Many stole what seemed to be curious glances at Akiki. “I can't remember” was a frequent reply....
  • Many stole what seemed to be curious glances at Akiki. “I can't remember” was a frequent reply....
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8-Year-Old Says Akiki Fondled Him; Also Claims Church Volunteer Stabbed Giraffe And Elephant

San Diego Union-Tribune, June 19,1993

The 10 children who testified against Akiki accused him of sexual abuse and kidnappings, of threatening them with guns, making them participate in naked games and witness animal and baby killings, of torturing them with water and ropes and of giving them drugged candy that put them to sleep....

Several seemed bored and detached or seemed to have little memory of what happened. A few were animated and smiled and laughed frequently. Many stole what seemed to be curious glances at Akiki. “I can't remember” was a frequent reply....

—San Diego Union-Tribune, July 25, 1993

Unlike other children in the case, the girl who testified yesterday no longer is in therapy. She was taken out in 1991.

Her father, a church official, testified last week and Tuesday that the girl began having nightmares and fears in 1988.

He acknowledged attending a seminar on “satanic ritual abuse” with other parents but could not remember when. Asked if he believed the abuse at the church involved “a satanic, cultic conspiracy, ” he said, ”1 don’t know.”

— San Diego Union-Tribune, July 8, 1993

The Dale Akiki case has so far involved three months’ testimony from 60 prosecutorial witnesses and 45 criminal charges whose penalties, if served consecutively, would amount to more than a century. There have been allegations that Akiki stabbed babies, giraffes, elephants with a “crocodile knife,” and shot chickens in the presence of his preschool-age charges. Testimony has also included several stories involving rabbits that were beheaded or tossed in the air and impaled on knives on descent or “drowned in a baptismal font.”

In its troubling details, the Akiki trial has moved beyond being a local outrage and into the less reassuring realm of national trends. For example, the uneasy relationship between rabbits and child sexual abuse has surfaced in similar trials across the country. Stories of mutilated rabbits were told in the McMartin Preschool trial and in the nation’s largest child sexual abuse investigation, the Little Rascals case, in Edenton, North Carolina. In Los Angeles, the Menendez brothers, currently on trial for killing their parents, offered as an example of their father’s cruelty the fact that he killed their pet rabbit. The same accusation was made in the trial of the Rancho Santa Fe man who killed his domineering father with a flower pot. Rabbits repeatedly surface in the testimony given by adults who claim to have “recovered” memories of ritual sexual abuse they endured while very young children.

Apart from the freakish details, the informal statistical context in which some of these alleged events occurred is even more disturbing. Geraldo Rivera has told America that there are more than a million practicing Satanists in our country; “The majority of them are linked in a highly organized, very secretive network. From small towns to large cities, they have attracted police and FBI attention to their satanic ritual child abuse, child pornography, and grisly satanic murders. The odds are that this is happening in your town.”

Larry Jones, a police lieutenant in Boise, Idaho, and founder of the Cult Crime Impact Network, claims Satanists slaughter 50,000 children each year. Michael Warnke, a popular Christian evangelist, puts the number at 2 million “kidnapped and murdered” children each year in the United States. Although the statistics concerning the “adult survivor of sexual abuse” movement are less concrete, estimates put the numbers of victims in the scores of thousands. As extraordinary’ as these numbers seem, the foundation on which they stand is more remarkable.

The Akiki trial, like many of the thousands of cases in which adults, through the aid of psychotherapy, have “discovered” themselves as abuse victims, does not hinge on hard physical evidence, on lab results DNA samples, scar tissue, or x-rays. Rather, it hinges on the elusive process of human memory. In the Akiki trial, children have testified about events that occurred in 1988 and 1989, when they were three or four years old. Their parents have testified to what they remember of what their children said they remembered.

Even more removed are the recollections of adults who “recover” memories of horrific abuse that happened to them decades ago, sometimes as early as infancy. The phenomenon of recovered memories relies heavily on Freud’s theoretical concept of repressed memory—events so painful that the mind not so much erases as buries them, far away from the individual’s day-to-day awareness. The veracity of these memories has not gone unchallenged.

Studies of memory and recall have indicated that children especially may be suggestible to subtle or overt prompting on the part of professionals looking for symptoms of trauma resulting from sexual abuse. Therapists treating adults frequently help their clients “recover” long-buried memories through even more aggressive means. A psychiatrist in St. Paul, Minnesota, is now being sued by two former patients who claim the doctor coerced them into taking sodium amytal, a “truth serum” drug, and also forced them to watch “films of sexual perversion and satanic rituals” in order to “stimulate their repressed memories.” Moreover, these patients claim, the psychiatrist continued to insist they had been ritually abused as children even when these methods failed to unearth memories of such events.

