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Lost Daughters: Recovered Memory Therapy and the People It Hurts Paperback – August 31, 1997
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From Kirkus Reviews
Five personal and painful accounts of how recovered memory therapy (RMT) has led daughters to make false accusations of child sexual abuse against their fathers, combined with an examination of the forces in society that have created an environment in which RMT flourishes. The first story is Van Til's own; three of the others were told to him by a parent or parents; and the last is the first-person narrative of a woman who underwent RMT, ``recovered'' incest memories, came to doubt them, and finally recanted them. Each of these frightening stories is followed by an analytical chapter. In these, the author looks at what recovered memory therapists believe and their use of such questionable therapeutic techniques as guided imagery and hypnosis; the close relationship between RMT and radical feminists, whose sense of victimhood has promoted the idea of American society as a ``rape culture''; and the growing public concern about child abuse since passage of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act in 1974, which resulted in a huge increase in reports, both genuine and spurious. This leads him to the increased popularity of belief in the threat of satanic cults and ritual abuse, and to an examination of the relationship between satanic ritual abuse and multiple personality states children purportedly develop as a form of psychic protection from the violence visited on them. Van Til makes clear that he is not denying the existence of child sexual abuse, but that his concern is therapeutically induced false memories of abuse. In an epilogue, he draws telling parallels between the situation of today's falsely accused parents and those persecuted in the 17th-century's Salem witch trials. A convincing demonstration of the devastation wreaked by some therapists, the gullibility of some patients, and the very real vulnerability of us all to such unfounded charges. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
From the Back Cover
The practice of recovered memory therapy (RMT) and the resulting accusations of childhood sexual abuse have polarized the psychotherapy community and crowded the courts. Reinder Van Til's Lost Daughters movingly depicts the human toll exacted by the widespread belief in RMT. First-person stories, the first of which is Van Til's own personal narrative, portray families devastated by daughters' RMT-inspired memories of childhood sexual abuse and their subsequent accusations of fathers and mothers. In chapters that alternate with these narratives, Van Til critically examines the influences in our culture that have allowed this phenomenon to flourish and that continue to fuel the debate.
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I read the book as part of my trying to understand why my daughter got into RMT and is lost to her family. I read about his daughter going to school in Madison WI and know it is still a hot bed of RMT and the die hards who believe it still. That is sad. It is like Seattle WA. I was told by a person who lived there that it was where runaways headed. And my daughter is a runaway and has found a place that will not challenge her beliefs. A safe place for a troubled trusting person. And I so hope she is not still doing therapy. She is also a therapist but she is also using her gifts to teach children in Physics and Math. She has a wonderful brain that totally enjoys and loves those subjects!
I did start to reread the story of Emily. And bogged down. I could see she had loving parents and was not damaged as a child. Thus she was very trusting. She was a prime candidate for RMT. It is unfortunate that her brother went along with her beliefs. I wonder why? My two sons and daughter think their sister is full of it. And they are not sure she will accuse them next. She won't talk to them. If she did they would tell her the truth.
This is a book that needed to be written. And I hope the truth will someday set the RMT converts free. RMT should never have happened. But it did like the Witch trials in Salem.
Recovered Memory Therapy has been long debunked by those who seek true clinical data and professionals fully trained and current in the profession. The data on "repressed memories" suddenly popping up out of thin air has been identified, even by the professionals who deal and expect these possibilities (American Psychological Association), to be extremely rare "if they exist at all". The text does a good job at documenting these well known and indisputable currently know facts about "recovered memories". (with an entire chapter dedicated to "Religion and Psychology". These types of memories are in the same class as "close encounters with big foot", "grave yard monsters sightings" and "space alien abductions" which are all very real to those who recount them even if not real at all. Yet people, untrained even if well intentioned, continue to buy "self help therapy books" and then try to "heal themselves" with the support of "well meaning friends" who need a "new family."
The book does a very good job at explaining the reversal Sigmund Freud had with childhood fantasies which he initially thought were actual memories. Later Dr. Freud came to realize that many, if not all, of the recollections were not memories at all. In fact his reversal took months (not years as I had previously assumed.)
The author shares his liberal leanings and affinity for the feminist movement (so much so I almost put the book down). The book details and discusses (with great clarity) how the rise in accusations was fueled by the social feminist movement and then the political class working to secure votes passed laws that protected accusers and imprisoned those who identified as "failing to speak out." This part of the book also treats the political and legal issues in a way that few other accounts detail at all. The structure and policies of law enforcement are now firmly entrenched to pursue the falsely accused with ferocity and assume any accusation, no matter the credibility, as if that accusation is ALWAYS true. He traces the beginning of this legal structure to the "Mondale Act" passed in 1974 and his explanation is well done as he details all that follows.
The book also details the insurance money that fueled the accusations (265). Therapists with patients who were insured were SIGNIFICANTLY more likely to identify patients as having disorders associated with accusations of child sexual abuse. While the text does not develop this theme fully it is quite compatible with the stories of retractors (in other texts on the same subject) who came to realize that the memories were not "right" after the "insurance money ran out" and the accusers ceased therapy.
So the author categorizes the famous Salem witch hunts, 1950's commie hunters and repressed memory accusations of childhood sexual abuse as all in the same category. There is a huge difference though. The state of Massachusetts only took 5 years to realize the injustice and it was stopped. The "communist hunting frenzy" was isolated to the 1950's and was completely over by 1959 and ceased by all political parties. The laws, the policies, the "self help therapy books" and the minority of uninformed professionals who continue to cling to "Recovered Memory Therapy" approaches 2 decades later despite the overwhelming data is still shocking to those informed. So the parallels are drawn but the end game is very different. This "national frenzy" still lingers and does significant and lasting damage while witch and commie hunting have long died out.
Even with parallels to national frenzies are not accurately depicted the book is incredibly rich in stories, facts and details about "repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse". This is a must read for those who have a hazy understanding of the issues and just know that "something is wrong with some of these memories" by a family member who seems to be making incredible accusations 20 or 30 years later. http://timcburgess.blogspot.com/2015/07/cry-of-courageous.html
I would recommend this book to anyone that is struggling with a similar situation.
A companion book would be "Second Thoughts", by Dr. Paul Stone.