The False Memory Syndrome Foundation

Since the inception of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF) there has been  a lot of misinformation, lies, and disinformation to discredit it and its Professional Advisory Board; keeping up with all the ridiculous articles and other publications would be a full-time job.

I am offering and challenging you to read the facts about the Foundation that has been in the eye of the memory debate storm for several decades.

Perhaps gaining insight and accurate information will help people understand who these people are and what their mission is.

From the False Memory Syndrome Foundation website: www.fmsfonline.org

Where is the FMS Foundation?

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

PO Box 30044 • Philadelphia, PA 19103 • Telephone (215) 940-1040

Who runs the FMS Foundation?

The Executive Director, Pamela Freyd, oversees the Foundation’s programs and the fiscal and day-to-day operations of the Foundation. The Foundation’s seven Directors set policy during quarterly meetings. The Scientific and Professional Advisory Board is composed of prominent researchers and clinicians from the fields of psychiatry, psychology, social work, law, and education. This Board advises on issues of memory, therapy and research. It also helps set future direction for the organization.

How is the Foundation financed?

The Foundation is funded by membership dues and contributions from families and friends. Dues constitute less than half the income. Because the FMS Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) institution, contributions are tax deductible. Several small foundation grants have been used to support professional advisory board seminars and three major conferences. The Foundation’s staff is small, and the organization could not exist without volunteers who devote significant time and effort. A financial report is available in the FMSF office.

What are the goals of the FMS Foundation?

  • to seek the reasons for the spread of FMS that is so devastating families,
  • to work for ways to prevent it
  • to aid those who were affected by it and to bring their families into reconciliation.

History of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation

A group of families and professionals affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and the Johns Hopkins Medical Institution in Baltimore created the False Memory Syndrome Foundation in 1992 because they saw a need for an organization that could document and study the problem of families that were being shattered when adult children suddenly claimed to have recovered repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse. Across the country, parents had been reporting that they had received phone calls and letters accusing them of committing horrifying acts that allegedly had happened decades earlier. The following letter is typical of many:

 Dear First Name and Last Name,

Why am I writing this letter: To state the truth — Dad I remember just about everything you did to me. Whether you remember it or not is immaterial-what’s important is I remember. I had this experience the other day of regressing until I was a child just barely verbal. I was screaming and crying and absolutely hysterical. I was afraid that you were going to come and get me and torture me. That is what sexual abuse is to a child-the worst torture… I needed your protection, guidance and understanding. Instead I got hatred, violation, humiliation and abuse.. I don’t have to forgive you… I no longer give you the honor of being my father.
“C”

The same father had previously received letters such as the following:

Mom and Dad,

Hi! Just thought I would drop you a line to say hi! I have been so busy lately I have forgotten to tell you guys how much I love you. You two have done so much for me… You have continually supported me, loved me, and helped me work through my various problems and adventures… I just wanted you guys to know that you are appreciated. I seldom tell you how much you guys mean to me… I love you more than words can say.
Love “C”

What had happened in these families and in the lives of the now-adult children that resulted in such terrible alienation?

Why did the families get together?

The parents, many in their 70s and 80s, came together out of a need for mutual support — to help each other cope with the awful pain of the loss of their children and the trauma of being falsely accused of incest, and to try to find out what was happening to their children — just as parents of Downs syndrome children or parents of children with sickle cell anemia or parents of children who had joined cults have come together for mutual support. They shared information and articles trying to figure out what had happened.

An accusation of sexual abuse creates a stigma that probably lasts forever. In November of 1995, Dateline asked 502 adults, “If someone has been charged and acquitted in a child abuse case, would you still be suspicious of them?” Poll results showed that 12% were not sure, 11% said no, an acquittal would remove all suspicions, and an overwhelming majority, 77% said yes, they would still be suspicious, even if the suspect was cleared. When a therapist makes a diagnosis of incest based on a “recovered memory,” he or she gives a lifetime sentence to the accused. In the book, Spectral Evidence, Johnston describes Gary Ramona’s realization of what had happened to his life.

