Remembering Lies: Interview With Psychiatric Abuse Victim Jeannette Bartha

“The Council finds that recollections obtained during hypnosis can involve confabulations and pseudomemories and not only fail to be more accurate, but actually appear to be less reliable than nonhypnotic recall.”

American Medical Association, Council on Scientific Affairs, Scientific Status of Refreshing Recollections by the Use of Hypnosis, 1985.

“The evolution of pseudomemories is clearly demonstrated in the case of Jeannette Bartha v Hicks Richard and Friends Hospital in Philadelphia. In September 1994, this former patient sued her treating psychiatrist and hospital for negligence and reckless treatment beginning in March 1986. For the six and one-half years she was under the care of the defendant psychiatrist, the plaintiff’s condition deteriorated, according to her complaint […] the defendant psychiatrist failed to monitor the course of treatment and used hypnosis and prescribed medications, increasing the plaintiff’s tendency toward suggestion, coercion and manipulation. Over time, this caused the plaintiff to experience and display symptoms of supposed multiple personality in conformity with the defendant’s expectations, when in fact no such illness existed.”

“As a direct result of the negligence of the defendant, the plaintiff alleged, her ability to rationally function was destroyed. Moreover, she became convinced that she had hundreds of alternate personalities as a result of extended and repeated sexual and other traumatic abuses as a child. These experiences – which, in fact, did not occur – included participation in ritual murders, cannibalism, Satan worship and torture by members of her family, among others. The plaintiff alleged that these memories were the product of
coercion and suggestion […] The complaints led to a settlement, the amount of which is undisclosed.”

– Harold I. Lief, M.D., Patients Versus Therapists: Legal Actions Over Recovered Memory Therapy, Psychiatric Times. Vol. 16 No. 11, November 1, 1999

In exact parallel to regressing people so they supposedly retrieve forgotten memories of “past lives”, [professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Chief of psychiatry at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, Dr. Fred H. Frankel] notes that therapists can as readily progress people under hypnosis so they can “remember” their futures. This elicits the same emotive intensity as in regression or in [alien] abductee hypnosis. “These people are not out to deceive the therapist. They deceive themselves,” Frankel says. “They cannot distinguish their confabulations from their experiences.”

– Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, 1996

So – to start at the beginning: you turned yourself in for psychiatric treatment?

Right. I had suffered from depression for years. It was voluntary admission.

Was this on the recommendation of anybody?

The therapist I was seeing at the time. She was getting to know this doctor in Philadelphia – whose pseudonym I use as “Stratford” – because I have to be clear that I have a gag order through the court that prohibits me from saying who did it and where.

Because ultimately you won a settlement, but that gag order was a condition of the settlement…

Correct. They wanted to keep me from writing or talking about it completely, but I waited and got the permission to do what we’re doing right now.

So you’ve written a book, but it’s told with pseudonyms?

Everyone but me. That’s also for the privacy of certain individuals. The book is supported by volumes of hospital records, doctors’ notes, nurses’ notes, my personal journal that I kept at the time, and legal documents through litigation, through the discovery process. I was able to obtain all that information.

You are able to say which hospital it was, right?

I can not say that, however it’s easily accessible through the internet… like everything else is…

When you turned yourself over [for treatment], you must have signed away a certain degree of your freedom. To what degree was that? To what degree were you an autonomous individual, and to what degree were you held by hospital rules?

I learned, I would say, within six hours of the severity of what I had done. I would bet within the first two hours I said, Wait. What am I doing? I don’t want to be here. I made that clear to nursing staff, and they told me that I was on a seventy-two hour hold, that I had to stay. What they failed to tell me is that I could have gone against medical advice. I thought I had to stay, and it snow-balled from there.

To the point in which you felt you were not allowed to leave?

Well, I believed that when I was told I had to stay that first day, while the reality was that I could have left against medical advice, but I did not have that information. So I thought, yes, I had to stay.

But beyond that point, what was your situation in whether you wanted to stay or go?

Once I met the doctor, I believed he was very benevolent, very kind. I very quickly thought, maybe he can help me get through this depression. I rather quickly allied myself with him and… treatment began.

How long did it take him to determine that you had Multiple Personality Disorder?

