Start Here True Stories Test Your Therapy Newsgroup
What's New Myths False Memory Syndrome "Experts" Debunked
Info for You Essays Reform Legislation The Courage to Heal
Site Map Audio How You Can Help Articles, Links & Resources
[This account is from Victims of Memory: Sex Abuse Accusations and Shattered Lives, by Mark Pendergrast. Upper Access Books, Hinesburg, Vt. Copyright (c) 1996. All rights reserved. For information to order this book, call Upper Access at 1-800-356-9315, or order it online at or Read our review or visit the Victims of Memory web site.]

Are you a retractor or affected family member? Would you like to share your story for online publication?  Click here.

Nell Charette, Canadian MPD Retractor

Nell Charette, a 35-year-old Canadian cleaning woman, believed until recently that her alcoholic father had violently sexually abused her during her childhood. Her numerous interior alter personalities told her so during therapy sessions and in her copious journal entries. Yet something inside her resisted confronting her parents, and she eventually rebelled against the diagnosis-and against Milt Kramer, her therapist, a charismatic American expatriate with a masters in counseling who convinced many of the women in this 5,000-person town that they possessed multiple personalities which only he could cure. Nell first visited Kramer after work in an ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) group. She had already read John Bradshaw and watched his videos, and she had heard that this new American therapist did wonderful inner-child work . . .

I liked Milt from the beginning. He seemed to be one of the nicest men I'd ever met. Very kind, very understanding of anything I said, no matter how off the wall it was. If I did something totally irresponsible at work, he would turn it around so I was the victim in the situation. It felt good. He's about 42, very attractive, with a mustache, a very kind face, sort of like a left-over hippy-type look. Laid back. He made you feel like he very much believed in feminist ideals, that women have been so wronged.

At first, Milt just gathered basic information about my childhood. My Dad is a recovering alcoholic, and we talked about that. There were many times I couldn't remember in detail from my childhood-nothing major, no giant gaps, I just couldn't remember every incident. Milt asked me a lot about abuse. He said I was definitely emotionally abused, and he wondered about physical and sexual abuse. I remembered Dad spanking me, though not very often, but no sexual abuse. So Milt left that alone for a long time. But he encouraged me to read The Courage to Heal. I must have read that book about eight times.

Then, after about six months of weekly sessions, we started doing what he referred to as mild relaxation technique, which I've since learned was really hypnosis. We created together a safe spot. At first, I didn't know what that was, but he helped me to find this place in my own head that I could go to. I would close my eyes, and I would walk up some steps, and by the time I reached the ninth step, there would be a door, and when I went through, there was my safe spot. It was a wooded area with water, trees, and whatnot. It was weird. I was always amazed that it seemed so real, so very real. You don't usually see your thoughts so clearly.

The first time, I met my inner child, which he referred to as "Little Nellie." She was a pathetic little thing, very real, like looking at a real eight-year-old. This was the wounded me, he told me. I could hardly bear to look at her, and there was so much pain in her voice. I didn't want to be around her. She had memories of my childhood, he told me, and I was to embrace her and tell her that I was there for her and to trust me. We would work together, and whatever memories she had, she would safely release them to me.

I don't remember feeling that bad when I was eight. But I wasn't real happy with my childhood, had some anger toward Dad, because he just was never there. But Mom was wonderful-she picked up the pieces. Dad and I were too much alike-we rubbed each other the wrong way. I was cold toward him, and he has a hard time showing his feelings. He's a laborer for the town he lives in.

I eventually got so I could just close my eyes and be in my safe spot without going up the steps or anything. Milt was always talking in a soothing voice. Around the third time I went to the safe spot, lo and behold, there's two more parts of me, one a boy of fourteen named Pete, and the other a one-and-a-half-year-old baby. Milt was just thrilled that I would come up with these other two. No, he didn't suggest them to me. They were just there. He would often say to me about Little Nellie, "Are you sure she's the only one?"

I had no idea of multiple personalities at the time. We had talked about dissociative disorder, but I had no idea what it was. Milt explained that it was parts of me that had taken trauma or pain as a child, so I split off in my own head. I was really upset about that idea, and I said, "What are you talking about, like Sybil?" He laughed and said, "No." I said, "Well, if there's something wrong with me, I want to fix it." Oh, yes, I guess I did know about multiple personalities, I'd read about Sybil and Eve. But I never, ever dreamed it would be something I had.

That was a weird session, with Pete and The Baby. I was really upset after it, blown away. One inner child I could handle, but a couple more scared me. So I began to keep a journal. Milt told me to let my inner children write it. I had to go to my safe spot and use my left hand if I was having difficulty.

