The Nightmare That May Never End
by Rebecca Doe*
In June of 1988, my 34-year-old daughter, Rachel, arrived at our home
unannounced in acute distress. Our relationship with our daughter,
her husband, and their 5-year-old child, Lisa, was close and
loving. We were grateful for that, because her adolescence had
been a stormy one. During that difficult period we had serious
concerns about her future. But that afternoon Rachel told us, in
tears just short of hysteria, that her distress was due to her belief
that Lisa had been sexually abused by the 12-year-old girl Rachel had
entrusted with babysitting her for the previous year.
During this visit to us, as she told us about the babysitter problem,
Rachel's understandable distress had overtones of horrifying
guilt. The 12-year-old sitter had been trusted as "a genius
at getting along with Lisa," even though Rachel knew of her
previous hospitalization for mental illness. Rachel had talked to
her younger brother, who has a Ph.D. in psychology, about some of Lisa's
behaviors that she thought were a bit strange. He had alerted
Rachel to possible baby sitter abuse when she described some of Lisa's
behavior to him. But Rachel disregarded this suggestion,
apparently because she had been told by her therapist that her fears on
that score were paranoid. This is the same therapist who later
persuaded her that we were abusive parents.
On that visit, we were asked if we'd pay for treatment for Lisa, and,
of course, we readily agreed. We were ready to do anything to
assist our daughter and her child. Then Rachel begged us, with
apparent desperation, to answer some odd questions about Rachel's
grandparents' parenting of us. We answered readily with no
possible anticipation of the way our words were to be horrendously
distorted later. We felt deep compassion for our daughter, knowing
how guilty she felt about having allowed a 12-year-old girl with a
history of hospitalization for mental illness to babysit alone for so
long. We shared her distress and her anxiety about Lisa being
abused and wanted to cooperate in every way we could to understand how
this could have happened and what we all could do about it together as a
However, as time passed, Rachel became more distant. We noticed
this but thought she was trying to cope the best way she could.
She then called us and asked that we all see a family therapist.
We agreed to one of her choice, a prominent systems therapist who headed
a preeminent family therapy institute in the area.
I am a family therapist myself. In retrospect, I could only
have missed the referential nature of my daughter's statements during
the first joint session by denial. The psychiatrist pointed out
the failures in her reality testing later. Then I was able to
recognize her accusations that we were reckless in leaving her, as a
child, with babysitters. Now, with no evidence and wrongly, she
believed the sitters we had left her with to have been sexually
dangerous to her. She recalled our teasing one 23-year-old medical
student friend, who often dated 19-year-olds, about "robbing the
cradle," as proof of his dangerousness and our recklessness.
The family therapist explained the expression, and asked Rachel what
her individual therapist advised about such concerns, and was told that
she had said, "Go with the flow." What a suggestion to
one she had previously called paranoid. The family therapist
disagreed, advising Rachel to "check things out," partially
prompting her later quitting his treatment, saying that she "didn't
like his attitude."
After that session Rachel said she'd feel more comfortable if she
knew I was watching her father whenever Lisa was visiting. This
confused me. I asked what she was talking about. I had no
idea I was being asked to choose between my daughter and my totally
innocent husband whom she now believed had sexually assaulted her during
her childhood. However, she had not yet said anything directly to
us about this accusation.
Then, on the advice of her therapist, Rachel, although proclaiming
her continuing devotion to us, asked to be out of contact with us for
six months. We had no way of enforcing a refusal on our part,
other than threatening to withdraw our significant contributions to
their financial support, which, it seemed, would seriously worsen
Next we began hearing from other family members that Rachel was
claiming to have been a victim of incest. We were shocked,
dismayed, angry, depressed, and simply had no way at all to understand
how this could be happening to our family. I consulted the family
therapist, and I was advised to contact Rachel's therapist immediately,
that something serious was happening to Rachel, and that he felt she
needed medication. Not knowing her therapist's name, I couldn't
follow through, and, anyway, I was fearful of my very touchy daughter's
reaction to such interference.
