MotherJones JF93: Where Truth Lies

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Lynn Gondolf has always remembered her uncle raping her. The abuse occurred during the summers she spent with him, from when she was seven until she was thirteen years old. Each morning, after treating Lynn to breakfast at a local cafe, her uncle drove her in his Chevy pickup out to the barren oil fields surrounding Lindsay, Oklahoma. Amid the pump jacks, storage tanks, and stunted trees, he would have intercourse with her, as she lay on the seat and he stood on the ground outside the truck’s open door.

Afterward, he would give her a dollar for candy.

“The breakfasts and the candy were the bright moments during those summer days,” says Gondolf, now thirty-one. “That’s probably why food became a problem for me.”

Five years ago, Gondolf went into therapy, hoping to put an end to her chronic binge-and-purge eating disorder. When she told her therapist about the rapes by her uncle, he said that she didn’t seem to be showing “enough” emotion. Later, during individual and group therapy, he used dream analysis and trance writing to search her unconscious for signs that other members of her family had abused her as well.

During more than a year of therapy, Gondolf discovered repressed memories of her father raping her. She lost her job, became addicted to half a dozen types of medication, and contemplated suicide.

As she tells it: “You’re sitting there and someone has taken everything you thought you knew about your family – the people you love – and twisted it. They tell you that everything you knew for twenty, thirty, forty years was wrong. Your parents, whom you trusted, the values they instilled in you as a child – you’re told they are all garbage. It was devastating for me.”

The turning point for Gondolf came when her insurance ran out. Forced to stop therapy, she began to re-examine her repressed memories on her own.

After carefully considering what she had experienced in therapy, she became convinced that her therapist had coerced her and the other members of her group into imagining memories of abuse. All of the women in her therapy group eventually claimed to have discovered repressed memories of being abused as children. One of them, after discovering such a memory, killed herself.

“Everything is so simple in the world of repressed memories,” Gondolf says. “If you claim that your parents cared for you, then they say that you are in denial. Anything you say can and will be misinterpreted. There is no way around it. This is costing people their lives.”


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