Parents fight sex abuse claims: Lawyers to be warned about 'false memories' that emerge during therapy

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The Independent Online
LAWYERS are to be warned that some allegations by adults that they were sexually abused in childhood by their parents - after recovering their memories through therapy - could be caused by a new phenomenon called False Memory Syndrome.

A group of parents whose adult children have alleged that they sexually abused them as children, in some cases during so-called 'Satanic' ceremonies, have launched a campaign claiming the allegations are false and were introduced during therapy or counselling for unrelated problems. The most common technique used is 'regression' therapy, in which patients are taken back to their childhood to find the cause of their emotional and psychological problems.

One 77-year-old man, a lawyer, who has been accused by a middle-aged daughter of molesting her as a child, is to write to the Law Society to alert solicitors to a phenomenon which in the United States has been called the False Memory Syndrome. He claims the accusation against him is false and that other families are being torn apart by the manipulation of vulnerable people in therapy who accuse parents of crimes they did not commit.

Twenty-six parents who have been similarly accused have joined forces through a group called Adult Children Accusing Parents. They all claim they are victims of a dangerous new trend, induced by therapy, which they say has 'migrated' from the US. There, about 3,000 families who claim they have been falsely accused by adult children have joined the False Memory Syndrome Foundation since it was formed just over a year ago.

The group was formed partly to counter the influence of networks of adult 'survivors' and therapists which have been formed to advise women how to sue parents for compensation.

In Britain there have been several recent court cases in which women who claim to have recovered memories of abuse during their childhood are seeking compensation.

Tony Fisher, a solicitor from Essex who is involved in one case, is aware of at least 10 similar cases in which the alleged victims wish to claim compensation either through the civil courts or from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.

Susan Bolland, a 47-year-old mother from Newcastle upon Tyne, whose 22- year-old daughter accused her of abuse after being counselled for depression, has been sacked from her job with the children's charity Barnardo's, even though the allegations are unsubstantiated. She is appealing against the decision and could take her case to an industrial tribunal.

Roger Scotford, organiser of the parents' group, said: 'We are searching for an understanding of this very strange, improbable but very dangerous phenomenon.' He said it was hoped that by publicising the problem 'the rising tide of these false accusations can be stemmed'.

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