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National Centre for Reason and Justice
[This is Chapter 4 from Victims of Memory: Sex Abuse Accusations And
Shattered Lives, by Mark Pendergrast (Upper Access Books, 2d edition, 1996).
Another former patient, Mary Shanley (her real name), echoes much of Angela’s experience. As a 39-year-old first grade teacher, she entered an in-patient unit under Bennett Braun’s supervision in the Chicago area, early in 1990. She disliked Braun intensely. “He thinks that he’s God,” she told me, “and you’d better think so too.” But Shanley admired Roberta Sachs, her psychologist. Under Sachs’s tutelage, Shanley came to believe that her mother had been the high priestess in a satanic cult, and that she, Mary, was being groomed for the position. “I remembered going to rituals and witnessing sacrifices. I had a baby at age 13, supposedly, and that child was sacrificed. I totally believed all of this. I would have spontaneous abreactions, partly because I was so heavily medicated. I was on Inderal, Xanax, Prozac, Klonopin, Haldol, and several other drugs, all at once. No wonder I was dissociating.”
After eleven months, Shanley finally got out of the hospital for three months. Then Roberta Sachs called her and asked if she would consult with psychologist Corydon Hammond, who was coming to town to give a workshop. After a hypnotic session during which Hammond tried to get Shanley to name Greek letters and identify a Dr. Green, he announced that she was so highly programed and resistant that she was not treatable. Her nine year old son, however, might still be saved if he was treated in time. Otherwise, the cult would kill him. Shanley’s husband believed Hammond, and Mary Shanley was whisked to the airport, not knowing her destination.
She arrived in Houston in May of 1991 to enter Spring Shadows Glen under the care of Judith Peterson. “When I first met Dr. Peterson, I thought she had this beautiful smile, and she spoke so softly and gently. She’s tall and thin, sort of like a China doll, with a porcelain complexion and bright red hair. She’s very striking.” Once inside the hospital, however, Shanley found ******** to be precisely the opposite of her first impression. “She was known on the ward as the red-headed bitch,” Shanley told me. “She did not like me at all and made no bones about it.” After Shanley called a mental health advocacy hotline to complain, she found herself accompanied “one-on-one” for 24 hours a day by a technician. “I was locked out of my room and kept in the central lobby. I wasn’t allowed to use the telephone or to go outside. That’s when I took up smoking, so that I could at least go outside briefly. I slept on the floor or on a couch. After I hurt my back in abreactive sessions, they let me drag my mattress out.”
Part of Shanley’s problem was her honesty. Even though she believed that she had been in a cult and possessed internal alters, she would not make them up on cue to please Dr. ********. When she would not perform properly during an abreactive session, she would be kept in restraints for up to nine hours until she told ******** what she wanted to hear. “A lot of the times, the tech and I would discuss what answer she might want.” Sometimes, the psychodramatist and another psychologist would sit on either side of Shanley during sessions. “If Dr. ******** asked a question and I couldn’t answer, they would talk back and forth, representing my alters, literally talking over my head.”
Most of ********’s efforts concentrated on eliciting information regarding Shanley’s son, who was going through a similar abreactive process back in Chicago with Roberta Sachs. ******** would FAX new information to her colleague in Illinois. “It would work the other way, too,” Shanley says. “Dr. ******** told me how my son acted out how he could cut a human heart out of a living body. I thought, there’s no way he could imagine that. And I thought, he doesn’t lie, I know he’s not a liar. So I believed it all.”
After over two years in Spring Shadows Glen, Mary Shanley finally got out in 1993. She has lost her husband and child, who still believe in the satanic cults. She has lost her home and her 20-year teaching career. “I have absolutely nothing. I don’t even have enough clothes to wear to my work in a department store.” She can’t teach or hold a federal job because she is on a list of suspected child molesters.
Two lawyers — Zachary Bravos of Wheaton, Illinois, and Skip Simpson of Dallas, Texas — are representing Shanley and several other patients in suits against Judith ********, Roberta Sachs, Bennett Braun, and others. Because of their willingness to take her case, Shanley feels some hope for her future.