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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.]

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Robert Wilson, Retractor

A rugged, 38-year-old former Marine, Robert Wilson cannot find a job in Illinois. "Who wants to hire a former mental case who hasn't worked in years?" Piecing his life back together after thinking he was an incest survivor with MPD, he is still trying to understand what happened. Wilson really did endure emotional and physical abuse during his childhood. Both of his parents were deaf and possessed limited education. His father, a weekend alcoholic, made life hell for his three children. A Vietnam veteran, Wilson became severely depressed at the age of 29 and entered a VA hospital for four months. Diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, he was put on lithium, had a good counselor, and received support from other veterans. "I thought I was on top of the world when I came out," he told me. The hospital counselor suggested that he continue with follow-up sessions at a local hospital near his home. In 1986, he entered therapy with Dr. Donna Lovins, a 27-year-old Ph.D. clinical psychologist.

I thought Donna was pretty young, but she was a doctor, and I trusted her. She wanted me to talk about my childhood. I told her my father was an alcoholic who used to come and flip the bedroom light on, on Friday and Saturday nights, and yell and scream at us. Because he was a deaf mute, he couldn't hear his own screaming. Then he'd wait till we were asleep and do it again, all night. He did the same thing to Mom, shaking her awake. All of us kids became adults real quick. My older sisters and I had to communicate for our parents.

Depression probably runs in our family. My middle sister Jill went through it, and so did our father. Everyone on Dad's side of the family was alcoholic and abusive. His mother punctured his ear drums with large bobby pins, for instance, and his father went to prison for murder.

Donna Lovins put me on full, permanent disability in 1987, the year after I started therapy with her. Until then, I was a welder, an auto mechanic. I can look back now and see how she suggested me into it. I told her about a real incident from when I was 12. I was working at a corner store, and my Dad came in one Friday night, screaming and yelling. I was so embarrassed, I quit the job. So Donna told me that I would probably have trouble at work. And I did. When I asked her why, she said, "The machinery and noise remind you of your father, and you'll have to walk off the job, just like you did when you were 12." So I wound up doing that.

Donna was fascinated by the stories from my childhood, but they weren't enough for her. She kept saying, "There's more to this than what you're telling me," and I'd say, "No, there isn't. I remember my childhood." That's when she said I was repressing it, and there was a way to get it all out, through hypnosis. At first, I went to see her once a week for an hour, but then it was two hours, and then two sessions a week, two hours each. Donna gave me a book, Outgrowing the Pain by Eliana Gil, written for survivors of childhood abuse. Later, when The Courage to Heal came out, she gave that to me, too.

Before we did formal hypnosis, Donna trained me to relax. I'd concentrate on my breathing, then relax my feet, work up to the calves, legs, chest, relax every part of my body. It's sort of like meditation. It was no problem for me to relax, because I was on 200 milligrams of Mellaril and 100 milligrams of thorazine, which is very heavy medication.

After the relaxation sessions, we started doing hypnosis. I never remembered anything about it afterwards. I felt like I just fell asleep, and when I woke up she had so much to tell me. She said my father raped me when I was six years old and that my mother sexually abused me by kissing me, like a girlfriend would. At the age of seven or eight, my father and my sister Jill got me into a satanic cult, where I witnessed human sacrifice.

I was devastated by thinking these things had happened to me. I totally believed all of this, though I couldn't remember saying it. And I developed real memories of these things. I could see it all in my head. Donna had a tape recorder in her office, but when I asked her to record a hypnotic session, she said, "I don't advise it," so I dropped it. I totally depended on her. If she'd told me to jump, I'd have asked how high.

I wanted to confront my family, but Donna said, "No, they'll just deny it. They'll say you're crazy." Donna convinced me that Jill had tattooed "666" on my ankle, which is a satanic number. I was really angry at Jill for that. Donna said I was not just abused, but tortured. She used that word over and over again. I almost brought charges against them, but instead I would call them up and harass them. People now tell me I looked like a shark, with that cold stare.

I had to talk to Donna daily just in order to get through a day. She gave me relaxation tapes of her voice, and when I started to experience anxiety, I was to listen to her voice, telling me what to do, like hypnosis all over again. She would tell me to relax and go to this safe place in my head-a green pasture, a sunny day, where there were animals but no human beings, a nice, quiet, warm place.

Donna convinced me that everyone in my life had abused me. When my mother died in 1987, she told me to go to her casket and remember all the pain she had caused me, to remember my sexual abuse. So I did. I said, "I hate you for what you did to me." And at the time, I felt no grief, no pain.

Then Donna started telling me I had different personalities. I said, "No, I don't have that. If anybody knows, it's me." She said I was in denial and I had to face it. She named different parts. One was Paul, who was like my protector. When I was a child, Paul would come out and take the pain. Damion was the one who participated in the satanic cult. Bobby was supposed to be the intelligent one who did all the paperwork. I was Robert, the core alter. She also said I had a female personality, and I had a real hard time with that. I thought maybe it meant I was gay or something.

