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 The Newsletter of the Australian False Memory Association

 Part 3

 Concerning Recovered Memories

 Volume 6 Issue 2 July 1999


 Part1 | Part2



These two letters are extracted from the book Making Of An Illness, My experience with multiple personality disorder , by Canadian, Gail Mcdonald. This is a true account of therapy which almost destroyed her.

Letter to women with �recovered memories�.

Dear sisters,

I am writing this letter in hope that if you have any doubts in your mind about your recovered memories, you do yourself a favour and seek a second opinion. When the crunch comes down, we are left with only ourselves to live, and the consequences of false memories can be devastating to all concerned.

I wanted to write this book for many reasons but the most important one was to send a message to other women who still might be caught in the therapy cult. Many times throughout my therapy I experienced a gnawing feeling in the pit of my gut telling me that something was wrong. I chose to ignore that feeling over and over again while believing that it was my own denial of �repressed� abuse.

There are some valid ways to check our own paths and make sure any actions we take today will be the right ones. I personally never had any memories before therapy of being sexually abused by my father. The dreams and the voices did not come until after I had entered into therapy. I never suffered from self-mutilation or memory loss before therapy either.
One thing I did do for myself was to get hold of all of my medical records. They helped me to put the puzzle together. Never again will I give over my power to another human being who calls himself or herself a professional, nor will I belittle myself by thinking I know less about my life than they do. The man whom I trusted certainly wasn�t there supporting me when I had to explain this nightmare to my mom and dad. When I was unable to work because my mind was manipulated into cult-like thinking, he never helped me or offered to help support my family.

A simple second opinion can relieve you of the devastation, shame and guilt that I experienced. I believe today that everything happens for a reason. Maybe the reason for my experience was to help others like myself. Abuse is abuse and in my eyes, professional abuse is not perpetrated simply by mistake.

There are motives such as control and money behind these despicable acts, I may not be a survivor of sexual abuse, but I know the feeling of being one, thanks to [my counselor] Joe. When I did abreactional work under hypnosis, the fear and pain were as real as if I did experience all this imagined abuse, and those �memories� are still quite vivid today. I only wish that I could repress them. Please don�t doubt what your inner self is saying and seek a second opinion!

May peace be with you all.

Letter from a special friend

Dear reader

I am a 29-year-old sexual abuse survivor. I was sexually abused from the age of four until I was thirteen. I have a long list of perpetrators, my father, a brother, uncles, foster parent, and a neighbour. The abuse ranged from fondling, oral sex, anal intercourse and vaginal intercourse. None of the memories I have were brought forth in therapy. My life wasn�t a pleasant one and this is my truth. I had to seek professional help to accept this truth and start my journey to heal. I thank God my experience wasn�t like Gail�s.

I am aware of her experience because she has shared it with me. I have also seen her sharing it with people who don�t believe her. Some people have said that she may be an alter out protecting the abuser. My opinion on all this is very strong. What a crock of shit this is! Why can�t we all believe that what Gail is saying is true? I do not think that Gail�s experience has taken away my truth. When I shared my story with her, she had validated it. She cried for my pain when I was unable to find the tears. Her experience is just as traumatic as my own, or maybe even more so. She isn�t the only one who has walked this path. Why is it easier to victimise the victim again, rather than to look at the therapist who has done this harm in the first place? It is not recanters who take away from women�s sexual abuse. This lies in the hands of the professionals. They are the ones that profit off women.

There is no way that you can live through abuse like I did, and not remember it until you hit a therapist�s chair. Please, give me a break! If that�s the case, how come some abuse survivors have MPD and other survivors remember it all? Why did people who lived through the holocaust not forget and repress and come out of it with MPD?

Let�s put the blame where it belongs... to the really bad therapy. I applaud all recanters who share their experience with me, and who refuse to be silenced by loud voices. Keep telling your horrible stories. I believe you.

Kim Whelan

The book is published by Laurentian University Press, Ontario, Canada. ISBN# 0-88667-045-4


At the beginning of the book there is a comment by Richard Ofshe and Nathan Watters from their book Making Monsters. While the multiple personality disorder is not real at the beginning of the therapy, there is little doubt that the patients are truly suffering as they come to accept the therapist�s diagnosis. Examining the fad diagnosis of MPD, the cruelty of recovered memory therapy becomes particularly clear. Thousands of clients have learned to display the often-debilitating symptoms of a disorder that they never had. They become less capable of living normal lives, more dependant on therapy, and inevitably more troubled.


