Iatrogenically Induced Personality Disorder and Ritual Abuse Memories in a 1-Year-Old Child

Zachary Bravos*

Accompanying this article is the transcript of the testimony of a 10-year-old girl.  This testimony was given in connection with one of the most bizarre satanic ritual abuse cases I have ever handled.  The case has an extensive history and some introduction to the chronology of events is essential to understanding the impact of the child's testimony

In January, 1990, the Does were an intact, functioning family.  The family members were:

Father: Caucasian, mid 30s, 4 years of college, self-employed carpenter, annual income of approximately $65,000, first marriage.
Mother: Caucasian, mid 30s, high school education, part-time cashier in the local supermarket, second marriage.
Daughter 1: Seven and one-half years old, extremely intelligent (IQ measured at 135-142), attending advanced placement classes, no apparent problems.  Her transcript follows.  She was 10 years old at time of her testimony.
Daughter 2: Four years old, normal IQ, no apparent problems.
Step-Son: Male child from Mother's first marriage, 13 years old, normal IQ, no apparent problems.

In January, 1990, following the father's diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), the mother was also diagnosed as probable ADD.  The diagnosis was made by the family doctor who is a self-described Christian practitioner who also leads a religious study group.  Both the mother and father were members of this group.  During the first four months after her diagnosis of ADD, the mother was medicated at various times with Prozac, Ritalin, and Norpramin.  Dramatic behavior changes were noted during these four months including increasing nervousness, shortness of breath, inability to sleep, weight loss of 70 pounds, and commencement of smoking cigarettes (previously this woman had been a complete nonsmoker).

At the end of four months, the mother was hospitalized after experiencing suicidal ideation.  The admission summary indicates significantly impaired ability to concentrate and impaired memory for recent events.  Additionally, she had been experiencing recent paranoid feelings.  She was discharged four days later with a diagnosis of Major Depression, Single Episode.  The discharge diagnosis indicates a great deal of anger directed at her father who died approximately nine years previously.  She was described as having improved judgment and receded paranoid ideation.  She was willing to see a psychologist for follow-up therapy and a psychiatrist who would administer antidepressant medication.

Upon discharge, the mother began therapy with a licensed clinical social worker on a referral from her family doctor.  In May, 1990, she began work on The Courage to Heal (Paperback)(Audio Cassette) workbook (Workbook).  She also received a book entitled, I Know I Am Hurting that was described by her therapist as a book with themes of spirituality and child abuse.

By November, 1990 the mother was hospitalized for her second psychiatric admission.  The admission summary indicates that over the prior seven months of therapy, the mother had continued to uncover tremendous amounts of the grizzly details of her past.  She was experiencing body memories, feelings, and flashbacks.  She described extreme emotional, physical, and sexual abuse by her maternal grandfather and his friend between the ages of 2 and 5.  She was described as extremely religious for the past 2 to 3 years indicating that the Lord had been helping her in a battle between good and evil.

During this psychiatric hospitalization, the mother was given a sodium amytal interview and was engaged in art therapy.  This hospitalization lasted 65 days.  During this hospitalization, psychotic episodes are noted in the medical record and by the end of her hospital stay, the mother had memories of satanic ritual abuse beginning the day she came home from the hospital after birth until age 13.  The abusers now included her grandfather, his friend, and her maternal grandmother.  Her memories centered around the killing of babies, cannibalism, and forced rape by "countless people."  By the end of her hospitalization, the mother was beginning to suspect that her own mother was also involved in the satanic activities and was contemplating divorce from her husband.  Her discharge diagnosis on Axis 1 was Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Chronic with Depression and Satanic Cult Abuse.  On Axis 2, she was diagnosed with Dissociative Disorder — Depersonalization.

Following her discharge, she continued in therapy with the same clinical social worker.  Her third psychiatric hospitalization occurred in October, 1991.  This was a two-day hospitalization and the mother left after one day at her request.  She was now reporting memories of her own mother being involved in satanic abuse and her father being involved in Neo-Nazi activities, including snatching of Jews off the street and their subsequent murder and disposal in gas chambers and ovens.

In December, 1991, both daughters were hospitalized following an incident in which the mother was attempting an exorcism of demons.  This hospitalization lasted 38 days.  By the conclusion of the hospital stay, both children, but most especially the oldest, were reporting "alter" personalities along with ritual sexual abuse by their maternal grandmother and mother.  They also reported being "triggered" by their grandmother and mother.  Their lather was described as being drugged during these episodes.

One week before the children's discharge, the mother was hospitalized for the fourth time.  This was a 45-day hospitalization and was the first hospitalization that did not involve staff members who believed in ritual abuse.  A psychological evaluation during this hospitalization indicated that the mother exhibited major psychopathology with acute emotional instability.  Her thinking was described as affect-laden with faulty reasoning that was obvious in the interview.  She was described as having an active delusional process with sufficient pathology to support a thought disorder pathognomonic of a schizophrenic decompensation.  Her test responses were described as bizarre with turmoil linked to active delusional processes exhibiting perverse aggression along with strong indications of sexual arousal towards children.  The evaluation noted that sexual violation appeared to excite her and was linked to her psychotic processes.