I began to write the most horrifying things you can imagine. This Little Nellie said my Dad repeatedly sexually abused her, beat her, just horrible things. I was writing it all down. I was thinking I was nuts. I brought it to Milt and said, "This is all garbage, you might as well call Watkinsburg [the local provincial hospital]. I need to be there, there's something wrong with me, none of this is true." That's when he started talking MPD talk. He said, "You're angry, you're in denial. These aren't your memories, they're your alters'." That was the first time that word came up. I was really blown away. I thought, "My God, what am I doing, this is nuts." But I kept going back to see him.

I kept writing these notebooks. I couldn't understand why I was writing this crap. I mean it was horrible, it was pornographic. In the next two years, I filled 15 notebooks. And that's nothing, one girl in our MPD group has 75 notebooks filled with poetry, artwork, and stuff. I was really freaked by this alter stuff, so that's when Milt integrated Pete. He just said, "Pete will walk through your back." I didn't really feel much.

But lo and behold, the next session, I go to my safe spot, and there's a whole slew of them, coming out from behind trees. It was terrifying. This started about nine months before I left therapy. All these alters-one named Flo, she was 21 maybe, the tart in me; June, she was the spiritual one; Fred, who wanted to die; Sarah, who was a child about 11; Herbert, who was this paranoid little thing. They told me their names and I told Milt. This was all frighteningly real to me. And each and every one remembered all the horrible things my Dad did to me.

I never confronted Dad, but I started alienating myself from my parents, and I kept asking my mother for information from my childhood, at Milt's suggestion. I asked her about hospital visits I had, certain times in my life, what did we do, where was Dad, was she working then. We were pretty close prior to this. I stopped visiting home. I couldn't talk with her about her memories of the past, because I thought she was in denial. I'd say, "Why talk about the past? You don't remember it in reality anyway." She didn't understand what I was talking about. Milt wanted me to confront my father, say, "I know what you did to me," and see how Dad would handle it. But I didn't really buy into it. I knew a girl who did bring her father in. He was just outraged, told the therapist, "You're off the wall, what are you doing to her?" She was devastated and didn't have a family any more. I mean, these were all alters' memories, not mine. It wasn't a real truth to me yet. But I did start to take on the feelings of a Sexual Survivor.

Meanwhile, I joined this group of MPDs, all being treated by Milt. It seemed kind of weird that all of us had alters, but he said, "You know, you do attract your own kind." This was all very culty, in retrospect. I didn't know these gals other than to say, "Hi, how are you," before this group. Then I became very close to them.

We all became really ill. I went for three months before I left therapy. It was really sick. Milt only attended the first session, then said it was our group. We shared our journals, talked about our work, our feelings, our alters. Now I see that those of us who were in longer, who accepted MPD, were teaching the ones just coming in to be it, to live it. It was like we fed off each other, and the sicker we were, the better. It was sort of like, "Who can top this?" with the journals. Milt said, "If you accept it, and stop denying, we can deal with it." There was a lot of jealousy in that room about him. Somebody would say they spent three hours with him, another went for a walk with him, and we were like cats. I'd think, "Why not me?"

There was a lot of what they call transference going on. You kinda start liking him for more than a therapist, and he fed off it. He'd take me for drives in the country, and we'd talk. He didn't charge for that. I even went to his house a couple of times and cleaned it, I'm embarrassed to say. We'd have coffee. He lived alone, and he told me how lonely he was, how hard it was to meet people in a small town, and how people always expected something from him. I found out later that he was having sex with one of his patients, and another one thought he was going to marry her.

I became really ill through this. At the end, I was hallucinating, seeing myself as other people. I'd look in the mirror and it wouldn't be me, it would be one of my alters. I was just a mess. I wasn't sleeping, running on an hour of sleep a night. I wrote in my journals at all hours. I started eating compulsively, crazy things like bags and bags of popcorn. I always had headaches, and I started mutilating myself, really disgusting. I started pulling my toenails off, and I'll tell you, I didn't feel anything. I would rip the whole nail right off, blood all over the place.

Milt said it was one of my alters in pain, and they were trying to get my attention. If I didn't get into this abreactional work, they would turn on me. I was terrified of abreaction work, where you relived your trauma, and I wouldn't do it. I had seen one woman in my group who was black and blue from head to toe after a three-hour abreaction session. Her nose was bleeding, her breast was bruised, the middle part of her back, and supposedly her alters were doing this to her. I think now Milt did it to her. My God, the shape I saw that woman in!

