Refutation of the disinformation about Monica Pignotti

Posts tagged ‘Scientology’

Raising the Anonymous Posters’ Consciousness on Rape: 60% of Rapes are Never Reported to Police

Well, actually what I wrote in the title is not possible since these are malicious smear campaigners who appear to lack any kind of conscience whatsoever when it comes to posting fabrications about me, but the purpose of this posting is to set the record straight and provide any readers who are unaware, with the facts about how often rape is not reported to police. The anonymous smear posters are now demanding documents including a police report for an incident that occurred nearly 40 years ago where I was raped while I was in Scientology. At first they were ignorantly misportraying this as a new revelation on my part. When I proved them wrong and pointed out I had written about this in 1989, they just brazenly moved on to more smears, which has been their usual and all too predictable practice. When I expose the lies or their ignorance, they just move on to something else hoping people will forget they have been exposed, typical behavior for a pathological liar.

Most shamefully, the smear campaigners are now misportraying my sexual victimization that I had therapy 22 years ago to address, as “sexual escapades”. No, rape is not a “sexual escapade” and their attempts to portray it as such only demonstrates how low the smear campaigners have sunk, accompanied by their disgusting fabrications about me. I was in therapy 22 years ago to deal with a rape, not “sexual escapades”.

Additionally, the reason I didn’t report it was not, contrary to the ignorant postings of the smear campaigners, because I had some kind of “OT” Scientology beliefs. At the time this occurred, I had not reached any advanced Scientology levels and even if I had, Scientologists do not believe they can literally turn back time and make things not happen. The term “erasure” refers to removal of the emotional charge from traumatic events, not literally wiping out the event itself and as for OT superpowers, that is only claimed for the ultimate OT level, which at the time I was in Scientology no one had reached. So no, I never had any beliefs that I held such superpowers. The claimed end phenomenon for the level I did reach was simply, “return of full self-determinism”, not any supernatural powers but at that time, I hadn’t even reached that yet. The reasons I did not report the rape to police were much more mundane and rather common for women in those days who were raped by someone they voluntarily went with.

These latest smear postings demanding proof for a rape that occurred nearly 40 years ago that I shared in a personal account of my experience, indicate a very antiquated awareness of the statistics on rape victims, especially those that occurred that long ago. The fact is that the vast majority of rapes are never reported to the police. Even today, 60% of rapes are not reported to police. This was especially so in the early 1970s when it wasn’t even considered rape if the woman voluntarily went into a room with a man. Actually that kind of rape was very common in those days. Thankfully nowadays for most people, consciousness on this topic has been raised and rape is rape, regardless of whether the woman initially went voluntarily somewhere with a man, although it seems that even in this day and age, some people have yet to learn this.

In my case, I did not report the rape because in those days, my report probably would have been dismissed. He could have claimed it was consensual and it would have been my word against his and in fact, for years I blamed myself for this until in the late 1980s, I had therapy and my therapist helped me to understand that this incident did, indeed qualify as rape. When I finally told my therapist about this during the late 1980s, I saw tears come to her eyes and she said, “You were an innocent. This was not your fault”. That was so true. I was a sheltered, very naive 19 year old who actually believed the guy was going to help get me a legitimate acting job in the movies and I went with him, believing the myth that people could get “discovered” in that way. One of the nasty postings called me a “professional victim”. No, disclosing this does not make me a “professional victim”. For one thing, I have never been paid for having been a victim of rape. I have noticed, however, that “professional victim” is a phrase that people who wish to intimidate victims from speaking out and blame victims, just love to use. Rest assured, it will not have that impact on me. Calling me by that name will only make my voice grow louder to demonstrate that I will not be shouted down on this or on any other topic I feel it is important to speak out on.

So no, I did not report the incident when it happened because like many woman in those days, at the time, I blamed myself for going with him in the first place and did not view it as a rape at the time. I actually shared this with a few other Scientologists at the time and they too blamed me, the victim, for falling for the scam (quite ironic, since we had all fallen for Scientology). It was my therapist, years later after I had been out of Scientology for 13 years, who made me aware that this was rape.  It was then, that I chose to write about it in that affidavit of 1989 and until now, no one has had the indecency to attempt to shame me for this in any way. Therapy taught me not to blame myself and not all the internet smear campaigns in the world are going to shame me or break me.

Another statistic to be aware of is that about 50% of rape victims experience PTSD. That is a higher rate than veterans of war. However, I am in the fortunate 50% that did not develop PTSD. My therapy was mainly cognitive restructuring, meaning the therapist challenging my erroneous beliefs about the experience, such as blaming myself and this approach worked well for me. Even though I did not have PTSD, I did have residual feelings of self-blame and that is what therapy helped me to overcome. In the cases of people who are suffering from PTSD, however, they may need to have a therapy known as prolonged exposure therapy, which is a very well-supported therapy for PTSD, shown to be highly effective for people who have been traumatized by rape. Fortunately, there is help available and there are many compassionate, competent, caring and ethical therapists who can offer such help for PTSD or any other residual effects of trauma.

