. The doctor had told her that anything that "popped" into her mind could be accepted as fact. These families could have been us on that stage. The stories were so similar it was incredible. Though they didn't talk about a group dedicated to this syndrome, they flashed the name-False Memory Syndrome Foundation-on the screen with the telephone number. I called.
These people were so helpful. Their foundation gathers facts and prepares studies on this phenomenon, but they are not a support group. I could hardly believe it when I heard this situation was happening all over the country. We defrnitely were not alone! They sent me a packet of information. It was the end of July, and it was the first relief I felt. Just knowing there were others and that there was someone to talk to who could really understand what we were going through was very comforting.
* * * * * *
It was now the first of August, and it was time to take our vacation where we were meeting some of our oldest and dearest friends. This vacation had been planned before any of this happened, and when we got the note in February from Lori, I kept thinking that by August all of this would have blown over and she would be going on our vacation with us as she usually did. I had really built myself up over this and felt let down when I realized it wasn't going to happen. Paul talked with me for hours, helping me get over this particular bout of depression. I decided to go on this vacation and try to put all of this out of my mind for a week or at least not talk constanfly about it and ruin everyone else's vacation.
We met our friends at the beach, and they had one of their daughters and her boyfriend and their son and his friend with them. We really had a wonderful time with them as they are the best friends we have ever had. However, their oldest daughter was planning to get married in October, and a lot of conversation was centered around the wedding plans. I was so excited for them. Their daughter and Josh were only three months apart, and they had spent their first three years together before moves had separated all of us. I remember toward the end of the week taking a walk with Paul on the beach one evening and crying. I told him how much I loved this family but at the same time seeing them together, like our family had been, kept making me think of what we were missing. We had heard from Josh that my daughter had gotten back together with an old boyfriend and that they were planning to get married in a year when they had saved some money. I kept thinking how I would miss that wedding, and she was my only daughter. I had been at my son's wedding, but you don't get involved in all the planning and parties as is the case in a daughter's wedding. It hurt me so to realize that I would miss that.
We had a wonderful week, but when I returned home, I buried myself in all the reading that the FMS Foundation had sent me. They talked about a book called The Courage to Heal (Bass and Davis, Harper and Row, 1988) that was doing a lot of damage. The author is a feminist, a writer and teaches English courses. The FMS Foundation mentioned in some of their literature that a lot of parents had found that the letters their daughters had written to them had come straight from the book. I wanted to see if Lori's letters had also, so I bought the book. I read the first chapter, but to me it was pornographic, and I had a hard time continuing because it really was making me sick, not to mention very angry. I began to skim the pages, reading here and there. I'm going to force myself to sit down and read the whole thing one day so I can truly critique it. As far as I'm concerned, these authors have done a terrible injustice to the family - to good families.
This book, The Courage to Heal is referred to as the "Bible of the Incest-Memory Recovery Movement." On page 14 of the book, Bass states "I am not academically educated as a psychologist... But none of what is presented here is based on psychological theories." On page 22 she teaches, "If you think you were abused, and your life shows the symptoms, then you were." On page 81, "If you don't remember your abuse, you are not alone. Many women don't have memories, and some never get memories. This doesn't mean they weren't abused. " There is even a section in the book for counselors that tells them on page 347, "if a client is unsure that she was abused but thinks she might have been, work as though she was." Page 349, "If sexual abuse isn't the presenting problem but your client has eating disorders, an addiction to drugs or alcohol, suicidal feelings, or sexual problems, these may be symptoms ofsexual abuse. " Page 350, "When you work with someone you think may have been abused, ask outright 'Were you sexually abused as a child?"' and "If your client says she wasn't abused but you suspect that she was, ask again. 'No, I wasn't' may mean 'No, I don't remember yet.'" This is like Roseanne Arnold's statement on the Oprah Winfrey Show: "When someone asks you, 'Were you sexually abused as a child?' there are only two answers: One of them is 'Yes,' and one of them is 'I don't know.' You can't say 'No.'"