We all started showing signs of satanic ritual abuse. Upside-down crosses started to show up in pictures, lots of blood. And in my safe spot, I had a black shadowy sort of figure in a robe with a priest's hood and couldn't see his face. A lot of the other girls had grown up here in town, and they started to remember a lot of the same abusers. Milt asked one girl to get a list of the priests around here. Oh, yeah, he was working on it.

I became really worn down and exhausted, and because I do have a lot of good friends, they said, "You're looking like shit, not making any sense, what are you doing?" I finally met with Milt one day outside the office and said, "I can't handle it right now, I'm going to stop for a month, give myself a break." He said, "By all means," because I wasn't planning to leave permanently.

During that month, I started noticing how goddamn sick we all were. I wasn't writing in my journal, and things started to become clear. One girl was suicidal, another's relationship was breaking up. I thought, "Something is really wrong here." The longer I stayed out of therapy, the more I started seeing it for what it was. The voices started disappearing from my head, that was a biggie. Before that, there were constant conversations going on in my head. Even making a cup of coffee was a major ordeal. One alter drank coffee black, one regular. There were eight different people telling you want to do. My headaches started going away. I was sleeping again.

I decided to get a second opinion and met with the director at Milt's health clinic, a psychiatrist. Before that, I was terrified to see a psychiatrist, because Milt had told me that they treated MPD with shock treatment and drugs. Instead, Milt had me see a woman who specialized in MPD, and of course she confirmed the diagnosis, since she's on this kick, too. Anyway, Milt's boss was blown away by what I told him. He gave me a paper on false memory syndrome to read, to take home. He told me he didn't think I had MPD, that it was being created in me.

I finally got the courage to talk to another MPD group member. She got out for a couple of weeks, and we started comparing journals and sessions, how we felt about Milt, our safe spot. It turns out we all had the same safe spot, all had a shadowy hooded figure. It was like waking up from a bad dream and thinking, "What the hell have I done?" That was sort of the end of the beginning for me. I went to see an independent psychiatrist, took a bunch of tests. He said I'm fine, that I did not have MPD, never did.

My marriage was ruined by my therapy. All along, Dick, my husband, thought it was really sick, wanted me to get out of therapy. As a sexual survivor, I had stopped having sex at all with him. I wasn't able to function in that area. Dick didn't understand this dependency I had with Milt. He thought I was probably in love with this man. I was horrified that he would think that. But I was really dependent on Milt. I couldn't even go for a ride in my car without his permission. But I felt my husband didn't support me. Milt often told me that Dick was emotionally abusive to me, and that he was sexually abusive if he insisted on having sex. He told me to leave Dick towards the end and suggested a lawyer I should see.

We separated after I left therapy. There was too much already destroyed. I have three children-12, 8, and 2 years old. They're with me. We've been separated a month and a half. Now I have a real fear of counselors.

My Dad knows now that I thought he sexually abused me. I had to tell him, because I'm involved in a civil suit against Milt. Mom and Dad have both been really understanding. Now they have an explanation for my behavior over the last couple of years. Dad has a really warped sense of humor. He said, "Didn't anybody ever tell you that some shrinks are crazier than we are? They hang around too many nuts; it rubs off on them." Mom got together different eight-millimeter films from my childhood for me to watch and got records of all my hospital visits. None have anything to do with sexual abuse. Everything that the alters wrote in those journals-it was all lies.

I can't really explain those journals. Maybe Milt gave me some kind of post-hypnotic suggestion. A lot of times-in my safe spot, I don't really remember what he said, but I know he was talking. We all just lived and breathed MPD. Oh, I functioned, took care of my children. I had a high-functioning alter, that's how Milt put it.

Yes, in a way being MPD made me feel special and creative. The bottom line is, I do have a lot of talents in me that I probably wouldn't have known about, but they're my talents, not my alters'. I'm creative, but it doesn't mean I'm MPD. When you have three children, you don't usually sit down and draw, but I've found I'm pretty good at it.

No, that discovery certainly isn't worth what I've been through and my ruined marriage. The hunt for sex abuse memories is the con of the '90s. If you don't want to take responsibility for your problems, what better way than to blame it on an alter? I've learned now to be responsible. But it was a road through hell and back again. I feel humiliated and stupid to have been so gullible. I hear "inner child" now and I cringe. What's the point of dwelling in the past? I have a hard time with the concept of repressed memories in general. I have a pretty good memory-I can remember my teachers' names. Who cares? It's like you're digging and you're digging, when it's all a lie. And I think this is taking away from dealing with actual sexual abuse. I know gals who really were sexually abused, and they have always remembered it, maybe not every detail, but why would they want to? Life does go on, and they don't obsess over it.


top of page