In 1991, Charlotte Johnson accused her father, Charles Johnson, of raping her when she was a child. Two years later, Charlotte said her mother, Karen Johnson, facilitated the incest and physically abused Charlotte, but Charlotte did not remember the alleged abuse until she was an adult, and both parents deny their daughter’s accusations.
Due to the allegations, a lawsuit was filed by Charlotte’s parents, naming a hospital, a counseling service center, and two of their daughter’s therapists. Charlotte’s parents claimed that their daughter’s memory was false, and that her counselors and therapists had somehow implanted the memories into her mind.
Prior to the accusations, and before being treated by the defendants in the case, Charlotte Johnson had been suicidal and even contacted a Rape Crisis Center. She received five months of psychiatric care, experienced flashbacks, and says she remembered being abused by her mother so severely that she went “screaming under a desk.”
Charles and Karen Johnson claim that those who treated their daughter, long after these incidents, encouraged and promoted her “false” memories of incest and physical abuse, and that the therapists used “recovered memory therapy.”
Charlotte Johnson has not retracted her memories, she opposed the lawsuit, and continues to maintain that she was abused by her parents. She and her attorney also tried to stop the release of her medical records. The issue went to the state Supreme Court, and in 2005, her parents were granted limited access to the records.
Charlotte’s parents say her therapists and the staff at her treatment center committed professional negligence for “suggesting” and “encouraging implausible childhood memories.” Charlotte’s memories include her father raping her when she was three, that her mother had once tried to drown her and came after her with a knife, and that there was infanticide within the family.
Why do human beings feel these memories are so “implausible?” Infants and toddlers are raped, women come after their children with knives, women try to kill their children and some succeed, and recently we have heard of more than one case in the news about infanticide going on behind closed doors for years. Just because the Johnson case wasn’t a family who lived in a trailer, and the Johnsons were a middle class family, doesn’t make Charlotte’s memories untrue. Do people actually think that only parents with a low-income, who live in unconventional ways, are capable of having sex with their daughters and murdering or aborting the children that are a product of that incest?
Sadly, yes, many Americans believe that their nicely dressed, church-going neighbors, who have good jobs, aren’t capable of rape, abuse and incest. This denial system is a blanket of protection for every sexual perpetrator who is married and has an upscale home or high paying job. Charlotte’s father was a physician, and his wife was a psychiatric nurse. Repressed memory of incest is often found in people who came from well-respected, educated parents. There are many reasons for this, which I discuss in my book. (available soon online)
It took fourteen years, and two pleas to the state Supreme Court, to get the Johnson’s civil lawsuit to trial. After ten hours of deliberation, a jury has awarded Charlotte’s parents with one million dollars. The jury believed that the therapists somehow “implanted” memories of incest and psychological torture into their daughter’s mind —even though Charlotte does not agree with the lawsuit and has not retracted her memories.
The Johnsons had also been accused of being “Satanists” by their daughter. The rape, abuse, and satanic abuse memories have all been called “outrageous” by the parent’s attorney. Why? Because mainstream Americans do not believe that Satanic Ritual Abuse exists, or that “normal” looking people are capable of such things. This is exactly why Satanic Ritual Abuse continues to exist, and does so in the highest levels of society and government.
Neil Brick, founder and editor of SMART (Stop Mind Control and Ritual Abuse) is a survivor of ritual abuse and mind control. He has researched trauma and child abuse crimes for nearly two decades, and written many articles on trauma, dissociation, and child abuse. Neil Brick points out that it is erroneous to suggest that so many therapists are implanting memories of abuse into their patients, when it is usually something in the client’s current adult life that triggers the memories to begin to come forth. In fact, the majority of memories of child abuse that surface later in life, are recalled outside of the therapy setting, or predate the therapy. Most people who have remembered previously repressed child abuse, sought professional help when they already had numerous problems and several symptoms of having been abused.
Even Pamela Freyd, the executive director of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation agrees that “repressed memory therapy” is not taught to professional therapists. However, she is correct in saying that there are some therapists who do in fact use different methods of treating patients, and that one of those is hypnosis. But this fact does not equate with a wide-spread “epidemic” of false memories, or that the methods used in treating clients are inappropriate or unprofessional. Yes, there are some very unethical therapists out there who do suggest and encourage that a person was sexually or physically abused in childhood when they were not. But there is no evidence to suggest that there are a high number of these kind of cases. In addition, conventional therapy often does nothing to help people, can make them worse, and the drugs prescribed to patients can kill them (or cause the client to kill someone else).
The False Memory Syndrome Foundation, and the false memory movement, have created an atmosphere over the past decade that has caused many therapists, out of fear of being sued, to turn away clients who were traumatized as children, and who avoid any discussion of incest or child sexual abuse with patients who display symptoms of having amnesia for child abuse. The “false memory syndrome” proponents, the mainstream journalists who readily accept this unproven and unscientific “syndrome,” and many uninformed people in the general public, have successfully caused victims of trauma and abuse to disbelieve their own experiences, to ignore serious warning signs of having been abused, and to not be able to get proper treatment for their numerous symptoms and suffering.
