The Backlash! - May 1995

Letters to the Editor

Remedial reading? Thank you for the March Backlash!

Page 11: "It is men who must become more sensitive, who must learn, who must adapt." ("Romantic" fantasies, Judith Sherven & James Sniechowski)

Really? Sounds like something out of Ms. magazine. Not sure my spiritual guru would approve. - J.R., CA

Repress this?

This is my response to the article "Repressed Memory Syndrome", published in the March issue of The Backlash!

The Backlash! announced the article on its cover as "Mommy Dearest-Another Side to 'Repressed Memory Syndrome'." One may only speculate whether the fact that the accuser was a son (and a self-proclaimed male activist) and the accused was his mother, made this view from "the other side" more attractive to The Backlash! than if a similar story was presented by a daughter accusing her father. There are, indeed, two sides to this issue, but the demarcation line has nothing to do with the gender of the accuser or the accused. The options for those taking sides in this debate are quite unambiguous. Either the human mind has the strange ability (unknown to psychiatry until the onset of the recovery movement in early 80's) to completely repress repeated traumatic events and recover them decades later in minute detail, or it does not have this ability. The therapy setting and special techniques used (such as hypnosis) either access life histories previously unknown to the patient, or these procedures create pseudo memories. The truth cannot be somewhere in the middle. Because of the clear-cut nature of these positions, it would be naive to assume that this debate will be settled amicably or on some mutually agreed middle ground.

By publishing this article, The Backlash! has endorsed its claims that "millions of men and boys were or are being sexually abused by women" (by their mothers?), that "tens of thousands of documented cases of recovered memory have later been corroborated" and that there is "only a minuscule number (under one percent) of false accusations in cases of dissociated memory". Where have this statistics come from? Can it be backed up by well documented, unbiased surveys? Can it be backed up by any survey at all? If not, The Backlash! slipped into the same league as, for example, the Northwest Women's Law Centre, criticized in the editorial for deliberately spreading lies about the frequency of rape.

Last but not least, I would like to address the attack on the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF). This international organization comprised of thousands of concerned professionals and people accused on the basis of "recovered memories" has been mentioned eleven times, each time in a slanderous, hateful manner. In my three years of work with this organization I have read many attacks from "the other side", but none comes even close to the one presented on the pages of The Backlash! Not a single claim made about the FMSF by Mr. Abraham is true. I let the readers judge for themselves. In December 1994, one of the most prestigious American medical school, Johns Hopkins Medical Institution in Baltimore co-sponsored, together with the FMS Foundation, a three-day international conference "Memory and Reality: Reconciliation" which dealt with the clinical, scientific, legal, and educational issues of the false memory syndrome. Would Johns Hopkins endorse "..pedophile support organization..that defends adults who raped kids..promotes ludicrous charges and laughable theories..whose claims are deliberate lies and fabrications.."? I leave it to the readers to decide. - Paula Tyroller, Ph.D.

Confounded confabulations?

Mr. Abraham's article on the "Repressed Memory Syndrome" is so filled with nonsense that one scarcely knows where to start. He calls the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF) an "organization that defends adults who raped kids." No, it is an organization that defends parents who are accused of having molested a child (usually a daughter now in her 30s), based on nothing more substantial than a supposedly "recovered memory," which is usually "recovered" with the assistance of a therapist who is an ardent feminist. Mr. Abraham seems to think it impossible that any such accusation could ever be false. Of course, we know that false accusations of "child abuse" are routinely made against fathers during custody disputes. He also wrongly states that the FMSF denies "even the possibility that memories are repressed." They do not. Rather, they say that there is no way for anyone to determine whether a supposedly "recovered" memory represents truth, or fantasy.

He says that the FMSF "refute[s] tens of thousands of documented cases of recovered memory that later have been corroborated by witnesses and hard legal evidence". And just where, pray tell, is all this supposed "documentation"? In feminist newsletters, perhaps? There certainly is nothing of the kind in any peer- reviewed scientific journal such as Science or Nature. You claim to have tens of thousands of "documented" cases: can you provide documentation for just ten of them? If not, then withdraw your claim.

And these same "experts" who are going around testifying in court about "recovered memories" are also testifying in support of the "battered women's syndrome", which is equally dubious. Most believers in "repressed memories" have cited as their best evidence the case of George Franklin, who was convicted of murder based on nothing more than the uncorroborated "recovered memories" of his daughter, who "suddenly remembered" witnessing the murder twenty years earlier. Just a few days ago, Mr. Franklin's conviction was overturned on appeal when it was demonstrated that all of the details about the case supposedly "recovered" in the daughter's "memory" had previously been published in newspapers. Meanwhile, an innocent man has spent five years in prison, but his daughter will suffer no punishment for making the false accusations that put him there.

Mr. Abraham ridicules the idea that the "recovered memories" are being used as an ideological weapon against men by feminist zealots. Let's look at a few quotes from The Courage to Heal (Harper & Row, 1988), the book he correctly calls "the bible of the sexual abuse recovery movement." (Both of its authors, by the way, are lesbians, a group that dominates the "sexual abuse recovery" movement):

Remember that all, or nearly all, of the abuse claims in this book are confabulations, and the accused are entirely innocent. These are fantasies of abuse created out of nothing by the "survivor" and her therapist, following the dictates of lesbian-feminist ideology. If this book, and this movement, does not represent the most blatant male-bashing, then I don't know what does. - Robert Sheaffer

Is it safe?

Your March feature by Scott Abraham was moving, but unfortunately, it flies in the face of my own research and experience. If you want a shortcut on research, read Mark Pendergrast's Victims of Memory: Incest, Accusations and Shattered Lives.

