Suburban Secrets: Affluent, Well-Dressed Fathers Sometimes Rape Their Children

“Evil is unspectacular and always human,
and shares our bed and eats at our own table”

 ~ W.H Auden

In 1994, Gary Ramona sued his daughter’s therapists for emotional distress and loss of income.

Gary Ramona claimed the therapists implanted false memories into the mind of his grown daughter, Holly.

Gary contended that Holly imagined he sexually abused her, and that the therapists instigated the memories. Holly never agreed with the lawsuit, was not a co-plaintiff in the case, and did not complain about her therapist’s work. She even testified on behalf of her therapists and maintains that her memories are true.

Holly’s abuse memories began to come back after an incident while home from college for Christmas break. Holly had been sitting with her father in their home in Napa Valley California when her father gave her a “long, steady gaze.”

Holly said it was not a look that a daughter should receive from her father.  A short time later, Holly began to remember, in fragments, being molested and raped by her father when she was a child. Her memories included a flash of sheets flying, and Holly’s body re-experienced pain in her vagina, and recalled her father’s smell. She also heard the memory of her father making grunting noises, and remembered that he called her “his special little girl.”

When Holly’s mother first learned that Holly felt she had been molested by someone, Stephanie Ramona didn’t know it was her husband in Holly’s memories, but Holly’s mother remembers the odd response Gary gave her upon hearing the news about his daughter having been sexually abused.

Stephanie Ramona testified at the trial, “He looked at me and didn’t say anything.” She added, “He went back to the TV. He heard me. He gave me the shut-up look.”

Holly finally told her mother that the memories of molestation involved her father. Stephanie Ramona believed her daughter, and a number of weeks later, Holly revealed to her mother that her memories included rape.

In the hours that followed, Stephanie Ramona made a list of all the reasons to believe her husband, along with all of the reasons why her daughter would not make this up.

Gary’s side of the list had only two reasons to support him; that he would not rape his daughter and that he was her father. Holly’s side of the list soon grew to twenty-eight reasons why Stephanie felt that Holly was telling the truth.

The list of reasons included Gary Ramona’s objection to Holly going into therapy because of financial reasons when he had a $400,000 a year job. Stephanie also noted Holly’s avoidance of touch or hugs from her father, and that she was unable to be given a gynecological exam because she repeatedly shut her legs. Holly’s mother also listed that her husband became irritated when she wouldn’t leave Gary alone to baby-sit Holly as a child.

In one instance, when Stephanie did leave Gary with the children, she came home early. Stephanie found the door locked and one of her daughters walking around outside in her nightgown. Stephanie rang the bell for several minutes because she had forgotten her keys. Gary finally answered the door, wearing only his underwear.

Stephanie’s list included the fact that, as a child, Holly frequently complained that her bottom hurt and she had recurrent childhood urinary tract infections.  On at least one occasion, when Stephanie heard Holly crying out during the night, Stephanie went to Holly’s bedroom and found Gary standing or lying next to Holly in nothing but his underwear. She also remembered that before they were married, her husband strangely talked about his belief that women could not be raped against their will.

Stephanie concluded her list with the realization that Gary had been acting oddly lately. In that moment, Stephanie felt that Gary Ramona knew what Holly had remembered and Stephanie became afraid.  She concluded the page with “God help me.”

Over the next two days, Stephanie remembered more.

When Holly was four or five, Stephanie says she came home to find Holly in a sundress, wearing no underwear. She then discovered Gary washing the sheets from their bed. Stephanie remarked sarcastically to Gary that it was the first time he had ever washed the sheets. When Stephanie took the clean sheets from the dryer, she found Holly’s underpants within the bed sheets.

Gary Ramona dismisses the items on Stephanie’s list, and in court, Gary and his attorneys painted the portrait of a ‘picture perfect’ family.

Stephanie does not remember an “apple pie” life, she remembers her husband as being violent. Yet, Stephanie’s testimony about Gary’s behavior was ruled inadmissible and Gary was allowed to show videos in court of their seemingly happy family.