Every time I think the anonymous cyber smear campaigners cannot sink lower, they do. This attacking me for a rape that I wrote about that occurred nearly 40 years ago is indeed a new low, even for them.

So no, I don’t need to prove anything to anyone and anonymous cyber smear campaigners have no right to demand such proof. Their using this incident that I wrote about 22 years ago, to smear me makes them, not me, look very bad and a number of people have their own opinions as to who the circumstantial evidence indicates is behind all this. In any case, their ignorance on this topic is beyond belief.

Go here for some education on the topic.

60% of rapes/sexual assaults are not reported to the police, according to a statistical average of the past 5 years.2 Those rapists, of course, never spend a day in prison. Factoring in unreported rapes, only about 6% of rapists ever serve a day in jail.

Convictions

And this is 2011. In 1972, things were far worse.

Apparently the anonymous cyber smear campaigners are incapable of distinguishing what requires proof and what does not. Contrary to the recent straw man arguments being put forth by the anonymous smear campaigners, I have never, ever claimed that my PhD makes me immune to needing to prove things. If I was delivering interventions to children, I would indeed need to produce evidence to support what I was doing. However, they fail to make the distinction between what kinds of claims require proof and which do not. My claims about my own experiences in the distant past, are not provable and my inability to produce “documents” does not harm anyone.  No decent person would ever expect or demand proof of this.

This is very different from people such as Ronald Federici who are recommending interventions for internationally adopted children that recommend the use of prone restraint, which have no randomized controlled clinical trials to demonstrate their safety and efficacy. This is not a double standard. If Ronald Federici had chosen to write about personal experiences he had in the 1970s, I would not demand proof. If some associate of Federici’s was involved in a court case in the 1990s, I would not demand that he prove anything about it. What I do demand proof for is the claims he makes about his interventions for children.If I were delivering such interventions, I would also be obligated to provide evidence for them.

The anonymous posters attempt to equate apples and oranges. Needless to say, making unsupported claims about interventions being used on children is very different from making a claim about a personal experience that occurred nearly 40 years ago.  I am also not responsible to produce “evidence” for the postings of anonymous survivors of holding therapy, as that was never my blog, nor am I responsible to produce evidence involving long ago concluded voting machine cases that I had no involvement in whatsoever. Their attempt to equate these things fools no one but the true believers who attack me.

Moreover, anonymous cowards who use their anonymity to post malicious lies, have no right to make any demands of someone such as myself, who has always posted using my real name. If the anonymous cyber smear campaigners want to ask me something, let them reveal their identity first. I don’t respond to anonymous abusers, who have no intention other than twisting my words to attack me further, nor do I have anything to prove to them.

I will, however, continue to demand proof from mental health professionals who are offering interventions for their clients that appear to be lacking in evidence and I would hold myself to that same standard, for any interventions I recommend to others. If the anonymous smear campaigners think my social work colleagues would in any way be sympathetic to their disgusting behavior of attacking someone who shared a highly personal experience of having been raped at the age of 19, they really don’t know the social work profession, as any decent social worker will be appalled at such postings attacking me for sharing an experience about having been raped. Actually, one Dean of a prominent school of social work, when I told her about some of the earlier postings, attempting to reassure me, let me know that no rational person would believe a word these anonymous smear campaigners wrote about me.

So keep it up, cyber smear campaigners. You only make yourselves and your gurus look very, very bad when you attack someone for sharing a personal experience of a rape, very different from making a claim about an intervention.

To the cyber smear campaigners: If you think you are going to break me down in any way emotionally by posting about this, think again. I had therapy for this issue more than 20 years ago and since that time have become a highly empowered survivor who will not be broken, nor will I back down in my activism against harmful practices with children. Attacks such as this only show your appalling ignorance on the topic.

Now, back to the topic at hand, where is the evidence that the interventions that Ronald Federici promotes for children, are safe and effective? No matter how many lies his followers post about me and no matter how hard they try to deflect from this topic by posting lies about me and irrelevant nonsense about voting machine cases I had no involvement in whatsoever, I will continue to ask that question, as I will continue to ask for evidence to support the claims of a number of other mental health professionals who are making claims on the internet and else where that lack proper evidence (i.e. studies published in peer reviewed journals) to support them. Every time lies and ugly smears are posted about me, I will bring the discussion back to the topic at hand, which is the reason why I am currently the target of this smear campaign. I have challenged therapy gurus who have followers who obviously do not like to have their unsupported claims challenged.

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Why Monica Pignotti Still Cares About Helping Others who are Still in Scientology

The anonymous WordPress bloggers are at it again, attempting to slam me simply because I chose to sometimes participate in discussions with Scientologists, attempting to imply that this means I have not “abandoned” Scientology. It is obvious from reading the discussions that precisely the opposite is true. I left and fully repudiated Scientology 35 years ago. However I have not stopped caring about helping people who are still trapped in Scientology. Hence, the discussions to see if I can show them other perspectives. I spend only a very small portion of my time doing this.

