Just a Reminder: Teenage Girls Sexually Abuse Children Too

‘No secret’ families help protect children from sexual abuse

The day I told my mom about our babysitter, Dani

“I remember the day I told my mom about Dani. We stood in our family kitchen in American Fork, Utah.

“Dani is coming over tonight to babysit,” my mom told me. It was an innocuous statement, a simple announcement. Yet fear flooded me. My heart raced.

I don’t remember exactly what I said. Nonetheless, my descriptions of what our babysitter Dani would do when my parents were gone gushed forth in a rush of shaking and crying.

“She lays on top of me in bed and kisses me. She says that I’m the mommy and she’s the daddy.”

“She locks me in a dark closet when I tell her no.”

“She says that I can never tell you.”

I was six years old.


My mom had told me it was wrong for anyone, especially someone older than me, to tell me to keep a secret from her. She always told me I could tell her anything and that it was really important to tell her some things. For example, if someone tried to touch my body in inappropriate ways, I was to tell. Dani was a 13-year-old babysitter highly recommended in our Latter-Day Saints (LDS) ward. She was breaking both of these important rules. I couldn’t keep it in any longer.

I don’t remember how long it took me to tell my mom. How many visits with Dani went by before that moment in the kitchen when some wise, deep, and honest part of my 6-year-old self welled up with courage and broke the silence? I don’t know. I do know that I decided to risk Dani’s anger, and the potentiality of being locked in the feared, dark, small closet — and tell.

My mother believed me.

My mother fully, without question, believed me. She immediately told my father, and together, they initiated a meeting with our LDS ward’s bishop and Dani’s parents to discuss the matter. From that moment forward, Dani never again stepped foot into our home. I was safe.

According to Marilyn Van Derbur, author of Miss America by Day, “Those who told immediately or very shortly after the abuse and were believed and supported showed relatively few long-term traumatic symptoms. Those who either did not tell (typically due to fear or shame) or who told and encountered a negative, blaming, disbelieving or ridiculing response were classified as extremely traumatized.”

In Trauma Proofing your Kids: A Parent’s Guide for Instilling Confidence, Joy and Resilience, authors Peter A. Levine and Maggie Klein describe how 85 to 90 percent of sexual abuse is perpetuated by someone the child knows and trusts – a parent, step-parent, coach, teacher, older cousin or sibling, priest, or babysitter. And while many parents may warn children about strange adult men, the fact of the matter is that the average age of most sex offenders is 14 — according to a 2000 report by the Criminal Justice Source Statistics.

I remember the day I first told “The Dani Story” to my soon-to-be 6-year-old son and children that I help homeschool. We were discussing “stay safe rules” and how vital it is to “say no and tell” when older children or adults, even those we may trust and love, ask us to do things that are wrong. In “Trauma Proofing your Kids,” Levine and Klein argue that parents should begin teaching children “about inappropriate touch as early as preschool” and that “it is especially important to practice what to do or say beforehand.”

Levine and Klein strongly recommend parents role-play various scenarios. They encourage parents to help their children imagine “What if?” games around safety and practice acting out responses to difficult and confusing situations. By acting out parts of the story, children have the opportunity to practice saying “No” in a supportive space. This helps prevent them from freezing up if such an event were to occur.

For example, imagine a babysitter who knows a child loves cars or trucks. He or she may say: “I’ll bring a special car/truck toy for you the next time I come if you will sit on my lap and watch this video with me. But it’s a video that only you and I can see and it’s a very special secret just for us to share.” How would your child respond? Can you act out this scenario beforehand? Can you give your child opportunities to recognize warning signs, sense their intuition that something may be wrong, and say: “No. We don’t keep secrets in our family.” Can you help your child identify a list of safe adults to whom they could turn and tell?

Clearly, parents need to prepare children for the mental games of secrecy and grooming that characterize most childhood sexual abuse. Levine and Klein observe that while abusers may use force, “more often they will use trickery.” And the greatest trickery of all?

“Don’t tell your mom.”

“Don’t tell your dad.”

“This is our special secret.”

Children need to be warned that they will be asked to keep secrets and they need to know that any older child or adult who asks them to keep secrets has done something wrong. Levine and Klein encourage parents to support their children in noticing and trusting their gut instincts and asking for help immediately (“say no and tell”). Finally, parents must assure their children that they will be believed and protected — no matter who the person is or what consequence was threatened should the child reveal the secret.