The newsletter will be happy to receive for publication reports of activities and suggestions for other actions relevant to AFMA�s goals...ED


The Canberra group continues to meet on the last Thursday of each month from 7.30 pm. They continue to actively promote their existence publicly via newspaper and radio and invite relevant guest speakers to address them. They have also adopted an advocacy role, and follow up on any local issues which are of importance. They recently invited the ACT Minister for Health to become their patron. However he declined because of his workload.

Discretion is now granted to trial judges in NSW and the ACT to allow any evidence that they have accepted as relevant, tending to undermine the credit of the complainant, or tending to establish the innocence of the accused. This concerns new restrictions on counselors� notes being accessible to the courts.

Families whose children have disappeared and would like to network in order to share methods for finding them might wish to contact AFMA to arrange contact between the families.

Families wishing to offer free accommodation to visiting members of AFMA who are the parents of retractors might submit details to AFMA.

Neil Woodger, a Clinical Psychologist addressed the ACT branch on 25/3/99.

Extracts from his talk include:

It is very hard to understand the [false memory] debate without putting it into historical and cultural context. It has been very prominent in the USA, well known for its collection of cults, religious fundamentalists, and other groups whose view of the world can be hard to follow. This phenomenon may reflect the desire of a lot of people for certainty in a demanding world, perhaps leading to the too ready acceptance of simplistic ideas, and allowing people to avoid more challenging lines of thought.

Helping professionals are subject to what is known as �empathetic distress�. They can become aroused and angry on a client�s behalf. Such reactions pose challenges to a professional�s necessary objectivity.
Assessment and diagnosis are difficult tasks. Clinical psychologists and psychiatrists are expected to deal with the more severe mental health problems. Hence it would appear logical that these two professions provide leadership in this area. This has not always been the case.

The debate requires open mindedness and rigour, two key elements that have at times been pushed aside.


The AFMA Seminar and Annual General Meeting is now to be held in Melbourne. So please note in your diary the following dates:


Planned to commence:
Sept, 18th, 1999- Melbourne

Keep this weekend free to attend

Details to be posted

Unfortunately Dr Pamela Freyd is not available to travel to Australia this year. Further information will be posted directly to those on the mailing list.

It is planned to have a significant seminar in the future, to communicate our concerns beyond ourselves- and hopefully attract politicians and policy-makers. Such an enterprise requires a considerable amount of precious time and resources.

At the present time, much priority has been devoted towards enhancing the organisational structure of the AFMA, and dealing with the daily crises presented to us. It is hoped that the tremendous effort of Irene Curtiss and the founding Executive can be preserved, while developing the AFMA to further the aims of those who pioneered under the most tragic of circumstances.

Thankyou to those, especially the Canberra members, who have worked towards the 1999 seminar/ AGM. It is hoped that an enlarged seminar may be organised once the AFMA has completed the consolidation of its organisation. Unfortunately, such organisation and public awareness are necessary, in order to present a credible and reasonable viewpoint to be heard into the future. Any effort to reduce the harm is not in vain.


On the last Sunday in May the second meeting of 9 Sydney members was held.

The first one, at the end of March, found 10 members meeting in the Botanic Gardens, when we got to know each other, talked about our frustrations, hurts and disappointments. Looking towards the future, we considered what could be done to help our accusing children, to help our families, and ourselves, to promote AFMA, and ultimately how we could deal with counselors involved in recovered memory therapy.

It was decided that each should write down his or her story [anonymously if desired] so that we could build up a file of case histories. The common thread running through these case histories could provide a valuable help in debunking recovered memory therapy. At the time of writing four histories have been received � more would be most welcome. For mailing details please contact Fay on 9144 6044.

Other matters raised:

Three members will attend a symposium on recovered memories at the St John of God Hospital in Sydney in July. Any suggestions and input to them are welcome � ring Phil on 9949 4995 or Tony and Denise on 9440 8911.

Two trials are coming up in August and September when we would like to support the accused fathers. If you can help by attending during these trials, please let Gloria know.

Tony has had dealings with a reporter from the �7.30 Report� to put our case. As few of us would be willing to openly face a camera since we do not wish to jeopardise relationships within our families, we are not good TV fodder. However, several of those present indicated willingness to speak without the face showing. It was decided to invite the reporter to join our next meeting, not for filming but let her see that we are serious and not a bunch of ratbags.

The next meeting will be held on Sunday, 1st August at 2.30 pm. Details will be sent to NSW members nearer the time. Make a note now.

The value of these meetings was felt by all. It is hoped that more and more members will be able to come to give and receive support in turn. We need each other.

Gloria � NSW Representative. Tel. 02 9977 4076.


Case Update

After a committal, hung jury in the first trial and the inability of the barrister to continue the second trial, the third trial of a member is expected to be held in October.