“One day it all came home to him. Even if his lawsuit were to clear his name, his life had been stripped of its boundless potential. ‘There’s no way I could ever run for public office, even if I had the desire. There was no way I could get a major corporation, who in the past were hungry to have me take a look. Do you think any of them are going to make me president or put me in a high position?’ He could never do community work if it involved children, ever. His reputation was destroyed.” Johnston, 1997 (page 181)

The accusations are devastating to the families. Cardinal Bernadin, who was accused of abusing a young man many years ago, spoke movingly of the fact that the accusation was worse for him than the cancer that eventually brought about his death. He expressed that sentiment even after the accusation had been retracted. Most families express similar reactions, but for the families there is something that is far worse than the accusation: losing a child.

The effects are difficult to quantify. One mother pulled down all the shades in the house and did not leave it for three months as she grieved after her husband received the accusation from their daughter. It was only after hearing something about FMSF on television and learning that she was not the only person to whom this had that she opened the shades. In those families in which legal actions have been brought, some have lost their homes and life savings. Just the fear of legal action has seemingly paralyzed many others who describe their lives as “walking on eggshells,” trying not to do anything that will bring the accuser to take the feared action. Accused families sometimes attribute deaths and poor health to the accusations. Given the fact that either the loss of a child or an accusation of abuse can be a significant stressor, this belief may not be surprising and may have some truth to it. Following are examples of comments from families.

One daughter of two has resumed contact but it is not the same. The destruction of our family surely has taken twenty years off our lives.
A Mom and Dad

My husband died last January after having suffered a massive stroke. He and I began to have high blood pressure at about the time of our daughter’s accusations. This stress had been going on for several years and we’d both been put on medication for that condition. He was depressed. He sighed and said, “Well I guess there’s nothing more I can do.” Our daughter had returned his last letter to her unopened, writing on the envelope, “Unacceptable mail; return to sender.”

There is no doubt in my mind that the stress he had suffered from her false accusations was at least partially responsible for his untimely death. He was a vigorous, healthy, sixty-six year old man. Now I am trying to cope with the loss of my dear, loving husband of almost 46 years while, at the same time, struggling to overcome the bitterness I feel toward my daughter and her therapists. The tragedy of this almost overwhelms me. In my opinion, the therapists who are promoting these false memories are guilty of murder.
A Widow

How did the families get together?

Although the FMS Foundation was incorporated in Philadelphia, families in other locations had also started joining together. The Philadelphia parents had learned about each other largely because of an article by Darrell Sifford in the late fall of 1991 that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer. This article related the story of parents who were in the nuclear founding group of FMSF who believed that their accusing daughter had been misled into her abuse beliefs. Many people responded to Harold Lief, MD. and to Mr. Sifford, who died in 1992. Sifford concluded that the topic of recovered repressed memories was the “big bang” of therapy in the 90s. He intended to write a series of articles around the topic of accusations of abuse arising from recovered repressed memories, and he suggested to the families who had contacted him that they establish a place where other families could get information. The response to his column demonstrated a need for an organization to help families.

The Sifford column was sent around the country by people in Philadelphia who knew of friends or family that had experienced the same thing. Those families contacted Sifford who in turn put them in touch with Philadelphia families.

As the families were getting together in Philadelphia, a group of families and former patients in Dallas was also getting together. The Dallas families and former patients found each other through Glenna Whitley’s article “Abuse of Trust” in “D” Magazine (January 1992). This story about a patient who had come to believe she was part of an intergenerational satanic cult generated responses from former patients from the same hospital and parents with the same problem.

The Philadelphia group learned about the Dallas group from Hollida Wakefield, M.A. and Ralph Underwager, Ph.D. at the Institute for Psychological Therapies in Northfield, Minnesota, authors of “Accusations of Child Sexual Abuse” (1988). A number of families contacted them because of the book and, at their request, were put in touch with each other. This writer went to Dallas to meet the families and to attend a seminar that they had organized.

At the same time, a group of nine families in the Midwest had also found each other though the now defunct Cult Awareness Network. Underwager and Wakefield also put them in touch with the Philadelphia group. Roger and Liz LaPlant, from Illinois, had been organizing a meeting to be held in Benton Harbor, Michigan. By the time of that meeting on April 25, 1992, the Foundation had been formed. The first national FMSF family meeting attracted families from coast to coast.

