Abuse Awareness

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October 1, 1996 EvaS: Our guests this evening are Sherry Quirk, Esq.,(ACAADC), the President of the American Coalition for Abuse Awareness, Eileen King, (also at ACAA DC), Coordinator, and Randy Burton, Gburton855), a children's attorney in Houston, TX, and founder of Justice for Children. There's been a lot of press over the past few years about False Memory Syndrome. Are all the reports of having regained memories of traumatic incidents not to be believed?

ACAA DC: No, Eva. Over 20 studies support the reality of traumatic amnesia. But there is no scientific evidence to support the incidence of implanting false memories of sexual abuse. FMS is a defense strategy...not an accepted diagnosis.

EvaS: What about therapists who specialize in recovering repressed memories? Are they to be believed, or do you feel that the patient is responding to suggestion?

ACAA DC: I know of no reputable therapist who does that. But many therapists will tell you that like it or not, memories of sexual abuse emerge in therapy just as they do in conversations with friends, etc.

EvaS: It's been said that children are not good reporters when it comes to traumatic events, that they are easily subjected to peer pressure - as if they were the girls who testified in the Salem witch hunt. How can we know if what a child reports it true? When can we believe that a child has been abused or witness to an abuse?

GBurton855: I think children's testimony should always be presumed to be true. However, a child's testimony can be corroborated with medical and other forms of forensic evidence.

EvaS: Is it true that there really are satanic cults that abuse children?

ACAA DC: This is a question which we are often asked about and one that is very controversial. Because we find that it is difficult enough to convince people that so-called "ordinary" child abuse exists, we do not go into the question of satanic ritual abuse. But leave that to the folks who are investigating this type of phenomena.

EvaS: Yes, it's as if there's a need to claim satanic cult to get attention, a red herring to wave about to obscure the number of actual cases of ordinary child abuse, as you just said.

Writindyke: I heard Dr. Sandra Bloom say at a conference that, while she found it hard to believe that adults would dress in robes and abuse children at night, that the holocaust had happened, and we should not underestimate the amount of evil people do.

ACAA DC: We don't want to dismiss claims of satanic abuse out of hand. It's important to keep an open mind in every case where abuse is alleged because it is possible that abusers can use bizarre methods to make the abuse appear too incredible to be believed.

GBurton855: Cult abuse is often confused as satanic abuse when it is usually a front for organized criminal activity.

Cyberbop: What is ordinary child abuse? I was not aware that any child abuse was ordinary.

ACAA DC: That is why we used quotes around ordinary. I agree with you that there is no abuse that is ordinary or acceptable.

Strdstred1: All abuse, all hitting is unacceptable.

Theydo: Satanic abuse, evil, sick people, perpetrators, call it what you will...abuse is abuse!

ALHegy: Although I received full custody, the DA would not prosecute my ex and his girlfriend for sexual inappropriateness such as full exposure of her genitalia, drinking kids urine and using porno for collages because "ex" claimed it was done educationally. How often do you see this loophole in the law used?

ACAA DC: Randy, want to take this?

GBurton855: I have never seen this defense used.

ALHegy: Just my luck.

Sara1600: What ill effects do you see on adult survivors in therapy as result of FMS activity?

ACAA DC: Tremendous. FMS activities make many survivors feel as if they are crazy and no one is going to believe them. It makes therapists reluctant to work with survivors and overall has caused delays in the healing process.

Asherah 3: Could you please describe Gardner's "Parental Alienation Syndrome," why it is bogus (not recognized by the AMA or APA), and how the abusers and fathers' lobby use it to gain access to children. Also wanted to say, I know of ACAA and I think it does a fantastic job.

ACAA DC: Randy? You just had a case with this issue.

GBurton855: PAS is often used to discredit the testimony of children.

ACAA DC: PAS is an anecdotal theory developed by Dr. Dardner, who often testifies on behalf of accused abusers. And the theory is that *wives* use charges of sexual abuse in divorce and custody cases to alienate the children from the father. The mother makes the children say that father has hurt them to destroy their relationship. It is a theory that has never been empirically proven to exist and in fact, studies support the fact that false allegations in divorce and custody cases are not a huge problem. But Gardner has used this theory repeatedly and courts are just recently starting to throw it out.

GBurton855: There is no clinical evidence to support Gardner's theory.

Sara1600: Isn't the use of FMS by the Foundation a way of repeating the dynamics adult survivors were taught as children, as a way of silencing them? And do you believe that it is likely intentional that it's used in this way?

ACAA DC: No doubt. The behavior pattern looks like the same pattern from childhood and I think many people wonder whether this is intentional. It is a very effective strategy to use to silence people to up the ante for speaking out.

ALHegy: My 3 boys currently have supervised visits, due to the abuse, with dad once a month. Are there statistics on whether I can expect and how to lessen rebound gravitation and sympathy towards him in their teens? They have a very involved step-dad now.

ACAA DC: I don't know the answer to that, but that's certainly a pattern we have seen.

EdnaD1234: I sat in as a child advocate on a trial where children's services testified hitting a 4 year old 4 times with a belt was OK. We knew more was going on, but the father admitted to this. How do we make people understand the effects this has on adults and how can an agency that is supposed to protect children say such a thing in court?

GBurton855: Unfortunately, CPS is not an advocate for children but for parents.

ACAA DC: Randy wrote a wonderful article for the Houston Chronicle about the proposed "parental rights" legislation which the Christian Coalition was intent on passing this year. It gave parents the "fundamental right" to use corporal punishment on their children.

GBurton855: Parental Rights is a code word for doing whatever you want to do your children.

Theydo: Edna, you may want to read, They Do Remember, a story of soul survival, by Sandy Robins.

EvaS: Thanks, Theydo. :)

Brenmaya: I have been a member of ACAA for the past 3 years. I prosecuted my father in 1993. I just wanted to thank you for the tremendous job that you do. I am grateful.

ACAA DC: Thanks. We need that. :)

EdnaD1234: In the case I spoke of, the father got custody of the child. The mother is not allowed visitation and the child is now at the mercy of the father. What could the next step be in fighting this because of the physical abuse? I will read those books you suggested.

GBurton855: File an appeal to overturn the decision of the court.

CRCJardin: You've probably already covered this, but isn't it true that there is really no evidence that FMS exists?

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