As a young girl, I experienced frightening and confusing situations with a babysitter entrusted to care for me. Gratefully, before Dani was ever invited over, I had also been taught that we don’t keep secrets in our family and to always, always tell if anyone were to try to touch me in ways that felt wrong. Knowledge of these foundational guidelines helped me access the courage needed to speak out in the kitchen one very important day.

But what if I had not been believed? What if my mom and defended Dani? “Oh, she’s a good girl. She would never do that.” Etc.

According to Levine and Klein, children have a natural ability to sense who is safe and who is not safe. “You, the parents, need to trust this sense and foster its development rather than try to change a child’s mind.”

So, believe your children and cultivate a “No Secret” family.


Recently, I interviewed Susan Caruso, director and founder of Sunflower Creative Arts in Delray Beach, Fla. with regard to her 25-year-long history of leading parenting classes on “Talking with children about sex.” Beginning in the preschool ages, Caruso argues that it is vitally important to use the correct terms for a child’s private parts and talk about body safety. Caruso encourages parents to use the terms “surprise” or “safe secrets” when it comes to temporarily withholding information for birthdays or holidays. Outside of this, parents need to be clear that “we don’t keep secrets in our family.”

While I carry difficult memories of what happened when Dani babysat, the memories that stand out most have to do with my mom.

I told.

I was believed.

Dani never came back.

No secrets.”


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Unhealed Trauma Can Affect Your Love Life

How Our Past Is Messing Up All Our Relationships

If we all start looking at ourselves first when we have relationship problems then we’ll be able to have long-lasting, happy, and passionate relationships.


“Ever wonder why your relationships keep ending? Why are you so attracted to emotionally immature guys or girls? Why do you keep repeating similar patterns over and over?

These are hard questions to answer. Most people will blame external factors. They’ll say “Oh my relationships keep ending because I just choose the wrong people” or “there are no good guys out there, they’re all immature”. In a way you’re right. You likely do keep choosing the wrong people. You likely do keep attracting immature guys so it seems like there are no mature guys out there. But the problem really lies within yourself. You attract what you are.


If you’re emotionally immature yourself then you will attract the same. You’ll also be attracted to the same even if you say you’re not. You’ll completely overlook the more emotionally healthy people out there, so it’ll look to you like there aren’t any. If you have narcissistic tendencies, which the rate of that being diagnosed has doubled over the past 10 years, then you might even completely blame other people for what happens in your relationships. You’ll think “I’m mature but I keep dating immature girls, I need to stop doing that and look for mature girls”. On the surface that seems like a healthy way of thinking, but you’re lying to yourself or not aware that you yourself are immature as well.

Most of us are emotionally immature, how could we not be? Our society doesn’t value psychology. It doesn’t value mental health. Many see therapy as something for mentally weak people. Especially with men, this is a problem since we have this definition of masculinity that is completely wrong.

The reason I’m so familiar with the excuses of an emotionally immature person is because I’ve been one for the longest time.  On the surface, I looked like I had my shit together. On the surface, I probably seemed mature, but emotional maturity is a whole different thing. It‘s something you have to work towards, as all of us start out immature.

We don’t realize where this comes from since it never gets talked about, but our repressed childhood traumas have a lasting effect on us. They stay with us no matter how hard we repress them. Repressing is why it keeps affecting our relationships.

The scary thing is, even traumatic memories from a very young age that we’ve forgotten because we’ve repressed them can affect your entire life. There’s a great story of in “Drama of the Gifted Child”, which everyone should start out reading to learn about childhood trauma, that illustrates how extreme and long one event in your childhood can affect you as an adult.


In the story, there’s a woman who always has anxiety whenever she’s really successful or really happy, in a relationship or in her career. Obviously, this sabotages all her relationships since every time she’s happy she gets anxious and looks for the danger or the problem. Since she’s always looking for the problem when the relationship is good she always eventually finds one or creates one.

So she goes to a therapist to find out why she has this feeling every time. She thinks it must be a fear of success or something, but that’s not it. After weeks of therapy, they discover that it’s coming from a memory of when she was a little girl of 4 years old. In the memory, she’s on the train with her dad and she’s the happiest she’s ever been in her young life. The window is open and she’s jumping up and down in her seat because she’s so happy and excited. Then right when the train takes a very sharp turn she jumps up and almost gets flung out the window. Her dad grabs her by the legs and basically saves her from falling out of the train.

