The Warping of the American Women’s Movement

The credibility of the “survivor movement” reached a higher level in the late 1980s when victims of  sexual abuse perceived that American culture had changed significantly in their favor. Women rejoiced believing they were finally able to speak of their silent sexual abuses and that society was ready to listen and take action. Some voices were heard publicly –  others privately.

Women, including me, had marched for equality and the right to be heard in the hot, summer streets of Washington D.C.. We carried banners and colorful flags and sang our songs for years – years that stretched into decades, but our time had come.

By the early 1990s, the survivor movement warped into the “victims” movement. It wasn’t a calculated change, but one that occurred when the psychology industry grasped onto the struggles of women who were sexually abused. Born from the marriage between vulnerable women and psychotherapy was repressed memory therapy. A new technique believed to help women recall buried memories of sexual abuse. The victim movement warped yet again when some women remembered satanic ritual abuse and other atrocities that included human sacrifices and violent torture.

Over the next decade, while women flooded therapist’s offices remembering all sorts of abuses, the large survivor movement took yet another turn that was not apparent until years later. After years of repressed memory therapy, an increasing number of women realized that the psychology industry took advantage of them when they were vulnerable and in need of medical care. In a variety of ways, many of came to understand that they had not been sexually abused, but had been led to believe so by overzealous therapists who refused to hear their protestations.

What happened to those of us swept into the psychotherapy machine? We were silenced. Women, silenced again. The women’s movement had been fractured by a tenacious psychotherapy beast unwilling, and by then, unable to back down and confess its wrongdoing. But this time the silencing was done by other women.

It was a difficult time for me because I as an activist, I fought in the streets of Washington with thousands of other women and now my voice was silenced. No one wanted to hear that I was coerced into believing I had been sexually abused when I had not been because it was feared that women who had been abused would once again be silenced and disregarded.

I don’t know if Americans understand the power, might, and influence of the psychology industry. The beast keeps many women in its claws by supporting and encouraging the “victim” mentality. This group of women will not relinquish their position in society as abuse survivors who demand understanding and support by the rest of us. By the increasing number of Internet blogs and groups alone, it is clear that some women will never be healed no matter how much therapy is received or to what depth therapists encourage them to fall.

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The Warping of the American Women’s Movement by Jeanette Bartha is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.mentalhealthmatters2.wordpress.com.
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6 Comments

  1. avalon111

     /  10/05/2012

    Even with the obsession with the recovered memory movement, the SRA Myth and MPD-DID, the feminist movements most telling betrayal of US women has been the hopeless lack of interest in trying to improve the lot of working women in the US.

    Job insecurity, with arbitary sackings, including for falling pregnant are still the norm, allied to often incredibly low wages that deny the opportunity for women to live above the poverty line, let alone become consumers. The import of huge numbers of predominantly male Indian barely-skilled workers from abroad on H1B visas has led to skilled women in the IT industry being replaced (and there weren’t many to begin with) so that many IT firms now boast no women amongst their skilled workforce.

    For all of this the US feminist community said and did nothing, instead being consumed by a desire to label all men as pedophiles, rapists, domestic abusers.

    In the meantime US feminists took part in the ‘War Against Science’ conducted with the Right throughout the 1990s, ensuring American schoolgirls were effectively denied a science or engineering education.

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    • The US is going backward socially as far as womens health care. There is no wonder that the MPD movement is gaining momentum through Internal Family Systems therapy.

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  2. avalon111

     /  10/04/2012

    Much of the problem was created in the 1970s when the US feminist movement became obsessed with incest. In numerous books and journal articles the idea that all men were natural pedophiles was promoted, together with the vision that wives and mothers automatcially allowed the pedophilia to take place (and even encouraged it) as part of ‘the patriarchy’.

    The snag of course was that most women weren’t reporting incest, and the number of cases that went to court, although increased because of the heightened awareness, didn’t match-up with the then universal feminist view of all men being child rapists.

    Whilst all this was going on the Religious Right were becoming increasingly entranced with the idea that satanic cults were working across America. The ‘moral panic’ took hold a few times over the years, but not normally beyond wacky headlines in The National Enquirer.

    Things really ramped-up with the publication of Pazder and Smith’s ‘Michelle Remembers’ in 1980. The book, detailing a fictional appearence by satan on a then-sleepy 1950s Canadian town was embraced both by religious fundamentalists and feminists as a true story, and became the bedrock of belief in recovered memory therapy, ‘body memories’, satanic ritual abuse and eventtually the multiple personality disorder industry.

