"Every once in 

a while there's 

a case that 

comes along

that, when you

get through it, 

you feel like 

you've made a 

difference."


 

 

Reason Wins One
"Recovered Memory Therapy" Lawsuit Settled Out Of Court
 By Bryce Buchanan 
Oregonians for Rationality's fall meeting featured Portland trial attorney, J. Michael Dwyer. Psychologist and O4R member, Dr. Loren Pankratz, also participated in the presentation. Dwyer and his partner have recently settled malpractice cases against two Tigard psychologists; the cases were the first lawsuits in Oregon against the use of "recovered memory therapy." In these cases, a young mother with two small children had sought help for depression from the two psychologists. The psychologists convinced the woman she had multiple personalities, and further, that her multiple personality disorder was the result of her involvement in a satanic cult which included her entire family and her husband's family.

     Pankratz, who helped Dwyer with this case, introduced Dwyer. Pankratz recounted some medieval history in demonstration of ways of dealing with the Devil. There had long been a debate over whether thunder and lightning illustrated the "wrath of God" or the "malice of Satan." During the time of Pope Gregory XIII it was believed that lightning was caused by Satan. Gregory issued a specific exorcism to command the evil spirits from the air. Church spires, being the tallest structures in a village, seemed to selectively receive the wrath of Satan. Pope John VIII baptized church bells as a countermeasure, but St. Mark's church in Venice, Italy had a particularly bad time with the Devil. Though it was "protected" with an angel on the top, consecrated bells, relics of the saints inside, and holy water, the church was struck by lightning in 1388 and 1417 and destroyed by lightning in 1489. It was rebuilt, then hit again in 1548, 1565, and 1653, then destroyed again in 1745. It was rebuilt and damaged again in 1761 and 1762. Finally, in 1766 Benjamin Franklin provided a rational solution for the problem of lightning - the lightning rod. Since the installation of lightning rods, the church has had no further lightning damage.

     "Where intelligent people take sensible precautions, it is difficult for the devil to prevail," Pankratz said. And with that lesson, he turned the floor over to J. Michael Dwyer.

     In October of 1994, Dwyer, out of curiosity, stopped in to observe a divorce case where there were allegations of Satanism. The wife in this case, Jennifer Fultz, was accusing her husband and his family of being part of a satanic cult, and she feared that she and her children were in danger. Jennifer listened to witness after witness claim there was no evidence of a satanic cult or of sexual abuse, that all of this was in Jennifer's mind. The judge agreed and Jennifer lost her husband and custody of her children.

     After the divorce, Jennifer began to see that many of the wild charges were all in her mind, and she could also see it was her therapists who had put them there. She hired Dwyer to bring a malpractice lawsuit against Sophia Carr (a graduate from Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in Portland) and Chyril Walker, both Ph.D. clinical psychologists who had treated her. Jennifer Fultz's husband and his parents joined her in the lawsuit.

     "This is not an isolated case ... [There are] 20 lawsuits across the nation, and you could virtually plug in the name of the plaintiffs in these cases because what is happening in jurisdiction after jurisdiction across the nation is nearly identical," stressed Dwyer.

     Those who are "helping people remember" satanic cult abuse, explained Dwyer, generally believe the following: First, that the patient's current symptoms result from past trauma. Second, the memories of that trauma are repressed, leaving the patient unaware the trauma occurred. Third, the memories are stored, intact. Fourth, a trained therapist can recover these memories fully intact, usually through hypnosis. And fifth, there exists a secret and highly organized system of Satan worshippers engaged in spiritual warfare, who murder and torture and then deliberately create MPD in victims so these satanic agents will not know they are members of the cult.

     Dwyer discussed the scientific evidence which casts doubt on these beliefs, mentioning the memory research of University of Washington professor, Elizabeth Loftus, who "has repeatedly, successfully, implanted false memories which are held tenaciously by the people who adopt the false memories." There is considerable evidence that humans are highly suggestible, and that hypnosis increases this suggestibility, said Dwyer. Recovered memory therapy has little theoretical support. In 1993 the AMA cautioned practitioners that "there is no completely accurate way of determining the validity" of recovered memories. Multiple personality disorder (MPD) is thought by many researchers to be an iatrogenic disease - a disorder actually created by the therapist during the course of therapy, said Dwyer. This occurs during role playing games which the therapist teaches the patient. And, despite many investigations into claims of widespread murder and torture by nationwide satanic cults, there is no evidence to support such claims.

     Dwyer turned to a discussion of the Fultz case. Jennifer Fultz first saw Dr. Sophia Carr in August of 1991. Carr diagnosed MPD on the first visit, though no one who knew Jennifer had ever seen her switch personalities. Early in the therapy, Carr gave each aspect of Jennifer's personality a name and taught Jennifer that these were her alternate personalities. Carr helped Jennifer role play each personality, and, over a period of time, Jennifer developed dozens of them. Hypnosis was used to recover memories of abuse. Jennifer was helped to "remember" her brother abusing her - then her sister, mother and father abusing her in satanic rituals. She was helped to "remember" the fetus she aborted at age 12, the human flesh she ate, the human blood she drank, the orgies, and the torture.