In other countries, families also came together. In Canada, P. T., Ph.D. contacted Elizabeth Loftus, Ph.D. in the fall of 1991. Dr. Loftus put her in touch with this writer. In May, 1992, the “Toronto Star” published a series of three articles written by Bill Taylor. The first meeting of Canadian families attended by more than a hundred people followed shortly afterwards. Eventually, close to 2,000 Canadian families contacted the Foundation.

From England, Roger Scotford in late 1992 contacted professor John Money, M.D. at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions to find out if he had ever heard of adult children cutting off all contact with parents after claiming to have recovered repressed memories of childhood abuse. Dr. Money, who had heard about the FMSF, put Mr. Scotford in touch with this writer, who in turn put Mr. Scotford in contact with several other affected families in the UK. Scotford came to Philadelphia for the first FMSF professional conference in April 1993 and then began to organize families in the UK. He set up a group called Adult Children Accusing Parents, which became a registered charity in September 1994, called the British False Memory Society. (See the website of the BFMS: www.bfms.org.uk)

In New Zealand, Felicity Goodyear-Smith, M.D. was unaware of the FMSF when she published “First Do No Harm” in 1993. In September 1993, when her book was still in press, she learned about the FMSF from professor Dennis Dutton, head of the NZ Skeptics. Dr. Goodyear-Smith contacted the FMSF and began to receive newsletters. In her book she had included a section about memories recalled under counseling and hypnosis. Once the book appeared, she was immediately innundated with calls and letters from affected families and formed a support group for them in February 1994. (Casualties of Sexual Allegations or COSA) COSA developed into a national organization publishing monthly newsletters. (The website is www.menz.org.nz/cosa.htm.)

Some families in Australia read a New Zealand newspaper article by Camille Guy published in October 1993. The article included interviews with some of the families who had contacted Dr. Goodyear-Smith. The Australian families quickly made contact with the FMSF and came to visit before starting their own organization. And so it has been with families in Netherlands, Sweden, Israel and other places to which the recovered-memory beliefs had spread. Families in shock from the loss of their children, in fear and shame because of the accusations and in confusion about what had happened, came together to try to help each other and to find ways to reach their children.

How did the name get chosen?

Selecting a name for the organization was difficult. Because many of the accusers claimed that they were suffering from “repressed memory syndrome,” and since the parents were convinced that what their children thought were memories were really incorrect beliefs, the term “false memory” seemed appropriate. The parents described their children as being totally consumed by their new beliefs.

“When the memory is distorted, or confabulated, the result can be what has been called the False Memory Syndrome; a condition in which a person’s identity and interpersonal relationships are centered around a memory of traumatic experience which is objectively false but in which the person strongly believes. Note that the syndrome is not characterized by false memories as such. We all have memories that are inaccurate. Rather, the syndrome may be diagnosed when the memory is so deeply ingrained that it orients the individual’s entire personality and lifestyle, in turn disrupting all sorts of other adaptive behaviors. The analogy to personality disorder is intentional. False memory syndrome is especially destructive because the person assiduously avoids confrontation with any evidence that might challenge the memory. Thus it takes on a life of its own, encapsulated, and resistant to correction. The person may become so focused on the memory that he or she may be effectively distracted from coping with the real problems in his or her life.”
John Kihlstrom

In fact, the term “false memories” was not new and had been in the literature since the turn of the century. It was mentioned by Karl Jaspers (1963, p.76), for example. Although the term “syndrome” is most commonly used in association with the medical model of psychopathology, there are many other uses of the term (Kihlstrom, 1994). A syndrome is a set of symptoms that occur together. The patterns of symptoms in the radically changed behavior of the accusers seemed to indicate that the phenomenon was a syndrome, probably of social origin such as folie à deux (Merskey, June 1995, FMSF Newsletter, “What is a Syndrome?”). Thus the name of the organization was chosen.

