You’re a Liar and a Very Sick Girl to Say Such Things About Your Nice Father

Recently I received a heartbreaking message from a woman who was once a child being sexually abused by her father. She told on him. At the treatment centre where she had been sent to receive therapy because she was acting out, the experts supported her “nice” father and treated her as a liar and a troublemaker.

This was back in the 70’s before the Women’s Movement forced the issue of child sexual abuse out of the nation’s closets.

I wonder ….. how many of today’s 50 year old men and women went through this terrible experience? How many tried to tell and were labeled by a professional world as mentally ill, disturbed or just plain malevolent This was a time in our history when the psychiatric literature proclaimed that child sexual abuse was so rare – one in a million families – that psychiatrists would be unlikely to meet it in the course of their careers.

Here is her email to me.

Dear Ms. Armstrong,

In your book Confessions of a Trauma Therapist you write about Dr. Angus Hood, supervisor at the Hincks Treatment Centre in Toronto. On pp. 89 you relate that “…fourteen-year-old Shirley Turcotte…was a suicidal teenager who revealed to…(her therapist Harvey) the sexual horrors of her childhood. Fortunately both Harvey and his supervisor, Dr. Angus Hood, were open to believing the unthinkable. Before long Harvey was treating a handful of youngsters who had been sexually abused in their homes.”

This was the same Dr. Angus Hood who, only shortly before, had assured my parents that I had imagined the precisely documented sexual horrors of my own childhood. The same Dr. Angus Hood who had assured them that these must be psychotic ravings against my ‘nice’ father. The same Dr. Angus Hood who refused to believe a word I said, who dismissed my physical pain, who did not respect my testimony, who filtered everything through his prejudiced assumption that a father like mine would not sexually abuse his daughter through formative years, ruining her life.

Well, Dr. Hood certainly contributed to ruining that life. He certainly did his bit to support the status quo. Along with my parents’ advisor, a woman by the name of Jaffe who told them sympathetically that their ‘crazy’ (must be crazy) daughter would occasionally act out – like slaves on southern plantations who just ‘went crazy’ every once in a while, then succumbed to suppression and settled down – but that this childish behaviour should be treated with zero tolerance by her mature, self controlled and responsible parents.

My name was Shelagh Watson and I was admitted to Hincks when I was 15, in 1970. I am now 57 and guess what? I still say what I said then, that I was habitually and systematically abused by my father for years. What a life I had. A life that was made worse by the abject failure of Dr. Hood and everyone at Hincks under his supervision who allowed it to continue with the official support of the psychiatric establishment in Toronto. And was it Dr. Hood who told the Clark Institute to refuse lie detector tests on the grounds that they don’t give correct results? Very likely, since my request to the Clark Institute had to go through Hincks. Maybe it’s true that lie detectors are no good, but the 60 million dollar question (guessed it yet?) is: Why, then, did the Clarke Institute have them?

I was a gutsy young person. I called a policeman in the middle of all this. But he didn’t believe me when he found out that I was in treatment. And why was I in treatment? Maybe – radical thought – just PTSD from being abused. No, make that TSD, since it was still going on. Dr. Hood could have supported me, and he didn’t. Good going, Dr. Angus Hood, enabling incest. Ms. Armstrong, it’s about time you knew the whole truth about this man.


Shelagh Stephen

Do you have a similar story? Would you care to comment in the space below?


  1. dave l. says:

    I was an attendee at a SNAP (Survivor’s Network of those abused by Priests) conference about a decade ago. One lady got up and spoke how she wanted an apology from the American Psychological Association. I think she was from North Carolina and spoke of her abuse to a psychologist; and he said her story was so outrageously radical that it all was a fantasy in her young mind.

    • Dear Dave:

      Thank you for telling of the woman who was told by her psychologist that her disclosure of abuse was a fantasy. No wonder our whole society acted as if child abuse just didn’t exist. Child abuse was endemic and yet nobody knew it was happening. Isn’t that amazing!!!

  2. Shelagh Stephen says:

    Dear Ms. Reitz, there are three ways in which you cannot relate to my story: the sexual abuse I suffered caused level 10 somatic pain which is immeasurably worse than any emotional pain, however great that may be; I suffered denial from the psychiatric establishment as well as from my mother; she never acknowledged the abuse, even to shut me up, and no fellow sufferer ever came forward. If you want solidarity, you must accord me my due.

    But in one thing we are similar, and that is the persistence of the same emotional pain decades later. There have been recent studies of emotional pain – by real scientists unlike the fakes who ‘treated’ me – and it has been found (not surprisingly) that emotional pain is actually created by a brain process, unlike somatic pain which requires a process in the part of the body affected. A memory of emotional pain causes a repeat of this brain process and therefore re-wounds as a memory of somatic pain cannot.

    Only if the memory is reinterpreted can this re-wounding end. If your pain is grief at losing the illusion that you had a mother, then it must be processed as grief (not rage) and emotional separation. But there may be more to it than that. In order to function, CSA victims tell themselves repeatedly during formative years that their abuse is not real. Thus they repeatedly tell themselves that their pain is not real – in other words, that they are not real. It follows that they look to others’ affirmation to believe in anything, even their own existence.

    As CSA victims, we do not carry an innate knowledge that we are subjective beings. It was amputated, and in its place is a wound which never heals. When other people deny our personhood they touch that open wound. And when we remember their denial, the memory touches that open wound. It remains forever open, as if waiting for our lost sense of personhood to return.

  3. Shelagh Stephen says:

    It seems that CSA victims have two options: We can go along with other people and give in to thinking we’re not real. That’s the first option. Or else, in contradicting them, we can remind ourselves that they think we’re not real – thus reminding ourselves that we also think we’re not real. That’s the second option.

    I have chosen the second option, painful as it is. It seems that you have also, Ms. Reitz, and I applaud you for it. I don’t know if the pain will ever end, but better to work through it than to pretend it isn’t there.

  4. Dear Bettiann:
    You share the endless pain of so many who told and were not believed. I understand the split between how you look on the outside and how you feel inside.
    Have you received trauma therapy? EMDR and, more recently, Brain Spotting, are examples of treatments that change the way your brain holds your memories.
    Thanks for writing. Your experience will help others.

    Mary K.

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