The Rape

Lilian Öhrström*

Editor's Note: This article is translated from a chapter of Lilian Öhrström's book, "Sex, Lögner och Terapi" (Sex, Lies and Therapy), Norsteds, 1996.  During a scholarship stay in the United States, she observed the hysterical reports on television concerning the McMartin case.  Ten years later she saw the same accusations and a similar series of events leading to the arrest of seven adults in a small village in Norway called Bjugn.  She wrote a series of articles on the issue of false accusations and modern witch hunts and eventually took a leave of absence from her job as a journalist to write this 302-page book.  Its subtitle is "The Reality Behind the Witch Trials of Our Times."  The book brought her recognition as being a popularizer of difficult subjects and she won the Swedish award for 'Popular Educator of the Year."

Among the twenty prisoners who had been convicted of sexual offenses and who during spring 1995 were confined at Department A of the Norrtälje penitentiary, ten claimed to be innocent.  Seven of them offered to show me the court rulings concerning their cases to assist my investigation.  I had time to scrutinize four of these and I was not convinced of their guilt.

One of these cases concerned a man who in autumn 1995 was granted a new trial by the Supreme Court.  When Martin K was tried, the verdict was not unanimous.  Some of the judges voted for acquittal, in spite of the highly persuasive behavior of his stepdaughter during the proceedings.  However, the court never learned about certain circumstances — although her father had allegedly committed the rape when she was 11 years old, she had no recollection of the event until she started therapy. Is it possible to imagine that you have experienced something that has not really occurred?

In the District Court, Martin's stepdaughter clearly believed that the rape had actually taken place.  She felt that her stepfather deserved severe punishment since he had deprived her of the most important years of her life.  This phrasing was also used by Lotta's therapist in her testimony — the very same therapist who had helped her to unearth images akin to recollections.

Many parents will certainly recognize the kind of situation that triggered off the sequence of events.  Martin and his wife were watching TV, when Lotta came in and insisted on being allowed to go to town.  They refused — their 17-year-old girl should not go those 25 km all by herself at such a late hour.  Lotta had no choice in the matter.  The next day, she had armored herself with a girlfriend and this time it was more difficult for her parents to refuse.  The girls were given permission to go, after many admonitions and some arguing.

The following day Lotta's friend called her, which surprised her parents because they thought that she had slept at her friend's place.  But before they had time to get really worried, Lotta returned on the first morning bus.  They gave her a scolding and she ran into her room.  After a while she told them that she intended to go to her friend's house, and that they would hear from her the very next day.

The next day it was her friend that called, saying that Lotta had been raped the night before.  This was the starting point, which led to a complete turnabout of everything for the K family.

Was this a rape or not?  The police investigation resulted in two contradictory versions with no solid indication as to which one was true.  A prosecution never materialized.  The situation was that of two girls voluntarily accompanying boys to their apartment after having dated at a restaurant.  Some girls may themselves initiate this kind of encounter.

On being accused the boy told the police that he and Lotta merely fondled each other since she was having her period just then.  But Lotta's account was quite the opposite.  She said that she and her friend had some small talk with two guys at the restaurant and afterwards they left together.  "We were a little exhilarated.  Not so drunk that we stumbled around, but we had to pee behind the bushes."

At the restaurant they had drunk beer.  All four of them then took a taxi to the home of one of the guys, who invited them to share a bottle of whiskey.  They eventually did so after some chatting.  Lotta felt really at ease.  She said that "There was no bodily contact at all.  It was a kind of booze talk."

In the lobby, her girlfriend found a strange edifice, a doll depicting the guy living in the apartment.  He had cut off his own hair and pasted it on the doll.  She made some comments about the doll, and the guy joined her.  A lot of knives were on the wall.  He started to poke and scratch her cheek gently with one of the knives.  This was her limit.  Several years ago her brother had been killed with a knife, and now she was scared stiff.  It was high time to leave.  But Lotta in her drunken state decided to stay in the flat.  In the stairway her friend shouted, "Goddamn, they are crazy!"

Lotta noticed nothing of the kind.  The man who had killed the brother of her friend was a loony, but these guys were OK.  When her friend left, Lotta intended to go home by the first bus in the morning; it would not take long.  She liked talking to this guy.

As soon as her friend left, the boy who was living in the apartment went to bed.  At that moment Lotta should have become wary.  But when he started to fondle her shoulders she just said no.  He stopped.  But he soon started again.  Once more Lotta said no and he stopped again.  She repeated that she had a boyfriend; she had told him so from the very beginning.

All of a sudden everything happened very fast.  He shoved her down on to the mattress on the floor and sat over her stomach.  Although she is rather short (5 feet, 5 inches), Lotta is quite tough.  She interpreted this as playful wrestling and thought she could cope.  Then he started to drag off her clothes, and it was not any fun more.  She screamed at him to stop, she had her period.  He, on the other hand, felt she been teasing and coming on to him all evening.

"Suddenly it was all my fault.  I was the one who had aroused him.  I was taken aback, the thought of sex had not even crossed my mind," Lotta recalled.