Ordinarily, methods used to stimulate repressed memories are less invasive. The therapist might give a patient written accounts of ritual child abuse cases to read or use a technique known as guided imagery to call forth events from the forgotten past. But the most widely reported technique used for recovering memories of child sexual abuse is hypnosis.

Around 1984, I’d get a call once every three or four months from a therapist asking, ‘Will you hypnotize this person and find out if she was molested?’ ” recalls Dr. Michael Yapko, a clinical psychologist and family therapist who uses hypnosis extensively in his practice in Solana Beach. “By 1989 I started getting at least one call a day from some therapist asking me to hypnotize his or her client to see if we couldn’t find some memory of sexual abuse. Sometimes they’d call to ask me, ‘Do you think you can recover memories of childhood sexual abuse through hypnosis?’

“I started to realize that more and more people were being convinced by their therapists that abuse had actually happened. I realized that therapists were largely ignorant about hypnosis, they believed erroneously that I could use hypnosis as a tool for uncovering repressed episodes of abuse, they incorrectly believed that hypnosis could be used as a lie detector, some kind of truth serum. It also bothered me that therapists were so acutely attuned to issues of abuse, because I knew that was a setup for finding it everywhere.” Yapko is, in his own words, “a very practical fellow.” His Solana Beach office is removed from the pastels, potted plants, and driftwood you might expect in a Southern Californian beach community psychotherapeutic practice. It’s more of a somber, dark wood, sensible chairs, let’s-be-reasonable place, resembling, as much as anything, an upper-middle-class Midwestern living room. Yapko himself is a sober 39-year-old, not given to levity. The only hints of indulgence are the very discreet thin gold chains he wears around his neck and wrist.

This no-frills mood reflects the brand of therapy Yapko practices. He was trained in Brief Therapy, in his words, “common sense therapy,” more an expeditious resolution of a patient’s immediate problems than a belabored burrowing into the deep past for trauma. It is an outcome-oriented discipline that embodies many typically American characteristics: speed, efficiency, resourcefulness, optimism, and a preference for the practical over the theoretical. Someone trained in BriefTherapy might naturally be skeptical of the usefulness of repressed memories recovered under guidance of a therapist.

But Yapko’s skepticism goes deeper than therapeutic style. He is also a trained clinical hypnotist and has written a widely used and respected textbook, Trancework: An Introduction to the Practice of Clinical Hypnosis. Yapko lectures around the world on the subject. His isn’t parlor-game hypnosis. It’s the kind that concentrates on the human mind as an imperfect, sensitive machine that is, by its nature, highly susceptible to outside influences.

As Yapko explains, “I started taking hypnosis training almost 20 years ago and have been studying hypnosis intensively for a very long time because it is the most elegant model for describing how people form their own internal experiences. In other words, 1 really try to understand how people generate their own unique and idiosyncratic versions of reality. Hypnosis is a very useful framework for understanding that.

“ What hypnosis is really about in many ways is frame of mind, frame of reference. Not why so much, but how somebody thinks about the things that their lives are about. How you convince yourself, for example, that writing for a newspaper is an important thing to do. Or how I’ve convinced myself that clinical psychology really matters. Or how we convince ourselves of anything that we accept and believe to be true. And of course, beliefs can work for someone or against someone. So, what I’ve been studying over the course of the last 20 years is how people can influence other people to believe what they come to believe.

“What hypnosis is really about is the artistry of influence. How can I lead someone to believe a particular idea that will help them?

Or how can I immerse them in a particular frame of mind that will allow them to accomplish whatever it is that they want to accomplish?”

What you believe about your life, what you believe to be true, relies, of course, on your memory. “You must understand,” Yapko continues, and he makes a fist when he says it, “that memory is constructive. It’s an internal representation of events. It’s your representation of events. And that’s the point — all memory is a subjective representation, a distortion, however great or slight from what really happened.

“One of the necessary functions of the human mind is the ability to take experiences from the world and represent them internally. Longitudinal experience attained over the course of a lifetime. The things that you think happened to you didn’t really happen to you, at least not exactly in the way that you think about them. False memory is the rule, not the exception.”