What's so awful and makes me so ashamed is that I started to act out these roles. As Damion, I started acting out satanic rituals, like in a dream state. It's hard to explain. I sacrificed a stray dog. I cut its throat in my back woods. And I stole money from my union, over $50,000, and burned it as a sacrifice. My mind was so twisted and warped, the money was supposed to take care of my mother in hell. Each time I burned the money or did something else awful, I called Donna and told her I was out of control. "I'm committing a felony. I need help." She didn't respond. She'd just say, "We'll talk about this in therapy." Actually, I think my being out of control excited her. At one point, I tried to commit suicide with an overdose of my medication. They found me passed out on the street, and I woke up in the hospital with a tube down my throat.

Then she told me about George, another personality, who was a male prostitute specializing in older women. The next thing you know, I was on a street corner acting out being a male prostitute. I really did have sex with older women for money. To me, it was like a dream. I would find myself in situations I didn't believe. I was making money, wearing fancy jewelry. I honestly didn't consciously know what I was doing until it was over.

In 1989, Donna sent me to this special hospital unit in Chicago for MPDs run by this famous specialist, Dr. Bennett Braun. The first thing they did was inject me. Then before I even went to my room, Dr. Braun showed me the Control Room. It had all glass walls with curtains all around, and a bed with thick straps. I thought, "Oh my God, I'm in trouble here." I was terrified. I called my wife and said, "You've got to get me out of here." Two days later, I was out. Dr. Braun told me I needed to be there. Donna was very upset with me for leaving.

By 1991, I was so afraid of being out of control that I wouldn't leave my house. I confined myself to my bedroom for a year, only coming out to go to the bathroom. It's amazing to me that my wife stuck with me. My three sons were active in sports, but I couldn't go to the baseball games. I would still talk to Donna on the phone during this time. She convinced me that all my friends were against me, that they would try to hurt me. She told me my wife was cheating on me, that my children were my enemies. She was the only one in the world who would help me.

During that year, I stopped taking medication, and I started to feel better. I couldn't understand it. Gradually, I started to come out of my bedroom and reconnect with my family and the rest of the world. I started going to my kids' baseball games. I saw Donna for the last time in person in April of 1992, but I still hated my father and sisters, and I'd talk to Donna on the phone frequently.

On Christmas Eve in 1993, I had been thinking about my sisters a lot, and I decided to call Jill and Barbara. Barbara wouldn't talk to me and still won't. I started to question Jill, and she assured me that the sexual abuse never happened. "Dad would say vulgar, awful things, but he never touched us sexually." It was the first time we had talked in eight years. A few weeks later, Jill called and said, "I saw this program. Would you please call this 800 number for the FMS Foundation?" Two days later, I called, and everything seemed to fall into place. I heard so many stories that were similar to mine. Finally, I could relate to someone else. I had gone through this same thing.

I got a call from Donna six weeks ago, and I told her I was talking to the FMS Foundation. She went ballistic. She threatened to get a court order to put me back in the hospital. I got an attorney, and he told me not to worry. In fact, I'm going to sue my therapist now. She stole eight years of my life. She should be in jail. I didn't get sick until I saw her. She turned a minor problem into a life-threatening mental disorder. She took advantage of me. She took the truth and intertwined it with lies.

Why did Donna do this to me? I've thought a lot about that. I would say she's Dr. Frankenstein. She was trying to create a monster, and I happened to be her monster. Maybe she wanted to write a book about this case for the publicity. She always told me males were more aggressive and would act out more.

What I went through in therapy reminded me of the Marine Corps, the same sort of brainwashing. They would tell you to attack a machine gun nest, and you'd automatically do it. That training was really hard, the hardest thing I've done in my life. They would drill and drill us to kill. Donna would drill and drill me about my past in an almost identical manner.

I still have memories and feelings, even though I intellectually know they're not real. The other day, I got mad at Jill about that tattoo, even though I know an "alter" put it on under Donna's influence.

I'm starting to speak up about this now. I know there's other men out there. People say, "You're a big guy. How could this happen to you?" We're strong on the outside, but weak inside. I'm ashamed. It's embarrassing. I can't really explain it. But I think if it happened to me, it could happen to anybody.

One of my biggest regrets is that my mother died thinking I still hated her. Oh, God, it bothers me. I can't even ask her to forgive me. She was the sweetest, kindest woman on earth.

I cannot go to a therapist now. I know there are good therapists, but I'm scared of them. Talking about what happened to me is my therapy.

I feel fine now. I don't even feel depressed any more. I think everyone on the planet gets depressed sometimes. I did have a very hard childhood, but I went to therapy to be a better person, not to get worse.

This has been really hard on my wife and kids. My wife is still very bitter about it. I think she's only staying with me because of the children. The boys are 15, 13, and 9. We've sat and talked about what I went through. They're very angry-partly at me, partly at the therapist. But they're glad to see I'm a Dad again. It's not too late. Considering everything that's happened, they're doing well.


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