This is pure lunacy. I would like these people to know there are some of us out here who put the blame for our personal problems where it belongs-ourselves! I'm overweight because I eat too many sweets, and I also take a drug to prevent headaches that has a weight-gain side-effect. I have headaches because I have allergies as well as a genetic predisposition for such, NOT because I was sexually abused! I don't doubt my memories because I have studied how memory works, and I know that it is NOT normal to remember ANYTHING other than bits and pieces before the age of six. I also don't doubt my parents because I know from their actions over many years how they would, and have, reacted to certain situations. By no means am I trying to play down the horror that a legitimate survivor goes through, but I'm trying to say, DON'T make everyone a victim of child abuse! Don't call me a liar and say that I'm in denial because I can say I know I was not abused. There is not a bogeyman in every closet!
The more I studied, the more I began to understand why some things had happened. For instance, I believe the reason our long-time friend, Rebecca, has not contacted us is the fact that the younger the therapist is or the less time a therapist is in practice, the more likely they are to be true believers or moral crusaders. Schools have taught them that the number of girls who have had sex forced upon them by a relative or other adult is as high as one in three. For boys the estimate is one in 10. However, those numbers are only "guesstimates." Can you really sit with a group of people and believe that one in three is a child abuser, or can you drive through your neighborhood and believe that every third house holds a child abuser? The actual number ranges anywhere between six percent to 62 percent, a range so wide that it tells us that we don't even have a ball park figure of the actual statistic. The therapists coming out of school are expecting to find childhood sexual abuse. They are looking for it. Since I have been aware of this, I have even heard of two people studying psychology in school who have come down with "memories" alter reading some of the books and taking the "test." It's been found that there is a correlation between minimal credentials and maximum discovery of sexual abuse. Therapists with master's degrees find more of it than therapists with doctoral degrees. Psychiatrists find less of it than anybody. ("When Therapists 'Find' Childhood Sexual Abuse," an article by Darrell Sifford, reprinted from the Philadelphia Inquirer, March 15, 1992.)
I also learned that most of the people who are experiencing False Memory Syndrome come from upper middle class fanlilies and generally have higher educations. The symptoms the "survivors" report are so general they could be attributed to several diseases, and throughout a lifetime, all of us have probably suffered several of them at one time or another. Here are some of the symptoms, taken from The Incest Survivors' Aftereffects Checklist as listed in E. Sue Blume's book, Secret Survivors (Ballantine Books, 1992):
Fear of being alone in the dark, of sleeping alone; nightmares, night terrors... swallowing and gagging sensitivity; repugnance to water on one's face when bathing or swimming .. alienation from the body... failure to heed body signals or take care of one's body... gastrointestinal problems, gynecological disorders; headaches; arthritis or joint pain... wearing baggy clothes... eating disorders, drug or alcohol abuse (or total abstinence); other addictions; compulsive behavior... self destructiveness... phobias... need to be invisible... suicidal thoughts... depression (sometimes paralyzing); seemingly baseless crying... anger issues... splitting (depersonalization)... rigid control of one's thought process... (security-seeking behaviors); adult nervousness over being watched or surprised; feeling watched; startle response... inability to take risks... boundary issues... guilt, shame, low self-esteem, feeling worthless... pattern of being a victim... feeling demand to produce and be loved... abandonment issues... blocking out some period of early years... feeling of carrying an awful secret... feeling crazy ... denial; no awareness at all; repression of memories... sex feels "dirty," aversion to being touched, especially in gynecological exam... compulsively "seductive" or compulsively asexual... pattern of ambivalent or intensely conflictive relationships... avoidance of mirrors... desire to change one's name... active withdrawal from happiness... aversion to making noise, verbal hypervigilance; quiet-voiced... stealing, and starting fires... multiple personality.
This is crazy. On some of these, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't! No matter what traits you have, you can be put in the category of probably being sexually abused as a child!
According to Hollida Wakefield, a psychologist and co-director of the Institute of Psychological Therapies in Northfield, Minn., it seems the adult children who "remember" childhood sexual abuse decades later are "not just anybody. 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... These therapists believe in the "rightness" of their diagnosis, and this belief, to them, justifies any means. The parents automatically become guilty. There is no "until proven guilty" because the parents aren't allowed to defend themselves. It's a no-win situation. It becomes much like a cult. Therapists tell their patients to abandon their "family of origin," create a "family of choice," and drop any friends who aren't supportive. They're told to join support groups such as SIA (Survivors of Incest Anonymous), and make new friends there. They're encouraged to share their stories and listen to other members' stories as possible triggers for their own repressed memories.