So on the one hand is Yapko’s sensitivity from his expertise in hypnosis, to how people’s beliefs can be influenced. On the other hand is Yapko’s professional mistrust of memory. These two factors spurred him into taking an active interest in the sexual abuse recovered-memory phenomenon.

“It was actually a pretty logical sequence. By 1989,1 started routinely getting these phone calls from therapists, ‘Will you hypnotize this person? I think she’s been abused.’ And it kept coming up in workshops I give on hypnosis around the country — ‘Would you hypnotize an abuse victim?’ ‘How would you get at the abuse memory?’ ‘What would you do with an abuse survivor?’ I decided I had to do something. I mean, the questions just kept coming up again and again.

“The thing that really sent me over the edge personally was one time when a woman called me and she said, ‘I’d like to have hypnosis in order to find out whether I was abused.’ And I said, ‘Why?’ And she said, ‘Well, you know, I called another therapist. I wanted to see about self-esteem issues, and when I told her about my poor self-esteem, she told me that I was probably abused as a child and that 1 must have repressed it and 1 actually have to have hypnosis in order to find out.’

“Well, that absolutely enraged me that a therapist would say something that delicate over the telephone to someone that they’d never even met. And the more stories that poured in, it became clear that this was the harbinger of things to come. And more of this is going to be happening. It’s predictable.

“So, there’s enough of the scientist in me, I knew I needed data. 1 couldn’t just go talk about this stuff, you know, because in my opinion I had to have data. I made a commitment to myself in late 1991 that in 1992 I would spend a year gathering data from therapists, finding out what they think and what they believe so that I would be able to say something objective about the relationship between therapists’ false beliefs and their clinical practices.

“So throughout 1992 I distributed questionnaires to therapists nationwide. Over a thousand therapists completed questionnaires about their knowledge of hypnosis and their knowledge of memory. These were therapists who were participating at national psychotherapy conventions, so they weren’t people in my workshops. Well, I ended up with 860 usable questionnaires, which is statistically a very significant data base from which to draw reasonable conclusions.

“In the questionnaire, I had basically given them the chance to identify whether they agreed or disagreed with certain statements about hypnosis and certain statements about memory. In other words, I had statements like, ‘The mind is a computer accurately recording everything that ever happens to us.’ How many therapists agree with that? Or statements like, ‘You can recover accurate memories from the first few weeks of life.’ Or, ‘Can you recover memories that are accurate of past lives?’ Some were off-the-wall statements to see how therapists would respond to them.

“And no one was more shocked than I was to find out what these very well-educated folks believed. The average respondent was 44 years old, was in clinical practice for 11 years, had education one year past master’s, somewhere between master’s and doctoral level, and was most likely in private practice. And it was scary, to say the least, to find out that my professional colleagues, by and large, believe in myths which they then pass along to their patients as fact.

“Some of the more outrageous things they believed to be true—‘The mind is like a computer, accurately recording events as they actually occurred.’ One-third of respondents agreed with that. It’s a terribly erroneous statement, a myth, but a third of therapists believe it, which means that you now have therapists out there who believe that any memory you have is accurate or that if you can’t remember something, it’s really in there, if only we find the right key to unlock it.

“Next, ‘If someone doesn’t remember much about his or her childhood, it is most likely because it was somehow traumatic.’ Well, let me tell you, 43 percent of respondents acknowledged that they’d jump to the trauma conclusion whenever direct memories of childhood are sparse or not available. Now the fact is that most people don’t remember their early childhood experiences for purely biological reasons, reasons that have nothing to do with trauma. This fact is apparently not known to these therapists.

“Next, ‘Someone feeling certain about a memory means the memory is likely to be correct.’ Twenty-four percent, nearly one in four of respondents, hold the mistaken belief that if a person’s real sure about a memory, that means it must be true.

“Next, ‘You can recover memories even from the first year of life.’ Forty-one percent of respondents hold the erroneous notion that memories are all accurately stored and retrievable, even those from the first year of life. That’s scary.

“Next, ‘[As a therapist], do you attempt to distinguish between what appear to be true memories and false memories?’ Nearly 60 percent of therapists say they do nothing at all to differentiate between truth and fiction.

“Okay, those were all questions taken from the memory attitude questionnaire. Here’s three taken from the hypnosis attitude questionnaire.

“‘People cannot lie when in hypnosis.’ It’s a myth. If you want to lie in hypnosis, of course you can. But nearly one in five therapists believe it, which means that if they do a hypnosis session with someone and the patient comes up with a memory, one in five therapists will believe it. They won’t recognize it to be a confabulation.