The name has been a point of much contention. In addition to Dr. Merskey’s “Is FMS a Syndrome?,” Campbell Perry, Ph.D. has also addressed this issue:

Is FMS a syndrome? Some critics of FMS maintain that FMS is not a syndrome for such reasons as that nobody would lie about being sexually molested during childhood (although the issue is confabulation, not lying), or that it has not been cited in DSM-IV, although MPD/DID was being diagnosed for 170 years prior to being included in DSM-III in 1980. (Some would argue, of course, that this acceptance by DSM-III in 1980 was the ultimate disaster for this particular diagnosis, since it led to an enormous increase in the incidence of this diagnosis). These critics argue that a syndrome is “a pattern of symptoms that characterize a particular disorder or disease” (English & English, 1966, p. 540). English and English emphasize that any single symptom may be found in other disorders or diseases, and that it is the pattern, or combination, that differentiates.This, indeed, is how a syndrome is ordinarily defined; English and English, however, discuss an alternative definition of syndrome as “a set of behaviors believed to have a common cause or bias” (p. 540). They maintain that this is a loose meaning of the term, especially if the syndrome is viewed in terms of the process that led to the memory report, rather than the symptoms that a person develops. The report of how false memories are created in a therapy that is distinct in its assumptions (all human psychic dysfunctions are the product of repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse), and procedures (staging an angry confrontation with the putative abuser; the advocacy of hatred as a healing method) led Perry and Gold (1995) to conclude that FMS is a syndrome in this latter sense, defined by English and English.

Merskey (1995), however, argues for FMS being a syndrome in the first, more traditional sense. He sums up his position by stating that the phenomena of FMS “frequently include a person with a problem, a set of ideas for which there is no independent evidence, complaints based upon so-called recovered memories, and the propagation of hate and hostility” (p. 6). Regardless of which position one takes on this syndrome issue, it is certainly true, as Merskey concludes, that the “FMS Foundation has identified a peculiarly nasty syndrome” (p. 6).

The concept of false memories is not new to the therapeutic community, and the issues surrounding false memories of incest are at least as old as Freud. Unfortunately, the issue of false memories has also divided the therapy community as few topics have. Professional organizations, however, are now addressing these issues. Statements about false memories have been published by the major mental health organizations in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Australia. Some dictionaries now include false memory syndrome as an entry; for example

  • FALSE MEMORY SYNDROME: a psychological condition in which a person remembers events that have not actually occurred. (Random House Compact Unabridged Dictionary, Special Second Edition, 1996, Addenda)
  • FALSE MEMORY SYNDROME: a situation in which examination, therapy or hypnosis has elicited apparent memories, especially of childhood abuse, that are disputed by family members and are often traumatic to the patient. (Encarta Dictionary, 1999, published by St. Martins, owned by Microsoft)

What did the Foundation do?

So much has changed since the False Memory Syndrome Foundation was formed in March of 1992 that it is sometimes difficult to remember the solid wall of disbelief and hostility that families faced when they said they had been falsely accused. Not only has the term “false memories” become embedded in our language, but the topic of false memories has also been the focus of many scholarly articles and books as well as of intense interest in the popular media. The FMS Foundation has played a role as a clearinghouse of information and as a catalyst for discussion and research about the specific claims that have formed the basis of the debate in the areas of memory, social influence and therapeutic practice.

Retrieved 4/15/11. with permission from Dr. Pamela Freyd, Executive Director www.fmsmonline.org

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Resources available in Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case

by Debbie Nathan

(blog post by Jeanette Bartha)

Publisher: Free Press, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., NY, NY, 2011

If multiple personalities, false memories, dissociative identity disorder, human memory, questionable child-abuse recall, false confessions, or repressed memories pique’ your interest, then you likely know about the infamous case of Sybil that splashed the American book market and cinema in the early 1970s.

According to Amazon Book Review, “Sybil Exposed draws from an enormous trail of papers, records, photos, and tapes to unearth the lives and passions of these three women whose story exploded into an epic movement with consequences beyond their wildest dreams. Set across the twentieth century and rooted in a time when few professional roles were available to women, this is a story of corrosive sexism, bold but unchecked ambition, runaway greed, utter human vulnerability, duplicity and shared delusion, shaky theories of psychoanalysis exuberantly and drastically practiced, and how one modest young woman’s life turned psychiatry on its head and radically changed the course of therapy—and our culture, as well.”

