You Can Go Home Again


You Can Go Home Again

Laura Davis on Learning that Sometimes Being in a Relationship Means More Than Being Right

By Mary Sykes Wylie

July/August 2003


A decade ago, you could hardly pick up a magazine or newspaper or watch daytime TV without being exposed to the Great Recovered Memory Debate. Had millions of American women--and even men!--been abused as children by their own parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friendly neighbors? Was it possible that childhood sexual abuse--even unimaginably sadistic, grotesque, and ritualized sexual tortures--could be "repressed" and forgotten for years on end, and then suddenly "recovered" and remembered in adulthood? Had a vast plague of horrific child abuse finally been uncovered? Or were thousands of perfectly innocent parents being unjustly persecuted by delusional children and their Svengali-like therapists?

The Courage to Heal, by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis, perhaps the most popular and influential self-help guide for abuse survivors ever written, became a symbol of the entire debate. Published in 1988, the book and its authors were revered by tens of thousands of abused women, who felt the book not only gave voice to their suffering, but offered them a blueprint for survival and recovery. At the same time, it was excoriated by parents who believed they'd been falsely accused, as well as their allies--sundry psychologists, academics, lawyers, researchers, therapy bashers, and "retractors" of repressed abuse memories. More than any incest recovery book, The Courage to Heal was blamed for abetting a hysterical epidemic of false accusations, turning…

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