He was six feet tall and went to the gym six days a week.  Lotta did not have a chance when he started to pull her pants off.  She fought for all she was worth.  "He shook my hair and banged my head against the floor.  It hurt very much and I was scared to death ...  He did what he wanted to do, and it did not help pressing my legs together with all my might ...  Of course one has heard about such things.  But I never thought it could happen to someone as strong as myself."

When she met her girlfriend later that morning she said she had stayed the night "and then the bastard raped me."  Her friend seemed to sneer at her, perhaps implying some sort of, "Don't you like sex, Eh?"  On Lotta's recounting more things her friend exclaimed, "Christ, you have been raped! Why didn't you go straight to the police?"  However, on second thought, she admitted that she probably would not have done so herself.  Then she persuaded Lotta to go to the social affairs officer at her school and eventually have her story reported to the authorities.

A police officer stared at her, waiting for her to tell what had happened.  She groped for words.  The room was cold and bare with three chairs and a large desk.  It was quite different compared to the room belonging to the psychologist where Lotta later would meet an investigator and where she felt safer.  Nevertheless Lotta formed a positive impression of this policeman.  He was doing his job thoroughly.  "They should not put words into your mouth."  But he asked about times and circumstances she had no clear grasp of.  "Time had been the least worry then."

At the hospital in Stockholm, Lotta spoke with a welfare officer and felt a little better.  She was offered the opportunity to continue treatment with a psychotherapist at the Children's Psychiatric Clinic at Gustavsberg, the community where Lotta was living.

To some extent Lotta was still in a state of shock when she started therapy.  The therapy would eventually change her entire perception of herself and of her parents, in particular her stepfather.  Henceforth Lotta will, in her own words, reflect the content and nature of her therapy.  This information will be compared with the only information available concerning the psychologist's view of the matter — her testimony to the District Court.  The psychologist refused to talk to journalists and she had made no case notes during her treatment of Lotta.

Lotta: "The therapist gave a presentation of herself and told of the primary objectives of her job, such as the investigation of suspected incest, etc.  I did not pay much attention to this, since it did not seem to concern me.  Then I started to describe the rape while she listened in silence."

The psychologist's testimony: "... then I ask a little about what she was able to talk about, you see, because I know that it is mighty difficult to talk about such experiences.  So l am mighty careful about such things ...  During the first session she was full of hope.  She felt that the police officers understood her and that things would perhaps clear up.  However, she had strong hesitations about reporting the offense to the police."

Lotta: "Afterwards I had nothing more to tell her.  Then she started to talk more, she attempted to communicate certain emotions in me.  She kept telling me what I had recounted and how I felt.  At a very early stage she briefed me about other children who were her patients.  About how they revealed that they had been exposed to sexual abuse, and the way they were playing.  She said that many could not describe it themselves, but they could show it.  How dirty and filthy they felt and how one just wants to wash oneself.  This is exactly what I felt after the rape.  A feeling I had never felt before.

"Still, I did not feel that her incest victims were of any concern to me.  My problems were different.  However, I could recognize myself when she talked about them.  Of course, I did feel she was going a little astray when she said, 'Well, you feel like being a whore, don't you?'  OK, I thought, perhaps this is what they feel but not I, not even immediately after the rape.  Whores demand to be paid.

Increasingly she started to describe emotions I did not recognize.  I gradually became more depressed.  I was sort of never told anything positive so that I might feel better.  Incessantly she reiterated how filthy and repulsive and promiscuous one would feel.  I felt worse and worse and began to think, 'Is this really what I need?'

"I started to feel that everybody and everything was against me.  For instance, she asked how my stepfather Martin and my mother had reacted when they were told about the rape.  Martin had said, 'Are you a nut, what is it with you?  Of course you must tell us everything.'  This was his way of expressing things, but I could see that they were feeling low.  I myself realized how stupid I had been in the first place, going home to these guys and then not having left in time.  And I felt awful and terribly ashamed.  The therapist claimed that my parents actually thought I was silly, and she twisted my words, that I myself was to blame, as Martin thought.  My parents ought not to have said such things to me.  Later, when Martin called the police to find out why they had closed the case, the psychologist said this was another assault on his part.  And when he called to ask about the origins of the venereal disease that I had contracted and if it might constitute evidence, this was an additional assault.

"Actually, I did not agree.  But I began to nurture annoyance towards him, in spite of his assurance that what he said was not intended to depress me further.  He wanted to be supportive.  But I began to see him in a different light."

The psychologists' testimony: "In view of her age she was subject to very strict rules at home, so to speak.  And of course, there are certain advantages to parents who set standards and do not let their children drift, on the one hand.  On the other hand these strict limits did not seem to fit a girl of this age, in my view.  A girl who had been training at restaurant school and had undergone further training and who was very much away on her own, but who was not allowed to associate with friends of her choosing although she had done so in secret from time to time.  I mean, sometimes she was allowed to sleep over at a friend's.  She had both girlfriends and a boyfriend.  But this was not really approved of. She always had a bad conscience because of it.  She should have been at home.  She should have been with mother.  She should have been with Martin.  So, it was expected that she always be with them.  It was especially important for Martin for her to come with them on different outside activities or entertainment.  But Goddamn, she is a big girl.  You don't need to drag an 18-year-old everywhere.  Mom and dad have each other, haven't they?  It was this kind of thing all the time."