If you are interested in investigating the life of Shirley A. Mason AKA Sybil Dorset, Sybil Exposed is a one stop-shopping treasure of resources. The book has:

  • Acknowledgements, 6 pages pgs. 239-246.
  • Notes on chapters, 35 pages from pgs. 247-282.
  • Index, 14 pages from pgs. 283-297.

Author Debbie Nathan, is an award winning journalist who conducted massive research  throughout the United States for Sybil Exposed.

Ms. Nathan is the recipient of national and regional awards, including:

  • The H.L. Mencken Award for Investigative Journalism
  • PEN West Award for Journalism
  • Texas Institute of Letters Award for feature journalism
  • John Barlow Martin Award for Public Service Journalism

With over 30 years of reporting and publishing experience, Ms. Nathan specializes in sexual politics, sex panics particularly in relation to women and children, as well as immigration and the U.S. – Mexican border. She appears in the Academy Award-nominated documentary Capturing the Freidman’s, the story of accused child molesters, Arnold (now deceased) and his son, Jesse Friedman.

Ms. Nathan serves on the board of the National Center for Reason and Justice (NCRJ), a non-profit organization of advocates for intelligent and humane approaches to preventing child abuse and dealing with accused offenders. See About the NCRJ

More about the author on Amazon.com Book Review

Below is a list of resources used by the author including print media, professionals in the mental health field, professors, libraries, laypersons, former psychiatric patients, and films.

Shirley Ardell Mason (1923-1998) pseudonym, Sybil Isabel Dorsett

Mason was born and raised in Dodge Center, Minnesota, USA. The only child of Walter Mason (a carpenter and architect) and Martha Alice “Mattie” Hageman.

Resources used by author Debbie Nathan:

  • Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, scholar
  • Peter Swales, historian
  • David Eichman, grandson of Shirley Mason’s step-mother, Florence Eichman Mason and David’s wife, Bonnie Eichman
  • Dan Houlihan, University of Minnesota at Mankato (where Shirley attended as an undergraduate)
  • Muriel Odden Coulter, the daughter of a dorm mate of Shirley
  • Dodge Center residents (Sybil/Shirley’s home town)
  • Miranda Marland, daughter of Shirley’s best childhood friend, Robert Moulton
  • Cousins of Shirley: Patricia Alcott, Lorna Gilbert, Arlene Christensen, Marcia Schmidt
  • Dr. Ronald Numbers, University of Wisconsin, an expert on Seventh-Day Adventism (Shirley’s religion)
  • T. Joe Willey, scholar
  • Jean Lane, Shirley’s best friend during college
  • Robert Rieber, John Jay College, NYC, emeritus psychology professor taught with Sybil author, Flora Schreiber
  • Dr. Herbert Spiegel, psychiatrist and hypnotherapist (worked briefly with Shirley)
  • Marcia Greenleaf, psychologist

Psychiatrists practicing in or near New York City during 1950’s & 1960’s when Shirley’s psychoanalyst, Cornelia Wilbur, M.D. was there:

  • Dr. Ann Ruth Turkel
  • Dr. Sylvia Brecher Marer (Rhode Island)
  • Dr. Nathaniel Lehrman
  • Dr. Arthur Zitrin

Dr. Cornelia Wilbur (1908–1992). Born, Cleveland, Ohio, USA, University of Michigan, 1939, M.D. (medical doctor)

Resources for life of Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, M.D.

  • Robert Schade, cousin
  • Deborah Brown Kovac, a niece of Dr. Wilbur’s second husband
  • Neil Burwell, nephew
  • Warner Burwell. great-nephew
  • Douglas Burwell, great-nephew
  • Brenda Burwell Canning, great-niece (lived with Dr. Wilbur in the 1970s)
  • Ruth Barstow Dixon, cousin
  • Dr. Richard Dieterle
  • Caroline Dieterle
  • Dr. Robert Dieterle, psychiatrist (Dr. Wilbur’s professor and mentor), 1930’s
  • Harald Naess, historian of Scandinavian immigration

Others who knew or worked with Dr. Cornelia Wilbur:

  • Dr. Arnold Ludwig, worked with Dr. Wilbur at University of Kentucky, 1970s
  • Dr. Lon Hays
  • Dr. Rosa K. Riggs
  • Dr. German Gutierrez

Others

  • John and Patsy McGee – lived on same street in Dr. Wilbur’s neighborhood
  • Roberta Guy – Shirley Mason’s and Dr. Wilbur’s home-care nurse
  • Mark Boultinghouse – Shirley’s art dealer
  • Dr. Joseph Bieron, chemist and archivist of historical records of his profession

Libraries and Organizations:

  • State Historical Society, St. Paul, MN, USA,  – archival research
  • New York Academy of Medicine
  • American Society for Journalists and Authors, Director Alexandra Owens
  • Society for Magazine Writers
  • University of Iowa Library, special collections department
  • Historical Society in Dodge County, Minnesota, past Director, Earlene Kinga
  • Seventh-Day Adventist Church General Conference, Maryland
  • National Library of Medicine, Maryland
  • John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Special Collections Department
  • Ellen Belcher, Head Archivist, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • Tania Colmant-Donabedian, Assistant Archivist, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • Larry Sullivan, Director, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • Peter Tytell, research assistant to Ms. Nathan
  • Dr. Leah Dickstein, holds several files and papers which belonged to Dr. Wilbur

Scholars, writers, professionals in the mental health field, former-psychiatric patients, and activists

  • Sherrill Mulhern
  • Dr. Harold Mersey, DM FRCP (London) FRCP(C) FRCPsych
  • Evan Harrington
  • Pamela Freyd, Ph.D.
  • Mark Pendergrast, author/journalist
  • Ben Harris
  • Jan Haaken
  • Jeanette Bartha, B.S., psychology, journalist, blogger
  • Bill Dobbs
  • John Bloise
  • Those wishing to remain anonymous

Former Hollywood Celebrities regarding the film, Sybil

  • Stewart Stern, screenwriter for Sybil telemovie
  • Diana Serra Cary – actress who played “Baby Peggy”

International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD)

  • Kathy Steele, former Director
  • Dr. Richard Kluft, M.D. (grateful to him, but he declined to discuss his work with Dr. Cornelia Wilbur) Dr. Kluft permitted Ms. Nathan to attend his presentation at ISSTD Conference
  • Barry Cohen
  • Dr. Vedat Sar
The above information was taken from the text of Sybil Exposed. Errors may be those of blogger rather than the author, Debbie Nathan.

updated: 9-26-14

 

 

 

 

“Sybil Exposed” Exposes Disinformation Campaign by Supporters of Multiple Personalities & Dissociative Identity Disorder

Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case, by Debbie Nathan, Free Press an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

Since the book’s release, posts, blogs, articles and other news venues have chattered about the inaccuracies of Nathan’s research methods. Negative comments & opinions have flown around the Internet at warped speed beginning shortly after (and some before) the book’s release.

Nathan spent years pouring over archives written by Shirley Mason, known as Sybil, her psychiatrist, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, and Flora Schreiber the author of the book Sybil.

What opponents of Debbie Nathan’s work either do not know, or will not divulge- is that hundreds of original resources were used and interviews conducted to complete the true story of Shirley Mason’s life.

Below are excerpts of the first few pages of the acknowledgments section of Sybil Exposed beginning on page 239:

  • Conversations with Mikkel-Borch-Jacobsen (scholar) who, along with with historian Peter Swales uncovered the true identity of Sybil (Shirley Mason) in the early 1990s.
  • audio tape (sent from Borch-Jacobsen to Debbie Nathan) of an interview with Virginia Flores Cravens, a childhood neighborof Shirley’s.
  • David Eichman, grandson of Shirley Mason’s stepmother, Florence Eichman Mason. Eichnan inherited old correspondence between Shirley & her father – and Shirley and her step-mother. Eichman also had some of Shirley’s artwork, photographs of her as a young woman.
  • Dan Houlihan, psychology professor at the University of Minnesota at Mankato – the school Shirley attended as an undergraduate. Houlihan was a student back then. He donated old correspondence between Shirley & her former teachers, legal documents about her father’s business affairs, college yearbooks, and registrar’s office records and the names and location of Shirley’s former roommates from the 1940s.
  • Muriel Odden Coulter, daughter of a dorm mate shared letters penned by Shirley
  • Stanley Giesel, Vadah Purtell, Frank Weeks, Vivian Beaver, Roy Langworthy and Joan Larson people who grew up in Shirley’s home town of Dodge Center, Minnesota.
  • Dennae Ness Wilson who was residing in the Mason’s old home offered Nathan a tour.
  • Janet Kolstadt Johnson, Roger Langworthy, Melanie Wheeler Langworthy – had conversations about growing up in Dodge City.
  • Conversations with Shirley’s cousins: Patrica Alcott, Lorna Gilbert, Arlene Christensen, and Marcia Schmidt
  • Members of the Seventh-Day Adventist (the Mason’s church)
  • Shirley’s baptism papers
  • Jean Lane, Shirley’s best friend during college
  • Robert Rieber, emeritus psychology professor at John Jay College in New York City. Taught with author of “Sybil”, Flora Schreiber
  • Robert Rieber shared an audio tape of Shirley’s therapy session
  • Interviews with Dr. Herbert Spieger, who worked with Shirley in the late 1950s & 1960s. He and his wife, psychologist Marcia Greenlief, showed Nathan Shirley’s treatment records.
  • Robert Schade, cousin of Dr. Connie Wilbur
  • Deborah Brown Kovac, niece of Connie Wilbur’s second husband
  • Neil Burwell Connie Wilbur’s nephew
  • Warner & Douglas Burwell, Connie Wilbur’s great-nephews

Negative opinions flared, in part, from Dr. Patrick Suraci. His opinion & refutation of what he perceives as Nathan’s inaccuracies and research, in favor of his own, is being reposted by people claiming to have survived ritual-sexual abuse, members of fringe survivor groups, and by proponents of multiple personalities and dissociative identity disorder. The speed of distribution and repetition of opinions generated from this one source makes my head spin.

There is little evidence that the most out spoken critics have read the book. In one instance, a reviewer at Amazon Book Reviews admitted to not having read the book. In another the reviewer said she would not buy it, yet published many scathing posts.

Publishing disinformation about Sybil Exposed and repeating it over and over and over serves one main purpose – an attempt to discredit the author – Debbie Nathan. By attempting to discredit this author, one must also agree to discredit the publisher, Free Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, as well as the literary agent, editors, legal fact-checkers, members of the editorial staff, and employees at Free Press. In addition one must either discredit, or ignore, the hundreds of people interviewed, including family, who knew Sybil during her lifetime. Most profoundly, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur and Shirley Mason (Sybil) must be discredited because their own correspondence was used as source material.

The politics behind the admonishment of Sybil Exposed is clear. Many who think they have multiple personalities and their supporters view the fictitious story of Sybil, as a positive force because it tells their story and is an affirmation of their beliefs despite evidence to the contrary.

Thanks to authors and journalists like Debbie Nathan, the fictional character of Sybil was finally exposed.

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Book Release: “Sybil Exposed” Exposes Supporters of Multiple Personalities & Dissociative Identity Disorder 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.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at www.mentalhealthmatters2.wordpress.com.

originally published 11-21-11.

Many Voices, Editor Lynn W., Rants About New Book “Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case” by Debbie Nathan

Sybil (1976 film)

Image via Wikipedia

Below is a critique and rant about Debbie Nathan‘s new release, Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case.

This site, Many Voices, is for and about survivors of various abuses and traumas. It is unfortunate that the editor, Lynn W., was unable to look at the publication and critique it properly without inserting preconceived notions that are endemic with the multiple personality & dissociative identity community, including the therapists who treat it.

As an example, Lynn W. refers to the letter written from Sybil to Dr. Wilbur. Lynn W. goes off on a ranting-tangent saying that it is common for multiples to recant their abuse – which is Not what Sybil wrote to her psychiatrist. In this instance, author Debbie Nathan makes it clear, Sybil declared that she made up the personalities, not the abuse as Lynn W. would have readers believe.