As I continued reading the FMS Foundation material, I realized that two of the doctors who were quoted a lot were in Big Town. Paul had begun to feel that Jane had taken him as far as she was capable of, and I felt that I wasn't getting any help in understanding where Lori was coming from and what I could do about it. We also began to feel that eventually we would work toward getting a law passed in our state whereby a person would have to have at least a Ph.D. in psychology to practice counseling. Therefore, since Jane did not have such credentials, I could not in clear conscience continue to see her. Paul and I talked, and we decided to make an appointment with Dr. A.
Dr. A. is a specialist in psychiatric aberrations of memory. He is also a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at a local medical school and director of a local psychiatric program for Dissociative Disorders. He has been very helpful in explaining to us how memory works - and doesn't work. He explained that for several years, both professionals and the public believed that memory worked like a recording device such as a VCR or computer that stored everything a person was exposed to, and that through hypnosis or therapy the memory could be accessed. But, current research shows that memory is far from archival. Memory resembles an incoherent or dreamlike world where the past is constantly reinterpreted and reconstructed depending on our current life situation. In other words, on days that you feel bad, you might interpret something from your past differently than on days that you feel good.
He believes that poorly trained therapists working with vulnerable patients are partly responsible for the satanic sexual abuse scare, and may also have led patients to believe they were abused, sexually or otherwise, when they were not. False memories can be planted through tone of voice or the phrasing of a question. Under hypnosis the therapist may ask, "Was there a group? Were they wearing robes? Were there babies present? Did you do anything to the babies?" The patient's imagination takes over from there.
Dr. A. didn't have any good ideas or ways to make me feel better, but somehow going to see him once a week and hearing of studies and other happenings in the false memory field helped. I guess it made me feel less alone. He made me understand that my not wanting to go to sleep at night was like the situation of the people whose family members had been held hostage in Iran. They felt like they couldn't sleep until the family member was safe and they waited to hear any word. He also likened our situation to parents who have had their child kidnapped. The only difference was we knew who the kidnapper was, where she worked, and where she lived, but we were powerless to do anything about it.
A few weeks after I started seeing Dr. A., we went to visit Josh. Finally, we learned of the specffic accusations Lori had made. After all the studying and worrying that maybe we had done something that she simply misconstrued, we were greeted with the horrendous reality of the situation. Somehow, I had come to believe that if we could just sit down and talk with her we could straighten things out. I was working under the assumption that things would somehow make sense. For instance, Bradshaw and others are teaching that if you make some off hand comment, for example jokingly referring to the size of someone's breasts, you are committing "emotional incest." This emotional incest is looked upon as being just as bad as physical incest. Maybe her "psychic" had taught her things like this, and somehow they had gone in and picked apart our lives to fmd anything they could label as "incest." But, boy, was I wrong! Her accusations are so bad, there is no way she could have taken any of our actions and twisted them into the horrendous crimes of which she is accusing us. I wouldn't dare write all of the accusations, because they are so filthy I could not stand to put them on paper. Here are a few of the "milder" ones:
There are many others but, fortunately for us, these accusations are so bizarre and unbelievable, it would be relatively easy for us to prove our innocence. For instance, Paul and I could readily prove that neither of us had ever had a venereal disease, and I think that if Joe had castrated someone, that person would be in a hospital, and Joe would be in jail! During Josh's secret visit to see her, she kept telling him she had scars from the abortion that Paul supposedly performed. Josh actually talked her into going to a gynecologist for a checkup. Josh went with her, and sat in the reception area. He doesn't remember, and we don't know which doctor she saw, but it was a doctor of her choosing. The doctor told her she had no scarring whatsoever, and her only comment to that was, "The doctor is in a conspiracy to discredit me."
During our visit, Josh told us how ashamed he had felt about accusing Paul. He also confessed that when I had dropped by Lori's apartment with her mail and the note telling her how I felt, he was there and had been in the apartment asleep. When he got up, she showed him the note and then burned it and laughed at the pain she perceived she was causing me. She then took Josh to Don and Rebecca's and again laughed as she told the story. Josh said the meanness of her attitude and the things she said made him so sick he had to go in the bathroom for about 10 minutes so he wouldn't have to listen to her. He said he debated over and over with himself whether to come see us at that time. He said he was sorry he had not. I am too. He saved a piece of the burnt note that he showed me.