Lotta: "I eventually started to really dislike Martin.  I was taught not to view him as he himself wished to be viewed.  I began to feel annoyed at him.  She made me turn against him.

"At the time my attempt to dye my hair in a new color was a complete failure, so I had to cut it short.  I felt really low by the time of the summer semester.  I repeatedly went to the employment exchange but got no job.  I spent most of the time doing nothing and I kept feeling afraid of bumping into this guy again.  I had raised this with my therapist.  In turn she had asked if I thought he would do it again.  Well, after all he had done it once already ..., I answered.  But on second thought, it seems a pretty weird question.  On no account was I afraid he would do it again.  My real fear was if he would get back at me for having reported him to the police.

"She never really bothered to listen to me.  I clearly understand that now.  I did not notice it at the time.  I was so fascinated by being at the center of her attention.  If I had given up the treatment I would probably have overcome the experience.  But she made me continue to feel vulnerable and victimized.  She kept saying that I was the one to decide whether to continue.  But I felt so ill, well, I felt really awful.  I had become dependent upon her.  She seemed so very sweet and caring.  There was absolutely nothing wrong about her.  She was a kind lady.

"She went on interpreting everything and everybody against me.  She told me what my parents really had said to me.  How they had wronged me.  I agreed with everything she said.  If I told her that I shared in decisions at home, she reinterpreted it as if I was the one who decided.  She claimed I governed and dominated my parents.  And Martin manipulated the situation so that everybody would feel worry for him.  This was why I was compelled to accompany him to football matches and such things.  He exploited me, because mom never had the energy to do such things due to her illness.  In actual fact, he had in a sense put mother away.

"We all participated in decisions at home, although in different ways.  Frequently, I managed to enforce my will.  Martin used to say what should be done, but what was done was often what mother preferred.  I now began to see everything in a new light: Martin decided and I dominated him and, consequently, the entire family.  When my parents did not want me to attend granddaddy's birthday wearing large boots, my therapist alleged that this was an expression of Martin's need of controlling me.

(Lotta lived in a small house connected with the main house of the family.)  "Once the therapist asked whether Martin used to come to me.  Well, he sometimes came to my house in the evening to pick up clean clothes, or linen in the laundry room for use the next day.  She felt this was a Goddamn excellent pretext for him to be close to me.  Couldn't mom have done this?, she thought, or couldn't he do this during daytime?  Incessantly, she stirred up feelings that Martin had deceived me.  Now I started to sense that he did things to me that I had never previously been conscious of."

The psychologist's testimony: "Then, instead of what usually may emerge when one works with youngsters, and also with adults going through a crisis, when things start getting into place and they move ahead and connect with their sense of outrage, with Lotta everything went in reverse.  She became more and more distraught and started to tell awful nightmares that she had had.  And she began to say no one at home did not believe in what she was saying.  And mom did not feel like a good mother.  And Martin questioned whether the rape was not her own fault."

Lotta: "Already in spring the therapist asked me if my biological father had subjected me to sexual abuse.  I replied "no."  And all the time she kept telling me about the other children in the Children's Psychiatric Clinic, about how bad they felt.  They were only three to four years old.  But the feelings she described were the very same feeling I experienced.  I was filthy and guilty.  I started to lose my sleep.  Even though I had lived in my cozy little house in the country ever since I was nine, I used to sleep very heavily and a thunder storm would not wake me up.  Mom was the one who was easily awakened, not me.  However, I now started to be scared of the darkness and have nightmares."

The psychologist's testimony (on being asked what particular circumstances made her suspect something in addition to rape): "... above all, this crisis tackling did not progress positively.  On the contrary it collapsed, and you know ... I mean, she was having these horrible nightmares ...  In one dream she sat in a concentration camp, naked on the concrete floor, starving to death.  Everybody saw it but no one did anything to help.  And she was kind of waiting to die."

Lotta: "I remember the dreams.  Dreams about people languishing in terror, tormented.  And she interpreted them as if they were about me.  Another dream was about a concentration camp where the whole family was incarcerated.  All sat naked on the floor, starving.  Granny was worst off; and there was no way of escaping.  This dream was interpreted as if I were locked up in my little house and something was bothering me.  Someone had done something really bad with me, as she put it.

"Around this time, in early autumn, grandmother fell ill and we were all so worried.  Grandmother always meant an awful lot to me.

"I spoke to the therapist about it.  But she never really seemed to care.  And I was having this feeling that something else was making me feel so bad.  I felt so disgusted.  I felt confined and locked up at home.  I had such a strong animosity against Martin.  I would get a headache.  I had really gone to the dogs.  And this is when she asked that question.

"She asked if Martin had come on to me.  I was silent.  But she would not give up.  Did he?  She gave me this glaring look.  Has he done it?  Did he do it, Lotta?  She did not give up until I nodded.