Additionally I have a strong interest in studying and investigating how it is that people come to adopt belief systems that most people would consider strange and improbable. Contrary to popular myth that I have discussed elsewhere, evidence shows that most people who get involved are not mentally ill or misfits. On the contrary, cults target people to recruit who are stable and who will represent the group well and thus be able to attract more new members. This is especially relevant to my interest in criticizing pseudoscientific mental health practices. Having discussions directly with people who hold such beliefs is helpful to me in better understanding what is going on and may be helpful to me in generating new hypotheses that could be used in future research I may conduct.

Ironically, in recent years participants on the discussion group alt.religion.scientology (which is a discussion board consisting mainly of critics of Scientology) have complained about most of my postings being “off topic” due to the fact that the smear campaigners have been posting lies about me to that group on a regular basis for the past two years that have nothing to do with Scientology and everything to do with the criticism I have been involved in with regard to attachment therapy, coercive restraints and other similar therapies. Had I not been spending so much time criticizing that and had it been true that I was “fixated” on Scientology, these attacks on me would never have occurred.

What we have here is another rather lame attempt on the part of the smear campaigners to trash me for wanting to help others through rational dialogue. What the person decides to do as a result, is up to that person but there are people such as Tory “Magoo” Christman who had been in Scientology for 30 years and actually feels she was helped by some of the discussions she had with people she met through alt.religion.scientology such as Scientology critic Andreas Heldal-Lund, who she considered to be instrumental in her ultimately deciding to leave in 2000 because he cared enough about her to have discussions with her. Previously, she had been conditioned to believe that people like Andreas were evil incarnate, but through the discussions she had, she found out otherwise. This isn’t all that different from the followers of certain therapy gurus who have been conditioned to believe that I am evil incarnate. Having reasonable discussions can sometimes help people to see otherwise.

The most absurd part of the posting is that I am having a debate with someone on topics that are “far removed from the field of social work”. So what? I have studied and am interested in a number of subjects. Where is it written that I should only discuss social work topics just because that’s what my PhD is in? Newsflash: It isn’t written anywhere.

Also, the lie is being repeated that I was involved in a sexual relationship with Quentin Hubbard. Although there would be nothing wrong with it if I had been (he was nothing like his father), this is false. Quentin and I were never anything more than friends, as I clearly stated in my written account of my experiences. I also, contrary to the false propaganda, have not subscribed to any conspiracy theories about his death and continue to believe that, as reported, he committed suicide. This is yet another example of how low the smear campaigners would sink, that they would use the death of a dear friend to attack me.

It seems the anonymous smear campaigners are really having trouble to come up with material on me. Thus, they either fabricate lies or choose to slam me for having a dialogue with someone and make out as if it is some kind of huge violation that I have to answer for. The absurdity of that speaks for itself.

Anonymous Poster Responds to Monica Pignotti Statement of Support with More Lies

The anonymous poster has now responded to the Statement of Support for Monica Pignotti.

In this statement, thus far as of May 17, 2011, signed by 47 psychologists, social workers and other mental health professionals, reasonable requests were made, that:

We, the undersigned, unequivocally oppose the cowardly and unethical behaviors of the internet posters, and strongly affirm Dr. Pignotti’s right to raise legitimate criticisms of their therapeutic practices without fear of false and defamatory attacks. Criticism of therapeutic practices that lack empirical support and may be harmful is vital for the profession and we are deeply concerned that smear campaigns could discourage others from engaging in public scrutiny of these and other practices. We call on the internet posters to stop such practices immediately. We further call on the posters to publicly identify themselves and to voice their criticisms in the form of clear descriptions of their concerns, using recognized venues such as peer-reviewed articles rather than in the form of baseless personal attacks.  Additionally, we ask that any prospective employers of Dr. Pignotti not allow the actions of these posters and the fact she has chosen not to remain silent, to impact their hiring decisions.

The response was all too predictable, although it will be interesting to see whether the individual, if he does decide to harass the universities of the people who signed, will have the courage to put his own name to this or will try to do the harassment anonymously.

[Update: Since this response was received and I passed it along to those who already signed and those who I asked to sign since then, my support is only growing stronger and some of the new signers have provided me with the complete contact info for their affiliation and no one has withdrawn their support, in spite of the fact I fully informed them of this threatening response. Obviously these are people who are not going to allow bullies to intimidate them by threats to tattle to their institutions when they have done nothing wrong.]

I post the response, in full, to demonstrate how malicious this smear campaign has become [my responses are noted in blue].  Nomen Nescio, Latin for “name unknown” is a generic name of an e-mail address that renders the sender anonymous. It hides their IP address, making such e-mails or postings very difficult to trace. Other common generic names under which the smear campaigners have posted include George Orwell and Anne Onime.

From: Nomen Nescio <nob…@dizum.com>
Date: May 8, 11:01 am
Subject: Monica Pignotti: EPIC FAIL
To: alt.religion.scientology

Monica Pignotti has sealed her fate.

There will be NO compliance with the “demands” in the statement on her website.

