Still from Dateline NBC, October 1998.
Dr. Bennett Braun, a founding President of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD), is facing his twelfth lawsuit.
The following information about Braun and the ISSTD is essential context for reporters, observers, and patients:
- In 1984, Braun and seven colleagues co-founded the International Society for the Study of Multiple Personality and Dissociation. It became the International Society for the Study of Dissociation in 1994 before changing to its current name in 2006. Since its founding, and to this very day, the ISSTD has been a hub for mental health practitioners who propagate the debunked conspiracy theory of Satanic ritual abuse, which sparked the shameful era known as the “Satanic Panic” in the 80s and 90s. Evidence that the ISSTD is the last refuge for proponents of this dangerous conspiracy theory is overwhelming, and includes the fact that at least half of the co-founders of the ISSTD have, in one way or another, promoted it.
- In 1986, 29-year-old Patricia Burgus checked into Braun’s psychiatric unit at Rush–Presbyterian–St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago. Under Braun’s care, Burgus began to “recover” memories of Satanic ritual abuse. She later sued, winning a $10.6 million settlement. As an article in Chicago reported,
Pat Burgus thought she would soon be healed when psychiatrist Bennett Braun began treating her for multiple personality disorder. Instead, under hypnosis and on heavy medication, Burgus came to believe she possessed 300 personalities, ate human flesh, and sexually abused her two sons. Later, convinced Braun helped manufacture those memories, she sued. Now, even after receiving a $10.6-million settlement, she won’t let up in her crusade against the man whose treatment, she says, nearly destroyed her.
In an utter failure of oversight, Braun’s licensing board suspended his license for just two years. Braun later moved to Butte, Montana, where he was able to obtain a license and set up a new practice. More coverage of the Burgus case can found in the Dateline piece here.
- According to In-Sight, Elizabeth Gale entered therapy with Braun in 1986 for mild depression and then was made to believe that she had MPD, and was active in an intergenerational satanic cult. She was also made to believe that she had bred babies for the Satanists, who were sacrificed after birth. With the approval of Bennett Braun, she went through a tubal ligation at age 31, so that she would no longer harm children. In 2004, Bennett Braun and his colleague, the psychologist Roberta Sachs, and Dr. D. Corydon Hammond paid Elizabeth Gale $7.5 million to settle her claim that they persuaded her into believing she needed to be sterilized so she would have any more babies to be sacrificed to Satan. In reality, Elizabeth Gale never gave birth to any babies, and never will. Another judgment against Braun was for $10.5 million.
In 2015, Gale spoke out about her abuse at the hands of Braun.
- In 1989, Braun, along with other prominent ISSTD members, including Richard Kluft, D. Corydon Hammond and Roberta Sachs, participated in the production of an audio tape that purports to present a “professional overview” of “ritual child abuse.” A partial transcript of the tape can be found here.
- Appeared in the infamous 1988 episode of "The Geraldo Rivera Show" titled Devil Worship: Exposing Satan's Underground, a so-called documentary for which Rivera himself eventually apologized.
- In the course of his investigation into allegations of Satanic ritual abuse for the FBI, Supervisory Special Agent Kenneth V. Lanning visited Braun’s dissociative disorders clinic. Although Braun had been public about his claims that his patients suffered abuse at the hand of Satanic cults, Lanning’s investigation concluded in his 1992 report that no such Satanic cults exist.
- In September of 1998, the criminal trial of USA v. Peterson, et al., began. This lawsuit charged therapists with convincing patients, using pseudoscientific recovered memory therapies, that they were victims of Satanic ritual abuse. Braun was named as an unindicted co-conspirator.
- Braun was expelled from the American Psychiatric Association in 2001.
- Braun’s poor reviews on doctor rating sites suggest that he has continued to engage in incompetent and dangerous practices, unimpeded by licensing boards who are primarily concerned with protecting “professionals” such as Braun at the expense of the public in general and vulnerable mental health consumers in particular.
- A PBS Frontline documentary on the early “pioneers” of dangerous recovered memory therapy, including Braun, can be seen here.
The quotable Dr. Braun...
- In a 1992 story about his practices in Chicago, Braun explained to reporter Penelope Mesic why one of his patients began to perform poorly on her exams: “In her desire to study for finals, she had cut out watching cartoons on Saturday morning. Her child personalities didn’t like it, so they withheld the ability to do addition and subtraction.” She could still perform more complex mathematical operations, the reader is told, but she couldn’t pass an exam until she went back to watching cartoons to appease her “child personalities.”
- “[Y]ou don’t have evidence one way or the other because this may be the sample that didn’t have [human remains],” Braun said in a sworn statement, quoted in Chicago, defending his assertion that Burgus’s parents were cannibals who fed her human meat, even when his own hospital’s lab found no traces of human flesh in a sample Braun obtained from Burgus.
- According to Burgus, “[Braun] would ask me questions like, ‘When you’re eating this person, what does it look like? When you’re actually biting into it, what does it taste like? What does it smell like? Is it cooked? Is the person raw? Is there a different taste between a child and an adult?’”
- In order to explain away the lack of evidence that a roving Satanic cult -- of which Burgus was allegedly a “High Priestess” -- was abducting, abusing, and murdering children, Braun stated that his other patients reported “mobile crematoriums, which we do know exist from the time of Hitler. In terms of the small babies, the leftover bones, cartilage, etc., were fed to dogs, ground [into] fertilizer.”
- In his testimony, quoted in Chicago, Braun stated: “A patient who is dissociative and [is] telling things that are not accurate and/or [is] having flashbacks, you may need to, shall I say, enter the confusion so you can help them find their way out of it,” he testified.
- “[Satanic cults are] a national-international-type organization that’s got a structure somewhat similar to the Communist cell structure.”
- “Well, I’ve given you the ammunition to sue me,” Braun said to Burgus, after she suggested that the excessive dose of medication he prescribed her may have played a role in her bizarre and improbable memories.
- “I’m counterphobic—I take pleasure in risks,” Braun said to Chicago magazine.
- According to Dateline, Braun stated the following at the 1992 ISSTD conference: “I’ve developed twelve “p’s” for your people in ritual abuse: pimps, pushers, prostitutes, physicians, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, principals & teachers, public workers, police, politicians & judges, priests & clergy of all religions.”
- "There never was any finding of wrongdoing by any court at any time," Braun said to the Missoulian. Meanwhile, the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation filed a nine-count complaint against Braun that led to his license suspension. The complaint accused him of "dishonorable, unethical and unprofessional conduct."
- “I want to help people. That's the most important thing in my life,” Braun said to the Missoulian.