Reprinted by permission.
Memories split his family: After his daughters went to therapists who helped them 'recover' memories about being sexually abused, Lloyd Corney lost his wife and children. But the accused man has never had his day in court and thousands of tax dollars have been spent on therapy for the accusers.
By Rick Ouston
For Lloyd Corney, life was sweet. In 1990, after 30 years in the military, he retired in Comox with a full pension at the age of 50. The kids had just moved out and Corney and his wife Helen agreed their marriage was better than ever.
Then, his life fell apart.
Daughters Sharon and Vicki went to therapists who helped them ''recover'' memories about being sexually abused in their youth. The daughters told their mother their father sexually abused them as children.
In the years that followed Lloyd Corney lost his wife, his daughters, his home and half his pension. He asked the police to investigate and launched two civil court cases, but has never had the chance to prove his innocence, or his guilt.
Lloyd Corney says he has stopped trying to prove he did not do what his family believes he did. Like thousands of others throughout North America, he has joined the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, a group headed by dozens of academics and medical doctors who maintain a destructive hysteria swept North America in the early part of this decade that has torn families apart in its wake.
It was a time when ''repressed memories'' were at the top of the news, when Roseanne talked about being a multiple personality spawned by childhood abuse and the self- help book The Courage to Heal advised readers that if they felt depressed or discouraged -- or had any one of a litany of complaints -- it meant they might have been abused as children.
Furthermore, if they thought they had been abused they probably had been and what they needed to heal their wounds was to ''recover'' those hitherto repressed memories. Medical science has since debunked ''repressed memory,'' and groups as august as the American Medical Association advise doctors to avoid accepting without proof ''memories'' uncovered with the help of therapists
Now, Lloyd Corney restricts his battle to a war of words with government -- because it was the B.C. government that paid for his daughters' counselling sessions through the criminal injury section of the Workers' Compensation Board. So far, he says, the government has essentially ignored his complaints. Letters to Premier Glen Clark get passed to Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh who tells him to talk with the WCB. The WCB says it stands behind its position of paying compensation for ''recovered memories'' of crimes. -
Helen Corney felt her husband was controlling, domineering, but not a bad man.
But at a meeting with her daughters and therapist Janet Oakes, she listened numbly as her daughters said their father had sexually abused them. Helen went home, wrote Lloyd a letter telling him to leave, and packed a bag and left herself.
Today, she lives in Sidney on Vancouver Island. Contacted by phone at her home, she said she could not speak out without her daughters' permission.
''I would have to respect their wishes,'' she said. ''I have to say they call the shots.'' Her daughters did not respond to interview requests.
Lloyd Corney, now 59, lives in Edmonton today. Like his ex-wife, he too has a new spouse.
When first accused in 1990, he asked to speak with his daughters, but they refused. He offered to talk with the therapists, but they declined. His wife would not talk to him.
Helen Corney visited the local Saanich police department to tell police about her daughters' accusations against their father. T
he police report from Oct. 23, 1990, is censored for privacy reasons, but it it clear police told her to have her daughters file written complaints.
''Until this information is received our file is concluded,'' the police report said.
Saanich police never investigated further.
Lloyd Corney says he has mixed emotions about the police reaction. He knows he could have been pursued by investigators eager to prove his guilt. But he also wanted to prove what he maintains is his innocence.
Shut out from the criminal system, Corney thought he would use the civil court system to clear his name.
He filed a lawsuit against the therapists, and another against his daughters and former wife.
In examinations for discovery and a court of law, he reasoned, they would have to listen.
''I couldn't be known as evil and just sit back and let this go ahead,'' he says. ''And I thought at the time, naive as I was at the time, if I went to court and show them a few flaws, they might say, 'You're right. of course.'''
What Lloyd Corney wanted was the chance to question his daughters at an examination for discovery, where he would show them what he believed to be the truth. But those examinations never happened. Examination dates were set but were cancelled after Vancouver psychiatrist Dr. Susan Lomax interviewed Corney's daughters Sharon and Vicki at the urging of their lawyer, Jane Henderson of Victoria. Lomax concluded in letters to the courts that forcing the women to testify would damage them psychologically.
Lomax said it took three separate interviews with Sharon before she was able to provide ''even rudimentary details about her memories of abuse.'' From Sharon's self-description and her own observation, Dr. Lomax said she met all the diagnostic criteria for depression, post-traumatic disorder and a state called dissociative disorder, ''whereby she has recurrent experiences of feeling in a dream-like state or being detached.''
Lomax further concluded that Sharon ''considers it an absurd idea that any of her memories have been suggested to her or that she has been manipulated into believing she has been abused by any therapist.''
Interviews with sister Vicki resulted in similar findings and scheduled hearings were postponed pending improvements in their mental states.
Lloyd Corney says he wishes Lomax had taken into account Sharon's history, including a lengthy bout of depression as a teen and sessions with several counsellors in her youth. As well, her medical history - - including annual check-ups -- showed no physical evidence of sexual abuse.