[Interesting, since what was called for (the word “demand” was not used in the statement) was quite reasonable: For the anonymous posters to identify themselves and rather than attack me, clearly state their actual concerns in recognized venues. Instead, they choose to continue their current smear campaign consisting of red herrings, personal attacks and outright fabrications. The response is that there will be “NO compliance” with our request that they conduct themselves as decent human beings. This says more about them than it does about me or those who signed.]

Many of the signatories to her strident manifesto, such as Bruce Thyer, have vested interests in concealing the truth about her. Efforts to disseminate the TRUTH about her will continue, unabated.

[No “TRUTH” has been concealed about me. I have been more than open about my past, far more than most people are about their activities of their youth and most of what has been posted about me are lies that, if the poster put his name to them (e.g. saying I was fired from FSU when I was not), would likely be actionable in a court of law.]

In addition, the institutions whose faculty members have been foolish enough to sign this document will be contacted and retractions will be demanded. If these people wish to speak out, let them speak on their own.

[It will be interesting to see if this harassment is also conducted anonymously and if so, how universities would respond to “demands” and threats anonymous individuals who are upset because they are being asked to conduct themselves as decent, honest human beings. Whether or not the complainers identify themselves, they are in no position to “demand” anything.]

Some facts about Monica Pignotti:

1) She dropped out of college to join Scientology. She spent years in this crazy cult, and rose to the highest levels, containing scientifically unsound beliefs about alien warlords and the atom bombing of volcanos. While in Scientology, Monica Pignotti became romantically involved with Quentin Hubbard, one of the children of Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

[It is no secret that I was involved in Scientology, although I was never “romantically involved” with Quentin although he was an adult when I knew him. What this neglects to mention is that this is ancient history. I left and repudiated Scientology in 1976, 35 years ago, returned to and completed college and eventually went to graduate school and got an MSW and an PhD]

[2) After leaving Scientology, Monica Pignotti became a devotee of Roger Callahan and his bizarre therapies, Thought Field Therapy and Energy Therapy. These systems claim to heal by tapping the body and at the most advanced levels, diagnosis is performed over the phone. Pignotti stopped practicing energy therapy and used her inside knowledge to criticize it.

[That was 20 years after leaving Scientology. Again, this is no secret that I practiced TFT, although the “diagnosis” is not mental health or medical diagnosis. TFT is simply tapping on acupressure points on the body (like acupuncture without the needles — hardly considered “bizarre” and actually acupuncture is accepted in many mainstream hospitals although I have my own criticisms of it). I did not practice “Energy Therapy” and have no idea what it is, nor does Callahan have any therapy by that name. Perhaps the misinformed person is thinking of Energy Psychology, also not Callahan’s but an offshoot of TFT that I never practiced). As for TFT, I stopped practicing it over 7 years ago and many of the people who signed this statement have been aware of this since I left and have given me great support. This will hardly come as news to them.]

3) Pignotti entered academia. She was dismissed from a teaching position at Florida State University (FSU) for several reasons. First, she made obscene sexual propositions to faculty members. Second, many students complained that she wasted classroom time with anecdotes about time travel, Scientology, Roger Callahan, being single, and her dislike of geology.

[This is a libelous statement. If the poster put his name to it, this would be actionable in a court of law, possibly even as libel per se. I was not fired from FSU, nor did I engage in any of the activities mentioned, although I have on a number of occasions been invited to guest lecture classes on the topic of  Roger Callahan’s Thought Field Therapy and pseudoscience and also on discrimination against single people. Those lectures, where I presented my research on TFT and reviewed research on single people, were well received and legitimate and no complaints were made about them and lecturing on those topics certainly would not be grounds for dismissal. I have no idea where the reference to “geology” came from since this is not my area of expertise and have never said I “disliked” it. Anecdotes to illustrate a point are an acceptable and highly encouraged aspect of good teaching. I obtained my PhD from FSU and left only because I graduated and FSU does not hire their own graduates in tenure-track positions. My teaching at FSU was not as a faculty member, but as a PhD candidate to fulfill a yearly stipend I and all PhD students and candidates received the first three years in the program and possibly beyond, but cease upon graduation.]

[4) Monica Pignotti spent several years aligned with a fringe medical group. The head of this group, Larry W. Sarner of Loveland, CO, has bachelor’s degrees in political science and mathematics, and is unqualified to evaluate psychological interventions. Sarner bilked lenders and investors out of several million dollars on a scheme to develop and deploy voting machines. Even though Pignotti, for whatever reason, has parted company with Sarner, she continues to insist that his voting machines worked.

Red herring alert!

[This is a huge distortion and the voting machine part is a red herring. Larry Sarner is Executive Director of a non-profit advocacy organization I was involved with called Advocates for Children in Therapy. I served on their informal professional advisory board for four years. It is not a “medical group” and it would seem that the only people who have taunted the word “fringe” to describe it are proponents of the practices it has exposed (on the contrary the APA-endorsed APSAC Task Force Report cited publications from people in ACT while they advised against the practices ACT criticizes). The impetus for this smear campaign against several people involved in ACT is because we dared to criticize and expose potentially harmful “attachment”, coercive restraint and other similar therapies for children. I have “continued to insist” nothing about voting machines (I made one statement two years ago on a Randi forum which is taken out of context, where I also called them on this red herring, irrelevant to the practices of the therapist we were criticizing). I couldn’t care less about whether they worked or not and I had no involvement in the Sarner voting machine case whatsoever (it was concluded a decade before I even met Mr. Sarner), although based on court documents and docket sheets I have examined, these statements are false, as the cases were all civil, not criminal cases and he was never charged with fraud. The “voting machine” matter is a huge red herring.]

