October 18, 2012
This is Part 1 because I have many heroes today, despite the fact that only a few years ago I would have scoffed at the term. It would have been highly unfair for me to do so. A number of individuals throughout the Diva’s life have behaved towards her and others in very heroic, and compassionate and giving ways, personally, and professionally. What can I say except that I prevailed through a period of very high cynicism.
Part 1 is dedicated to a couple of fellows. They are both extremely courageous advocates, brilliant researchers, and writers. These men have put their lives on the line for survivors of extreme abuse, of whom many, if not most, have DID.
First I want to mention, especially since I may not yet have done so in these pages, is one Nick Bryant. Mr. Bryant is the author of The Franklin Scandal: A Story of Powerbrokers, Child Abuse & Betrayal, the seminal volume on the affair, published in 2009. The Franklin case began with the investigation of a failed savings and loan in the 1980’s. Inquiries initiated by the Nebraska State Senate eventually led to the exposure of a criminal network involved in child pornography, prostitution, and human experimentation with ties to some of the highest ranking members of the Republican Party and the White House. Nick Bryant, an extremely ethical and dedicated journalist, invested 7 years of his life gathering evidence and testimony from a number of sources and witnesses. His book is an unassailable work of journalism that puts together the proofs of the very worst about Franklin, which is probably why you haven’t heard about it, if you haven’t.
If you are a survivor of child trafficking, or organized or extreme abuse, read this book. It is validation from page 1, not only for the survivors of the Franklin associated rings, but for any of us who have gone through what most of the general public views as incredible. You can also see Nick on video and listen to many of his recent interviews linked on his website. Mr. Bryant is currently working on a documentary based on his book. Just as he describes it while he was initially researching and trying to get his book published, he is hitting some roadblocks placed in front of him by some powerful folks who have opposing vested interests, and others who are just fearful. You can contribute to the documentary project here.
I should say rather, Dr . Michael Salter, as he has completed his PhD, and if I am not mistaken, did so with a thesis on organized child abuse. For several years, I had the pleasure of interacting with Michael while he was matriculating, as well as facing a number of serious challenges in his personal life that led him to his current focus on, and advocacy for survivors of organized abuse. We were acquainted in a very special online forum that is generally hospitable to survivors and people with DID. I have saved some of his writings on that forum, as they are marked not only by his brilliant insights into the plight of survivors, but his passion for justice.
Mr. Salter has published his very first book, today, entitled, Organised Sexual Abuse. Congratulations Michael! He tells me a more affordable paper version may be forthcoming. I can’t wait to read it, and I will post a review here when I do. Michael has also published a number of articles, including a recent one on the same topic that is a short, general review of what current peer review material tells us about organized abuse, and how survivors are under served. Its title is Organized Abuse: A Neglected Category of Sexual Abuse with Significant Lifetime Mental Healthcare Sequelae, Michael Salter & Juliet Richters. Here is the abstract.
Background: Organised abuse (where multiple adults conspire to sexually abuse multiple children) has been one of the most controversial issues in debates over mental health practice with survivors of child sexual abuse. Aims: The aim of this paper is to summarise and analyse the available prevalence data pertinent to organised abuse and to identify the challenges that organised abuse poses for mental health policy and practice. Methods: Prevalence studies of sexual abuse based on community and clinical samples were reviewed for findings pertinent to organised abuse. Key indicators of organised abuse were selected and summarised on the basis of their association with the known characteristics of organised abuse. The literature regarding the health impacts of these indicators was also reviewed. Results: A minority of people reporting contact sexual abuse in the community report experiences indicative of organised abuse. These indicators are elevated in particular settings and they are associated with poor mental and physical health. Conclusions: Organised abuse is rare but it is associated with poor mental and physical health outcomes. There is currently no source of integrated care for adults with histories of organised abuse. Many survivors end up in prison or homeless, chronically disabled by illness, or dead.
I hope I’ve provided some positive feelings by highlighting the work of these two fine men. If you can, send them some encouragement, in whatever form you deem appropriate.
December 8, 2011
Update: Although the Diva was already aware of Nathan’s political agenda and affiliations, it is gratifying to find that professional journalists have also made these observations. Here is an article by David Folkenflik that exposes Debbie Nathan’s biases and lack of ethics. From Seizures Hurt Memory, Ex-’Times’ Reporter Says.
Nathan is an advocacy journalist who argues that federal laws on child pornography and child sexual abuse are too strict. “Sex is such a highly charged issue in our culture that — particularly when it comes to child sex abuse — people are very irrational,” Nathan says. “Many people are convicted who are innocent, in my opinion.”