Because of this, the girl grows up to be a woman that always associates feeling very happy with imminent danger. Which basically makes it impossible for her to be in a happy relationship long term. It didn’t only affect her, it also had an effect on how her father parented. When that happened he thought to himself “I can’t lose sight of her for one second, I always have to pay attention and make sure she’s safe”. When she speaks of her father she mentions how he’s always been controlling with her. He wasn’t like that before but after that event, he changed, subconsciously he thought he had to.

That’s one example of how childhood repressed memories affect us as adults. Another can be something as simple as having an emotionally absent father figure. If you had a dad that was there but never really showed you any physical or verbal affection, it would affect your relationships if you never dealt with it properly. More than likely you’d always be attracted to guys that didn’t give you that much attention because you’re always trying to get that love from someone else. The love that you didn’t receive from your dad.

All of that makes it sound like we have no chance for a happy long-term relationship. And yea, it would be very hard to have one if we never deal with our past.

The great news is that we can work through our past. That alone would have a huge positive effect on our relationships. It would affect how we date, who we date, and really all of our relationships. That’s how important it is.

Actually doing this takes time. It takes a lot of time. There’s no instant solution or quick mind shift that you can do. Even if you intellectually know your past and know all the issues from it, you still haven’t emotionally worked through them. I know how hard that is, especially if you’re like me and have always been awful at expressing and recognizing your own emotions.

I don’t think there’s a one size fits all solution to this and it’s important to remember that you’ll never be “fixed”. You’ll work through the bigger issues and will always have to keep working on it, but it will lead to a more fulfilled life.

I know for myself, it’s changed my life. Even if I’m still near the beginning of working through these issues. I’m not going to lie, it’s extremely hard. Going through past memories you don’t want to think about or feelings that you don’t want is tough. But, it’s the most alive I’ve felt since I was a kid.

What I did to start is I got a therapist, a good one. Really do your research on this as getting a bad therapist is as bad as doing nothing about it. Find someone that clicks with you. For all of you that don’t think you need therapy, especially guys, you do. If you told me a year ago about going to therapy I would’ve laughed and told you that it’s for the mentally weak, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. If you can afford to do it, definitely do it. Even if you only start with once or twice a month.

The other thing you should do, regardless if you get a therapist or not, is to read about childhood trauma and how your past shapes who you are today. One of the best starting books that was recommended multiple times by therapists is Alice Miller’s “Drama of the Gifted Child”. It’s a pretty short read but eye-opening.

If we all start looking at ourselves first when we have relationship problems then we’ll be able to have long-lasting, happy, and passionate relationships. I think that’s really what we all want.”


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Large Amount of Documented Evidence For the Existence of Psychogenic Amnesia

The issue of repressed memory has been raised in the national media recently, partly associated with the royal commission’s investigation into institutional childhood sex abuse.

There are questions about the worth or appropriateness of therapy techniques that encourage recollections of past abuse.

It has been questioned whether trauma victims can truly forget events that are usually recalled all too vividly.


A related issue is whether therapists can unwittingly implant false memories of abuse by being overzealous in seeking evidence for them.

Having seen hundreds of clients for psychological trauma, including sexual abuse and war trauma, I find much of the commentary disturbingly simplistic and naive.

There is a huge amount of documented evidence over the past century for the existence of psychogenic amnesia, or spontaneous forgetting of stressful personal experiences.

Indeed, one of the defining symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder is the inability to remember key features of a traumatic event.

This PTSD symptom, as others, is based on long-standing objective research. Another well-established research finding is that many PTSD sufferers can benefit greatly from exposure-based therapy, meaning they are encouraged to directly recall the traumatic situation and associated painful emotions.

This helps further process the trauma memories, defusing their emotional impact. In my experience few therapy interventions can lead to such profound benefit so quickly.

Any trauma therapist worth their salt knows that one of the potential complications of exposure therapy is that other related, or even unrelated trauma memories can be triggered that were previously forgotten. For example, one war veteran I was treating suddenly reported a memory of sexual abuse by a family member that he had not recalled since childhood.

This helped us make much more sense of his disturbing reactions and behaviour in many other situations. His recollection was supported by his wife’s report of what other family members had confided to her.

