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[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.

Maria Granucci, Retractor

It's an all-too-familiar story. Maria Granucci, now 37, was too smart and competent for her own good, since she had an insecure, incompetent male boss at her accounting firm. By November of 1988, she couldn't take his verbal and physical abuse any more. When she complained to senior management, they "solved" the problem by taking her and her boss to lunch for a chat. On the verge of a nervous breakdown, Granucci quit. Soon afterward, she thought she was dying of a heart attack but was diagnosed in a local Virginia emergency room as suffering from a panic attack instead. A nurse suggested she see clinical psychologist Karen Meynert.

Karen seemed very concerned and compassionate but also very assertive from the beginning of our therapy sessions. She's four years older than me. She probably did more talking than I did. She always insisted on me paying and scheduling the next appointment before our session began.

I kept trying to focus the sessions on why I could not handle this boss, so the same thing wouldn't happen again. Karen kept refocusing them back on my childhood. At the very beginning, she asked if I was ever sexually abused. I said, "Absolutely not!" and she backed off. But she harped on the fact that I could not handle this work relationship because I had been emotionally abused by my father. She also intimated that I had married a man somewhat like my father, so I continued to live in this emotionally abusive situation by choice. She said it was good that I had this breakdown so I could now break this pattern and learn to be my own person.

In a way, I really was emotionally neglected by my parents. When I was 10, my parents told me I was too old to kiss them good night any longer, telling me, "You're a grown-up now." I strove to be an adult at age 10 to please them. So there has always been this emotional void in my life due to lack of open affection from my parents. Also, I was the oldest of four girls in a blue-collar family, but I had this 157 IQ, which is two points higher than Einstein's. They really didn't know what to do with me.

Still, I wasn't buying into the dysfunctional family scenario too well until Karen finally realized that she had to take the intellectual route to get to me. She started giving me written assignments. At first, it was writing unmailed letters to my former boss, then to my parents. Then I read Little Miss Perfect by Melody Beattie. I did see a lot of myself in that book. It did not talk about incest, but it identified emotional abuse. Then we went on to The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller, and all the rest of the Alice Millera  books. I did writing assignments on all these, analyzing the books.

Finally, in April 1993, Karen asked me if I was willing to discuss possible incest issues. She had groomed me for over four years to get to this point. In desperation to get well, I said I was willing to entertain the thought. Karen gave me a copy of The Courage to Heal, and soon after that, I succumbed completely and became a Survivor.

I never developed any specific times and places, but I was sure the abuse had occurred on a continual basis between the ages of 5 and 15, when I met my future husband Tom. Karen wanted to hypnotize me to do age regressions, but I wouldn't do it. Instead, we did relaxation exercises, which I have since learned were really hypnotic sessions. Karen would turn off the lights, tell me to shut my eyes and relax my body, and she would put on relaxation tapes. She always took me to a safe place, which was my bedroom, sitting on my bed with a pile of books. I always have been an avid reader and still read six books a week, on average. The door would always be shut.

Then I would remember my father invading my safe spot by entering the room and closing the door behind him. I would picture him demanding that I take off my clothes. At first, I would remember him just looking at me. Then it proceeded to, "My God, he fondled me!" Finally, as I got older in my memories, I realized that he repeatedly penetrated me.

I began to have flashbacks during sexual relations with my husband. Karen interpreted these as flashbacks for me. If Tom touched me in a certain way, I would scream and back off, sometimes picturing my father above me. For about two months, Tom and I stopped having sex, at Karen's suggestion. It was making the flashbacks occur too often.

Karen asked me if my father ever hit me. I said, "No." She asked if I ever hurt myself, and I told her how I had fallen on the ice when I was seven and broken my nose. She convinced me that I was protecting my father, that he had broken my nose while forcing me to have sex. This was my life pattern, she said, to take the blame on myself.

I became completely distraught throughout this summer and fall of 1993. I was put on medical leave from my bank job, but then I couldn't go back. I lost 65 pounds. I became very ill and suicidal. Karen told me I was in no condition to see my family, so I cut off all contact, but I didn't tell them why. Karen referred me to a psychiatrist, who put me on Prozac, the tranquilizer Klonopin, and lithium. I became a walking zombie, I was so heavily medicated.

My husband and children did not know what to do with me. Tom didn't know if he should institutionalize me. I got in car accidents because I was on medication. Luckily, no one ever got hurt. In July, Tom took my license away from me. Karen suggested that I should divorce him because our relationship was dysfunctional, like my childhood. She said I could not get well and remain married to Tom. But even in this state, I clung to him. Still, I was totally dependent on Karen. To pay for my sessions, I spent all our savings and remortgaged the house.
om believed all of the incest allegations against my parents. They became the answer to my behavior and explained our marital problems.

Finally, on October 4, 1993, I sat down at my computer and typed out a four-page confrontation/accusation letter to my parents in which I told them my pain was "beyond horrendous." I wrote, "You thought you had got away with it. The ‘good’ daughter had repressed forever. Not a chance, Dad." I accused my father of repeated rapes, but I also blamed my mother, who must have known what was going on. "Why didn't you save me? I am your child. Was your fear of Dad so great it came before my safety?" Finally, I told them how much all this was costing—over $4600 just in the last two months—and complained that we had lost virtually all our old friends. I wrote, "Our world has shrunk so small."

I mailed the letter before I could have second thoughts and brought a copy with me to my next therapy session. I was so proud that I had the guts to do it on my own. Karen went wild. She stood up, shook her fist, and said, "How dare you do something like this without asking my approval first?" She was livid. I had never seen her like that, and it scared the shit out of me. Our roles were that she was the mother and I was the child. I had done something wrong again. I agonized over disappointing her.