5) Pignotti applied for a position at New York University (NYU). She did not get it. She concocted a fantastic story about how her personal information was compromised, and she demanded that NYU conduct a full investigation.

[I did not “concoct” any fantastic stories. The fact is that although I did not discuss publicly my application for a faculty position, someone, somehow, by some unknown means found out about what should have been kept confidential and posted several times that I applied and then, that I did not get the position, before I received such notification. Lies have been posted about this matter when, in fact, I was considered a qualified applicant and simply did not get it because they decided someone else was a better fit for the position than I was. I have never challenged their decision, which I completely accept,  nor do I intend to. My concerns of how information was leaked, resulting in the obscene postings is a legitimate concern. It is reasonable that applications for faculty positions ought to expect that they will not have the information of their having applied, be publicly posted accompanied by lies about the reasons they did not get the position.]

NYU refused, and has stated, publicly, that they are glad they did not hire her.

[NYU has made no such public statements that I am aware of. If NYU had made any public statements about me of that nature, surely the anonymous posters would have been delighted to link to them or produced documentation, which they have failed to do. Instead, as usual, what we have are unsubstantiated, bald assertions.]

6) Pignotti considered applying for a position at Brigham Young University (BYU) which would have required adherence to the BYU honor code. Pignotti wrote a scathing blog post denouncing the Mormon faith.

[I have not “denounced the Mormon faith”. In fact, since the age of 14, I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and I have consistently defended the Mormon faith, even while inactive. Some cult experts such as Steven Hassan consider it a cult and I have defended it as not being a cult and have praised them for their open disclosure of their Honor Code.]

7) Pignotti associates with violent criminals. As an example, Robert Clark, who uses the pseudonym “henri” who has been convicted of making bomb threats against both churches and weather stations.

[I have no association with “violent criminals”. This statement is false on two counts 1) Rob Clark has never been charged with or convicted of any such criminal activity. If he had been, surely the Scientologists would have included documents on their Religious Freedom watch but not even the Scientologists make that claim about him. As I understand it, Clark has since become an attorney and 2) I have no association with Rob Clark whatsoever. The fact that he has been involved in some internet discussions on a public forum I was also on, does not mean I am associated with him. In fact, although he has at times defended me, on several occasions he attacked me.]

So there you have it, folks. The response is brazen as ever. Since no names were even mentioned other than mine in the statement of support and it clearly stated that the posters were unknown, it will be interesting to see what kind of threats the anonymous individuals will make if they do decide to harass those who signed. Will “Nomen Nescio” threaten to sue us all? That would be an interesting case. While “John Does” have been named as defendants, it is difficult to imagine how a “John Doe” or a “Nomen Nescio” could be a plaintiff in a defamation case, which would likely be laughed out of the courtroom.

The anonymous cyber smearers can repeat the lies about me until they are blue in the face but they will still remain lies, no matter how often they are repeated.

Daniel Ibn Zayd Comments on Federici v Pignotti et al and Ronald Federici’s Subsequent Responses

Daniel Ibn Zayd, whose blog was listed as Appendix I in Ronald Federici’s complaint in the now-dismissed Federici v Pignotti et al,  has now commented on his own blog on this case and on Ronald Federici’s response. [update September 21, 2011: Daniel Ibn Zayd recently listed Jean Mercer as an “adoption criminal” which should remove any remaining doubt as to whether he was in a “conspiracy” with defendants. This charge was ludicrous to begin with and the entire conspiracy charge was dismissed, but this is conclusive proof that there was no conspiracy. Most ironically, he appears to have placed Ronald Federici and Jean Mercer in the same category!].

He makes the very valid point that rather than being in the conspiracy alleged, the people Dr. Ronald Federici named as his “critics” are individuals, each with our own perspective on various issues who happen to have, independently, criticized the work of  Dr. Federici and any correspondence we had was only in reaction to Federici’s attempt to lump us all together.

On a smaller scale this is not unlike what has happened with the evolution of criticism of Scientology on the internet. Critics, not associated with one another, each with their own perspective, had reason to criticize Scientology. Although not in a conspiracy with one another, the criticism of Scientology has gained increasing momentum over the years. While some individuals have fallen by the wayside and have been defeated by Scientology, ultimately giving in and settling in various lawsuits, when we look at the big picture, any attempts to suppress criticism has only motivated even more critics to speak out against abuses, fight for their rights to free speech and continue to speak out.