As far as personal experience, here in New Hampshire, Robert Nasuti was accused by his 14-year-old niece of sexual assaulting her when she was three. On that evidence alone, this married, father of three daughters and master sergeant in the U.S. Army was convicted of rape. Sensing the injustice, the judge sentenced him to a year in jail, not the 12 recommended by the prosecutor. Indeed, jury foreman approached the judge within the week petitioning to rescind the Nasuti verdict. But injustice is a done deal these days, and there is no mechanism since Nasuti's public defender failed to file for appeal.

Thus, Nasuti is currently serving his sentence. Ironic is the fact that this girl had another uncle "Bob." He committed suicide some years ago. Also important is the fact that this girl's own parents did not corroborate, and at times contested, their own daughter's testimony. The fact is, this girl may have been molested. But Robert Nasuti knows he did not do it. As his wife Lori says, "I have three daughters. Do you think I would stay with him if I thought for a minute it was true."

Well, she is not with him. Because he is in jail, robbed of his family, his career, and, equally importantly, his faith in the very country not long ago he would have sacrificed his life for.

As far as FMSF and induced memory, or suggestibility, anyone who knows anything about hypnosis knows that its foundation rests on suggestibility. Hypnosis, relaxation therapy, regression, all tools of recovered memory therapy, taint recall testimony. Furthermore, the advisory board of FMSF reads like a who's who in medicine - both male and female - and the AMA has issued warnings against recovered memory therapy. Personally, I wouldn't convict anyone in the total and complete absence of forensic evidence.

Maybe Mr. Abraham recalls accurately his abuse, but Nasuti's niece did not. And there is not one shred of evidence to suggest she was even abused. - Raymond Hughes

Damaging exposure

Publishing Scott Abraham's rant against the False Memory Syndrome Foundation exposed your readers to Scott's feelings but did little to inform them about the complicated issues he raised. Scott throws a lot of generalizations around: "Literally millions of men were sexually abused by women and millions of boys are being abused today...I'm not surprised that an organization that defends adults who rape kids exists...[FMSF] is an organization that has no scientific or psychological credibility whatsoever. Its claims are deliberate lies and fabrications..." And so on.

I asked Scott directly to give me some supporting data. He said he had once gotten into a "pissing match" with people over statistics but wasn't interested in the game right now. Too bad, because if he had the data, a lot of us could use it. And if he doesn't have it, he's throwing around a lot of reckless charges without firm evidence.

I sent his piece of Pamela Freyd, Ph.D., executive director of the FMS Foundation. Here's part of what she told me in a letter: "How can someone look at the board of advisors of FMSF and state that the organization has no scientific credibility? The statement does not make any sense whatever. I don't know why he would say FMSF is a 'pedophile support organization.' Where is his evidence that FMSF 'claims are deliberate lies and fabrications? If you are in communication with him, tell him please to send us the evidence for 'tense of thousands of documented cases of recovered memory that have later been corroborated by witnesses and hard legal evidence.' Indeed, if he can send us one such case we will print it on the front page of our newsletter. That is precisely what we have been asking for from those who have made the claims."

I believe her. I've been studying the FMSF for over a year, have read all their newsletters and am persuaded that they represent sound evidence and objective reasoning. You have to listen to both sides and eventually you have to make a call, but I can't see anyone who has looked at the facts coming out against FMSF.

Scott's wild accusations hurt men's advocacy groups in several ways. Many of us now realize that many men are suffering themselves from false accusations leveled against them by angry spouses or disgruntled children, overzealous social workers, and overwrought feminist ideologues. It is happening so often that we can realistically talk about an "epidemic" or identify the sentiment out there as "hysteria." The charges of male sexual misconduct keep flying out, many of them in dirty divorces, many others in workplaces and homes. And many of the charges are false. With regard to the most serious charge of all, rape, the rate of false accusations range between 20 to 40 percent, an appallingly high number for an accusation that can send a man to jail for a third of his life. We are just now getting those facts out and are finding people willing to listen. But if people think we're making our case the way Scott has tried to make his, we're going to lose credibility.

Also damaged by Scott's piece is our slowly emerging understanding of female sexual misconduct. For example from Michele Elliot's, Female Sexual Abuse of Children, (New York: Guilford Press, 1993) we learn that in Canada 50 percent of women report having experienced unwanted sexual acts at some point in their lives, as compared to 33 percent of the men and that in North America victimization rates for child molestation for females range from 6 to 62 percent as compared to a range of 3 to 31 percent for men. The wide range of estimated rates indicates that we do not yet have enough data to arrive at firm figures, but we at least know enough to say that female sexual molestation of young males is by no means rare. We are also learning of a connection between rape and female sexual molestation of young males. But there again research is only beginning. Nobody is in a position to talk about "millions" of boys sexually abused by women. Talking that way only duplicates the advocacy number game which is so often played by radical feminists. Women's groups have been getting away with it for years but men's groups simply cannot afford to be careless with data or with assertions drawn from data.

None of this says anything about Scott's personal anguish. What he has gone through comes out clearly in his essay. But he has not made a plausible connection between his person experience and larger patterns of female-initiated sexual abuse. Nor, by a long shot, has he made any plausible connection between what happened to him and what is being done by get-out-the-fact groups like the False Memory Syndrome Foundation.

Scott says that men's advocacy groups ought to distance themselves from the FMSF. I think that would be a serious mistake. The FMSF people have already helped a large number of men - and women - who have suffered an anguish which is perhaps as grievous as Scott's: the false accusation of incest by a grown child. These accusations have led to broken lives, damaged reputations and the final despair of suicide.

I say we stand behind the FMSF. For those who want to learn more about the outfit, write to FMS Foundation, 3401 Market Street, Suite 130, Philadelphia, PA, 19104, or call (215) 387-1865. - Frank S. Zepezauer, Secretary, The Men's Defense Association

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