We will never know what happened to Christine Blasey Ford on the evening she claims she was sexually assaulted. What Dr Ford claims to know is that two boys, Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge, sexually assaulted her in an unknown house on an unknown day at an unknown time.
An unknown person drove the 15-year-old Christine to the unknown house for the unknown party and an unknown person drove her home after the unknown party. Ford doesn’t know if it is the same person who drove her to the party, as this person is also unknown. Ford claims that four other people, including a female friend, know what happened. The four individuals, including the female friend, who are said to know say they don’t know what happened, if it happened.
I watched the entire Kafkaesque show trial. I was moved by Dr Ford’s tears and the trauma she has suffered. Undoubtedly, her legal team would have spent hours coaching her. This was high drama. Emotionally, she gave a virtuoso performance. I don’t think she was acting or lying most of the time.
She was caught like a rabbit in the headlights of a car when prosecutor Rachel Mitchell asked her about her fear of flying—the reason her legal team gave for her unwillingness to fly to Washington and testify. As a published academic, I knew it would be almost impossible for her to climb the career pole, unless she regularly flew to attend conferences, etc. I was right. With much awkwardness Ford confessed to flying not only for business, but also for pleasure. Indeed, travel by air turned out to be one of her passions.
With much awkwardness Ford confessed to flying not only for business, but also for pleasure.
So while genuinely sympathetic, I held on to my thinking cap looking for any evidence that would prove Judge Kavanaugh guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
I felt like Snowy, the little dog in The Adventures of Tintin by the Belgian cartoonist Hergé. When Captain Haddock has an accident with his whisky bottle, Snowy is tempted to lick up the dripping alcohol. Snowy is flanked by a little devil on his left egging him on to lick up the toxic brew, while on Snowy’s right a little angel is struggling to keep Snowy from temptation. My devil was “feeling” and my angel was “fact”. Most of the time, “feeling” was trumping “fact”.
My heart was telling me that Ford, in her head, believes the assault happened – even if she couldn’t remember circumstantial details. My head was demanding to know whether Ms Ford had given me any good reason to believe that the assault did indeed happen. How can Christine Ford feel certainty beyond doubt about her story and yet be unable to provide facts beyond doubt about the same story?
Is the answer concealed in the sessions she had with her therapist and the nature of the specific therapy she underwent? Ford says she went for therapy in 2012. Ford provided portions of the therapist’s notes to the Washington Post, so says the reporter. Ford herself contradicted herself on this at the hearing. The notes don’t mention Kavanaugh’s name but say she was attacked by four boys “from an elitist boys’ school” who went on to become “highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington.” Ford says her therapist mistakenly noted that four boys were involved. Ford says only two were in the room.
The following year, Ford had an individual therapy session, when she was being treated for what she says have been long-term effects of the incident. Notes from this session show Ford described a “rape attempt” in her late teens.
We do not know what kind of psychotherapy both sessions offered. We do not have access to the notes. Ford is refusing to release the notes to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Why? We do not know the identity or qualification of the therapist(s) or what form of therapy was offered to Ford. Why? I believe if such evidence is put into the public domain or was at least made available to the Senate Judiciary Committee, it would help us arrive at a plausible reconstruction of why Ford is absolutely convinced that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her.
It is possible that Ford believes she was sexually assaulted by a boy fitting the description of Kavanaugh because her therapist sowed the seed of the assault and enabled her reconstruct the scaffolding of the story by using the dubious practice of recovered memory therapy (RMT).
RMT is a pseudoscientific enterprise that is now used by a substantial number of therapists who have created a sub-culture within the counselling community, based on their claims about RMT, despite the scholarly challenges that have been posed in peer-reviewed journals and academic literature and in the face of growing evidence of casualties and cock-ups by this form of counselling over the last 30 years.
Only after the therapy does the patient actually discover that they were abused as an infant, child or teenager!
Recovered memory experts claim that clients often have psychological problems because they carry buried memories of sexual abuse. If they help their patients retrieve these repressed memories, then they can cure their disorders. But this is not the same as treating someone who has been raped or repeatedly abused as a child. Because, you see, the patient doesn’t know they have been sexually abused! Only after the therapy does the patient actually discover that they were abused once upon a time as an infant, child or teenager!
In fact, “recovered memory therapists expect that patients will not only be amnesiac for the trauma in their past but that they will also disbelieve the therapist’s initial suggestion that they suffered sexual assaults as children,” observe Richard Ofshe and Ethan Watters in Making Monsters: False Memories, Psychotherapy, and Sexual Hysteria.
RMT is now so fashionable that insurance companies are paying out millions of dollars for it and more than half the states in the US have enacted changes in their statutes of limitation to allow recently recovered memories of abuse to become the basis for civil lawsuits and in some cases criminal prosecution.
The problem is that RMT is “pseudoscience”. It is not based on scientific method and sound research but on an “unfounded consensus about how the mind reacts to sexual trauma,” Ofshe and Watters point out. “Free from any burden of proof,” these witchdoctors “have created an Alice-in-Wonderland world in which opinion, metaphor, and ideological preference substitute for objective evidence.”