“I asked, ‘Hypnosis can be used to recover memories from as far back as birth.’ Fifty-four percent agreed with this!

“‘Hypnosis can be used to recover accurate memories of past lives.’ Twenty-eight percent said yes! Nearly one-third. Past lives? That’s scary.”

It is within this “believers” environment, one of plausible past-life regression and total recall, that Yapko feels the ritual abuse phenomenon has grown out of control.

“Therapists believe that memories are literally true. Many believe that memories are not prone to error. Many incorrectly believe that when someone is placed in hypnosis that they can recover accurate detailed memories. They believe that the mind is like a tape recorder or a video camera or a computer that’s accurately recording everything that ever happens to you. And all of those things are misconceptions that were discarded 20 years ago. And therapists would know this if they bothered to read the literature, which a lot of therapists don’t, because nobody ever makes them read about memory. They study Freud, and then they think Freud is still relevant in terms of Freud’s comments about memory.

“Well, at the turn of the century, they didn’t do all the memory research. Now we know that eyewitness testimony is unreliable; now we know that somebody can have an experience and a week later have totally distorted it. Now we know that somebody can have a conversation with somebody and totally distort it. But that wasn’t understood then, so if all you have are therapists who study Freud and Freud’s views of memory and repression and amnesia, they will be terribly misinformed in light of current research.”

As an illustration, Yapko cites a study conducted by Professor Ulric Neisser at Emory University that began in 1986.

“The day after the space shuttle Challenger exploded, Neisser had everybody in his class write out where they were, what they were doing when they got the news. And they’re writing their account within 24 hours of a highly significant event. Three years later he contacts these same people and asks, ‘Where were you, what were you doing when you found out about the space shuttle?’ A full one-third were so far off that their response had absolutely no relationship to what they wrote initially, 24 hours after the incident happened.

“So, Neisser said to them, ‘Here’s what you wrote three years ago, the day after it happened.’ They read what they had written, and they said, ‘Well, that’s not the way I remember it.’ And they were absolutely sure that they were right about their memory, even when Neisser showed them what they’d said three years before. When Neisser pointed out to them that they were obviously wrong, they had a hard time believing it.

“And that’s the interesting thing. People can remember real, real wrongly and still be real damn sure about it. People want to believe that their memory is accurate, and they have a hard time reconciling the fact that their memory isn’t accurate.

“So you have this problem of false memory and the problem of therapists who are predisposed to finding ritual sexual abuse everywhere. The combination is dangerous. I’m not saying that these therapists are bad people, and I’m not saying that incest and ritual sexual abuse don’t happen. I’m saying that many of these therapists don’t understand how memory works, and they’re not aware of how they might be influencing the memories their patients recover.

“I understand hypnosis, and I know that it’s possible to unwittingly implant memories in a patient’s mind. What therapists haven’t come to terms with is that you can influence people either for the better or for the worse. You can lead people to believe things that aren’t true that are destructive to them.

There are different kinds of hypnotic states and different ways of inducing hypnosis. Often you’re dealing with what I call informal hypnosis, where you don’t go through the formality of an actual induction. You have this situation where you have someone, the therapist, who has credibility, in a position of legitimate authority. And you have someone who comes into therapy, very vulnerable, looking for answers. And here’s the therapist who’s in a position of authority, who’s viewed as a credible expert. And what’s most hypnotic of all, the therapist presents information in a credible way. When people aren’t sure, they look for guidance. Uncertainty is one of the most advanced techniques of hypnosis, and it’s called the confusion technique. It’s a way of deliberately disorienting someone as a way of building responsiveness.

“In the confusion technique, you give a person more information than they could possibly keep up with, you get them to question everything, you make them feel uncertain as a way of building up their motivation to attain certainty. So, for example, if a therapist says to you, ‘You fit the profile of an abuse victim,’ it sounds very scientific. It sounds like there is a profile, and it sounds like people can be identified on the basis of that profile.

“It puts you in a double-bind. It’s a no-win scenario. If you now admit that you were abused as a child, there’s something wrong with you.

You were abused. If you don’t admit that you were abused, then there’s something wrong with you, because you’re obviously not facing facts, you’ve repressed the memories. Essentially, in this situation, there’s something wrong with you or there’s something wrong with you.

“Many times therapists aren’t even aware that they’re doing hypnosis. They’re doing what they call guided imagery or guided meditation, which are all very mainstream hypnotic techniques.

A typical case would be that a patient comes in and says to the therapist, ‘I want to lose 25 pounds.’