Gary Ramona’s expert witnesses told the jury the therapists had taken advantage of Holly with suggestion. Gary’s attorney challenged Holly under cross-examination with a Father’s Day Holly had sent from college. She had signed the card, “You’re great. Love, Holly.”

This is hardly an adoring comment, and certainly not unusual for an adult child to say to a parent in a greeting card, no matter how they might feel about the parent. Greeting cards are often a cover-up for true feelings because they are relatively impersonal. It’s easier to pretend feelings in a greeting card. A person can avoid any uncomfortable truths by writing in a greeting card what they think the other person would want to read.

Holly’s card to her father was most likely nothing more than a superficial pleasantry in order to get along with him. But even if Holly meant what she wrote in the card, this was before her memory returned. An emotional attachment to her perpetrator might have been in operation at the time she sent the card. An incest victim can feel their perpetrator is a good person and love them very much before their memory returns. It’s part of why they blocked out the incest in the first place –their survival system drives their deeply person need to retain a good image of the parent.

Dr. Lenore Terr is a psychiatrist and memory researcher who has spent over forty years working with traumatized children. Dr. Terr interviewed Holly, read court depositions, looked over therapy notes, and examined psychological tests from the case.

Dr. Terr concluded that Holly showed definite signs of childhood sexual abuse. These signs included her terror of men, that she slept in the fetal position, and Holly had nightmares of snakes violating her vagina. Also noted was Holly’s avoidance of dating, intimacy, and kissing scenes in movies. Holly held an impending sense of doom regarding her future. These are all common symptoms in rape and molestation victims.

What I found particularly interesting about the case, is that like me, Holly experienced the sensation of constantly having a full bladder. For Holly, this feeling accompanied memories of her father groaning and the image of him moving above her.

I was examined and tested by two specialists, including a urologist, at one of the top medical facilities in California. I even had a medical device inserted into my urethra looking for the problem. Doctors found nothing physiologically wrong with my bladder. The only thing that cured me of the constant feeling of having a full bladder, was to deal with the memories of incest.

It is impossible for a therapist to implant smells, vaginal pains, sensations in the bladder, and nightmares into a person. Holly had sought help for bulimia and depression, both of which have been linked to child sexual abuse.

Therapists cannot instill bulimia and depression into a person.

It was remarked by jurors, that while on the stand, Holly spoke of her memories “flatly” and as if her experience had happened to someone other than herself.

This is highly common in people who have blocked trauma from their mind. Holly’s lack of emotional expression could be because she had not yet faced her deepest feelings, or that she was still partially dissociating from the rapes. Holly may have just been removing herself from her emotions.

It is also possible that, by the time she testified at the trial, she had already reached a strong point of healing, and had transformed her pain into personal strength to stand up against her powerful father. Holly showed a lot of character and gave testimony of the truth of her memories by facing her father in court.

Lack of emotional outburst has nothing to do with memories being real or false. If the jurors did not understand her lackluster descriptions of incest, then it certainly might have been helpful if an expert was brought in to testify about lack of emotion being common in sexual abuse survivors. To my knowledge there is no report of any such testimony.

Holly told the jury, “I wouldn’t be here if there was a question in my mind,” and added, “My father molested me.”

There is no doubt that Holly trusts her memory, but Gary Ramona won the case. In a verdict of ten to two, the jury awarded him $475,000 in damages for lost earnings, but he received no compensation for emotional distress. They did not award him the eight million dollars he had asked for, and the $475,000 did not cover the one million dollars Gary spent on the trial.

Jurors found the therapists responsible for fifty-five percent of the monetary judgment, other people were found to be forty percent liable, and Gary five percent. The foreman communicated that the jury did not think Holly’s therapists put abuse in her mind, but said they were neglectful and reinforced Holly’s memories of abuse.