Many experienced trauma therapists would know of dozens of such situations where clients have reported spontaneous recall of distressing circumstances that they had previously forgotten.

Sometimes the recovery of trauma memories is of huge benefit. For example, one Vietnam veteran with severe PTSD told me he was sure that he had forgotten something significant that might be a key to his recovery. He urged me to offer him a therapy intervention that might uncover whatever that might be. Despite being fully aware of the fallibility of memory and the potential for people to recall false as well as true details, there seemed little to lose. He was so distressed and detached from family members he described himself as a piece of furniture in his house.

Soon after initiating exposure-based therapy, he described a disturbing recollection of launching a grenade he believed had deflected off a tree and fallen a short distance away, potentially killing his friend, who had not survived the night.

Even though the truth of the situation could never be known, his recovered memory helped make sense of his inexplicable guilt and sense of unworthiness. He was more able to accept himself and his reactions. He went from being one of the most severely afflicted veterans to displaying an uncommonly positive level of recovery. He became much better connected with his family.

Evidently, recovered memories can apply to adults as well as children. It would likely have done him a great disservice to explain that I wouldn’t attempt to help him recover a potentially forgotten memory because it might not be completely accurate and I might inadvertently implant a distressing but false war memory in his head.

What has partly disturbed me over the years is the emphasis since the mid-1990s on the risks of therapists implanting false memories, rather than first highlighting the harm resulting from unacknowledged sexual abuse.

When several clinicians highlighted such concerns in local psychiatric services around 1990, the most senior clinician dismissively observed, “What’s all this about sexual abuse?”

The most harmful aspect of psychological trauma is its invalidating effect on the sufferer. Many who have reported sexual abuse have been further invalidated and further traumatised. It seems that “false memory syndrome” is perhaps the only mental health syndrome that was not introduced by a professional. In fact the term was coined by an alleged perpetrator. How concerning is that!

— Chris Mackey is a Fellow of The Australian Psychological Society and has presented on psychological trauma at numerous international conferences





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Victims Can Lose All Memory of Child Abuse, Says Judge

“The head of the royal commission into institutional child abuse has declined to respond to criticisms that it is endorsing controversial “repressed memory” counselling techniques but says he has seen ­direct evidence that victims may have complete ­amnesia of their trauma.

Judge Peter McClellan told a conference of psychotherapists in Sydney on Saturday that he had been “somewhat startled” while leading the inquiry to meet abuse victims who have no memory of their childhood trauma.

“I have sat with people in private sessions … when we know that that person has been abused by someone and the perpetrator has confessed and been convicted, and the victim has no memory of that abuse having occurred at all,” Justice McClellan said.

The Weekend Australian revealed on Saturday that experts in the field of trauma and memory were critical of the commission for endorsing “ethically dubious” counselling ideas that they say are identical to the repressed-­memory therapy of the 1980s and 90s, when a rash of false and biz­arre allegations of abuse were made.

Justice McClellan said he would not comment on the criticisms, which centre in part on the commission’s endorsement of the counselling guidelines of Cathy Kezelman, a high-profile activist who says she was sexually abused during her childhood by her father and a pedophile cult led by her grandmother.

The Weekend Australian revealed on Saturday that Dr Kezelman’s mother and brother repudiate her claims, and her psychologist was investigated by the Psychology Council of NSW. Dr Kezelman, who is president of the Blue Knot Foundation and sits on the expert panel devising the $4 billion redress scheme for victims of institutional abuse, denied at the weekend that the counselling guidelines she co-wrote advocated the retrieval of repressed memories.

Fairfax Media quoted her as saying it was “totally false” to suggest her repressed memories were triggered by her psychotherapy, because the memories began emerging when she was at home, not while with her therapist.

Dr Kezelman was scheduled to introduce Justice McClellan at Saturday’s conference but did not appear because of illness. The judge has previously called her an “old friend” of the commission and said her knowledge exceeded that of many judges and bureaucrats dealing with child abuse.

In his speech, Justice McClellan alluded to an address he gave 11 years ago that contained cautionary words about the repressed memory phenomenon, whereby adult psychotherapy patients recover memories of entirely forgotten child abuse. In that earlier speech, he noted that these memories could be false, citing scientific research.

On Saturday, Justice McClellan said the royal commission had commissioned a wide range of experts, and its research indicated memory was ­constantly refined and reconsolidated. Some adults could not recall their trauma in detail or at all, which could present problems when dealing with police or seeking compensation.