Needless to say the defendant and his family are both emotionally and financially wrecked.

The name of the defendant is not published in the event of any legal issues. Members will be more fully informed at a later date.


Australian Rotary offers grants in support of mental illness research and the Ian Scott Fellowship.

The objectives are:

To provide financial support to research projects within Australia which will enhance the health of the community.

To stimulate research activities within Australia by facilitating communication between participants in specified fields.

To encourage projects which may have a practical outcome capable of being applied by community groups.

Projects must be undertaken within a university, public hospital, or other body approved under Section 78 of the Income Assessment Act

Application forms are available from:
The Secretary, Australian Rotary research Fund, PO Box 779, Parramatta, NSW, 2124

Phone: [02] 9633 4888 FAX: [02] 9891 5984
Email: rduinc@msn.com
Web Page: http://www.rotarnet.com.au
Closing Date: 13 August 1999

AFMA encourages such applications. Perhaps our suggested incorporation will enable the receipt of similar support by the Association.


Letters to the editor will be considered for publication within the space limits that must be considered. This letter was addressed to the President and is reprinted with permission...ED


�We finally lost touch with our three daughters in 1993�

In the latest newsletter is a request to notify the name of any therapist involved in our case. Our story began in 1992 and involved a clinical psychologist. [name supplied] I have no idea if she is still practising from the same place as all contact was stopped when she had our daughter �remember� abuse by both parents and not just a family friend as first �recalled�.

We finally lost touch with our three daughters in early 1993 [at their instigation] and sadly have had no further contact since then. We know they are still in Adelaide somewhere but have no idea where and have no contact either with our two granddaughters who re now eight and six. In 1994 our son-in-law contacted us as he was trying to gain custody of his daughters and wanted our help. This was the first contact with him since the split in 1993 but as our daughter had turned on him too the marriage had broken up. Our son-in-law was unable to pursue the custody case in court due to lack of funds but does still see his children on two weekends out of three and so at least they still have some male influence on their lives. Obviously he dare not bring the girls to see us at present but he has assured us that when they are old enough to understand he will tell them the truth about their grandparents. [Their mother has told them we are dead.] We hope that one day we will be reunited with them.

We live through hell at Christmas time and birthdays and special times and never stop hoping for a word or a phone call from our daughters but so far there has been nothing. They have changed their names so we cannot even trace them through the phone book. This is not a cry for help, as we know there are others in a much worse situation than us. You are doing a great job in keeping the association going and we hope you will find the strength and courage to keep on. It was eighteen months before we heard of false memories and in that time had no idea of what was happening and where we had gone wrong. What a pity it is that as we come close to the year 2000 this terrible thing is still happening and devastating our families. We had hoped that by now the association would be being wound up with no more reported cases. What a tragedy this is not so. I sincerely hope there are no new cases in South Australia but we would be very willing to help any other family come to terms with their loss and try to regain their lives.

Please advise if there is anything we can do to help.

Sheila and Bob

Freedom of the Press?

The �Western Australian� published the personal details of a man charged with indecent dealing, disclosing this before trial. The man was prominent in his professional field. [�Cancer group chief on child sex counts�, 19/5/99, p 30.] The paper even printed a photo of him. A question arises as to the public perceptions such pre-trial publication can create, given the entitlement to the �presumption of innocence�.

The accused now has to endure months of personal hell, before coming to trial, but, should he be acquitted, will never recover from the intense stigma that will, destroy his reputation and career, let alone his state of mind.
Where a charge of such sensitivity is concerned it is usual to disclose only the name of the accused. This is done to protect the complainant. In the interest of fairness, this must be done for the accused.

Freedom of the press is a licence that carries its own heavy responsibility. It is not suggested that we have �closed courts� but that the media must exercise restraint in order for the accused to have a fair trial and the presumption of innocence to be maintained.

The only way to stop this continuous problem is to introduce legislation so that the identity of both the accused and the complainant is withheld from publication until the outcome of the trial, as is the case of sexual charges in South Australia.

Brian G Tennant


Youth- is when you know all the answers,
but don't understand the questions.

Old Age-when the answers don't matter, and:
"What were the questions again?"

Frank Elson, after a conversation with a Grandson


I read recently in The Melbourne Age (11/6/99, p.16) of a Secret Society of Happy People (SSOHP) which now has its own website at http://wwww.sohp.com". Their goal is to move people away from bonding based on 'woundology', due to our society's focus on the negative events in out lives, and the need for people to wear their 'wounds" (real or imagined) like a badge of courage.

As one of the SSHOP members observed, a lot of people become connected through their pain. This is not necessarily a problem, but if we focus too much on the negative experiences that we have in common we may miss out on the opportunities for moving on and experiencing some happiness.