"I should have shaken my head in denial.  But I was flabbergasted, in fact, surprised and shocked at the same time.  Oh really, this is why I have been feeling so bad!  She could actually tell!  I would never have figured it out on my own, that it must be Martin.  After all, when I think about it, she had already said from the very beginning that it is those one least suspect that do these things."

The psychologist's testimony: "Thinking about this rape, it has left deep, deep traces.  But as it were, I cannot resist putting the question: Have you been raped several times, I mean several times of sexual assaults?  So I say.  It was the end of September I think.  She had turned 18.  Then she shrivels in her chair and vanishes behind her long dark hair.  (Author's note: Lotta's hair was long at the start of the therapy, but by September it had been cut very short).

Then she nodded.  I was overwhelmed, it became extremely vibrant, because I now feel that I am zooming in on something that is kind of sensitive.  She kind of curls up and I am thinking, I am losing her, or this is just the beginning.  And gradually she comes to terms with that Martin did it when I ask her who did it to her."

Lotta: "Afterwards, she said this was all right.  She did not need to know more.  Now we were to work through things.  I felt completely empty after this.  I felt confused.  I went home and tore my hair.  Then I shaved it all off.  It was already messed up, by the failure of the coloring.  And I wanted to do something extreme.  She told me that the reason I had done all this was because she had found me out.  When I told her about Martin's reaction, she said I had shaved my head in order to prevent him from being turned on.  (Author's note: Martin became outraged when he saw her, he was sensitive over his German heritage and any hint at Neo Nazis.)  I then understood that she thought I had been conscious about it all along.  She told me that I had waited until my 18th birthday in order to preempt her from reporting the offense."

The psychologist's testimony: "After she nodded I thought, 'Shit, now don't we have a big load to pull here.  How can I handle this in the best possible way without hurting Lotta?  What is going to happen?  Do you want to continue dealing with this?'  She said, 'You must not talk to the social agency.  You must not talk with someone else.  You must not talk with anyone.'  I really felt shackled.  I told her that I have got to do it sooner or later and I prefer her to go along with it."

Lotta: "Prior to this the thought of abuse had not crossed my mind.  I did not yet have any memories.  Somehow, I now thought it felt good in some way.  Actually, I started feeling well again.  She told me I ought to feel relieved.  I really did.  Then all the memories emerged kind of, and that does not make you feel any better.

"Images started to pop up.  I groped for situations.  It was quite foggy.  I was not actually overcome.  I came to think of a party; I must have been around eleven.  I had my first period then.  Could it have been then?  I faintly remember him carrying me to the rear of the house and that I was mad at him.  Why would he do such a thing?  I started guessing.  I do not know how it happened, but it must have tied in with that party, the rape and my period.  I was barefoot.  And I dreamt.  One morning I could view how he lifted my skirt.  I remember it as a movie shot.  The image has stuck til this very day.

"When I told the therapist about these images, she said we should not stir it up.  Several of the children she treated could only tell twice before they turned silent.  But I now felt worse than at any time before.  I could not sleep either.  I was afraid of the dark and scared to death and she asked why I did not lock myself in.  Then I started doing so.  She then came back to the dream I had about the concentration camp, and claimed that my house was the concentration camp where Martin kept me imprisoned in order for him to come in and have sex with me whenever he wished.  I now thought that son-of-a-bitch had deceived me all along.  But I could not quite grasp any actual events.  It remained a little unclear."

The psychologist's testimony: "It was none of my business to interrogate her further.  What interested me was if she were suffering at that given moment, while l am in contact with her.  It is my duty meanwhile, as a psychologist at the Child Psychiatric Clinic, to report the case to the social authorities, if I consider her still to be at risk. ...  She has only told me of one incident.  This is enough to prompt me to submit a report."

On 17 February 1995 Martin noticed a car parked in a funny way by the drive, as he was about to go to work.  There were two men in the car and it appeared the police were carrying out a traffic control.  Martin made sure to halt properly at the stop sign before driving out on the road.  He glanced in the rear mirror and could see that the car was tailing him.  "Oh well, I must have been right," he thought and took heed to keep the speed limit.  He took precautions to stop properly at also the next stop sign.  However, he noticed that the other car did not do so.  He thought that he must have guessed wrong.  Suddenly the car behind him started to sniff him and behave like a loony.

He was stopped on the main road where he had slowed in order to let the pursuing loony overtake him.  It really was the police.  From that day onwards Martin would spend 566 days in jail.  The unfolding of events followed the established pattern for this type of case.  Martin was charged with having continuously sexually abused his stepdaughter over a number of years, beginning when she was age 11.

Total restrictions were imposed on Martin and he was only allowed visits from his lawyer, Jan Karlsson, and the psychiatrist, Hans Adler, who worked at the same child psychiatric unit as his daughter's therapist.  The police expected him to confess during talks with the psychiatrist.  In tears Martin asked the psychiatrist why Lotta was doing this to him.  Afterwards the psychiatrist made the following case notes: "Also today he is tearful and overcome with emotion and he denies the allegations strongly.  He wonders whether I have encountered other cases of children who have been exposed to sexual abuse, and if I have encountered cases that had not been credible.  I replied that I had never done so in cases of regular abuse over a long period of time duration.  He then added that this would then be the first such case."

