IPT Book Reviews

Title: Suffer the Child  Negative Review
Author: Judith Spencer
Publisher: Pocket Books 1989

Pocket Books
1220 Avenue of the Americas
New York, New York
$4.95
  

Description:

This is a long story of the life of Jenny, suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder.  She had some 35 different personalities and was hospitalized 27 time in 20 years.  Therapists claimed that she developed her multiple personality because she was raped, suffered sexual and physical abuse, and was involved in cults and Satan worship.  In 37 short chapters, the author attempts to reconstruct the life of Jenny and her therapy.  The book closes with a small bibliography on cults and Multiple Personality Disorder (MDP) some of it from non-scientific sources.
  

Discussion:

The book is based, primarily, on Jenny's daily journal, written in poetry with no age specified.  It remains an adult interpretation of a child's world.  In the very first of Jenny's journal poems she warns, "we are lost in a dream, a dream we can't remember" (p. XXVIII).

Generalizing from a sample of one is always hazardous and the author does not warn the reader of this.  The book is characterized by considerable editorial license and the author fills in gaps in knowledge.  The book is plagued by numerous assumptions.  Jenny warned the author that "no one knows all the missing pieces" (p.245) and the author attempts to find missing pieces with little success.

The major portion of the book deals with two therapists' attempt to force Jenny to remember and to reduce her multiple personalities.  Her accounts are accepted by the therapists.  No effort was made to ascertain if her present symptoms were related to a previous diagnosis.  Burn scars and Bible signatures are never found by anybody.  "Black altars" and "sacrifices on human flesh" (p. 75) were never located.  No records were asked for from campgrounds or parks where the cult ceremonies were alleged to have happened.  Although the New Hope Church was identified as cult headquarters, it was never investigated.  Jenny's fantasies, journal data, and the authors' personal beliefs and values are all mixed to the point where the reader is left confused over the truth.  A social worker warned that Jenny's stories were a way of getting attention.  This warning went unheeded.

This book is not worth buying for the professional.

Reviewed by LeRoy Schultz, Professor, School of Social Work, West Virginia University.

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