Corney and his lawyer then requested Sharon and Vicki's therapist notes.
Both Oakes and therapist Patricia Donahue, treating Sharon in Vancouver, fought disclosure of the notes.
Oakes said in a letter from her lawyer that she took the position such notes were privileged. When a judge ordered the files released, Oakes took the position there were no notes.
All she produced were billing records -- 48 sessions at $60 a session -- for a total of $2,880 billed to the Criminal Injury Section..
Donahue's counselling bills totalled $2,925 for 71 sessions. Court documents also include a receipt for a cheque for $5,500 paid to Sharon from the Criminal Injuries Compensation program. The record does not reveal why that money was paid.
Donahue's clinical notes recount that Sharon presented herself as a ''adult survivor of sexual abuse'' who felt that there was ''something not right'' with her family. Notes from the first session do not mention her father.
Both Vicki and Sharon reported reading The Courage to Heal, the book that said if you thought you might have been abused, you probably were.
Upon being told about the ''something not right'' reference, Donahue immediately entered into a ''guided journey'' into Sharon's childhood to extract ''repressed'' memories. Week after week, Donahue prodded, and week after week her client expressed frustration at not being able to dredge up visual memories. Instead, the notes show, Sharon reported physical sensations, feelings of having been physically violated in her past. Some of those feelings included diarrhea and nausea.
Lloyd Corney says such symptoms might have elicited a diagnosis of influenza, but were instead diagnosed as ''emotional body surfacing,'' by Donahue, ''memories'' stored not in the mind but in parts of her body where she had been violated in youth.
''My training is to accept memories from various modalities,'' Donahue would say in an affidavit. She has listed her qualifications as being a registered nurse, having received training in dealing with sexual abuse victims at the Justice Institute of B.C., and having a Bachelor's Degree in Physical Education and a Master's in an unnamed speciality.
The notes show Sharon spoke about Vicki recovering all manners of memories, while Sharon grew frustrated with not being able to recall any visual images of abuse.
Donahue had her client smash plates with a baseball bat to assuage her anger and took her for drives in a car so she could scream and not annoy the neighbours in her office building. Still no ''visual'' memories.
By the 10th session Donahue decided to send a letter to the criminal compensation branch.
During session 13, Donahue noted, her client had ''Trouble registering reality.''
During session 27, Donahue noted: ''Needs lots of reassurance re: the process of allowing old stuff to come out.'' It is not until her 47th session, that Sharon said she had a memory of her father as a bogey-man accosting her in the night.
''Breakthrough,'' concludes Donahue.
''Nonsense,'' says Lloyd Corney.
Doubtless his daughter Sharon believes this ''memory,'' he says, but dozens of scientific studies show that true victims of physical trauma -- the survivors of Auschwitz, for example -- recall their abuses unless some sort of organic problem has caused memory problems.
After the breakthrough, the mental floodgates opened and Sharon poured formerly ''repressed memories'' of rapes, perhaps a dog being involved, of a dead sister assaulting her.
Today Donahue practises in Vancouver and says she treated Sharon Corney properly.
''I did my professional job and I did it well. and I wouldn't do it any different now,'' Donahue said before cutting short an interview with The Sun.
Corney's lawsuit against the therapists hinged on being able to prove that they lied when they testified in court documents that Sharon and Vicki had memories of abuse before undergoing therapy.
Justice Carol Huddart threw the case out of court in 1994 because Corney had no proof to contradict their statements.
Her ruling noted that Lloyd Corney ''has been living a nightmare'' since being accused, but it was not up to her ''to determine whether is is more likely or not that either Vicki Corney or Sharon . . . were abused by their father.''
Corney proceeded with the lawsuit against his daughters, but that was stalled for six years because they were deemed not psychologically strong enough to withstand questioning.
Instead, their lawyer applied to have the case dismissed on a legal point. Corney had claimed his daughters spoke ''falsely and maliciously'' about him, but Justice Jacqueline Dorgan found the women held the honest belief that their father had abused them, and so in law had ''qualified privilege'' to say what they did. Corney could not prove that the statements were made with malice -- active intent to harm -- and the lawsuit was dismissed in 1996.
Lloyd Corney has had no contact with his wife or daughters for almost a decade. He never did have a day in court. His family believes him a monster. He says he is not.
Photo: Larry Wong, Edmonton Journal / FORMER FAMILY: Lloyd Corney looks at a photo album of pictures of his ex-wife Helen and children Marilyn (now deceased), Sharon, and Vicki at his present home in Edmonton.;
Photo: FATHER AND DAUGHTERS: Lloyd Corney is shown in a family photograph taken years ago with children (left to right) Vicki, Sharon, and Marilyn, who is now deceased. His family believes that he is a monster. He says he is not, but has never had his day in court.
Copyright 1999 Vancouver Sun. Republished here with the permission of the Vancouver Sun.