My husband and I tried desperately to figure out what could possibly
have happened that she was now making these horrifying
accusations. Rachel had been one of those beautiful, glowing young
children that most parents only dream about. Taking her for a walk
meant frequent delightful interruptions by praising strangers, much
taken by her attractiveness and winning manner. We were proud of
her and loved her dearly.
The early signs of trouble began during the agonizing two-year
illness and death of Rachel's younger sister. During the period of
the affliction with acute leukemia, our younger daughter, who, we felt,
was in her own way as exceptional as Rachel, naturally required much of
our attention. Rachel, who had been the object of much maternal
and paternal doting must have felt relatively neglected, though, of
course we tried our very best to minimize that. We tried hard to
make as much time as possible for Rachel and to work together to respond
to this stress and sorrow.
Rachel's nightmares, problems with friends, and difficulties at
school began during this period and continued after her sister's
death. We had sufficient familiarity with the mental health field,
and we were sophisticated enough to consult a highly recommended and
reputable child psychiatrist who treated Rachel twice weekly from ages 9
to 17. Her psychiatrist told us he hoped to avert the development
of later paranoid schizophrenia, by his therapeutic intervention.
This therapy was largely successful until it was destroyed by the highly
probing and forcefully suggestive recent measures by Rachel's current
therapist, against which he had vigorously counseled.
That prior therapeutic success was attested to by the facts that
Rachel was a professionally successful, civic-minded, brilliant, caring
young woman. She had earned her Master's degree in Counseling and
she specialized in treating eating disorders. She was a loving
mother and daughter of whom we felt justly proud. Proud, until
disaster struck in the guise of a new style of psychotherapy.
Reports of Rachel's conversations began sounding increasingly
bizarre. For instance, to her paternal aunt, she described objects
that the baby sitter, whose supposed abuses Lisa had previously
"refused to discuss," had inserted into Lisa's vagina, urethra
and anus. She was keeping these objects in three separate bags,
discussing them frequently with Lisa.
Finally we obtained Rachel's therapist's address. We wrote a
letter pleading for communication with her and Rachel. No
answer. We learned from others that Lisa had been switched to
another sex-abuse specialist because the first had failed to get
anything out of her.
We again consulted the family therapist who also tried and got no
response. He asked whether we were going to permit our
granddaughter to be psychologically abused by her mother, who was
"making her crazy!" We asked what he thought of a court
action for grandparent's visiting rights, and he recommended proceeding
with that action, saying he would back us fully.
The details of the hearing we hoped would straighten things out would
take several dozen more pages. Briefly, our highly recommended,
top-named, ultra high-priced lawyers had made their reputations in
family law, which we were told applied to our case. It turned out
that their experience and reputations were from divorce cases, and they
knew little, and did less to help in this time consuming situation.
The court-appointed child advocate, represented to us as unbiased,
and whom we ultimately were court-ordered to pay, was an appealing young
women who fed us the lines that anyone familiar with the incest survivor
movement has heard all too often. In essence, she said that
because the worst possible thing is to place a child in the hands of an
abuser, she would convince the judge (who would listen to her because he
appointed her as expert) to rule against us whether she believed us to
be guilty or innocent of child abuse. The risk of reabuse is so
great that she would have to recommend against us.
Furthermore, the female probation officer who was assigned to obtain
the evidence for the court, readily obtained our background information,
but not that of Rachel, quoting Rachel's initial refusal to sign
releases. When the judge ordered that Rachel sign (she finally
did), the probation officer resisted obtaining the reports, claiming
that they weren't needed. Actually she initially refused in the
face of repeated orders by the judge.
Suffice it to say that our evidence never got to a hearing.
That included preventing my denials of supposed concurrence, and
Rachel's brother's absolute conviction that her therapist's insistence
that he too had repressed all evidence of these extreme events over the
years was absurd. The entire family immediately responded to these
accusations with the conviction that Rachel had become insane. She
promptly cut them all off from any contact with her and her family
also. There was the medical evidence that included her
gynecologist's record of refusal to insert an IUD at age 17 due to an
intact hymen and Rachel's verbal evidence of virginity. There were
the records and reports of the child psychiatrist who treated her twice
weekly from age 9 to 17, and found no signs of abuse.