Some critics of Scientology are motivated to do so because they themselves are former members of Scientology, others have had family members involved in Scientology and still others are very concerned about attempts to limit free speech on the internet by unwarranted copyright violation complaints and other attempts to curtail internet free speech. At times, the critics themselves had heated disagreements and argued and fought with one another — this is all very healthy and shows that this is not some kind of cult, but rather a movement of independent-minded individuals, each with their own views. Critics of Scientology represent all age groups, many different nations and come from diverse backgrounds, some still believe in Scientology itself whereas others consider it utter bunk, but what they have in common is their desire to put an end to what in their opinion are abuses within Scientology’s organization. This is not a “conspiracy” but rather, the evolution of a movement consisting of people who are exercising their rights to free speech on the internet. Those who try to stop this only end up making themselves look worse.

As recent discussions on the newsgroup alt.religion.scientology (ARS) suggest, some of the advocates of internet free speech who are critics of Scientology have also become interested in Federici v Pignotti et al. and Ronald Federici’s subsequent responses to his critics. These are people who were never his clients or even initially critics of his therapy, but became aware of him only because of postings to ARS and other usenet groups — not my postings or the postings of any critics, but postings made by unidentified individuals under various pseudonyms that were glorifying Federici and trashing his critics. This appears to have been the beginning of the anonymous smear campaign against Advocates for Children Therapy and several of Federici’s critics. Interest seems to have increased even more, following Federici v Pignotti et al. Disclaimer: Before clicking on any of the links to ARS, please be advised that the culture within these public newsgroups can include some people who use colorful language including some of the smear postings against me, so if you are offended by this type of speech, don’t click on the links.

Clarification Regarding the So-Called History Making Lawsuit Blog

Update 12/8/2010: Although the lawsuit was not filed on the date the anonymous blog claimed (10/1) a phone call to the Fairfax County Circuit Court Clerk’s office has confirmed that on November 24, 2010 Ronald Federici filed a lawsuit against me, four other individuals and an organization. As of today’s date at the time of this posting, I have not been served with any papers, nor has anyone attempted to serve me with such papers. If anyone does, I will accept service. Suffice it to say for now, I welcome the opportunity for the facts to be presented regarding these issues and am hoping that this matter will be resolved in a manner that is fair and just.

**********************

Some misunderstandings have arisen regarding this other WordPress blog entitled A History Making Lawsuit which is claiming that a lawsuit has been brought against me. One person on a list serv (I am not on the list serv but was made aware of it) jumped to the completely false conclusion that I am being sued by Scientologists. This is wrong on two counts.

  • First, there is no evidence I am being sued at all. The claim was made on October 1 on that blog that I had been sued and to date, I have not been served with any papers. In today’s posting a “case number” was given which I found out was not even in a searchable format on the internet. The only thing that comes up on a Google search is that blog and the VA case numbers I did find did not begin that way.
  • Second, the person the blog is claiming is suing me (although I repeat, to date, I have no evidence he is) is not a Scientologist. The person is Ronald Federici, PsyD, a Virginia licensed psychologist who has been threatening to sue me since July 2009 because I have criticized some of his writings. The blog in question explicitly states it is Dr. Ronald Federici, so there is no need to guess here. I don’t know if Federici or one of his supporters or someone he hired is writing the blog, but the claim is that Federici is suing me. Federici already sued some other people (not me, but people I am associated with) in small claims court, lost, and has a few more months to appeal those cases. It is definitely not Scientology.
  • Scientology has absolutely no reason to go after me. I left Scientology 34 years ago and am no threat to them at all. They are currently using their resources to go after Marty Rathbun and other very recent, very high level defectors with much to tell and have been all over the news, whereas I have nothing new to tell and they couldn’t care less about me and that’s just fine by me.
  • I have every right to criticize Dr. Federici. Any factual statements I have made, I have backed up with evidence and I have expressed my opinions about that evidence. I have repeatedly invited Dr. Federici, if he thinks I have gotten any facts wrong, to provide me with specific evidence to the contrary, but to date, no such evidence has been forthcoming. So far, no response with any specifics which is what he would have to do in court. In court, he would have to provide actual factual statements, prove the defendants wrote them, prove they are false and prove that the defendants knew they were false and that this damaged him.
  • I will not back down. Just imagine a world where people are so afraid of lawsuits, that they are afraid to challenge something they see that they sincerely believe is wrong. If this happens, we might as well be living in a totalitarian dictatorship and I am not willing to live my life that way.
  • Here is a summary of some of the main criticisms I have of Dr. Federici, who is a licensed clinical PsyD psychologist, not a Scientologist.
  • I am not a “therapist” and I have no business interest whatsoever in this matter. I am not a “business” competitor of Dr. Federici’s in any way, shape or form. The postings about me offering adoption services are false and were made via anonymous remailers. I am offering no such services. My motivation is loyalty to values and doing the right thing.

