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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
'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
"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
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
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.
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]