Yet another remembered-rape story appeared in the Washington Post on Dec 18th. Headlined “It Should Never Be Too Late to Tell Your Story of Rape,” it was written by Abigail Hauslohner, one of the paper’s own reporters.
Hauslohner claimed that almost a decade and a half ago, as a teen, she was raped by a young man she’d considered a close friend:
I went to visit my friend — I’ll call him “X” — at his college campus. I saw X as a goofy but caring, older-brother type; we’d overlapped in high school and had a platonic and confiding sort of friendship. I never found him attractive.
When X went to college, he joined a fraternity and promised to take me to a real college party. My parents, who were fairly strict and usually would not have let me spend a weekend visiting a boy on a college campus, let me go because X was a friend. I packed my coolest top — a bright pink, sleeveless turtleneck sweater — a pair of Guess jeans and a new necklace that I loved.
The party was hosted by X’s fraternity. I remember walking into a relatively empty house and settling in nervously on a couch. Most of the people in the room were guys, and I was eager to seem cool. X asked if I wanted a drink; I said sure. He brought me a big plastic cup full of red punch.
The rest of that night I remember in flashes of images and sound. I can’t remember anything between sitting on the couch and drinking from that cup, and then being propped up in the back seat of a car that wasn’t X’s, with someone else driving someplace. I think I lost consciousness somewhere between the couch and the car.
Then I was lying on X’s bed in his dorm room, and he was on top of me, kissing me and fondling my breasts.
I felt like a block of lead, melded to the bed. My vision was blurred, and the room was dim. I seemed to have no control of my body, as X struggled to remove my jeans and then my shirt, my head lolling to one side and then my body falling back onto the mattress.
I remember suddenly feeling pain between my legs and saying “No,” as loudly as I could, my voice hoarse, my lungs heavy. “No, no, no,” I said again and again. But I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even sit up. Eventually the pain disappeared.
I don’t know what time it was when I woke up the next morning. My head felt like it was in the clutches of a vise, and a wave of nausea swept over me . . .
n the 48 hours after I was raped, I moved about my house — and even went to a friend’s home to socialize — in a dazed state of denial. The R-word was there, dangling in my mind, like a nightmare that lingers after waking. But I couldn’t bring myself to say it out loud . . .
As a staff reporter for the Post, Hauslohner would appear to have a credibility that most other women in this genre have lacked. I’m sure she drew a lot of sympathy from readers. But as I see it, she fits into the hysterical pattern even better than Bill Cosby’s accusers.
Just to start with, there is the less-than-convincing account of how she got from sitting on a couch at a frat party to lying powerless in her friend’s bed. Hauslohner apparently wants us to think that she was drugged, but fails to state that directly, and the rest of her account isn’t really consistent with a “date rape drugging” involving Rohypnol or ketamine. Studies suggest that such drugs are almost never used in alleged date rape cases anyway, alcohol being the usual judgment-impairing culprit.
And if Hauslohner went to a party and merely drank more than she could handle—as she half-acknowledges by writing that she wanted to seem cool to the college men—her account looks very “edited.” She “remembers” saying no to sex and being penetrated anyway, but somehow can recall little else in the hours leading up to that point, except that she was incapacitated to the point of being helpless—and presumably (though implausibly) had to be carried and “propped up” everywhere.
I wonder what X and his frat brothers would say about Hauslohner’s behavior that night. Certainly her account is what you’d expect—light on the details, and totally lacking in corroborative evidence (even friends she saw the next day would have noted nothing amiss, she admits)—of a woman who merely got drunk, impaired her judgment, and later regretted the things she did while so impaired.
The conservative pundit (and Stanford Law grad) Heather MacDonald wrote a great piece on “The Campus Rape Myth” several years ago, which ought to be required reading now that the subject is back on the front burner. Among other things she noted:
Campus rape ideology holds that inebriation strips women of responsibility for their actions but preserves male responsibility not only for their own actions but for their partners’ as well. Thus do men again become the guardians of female well-being.