More than 7500 people have told the royal commission they were abused in institutional settings, and all will be eligible to apply for compensation payments and subsidised counselling under the federal government’s proposed redress scheme for victims. The maximum individual compensation has been set at $150,000.

Justice McClellan said counsellors employed by the redress scheme should have expertise in dealing with complex trauma.

The judge’s speech was preceded by a presentation from Joan Haliburn, a psychiatrist at the Complex Trauma Unit at Westmead Hospital, who said at least half of her patients had no memory of their trauma before entering psychotherapy with her.


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Did Your Father Come Into Your Bedroom At Night?

Marilyn Van Derbur Speaks candidly and beautifully about her father, and how one question by someone who suspected the abuse, triggered her memory.


Marilyn and her parents. Who would guess?



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One of Jerry Sandusky’s Sons Guilty of Child Sexual Abuse

I wonder where he learned this behavior from?

“One of the sons of former Penn State football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky has pleaded guilty to 14 counts of child sexual abuse in Centre County, Pa.

The Centre Daily Times reports that the younger Sandusky was charged earlier this year:

“Jeffrey Sandusky was charged in February after state police at Rockview began an investigation when a 16-year-old known to Jeffrey Sandusky reported that he had sent the minor text messages asking for nude photos in March 2016. Another minor told police that Jeffrey Sandusky had asked her to perform sex acts on him when she was 15 years old, according to a release from the District Attorney’s Office.”


Due to go on trial next week, Sandusky, 41, pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors and 12 felonies in a deal with prosecutors, under which he would serve three to six years in prison. The judge isn’t bound by the deal and could sentence him to up to eight years.

Centre County District Attorney Stacey Parks Miller said the plea spares the victims the trauma of testifying. “We are happy that these girls can move forward and experience a life with adults that deserve their trust,” she said.

The elder Sandusky was convicted in 2012 of 45 counts of child sexual abuse and sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison. Earlier this year, three former Penn State officials were given jail sentences for failing to report him to authorities. Former head coach Joe Paterno, who died in 2012, was fired in 2011, also for failing to adequately report Sandusky.”


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Is The Recollection of Family Members Who Deny Child Abuse Any More Reliable Than The Accuser’s Memory?

Proponents of the now discredited “False Memory Syndrome” believe that when a person reveals to family members that they remember being sexually abused by a parent, or other relative, it is the siblings who deny any sexual abuse took place who somehow have a perfect memory for exactly what happened in the home at all times.

Siblings often don’t want to see what is happening to the other children in an abusive home and when the abuse is revealed later in life, the denying sibling might have reasons of self-comfort for turning their back on the painful truth. One of those reasons is because they too were sexually abused and want nothing to do with any memories of abuse, their own, or their sibling’s abuse.

Brothers and sisters, who deny allegations of incest or child abuse, might also harbor guilt for not protecting the younger child and it is very possible that some siblings sexually abused the child themselves (in addition to the abuse by the parent) and don’t want to admit to it, or to ever face it.

Claudette Wassil-Grimm specifically addresses disbelieving siblings who have a brother or sister who has made an accusation of sexual abuse against their parent. Wassil-Grimm writes, “Trust your own memory. You were there. You do know what happened. People don’t repress years of abuse.” 1

The problem with Wassil-Grimm’s statement is that the repression of trauma has been well documented, so this same sentence can be said to the person who has remembered being sexually abused within the family; just change the last sentence to, “Trust your own memory. You were there. You do know what happened. people can repress years of abuse.”

In a statement to parents that have a daughter who has remembered abuse, Wassil-Grimm writes, “Don’t exhibit anger with your accusing child. Her mind is not her own.”

No person has the right to tell another individual that their mind is not their own. Each human being has their own experiences and their personal perceptions of those experiences. A person has every right to express their personal truth without being demeaned.

One father, who was accused by his daughter, admits to drinking heavily during the period in which his daughter says she was sexually abused by him, yet FMS proponents would have us believe that the father’s alcohol influenced memory is to be trusted over the daughter’s recollection. 2.

When a parent has a serious problem with alcohol, their mind is not their own.

There is a strong probability that most people who have come out to family members about previously repressed sexual abuse, but who retract those allegations, have indeed been abused as children, but biological family influence or substandard methods of therapy brings on the desire to withdraw the allegations.

