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Here, publishes a woman's account of her half-sister's descent down the slippery slope of bad therapy into the trap of literal dream interpretation, false memories of satanic ritual abuse, and obsession with "recovering repressed memories" of events that never happened. Personal names in this account have been changed to pseudonyms and italicized in order to protect the family's privacy. This account is a exclusive, never before published elsewhere! © 1999

My Sisterís Therapy

My story of my experience with the sex/ritual abuse cult started with my sister. She was the youngest of my dad's children from his first marriage, before he met my mom. All three children grew up with both their mother and our father being alcoholics. Their mother was mentally ill, so she was a loving but emotionally distant parent, who with my father relied on corporal punishment for discipline.

For me it was different because I had a different mom, and although my dad had stopped drinking, he was still angry and loud and had a lot of problems with control. He also made the occasional lewd comment about me, the younger of the two from my dad's marriage to my mom. He did not seem to really understand the impact that slaps on the behind and comments about a preteen's development could have on a person. I was ashamed and humiliated about the way he acted about my body.

I mention this because this is the extent that the abuse went to in my family--I do not know if he talked to my 3 older sisters this same way. Was there abuse in my sister's upbringing? Physical, yes, and certainly verbal. Was there any abuse in my upbringing ? Well, you could call it "covert", meaning that some of my father's gestures appeared sexualized,but without intent on his part. I need to tell what did happen in order to tell what did not, and it is easy for an outsider and sometimes an insider to get it wrong. This is an important point in my story because of what I am about to tell you.

There is about a decade between the youngest of my half-sisters and I. This made her the closest thing I had to a sister although we didn't grow up together. I looked up to her, especially when I went through my "tumultuous teens" and was often at odds with my parents. I used to spend the night, playing with my nephew, and staying up late having girl-talk sessions. This time always meant a lot to me, and I listened to her advice.

She had always kept in contact with her childhood friend Lana and the two together had begun to get interested in some of the things that now constitute the "New Age" movement. Crystal healing, tarot cards, "energy work" and spiritual evolution theories. (I am being careful about the use of the term "New Age" because I think some aspects of things associated with it are somewhat lighthearted and fun and even credible such as the mind-body connection which is important to health! however, some "New Age" stuff is just TOO hoaxy).

Around this same time Lana was seeing a new therapist, Jane Foster, who rountinely used "body work" for dealing with the body's repressed memories. Her theory was that if you physically or psychically "worked" on an uncomfortable part of your body that it would let you release a memory that you had been repressing. Of course, the memory was so painful, that you completely forgot it. This therapist also went on the belief that dreams are literal memories-and taking it one step further she taught her clients that any violation to oneself in a dream REALLY DID happen, and to look to one's immediate family for the perpetrator. If you even wondered that it was your own family then it HAD to be because, after all, who would WANT to imagine something like that about the people who were supposed to love and protect you.

Lana had refered my sister to this therapist. Since my sister looked up to her friend, she took her advice and started seeing her.

The first thing that happened was that my sister converted her roomate and best friend Sally to this new way of seeing things. She convinced her she was molested as a girl and just hadn't come to terms with it yet, and she would have a hard time communicating and living with Sally until she fully realized the impact of the alledged abuse that she'd experienced.

Then my sister started asking me questions about my parents--the masonic lodge my father had belonged to; if I remember the participants; could I find any old family photos. She began spending hours obsessing on details of dreams, not eating, sleeping too much or restlessly, not bathing or grooming herself. She got seriously upset, and I got very worried, as I was living with her at the height of all of this. She said a teenage roomer in their house was the first abuser, then a friend of the family, then one day it came out--it was really my father doing the molesting, and all along her dreams and her aches and pains had been telling her this, she just needed the therapist to interpret it all for her. In fact, "doctor" Jane Foster had even given my sister and Lana her home phone number, in case of emergency ( just like the "good doctor" did in `Sibyl`).

Things were going downhill fast and I could not even see it. What did happen to me is I began to get very anxious, and panicky, and so empathetic that I felt all her pain with her. I loved my parents, but there were real problems with me and them, and my sister used that as an opportunity to widen the gap, to get me on her side, so to speak.

The first few things she said about my father were true- his overpowering way of expressing his rage, and some of the ways he punished her as a child/teen. Then she started getting really sexually explicit in her descriptions of her dreams (what she referred to as her "repressed memories"). This used to make my stomach turn hearing the things that she said about him. She said he raped her, and let our uncle Dan rape her while our father watched. All of this was revolving around the book The Courage to Heal--it became her bible that she quoted, underlined, talked about and otherwise worshipped. This was hard for me, because I read the book with her, sometimes to her, like people read magazine articles to each other.

My brother had been somewhat abusive to me as a child, and I resented my sister for using her therapist, dreams and books to tell her abuse narrative when I was sitting there with real memories and real people who were there with me when some of them happened who could back it up. I felt like I was getting sucked into it when my sister and the book told me to look everywhere in my family for it, to trust no one, and if my dad did something to my sister,that he may have done it to me, and I just wasn't remembering ALL the details because that would just be too painful...

Often my sister's "memories" would surface within a day or two before I saw my parents. When I would see them I had to hide my own dirty, shameful secret--her tales of abuse and my teeny tiny doubts that maybe my sister was right. I had to act like she was right when I was with her, in fear of her shutting me out like she shut out perceived non-believers. I loved her, so I had to be loyal to her. I loved my parents, so I couldn't fully believe that my father would go to those extremes with her. I knew what he was capable of, and it just didn't fit with what she was saying. This was one of the most painful situations in my life that I had to face- I was a go-between, spy, co-conspirator, liason and counselor for about 6 1/2 years, which is exactly 1/4 of my life!