In my opinion, it was easier for the jury to accept that Holly, who had written a card with an affectionate ending, had been mislead by her therapists, than to think that the father she once referred to as “great” could have raped her.

The fact that Gary Ramona was a successful upper-class businessman must have created even more denial in the jurors. One of the attorneys representing the medical facility that treated Holly said prejudices existed among the jurors. One of those biases may have been Gary Ramona’s suit and tie. Even Holly remarked that the human denial system contributed to the verdict.

Trying to help people understand that affluent, well-dressed fathers sometimes have sex with their daughter is difficult enough, but convincing them that a victim can actually have complete amnesia about the incest, is even more problematic.

One of the Los Angeles Times reporters commented, “Wasn’t it more likely that these were not memories at all?”

No. Not if one uses their common sense it wasn’t. People do not experience the symptoms of sexual abuse and have images, visions, and remembrances of incest for no reason! People do not have an unexplained fullness in their bladder, vaginal pains of unknown origin, horrible flashbacks, depression, bulimia, nightmares and insomnia because their “great” father happened to look at them in a sexual way, for one brief moment.

The simple answer is that the memories are true. The more difficult answer to believe is that images of rape suddenly flew into a woman’s mind, and that pain and discomfort invaded her body out of no where, for no known medical reason.

The far more demanding explanation is that an intelligent and bright college student suddenly has a false memory of her father with his head between her legs, violating her innocence, while telling her that she is his “special little girl.”

People do not want to think about what makes them squirm. The reality that men in a suit and tie are capable of giving oral sex to their daughters is not welcome knowledge in apple pie America.

Holly’s own mother, who undoubtedly knew Gary better than anyone, certainly better than the jury, believed her daughter. Yet the jurors did not. The jury was uneducated about the subject of child sexual abuse, about the dynamics connected to incest, and did not understand repressed traumatic memories.

Stephanie Ramona divorced her husband and continued to support Holly. This is highly unusual –even if the wife finds substantial evidence of rape or molestation. A large percentage of women support the offender and lash out at the victim; especially if the perpetrator is providing the wife with a hefty income and rich lifestyle.

Stephanie said after the verdict, “I don’t think he should have gotten a penny for raping his own daughter,” and added, “You don’t know what I know. You don’t know what my children know. Nobody gets it.”

The jury foreman did comment that Gary Ramona’s claims of victory had disturbed the jurors. The foreman felt the case did not prove that Gary Ramona was innocent. He said the jury was “not fooled for a minute” by Gary’s tears.

These remarks baffle me. If the jury did not believe Gary Ramona then why did they appear to have ignored what Stephanie Ramona testified to, and disregard all of Holly’s physical and emotional issues?

In spite of the verdict, Holly Ramona improved after she remembered the abuse and she went back to school. Her moods got better and she looked forward to the goal of working with abused children. Holly graduated from a well-known university and her depression lifted. Holly said she felt as if she had been let out of prison –that she was finally free.

Regardless of her positive steps, Holly still felt responsible for breaking up the family. This is a common reaction in those who dare to disclose incest, but her feelings do not indicate false memories. When a victim has lived through the guilt and shame created by the victim-blaming family members, by the abuser, and by a society of deniers –then the victim blames herself.

Even Holly displayed the typical program of denial that permeates a dysfunctional family. She remembers a time in high school when she was sick and her father checked her temperature. Gary had felt her forehead for a fever in the way that a father should. Holly was having trouble making sense of it. She could not understand how her father could do typical “father-daughter” things, and then rape his daughter.

For the victim, it is like living in two conflicting worlds. One minute the perpetrator is the seemingly normal parent, and in the next moment they are attacking the child with sex and violence.

I am certain that from time to time, Gary Ramona displayed true fatherly attention and care. This does not indicate that he was not capable of raping his own child. People are never good all of the time, and never evil all of the time. There is always a level of goodness in those who have committed the most heinous crimes.

_____________________________________________________________

Sources:

The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations is licensed from Columbia University Press.