My father, an electrical engineer who had retired a few years earlier after a serious heart attack, responded on October 18 with a 20-page letter accounting for every minute of his life. He denied everything. He said he knew I'd like to hear him say he was sorry, but that would be wrong. He said he and my mother still loved me, but they were very hurt. I showed the letter to Karen, and she said, "There is guilt written all over this letter. This is a very guilty man. You should think about pressing charges."

At that point, I began to question what she wanted from me. I just wanted to get better. I did not want to put my father in jail for something that happened so long ago. I wanted to live my life ahead. I was also internally doubting all this, but I was afraid to tell Karen.

During this period, I sometimes did not sleep for five days straight. Then I would catch a few hours and go without sleep for another few days. I had a lot of medical problems as a result of the stress and weight loss—boils, cysts, a broken hand and foot. After I received the letter from my father, I became even more distraught, if that was possible. Tom became very concerned about the stability of the household, which had been in jeopardy for so long. He took my medication away and said, "You are not taking any more." I became very angry. He said he was only trying to help me, that he didn't know what else to do besides institutionalize me.

So Tom and I agreed to a withdrawal plan. I was off all the medication in four weeks. As I came off it, I started to become myself again, started to feel clear, real, tangible. I also stopped seeing Karen during that time, on my husband's insistence. He is a very smart man, a saint. He saved my life.

In November, I told Tom that I was beginning to question the accusations. He was horrified. "If that's so, how are we going to fix what we have done to your family?" He jointly took responsibility. Over the next two weeks, I reread the letters and parts of The Courage to Heal. Finally, I said, "I have got to fix this."

The last week of November, I made an appointment with Karen. I told her I no longer believed the accusations, that I felt nothing but shame for these bogus memories. I asked her for help to fix the mess I'd made. Karen said, "Oh my God, you've re-repressed and you are in denial again. It was too painful for you. Now we have a lot of work ahead of us. We've taken quite a step backwards." I saw what she was up to, because I had been away from her for a while and was not medicated. She said, "Do not apologize to your parents until this is straightened out. Do not call or see them."

The next day, one my mother's best friends, who knew nothing about any of this, called to ask me how my father was. He had suffered a massive stroke. I called my mother and told her I had to see her, that I was so sorry, that I wanted to see Dad. I thought she understood that I was taking the accusations back, but I've since learned that Mom didn't understand that. Because of the stroke, my father didn't remember anything about the allegations. Mom was afraid that if he saw me, it would trigger his memory of it and would cause him to have another stroke which might be fatal this time. So she had a restraining order put on me to keep me away from his hospital room.

I was in hell with worry and guilt. Finally, I was called to come to the hospital. It turned out that my father kept asking for me, wondering why I wasn't there. My father cried when he saw me and hugged me. It felt so good. He asked, "Where have you been? Why haven't you visited me?" I made up some excuse so as not to upset him. Later, I spent a long time explaining myself to my mother, my three sisters and their husbands. They finally accepted my retraction.

Since then, I have worked very diligently to regain my parents' and family's trust. At first, they thought I would change my mind again. Once they realized it was not temporary and that I had broken off therapy with Karen, it was better.

My father now knows what went on. When he moved to a rehabilitation center from the hospital, I spent 12-hour days by his side. He cries a lot. He is the most wonderful man. He calls me now and asks me how I'm doing. He tells me, "Please, don't get too depressed again." He's recovering nicely. He's 59. He's regaining his memory capacity slowly. Since the stroke was on the left side of the brain, he's paralyzed and blind on the right side. Dad is medically disabled and has to count on all of us now for a lot of support. I am just so grateful to be in his life again. Since the stroke, he's much freer with his affection. The void I always felt is finally full of wonderful love, hugs and kisses from my parents. I love them so.

My family had compiled articles and taped talk shows about something called false memory syndrome. I spent nine hours, all alone, reading this material and watching the tapes. I saw myself in them! I cried and cried, and I became very angry at Karen. I realized that my mind had been raped. I now feel that I was the perpetrator rather than the accuser. It is the shame I live with every day.

Now that there are more and more retractors, it's important to talk about it. Post-retraction is no bed of roses. There is a lot of pain and shame. I still have trouble dealing with it, but I will never go to a therapist again. The therapy I need right now is just what I am doing, being an advocate in any way possible for the FMS Foundation and telling my story. I only wish that I could tell my parents how sorry I really am. They will not let me. They don't want to talk about it. And my relations with my sisters are still very strained.

There's one thing I want to clear up. After hearing my story, somebody asked me, "Did you always have sexual fantasies about your father?" I was repulsed by the question. When I would picture my father on top of me instead of Tom, it was a sick delusion fostered by my toxic therapy, not a wish-fulfillment fantasy. I have never thought of my father in those terms. Similarly, I never had any sexual problems with my husband until this therapy.

I entered therapy in 1988 because of a job-related harassment issue, and I left in 1993 a suicidal wreck. It stole five years of my life. I became completely irresponsible and self-involved, but I blame Karen Meynert for what happened. She was the professional therapist who systematically led me down this road.

 a. Here is how Alice Miller begins her 1991 book, Breaking Down the Wall of Silence: "The truth about childhood, as many of us have had to endure it, is inconceivable, scandalous, painful. Not uncommonly, it is monstrous. To be confronted with this truth all at once and to try to integrate it into our consciousness, however ardently we may wish it, is clearly impossible." She goes on to recommend recalling and resolving "every facet of the original experience within a process of careful therapeutic disclosure."

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