He told us after his trip to see Lori, he got so depressed that all he could do was lie around on the sofa all day in his bathrobe. He and Elizabeth decided it was time to seek some help. Elizabeth investigated the difference between an MSW, a psychologist and a psychiatrist. From talking to people, she got the impression that the MSW was a qualified therapist. Since there was a cap on their insurance, the MSW's lower fees would make it possible for them to have more sessions and stretch their insurance dollar further. Elizabeth was very concerned about Josh, so they decided they would go together.
When they arrived at her office, the MSW told them that it would not be a good idea to work with both of them at the same time, so she referred Elizabeth to another MSW in the practice. The MSW whom Josh saw told him that if his sister was saying she was abused, he had to believe her. Then she told him if his sister was abused, the chances were that he was abused, too. Josh told her that he didn't want to be hypnotized, so she told him she could use some relaxation techniques-which he did not realize were the same as hypnosis-to help him "remember" if he was abused. Then she told him that if he dreamed something, or it "popped" into his mind, he should accept it as "fact."
When he went home he became more depressed than before. His usual 4.0 average dropped to a 1.5 and he would have flunked out of school completely, Elizabeth said, if she had not done his work for him that quarter. Josh said that one morning he was lying in bed floating between sleep and wakefulness, and he began to do what the MSW had instructed him to do. He began to think, "If something did happen to me, what would the situation have been, who could have done it, where would I have been at the time?" He said he then slipped into a dream and saw the whole thing laid out like it was showing on a movie screen. He really got depressed then!
By this time, it was Elizabeth's turn to see the MSW she had been assigned to. Since she was so worried about Josh, she wanted guidance from the MSW on how to cope and what she could do to help him. His attitude was really frightening her and she was concerned for his health. She told all this to the MSW who looked her in the eye and said, "This seems to really have upset you; this information must have struck a nerve. YOU were probably sexually abused as a child too, and you just don't remember."
Elizabeth told the woman her parents were divorced when she was very young, and she only saw her father every Sunday afternoon. Because she had perfect recall, she was certain her father had never abused her. The insistent MSW did not want to take this for an answer, so Elizabeth and Josh both terminated their visits. However, at the same time they thought, if people in authority who are supposed to know about these things tell you this is highly probable, then you have to listen to them, don't you? But they just couldn't believe it. They began talking for hours, trying to figure things out, wondering if this could really have happened.
Fortunately, the group they had seen called and said they would each have to schedule appointments with the psychiatrist who headed the group or the insurance would not pay for their visits. When they saw the psychiatrist, he told them it was not necessarily true that either or both of them had been sexually abused as children. This incident shocked both of them back to reality. It was as if someone else in authority had given them permission to again trust their own thoughts and memories.
* * * * * *
A few days after we ariived back home from Josh's, I received my last letter from Lori. She had written it in August but had not mailed it until October. It said:
August 4, 1992
I have come to assume that you have made yourself unconscious to a lot of things, which I can certainly understand. But one thing that I want you to know is that I realize that you were probably emotionally taken advantage of and somewhat intimidated into the lives that we led. I don't necessarily blame you for the things that happened to us as children, but my understanding of the situation does not mean that I can excuse it or forgive it, or that I can ever love you in spite of it, because I can't. I hope one day you will find some understanding of that.
One other thing I want to tell you is that I have a family now that I love very much. I understand you must feel some distaste for this, but I want you to be aware of it and respect it. My life is full and rich and very happy, and I want you to leave me alone to live it. I love someone else as my mother now. I don't want you to contact me any more. This is my life now and you are never go mg to be a part of it. I wish you well. Good-bye.
Needless to say, Paul and I were both very upset. I cried all night long. As time passed I began to get angry over it. I was tired of fighting and I just didn't want to have to handle it any more. I wrote a letter right back to her.
October 9, 1992
You got it-you won't hear from me again unless you initiate the communication!
I am packing up your things and giving them to friends or Goodwill unless I hear that you want something by Oct.23. After that, they're outta here!