And the therapist says, ‘Well, okay, do you have an eating disorder?’ And the patient says, ‘Yeah.’

The therapist asks, ‘What do you do?’ Patient says, ‘Well, you know, I binge-eat. I binge and I stick my finger down my throat and I make myself throw up.’

“And this therapist read somewhere that some 80 percent of people who do this kintLof bulimic behavior were abused as children. And so the therapist says, ‘Well, you fit the profile of somebody who’s abused.’ The patient says, ‘I don’t have any memories like that.’ Then the therapist says, ‘Well, those memories are there and they need to be flushed out.’ The Dran-O approach to therapy.

“And so the therapist tells the patient, ‘I want you to sit back and close your eyes and I want you to picture a photograph of yourself from when you were a young child, and picture yourself in the photograph. Where are you standing? What are you doing? Who’s around?’

“And now the patient’s memories start to become more vivid. The therapist asks, ‘Who are you with? Oh, you’re with your dad. What’s your dad doing? Oh, you’re sitting on his lap, huh? Ah... And where are his hands? And why do you suppose he’s touching you there? What do you think is going on? Why would your dad be doing that?’

“And just through the therapist’s suggestive questions, the entire experience starts to have a sexual connotation that there’s something really inappropriate here. The patient sits up, eyes open, and says, ‘Oh, my God!’ because they never thought about their dad in that way before. Now all of a sudden here’s this sexual experience, but the experience was sexualized by the therapist, through what are known as leading questions, suggestive questions.

“You can ask anything and make it sound dirty. The point is once the therapist has made up their mind that abuse must have occurred, they slowly apply pressure to the patient to adopt that perspective. And because the person’s in a position of uncertainty, they have no alternate explanation for their symptoms, they buy it.

“There was one segment on PrimeTime Live in January that illustrated this very well. A woman’s gone into therapy, and she’s under hypnosis. She’s going through all these terrible memories of ritual abuse stuff and how all these guys abused her, and her therapist asks her, ‘How many guys are there?’ And the patient is silent for a minute, then says, ‘Twelve.’ And the therapist says, ‘Well, we know that 13 people make a coven. Is there a 13th?’ And the patient responds, 'Yeah. There’s a 13th over there.’ A suggested memory.

“You have therapists who contaminate their patients’ narratives, or they create a context for the patient’s imagination to run wild.”

Yapko is eager to stress that he believes these therapists are acting benevolently. They’re not out to harm anyone. “They’re misinformed,” he says, “but they believe absolutely in what they’re doing. They’re what I call the believers. There are a lot of them out there. Like Linda Walker, who was peripherally involved in the Akiki case. She’s an expert on ritual abuse. If I were pressed to the wall, I’d say there were at least hundreds of people in San Diego County who potentially could tell you you were sexually abused as a child — psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, all the lay counselors, pastoral counselors, Christian counselors, alcohol counselors, recovery counselors, grief counselors.

“Ritual abuse is a peculiar cultural phenomenon that’s growing. Two weeks ago I had a young woman walk into my office and say, ‘When I was five, in the midst of a satanic ritual, my father held me down and made me drink gasoline and then set me on fire.’ I said, ‘God, that’s horrible!’ But there were no scars. I said to myself, ‘She must have had one hell of a plastic surgeon.’ There were no scars, but this woman believes what she said happened. She absolutely believes it.

“These incidents are coming from people’s imaginations. We’re living in a culture that can make Star Trek so real that Kirk and the boys are your best friends, practically. I mean, we have people who become suicidal when a major character in a soap opera gets killed off.

“And the satanic elements in these memories are so consistent. Tell me, who didn’t see The Exorcist? Who doesn’t know what Satan is about? Who hasn’t seen this kind of stuff played out in Twilight Zone and Night Gallery? The images are what is known as archetypal images, good and bad. And it’s because of these stories you’ve got tens of thousands of abuse victims that have all seen scores of people ritually abused. You know, you start getting

the kind of story in which the pizza delivery guy is seen kidnapped and ritually killed, and yet there’s no record of any pizza delivery guy who’s ever been kidnapped or killed. And then there comes the conspiracy theory where the police chief was one of the satanists and the medical examiner was a satanist and everybody’s known

about it.