A troubling part of this case though, is that Charlotte did not testify and that her therapy records were made available for her parents to see. Charlotte’s attorney was successful against a subpoena that would have required Charlotte to testify at the trial, so she obviously did not want to. I don’t want to judge Charlotte for that, and we don’t know the reason for her not wanting to testify, but it would have been good for her to have supported her therapists in court. She should have told her side of the story. It is very possible that she did not feel strong enough, and could not face the people who she says abused her. It’s possible that she did not feel emotionally ready to undertake such a difficult experience, but I wish she had been able to. I think her therapists deserved that support.
According to Professor Ross E. Cheit, of the Taubman Center for Public Policy & American Institutions, Charlotte’s case did not even involve hypnosis, but her parents were allowed to use the subject of hypnosis in their argument to gain access to Charlotte’s confidential medical records. Hollida Wakefield was the main expert in the case against Charlotte’s therapists. Even Wakefield said that Charlotte’s therapists did not actively attempt to get her to recover buried memories. Wakefield also said they did not use hypnosis, that there was “no digging for memories,” and there was no evidence that Charlotte’s therapists implanted any memories of abuse! *
Wakefield did blame the book, The Courage to Heal, by Bass and Davis. She said the book was one of the factors in Charlotte’s memory. However, Wakefield admitted under oath, that no evidence existed that The Courage to Heal was even involved in Charlotte’s therapy or that her treatment providers had ever asked her to read the book. Apparently, Charlotte owned the book, and by her own will, she recommended to her mother that she should read it.
Charlotte’s parents felt that the therapists were negligent because they did not discourage Charlotte from believing her own memory –even the memories that did not involve a Satanic cult or infanticide. The parents also say that Charlotte’s therapists should have investigated Charlotte’s allegations. If therapists becoming private investigators is to be supported, then every case of rape, child abuse, or incest that is ever spoken of in a therapy session, should be investigated by the therapist. This is saying that every person who claims they were abused by their parent, or anyone else for that matter, whether they have always remembered it or not, should have their claims corroborated by some outside source before the person is ever treated by the professional. People sometimes lie and make up stories of always-remembered child abuse or rape. So if delayed memories of incest or child sexual abuse are to be questioned and investigated by therapists, then all allegations of child abuse or even adult rape should be investigated by the therapist. This, of course, is ridiculous.
It is not the duty of a therapist or treatment facility to go around poking into the lives of their client’s family –as if the truth would ever be spoken anyway! The last people who are ever going to corroborate memories of child abuse, are the very people who may have abused the child, or the family members, who usually deny any abuse ever happened –even if it did happen right under their own nose.
The fact that Charlotte’s therapy records were made available to the plaintiffs in the case is outrageous. Is nothing sacred? The most intimate and shame-filled details of a person’s life and thoughts can be in those treatment notes. But this is just another reason for Charlotte to have testified. If my therapy notes were made public, I certainly would want to openly defend and explain them. Therapy notes and logs can be taken completely out of context and misunderstood by anyone who is not the client or the therapist.
If this verdict stands, it is unclear how therapists can provide treatment to someone with memories of childhood sexual abuse without fear of an intrusive and inappropriate third-party lawsuit. That is why Mertz and Bowman argued, in an important 1996 Harvard Law Review article, that such lawsuits should not be allowed. It is also why Justice Ann Walsh Bradely, in a dissenting opinion at the Wisconsin Supreme Court, concluded that the Johnson case represents an unwarranted expansion to modalities of therapeutic treatment far beyond issues of recovered-memory therapy, and that it ”undermines the confidentiality that is essential to the patient-therapist relationship.” ~Ross Cheit
I have no way of knowing if Charlotte’s memories are true or not, but neither did the jury. It seems the human denial system has prevailed in this case. When no evidence shows that the therapists were suggesting, encouraging, or implanting memories of incest, and the fact that Charlotte’s memory predated treatment, means that the denial system of the jury most likely won this case for the plaintiffs. It is easier to believe that several therapists, and a professional treatment center, implanted or facilitated false memories of incest, child murder, and Satanic Ritual Abuse, than to believe these things happened in a middle-class “normal looking” family.
Former Miss America, Marilyn Van Derbur remembered as an adult that her father sexually abused her, including rape, from ages 5-18, and one of her sisters had always remembered being sexually abused by him. Marilyn’s father was a well-respected, well-to-do man. He was also a 33rd degree Freemason.
**Wakefield was married to Ralph Underwager when he stated in an interview with Paidika, a European pro-pedophile publication: “Paedophiles can boldly and courageously affirm what they choose. They can say that what they want is to find the best way to love. . . . Paedophiles can make the assertion that the pursuit of intimacy and love is what they choose. With boldness they can say, “I believe this is in fact part of God’s will.”