A second evaluation obtained from an outside source indicated that the mother was a profoundly disturbed schizophrenic or schizo-affected woman who functioned reasonably well until approximately two years ago when she came under the influence of therapists who "assisted her" in organizing her delusional thinking in the areas of sexual abuse and satanism.  This outside consultation recommended that there be a careful review of any therapeutic input that was directly or indirectly reinforcing the mother's delusional preoccupations with satanism, cults, multiple personalities, and "triggering concepts."  This report also notes that the previous therapy resulted in iatrogenic complications in the management of a severely impaired, thought-disordered, profoundly disturbed schizoaffective woman.

During this hospitalization, the mother described how she taught her oldest daughter to use hand signals in identifying internal "parts."  She also described games she played with this daughter which gave her the information about the abuse by the maternal grandmother.  The hospital concluded that the mother has trained her daughter unconsciously due to her need to justify her actions in cutting off her family.  The hospital noted that there was great secondary gain and an excuse for everything that had gone wrong in mother's life if she could blame someone else.  By the conclusion of this hospital stay, the mother had identified 13 persons as having abused her in the past, including ritual abuse by hospital staff alleged to have occurred during her second hospitalization.

Child Protective Services now became involved and filed a petition alleging that the mother had abused her children.  She was allowed supervised visitation with her daughters with the visitations supervised by the father.  Upon her hospital discharge the mother completely disagreed with her diagnosis.  She was described as extremely angry and sarcastic and indicating that she has not been appropriately treated.  She was further described as hysterical and extremely resistant to any further therapeutic intervention.

After her discharge, the mother continued the supervised visits with her children and was allowed to move back into the home after approximately one month.  The children had also been discharged from their hospital stay with identical diagnoses of anxiety, depression, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and Dissociative Disorder.  The children continued in therapy with the same professionals who treated them during their hospital stay.

On May 17, 1992, the father was admitted for his first psychiatric hospitalization at the insistence of the mother.  She demanded his hospitalization to determine the extent, if any, of his involvement in ritual cult activity.  At the time of his admission, the father was beginning to express belief in the satanic cult involvement of his wife's family.  The impressions on admission indicated recurrent Major Depression, Avoidant Personality Disorder with Passive-Aggressive features.  During the course of his hospital stay, the father underwent hypnotherapy sessions and one sodium amytal interview by hospital staff who believed in the reality of ritual abuse.  But he became increasingly skeptical during his hospital stay and by the end of his stay rejected the concept of ritual abuse and felt manipulated by his therapist.

While in the hospital, the children continued to live with mother and by the time the father is discharged on July 10, 1992, both children had developed stories of satanic ritual sexual abuse at the hands of their father.  The oldest daughter, especially, began developing memories of satanic ritual abuse by her grandmother but now instead of her mother participating, she identified the participant as her father.  Upon the father's discharge, his own therapist became the therapist for his oldest daughter and has continued to see this child.

Upon his hospital discharge, the father was identified as a sexual abuser of his children and orders were entered in Juvenile Court prohibiting contact by him or any of his family members with the children.  The exact wording of the Order is "No family member other than the children's mother shall have contact with the children, the children are not to have contact with the other members."  Child Protective Services was completely convinced of the reality of satanic ritual abuse and consulted with the mother's therapist and other satanic ritual abuse experts to formulate treatment plans.

During this period, the mother also consulted regularly with Chicago police officer Robert J. Simandl. Simandl is the "cult cop" who claims to be an expert on satanic ritual abuse and who works with so-called satanic cult survivors.

Court-ordered visitation between the children and their father was eventually ordered beginning October, 1992.  However, while the father began regular visitation with his youngest daughter, his oldest daughter has refused to see him.  She expresses great fear of both her father and grandmother.

In January, 1993, I had Dr. Underwager present testimony challenging this process.  The judge then ordered the family members to be seen by a court-appointed psychologist who indicated the children were at serious risk with their mother and that continued placement in her home was detrimental.  The children therefore have remained in a third-party foster home pending resolution of the Juvenile Court proceedings.  The court-appointed psychologist indicated to the Court that this family has been the victim of incompetent mental health services.

The transcript that follows is the examination of the oldest daughter in connection with pending court proceedings.  The examination was conducted in the Judge's chambers with only counsel present.

In reviewing the transcript, note the style and direction of the questioning.  In questioning young children, it is important to attempt to have them talk as much as possible.  Effective questioning is not generally used in traditional cross-examination.

* Zachary Bravos is an attorney at 600 West Roosevelt Road, Wheaton, Illinois 60187.  [Back]


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