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Newspaper Articles by Richard Guilliatt - 1

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Newspaper Articles by Richard Guilliatt - 1
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Page 1  Wednesday, 1 February 1995
Sydney Morning Herald
SECTION: Front Page

Two NSW men accused of sexual abuse - one serving a six-year sentence and the other facing committal proceedings - are claiming they were wrongfully prosecuted on the basis of the false "recovered memories" of their accusers.

The cases indicate that the controversy over "false memories" of childhood sexual abuse is creating major legal and ethical issues for therapists, lawyers and sexual assault workers.

The NSW Healthcare Complaints Commission is investigating two complaints from families whose daughters have recovered memories of sexual abuse.  The complaints are against a psychologist and a psychiatrist.

Families in South Australia and Western Australia are considering legal action against therapists who treated their adult daughters.

A six-week inquiry by the Herald has revealed that up to a dozen women have filed for compensation with the NSW Victims Compensation Tribunal, claiming they have recovered memories of sexual assault from many years ago.

Nearly 60 Australian families have now joined the Australian False Memory Association, which represents people who claim to have been falsely accused of incestuous abuse based on recovered memory.

Ms Carol Boland, a Sydney clinical psychologist, points to the popularity of scientifically dubious "survivor" manuals and the unquestioning acceptance of satanic ritual abuse memories - in which women claim to have been victims of satanic cults - as indicators of a credibility problem for many recovered memories.

Interviews with therapists, incest support groups and sexual assault workers indicate that there are several hundred women in NSW undergoing psychological counselling for ritual abuse, having recovered vivid "memories" of their parents' involvement in ritualistic rapes, satanic child-sacrifices, torture and other serious crimes.

But an increasing number of health professionals here and overseas now have grave doubts about the validity of the claims.

Dr Jerome Gelb, a Melbourne psychiatrist who has recently treated nine women for satanic abuse, says he now believes the stories are false beliefs.

"I have had three patients who have openly stated that their `memories' were induced by the therapists they were seeing," said Dr Gelb.  "They were pressured into accusing family members of incest, pressured into saying they were satanically abused, and in one case pressured into leaving home."