    Fast-forward just four years and Michelle Remembers played a signficant part in the famous McMartin trial, as detailed on the Wikipedia page;

    ‘Michelle Smith and Lawrence Pazder, co-authors of the now-discredited satanic ritual abuse autobiography Michelle Remembers, met with the parents and children involved in the trial, and were believed by the initial prosecutor Glenn Stevens to have influenced the children’s testimony.’
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McMartin_preschool_trial)

    Moral panics about daycare centres had taken place before in the 1970s, partly driven by fundamentalists concerned that the ‘traditional’ family paradigm of monther-at-home, father-at-work was being broken. In the 1980s though some feminists had also taken-up the obsession against daycare, having determined that they could not accept that liberal feminists had found a ‘third way’ – a means for women to maintain families whilst working, rather than abaindoning families and dedicating their lives only to work. Thus many feminists had found a common cause with religious fundamentalists, intent on creating sufficient fear about daycare to dissuade most women from using the facility.

    With Pazder & Smith introducing satanic ritual abuse into the brew (perhaps not the best term) the ‘Myth exploded across the US, centered on the idea that satanic groups were rife and based in daycare centres. Whilst the panic ran its cause, the first edition of ‘The Courage To Heal’ from feminists Ellen Bass and Laura Davies, the ‘bible’ of the recovered memory movement, was published, the first edition detailing just how much US feminists and religious fundamentalists were in-step;

    ‘The original edition of the book contained an influential chapter discussing satanic ritual abuse (though satanic ritual abuse is now considered a moral panic, the case specifically discussed in The Courage to Heal is that of Judith Spencer, which has since been discredited) and the discredited autobiography Michelle Remembers – citing the latter approvingly along with other alleged survivor stories of satanic ritual abuse. Subsequent editions renamed the phenomenon “sadistic ritual abuse”. The Courage to Heal was part of the vision that childhood sexual abuse could be discovered with no corroborating evidence beyond a vague set of symptoms.’
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Courage_to_Heal)

    Numerous other feminist and fundamentalist books at the time cited ‘Michelle Remembers’ as a recommended work, and even today, many older US and UK feminists will have a copy of Michelle’ on their bookshelves. The book is perhaps the most popular ‘crossover’ title – a book that has managed to straddle and entrance both feminist and religious fundamentalist, and is still counted as a key title for both groups.

    In the US the SRA Myth ran-out-of-steam in the late 1980s and early 90s, not least because of the crucial lacking of any evidence for its existence. By now though the Recovered Memory Movement, driven by therapists who comprised feminists, fundamentalists and often, the just plain greedy, was well in-hand, appealing to many in the ‘Me Too!’ Generation. The Multiple Personality industry realised that the SRA Myth could be a useful vehicle, and so attached itself, spawning even more conspiracy theories and even more wealth for a therapy industry gone mad.

    A key figure in this history was the feminist/conspiracy theorist Gloria Steinem, who promoted the SRA Myth, the Recovered Memory Therapy Movement and MPD/DID. She was guest speaker at the APA’s annual conference for 4 years, promoting RMT/MPD to an audiance who had grown rich on the conspiracy theories. Gloria Steinem contributed $1000 to the search for the ‘McMartin tunnels’ – just at the time that feminists and fundamentalists were widely believing in the theory that US satanists had access to spacecraft and hypersonic transport jets. Such visions would spawn a new generation of crazed conspiracy theorists, from David Icke to the ‘modern’ feminist E. Sue Blume, whose loopy essay turned the Encyclopedia of Domestic Violence (Informa PLC, 2007) – the new obsession for feminists – into a joke volume

    Steinem’s influence on US contemporary history is considerable. She provided money to an extreme far-right group associated with the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995 which killed 168 people including 19 children. She introduced the idea of ‘tokenism’ in modern UK feminism – preaching to a mostly white middle-class audience, but willing to ‘wheel on’ a token black speaker in an effort to provie her ‘inclusiveness’. For the most part the Balck Women’s Movement no longer wants to have anything to do with the current generation of white middle-class American feminists.

    With respect to RMT/MPD she has written and spoken in praise of ISSTD co-founder Bennett B. Braun, the disgraced psychiatrist (though still trading as Bennet G. Braun in Butte – see http://www.vitals.com/doctors/Dr_Bennett_Braun) whose serial abuse of women is legendary. In recent times she has described MPD/DID ‘survivors’ as ‘prophets’ and has detailed how useful having more than one menstrul cycle would for women.

    In the late 1980s, 1988, the SRA Myth vaulted The Atlantic and made it to the UK, driven not by feminists but by religious fundamentlaists. In the UK, though a few years behind, the vision of all-men-are pedophiles, led by the likes of Sarah Nelson, had taken hold, typified by the Cleveland Scandal of 1987 which was structured around the idea that most, if not all men, systematically bugger/sodomise their children, without leaving any internal injuries, disclosures by the victims themselves, instances of being found-out by their spouses/girlfriends, traces of semn, confessions by the men themselves or any other evidence other than an ‘anal wink’ test (RAD – Reflex Anal Dilation) promoted by a doctor in the city of Leeds who himself was an SRA Myth advocate.

