'my lie'

Dateline: Mon 08 Nov 2010

How many of you recall the allegations of sexual abuse, almost always made by adult daughters about fathers, that swept the country during the 1980s?

The phenomenon resembled the hysteria that affected us during the Salem Witch Trials in 1692-93 -- except it was more pronounced, more widespread and more damaging. (Day care providers also eventually were swept up in this foul wind, some of them going to jail for years). Thank you, global village.

Many of us who were journalists (and women) during that era read the literature. "The Courage to Heal" was the Bible for survivors of this horrific trauma, and many of us applauded a process that Freud had begun, and then abandoned -- shining light on the dark secrets little girls are made to conceal when papa is a pedophile. So what if it took hypnosis or drugs or dream analysis or daily journaling to get at the "truth"? That's what therapists did -- right?

But then came the pesky skeptics -- in the form of outraged parents and/or chiild-care providers who had faced these accusations, denied them and decided not to go gently into jail. Chief among these is the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, about which features reporter Abe Aamidor read and wrote. (The FMSF was founded in 1992 by a couple whose grown daughter, a university professor, had accused her dad of abuse -- which was vehemently denied).

Occasionally, but not often, a young woman recanted her story, or evidence was eventually found that proved the accusations a lie. But most of the emphasis for years was on "the victims".

Into this fray steps Meredith Maran, who, 20 plus years ago, accused the father she had once adored and worshipped of molesting her. Her book, "my lie," exposes the "process" she went throught to make those accusations -- which she now says was a fabrication, a lie -- and the "process" she went through to set things right with the old man.

I heard Maran interviewed a few weeks ago on NPR; what shocked me were some of the comments that followed, angrily accusing the accuser of making life very difficult for genuine sex abuse victims and, more or less, for airing a story deemed "inappropriate" for civil discourse. "NPR has sunk to a new low," said one caller.

Oh, rubbish. No matter what one may think of Maran -- she is bright, but flightly, by her own admission given to something resembling gullibility -- she has done all of us who lived through that era a service. She has meticiulously described her journey from journalist who covered these cases with vigor, to woman who became obsessed with the stories she was hearing, to divorced mom, to lesbian, to partner to a woman who not only claimed to have been abused by her dad but abused in satanic rituals as well, to victim herself (she had to keep pace), to, over time, doubter, to a person who holds out the olive branch of peace to a man she loved and hurt horribly. In fact, by her own admission, she hurt her entire family very badly -- forcing her young sons to be estranged from their grandad for years, creating a huge rift, and in general being a self-righteous posturing pain in the ass.

That she has come clean makes for a refreshing and fascinating read.

Even more interesting to me is how manipulative (tho not necessarily intentiaonlly) the therapeautic mileau of that day was. As Maran explains, if you were a woman in your 30s and your life was unhappy, look at the ABCs of life. C meant you were crazy, and of course, you were not crazy; B meant you were a bad person, and nobody wants to believe that of herself.

But A was abuse -- voila! the entire alphabet now makes sense. Your life is screwed up, but not by any fault of your own. Daddy did it.

She also does a service by interviewing memory experts who point out that any true trauma is not likely to be repressed, but in fact will be painfully re-lived and processed over and over again by the mind trying to make soem sense of the horror. We know this is true of war veterans who can still hear the bombs going off and see the body parts flying. Those guys don't need hypnosis to recover what they experienced.

By the way, Freud, who came up with the notion of repressed memories (and sex abuse as kids) being the key to hysterical adult women, eventually gave up on his notion that hysteria  -- or rage -- was tied to sexual trauma at the hands of dad. He could not prove his theory; hence he backed away, over time. But the notion hung around long enough for others to dig up the old bones.

Here's to Marran for shedding more light in her current book than she did in the past. That's progress.

And as for her dad, he lived to forgive her. That's luck.

 

Comments

hendy [Member] said:

Yet for some, the abuse was real. For those that invented it, we still have to pay attention to it, because some really experience it and are traumatized by it? Should there be a protocol to determine the reality? Some say that it would be as traumatizing as the reality to do so.

Yes, such suddenly-revealed memories are suspect. But it's my personal belief that for every false set of memories, there are probably a dozen or more that are permanently suppressed-- and cause life-long malaise.

2010-11-08 10:11:59

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Wow, Ruthie. You're my own little Oprah moment here.

This is heady stuff. My childhood best friend was molested throughout junior high school, by a family member. He didn't tell me until we were both seniors. I had no earthly idea.

I wish he had. I don't know what I'd havhe done with the information.

Looking back, some adult had to know something. My friend had a history of good grades/bad grades, mood swings, odd behavior...he was constantly in trouble.

Luckily, laws have chanbged. Indiana was in the forefront of that movement. Now, you must report suspected child abuse to the authorities--it is a crime not do so so. And the system does not hold you liable if you've reported in good faith.

The system is weighted toward the child, as it should be.

Does it throw off some false-positives? I'm sure.