I think that he had already decided that before he had ever met me, quite frankly. He had what I would loosely call an agenda, in that he had his beliefs of why women become depressed. He believes it is because they are repressing memories of sexual abuse. He did not disclose any of that – his expertise, if you will – to me.

His expertise in Multiple Personality Disorder?

Right. He was considered an expert. He actually stated that in his deposition: that others considered him an expert before he himself did. He was not a garden variety psychiatrist. He was a colleague of Bennett Braun, Colin Ross, Cornelia Wilbur, who is deceased and was the psychiatrist for “Sybil”. He used to meet with them, and they devised a way to “help” women –

Based on a diagnostic criteria that consisted almost entirely of depression and its surrounding symptoms?

It was broader than that. They basically determined that a lot of symptoms women were having – largely women – [were indicative of MPD]: inability to hold a job, etc. I think looking into the history would be better than me trying to recall it off the top of my head.

How long was the process of history gathering and interviewing before Multiple Personality Disorder was concluded?

Not long at all. There was a history taken, and that was in the admission process. However, I believe, and I do know that there were things like having a history of depression in my family were disregarded. That should have been a red flag. He just pushed that aside and went in what direction he wanted to go in.

Well, genetic histories of depression seems to be an inconvenient fact for the entire [Ritual Abuse] movement. That’s probably part of the reason they’ve developed a story of multi-generational Satanic Ritual Abuse within family lines, illuminati bloodlines, etc. How far did that go with you? Did your doctor develop a detailed story of your background based on conspiracy theory? Or was it kind of a general idea that you were somehow abused –

You’re talking about Satanic Ritual Abuse? Well, we need to back up a bit. For me it started with MPD. That went on at least a year or so before any Satanic Ritual Abuse started to be focused on.

How many years were you in?

I had 100% insurance coverage, so I was in 2 years straight. Then, I was in and out on public funding, so I was in the hospital for a total of 1,040 days – which was over a 6 and ½ year period of time.

Okay. Sorry, go ahead and describe the evolution from MPD to Satanic Ritual Abuse…

That’s where it went: coerced “memories” of what happened. I think this doctor had an insatiable appetite for detail. For example, what happened during cult meetings? How did they abuse you? The more detail he got, the more he wanted.

I was reading some of your work today on the S.M.A.R.T. conference. Most people, in my experience, that claim to be satanically abused, they are pretty high up in the [cult] hierarchy. For example, they are priestesses, they were abused by high-level government officials. You don’t ordinarily find SRA people who are just, you know, average people who go to meetings and go home.

(Laughs) That’s a good point. I hadn’t thought of that.

But had you noticed that? I don’t know how a group exists with that many high priestesses and that sort of thing.

I never got into Illuminati – I didn’t even know what that was at the time. I was sequestered a lot. I think once I got into Group Therapy and Art Therapy specifically with other women who were claiming to have multiple personalities and Satanic Ritual Abuse, things expanded quite quickly by hearing their stories [causing me to think], maybe these things happened to me.

I imagine that with the environment you were in, with the medical authorities around you, your own submission to their expertise, as well as your own acknowledgment that you were under mental distress and needed their help – I believe this would all make it easy for them to convince you that you were repressing memories from yourself…

Not only that, Doug, I think a large part of it was drugs — for example, getting me addicted to tranquilizers. It is indoctrination. If you look at any, say, religious cult – I read the work of Robert Jay Lifton and was appalled at the parallels [between Lifton’s criteria for thought reform (indoctrination), and what was taking place in therapy]. For example, having a charismatic leader: that would be the psychiatrist. A controlled environment: I was told when to eat, when to sleep, when to shower. The heat was controlled in the room. It would get hot and cold, hot and cold, hot and cold. Information from the outside by TV, mail, magazines, newspapers hardly existed at all. If there were magazines, they were so outdated. If there was a TV show that seemed to relate to the subject, we were not allowed to view it. Sleep medication, sleeping pills, were given out freely, and I also experienced sleep deprivation. There were sedatives, sleepers, truth serum drugs. Physical restraints: four-point leather restraints, or more, to a bed for – could be – 2 hours to 15 hours at a time, at which point I would also be injected with more medication.