The police investigation was concluded one month after Martin was remanded in custody and consisted, in broad terms, of statements from Lotta, Martin, Eva, and Lotta's therapist.  The police report was properly anchored in the task group of child abuse where also the prosecutor, Sigurd Dencker, was a member.  In the prosecutor's opinion the therapist knew her handicraft and he had every trust in her.

Martin was stunned when he read the report.  His entire family was described in a way he did not recognize.  Lotta described a party some seven years ago, during which he was supposed to have raped her.  Subsequently he had allegedly made recurrent calls to her house to have sex with her in the night.

Following a telephone call to Eva he started to recall the party that Lotta had referred to, but it had taken place one year before the time she had stated.  He remembered how she had been difficult, and that he lifted her over the gate.  He then, on putting her down behind the gate, made a joking rebuke: "This is the place for little rascals," he had said.  According to her this was "the first incident."  But it made no sense.  In no way would one choose such a place, at such a time, when anyone could have seen it.

He was taken to the District Court in hand cuffs, humiliated, confused and nervous.  There he saw Eva for the first time during six weeks.  He thought that she looked reproachfully at him.  His lawyer did not dare let her testify.  Martin stood alone against the prosecutor, Lotta, her lawyer, and the therapist who was to testify.  He had no witnesses to speak on his behalf.  His counsel had told him that the court does not allow "character witnesses."  In Martin's view the whole case was about his character.

He was badly prepared, and he was conscious of his awkwardness in court.  His mind was completely locked up.  In contrast, Lotta had, in advance, worked through the questions together with her lawyer.  Martin felt that Lotta and her lawyer were acting out a calculated theater performance.  Lotta would cry and the lawyer kept handing handkerchiefs to her and whispered audibly "Everything will be all right," "Be strong," "Do you want a rest?," "Take your time."

Lotta's therapist testified about how strictly Lotta had been brought up, how isolated the family lived, and how sick the mother had been.  When Martin's lawyer put the question to her, if she had ever doubted Lotta's statements, a female juror moaned disapprovingly.  The therapist answered that "she never did in general and definitely not in Lotta's case."  In a passing remark she hinted that she knew terrible things happen to small children.  "If a child has a rash around its mouth for instance, you must ask yourself what happened to this child."

It only took ten minutes for the court to decide that Martin would remain in detention, implying that he would be convicted.  In tears he called Eva.  She said she could not make up her mind what to believe.  She was also undergoing psychotherapy and thought that Martin should benefit from every help he could get from his.  Perhaps he had repressed everything, if so, she urged him to confess.

He was given a prison sentence of four years.  Martin was annihilated.  It would have been a great relief if he could remember, if only he could.  "He is unsure of the possibility that he might have repressed something that could have happened.  He is eager that I go through all documents, and that I borrow the police investigation papers of him," wrote the psychiatrist in his case notes.

Martin contemplated suicide.  How to go about it?  The only option seemed to take off and slam his head straight into the concrete wall with full force.  He got set, took a deep breath, but stopped in the last moment.  To take his life because of a miscarriage of justice?  NO!  He had to think positively.  He simply had to put up a fight for his rights.

Next time he met the psychiatrist he doubted his own judgment and began to think he was abnormal.  Was he a pervert without knowing it himself?  He begged to undergo hypnosis, but he was not allowed to.  He wondered whether he himself really could have been the victim of his own mother as a child and if he himself was nuts.  This is what they claimed.  But no, he could not see anything of the kind in his childhood.

His brain operated like a furnace and he eventually collapsed.  That is when he got to meet the psychiatrist Ulf Åsgård, who gave him tranquilizers to help him sleep.  When Åsgård went through the documents, he became concerned.  Why had Lotta's psychologist chosen the time when she had felt the worst after the death of her grandmother to pose the question of abuse?  He was the first person, apart from Martin's sister, his parents, and to some extent his lawyer, to offer Martin some measure of support and a grain of self-confidence.

After the sentencing Eva was permitted to visit him.  She suffered badly and was still doubtful.  Martin told her to sell the house and never show her face again.  But he instantly regretted what he had said.  They agreed that whatever was said now was not valid.  All decisions would have to be postponed until later.

The proceedings in the Court of Appeal was a repeat of those in the district court.  No new facts had emerged, no new witnesses had been found.  The psychologist did not need to repeat her testimony and answer new questions.  Instead her tape recorded testimony from the district court was presented.  The psychologist had started to suspect abuse on account of Lotta not getting better after the rape, and she claimed that it was not unusual for women exposed to rape to have suffered other abuse earlier.  It went hand in hand, said the psychologist.

Abuse, said the psychologist, had turned Lotta into a person "you could treat in any way you wanted."  "It could be that Lotta would not have fallen prey to a rape," she said laughingly, "unless she had experienced it in her early childhood."

This time Lotta's own statements were not as defined as they were before the District Court.

