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Wakefield, Hollida; Underwager, Ralph      Return of the Furies, 1994

Wassil-Grimm, Claudette                               Diagnosis for Disaster, 1995

Watters, Ethan,  Ofshe, Richard                   Therapy's Delusions, 1999

Webster, Richard                                             The making of a modern witch hunt, 2005



Wakefield, Hollida; Underwager, Ralph
Return of the Furies, 1994
An investigation into recovered memory therapy


From Booklist, October 1, 1994
Pointing out that they "became actively involved in defending victims of child abuse long before it had become fashionable or lucrative," Wakefield and Underwager thoroughly investigate the practitioners, patients, and literature in this exploding field. Drawing heavily upon the cases of more than 200 retractions of child abuse charges, they show that thousands have been falsely accused. They look closely at the claims that "therapeutic truth" is more important than "research" and put their fingers on the logical and practical errors of such an approach. The theory of repression has no scientific supporting evidence, they contend, and they tell the story of the division in the American Psychological Association over this question, the breakaway of the more scientifically oriented psychologists, and the remaining group's failure to discipline nonscientific practitioners. Although most therapists believe they are doing good, Wakefield and Underwager argue that science and practice show that much of their work is not only harmful but destructive to accuser, accused, and society as a whole. William Beatty   Copyright© 1994, American Library Association.

The publisher, , October 15, 1997
"Return of the Furies is encyclopedic in its scope. It provides us with an in-depth understanding of the origins of the false-memory phenomenon, the methods by which it has been promulgated, and the people who are perpetuating it. The book is convincingly written with hundreds of useful references. I do not know of a more comprehensive book on this timely subject." Dr Richard Gardner, Columbia University


Wassil-Grimm, Claudette
Diagnosis for Disaster, 1995
The devastating truth about FMS and its impact on accusers and families


From Booklist, January 15, 1995
Wassil-Grimm surveys the several voices in the debate over the "recovery" of supposedly repressed memories of sexual abuse in childhood through such techniques as hypnosis and suggestion. She focuses primarily upon why remembering and discussing such memories is so appealing despite possible falsehood and severe damage done to the accused, family members and friends, and ultimately, the accuser. Interviews with women who eventually retracted their claims, reviews of the scholarly literature, participation in conferences, and personal experience constitute the basis for Wassil-Grimm's analysis of the nature of memory, trends and fads in psychology, the false memory debate, and the recent dramatic increases in accusations of ritualized abuse and diagnoses of multiple personality disorder. Wassil-Grimm accords special attention to the claims of The Courage to Heal (2d ed., 1992), which is widely regarded as the handbook of memory recovery. Although well written and organized, displaying Wassil-Grimm's thorough knowledge of the subject, her book is a tough read because of both the complexity of the issues and their emotional charge. Kathryn Carpenter  Copyright© 1995, American Library Association.

From Kirkus Reviews , December 15, 1994
A well-aimed blast at the recovered memory movement that exposes the roots of false memory syndrome and the reasons for the acceptance and persistence of the phenomenon. Wassil-Grimm, a writer and media commentator on family psychology (How To Avoid Your Parent's Mistakes When You Raise Your Children, not reviewed) outlines the dispute between those who believe claims that forgotten memories of childhood sexual abuse can be recovered and those who reject claims of such recovered memories as false. She effectively demolishes the arguments, especially the statistics, of the believers, and urges all therapists to look critically at their assumptions and methods. Wassil-Grimm has mastered the expos‚ and self-help formulas, that is, she writes clearly, includes lots of case studies loaded with human interest to reinforce her arguments, and hammers them home by ending each chapter with a concise summary of the points made in it. There are helpful lists of tips for therapists, for those in or seeking therapy, and for the families of those falsely accused of sexual abuse. Throughout the book she raises the question of why anyone would believe they'd been sexually abused by a parent if it were not true, and each time she returns to the question she provides an additional answer. Thus she is able to conclude with a list of 16 persuasive explanations. Two related phenomena--the willingness of many therapists to believe quite fantastic reports of recovered memories of satanic ritual abuse and the startling increase in reports by therapists of patients with multiple personality disorder (considered a psychological defense against abuse)--come under Wassil-Grimm's skeptical eye. This is a welcome addition to recent literature on the subject (see Making Monsters, p. 1105, and The Myth of Repressed Memory, p. 908). Strongly recommended. Succeeds both as an expos‚ of a dangerous fad and as a survival guide for its victims. --