And there is what I would call coerced confessions of childhood sexual abuse, Satanic Ritual Abuse. Separation from family and friends… I can go on, but those are the largest things. I lost my job… I lost my apartment… I lost everything…

And they were utilizing sodium amytal during the interviews?

It was probably only a couple months into it, we were using sodium amytal interviews. Are you familiar with those?

Yes, I’m familiar with the experiments done in attempts to develop a Truth Serum during the early years of the Cold War which made it apparent by – when were you in, the late eighties?

’86 through ’92, yeah.

So it was well documented by then how unreliable so-called memories surfaced through a sodium amytal interview really were. It’s difficult for me in this case to determine how deep the actual belief of the doctors were in this program. To what level was it just incompetence, and to what level is it…

Well, you’re raising a good point. I think it’s what made doctors like mine dangerous, if you will. They did fully believe in what they were doing. That made them “incompetent” because they were not listening to their governing bodies – the APA, AMA, etc. – when [those governing bodies] started to, years later, question the techniques. [The doctors] chose to disregard not only those facts, but in my case they disregarded how I was physically and emotionally going down-hill [after treatment began].

I went to that S.M.A.R.T. conference just this past August. This is well past the prime of the Satanic Panic and the MPD movement. So it had a lot of people who got into this during the peak in the ‘80s to early ‘90s, and I think at that point they may have truly believed in it, but since then, they’ve had a lot of difficulty believing it, and they have to work to maintain this belief. This is where I lose sympathy for them. At their talks during the conference there were some very nearly candid confessions of how they feel it is a matter of choice as to whether they maintain this fiction or not. For example, there was a woman there – goes by the name of Dejoly LaBrier – she said that while she was going through therapy she “had to trust what other people were telling me, whether I believed it at the time or not.” There was a criminologist by the name of Hal Pepinsky – a very nice guy, but a purveyor of this rubbish – he seems to struggle with all this now, and he said: “You need at least another human being to affirm your reality and bring it to consciousness, but that’s your reality.”

It seemed to me, by what I was hearing, that these people were trying to work through this idea that reality is strictly a matter of personal choice. They seem to be so taken with this sense of identity [as SRA advocates and survivors] that nothing you tell them now can possibly change their minds about it.

I agree. And the important word in that to me is: identity. Their whole identity is wrapped around them being a survivor of Satanic Ritual Abuse, or that they’re “multiples”, even though MPD is now called DID [Dissociative Identity Disorder]. In my view, all they’ve done is changed from going through the front door to going through the back door. While they used to say, you have too many personalities, now they say, you have a failure to be one.

Right. I think the leading proponent of DID today is Richard Kluft, and when I look through his material, he takes this moderate tone, essentially saying that obviously some of these stories of Satanic Ritual Abuse are over-the-top and probably not true. But there is something there, he’s saying. He doesn’t indicate any way in which we can distinguish a true recovered memory from confabulation, and if you don’t have that, the technique isn’t good for anything, as far as I’m concerned. Especially when you still have people taking blame for abuse that may never have happened.

If you look into confabulation, it’s why you get – like why in my case – [Recovered Memory Therapy] was able to work. It’s how I was convinced and coerced into believing in abuse that never happened… wasn’t true.

The lies were sprinkled with truths. For example: I was abused by an uncle. Okay, the uncle exists, but I can produce records from the United States Armed Forces that put him in another country during the time at which I was saying he’d abused me. That’s the kind of thing that had happened repeatedly. [The partial truth] made it more difficult to say, this didn’t happen, this is so bizarre. If you sprinkle facts in the fiction… that’s the way it works.

Yes. Maybe I’m misinterpreting Kluft, but it seems to me that if it sounds plausible enough, it works for him.

It goes back to a couple of things. You can’t really determine whether anybody really was abused or not. I’ve had people say, tell me if I’ve been abused. I can’t! I can’t do that to anyone. I can’t tell you that – whether your memories are true or not – what I can tell you is what some red flags are, where you might want to ask some questions.

Remember, all these big [MPD/DID] theorists have been sued. So they’ve dampened down their opinions… in my view.