But Nathan’s stories about Eichenwald for New York magazine’s Web site and for CounterPunch failed to disclose a key affiliation: She is a board member and donor for the National Center for Reason and Justice, a not-for-profit group that distributes money to help the legal filings of people it says have been wrongly convicted of child sexual abuse. The center distributes about $100,000 a year to their legal defense. Among the recipients of this aid: Father Paul Shanley, the most notorious figure in Boston’s Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal.
While there are many passionate and informed reviews on the Amazon site for the book attacking Sybil, I wanted to highlight a few here as they cut to central issues that discredit the work. This first is one of my favorites.
By Lori King
This review is from: Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case (Hardcover)
This book begins:
“MANY YEARS LATER, THE WORLD would come to know her as Sybil. But, in 1933, the little girl with the colored pencils in her hand was simply Shirley Ardell Mason, a sensitive and confused fifth grader in the tiny town of Dodge Center, Minnesota. She was quiet and slender back then, with crisp clothes, dark hair trimmed in a Dutch-boy bob, and skin so milky that the veins stood blue on her forearms. She had no….”
And it continues on through the next several chapters – written in third-person omniscient – commonly used in fiction, but when used in non-fiction, the author reports not only what is presented as facts, but also relates them to the characters’ thoughts and feelings and from there – conclusions. This is often seen in persuasive writing or `rhetoric’.
“In short, rhetoric is a mode of altering reality, not by the direct application of energy to objects, but by the creation of discourse which changes reality through the mediation of thought and action.” (The Rhetorical Situation, Lloyd Bitzer, 1968).
I would have thoroughly enjoyed the story that follows had I not already been alerted by all of the media coverage that this book was written with a preconceived agenda – to discredit the book “Sybil”. The narrators’ use of colorful language and style of `telling the story’ is truly brilliant – mesmerizing – enough so that the unsuspecting reader becomes so removed from the narrator as to forget that this book is no more than rhetoric meant to persuade the audience to believe, not only what they are reading, but in this case, to trust the facts given us as truth. We all know that no writer can ever know the intentions, feelings, thoughts of any character, but a truly gifted writer can use this tactic to influence the readers’ beliefs – to control their ideas. Nathan is amazing and, for me, her ability to persuade discredits this book.
Though, I did enjoy watching the story and newly created character unfold, I wasn’t persuaded that this all actually happened. The more I read, the more entertained I became until, I was nearly laughing. I was reading it out loud in a dramatic voice to my grandson, prancing around my brightly lit room, my long dark hair flowing behind me as I imagined the next dramatic scene I would read in the book.
I read “Sybil” many times and have looked at the research of Dr. Wilbur. I never felt like “Sybil” was written for any other reason but to inform the public of the work that was being done. It wasn’t nearly as entertaining. I understood that the `alters’ did need to be exaggerated in order that the reader could get a sense of them. Clearly, it would be very difficult, and I think still is, for writers to share with readers such a subjective experience as dissociative identity disorder. The fact that they must have discussed this was not surprising to me at all.
The last couple chapters were just more irritation and confirmation to me that this was a piece of work meant to persuade us of Nathan’s political point of view about false memories, ritual abuse, and dissociative identity disorder. I did not see the connection of “Sybil” with any of that.
I think that Nathan is a wonderful writer. She may persuade many readers that her story is pure truth. She is talented enough to possibly bring enough questions to the mind of the public to slander the name of these three women who are no longer here to defend themselves. I am hoping to see her write a good novel – where her talent of writing fiction can be truly recognized.
Quote to remember:
“[Rhetoric,] that powerful instrument of error and deceit.” (Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke, 1690)
In response I commented:
It makes sense that Nathan used that style, it exhibits a lack of respect for personal boundaries, as if she executed a kind of postmortem mental rape. That would be my rhetorical description of what the false memory people have done to survivors of extreme abuse in the public sphere since they began their campaign.
. . .
In a reflection of her character, apparently Ms. Nathan has been ridiculing, on her Facebook page, survivors of extreme abuse, and other people who have given her book a bad review.
From a commentator named James to a news article about the book:
Let’s just let people read the book as the cash-cow it is.
Let’s not call it “scientifically solid” and watch people die in the wake of its destruction.
Let’s not associate the atrocities of psychology in its infancy to today’s practice and watch ongoing research collapse under political debate.
Let’s not start diagnosing DID patients as schizophrenics again at the extra cost of another $2.8 billion to society.
. . .
Publisher Simon & Schuster has agreed to delete from the dust jacket in future editions of the book “Sybil Exposed” the words “first person’” in the sentence: “The Sybil archive became available to the public only recently, and Nathan is the first person to have examined all of it….” as this was proved untrue. A letter furnished by the executor of Sybil’s estate proved Dr. Suraci, author of Sybil, In Her Own Words, had prior access and the records were made public in 1998. I expect this correction will neither be the last nor the most surprising.
. . .