In his final plea Martin's lawyer stressed that Martin's statements be accorded the same weight as Lotta's, and he maintained that very little substance about sexual abuse had emerged in the statements from her.  Lotta's lawyer, on the other hand, said in her plea that the plaintiff's behavior before the court, that is, crying and displaying emotions, should weigh heavily.  She said that, although Martin was credible, American studies proved that traumatic events were usually repressed, and that Martin must have behaved in this way.

Martin trembled as he read the reasons for the verdict: "In trials of this kind it is imperative for determining the issue of guilt, how one judges the credibility of the victim especially in view of the lack of evidence.  The fact that the alleged abuse happened a long time ago must of course affect the victim's ability to present consistent and detailed circumstances of the abuse in question. ...  There are also a number of other factors, mainly of a psychological nature, that are important in making value judgments regarding allegations about sexual abuse ... emotional reactions and expressions in conjunctions with the statement ... conflicts of loyalty ... feelings of guilt ..."

The Court of Appeal found that Lotta "recounted under great strain ... her emotional reactions and body language in general have adequately reflected the content of her statements ... not presented an impression of in any way exaggerating the character of the abuse."  Another factor significant to the Court of Appeal regarding the credibility issue was "the long professional experience of the therapist in regard to children exposed to sexual abuse."

Martin's explanation of the alleged first instance of abuse — at the party — was flatly rejected.  "Such trivial event could hardly have left such deep traces with the victim so that she would have remembered it several years later, unless it had not been accompanied by something more frightening that had occurred at the same occasion.

The Court of Appeal invariably consists of three judicial and two lay judges.  Two of the former dissented.  Their view was that for acquittal.  Lotta's way of telling her story conveyed the impression that she had been the victim of sexual abuse.  "This can in a way be explained by the rape in 1993.  In this context one cannot completely disregard the fact that her story is derived from her therapeutic sessions, or from a psychological state of crisis both when she confirmed the psychologist's suspicions and later when she told of the alleged abuse."  Following a sensible, logical and factual line of reasoning they found reasonable doubt regarding Martin's guilt.

The Court of Appeal confirmed the verdict and sentence of the District Court.  Martin wondered how a verdict could be beyond reasonable doubt, if two judges had raised such substantiated objections.

Eva, who did not have a driving license, visited Norrtälje prison, 65 miles away, by bus once a week. S he started to think of the trial, and if Lotta had been influenced by the psychologist, as Martin had claimed.  But she could not quite figure out how Lotta, who had always been a headstrong kind of person, could have been so totally influenced.

In court Eva had been portrayed as a severely handicapped woman, which would explain why Martin had to gratify his needs with her daughter as a substitute.  Eva had been sidelined in the very proceedings where she had been given one of the main roles.  Lotta's psychologist, who never met either Martin or her, had a preconceived idea of them.  The prosecutor presented Eva as a nonentity.  Martin had felt that Eva had abandoned him.  Lotta had demanded her complete support.  Eva's own therapist had urged her to commit herself to her daughter and to stay out of the investigation as much as possible.  Martin's lawyer did not get in touch with her, and she was prevented from having any contact with Martin.

To Eva's and Martin's grief they were unable to have children.  They had tried all sorts of means, gone to fertility clinics, and tried test tube fertilization.  The tests proved that there was nothing wrong with Martin's sperm.  If Lotta had told the truth Martin could hardly have failed to make her pregnant.  Before the District Court it had been concealed that Lotta had been pregnant by her boyfriend.  Why did Eva's psychotherapist want her to urge Lotta to have an abortion?

Eva had many questions.  But gradually they turned into accusations against all those who had made every effort to convict Martin.  By autumn 1995, a month or so after Lotta had given birth to her little daughter, she confided to Eva that she no longer believed her own stories.

In her own words, Lotta recounts how therapy progressed, and how she finally came to doubt her own memories: "Therapy made me sleep badly.  I would wake up at the slightest noise, as soon as anybody came in.  When Martin came in to fetch a tool of some sort I would fly out of bed.  I could see images, what he had looked like and what he had worn.  These became memories.  These images are clear to this very day.  I thought these real memories.  It was not until I heard Martin's version the first time in the Court of Appeal that it felt a little strange.

"I had asked the therapist at several occasions before the trial if it all could really fit.  I was not a silent type of person.  How then could I conceal it all from mom?  She would have noticed something!  She had divorced my biological father because he was not good for me.  The therapist replied, 'What a pity it was that she had made the wrong choice again in marrying Martin.'  She kept wondering if I did not believe she could do her job.  But I wanted to undergo psychological tests.  I wondered if there was anything wrong with me.

"The therapist thought I was extraordinarily strong and brave.  She also told me about a 30-year old married woman and how they had uncovered that she had been abused by her father, too.  She underwent three sessions a week, and she shrieked so violently that books almost fell down from the shelves.  She had to be committed to a psychiatric clinic.  On hearing this I was not exactly comforted.

"Sometimes I felt uneasy, for instance, when she asked whether I was capable of enjoying sex with my boyfriend.  Immediately after the rape I had not been able to.  When things started to be normal again, she implied that I could not possibly enjoy sex with him.  Then I thought I must be an awful person who could enjoy it in spite of the rape.  I felt really bad, and this made me determined to have Martin put away.  Afterwards I planned to take my life.