How deeply did you believe the memories they were creating in you at any given point?

I actually wrote in a journal [at the time] that I believed 99.99%. But I did hold out for that .01%, and that’s the small hair-line that pulled me out of it. I wanted to make sure that in my own mind and in reality that if any “abuse” occurred, I wanted no question in my mind, and I was not going to accuse anybody unless I could prove it emphatically. And that’s why I held out that small percentage. That’s the part that saved me, if you will.

So you began looking for corroborative evidence?

Oh yeah. The doctor and I even took a trip to Fort Dix, New Jersey. An Army base, I think it is, where he wanted me to show him where this abuse and prostitution had taken place. It was a town I really didn’t know, and I couldn’t come up with anything. The event was never spoken of again, and it was the only time corroboration was attempted.

You have to understand, Doug, too, that there were so many instances where I would say – particularly under sodium amytal – this is not true, this didn’t happen, I’m making this up. It’s sprinkled all throughout the medical records throughout those 6 and ½ years. I would say it to a therapist, I would say it to a nurse, and no one ever followed up on that. No one. The doctor disregarded it every time I said it.

There is one thing about this [recovered memory] “therapy”: there is nothing you say or question that they don’t have an answer for. If you say, I don’t believe this ever happened, they say, that’s because another personality has it, you don’t have access to it. There was always an out, which at the time I didn’t realize.

So did you feel that you were encouraged to develop new personalities to access memories that were repressed?

Oh yeah. There were times I would say something and he’d ask, who am I talking to? He wanted the name of a personality. If I said Jeanette, that wasn’t good enough. And then there were times when a personality might split off into another one, and then split off into another one. When I wouldn’t remember what personality I was supposed to be half the time – that’s because it split off. They had an answer for everything.

How many personalities did you end up with?

That’s something I couldn’t even tell you, really. It’s not something – it’s in records he kept, I could have cared less.

You sent me transcripts from a session wherein you were clearly saying, this is bullshit.

I have 15 audio tapes of sodium amytal interviews.

You acquired those during the legal process?

Right… I did.

How did you eventually disentangle yourself from all this?

I was an elite athlete when I was in college. I was a fencer, and a high level one at that. During treatment I had gained a lot of weight and couldn’t do anything. Quite literally. I would go to therapy and take prescribed drugs, and he went away for vacation, as all good psychiatrists do, in August. While he was gone I decided that while I didn’t have any control over my mind, I did have control over my body and what I eat. I made a promise to myself that I would exercise for half an hour every day. Doing that – and I did it – I remember that I would walk to the store thinking, okay that’s about half an hour, and I would decide I’d jog it for a bit, and that would be about 30 seconds. I’d have to walk the rest of the way. I used to able to fence for hours and hours and days on end during a major competition. So that’s how much I’d lost. The more I exercised, the more I didn’t need medication to calm down. I started losing weight, and my mind started to clear. Difficult as I remember that time being, forcing myself to go out in sub-zero weather, jog in the snow through the streets of Philadelphia, It was worth it. I kept doing it, and doing it. I told him, and he said it was just another personality that probably wouldn’t last long.

He was wrong.

And ultimately you decided to leave his care?

That didn’t happen till at least a year later. When I started exercising I gave myself a year. Having been so out-of-shape, and so drug-addicted, I figured it would take me at least a year to get my body where it needed to be, and it didn’t really take as long. I still remember – I think it was the Summer of ’91 or ’92 – I was an outpatient, and I was in his office, and I said, look, this uncle I told you had abused me wasn’t even in the United States at that time. That couldn’t have happened. To this day, Doug, he still has not responded. He totally ignored me. And I recalled thinking, Oh my God, he doesn’t believe what I can prove to be true! Why? Why is it that he can remember all these new memories, but something I am telling him absolutely is true, he doesn’t believe me? That’s when I think things turned for me, when I started thinking there was something real wrong here.

Do you have your own idea as to why he cannot accept that?

It didn’t fit in with his theory.

Did you ever recover any memories that were of any value at all?


I mean, I even have – I’m so happy that I have all of these medical records, personal journals, so that I can reconstruct what really happened. It’s not just my recall. For example, when my family and I started to get back together, I would start visiting, I saw them during my father’s birthday, and we had fun. Then I came back to the hospital, told the nurses about it, and in his notes he would say, is amnesiac about father’s birthday.