Rachel claimed repeated, "almost continuous" rape,
including forced oral and anal penetration from age two and a half to
16. She claimed to remember this and testified the same thing
happened to her leukemic little sister who would have promptly
hemorrhaged to death. These "memories" were
"repressed" throughout the attacks, until brought out after
considerable therapeutic pressure as "decades delayed
discovery." But all examining physicians throughout childhood
and adolescence during supposed potentially mutilating attacks reported
that she showed no signs of abuse, or even scarring. Decades
delayed delusions would be more accurate.
A court-appointed forensic psychiatrist, after examinations and
testing, found Rachel to have a paranoid delusional disorder in relation
to her entire family, and to be "incapable of distinguishing fact
from fantasy." He recommended that she be seen by a
psychiatrist, expressing the opinion that she needed medication.
He further said that Lisa's admission that her mother told her that her
"Grandpa might hurt you," but that she doesn't believe it,
helped substantiate his opinions on witnessed interactions between
grandfather and granddaughter. Furthermore, he reported to the
judge, the negative opinion and testing showing no inappropriate
psychopathology in the grandfather, justify visitation. Visitation
could be supervised only to calm the mother.
Hope for a chance to convince Rachel's husband to try for a change to
helpful therapy for our suffering daughter, and input to help our
granddaughter were lost when the outrageous delays of the justice system
permitted them to escape confrontation by moving 3,000 miles away.
We pray that Rachel will someday come out of this, but have since
learned of the support for her induced delusions available from what has
become the sex-abuse industry, cultivating a cult of so-called incest
survivors, many with decades delayed supposed discovery. I further
fear, because it would be typical of her and this epidemic, that Rachel
will change her theories of cause in her counseling of women with eating
disorders, to those of the incest survivor cult that food (and most
other) problems are due to suppressed incest memories, and do to others
what has been done to her. That's how this plague seems to be
We called the Institute for Psychological Therapies in Minnesota
which we learned had been actively studying such false accusations for
some time. We asked for and were given help with our goals of: (1)
forming a support group of those accused of decades delayed discovery
which could also be a source of research information (currently over
1500 families and rapidly growing); (2) encouraging and arranging
relevant articles and symposia at professional meetings in hopes of
arousing courage to resist this unwittingly disastrous approach in what
we consider to be the now silent majority of mental health
professionals; and (3) striving for a more balanced representation by
the media, which currently spreads much harmful propaganda with
unquestioned cult-invented absurd statistics, and blind sympathy for the
position of individuals like Rosanne Barr Arnold, LaToya Jackson and the
rest of these poor, literally misguided accusers. Their clients
are often asked to read The Courage to Heal ()(),
one of the now many pop psych books of this sort, which encourages women
to suspect that they were abused as children even though they have no
We have no doubt that we have made many mistakes as parents, but we
love our children and our granddaughter. We felt we had a lot to
give. Lisa loved staying with us and often balked at going
home. We miss her, and we miss the daughter we love. There
is never a day or night that she does not come to mind. We lost a
child to leukemia. That was dreadful, but we were able to deal
with the finality of something that no one could help. This is a
man-made disaster, causing wounds that will never heal.
It is possible that I may never see my daughter again. For such
change to take place, decades may elapse. But as those in similar
situations agree, perhaps our work will make it possible for others to
avoid our pain. We hope to put a stop to this destructive kind of
therapy. The anger we feel toward these therapists is impossible
to measure. As we spend hours on the phone trying to help others
who have just discovered that they are not alone in their misery, we
hope something is being accomplished.
We have met many wonderful and quite remarkable people, and
friendships have developed among these unlikely so-called rapists and
Satanists. As we work to get our stories heard, we hope that
people will realize that they too can be accused, and have their family
life destroyed. We hope that others, especially those therapists
who are apparently afraid to speak out, will do so. I lived
through a comparable situation in Germany in the 1930s. The deja
vu like elements are almost overwhelming. We desperately yearn
for the recovery of our intensely loved daughter and granddaughter, but,
failing that, at least hope that there will be some progress in fighting
this plague of agonizing family disruptions.