She twisted me against Martin, then against my boyfriend, and finally against my mother.  The therapist, the police, and my lawyer wanted me to keep mother outside of everything on account of her doubts.  Mothers meddle too much, they thought.  However, mother lent a strong arm of support when I was pregnant.  When I got the positive result of the pregnancy test I was thrilled.  But the therapist said I should consider my own needs and have an abortion.  She told me to get rid of it.  It was then I started to feel that she did not have my best interests in mind."

The psychologist's testimony on being asked by the prosecutor what further psychological treatment would be necessary in order to heal Lotta: "Force does not exist in contact with psychologists.  Everything depends on Lotta and what confidence she has in such a contact.  But I believe she needs therapy for many years to come.  Because, I mean, it not only has to deal with incest, she also has to deal with this rape.  She has to cope with traumas so to speak.  And she is about to enter the adult role, leaving teenage years to become an adult.  This is also a kind of crisis.  Ordinary life-crises can be exacerbated by these bad crises that Lotta has."

Lotta: "My boyfriend had supported me all the time and was mighty happy when I got pregnant.  When I told him about Martin he would never have anything to do with him anymore.  When I visited the therapist shortly before giving birth, she said I would probably have a psychosis during delivery.  I would go completely nuts.  She handed me all of her telephone numbers and asked me also to pass them on to my boyfriend.  She said that my boyfriend should tell the doctors at hospital what had happened to me.  But he did not give a damn about her ideas.  And of course I did not get any psychosis and of course I would accept my child.  My daughter is the best thing that has ever happened to me.  If she had not existed, I am sure I would not have lived today.

"Well, it was after the proceedings in the Court of Appeal that I started to wonder seriously if these things were really true.  But then she said I had been under such a great pressure, I needed visit her more often.  I began having two sessions a week.  And then I moved far away from mom and broke all contact with her, so that she could not influence me.  The therapist said that I should not start having doubts about myself.  She actually pinched my arm to stress that I should not forget this.  She said I must think of my child.  If I retracted, this would mean that I would neglect my own daughter if she were abused.  But if I did not retract, I would be able to keep my eyes open.  At that time I had never talked about retracting.  I had told her that I felt miserable and that Martin's account in the Court of Appeal sounded truthful.

"In the District Court I had avoided listening to what Martin had said.  But I wanted to listen in the Court of Appeal.  The things he said seemed to be true to me.  That is how it was.  I began to think I had dreamt everything up.  I questioned these memories in session with the therapist.  'What now, so you are supposed to have dreamt all this up,' she said sarcastically.  She said I tried to appear mystical — that I was trying to fool her.  She could see what was right and wrong.  The images I saw were true.  And she wondered why she would make me believe in something if it was not true.  Why would she want to hurt me?  This is exactly what she said.

"I started getting worried after I had heard Martin in Court of Appeal.  The things he said seemed to fit with something distant within me.  I was reflecting.  And I thought it was so strange that I had no other memories from this period when it was supposed to have happened.  There must have been a daily life all around it.  School, what happened there?  What did I do in summer time?  Everything was completely gone, sort of washed out, and instead all had turned into a world of abuse.  And one day I remembered riding camp.  And my schoolmates.  And my first sexual intercourse, and it was when I was 17 that I lost my virginity.

"I felt an intense unease.  I had gotten real memory back.  My own life.  But it was terrible, because suddenly I felt like a liar.  And yet I had not lied consciously.  Then, at the time I testified, I thought it was he who was rotten.  I thought he deserved to suffer as much as I had suffered.  But now I felt rotten.  I knew he was innocently convicted, but I did not dare tell this to anyone.  The therapist had once told me that she would be forced to report to the social authorities, if I let my daughter meet Martin.

"I was scared that they would take my child from me, and I tried to convince myself that everything after all was true.  But it did not work.  I tried to convince myself that people just as well could continue to believe that it had all been true.  But it was so terribly rotten.  Finally I told mom.

"She reacted first with accusations against the therapist.  Then she wondered if I were sure.  She still could not understand how anyone could fool me into believing anything like that.  She had read how psychotherapists can influence others, but she wanted to know how it could happen to me.  And it was even more difficult to get my boyfriend to understand.  He and his parents had given me all of their support.  Now they did not quite understand anything.  Surely they must wonder if it is at all possible to trust me.

'Afterwards it was such a relief.  I felt happy and strong again.  It is only my fear of the dark and of locked doors that remain.  And when the therapist calls me, which has happened three times now, I go all cold and my belly shakes quite a while.  I dare not be angry at her. S he is like a phantom to me and makes me scared even though she sounds so friendly and caring.  Exactly like it was during therapy when I trusted her and let thoughts and images pour forth.