Lynn W. goes on with the same old argument/reply that people/writers like Debbie Nathan want to say that rape victims asked for it. This is a deplorable statement. Nathan does not infer that rape victims make up their experiences. In previous publications and Nathan’s activism supporting sexual abuse victims, she says quite the reverse. Lynn W. is totally ignorant of these facts.

As Lynn W.’s rant continues, it become apparent that she has not read Sybil Exposed. Otherwise she would know the amount of research conducted by the author or that thousands of archival documents written by Sybil and Dr. Wilbur were documented in the text.

Many voices is a site heavily relied on by the survivor community for information and support. It is a travesty that the editor, Lynn W., not only gives misguided and inaccurate information, but critiques a publication that obviously was not read.

Another unfortunate aspect of Lynn W.’s rant is that she polarizes her readers against people who write about the controversy surrounding multiple personalities and is unable to comprehend that that is not what is occurring. She ends her commentary with an “us” against “them” statement. An editor of a survivor website who chooses to incite this type of mentality in her readers is doing her followers a huge disservice and adding nothing positive to her cause.

Lastly, Lynn W. claims to have been a writer for 30 years, yet finds it appropriate as an editor of Many Voices to call Debbie Nathan a “dumb ass.”JB

~~~~~~~~~~

As Dan stated in his note to me: “The new book is about how Sybil was a fake and Dr. Wilbur a fraudulent and inappropriate therapist… I think this is opportunism and stupidity [on the part of the author] because the book is based on a letter written by Sybil saying she made it all up.” [Her story of abuse]. “That is so MPD to do that and part of the disorder as well… What pisses me off more is the idea that [writers like this] are the same people who underwrite the ideas that rape victims ask for it, adult children of abuse make it up and their therapists plant false memories in their heads…It amazes me that we are so ready to believe some dumbass who has no knowledge of psych issues except maybe what she read in Psychology Today or the Reader’s Digest and the National Inquirer rather than years of case notes and several books by experts in the field of DID. Stupid People Really Bug ME!”

Dan, stupid people bug me too. But there will always be another book printed by some “authority” that tries to debunk the reality that some mothers & fathers abuse their kids; that these kids may survive, but may be severely damaged. Books based on “controversial topics” are known to sell and get heavy publicity. I’ve been a professional writer for over 30 years, and these books are called in the journalism trade “contrarian books.” Their topics are frequently, deliberately selected by a certain type of writer in the hope of making boatloads of $$. Sometimes it works for the writer. Often it doesn’t.

Frankly, Cornelia Wilbur was working in the field of “multiple personality disorder” when it was not well-known and many different types of experiments were being tried by therapists in the hopes of resolving such difficult and (then seemingly) unusual cases of response to trauma.

…Now, thanks to great organizations like the ISSTD, there is a great deal of peer-reviewed, scientific research and fact to back up our knowledge of dissociation and the optimal ways to treat it. …But no one is EVER going to stop the ongoing trickle of crappy information that seeps into the public view via “enterprising” journalists and so-called “experts.” So – with this one exception in this single MVInsider, MV considers this a non-issue. …To be blunt about my own position on the topic, “We are right. They are wrong. & that’s my 2cnts.”…

Love and best wishes,
Lynn W., Editor to the multiple personality & dissociative identity community.

Love and best wishes,
Lynn W., Editor

Rant – Many Voices Retrieved 10/23/11.

A Girl Not Named Sybil by Debbie Nathan

By DEBBIE NATHAN

Published: October 14, 2011 New York Times Magazine

“What about Mama?” the psychiatrist asks her patient. “What’s Mama been doing to you, dear? . . . I know she gave you the enemas. And I know she filled your bladder up with cold water, and I know she used the flashlight on you, and I know she stuck the washcloth in your mouth, cotton in your nose so you couldn’t breathe. . . . What else did she do to you? It’s all right to talk about it now. . . . ”

Retrieved 10/16/11. Full Story a-girl-not-named-sybil.html

This article is adapted from “Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case,” by Debbie Nathan, to be published this month by the Free Press.

Editor: Sheila Glaser

A version of this article appeared in print on October 16, 2011, on page MM56 of the Sunday Magazine with the headline: A Girl Not Named Sybil.
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