An examination of repressed memories presents arguments for the False Memory Syndrome while offering opinions on why such memories occur and challenging the credentials of sexual abuse therapists and the authors of self-help guides.

False Memory Syndrome is a dangerous phenomenon that is gaining tremendous momentum in this country. Truth or Fantasy? is a powerful look at this shocking trend. The book tells the story of this crisis through the voices of retractors, backed up by psychiatrists, psychologists, and memory experts.

Booknews, Inc. , August 1, 1995
Explores the increase in cases of False Memory Syndrome, through the voices of retractors. Exposes weaknesses in The Courage to Heal, and examines related trends such as satanic ritual abuse and multiple personality disorder. Defines False Memory Syndrome and describes its impact on therapy survivors and family members. Of interest to psychology professionals, clients and victims of child abuse therapy, and falsely accused parents. Annotation copyright Book News, Inc. Portland, Or.


Watters, Ethan,  Ofshe, Richard
Therapy's Delusions, 1999
The Myth of the Unconscious and
the Exploitation of Today's Walking Worried


From Kirkus Reviews , February 15, 1999
The psychodynamic theory of the mind and the treatment methods derived from it are the quackery the mental health profession is burdened with surviving,'' according to this pull-no-punches assault on the current practice of psychotherapy. The prior collaboration of Watters, a freelance journalist who has written for the New York Times Magazine and elsewhere, and sociologist Ofshe (Univ. of Calif., Berkeley), Making Monsters: False Memory, Satanic Cult Abuse, and Sexual Hysteria (1994), indicted a specific area of psychotherapy; the present work is a broader attack, going to its very roots. Freud, they assert, was one of the century's great myth makers and a ``shameless self-promoter who committed scientific fraud'' with his claim that a dynamic unconscious controls human behavior and that therapists can tap into its secrets by talking to patients. Drawing on the work of historians, medical researchers, and other scholars, they trace the influence of Freud's ideas in 20th-century America, where by midcentury psychoanalysis had become the accepted treatment for mental illness. Citing cases to illustrate what they term the intellectual hubris of psychodynamic talk therapists, they present the fundamental errors they say these therapists share, and they analyze the process by which talk therapists and their patients unwittingly reinforce each others' mistaken belief in the therapist's wisdom and insight. While Freud is debunked and talk therapy denounced (even trounced), the real target of this sometimes strident attack is the mental health profession itself. The authors assert that because the profession fails to disseminate new scientific research or to reach consensus on acceptable standards of care, patients who could be helped by the biomedical approach will continue to be poorly served, even harmed, by an approach based on myth, not modern medicine. A forceful demand that the mental health profession reform itselfcontroversy is sure to follow

Two acclaimed authors deliver an attack on talk therapy, from its Freudian underpinnings to contemporary practice, and expose the failure of this "pseudoscience" that still holds enormous sway over the American mind.

Cahners Publishing Company,  Publishers Weekly February 15, 1999
 Following Making Monsters, their much-discussed attack on recovered memory therapy, Watters and Ofshe offer a rigorous critique of talk therapy of the Freudian variety and its many offshoots. In a broadside as withering as those by anti-Freudian critic Frederick Crews (Memory Wars; Unauthorized Freud), the authors assail psychoanalysis as a convoluted system of assumptions and anachronistic beliefs.