Let’s have a look at the track record here. To sum up,

  • Postings were made saying that criminal charges were being filed against me and I received threatening e-mails about this, sent via anonymous remailers saying I was “finished”. That turned out to be a lie.
  • Subsequently, postings were made that I had been arrested, charged with harassment by computer, jailed in Florida, placed in solitary for fighting with inmates, reading vampire novels while in prison, Sarner posted bail, Sarner revoked bail, was fighting and awaiting extradition to Virginia– all deliberate lies. Pure fiction. None of it happened. I was never charged or arrested for anything and have done nothing that would lead to such charges. As an interesting PS to this, it turns out that it is Federici who may be the fan of vampire novels as his picture appears on a web page on a book signing for a Dracula novel. Nothing wrong with that. Just sayin.
  • The lie was posted that I was trying to sabotage an adoption cruise. Here’s my posting setting the record straight on what really happened.
  • The lie was posted that I am offering adoption services and am setting up a center in 2011 in California. I have no such plans and am offering no such services. This seems to be an attempt to misportray me as a business competitor.
  • The lie was posted on October 1, 2010 that Federici had brought a lawsuit against me and in subsequent weeks, postings I was running from service of papers appeared. No one has ever attempted to serve me with any such papers and I have received none in the mail.
  • Now the claim is being made that the case has a number and has been filed. Note that this is essentially an admission that the postings at the beginning of October were lies, since if they had been filed back then they would have had a case number then and service would have been made during that month. With a track record like that, who in their right mind would believe anything on those anonymous blogs. There have simply been too many lies to believe anything these folks are posting about me.
  • If they were really suing me would they be stupid enough to tip their hand in the way they have in the History Making Lawsuit, revealing many of the questions they plan to interrogate me with and material they are going to demand from me? Unlikely, although I must confess that in the past, I have been guilty of overestimating intelligence and underestimating stupidity.
  • A more reasonable explanation, in my opinion, would be that they’re trying to scare me into giving up my legitimate rights to express my concerns about the interventions being promoted by Ronald Federici in his books and media appearances.
  • Unless I actually have court documents in my hands or see them on a legitimate court website, I have no reason to believe what has been posted.
  • Of course, anyone can sue anyone else for any reason, but that does not mean that the case is legitimate and if that were to happen, I would receive support from individuals in the scientific mental health community who no doubt would consider this a threat to the freedom to criticize that is so vital for scientific mental health practices to move forward. Because of the high value I place in freedom to criticize and its necessity if there is any chance of scientific mental health practice existing at all, even if I were to be sued, I would not back down.
  • The recent blogs are ranting on and on about how yes, its “REAL”, really it really is this time!  Rants in all capital letters are being posted asserting that the Fairfax case is real, calling us “crazy”. Yeah, right, shouting in all capital letters and calling us “crazy” really makes your arguments more compelling — not. And these are people who work with children who they claim have problems with pathological lying? Some role models.
  • It is also worth noting that even if the worst case scenario were to materialize and he somehow succeeded in silencing ACT and certain individuals in the US, there would still be no way for him to stop people who live far outside the jurisdiction of the US from speaking out. For instance, Daniel Ibn Zayd, who I have no association with whatsoever, has begun to post some very strong criticisms of Ronald Federici and because he lives in a country where he cannot be stopped, there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to silence him. He can criticize Federici all he wants and as far as I have been able to determine, there is nothing that Federici can do about it. This same thing happened when people began speaking out on the internet against Scientology. Ultimately on the internet, even though selected individuals can be stopped, free speech cannot be stopped because there will always be people who cannot be silenced, due to their geographical location. I have to note the irony, however, of the fact that Ibn Zayd, being in a country outside the US is freer to speak his mind on the internet than those of us in the US are. The average person would assume just the opposite — that we in the US would be freer and this may be the case on some issues, but not necessarily so. This really should give people pause to consider what is happening here in the US to chill free speech and how what kind of legislation might be proposed to remedy that.

Are people with strange belief systems not of sound mind?

There is a commonly believed myth that people with strange belief systems are always psychotic or not of sound mind in some way. In fact, the research of Richard J. McNally and his team of researchers at Harvard University and others demonstrates that by and large, people with strange belief systems are not psychotic.

McNally and his colleagues studied people who believed they had been abducted by aliens. Some even had the delusion that they had been taken up to spaceships, medically examined, and impregnated by aliens. Understandably, people uninformed in this area would make the assumption that such people had to be psychotic. However, when McNally and his team performed an extensive battery of psychological and psychiatric testing, they found that the vast majority were not psychotic and their mental health pathology was no different from a comparison group of normals who were subjected to the same tests.

This has implications for people in cults who adopt strange beliefs. Furthermore, the DSM IV-TR excludes a diagnosis of schizophrenia if the delusion is culturally based. If a person, for example, lives full time among Scientologists who have the Scientology belief system, which includes at its most advanced levels, a belief in Xenu and body thetans and incredible past life incidents, that could be considered a cultural belief because Scientology is that person’s culture (note the first four letters of the word). People who leave Scientology, usually drop that belief although there are some Scientologists who leave the organization and continue to affiliate with independent Scientologists who have that belief. Since leaving Scientology, I completely dropped that belief.