Good-bye - Good Luck
The real victim,
I also wrote a last letter to Rebecca explainng to her all of the crimes that Josh said that Lori claimed we had committed. I also sent her several articles from the FMS Foundation plus their phone number and address. I gave her Dr. A.'s card and told her that he had said he would be glad to talk with her or refer her to another colleague as a third party if she didn't want to talk with him, since he was talking with us. We still have not heard from her, nor has she made contact with Dr. A. I thought surely after she had read of the ludicrous accusations she would be able to see through them and she would call. Then somehow, together, we would get Lori into treatment.
Lori's last letter seemed to have brought both Paul and me full circle emotionally, back to when all of this first started happening. We both became very depressed again. Finally Paul voiced what was bothering him about the letter, and was eating me too-even though the thoughts had not really formed clearly in my mind yet.
He said he just couldn't believe that after all the years Lori had been with us that she didn't know my personality well enough to realize that before I would have let anyone force me into doing anything harmul to my children I would have committed sulcide to keep from doing it. He was right, because he knows me well. At any sign of abuse, the first thing I would have done was take the children and go to my parents' house. If it had been a situation where I would not have had that option, I would have put them in the car and just started driving - anywhere. I'm one of those people who doesn't panic in a tight situation. I think clearly; the energy comes from somewhere, and I do what has to be done. I don't fall apart until it is over.
After this soaked in, I really began to be angry. How dare she insinuate that I had been intimidated into allowing such a thing to happen? I was highly insulted for her to pigeonhole me into the "typical" wife of a child abuser. She made me sound as though I were a wimp totally at the mercy of an overbearing man. I strongly resented it! Had she just forgotten all of the times I stood up for her? Were 21 years of my life wasted while I was mothering her? I became angry all over again at everyone who had anything to do with her beliefs.
* * * * * *
We haven't heard from Lori again. I still haven't thrown out any of her things. Every time the phone rings, I want it to be her. As angry and hurt as Paul and I both are, we still fmd it hard to just forget about it and go on with day-to-day life. Neither of us has worked in nine months and our savings are just about gone. We have to remind each other that she is mentally ill and the hurt and pain she is causing us is not really coming from our Lori. We love her so much. If we should ever reunite, I don't think the relationship will ever return to what it was. There would always be an issue of trust between us.
However, if she walked in the door today, I would throw my arms around her and all would be forgiven. There would be a living recreation of the "Prodigal Son." Unfortunately it looks like that celebration will be a long time coming - if ever.
Years ago, Lori wrote a song that was my favorite. She wrote it just as she broke up with the young man that she has now gotten back together with and is planning to marry. At the time, she was devastated. She had sat with her dad in the famlly room one evening, his arms around her, and just cried. I always felt she had written that song to express her feelings about the break-up and as her farewell to the young man. Now, to me, it seems quite prophetic that the ideas in it are the same ones I would express to her if I could talk to her now. The last words in the song are: Maybe you will turn around and I'll be there.
Lori, somehow, if God is willing, Daddy and I will both be there. And, if it doesn't take too long, so will your granddaddy and your great aunt. Please remember, they are old.
We all love you - MomEpilogue
My curiosity finally got the better of me and I made an appointment with Ramona, the psychic, using my first name and my maiden name. I did not want to deceive her, but desperate situations require desperate actions, and I just had to see her. I was a little nervous but not as much as I thought I would be.
When I got to her office she took me in and asked to see a piece of jewelry that I was wearing. She took it and began to turn it around and around in her fingers. She said she kept getting so many messages she was having a hard time zeroing in on any one. She asked me if I was married, saying usually she could tell but for some reason she was picking up too much confusion. Then she said that she saw some trouble in my marriage, something about me wanting to express myself more, have more freedom, and this was causing trouble with my husband. I told her I had no idea what she was talking about, that our kids were grown and my husband and I were closer and had talked more than we had in years. She made a couple of other guesses but came up with nothing correct.