Using cases from the psychoanalytic literature, they find troubling evidence of analysts' arbitrary diagnoses, misogyny, hubris and pretense of scientific authority. Ofshe, a sociology professor (UC-Berkeley), and freelance journalist Walters observe that with the psychotherapy profession in defensive retreat from its claim to reveal the secrets of unconscious minds, talk therapists have increasingly allied themselves with social movements and cultural trends, spawning feminist therapy, body/mind therapy, care of the soul (e.g., Thomas Moore's books) and so forth.

The authors reject these approaches as fundamentally flawed because, in their view, Freud's notion of a dynamic unconscious that influences our everyday lives is nothing more than a culturally supported myth. The "biogenetic approach" they favor - combining pharmacotherapy, research into brain dysfunction and rehabilitative behavioral/cognitive therapy - has already made progress in treating schizophrenia and mood disorders.

Ultimately, however, their wholesale rejection of the existence of an unconscious, and of the roots of mental illness in developmental or childhood factors, seems an article of faith as debatable as the exaggerated claims of talk therapists. Nevertheless, their provocative analysis of what happens in therapy sessions -- the patient internalizing the life story that he or she creates in tacit collusion with the therapist -- will challenge patients and practitioners alike.

An appendix dismantles the upbeat conclusions of an influential 1995 Consumer Reports survey, "Does Therapy Help?"
Bonnie Nadell.


The making of a modern witch hunt
by Richard Webster

New March 15 2005


A new book The Secret of Bryn Estyn by Richard Webster is being launched at the House of Commons (Portcullis House) on19 March 2005,  by Claire Curtis- Thomas mp, chair of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Abuse Investigations. The contents of the book are embargoed until its publication on 19 March, but what follows is taken from the advance press release.


A story of false accusations, judicial blindness, bad journalism and innocent lives destroyed


The Secret of Bryn Estyn tells the story of the greatest series of miscarriages of justice in recent British history – how innocent lives have been destroyed, the public deceived and millions of pounds wasted in a witch-hunt against innocent people.


Early in the morning of 15 March 1992, 40 police officers took up positions in streets in and around Wrexham in North Wales. As dawn broke they swooped down on their suspects and arrested sixteen men and one woman. All but one had worked at Bryn Estyn, a care home for adolescent boys on the outskirts of Wrexham. According to reports which began to appear in the press in 1991, Bryn Estyn had lain at the centre of a network of evil – a conspiracy which supposedly involved the extensive homosexual abuse of adolescent boys by a paedophile ring, whose members terrorised their victims and subjected them to a regime of violence and brutality.


The paedophile ring turned out to be a figment of the investigators’ imagination. Yet rumours of its existence led to the largest child abuse investigation in Britain. The police trawled allegations from 650 witnesses, who accused 365 people of abusing them at homes throughout North Wales. When only six prosecutions followed, with only two new convictions for sexual abuse, the police and the authorities were accused of mounting a cover-up. Police officers themselves were said to belong to the very paedophile ring they were supposed to be investigating. The story became a national scandal.


A senior police officer, publicly accused of raping adolescent boys at Bryn Estyn, sued for libel and won. Still, rumours of a cover-up persisted. In 1996 the government set up the largest Tribunal of Inquiry in British history, under Sir Ronald Waterhouse. In February 2000, the Tribunal made damning findings of extensive abuse in North Wales. By then, the police trawling operation which had begun there had spread to whole of Britain. Police forces collected allegations against 5,000 former care workers and teachers, and hundreds were arrested.


Cover-up or witch-hunt?


But was Waterhouse right to find there had been wholesale abuse in North Wales? Or did his inquiry, and the investigations that led up to it, form part of a modern witch-hunt? In this book Richard Webster, the acclaimed author of Why Freud Was Wrong, tells the extraordinary story of

what really happened in North Wales. It is a story with disturbing implications not only for the modern child protection movement but for the way we understand our history and ourselves.

The spread of injustice


The Secret of Bryn Estyn is a richly documented account of the development of a modern witch-hunt. Full of human interest and drama, it focuses initially on a small number of key players in the North Wales story and shows how their actions helped to shape an unprecedented police investigation, which would eventually spread to the whole of the United Kingdom. 