And that is in my book. That’s how I present the story in the book, in narrative form, my recollections. I started writing this way back in the mid-nineties when I first got out of therapy, so things were still fresh in my mind. I use the excerpts [from my journals] to show, this is what was going in on my life, and this is what was being written about me [in the doctor’s records]. [The doctor] had no regard for reality. Even if one of the nurses would disagree with him, or say that there was no evidence of dissociation, he would assert just the opposite on the very same day.

When will we be able to buy a copy of your book?

When a publisher decides to publish it. I put it back on the market. I would say that for a good 10 years it was politically incorrect. I got some of the best rejection letters saying, good story, great writing, can’t publish it. I used them for inspiration.

Way back when I was trying to find [legal] representation [to bring a claim against the doctor], members of the feminist movement were saying, you’re trying to silence our voices, we’ve been abused. That was not what was happening at all, but it wasn’t understood at the time. I think now people in the general public are considerably more educated. And with the increase in the popularity in memoirs, now may be the time.

You had trouble finding legal representation?

That’s in the book as well: that whole struggle, and how I would go from law firm to law firm and it seemed like the more money they had, the more reluctant they were to get involved. It was still very controversial at that time. If they said, well, there may be evidence that you have this [MPD], I would stand up, demand my records back, and move on to the next person.

I ended up with Richard Shapiro in Philadelphia who was a one-man firm with moral values, who saw this as a horrific thing that happened to me, and was hell-bent on helping me right along.

You have written a few essays for the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, have you experienced any angry backlash from those who still maintain identities as survivors of Satanic Ritual Abuse?

None. Absolutely none. And that could be because they don’t have access to me personally. You’d have to ask the foundation if they’ve heard anything. If so, nothing was forwarded to me. I don’t know if it’s just because they haven’t been able to locate me. I find it a curious question.

Just wait until your book is published. For a group of so-called “victims”, they are a very mean-spirited and victimizing lot. [1]

Oh, I know. That’s another book I’m writing: there’s a whole underground society of people who believe that they have multiple personalities that has really dipped off the radar. I have done extensive research on these people and what they believe.

I think that the controversy is a good thing. Let’s get it out in the open. Let’s talk about it.

At this point, you have to understand that these women – and the vast majority of these [MPD cases] are women – they’ve been indoctrinated into this lifestyle, at this point, for a good 20 years. It’s their identity. That’s how they see themselves. I think that’s very difficult to give up. What do you have when you take that away?

I think that’s what I witnessed them trying to work through at that conference I went to.

I think you were. But say these women say, okay, my therapist is making me believe this, this didn’t really happen…? Well, what are they left with? They’re left with years of figuring out what the heck happened. They are going to lose their entire support system, which consists of other women who believe they have MPD. They are going to lose the attention of a devoted therapist.

It leaves a big hole in their lives. And then – like me – you have to figure out, now what do I do? How do I get my life back together? How do I get my life back?

Beyond that have you suffered any long-term effects from your psychiatric abuse?

Yeah. I still have PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome] from it. Sometimes it arises from the most innocuous thing. The one that hits me the most is my dog’s leather collar. If I smell that, I remember being strapped to a bed. I think there are health issues related to having been under a severe amount of stress. Unrelenting stress for over 6 ½ years while in therapy. Then I had to go underground in order to get away from him. So then there was that stress. I came out to Colorado and had to consider, okay, now what do I do? I had to get back on my feet. So after 6 ½ years of stress in therapy, there was an equal amount of stress 6 years later in trying to get my life back together.

Sounds like you’re doing well now, and I can’t wait for the book to come out.

Thank you. I’m anxious for it to come out, and to get the word out there. There are a lot of families, a lot of people, who have gone through this, and they have nothing to read – nothing to identify with – they have nothing to hold in their hand and say, see, this is what happened to my family. This is why, you know, my husband is in jail. This is why I’ve been saying there is something wrong with my sister. They have nothing.

Thank you very much for chatting with me…
Conducted by Doug Mesner, November 15, 2009