Worse still, they persuade “clients to accept hypnotically generated images, gut feelings, dreams, and imaginings as valid memories” and present this as the truth about the past. The authors demonstrate how much terrible damage such coercive therapy causes by blurring the line between memory and imagination.
As a result of the therapist’s persuasive powers, the client internalizes the idea that she was abused and redefines her life based on these reconstructed memories. The therapist also coaxes the patient to re-experience the emotional pain of rape or sexual abuse they have “discovered” in therapy because it is supposed to be therapeutic.
The most insidious feature of this movement is its incestuous relationship to feminist ideology. The vast majority of such patients are women who are allegedly sexually assaulted by men. Shockingly, RMT has become a “metaphor for feminism” and defence of the therapy “has become synonymous with the defence of the women’s movement,” Ofshe and Watters add.
Judith Lewis Herman, a psychiatrist, candidly confesses that her book Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence—From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror is written from a feminist perspective and challenges established diagnostic concepts. According to her, the victim experiences “episodic amnesia” which, of course, it is the task of the therapist to recover and reconstruct. “It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator,” she argues, in a section eerily reminiscent of the Kavanaugh kangaroo court.
Fantasy and fiction can thus be portrayed as reality and fact, as long as it conforms to feminist dogma in the brave new world of RMT.
Where Herman veers giddily off the road of psychiatry and climbs onto the pavement of ideology is when she claims that feminism “has not only encouraged the disclosure of abuse, but been responsible for the very ability to recall the memories.” Fantasy and fiction can thus be portrayed as reality and fact, as long as it conforms to feminist dogma in the brave new world of RMT.
Anyone who challenges this spurious methodology is immediately sent to the Gulag for “protecting the perpetrator” and perpetuating the patriarchy.
Why has the #MeToo movement and Third Wave Feminism made sexual abuse its focus? Researchers Janice Haaken and Astrid Schlaps say it is because “clinical knowledge and feminist consciousness” have finally converged. Janice Haaken even titles an academic paper “The Recovery of Memory, Fantasy and Desire: Feminist Approaches to Sexual Abuse and Psychic Trauma”.
Feminist Gloria Steinem in her book Secret Survivors describes a client named Christine who was able to recall her father’s tempestuous drinking binges but only after a year in therapy she and her therapist began to suspect that her father might have sexually abused her.
Here’s how Christine describes a therapy session: “Today I had a physical flashback—which means I physically re-experienced my father’s hands on my breasts and I choked and gagged because it felt like his penis was in my mouth again.” The reconstruction reflects albeit tangentially the story told by the second of Judge Kavanaugh’s alleged victims—Deborah Ramirez.
The opposition to this psycho-feminist mumbo jumbo has been muted and ignored by the mainstream media. The False Memory Syndrome Foundation and the British False Memory Society are challenging the fakery of the RMT movement.
Over the years, I’ve been involved in pastoral counselling in university and church setting. I’ve met very sincere students and parishioners who have “invented” events and sometimes shared them with a number of people. The events have often been depictions of a sexual nature—with one young adult male—it was episodes of how women often made attempts to seduce him. However, when concerned people jointly attempted to verify the stories and discussed what they were individually told by the “fantasist”, the narrative was the same, but details were strikingly contradictory.
There were also attempts to reconstruct and join the dots—by conflating a reconstructed fantasy with an actual person or place. “We interpret what we see, select the most workable of multiple choices. We live entirely… by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the ‘ideas’ with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience,” writes Joan Didion.
What Ford’s therapist may have helped her invent, prosecutor Rachel Mitchell thoroughly dismantled.
The good news is that an increasing number of women are coming forward after re-evaluating their therapy to report that what they visualised as sexual abuse during the therapy sessions were not reliable nor valid; indeed they weren’t memories at all.
We will never know what happened to Christine Blasey Ford on the evening she claims she was sexually assaulted. What her therapist may have helped her invent, prosecutor Rachel Mitchell politely but thoroughly dismantled. Mitchell told Republican senators that not only would she not charge Kavanaugh based on the record of evidence from both parties, but would not even pursue a search warrant for the judge, which in virtually all cases would require the standard of probable cause to be met.
Ford, after all, has turned out to be someone who can’t even remember whether she took her polygraph test on the day of her grandmother’s funeral or the next day. A funeral of a close relative is such an important event and so is this polygraph test—and she couldn’t remember if she took it on the same day two months ago? How can she then claim to remember something that happened 36 years ago unless much of it is a creation of therapeutic imagination?
It is possible Ford is a victim of RMT. That is why it is imperative for any future investigation to rigorously scrutinise her therapist(s), the form of therapy used on both occasions, how much of her story was reconstructed and how much was original.
What we do know is that RMT psychobabble blended with feminist ideology is a toxic witches brew that is potent enough to destroy women and their fathers, brothers, husband and sons for years to come. It is a Kafkaesque substitute for justice, the presumption of innocence and the requirement for facts, evidence and corroboration in a court of law.
(Originally published in Republic Standard)