And finally, but by no means least, there is this from the closest living relative to Sybil, Naomi Rhode, posted here: http://sybilandmpd.blogspot.com/2011/11/from-sybils-closest-living-relative.html?spref=fb
As Shirley Mason’s (Sybil) closest living relative, I was close to her for the 30 plus years through the saga of her life journey. In fact, I was with her for several days during the week of her death, at her request, and was one of the only people that was in constant contact with her over those 30 years. I kept her identity confidential at her fervent request. Through all these years up until literally the day before she died, she verified the complete accuracy of the book, ‘Sybil’.
Debbie Nathan claims that she contacted me for an interview in 2008 and that I declined. Over the years many people have contacted me for information about Shirley’s life. Not knowing their intent, always, I have declined all such interviews. If Debbie was one of those people, I do not recall the call, as I do not keep records of every call in a busy business life. I apologize for this, but I do not recall her calling.
Knowing Dr. Connie Wilbur, and Flora Schreiber, also, the book concerns me greatly. It is an attack on their credibility, their research, and their professionalism. And, the book is a complete attack on the person I loved, Shirley Mason.
Shirley did not die a recluse. Shirley was a loving, and productive woman until her final,lengthy bout with cancer. She painted, and taught painting. She sold her paintings. She corresponded with friends, and regularly with us. She was a woman of strong spiritual faith in God, loved her books and her music, and loved our family greatly. She chose, however, to live carefully and confidentially because she was adamant that her identity not be known. She was very protective of our family and any recourse her life and story may have on us.
October 23, 2011
Sybil was not a fraud. Imagine if someone took a few facts about your life and wrapped an entirely false narrative around them making you out to be something that you never were, and destroying your reputation. Everyone should be concerned about this kind of activity. Every one of us should stand up against it.
Nathan’s work and her PR campaign are an attack not only upon the 3 dead woman she targets who cannot defend themselves, but upon all survivors of extreme abuse.
From a concerned clinician:
I collected a range of sites to show what a major push this propaganda is getting:
From Rush to NPR, now that’s coverage. Meanwhile, complete blackout on that fact that Tokyo is more radioactive than the Chernobyl evacuation area (http://enenews.com/)
Wanda Karriker’s review from Amazon books:
According to the product description of SYBIL EXPOSED, “Nathan gives proof that the allegedly true story was largely fabricated.”Although Nathan did a good job of constructing a narrative of how and why she believes the book SYBIL came to be, neither the patient (Shirley Mason aka Sybil, the psychiatrist (Wilbur), nor the author (Schriebner) are alive to defend against Nathan’s interpretations of their interactions and their motivations to produce the book.
On p. 396 (Kindle), Nathan states that Wilbur “used her medical credentials to aggressively promote a diagnosis [multiple personality disorder] that, ultimately, hurt women far more than it helped them . . .”
As a journalist Nathan has a right to use her research findings to impugn the motives of Dr. Wilbur; however, she offered no research to support her contention that the diagnosis “hurt women far more than it helped them.”
Wanda Karriker, Ph.D. Morning, Come Quickly
October 21, 2011
I regret that this may only be the first among many posts on this topic. If you are a supporter, loved one, or caregiver of an extreme abuse survivor, a little additional support might be helpful as this controversy plays out in the media.
Shirley Mason is most commonly known as Sybil Dorset, one of the most famous of all DID cases. This beautiful, brave woman, her caregiver, and a dedicated journalist are being defamed in a smear campaign.
Debbi Nathan, an academic and former proponent of the now thoroughly repudiated False Memory campaign, has put Sybil in her cross-hairs in a new book. The New York Times and several other media outlets have jumped upon this potential new controversy, which from all appearances at this point, springs from a single statement in one of the letters Sybil wrote early on in her treatment.
Therapy for extreme trauma involves a long and repeated grief process. Denial is a natural part of grief. Denial is also a central feature of dissociation. In DID cases, alters actively cultivate denial of the trauma so that the child can perform in normative life. Of course these aspects present in therapy, not only at the beginning, but over and over again, as the process of awareness and then grief repeats itself until all the traumas are confronted.
Sybil’s early declaration that she is not a multiple is a normal and expected part of the therapeutic process. Nathan, and those who have covered her work, have cynically highlighted it as a singular proclamation of truth. This is the very definition of propaganda, suggesting an alternate meaning of a fact in service of an agenda.
Child pornography and domestic child trafficking are mutli-billion dollar businesses. There are networks of people who have high stakes in keeping survivors silenced and out of treatment. Confusing the public about the natural responses to this kind of abuse, like DID, and engendering distrust of trauma therapists are integral to those aims.
I have no evidence that Nathan is tied to any such criminal network, but neither are any of the targets of her attacks here to confirm or deny her insinuations. I have no doubt if Shirley, Connie or Flora were alive today, Nathan could not publish this book.