“It's a real convoluted sort of thing, but by no means do I want to sound flippant about this. These are people’s lives. These people that get absorbed in the belief system, their lives are devastated. And when they go back and accuse their dad of these things, and all of a sudden he’s branded a child molester, his career is over, his marriage ends all of a sudden, his wife doesn’t know if she can trust him anymore. His other kids start saying, 'Gee, what is this? Isn’t it always the person that you least suspect. Who would have ever thought Dad could do this kind of thing?’ “And you watch people’s lives get destroyed. From my standpoint, it’s heartbreaking. When I see these nice little old folks who are in their 70s and 80s, when they should be basking in the sunset of their lives, have to explain to their friends and neighbors that they didn’t rape and torture their kid, it’s nothing short of heartbreaking. And to know that this person, the one who’s made the accusations, is now going to be spending the next 50 years of her life believing that all of these things happened and that that’s going in many ways to define her perspective of herself is heartbreaking.”

To limit the scope of this ever-widening circle of destroyed lives and legal battles, Yapko has taken his research and written a book from it. Suggestions of Abuse: Real and Imagined Memories, that will be published in the spring of 1994 by Simon & Schuster.

In his book, Yapko offers a possible way out of the ritual abuse morass. But instead of tackling the issue by exploding myths about satanism, Yapko takes a different approach. First of all, he says it is useless to confront a person who claims to have been ritually abused.

“They believe this stuff happened. Like the woman who came to me and claimed her father had poured gasoline on her and set her on fire. Nothing’s going to change their mind about it. If you point out, for example, that they have no physical evidence to back up their claims, say, an X-ray that showed their skull had been fractured, they’ll say, ’Well, maybe that part didn’t happen. But the part about my father raping me is true.’

“The ritual abuse is a context that’s been given to these people that helps them make sense out of their lives. It’s like religion, it’s faith. So you have to accept it at face value and go from there. You have to say, ‘Okay. Let’s accept that all those things really happened to you. Fine. Now what?’ What I emphasize is skill building. I recommend to therapists that if they’re going to work with these kinds of traumatic memories, they’d better teach some very, very specific skills for this patient. You better teach this patient how to move forward in life instead of being bogged down in the past. You’d better teach the patient how to compartmentalize. You’d better make sure the patient doesn’t overgeneralize, like, ‘Because this happened to me when I was eight, it means my whole life is ruined.’

“Patients can get past it. Will they ever stop believing that it happened? Probably not. Will they get to the point where it’s no longer impacting every moment of every day? Maybe. But again, the same thing is true for people who’ve experienced genuine , trauma.

“Why do some women who are raped never recover, and why do some women who experience the trauma of rape still go on and heal and have normal, healthy sexual relationships with men? It’s an attitude thing. If you get raped and you say, ‘I’ll never be able to get close with a man again. Sex is awful and dirty and it’s abusive and manipulative.’ Yeah, you’re never going to have a good relationship. On the other hand, if you say, ‘That guy who raped me was an animal, and it wasn’t my fault. But I sure love my husband a lot and making love with him is great,’ you’re going to be one who recovers. That’s what I mean by compartmentalization.

“In addition, my book really has three focal points. One is to expose the fact that there is a really rotten set of procedures that therapists are using when it comes to this issue. The second part focuses on the data itself, the hypnosis and memory questionnaire, and presents an objective basis for identifying therapists’ misconceptions. And the third part of my book is self-help: what to do if you have been accused of abuse. If your daughter says, ‘When I was three months old, you raped me and you sold me to all the neighborhood kids.’ All that kind of stuff and how you should respond to it. If you’re starting to believe that you were abused, if your therapist is trying to convince you that you were abused, if your kid is accusing you of having been an abuser, there are things you can do.

“I also stress that unless there is very good corroborative evidence, these things should not necessarily be taken to court. You can look for physical evidence, but if you don’t find any, you may just let it be. You don’t have to take it to court. A court situation simply places a lot of distance and hostility between everyone.

“Anyway, if you don’t have any evidence, memories are just too tricky. Every major memory specialist I consulted when I wrote this book, when I asked them the question, ‘How do you distinguish an authentic memory from what’s called a confabulation, a made-up memory?’ The unanimous answer was, ‘You can’t.’

“A lot of people aren’t going to like this. The things charged in these situations, like the Akiki case, are so horrible that people want to know what happened. They need to know what happened. But what I’m saying is that if there isn’t any physical evidence, there’s no way of knowing. Hypnosis can be used to recover accurate memories as well as inaccurate memories. Our memories are faulty. Our methods for retrieving them are faulty. In these ritual abuse situations, you’re probably never going to know what really happened. Never. What I’m saying is, get used to the ambiguity.”

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