The traumatic memory
What struck me even more about Hauslohner’s story was something she wrote at the start of her article:
. . . it wasn’t until I completed an intensive course of therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder in October that I was able to finally confront pain I’ve been carrying with me for 14 years. I had gone to see a PTSD therapist to seek relief from what I’ve witnessed and experienced as a Middle East and war correspondent, to deal with the fear that had taken over my dreams and had begun to affect my work. I wanted to be able to react calmly to loud noises — instead of sensing an explosion every time a door slammed or a car backfired.
I don’t know the details of Hauslohner’s “intensive course of therapy.” But the fact that she has been seeing a therapist and has been diagnosed with PTSD is at least consistent with the hypothesis that her memories are mutable.
Many of the hysterical syndromes that have arisen throughout history, especially recent history (e.g. multiple personality disorder), have had to do ostensibly with “traumatic memories”—typically of rape or some other form of sexual abuse by men. As Sigmund Freud and his colleague Josef Breuer wrote in 1891, “the hysteric suffers mainly from reminiscences.”
Few therapists want to use the term “hysteria” these days, because of its negative connotations. But whether they call it PTSD or something else, they still tend to believe that the patient’s otherwise-inexplicable symptoms—anxieties, neuroses, personality shifts, vague aches and pains—are manifestations of a traumatic event in the past that has never been sufficiently acknowledged.
Thus, in the therapy setting, the patient is likely to be encouraged to transform any painful memory or even a hint of one into a “memory” of a full-blown trauma that can “explain” her symptoms and hopefully resolve them by being brought out into the open.
Until recently, therapists had what they thought was an amazingly easy tool for finding such traumatic memories: they used hypnosis to guide the patient back through her past and thereby “recover” the memories she had suppressed. By the mid 1990s it was clear that this technique was simply generating false memories, and it was largely abandoned.
However, it remains easy, in practice, for a therapist even inadvertently to coach a patient into turning the hazy memory of drunken, later-regretted sex—a “trauma” complicated by the patient’s own complicity and guilt—into a more detailed but essentially false memory of outright rape, in which the patient was powerless and thus not at fault.
The purpose of “rape memories”
What I think most people fail to understand about these new rape “memories” is that they are meant principally to have a therapeutic effect for the women involved. That therapeutic effect may also be enhanced for those women who publicize their stories via the media, join support groups, etc.—because the resulting positive, sympathetic feedback helps to validate and solidify the new memories.
But one thing the history of hysteria tells us loudly and clearly is that we shouldn’t take these new therapeutic “memories” as necessarily true historical accounts, nor should we be quick to take them out of the therapy context and put them into a media or a legal context.
In the multiple personality disorder hysteria of the 1980s and 1990s, the use of false sex-abuse memories to bring widely publicized criminal charges (against innocent people) typically was initiated by naïve therapists, not by the patients themselves—probably because the patients knew at some level that their therapy-induced memories were false.
PTSD appears to have become part of this “traumatic memories” tradition. It definitely appears to be a modern, culture-bound invention—not an ancient disorder that the medical profession has recently rediscovered. And although PTSD first became well known in modern times as a shell-shock condition suffered by male soldiers, and even now many PTSD claimants are male war veterans, the disorder (as you would expect of a hysterical syndrome) has come to be dominated by women, mostly women in ordinary civilian life.
Women’s claimed reasons for getting a PTSD diagnosis include rape and childhood sexual abuse—as was the case for the multiple personality disorder epidemic—but also relatively common and mild events such as giving birth. And since there is no objective clinical test that can rule PTSD in or out, and patients in search of a PTSD diagnosis can easily shop around until they find an obliging therapist, there has been nothing to stop PTSD from becoming epidemic.
As Hauslohner’s account shows, that epidemic has infected even journalists in the mainstream media—which I guess is another reason, if one were needed, to take remembered-rape claims in the MSM with a big pinch of salt.