Although inferior therapy practices can contribute to memory distortion and false accusations, it is more likely that defective psychotherapy creates a certain weakness, or even a false strength, in a person who had once dissociated (repressed) their childhood trauma. If a therapist promotes an environment that causes their client to prematurely speak out about their memories, or with too much anger, or a need for revenge, then the survivor can experience guilt over speaking up. They might also fear punishment or still retain a strong personal denial —all of which subsequently result in the survivor submitting to family pressure to recant the memories.

Typically, the supporters of the fictitious ‘False Memory Syndrome’ do not challenge or question any retractions, and the revocation is virtually embraced as a victory for their movement. Any investigation into the truth of the matter is forgotten.

Judith Simon points out that FMS advocates practically ignore the numerous, and often disturbing clinical histories, of those who withdraw abuse memories (or the psychological problems are attributed to innocent reasons). The proponents of FMS also present the picture-perfect version of what the family was like prior to the accusations of abuse, and then speak of the family as being “shattered” after memories are revealed by the accuser.

FMS proponents feel that psychotherapy is the real danger to society. Therapists have been sued for allegedly instilling so-called false memories, but many of the patients already had memories, even displaying symptoms of abuse, long before the therapist ever took the patient’s case. 3.

If certain aspects of healing are dealt with too late in therapy, or not at all, then the patient may place negative emotions onto the therapist. The client then returns to the family and turns on the therapist.

An in-depth look at thirty malpractice cases invoking people who retracted previous accusations of child abuse, found that eighty percent of the patients had been diagnosed with as many as four key psychiatric problems, some of which included anxiety disorders, PTSD, personality disorder, addictions, sexual desire disorder, eating disorders, and psychosomatic symptom disorders. All of which can be  directly linked to child sexual abuse.

These patients may have had an unsatisfactory recovery no matter who treated them and negligence was presumably not the case. This opinion is due to the multiple diagnoses in each patient along with the intensity of the mental and physical disturbances. It is suggested that these therapists most likely had a tremendous hurdle to face with the multitude of problems in one single person. The premise is that no matter who treated the patient, the prognosis would have been poor.

We are left to wonder what caused these numerous problems in one person, if not the very sexual abuse that was originally remembered.

In all thirty cases, there was no determination to go looking for repressed abuse memories. The recall came from the client and never from a therapist’s suggestion. It was only after the client had been influenced by FMS material that they decided their memories were false. Retracting and subsequently suing a therapist might stem from the attention-seeking behavior that goes along with the severe issues of an abuse victim, rather than from therapist induced memories. 4

In all honesty, it is highly probable that an unknown number of clients have been treated by a therapist who helped instill untruths into their belief system through poor therapeutic practices, but evidence does not show this to be any significant amount of people.

It is probable that some people, who were abused, have accused the wrong person and that some therapists have handled the cases of abuse victims so poorly that the client may never understand the depths of their abuse, or at the very least, if any abuse actually happened.

There are also people who deliberately lie about sexual molestation for self-gain. It is impossible to know how many of these cases exist because incidents of repressed memory infrequently become public.

Some people who retract allegations of abuse may have a need to gain attention and validation from the court system by suing the therapist, or through acceptance from those in the false memory movement. However, it is more likely a need to please their biological family. Validation is rarely given within the family when a person discloses abuse to parents or siblings. When the unhealed accuser cannot obtain the needed consideration and support, they find it by retracting. Rescinding invites the biological family to once again embrace the accuser.

Skeptics claim that falsely accusing a person of abuse is an “easy excuse” for an unsatisfactory life. On the contrary, it is much simpler for a survivor of abuse to believe that an unethical or uneducated therapist implanted ideas of molestation, than to accept that the parent –whom they love—had sexually abused them as a child.

Evidence for erroneous retractions can be found in the amount of recantations among children. Twenty-five percent of abused children had revoked their story in one sample. Thirty-one percent retracted after a year of therapy. In another portion of the children, three out of thirteen recanted abuse, even though the perpetrator had confessed. Recanting abuse memories can be a normal phase during the period of remembering and then revealing abuse. 5

Retracting accusations of abuse is often a psychological defense mechanism.

Research shows that when a previous victim takes back their account of what happened, it is most often because the crime perpetrated on them was traumatic, personally devastating, and heinous. 6

Retraction is especially found in cases of ritual abuse, satanic ritual abuse, or mother/daughter incest. These shocking experiences enhance the denial system to such a degree that recanting accusations can almost be expected.