Having met so many parents suffering from the pain inflicted by recovered false memories, I have seen the way that shared pain has drawn many AFMA members together. Many have gained the strength to keep going and the courage to face the world by the sharing of their grief with other falsely-accused parents, and the realisation that there are many others in the world who have experienced such a disaster.

However, as we make our way through life, weighed down by our particular burdens and unimaginable grief, we need to attempt to slowly reclaim the pleasure, joy and happiness that was part of our pre-accusation lives. We owe this to ourselves - for our own happiness and well-being - and for those around us, especially our loved ones.

Merle Elson


Submissions are sought for future editions of the AFMA Bulletin/ Newsletter. Items and published material, such as from newspapers and journals should clearly reference their source and date.

Letters to the editor, and comments from the membership are sought. Articles and letters will be shortened where there are issues of clarity or space, or the writer may choose to resubmit. Submission made in electronic form are welcome, with these saved as text files.

Please address items to;

AFMA, PO Box 59,
Eastwood NSW 2122

Confidentiality will be respected at the request of the author, if required


Canberra Gianni & Johanna
0262 582983
Tasmania John 0363 522026
South Australia Evelyn 08 8337 1751
Western Aust. Brian 093 818513


The AFMA does not condone child abuse.

  • To offer support to families claiming to be falsely accused by adult
    children who have recovered memories.
  • To keep abreast of the latest information.
  • To publish a Newsletter regularly to disseminate information.
  • To adopt a professional approach to the media.
  • To encourage objective discussion and study of memory.
  • To bring together an Advisory body of persons of professional
    standing drawn from a variety of disciplines.
  • To assure all persons contacting the Association that their enquiries will be treated with the utmost confidentiality.

Whilst the members of the Professional Advisory Board support the Aims and Objectives of the Australian False Memory Association, the views expressed in this newsletter may not necessarily be held by some or all of the Board members. Equally, the Association may not always agree with the views expressed by any Board member.


Graham Burrows, A.O., M.D., Ch.B., D.P.M., F.R.A.N.Z.C.P., F.R.C. Psych., M.R.C.M.A., Professor/ Director of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, Austin Hospital, Victoria.

Andrew Gibbs, B.Sc.[Hons],M.Sc.,Ph.D.,M.A.P.S., Senior Neuropsychologist, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Melbourne

Robert McNeilly, M.B.B.S., D.Obst., R.C.O.G., Psychotherapist/Founder, Centre of Effective Therapy, Melbourne

David Millikan, B.A., B.D.[Hons], Ph.D. Uniting Church Minister, Broadcaster & Author, Bronte, NSW

Edward Ogden, M.A.[Hons],M.B.B.S.,B.Med.Sc. Forensic Physician, Department of Forensic Medicine, Victoria Police, Melbourne.

Donald Thomson, LL.B., B.A., M.A., Ph.D., F.A.P.S. Professor of Psychology, School of Social Sciences and Liberal Studies, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, Barrister, Victorian Bar.

What you can do to remedy the disaster of false/ recovered memories.

  • Educate yourself about recovered memories so you are able to clearly understand the issues from all viewpoints.
  • Write to your State and Federal Politician.
      The contact details for your electorate can be obtained from the Australian Electoral Commission, listed in the White pages of your telephone directory.
      Hand-written letters can have a significant impact as opposed to form-written typed ones.

  • Copy this newsletter and mail to interested others.
       Those who may be interested- politicians, media outlets, church and charity organisations, etc�

  • Remember to seek assistance and help if the burden becomes too much.
    It is important to also care for oneself, in order to care for one�s family and others.
  • If you are not a financial Member of the AFMA, become a supporter. The AFMA has very limited means.

(In confidence)

Please print clearly

Name: ................................................................................

Address: ............................................................................





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Professional membership- Category B $50.00

Subscription to Newsletter- Only Category C $20.00


(For those who may or may not wish to be members.)

I support the aims and objectives of the AFMA
and wish to donate the sum of :-

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The AFMA is a voluntary non-profit "shoe-string" organisation coping with the devastating aftermath of false recovered memories. It receives no government or external assistance. Any support, be it financial or via one�s skills, or sympathy with the aims of the AFMA, is greatly appreciated.

THANKING you sincerely for your support to keep the AFMA ..

Caring for individuals and families.



 Part1 | Part2

Australian False Memory
    Association (Incorporated)

Australian False Memory Association
Caring for Families and Individuals

Email the AFMA at false.memory@bigpond.com

PO Box 74
Campbelltown SA 5074

Ph: 1300 88 88 77

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