“Construction and Reconstruction of Memory” Dilemmas of Childhood Sexual Abuse; Charlotte Prozan Editor:  Mary Williams; Page 91

Memory/Ramona Case in Detail, Los Angeles Times

“Holly Ramona Testifies” Thursday, April 21, 1994  Home Edition Section: PART A Page: A-3 Woman Testifies on Fear Raised by Memory of Abuse by: Jennifer Warren, Los Angeles Times

Sunday, June 26, 1994 Home Edition Section: Los Angeles Times Magazine Page: 12 “Clashing Memories, Mixed Messages; She Says He Molested Her, He Says He Didn’t. There Was a Lot Was Riding on the Ramona Trial, But In the End, No One Got What They Wanted.” By: Katy Butler

“Holly Ramona Testifies” Thursday, April 21, 1994  Home Edition Section: PART A Page: A-3 Woman Testifies on Fear Raised by Memory of Abuse by: Jennifer Warren, Los Angeles Times

“Construction and Reconstruction of Memory” Dilemmas of Childhood Sexual Abuse; Charlotte Prozan Editor:  Mary Williams; Page 91

Saturday, May 14, 1994 Home Edition Section: PART A Page: A-1 “Father Wins Suit in ‘False Memory’Case”, Maria L. La Ganga, Los Angeles Times

Sunday, May 22, 1994 Home Edition Section: PART A Page: A-3 “Verdict Heats Up Memory Debate; ‘I Was Really Hurt by the Verdict’; Reaction: Holly Ramona says the jury’s decision will undermine her attempt to recover damages from her father, who she alleges molested her.”

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10 Responses to Suburban Secrets: Affluent, Well-Dressed Fathers Sometimes Rape Their Children

  1. Russ says:

    This therapy that leads to “recovered memories” is STILL destroying families, and it needs to STOP. My daughter was a patient at Mercy Ministries, and she developed false memories of sexual abuse by me. We were told initially by her therapist don’t worry, it’s not about you, but your daughter is having recovered memories of schoolmates”… a couple of months later our daughter wrote us a letter saying she no longer wished us to contact her. We only found out much later why, when we happened to come across her “graduation testimony” in which she said she was sexually abused by her father from ages 4-17. Somehow these “memories” expanded to these disgusting, horrific, false memories because of the harmful therapy methods that were used. My daughter attempted suicide after learning of these “memories”, and she had never been suicidal before. Since that time, we have discovered several other families at the same branch of Mercy Ministries in CA whose daughters all cut off contact, accusing them of sexual abuse. Google “Castlewood Treatment Center Lawsuits”, and you will discover this is also happening now at that facility in St. Louis MO…4 women are suing their therapist after realizing these horrific “memories” obtained through their therapy were FALSE.

    • Alethea says:

      Dear Russ,

      Sorry, but psychoanalysis which can lead to liberation from severe physical, emotional, and psychological suffering, must continue.

      Unfortunately, there are bad therapists out there, and bad therapy practices…this does not mean that all psychotherapists must stop practicing the use of psychoanalysis.

      I am sorry if you have been falsely accused of a crime, but there is no way of knowing if you are being falsely accused, and this Blog is not an appropriate place for you to present your case. There are many people falsely accused of sexual abuse, but this Blog is not for you, or those who hold your opinion of psychoanalysis and cases of repressed memories in general.

      You are better off spending your time at forums where you are validated by those who hold your views, and where you can seek help for your case.

      I will not debate the repressed memory issue with you, nor will I allow any further comments from you which might upset people who have been truly sexually abused by their fathers.