I had been living with my sister for a while, but it all became too much: pretending to my parents like none of this was happening, trying to stay loyal to her. Household issues such as chores begun to get loaded with emotion and everything got too intense. My sister was an emotional wreck and every time she came home from one of these "therapy" sessions, she was worse than when she started.

One day she came home with a satanic/ritual abuse symptom checklist. A red flag immediately wentup in my mind. It was too weird, she had gone too far, and I went so far as to pretend like I was following along when she started talking about the Freemasons and fraternities and organizations of men being fronts for cults.

I moved out just around that time. I was afraid to leave,in case she thought I was going against her, so I quickly packed my boxes and called my dad. We were on fairly good terms considering what was going on. He came to get me and they had some fight about him never spending time with her (this was a huge surprise that she brought this up because I thought she hated him !)

I didn't speak to her for about 3-4 months, and I missed her, so I looked her up and we started hanging out again. After spending more than a few times at her house not too much was mentioned about the abuse stuff. Then one day she started talking more about the satanic/ritual abuse. Her friend Lana, coincidentally, was "remembering" her own ritual abuse at the time, and was supporting my sister in her quest to find evidence of a cult in her childhood.

Then she started asking me about "potions" and "spells" that I did while babysitting her now 10 year old son. I said yes, that we played magician with plastic vials and food coloring one time. She started acting really secretive around me then, and one day, one of the worst days in my life, she told me that I could not see her son anymore, particularly not alone. I lost it--besides my grandfather dying, I had never cried that hard before in my entire life. My nephew meant so much to me--I had babysat him since he was an infant, and he was like a little brother to me. Now, she was tearing him away from me. I do believe it was her therapist who told her to do that, but she never admitted it.

I asked her why and she said that because I was seeing my parents frequently that I was carrying around bad vibes with me afterword,that the "negative energy of denial" would have a bad effect on her son, and that I couldn't even control this process, so until I "worked through my issues" I could not see her son. I still think she was mad because I had resolved some issues with my parents,therefore I was not so easy for her have on her side.

It was sort of ironic, because about a year after that my nephew ran away from home, and I was the first person he called. I spent the day with him, then called my sister to take him home.

We didn't speak again for a few more years. Then one day I was walking through a shopping district and this familiar looking teenager gets out of a car and runs and hugs me. I couldn't place him. Then he yelled "it's me, it's me!!!!" and I realize it's my nephew and I was so happy and so sad. The last time I saw him he was just a boy; now he is on the threshold of becoming a man. I was so overcome with emotion it was hard to know where to pick up where I had left off.

My sister and I started hanging out again. This time I had a husband and a son and a stable life. I began to get sucked in again, pretending to agree or at least be neutral with her increasingly far-fetched stories. Her stories started getting a little too paranoid. They were now involving her mother and ritual abuse of babies and animals, and she was this child prostitute who her mother sold for drugs! Too unbelievable!

Now I was not the naive teenager that I once was. In my mind it became okay for me to not believe her. In fact, that was how I stayed strong. I was in a good place in my life, with a husband who I could trust who supported me.

One day my husband was driving her somewhere and they were alone in the car. She started telling my husband a graphic dream she had that she thought was a memory involving my dad, who my husband had now gotten to know. Apparently, she assumed that my husband would be a good person to tell all the details to. He sat through it politely then came home and was very uncomfortable with how explicit she was with him. They did not know each other well enough for her to so candidly disclose such details. Also, my sister knew that my husband and father saw each other frequently since our child was born. It was beyond rude and my husband actually felt somewhat violated himself having her disclose that to him. This made me so angry. It made me think of all the times when she made me promise not to tell anyone about her "abuse memories" and how sick and horrible I felt after she would tell me those things and all the time I spent protecting her from the world when she was having her "memories" and would be paralyzed in fear...I thought about how she kept my nephew from me and I missed him growing up, I thought about all the times I had to doubt what I knew was the truth in order not to lose her...

I wrote her a brief note saying I couldn't handle hearing about "the cult" all the time and if she really needed to she could write but not to call and I may not answer her letters. She did write me a brief letter not long after that because I had told MY new therapist, husband, parents, and family what she put me through. I let the secret out and even got the guts to tell my dad. I was so ashamed that I ever had anything to do with her accusations, but my father instantly forgave me and felt guilty that he couldn't protect me from HER!

My father was so loving and kind about it. I actually had the chance to discuss with him what really happened between him and me, the comments and gestures I mentioned at the beginning of this story. All was squared off with my family with my issues, but this news made my father's heart heavy. He was becoming ill, and soon we found out he had cancer. The last conversation he'd had with my sister was on the phone at the hospital shortly before he died:

My sister: How are doing Dad? I heard that you weren't doing so well.

My Dad: It seems that you aren't well either.

(dial tone)

I feel bad that that was the last time they talked, and that she never got a chance to apologize. None of us knew he was going to die as quickly as he did. I was lucky in that my dad and I got a chance to patch things up before he died. My sister never will. I hope some day she will come to her senses, for her sake but especially for the sake of my nephew, whose only memories of my father are tainted with all the lies my sister told about him. has withheld this family's names in order to preserve their privacy. congratulates this woman and all others who have the courage and strength to stand up and warn others about the harmful therapy that has needlessly ruined so many innocent people's lives.

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