The book traces the origins of the gravest series of miscarriages of justice in modern British history, as a result of which thousands of people have been falsely accused and as many as a hundred wrongly imprisoned. The book records these continuing injustices and sets them in the context of earlier historical witch- hunts. And, in chapters interspersed through the narrative, The Secret of Bryn Estyn offers an illuminating analysis of the development of the modern child protection movement, tracing its roots back to Victorian London.


Credulous journalists


A large responsibility for creating the witch-hunt described in the book lies with journalists – and in particular with journalists on broadsheet newspapers. The narrative demonstrates what one editor, Peter Wilby, has himself noted: investigative journalists can be the most credulous of people. The Secret of Bryn Estyn relates how a broadsheet exclusive went tragically wrong, and encouraged the making of false allegations against a large number of innocent people. It sheds a revealing light on the current state of British journalism. Gary Horne, a former Panorama producer who is now a lecturer in journalism, says the book will be compulsory reading for all his students.

A legal system skewed by prejudice


In the great European witch-hunt of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a key role was played by learned men, especially judges and lawyers. The French jurist Jean Bodin wrote that ‘not one witch in a million would be accused or punished if the procedure were governed by the ordinary rules’. In order that witches could be executed in large numbers, the normal rules of justice were relaxed and witchcraft itself was defined as crimen exceptum – an exceptional crime.


The Secret of Bryn Estyn shows how, in a series of judgments made in the House of Lords during the last fifty years, child sexual abuse has become a new crimen exceptum,  in respect of which the normal rules of justice have effectively been suspended. It goes on to show that the £15 million North Wales Tribunal of Inquiry was itself a travesty of justice which, in its determination to find evidence of widespread abuse, turned reality upside down. The Waterhouse Tribunal should be seen, it is suggested, along with the first Blood Sunday Tribunal, as one of the great judicial disasters of the twentieth century.

The role of social workers


Although both journalists and lawyers played a major role in driving this modern witch-hunt forwards, the ideas and fantasies out of which it grew developed within the profession of social work. The book traces the origins of these ideas and sets them in a much broader historical context, arguing that the modern child protection movement is a revivalist movement, rooted deeply, for all its apparent secularism, in an ancient religious tradition.

Ruined lives


The figures which are available indicate that by now between 5,000 and 10,000 former residential care workers and teachers have been accused of physical or sexual abuse as a direct consequence of police trawling operations. Some of these allegations are true. The evidence presented in the book, however, suggests that the overwhelming majority are false. Many other false allegations of sexual abuse have been made in other contexts – including the recovered memory movement and satanic abuse ‘scares’. The Secret of Bryn Estyn is the most complete account ever written of the cultural climate out of which these false allegations have emerged.


Publicity for The Secret of Bryn Estyn


Richard Webster is an uncompromisingly independent author who has been interviewed on the subject of false allegations by John Humphrys on the Today programme, by Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight, and by Jenni Murray on Woman’s Hour. He has written about the issue of child sexual abuse in the Guardian, the Observer and the New Statesman, and gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into police trawling operations in 2002. The Secret of Bryn Estyn, the product of a nine-year-long investigation, is his most controversial book yet. All publicity will be geared to the launch of the book in March.


Richard Webster’s previous books have been published to critical acclaim in Britain and the US by HarperCollins and Weidenfeld. The Secret of Bryn Estyn is published by his own imprint, The Orwell Press, which has a track record of dealing with some of the most contentious issues in con-temporary culture. The book’s appearance is likely to lead to controversy and wide media coverage.


Advance orders for The Secret of Bryn Estyn are being taken now. Postage is free to all addresses in the United Kingdom. To order your copy for delivery by the publication date, please send a cheque for £25 to The Orwell Press at the address below. For addresses outside the UK, please add £10.              

The Orwell Press   

61 Hayfield Road,

Telephone: 01865 558596            

Oxford  OX2 6TX


Online bookshop: k   Orwell Press. (But please order by cheque if possible)