If only my friend Larry had some alternatives, back in 1969. If only.

He's gone. Dead of a drug overdose at 25. A tortured soul to the end.
One of the smartest people I've ever known.

2010-11-08 10:50:05

ruthholl [Member] said:

You guys are both so right --- one of the best bennies of the women's movement is that it did force the nation to look at child sex abuse. Remember good touch/bad touch? That was radical. I am glad and gratified to hear Indiana had a leading role in all of this; did not know that.
Just know we wrestled with it at the paper -- features department issues -- and really recommend Maran's book. I think she is very brave.

2010-11-08 11:40:09

ruthholl [Member] said:

FROM A FRIEND WHO WISHES TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS:

Know what's worse?
In my little town when I was growing up, there were known pedophiles and worse, but no one did anything about it. Maybe they didn't know there was anything to do, and back then, maybe there wasn't. We were just told to stay away from those people. One of my classmates was repeatedly abused by her father and eventually had a baby by him.
They had taken her away from the family at one point, but then returned her. A couple had taken her in, and I recall the woman asking my mother if it would be all right if I came over to play, and since we were classmates, I wondered why anyone would mind if we played together. It was years before I put that
one together! (Probably when she had the baby at 13).
Great, great strides have been made.
(Remember a story in the Star some years ago about a father (a policeman, I think) who had sexually abused all his daughters. Finally, one of them told, and the whole family was furious with her...)
These aren't double standards--more like hexgonal...

2010-11-08 16:50:18

Jason [unverified] said:

Your analysis is heart-wrenching. I've had the occasion to befriend a few sexual abuse victims. If my experiences are any indication, for every one that's brave enough to come forward there are at least twenty who never do and never will. It can be so difficult because there's always the belief that you could keep it from happening to somebody else, but at what cost?

The greatest benefit to this exposure is it still gives people in the shadows strength by proxy. The shame and self-guilt is so undeserved but unbelievably fierce at the same time. Like T3 said, Wow...

2010-11-08 21:46:34

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

The entire post thread is haunting.

2010-11-09 08:16:08

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

Marran strikes me as someone who is mentally and emotionally challenged (obviously), who explains her actions with the "ABC" calculus-- which is a plausible and creative explanation, but still leaves the conclusion that she was really f****d up, and f****d up her family. I remember when she came out with her accusation. It didn't pass the smell test, and alas might have affected the truly abused. PTSD studies indicate that people don't forget, though they may not talk about it.

2010-11-10 06:13:39

Meredith Maran [unverified] said:

Hello all--I'm Meredith Maran, "the mentally and emotionally challenged." Thank you for the thoughtful, intelligent (mostly) conversation, which is of course the reason I wrote the book: to start just such discussions. For the record, "Tom Greenacres," my name is Maran, not Marran--and I'm not sure how you might remember when I came out with my accusation in 1988, since I never made it public. To "Tell the Truth:" I agree that the system should be skewed toward the child, as I say in the book. And finally to Ruth: critique and all, I so appreciate your read--you got it! Sincerely, Meredith Maran, author of "My Lie."

2010-11-10 08:21:35

Homer [Member] said:

Let's not forget the brave and pioneering work that Dorothy Rabinowitz of the Wall Street Journal did on over-prompted child abuse accusations.

2010-11-10 09:18:46

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

I apologize to Ms Maran for the typo and misspelling her name. I may also need to apologize to her for confusing her case of recovered memory with the celebrated instance of the woman who said she remembered her father murdering someone. Meanwhile I will sort this on via Google.
But it remains that she crushed her father with her accusations. As the father of two liberated and accomplished daughters and the husband of a pioneer feminist (I was a member of The Husbands of NOW), I can only imagine what such spurious claims do to a family.

2010-11-10 17:03:58

jeny harison [unverified] said:

Here's another perspective:

The 1980's were the first time in history that child abuse victims were believed and heard. Many of those convicted during that time were guilty and lost every appeal they had.

One of the FMS founders' that was accused of abuse by their daughter, the daughter's side of the story was backed up other relatives.

How do we Maran is telling the truth now? She states she lied before. Perhaps the media swing the other way is causing her to change her story.

Freud changed his story due to social and professional pressure. He had enough evidence to back up the fact that people can repress trauma memories. Dissociative amnesia of war and trauma victims is a fact.

2010-11-11 22:41:31

LynnM [unverified] said:

I read the book. It's certainly a new take on memoirs. In the book Maran says she had a few vague dreams. Her dreams maybe indicated some sort of problem. She doesn't have any memories of his molesting her. She didn't accuse him of molesting her. She describes him as self-centered. They didn't talk for several years. Ho hum.
But her prologue tells a different, more dramatic story. She falsely accused her father of molesting her. Then she realized it wasn't true. She and her dad reconciled. She's saying that her story represents that of thousands of women. But which one? The one in her book, or the one she's telling in interviews?

2010-11-12 10:34:15

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