One woman who entered therapy to treat problems which she felt had stemmed from a current relationship, began to realize that her pain was more deeply rooted.  The woman was very depressed and had intense urges to self-mutilate and commit suicide. At the time, nothing about sexual abuse had been mentioned or implied in her therapy sessions. People do not just “out of nowhere” suddenly feel the urge to self-mutilate or commit suicide if they have not gone through trauma or severe emotional pain during their formative years. 7

The therapist asked the woman to think about a time she had been angry with her mother. She described one experience she had as a child where her mother didn’t tell the girl’s father to stop entering the bathroom while the child was bathing. The very fact that the mother allowed the father to continue walking in on his daughter is odd. However, the woman admits that this always-remembered incident did not cause her to have memories of sexual abuse by her father.

Although the  it is vague how she feels her memories were invented, the woman does admit that her therapist did not attempt to dig any further into her past. We are left to wonder how she came up with the idea that she had acquired false memories, especially when the incident about bathing had never been forgotten. Additionally, her never-forgotten memory is indicative of a mother who refused to act on her child’s pleas for assistance, along with a father who did not respect his daughter’s boundaries with regards to her body.

Over a number of years, the woman decided along with a therapist that she may never know for certain what is false and what is true. Then, just as suddenly as the supposedly “false” memories began, she decided that because of her “Personality Disorder,” that she made her father a “scapegoat.” She then stated that she still has these “false” memories from time to time and retains a desire to self-mutilate. Personality Disorder and self-mutilation are both highly associated with child sexual abuse and every indication points to a woman who is not willing to allow herself to face the truth.

Former FBI agent Kenneth Lanning notes the common problem of families who persuade the victim not to disclose the molestation to authorities, and those who tell the child to take back the accusation after it has been exposed outside the family. He has observed the frequency of family members who put pressure on the child to keep the secrets. The same can be said for adults.

The United States Department of Justice reports that primary caregivers and parents often don’t believe the child when they first disclose abuse. Furthermore, because the child -not the abuser- is usually removed from the home, the victim often revokes the allegation. According to the Department of Justice, the child is frequently punished by the family with a lack of affection.

Recantations in children often take place when the perpetrator is arrested, when the family financial income consequently stops, when the child is placed in a foster home, when there is backlash from the siblings, or when authorities seem more like discipline to the child than helpers.

These circumstances mimic the cases of adults who speak out about having been sexually abused as a child, and are suddenly ostracized and cut off from the family. When the accuser is considered dead or “not one of us,” by family members, the person can mistakenly decide that it is much more comfortable to be a member of the family again than to heal from incest.


  1. Dissociation, Repression, and Reality Testing in the Countertransference, Jody Messler Davies, Memories of Sexual Betrayal: Truth, Fantasy, Repression, and Dissociation, Jason Aronson Inc., Edited by Richard Gartner, Ph.D, pages 60-61
  2. Betrayal Trauma: The Logic of Forgetting Child Abuse, Jennifer J. Freyd, Harvard University Press, 1996, page 45
  3. The Highly Misleading Truth and Responsibility in Mental Health Practices Act: The “False Memory” Movement’s Remedy for a Non-existent Problem, Simon, J.M., Moving Forward, 3(3): 1, 12-21, 1995, used with permission by Judith Simon
  4. Recovered Memories: The Current Weight of the Evidence in Science and in the Courts, Daniel Brown Ph.D, Alan W. Scheflin, JD, M.A., LL.M, and Charles Whitfield M.D, Journal of Psychiatry and Law, spring 1999, Volume 27
  5. U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Office for Victims of Crime, Washington, D.C., June 1999
  6. Negation or Reversal of Legal Testimony, Hypnotic Investigation of Psychodynamic Processes, Milton Erickson, The Collected Papers of Milton H. Erickson on Hypnosis Volume 3, Edited by Ernest L. Rossi Irvington Publishers, Inc, 1980, page 221 or (lost my notes on this reference, it’s one of these two) , Your Memories are Not False: A Reply to the False Memory Syndrome Foundatio 1994 by John Backus, Sc.D., and Barbara Una Stannard, Ph.D.
  7. FMSF Newsletter March/April 2000 Vol 9 No 2


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