UPDATE: In a recent other WordPress blog, an absurd comparison was made that betrays the author’s ignorance about extensive social psychology research on social influence dynamics and techniques. The statement was made that most people laugh when they heard the OT III materials, but I did not. This completely and probably intentionally drops the context in which this belief evolved. If I had heard the OT III materials when I was new to Scientology I too would have laughed it off. I was not introduced to these materials until more than two years after I first became involved with Scientology and by that time was very much a part of the culture and under their social influence. Most people who stick with Scientology and get to OT III do believe it when they see it, not because they are gullible, stupid or kooky people but because they have come under social influence and have gradually accepted the belief system. The fact is that most people who have come under the influence of Scientology’s belief system do not “laugh” when they see the OT III materials. There is a very large body of social psychology research showing that susceptibility to influence techniques has absolutely nothing to do with intelligence, nor doe it mean that the person is in any way mentally ill or odd. Normal, intelligent people, given the right (or the wrong) circumstances can be influenced to believing some very strange things.

If we examine the belief systems of many mainstream religions, if looked at from the perspective of an objective outsider, many of those beliefs could be considered just as strange as those of nonmainstream religions. What makes them not seem strange is that the beliefs are held by millions of people, not their content.

It is a highly stigmatizing myth that people in cults are psychotic. The vast majority are not. In fact, although of course there are tragic exceptions to this, such as Lisa McPherson (who became psychotic long after her initial involvement) people who are truly psychotic usually do not last long in cults because in many cults, they would not be on medication and would not be able to function in the community. Eileen Barker cites a number of studies that dispel the myth that all or even most people in cults are mentally ill. On the contrary, most are not.

People leaving cults, especially those who were in for most of their adult life, have very real challenges adjusting to life in the outside world. Let’s not compound that by stigmatizing them with myths.

My attackers have written that I am “not of sound mind” because of my long-past experience in Scientology, so I thought I would use this as a opportunity to debunk myths and educate people on cults. There is no evidence to support this claim. Since leaving Scientology  in 1976 (which I was in for less than 6 years in the 1970s) I have operated as a high functioning adult with credible mental health professional references, who has held down long-term jobs, and acquired a BA, MSW, and PHD and have never received a diagnosis of psychosis or serious mental illness of any sort.

Similar assertions are made about my experience with TFT. TFT involves the stimulation of acupressure points. Millions of Americans believe in acupuncture/acupressure and in Eastern cultures, belief is even more widespread. The theory of meridians have no scientific basis, but believing in something that has no scientific basis hardly means that someone is mentally unstable. Were that the case, the vast majority of Americans (who surveys show believe in all kinds of unscientific things such as ESP) would have to be diagnosed. If so many believe in ESP, people believing in distance healing is not such a stretch, although VT is claimed to be based on a specific technology, not ESP.

More potentially dangerous than that, are therapists who recommend interventions for children that involve instructing parents to put disobedient children in a prone restraint position. While it is unlikely that these therapists are mentally ill, the intervention, like TFT, has no randomized clinical trials to support its efficacy and according to a 2002 review published review in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry by David M. Day, the theories behind such therapies have virtually no empirical evidence to support them. Day wrote (p. 274):

Second, as stated previously, none of the theories has been subjected to careful and systematic empirical evaluation. To be sure, there is a need for research to assess the propounded theoretical models to determine which are sound and which need to be revised or discarded. For example, Singh et al. (1999) commented that the underlying theory of restraint “is based partly on the unproven assumption that coercive interactions, which impose control through force, effectively reduce an individual’s aggression and lead to more socially acceptable behaviors” (p. 251). Drawing on the work of Patterson (1982), they went on to note that “in fact the opposite occurs” (p. 251), in that restraining children may serve to reinforce the aggressive behavior by fostering the coercive cycle of escalating aversive reactions. Such assumptions need to be carefully examined and revised on the basis of empirical observations. Moreover, there is a paucity of high-quality, methodologically sound research to inform clinical practice.

Rather than personally malign people with whom one disagrees as being psychotic or not of sound mind (which is unlikely to be the case), I find it is more useful to discuss the theories themselves and the degree of  research support for the interventions. In this case, it is sorely lacking. Given that the prime directive in any health/mental health professional code of ethics is to first, do no harm and given the controversy over the safety of restraints, the ethical thing to do would be to refrain from such practices or in a true emergency, which is defined as an immediate (not longer-term) threat of harm, use the least possible restrictive method for as short a time as possible. For example, if a child backs down and promises to be good, there would no longer be what the hospital restraint guidelines would consider an acceptable emergency. Some people believe otherwise, however and unlike my detractors I do not assume that people who disagree with me are mentally unstable. The literature does show, however, that there is very little support for these methods and burden of proof is on the therapists who are using these methods to show they are safe and effective with well designed controlled studies. So far, as Day’s review and several more recent systematic literature reviews have demonstrated, this has not occurred. Note that this is not an argument from “polemics” or authority. This is an argument from evidence or in this case, lack thereof.

Moreover, we, as a society, need to be really careful about labeling people who are different from the mainstream as mentally ill. History has shown that the infamous dictatorships that have done this have not created societies in which any rational, humane, decent person would want to live.

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