    In Britain the SRA Myth took a distinctly different turn. With little conflict over the subject of abortion – the issue that ensures US feminists and fundamentalists cannot always get on together, even if they agree on many subjects – the UK saw collusion between the ‘Marxist’ feminist movement and the often far-right fundamentalist movement on a grand scale. When the craze took off, in Broxtowe, Nottinghamshire, it was through the widespread collusion of fundamentalist and feminist social workers conjoined together.

    But the SRA Myth in Britain was considerably different to the US in another way. In the US the focus had been on satanic groups, notably believed to be lurking in daycare. In the UK the shift moved to finding witches amongst the socially disadvantaged, poor and excluded. British feminists threw themselves in the hunt for witches with gusto, though the language of satanism was sometimes used. Typical examples were the feminist-Marxist journalist Bea Campbell who offered money to a woman if she would admit she was a witch, whilst feminist Sara Scott actively engaged in the promotion of a book on SRA by a leading religious fundamentalist (Andrew Boyd).

    Like the US, Britain saw a successful prosecution for SRA – using a secret court hearing with numerous retractions by witnesses, and the allowing of magical and supernatural evidence, in the form of the Pembroke Trial – easily the most important criminal trial in the Western World in the last 400 years and one which the Dramatis Personae web site will focus on in exhaustive detail in 2013.

    The obsession with witchcraft and finding witches was documented in the 1994 book from Routledge/(now Informa PLC) Treating Survivors of Satanist Abuse, editedby Valerie Sinason, which included contributions from therapists, social workers and feminists, together with a number of essays detailing the hunt for witches and the belief that witches covens were rife across the land.

    In the UK the SRA Myth effectively died in 1994. ‘Core’ believers continued and remain to continue pursuing the ’cause’, notably amongst the feminist and religious fundamentalist community. The social worker academic book ‘Child Sexual Assault: Feminist Perspectives’ (2000) promoted the ‘Myth, long after its demise, whilst in the UK two publishers, Informa PLC and Karnac continue to push the fundamentalist message with regular publicatios of conspiracy-theory volumes.

    In 2012 the SRA Myth still thrives at a low level in the UK, though Australia continues to vie for this distinction. It is still easy to find British social workers who believe that satanists and witches stalk the land, whilst there is a general acceptance that the ‘Myth was transformed into the widespread use of the Munchausen’s Syndrome-by-Proxy (MSBP) diagnosis which engulfed Great Britain in the 1990s and saw numerous women convicted of murder, often using witchcraft analogies. As with the ‘Myth, many UK feminists supported the use of the MSBP vehicle.

    In ‘modern’ times the remains of US and UK feminism had drifted to the extreme far-right, and there is greater synergy between the worlds of modern ‘radical’ feminists and the likes of David Icke, typified by the adoption of religious fundamentalist, rampant racist and ‘gendercide’ advocate Mary Daly, by the feminist community.

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  3. Fred Pauser

     /  01/25/2011

    Jeanette, you have accurately summed up the “survivor movement.”

    How is it that so many therapists bought into such a faulty form of therapy? Some possibilities:

    1) At the base of it may be the Postmodernist movement which began several decades ago and eventually swept through practically the entire realm of academia. It essentially says that there are many ways of knowing, each person has their own truth, all truth is subjective – there is no objective truth. To an extent it was an attack on scientific methodology. Under this perspective, those who are in positions of authority, put out ideas that seem to make some sort of sense and can garner support, become purveyors of truth.

    2) The feminist movement has achieved much for women and society as a whole. But by the 80s the movement became dominated by feminist extremists who focused upon perceived wrongs against women, actual or not — women as victims. There was a lot of resentment, also desire for power among radical feminists.

    3) It became apparent by the 80s that much more sexual abuse had taken place among the general population than had previously been believed or acknowledged.

    4) Therapists had been taught about the power of the subconscious. Combine that with the three factors above and they were able to concoct the technique of Recovered Memory Therapy along with Guided Imagery, etc. which eventually led to revelations such as Satanic Ritual Abuse and Multiple Personalities. They felt like they were helping to correct societal wrongs, while justly taking in considerable money.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Their extremely unscientific techniques led to unintended (giving benefit of the doubt) abuse by therapists of their clients. In the 90s many victims of therapy came to realize what had happened and some of them sued their therapists. This has served as a wakeup to reality for perhaps a percentage of therapists, but at least some remain deluded.

    The entire fiasco puts a light on the need for psychotherapy to be much more scientific, much more evidence based, much more rigorous.

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    • The problem began when mental health care providers started looking for abuse and subsequently found it. It worsened when they failed to stop “treating” women when their health was declining. Psychiatrists and psychologists did not start the search for memories of abuse in a nefarious manner. Check out Carol Tavris, Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me). She discusses cognitive dissonance and clearly explains how the psychology industry went too far and was unable to turn around and admit and then correct their errors. Patients, once again, suffered the consequences.

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