  2. maribeth merton says:

    And still people wonder why “children don’t just get over it”???? I spent all weekend being harangued by my brother about how I had little or no faith if I could not forgive our step father. He has zero idea of the confusion I dealt with growing up and still do. He (my brother) feels like how I handle this is my test, and I am doing badly. He will never understand that every choice I ever made after the second that sexual abuse started was a choice I made with a victim mindset. I don’t want to forgive him, even no, because that feels like yet another betrayal only this one would be perpetrated by me. Oh yeah, he abused me, no one believed me, I forgive him, now I don’t even believe me.!!! My brother is convinced that I am overweight because of sexual abuse…if so, and I believe he is right, it is because I have trusted no man or his intentions since I was two years old. Since my stepfather is still alive, I still have a protective wall. My brother reminded me that he is ninety years old! Guess what??? NOT IN MY HEAD, he’s not. He is always waiting around in some neuron in my brain to flashback and remind me that he is and has always been there. Does anyone else get told to handle their issues by negating and forgiving? “Cuz I am getting tired…

    • Alethea says:

      Maribeth, hundreds of thousands of people, who were sexually abused in childhood, have a weight problem. It is directly caused by the sexual abuse, and not so easy to let go of. People can judge and label it to their heart’s desire, but it will not change the person who carries the heavy burden of what that weight is covering up.

      “My brother reminded me that he is ninety years old! Guess what??? NOT IN MY HEAD, he’s not.”

      That’s right Maribeth! Good observation! Most people don’t get the fact that until the abuse is 100% resolved, it is AS IF THE ABUSE IS STILL HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.

      Millions of us get told by friends, family, and society in general to “negate and forgive.” But this is for their own benefit. It is not to help the victim of incest. It is said to the victim, only to relieve themselves of what they have done, and to shut us up.

      Negation should never be done. And forgiveness cannot come in its purity until the victim’s subconscious mind is satisfied. One can consciously say they forgive, but until the resentment and rage is expelled out of their subconscious mind, their heart cannot truly forgive.

    • little nel says:

      Hi Meibeth,

      I can relate to your dilemma. Until I found clarity for my confusion about my own victimization I could not”get passed the pain. The abusers are such cunning manipulative creatures of deception. They pick their victims well and convince us that we are at fault. They never take responsibility for the pain they inflict on us.

      Your brother does not understand your pain and unresolved issues with your step-father. Don’t bother to discuss anything with him as he has his own agenda of making himself feel better about your shared childhoods like Alethea stated.

      He wants to distance himself from the abuse even if it means that you are left without answers. Your step-father is a monster and your brother wants you to shut up about it. It’s too uncomfortable for him, not you.

      • little nel says:

        Hi Maribeth,

        I also wanted to tell you that I had the same problem with my brother. He still hates me because I won’t “shut up” about the abuse. I don’t care about his attitude or his lack of love for me. I found my recovery without his help.

        Yes, I was sexually abused as a child but it doesn’t hurt anymore because I found out the truth about my “affliction.”

        • maribeth merton says:

          Thanks everyone…I am still amazed that I can be made to feel like I will go to Hell if I cannot forgive the one person that put me there in the first place. Nothing like being forever ready to wear that victim hat…

          • little nel says:

            Maribeth,
            An issue is an issue until it is resolved. Keep struggling to find your answers and recovery. When the road is rough the reward is great.

          • manuela says:

            Dear Maribeth,

            You already went through Hell…so why do you care about the “menace” that is planning over your head (I mean going to hell for lack of plenitude love for your step…)?
            Even more – you survived to everything he puts you through…so, please listen to me: now it is time for you to heal your wounded soul by all means: take time, cry, share the experience, involve in helping children, read, get surrounded by people who really understands you etc.
            You are beautiful, strong and a inspiration to many persons – don’t you ever forget this. Do you know why I say that, even though I do not know you? Because you CHOOSE to say the truth even though nobody from your family is beside you, you CHOOSE to do different things then those that were done to you, you CHOOSE to broke the entire chain of denial, appearances and so on.

            p.s. – If you ever see your step…, please give him a kick in the…(this is the nicest “reward” I could think of:)))

            • maribeth merton says:

              thanks…I needed to hear that today! A bit strange and yet wonderful that I get more love and support from a stranger than from those who know me. thanks for the thinking that prefaced your kind words. this is a great group.

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