     After all this help, Jennifer was getting worse. She could hardly function at home; she was suicidal at times. Carr did exorcisms on Jennifer. She spoke in tongues, laid on hands and called for the devils to depart. She warned Jennifer that her husband and his parents, who often tended Jennifer's children, were satanic child abusers and that she and her children were in danger. Carr's associate, Dr. Walker, who had also treated both Jennifer and her sons, ages two and four, agreed. Carr urged Jennifer to get a restraining order against her husband and his parents and to move to a shelter. Walker then had Jennifer moving from one shelter to another when Walker determined the first shelter was infiltrated by Satanists.

     At about this time, Walker went to Oregon State Police Detective Alan Corson to discuss the satanic and criminal ramifications of this case. She tried to educate him on the extent of the conspiracy, telling him that all levels of the government was infiltrated by Satanists. She told Corson she knew the children were in danger because when she observed them playing they would repeatedly crash cars together, and they seemed to become emotional when coloring with blue crayons. Both were signs, in her opinion, of satanic abuse. When Walker left Corson's office, he immediately called to see if this woman actually had credentials to practice clinical psychology in Oregon, and found that she did. Corson went to Jennifer and counseled her to leave the shelter and go home.

     Jennifer returned home. Her husband, Kevin, tried to ease her fears of the cult by boarding up the windows of their home as Jennifer suggested. She was also concerned that the cult was tunneling under the home, but Kevin took no action on that front. Carr and Walker stepped in to help Jennifer again. They told her that if she did not leave her home they would contact Oregon Children's Services Division and have her children taken away for their own protection. Jennifer left again and proceeded with the divorce.

     During the depositions for the malpractice suit, Carr repeatedly denied she had any interest in Satanism, and she denied that recovered memory therapy or Satanism had much to do with her treatment of Jennifer Fultz, said Dwyer. She characterized Jennifer as very troubled and very difficult. Carr's treatment notes did not elaborate on her treatment methods. Dwyer was concerned that Carr, an attractive, self-assured professional, may be a more believable witness to a jury than the "very troubled" plaintiff, Jennifer. It appeared Carr would deny her satanic interest in court and would stick with her statement, later released through her attorney, in which she said, "At all times I believe that I acted as a responsible professional in treating Jennifer Fultz. Jennifer had significant problems ... long before she sought therapy from me. ... Like all other responsible mental health professionals, I never inject my personal belief system into the patient-therapist relationship."

     Dwyer needed outside corroboration for Carr's strong interest in Satanism. He received a tip about a tape of a Town Hall program on Satanism. On it he observed Carr explaining her brush with Satanism as a teenager. She said she had been attacked by a group of Satanists while out riding her horse. After sexually and physically assaulting her, they told her they were going to ritually murder her. At this point, her horse returned and frightened the Satanists away. (When asked recently if she reported this incident to the police, she said no.) Dwyer then found a Lake Oswego police detective, Helen Foster, who had met Carr at a satanic ritual abuse seminar. Foster believed in satanic conspiracies at the time. Carr confided in Foster and wrote her letters describing Carr's ongoing battles with Satanists. "They" were trying to get her, she said; they were threatening her and trying to get her back into the cult. At the time Carr was writing these letters, she was also treating Jennifer. Dwyer talked with Carr's parents in Bremerton, Washington and found that Carr had accused both her parents of being part a satanic cult, including all of the sexual and torture allegations that go along with this charge.

     At this point, before the case ever went to trial, it was clear to Carr's attorneys that Carr was consumed by satanic beliefs and that Dwyer could prove it. They settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. Walker had previously settled out of court for $1.15 million.

     "You spend a lot of time on mundane work in the law. It's a grind like anywhere else. Every once in a while there's a case that comes along that, when you get through it, you feel like you've made a difference. And that's certainly been my experience as a result of working on the Fultz v. Carr and Walker case," said Dwyer.

     Cases like this, however, are the current best defense against irrational, harmful therapies. Several other people have approached Dwyer about making claims against therapists or ministers who led them down the satanic path. Each case, hopefully, will have a chilling effect on fringe practitioners who are imparting their own irrationality to those who come to them for help. Professionals do not do a good job of getting the bad sheep out of their fold. In cases like this, people like Michael Dwyer are doing the job for them.

     A lively question and answer period followed the presentation. If we had not had time limits for the meeting room, we may have discussed the issue for hours. One member of the audience, Charles Kelley, who has written the book Now I Remember: Recovered Memories of Sexual Abuse, pointed out the similarities between the current anti-Satan crusaders and the anti-witch crusaders of centuries past.

     Pankratz said enormous progress is being made against recovered memory therapists. More researchers are demonstrating recovered memory therapy's unreliability and showing that patients treated with this therapy often get worse, not better. Many insurers are now refusing to cover recovered memory therapy. He also said that a group of professionals and the Fultz family are submitting a formal complaint to the state licensing board against Carr and Walker, who are still "helping" people from their Tigard offices.

     In a closing comment, Portland psychiatrist, Dr. Eric Goranson, said, "You should know there are some of us who are as outraged by this as your group, and who think this is completely bogus and who are just as shocked and offended." It's nice to have influential persons outside our group who share our concerns.
 
 

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 2001 Oregonians for Rationality