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CHAPTER FIVE. False memory syndrome

Valerie Sinason Karnac Books ePub

Susie Orbach

In this chapter, Susie Orbach shows the part that feminism played in the understanding of the extent of abuse against women and children. She examines the processes of personal denial in the consulting-room, as well as societal denial and the role of the media.

In the spring of 1993, I wrote a piece in my Guardian column raising concerns about the take-up in the media of the so-called false memory syndrome. I expressed my surprise and concern that so many column inches were being devoted to a discussion of parents claiming to be unjustly accused by their children rather than to what I considered the more serious problem of the sexual violation of children.

I argued that—as Jeffrey Masson (1984), Judith Herman Lewis (Herman, 1981, 1992), and others have argued—psychoanalysis has a complex and reasonably dishonourable history in relation to the acceptance of the veracity of reports of childhood sexual abuse. Since Freud abandoned the seduction theory in the late 1890s and transferred his understanding of the accounts of his patients’ childhood memories of sexual encounters with parents to the realm of internal phantasy, psychotherapy and its allied fields have tended to overlook both the existence and the real trauma of sexual abuse.

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Valerie Sinason Karnac Books ePub

•   DAUGHTERS AND THEIR ALLIES (DATA) PO Box 1EA, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE99 1EA, UK

Daughters and Their Allies was launched in the northeast of England after false memory syndrome was fielded successfully for the first time in a British trial in the summer of 1994. A group of professionals, together with survivors of sexual abuse whose parents were members of the British False Memory Society, came together to campaign for justice for Fiona Reay, the first daughter in Britain whose father’s defence team had mobilized false memory syndrome against her allegation that he raped her throughout her childhood. Ironically and tragically, Fiona Reay had never forgotten her abuse. She produced medical records that testified to a decade of trying to tell her story. Although the Crown Prosecution Service had initially assembled other witnesses and medical evidence, she was ultimately left as the only witness, despite their willingness to give evidence.

DATA is deeply concerned that members of the health and welfare system refused to allow their professional employees to speak in her defence once the accusation of false memory implanted by professionals was raised in the media. DATA exists to ensure that no lone survivor or professional will have to take sole responsibility for breaking the silence.

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CHAPTER EIGHT. Serving two masters: a patient, a therapist, and an allegation of sexual abuse

Valerie Sinason Karnac Books ePub

Leslie Ironside

In this chapter, Leslie Ironside analyses a painful situation with which therapists are having to deal; when an abused child anticipates abuse in the therapy or distorts what is happening because he or she views all events through the prism of traumatic knowledge. Without polarizing or blaming, Leslie Ironside uses his training and experience to trace compassionately how such situations can arise.

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

Ana’is Nin

“It’s often safer to be in chains than to be free.”

Franz Kafka

Therapists frequently have to struggle with the question of the veracity of what they are being told and to bear witness to the difficulties that patients might have as they, too, struggle with the question of the validity of their own memories. It is, though, important that therapists bear in mind the difference between patients’ attempts to relate an event truthfully—that is, the struggle with memory—from the separate issue of what patients might want therapists to believe—that is, how patients might consciously or unconsciously alter what is communicated according to the present situation.

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CHAPTER TWO. “Children are liars aren’t they?”— an exploration of denial processes in child abuse

Valerie Sinason Karnac Books ePub

Arnon Bentovim

In this chapter, Arnon Bentovim looks at social denial, denial and the court system, denial concerning abuse of very young children, and denial in perpetrators. He provides a clinical and research overview.

At a recent meeting, a distinguished barrister repeated in conversation the often heard remark—”Children are liars aren’t they?” This was said forcefully, with a sense of anger and blame. Our response was a retort, with equal vehemence, that adults were far more competent and skilful liars than children ever could be. The barrister’s response was to state that the effect of children’s lies could be absolutely devastating to those against whom untruths were levelled. Male teachers had lost their jobs and lives had been ruined as a result. Although we felt inclined to say that adults’ lies had led to the destruction of civilizations, we hesitated to enter the dialectic.

Instead, we said that perhaps it was a question of who was assessing the child’s statement in terms of judging whether statemerits were true or false. This led into an interesting discussion about the problems of current approaches to police investigation. Because it is now accepted that children do speak the truth, in an allegation of abuse this leads to a serious investigation. To investigate a complaint without interference requires that, for example, a teacher or a residential worker has to be suspended, a parent has to be asked to leave the home, or a child has to be removed from a home. The process in itself, it could be argued, could set in train extremely destructive consequences, and what was required was a different approach to the assessment, more open and balanced.

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Chapter Three: Life—What's That?

Patricia Frankish Karnac Books ePub

How do we even prepare to begin
To tell of a life that is without sin
The child not at fault and yet so abused
Treated liked dog dirt and totally used
Hurt and controlled and tortured and pained
Rituals glory the bad people gained
So the child broke in pieces with lots of new names
Because of torturer's spiteful evil games.

The battle to live began at our birth
The child constantly fighting to even have worth
The horrors that happened splitting her mind
Into children and adults, animals of all kinds
The fight for their freedom constantly aflame
Until one day they were rescued and their freedom came
Many years came and many years went
Until one day a new life was sent…


To most people in the world, I exist as one person—that is what society sees and thinks I actually am. But to those who know me, we are much more than one person—we are many inside one body. This is because we have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), and have many alternate personalities (alters). As a collection of alters we switch in and out of the body, and are many different ages, both male and female, and animals who keep our body safe, all with different abilities and roles. Within the following writing by ourselves, you will notice changes between the words I and we. This signifies switching between alters, which we felt was important to happen for chronological continuity and for everyone inside our body to have their say who wants to. Also, direct quotes by any alter are indented in a different font. Everyone within our system has been silenced for too long, and now it is time for our truths to be known.

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