Dr. Patrick Suraci on Sybil
Here is a link to the Facebook page for Dr. Patrick Suraci’s recent book on Sybil. In a wall posting dated October 19th, he refutes some points in Nathan’s book.
Statement from Dr. Patrick Suraci
I went to the Special Collections Library at John Jay College of Criminal
Justice to verify statements made by Debbie Nathan in her book SYBIL
1. On pages 99-100 Nathan writes: “Connie would carry her apparatus to
Shirley’s apartment and climb in bed with her. She would clamp the paddles to
Shirley’s temples, twirl the dials, and press the buttons. Connie’s gadget
was an old electro-convulsive machine she had retired years earlier.”
Nathan cites the evidence for this in her “Notes: Chapter 8, No.38.. FRS
Box 37, Files 1081, Tape 124.” In this document on January 26, 1955, Shirley
writes about “electric shock” along with her other treatments. There is
absolutely no documentation of Nathan’s outrageous claim.
2. On page 71 Nathan writes: “Completely inexperienced with men, she had
little idea of how to take Gene’s (O’Neill) measure. He noticed her
ignorance and didn’t like it. Too‘girlish’ he called Flora, particularly when it
came to sex. In a sheaf of notes she wrote to herself, she described feeling
pain at having his finger inside her, let alone his penis. ‘Be an animal,’
Gene would urge her, and he blamed her reticence on the fact that she had
a profession. ‘You bring Adelphi College into the bedroom. It is not that
career women don’t want to go to bed – it is that they don’t know how,’ he
To prove this Nathan cites in: “Notes: Chapter 6, No.11, FRS Box 34, File
1051″ In this document Schreiber writes about Eugene O’Neill: “His
complaint – Be an animal – give – you bring Adelphi College into the bedroom –
we’re close friends in the living room and the moment we go into the bedroom
you become a stranger…he says that it is not that career women don’t want
to go to bed – it is that they don’t know how. Outcome might have been
different if she had gone to bed with him on the last Saturday after he told her
about _____” Schreiber at no time writes about O’Neill’s “finger” or
3. On page 232 Nathan writes: “…She (Shirley Mason) died quietly in her
home, surrounded by nurses, on February 26 of that year. She was seventy-five
years old. It was early evening when she died.”
In my book SYBIL in her own words: The Untold Story of Shirley Mason, Her
Multiple Personalities and Paintings. On page 261 I write:
“The penultimate time I phoned Shirley’s home was on February 26, 1998, at
12:07 PM. In the background I heard her weak voice pleading to Roberta
,(Guy) ‘Tell him I’m sorry. I’m sorry.’ Roberta informed me that Shirley was
too sick to speak on the phone. I mumbled, ‘Please tell her that it’s okay,
it’s okay. I’ll call later.’ …
“When I called later that day at 3:01 PM Roberta stunned me with the news
than Shirley had just died.”
Dr. Suraci has the telephone records of that day, September 26, 1998.
Information about Dr. Suraci:
“SYBIL In Her Own Words: The Untold Story of Shirley Mason, Her Multiple
Personalities and Paintings” by Patrick Suraci, Ph.D.
Perhaps a productive way to counter Nathan is to purchase Dr. Suraci’s work.
February 19, 2010
By Janet Thomas
(Excerpt from the first chapter.) This has, of course, created doubt and dismay as I’ve tried to heal from the electric shocks that could never happen but did; the sexual slavery as a child that only my body remembers; the experiments that happened to someone else In my body; the days and nights in the dark that made indistinguishable my self from all that did not exist; the places where I became an animal, where being debased for the enjoyment of others was my charm and my glory. I heal from it all, even as I know it could never have happened to me. It is what I don’t know that has both saved me and condemned me. And it seems, at times, as though there is no difference.
I do bear one visible scar. It’s four inches long and reaches down the inside of my left forearm. On my left hand are five-year old fingers and a thumb that does not bend. There is not much feeling in this hand. It is a hand that is always cold, always numb, always looked after by my other hand–the right one, the one that writes, that does everything. “The scar is real,” it writes. It is a huge scar. It is connected to medical experiments and electric shocks to see if the severed nerve would grow, and electric shocks to make sure I didn’t remember the electric shocks. And shocks to obliterate the memory of the sexual exploitation, the manipulation of my mind, and the banishment of my self to a place of hiding so profound it would take me fifty years to get her back.
So, if I don’t “remember” being cut, does it make the scar unreal? This is what I would ask those who think recovered memory is a hoax, that there is only truth in the literal and sequential naming of memory and recognition. The real truth is that the scar on my arm is of little consequence. But the reasons it is there scared and scarred the very soul out of me. My five year old self lives in my five year old fingers. It is a hand I hold dear. A hand that tells me the truth and always holds me accountable to what it knows.