"The odd thing is that I can still easily bring forth images, which I can even for a moment mix up with reality.  The other day, for instance, I was really mad at my boyfriend for sending in a picture of me to be used in a brochure.  I ran around trying to find that brochure but I could not locate it.  Then I started yelling at him for having done that.  He said: 'What are you yapping about?'  And then I realized that I had dreamt again.  I could clearly see my own picture in that brochure.  Things like this never happened to me before I entered therapy.  I hardly dare tell this because then one would probably think I was nuts.  Of course I am not.  I can tell the difference between dream and reality.  Once in a while the dreams kind of take up all the space, though."

When Martin got to hear through Eva that his stepdaughter had retracted her accusations, his tears started to run.  He felt saddened, yet happy.  Now he would at last be released, he thought.  He told what had happened to his former workmates who had believed him unfailingly.  When he was not released after all, they started to wonder if there was anything shady in the tale, something that had evaded them.  Was he guilty anyhow?

Martin was not even granted home leave.  Robbers and thieves and other criminals are normally given home leave after a fourth of the time served.  But still after 14 months' incarceration Martin was not allowed to visit his wife.  He was considered a denier.  All his applications were turned down by the resident doctor of the jail.  For a long time Martin was not permitted to read the reasons.  Eventually, with the help of his new lawyer, he was able to obtain the doctor's statement.  And this is how it read:

"In all I have met K four times, on each occasion one or two hour interviews, during the first session his contact person was also present.  It has emerged during the interviews that K claims he is innocently convicted, and the whole responsibility lies on the plaintiff's psychologist.  He has displayed very strong urges to defend his innocence.  During the first three interviews he was forthcoming and open about dealing with the problem, however the fourth time he became resistant.  An equal sequence of events occurred earlier when he met a psychiatrist from Gustavsberg while in custody.

K has a powerful denial mechanism, which he exerts strongly around him.  In his urge to prove his innocence he has only his own interests in mind and lacks the ability to consider the viewpoints of others, especially from the angle of the plaintiff.

In conclusion, it can be said that incest is a crime originating from pathological intra- and interpersonal processes, within the family.  The abuse often leads to psychological harm in the victim and very rarely physical injuries. K continues his abuse on the psychological level by pursuing the issue of guilt in a self-centered and inconsiderate way.  If granted, a home leave would facilitate his expounding this pressure, and would also reinforce his drive in regard to the guilt issue.  On the grounds that I hold the view that he is still continuing to abuse his daughter to serve his own needs, I consider it out of the question to granting home leave."

Orsolya Hoffman, MD. psychiatric expert, advisory doctor at the Norrtälje penitentiary.

This statement was issued half a year after Lotta had spontaneously understood that she no longer could authenticate her own images as being truthful, and four months after she had retracted her accusations.  Dr. Hoffman is based as a chief physician at St. Goran's Hospital in Stockholm.

Martin was granted his first home leave on May 19th.  By then a new move for appeal had been sent to the Supreme Court.  He now had a new attorney, Kerstin Koorti.  And Lotta had a new lawyer, Peter Haglund.  Martin and Lotta had yet not had any contact with each other.  This was handled through their respective lawyers.  Attached to the move for appeal was the letter Lotta had herself written eight months before; a transcript of the therapist's testimony before the District Court; a complaint filed with the Medical Supervisory Board; a statement about Lotta issued by former chief physician and psychiatrist at the Södersjukhuset, Rudolf Schlaug; Information from America about the false memory syndrome and its causes, and the effects of suggestion that Lotta was an example of, was also submitted.

The prosecutor general solicited views from prosecutor Sigurd Dencker, before he issued a memorandum to the Supreme Court. Apparently Dencker did not have high regard of the K family and expressed doubt whether Lotta had herself written the letter attached to the submission to the Supreme Court.  He was also doubtful whether the K couple had themselves written the complaint to the Medical Supervisory Board.  According to Dencker, Lotta was probably influenced by the mother, by Martin K or by someone else.  Dencker referred to some psychiatrists who claim that stories that are retracted are a sign confirming that incest has really occurred.  In the event that the Supreme Court would grant an appeal, he added that he would have great difficulty to make a case on the same grounds he had earlier presented.

The prosecutor general, represented by Solveig Riberdahl and Nils Rekke, moved for a decision to reject appeal.  They pointed out that the Court of Appeal had found Lotta credible.  However, the prosecutor general declined to comment on the fact that Lotta had seemed credible in a new interrogation in summer 1995.

Five chief justices of the Supreme Court granted an appeal.  A retrial would now take place in the Svea Court of Appeal in Stockholm.  In the deliberations, the prosecutor moved for an acquittal.  Dr. Astrid Holgerson, expert on witness psychology, and psychiatrist Rudolf Schlaug were called on the stand by the defense, but their testimonies were not required.

The acquittal was announced November 7, 1995.  One of the chief justices had dissented and still wanted to convict Martin K.  When Martin, Eva, and Lotta read the verdict there was no euphoria, only a sense of emptiness.  Virtually the only thing it said was that Lotta's new story was not improbable.

On February 9, 1996 Martin K was awarded 66000 Sw. Crowns in damages.

* Lilian Öhrström  is a journalist at the largest Swedish morning newspaper, Dagens Nyheter (which means the Daily News).  She can he reached at AIvägen 2, 191 43 Sollentuna, Sweden.  [Back]

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