She finally asked if there was anything specific that I wanted to know, saying that if she looked for something specific maybe she could zero in on one of her voices. I told her that I wanted to know why I couldn't lose any weight, and why I had headaches. She said she felt that the headaches were from tension. She then came over and felt my back and said yes, it was definitely from tension. While she was standing there looking at the back of my head, she could see that my hair is not real thick and asked if my hair had been failing out. I said it was thinner now than it was when I was young but I hadn't been aware of it falling out. She asked if I had ever had my thyroid checked. There was a possibility that I had a problem with my thyroid. I said, "Yes, I had it checked and the doctor said there was no problem."Well, definitely tension," she said.
She then told me she was going to show me a technique that I could use to obtain my own answers when I was at home. She gave me some paper and a pen, and asked me to choose a colored marker out of several colors she had (a color that my inner child would like). She then instructed me to write down a question that she dictated, using my dominant hand. Then she told me to use my non-dominant hand to write down the answers. I guess your non-dominant hand is supposed to have a mind of its own. I now know that this is a popular writing exercise that the "survivor" movement uses. At any rate, I guess the cat had my non-dominant hand that day because I couldn't come up with any answers to her questions. She decided that my inner child was "blocked" so she decided to move on to something else.
She sat down on the sofa and out of the blue she said, "I feel that your weight problem has something to do with sex." I looked at her kind of funny, and she said she thought I was using my weight to hide from something. She didn't know that I take a certain medication to prevent the migraines that causes weight problems!
Then, without missing a beat, she said she felt that my father had been emotionally distant from me when I was a child. I wish I could have played along at this point, but I was so taken aback that I couldn't. I said that my father had always been a kind man. She said, "Well, didn't he kind of keep to himself?" Then she jumped to another subject.
She said she saw me doing a lot of writing and that it would probably be published after the first of the year. I asked her, "What do you mean - like stories?" She said no, she saw it more as journaling. This may be the only thing she got right!
Then she said, "I see a lot of turmoil in your life. Are you sure there is nothing else bothering you?" I told her, "Yes, my daughter and I had a falling out and I was wondering if there would be any chance for reconcillation?" She said she felt that my daughter was just going through some things right now that she had to accomplish on her own. Then you could see the lights go on and Ramona began putting two and two together. She said, "How long have you and your daughter been separated?" I told her. She asked, "What is your daughter's first name?" I told her. Then she asked if I had a son who lived far away, to which I answered in the affirmative. Her tone then changed and she said, "Well, why don't we just get down to business and talk about what you came here to talk about?"
The scene probably could have turned ugly, but I burst out crying hysterically and she immediately softened. She was very kind to me and told me she had not seen Lori in about four months. She also told me of the visit between her, Josh and Lori. She volunteered the information that Josh was the one who had wanted to sue us and that Lori had talked him out of it. This upset me because the story Josh had told was that Lori was the one who wanted to sue. He said that Ramona had advised her not to because at the time Ramona had two people suing her and "it just made you feel more like a victim." I had spent two days in two different counties, before ever seeing Ramona, trying to find records of who was suing her and why. I had come up empty-handed.
This story left me confused, not knowing who to trust. I cried over it for two days and felt like I wanted to melt into nothingness. I suddenly realized that Josh probably felt so bad about the false accusations that he didn't want to add salt to the wound by telling us that he had wanted to sue us.
Before I left Ramona's office I apologized for deceiving her and she told me that it was all right, she understood. She then put her arms around me and hugged me while I cried. This did not cause my feelings to soften toward what she had probably done to destroy our family, but how ironic that this very needed gesture had to come from this woman. No other woman has said to me, "Talk about it, cry about it, I'm here for you." Some don't want to hear and yet, they would expect us to listen to their problems and give them all the encouragement and good wishes in the world. One person told me if we are depressed, it's because we choose to be depressed. We all make choices and we don't have to choose to be depressed.
I thought about this for a while and then I felt awful and hurt about what she said. I wished I had said, "How do I stop thinking about it when every time I hear a song that Lori has sung, I think about her? Every time I go shopping, I find myself saying, 'Lori would have liked that.' I find myself looking at a picture with her in it; I run across a letter that she wrote, or a card, or a gift that she gave me. Maybe I make a dish that was her favorite, or the phone rings, or a movie that she loved is shown on television. How do I forget? How do I prevent the catch in my throat, the tears in my eyes, and the longing? How could I choose to do this?" I wish someone knew.