Expert Tease

A landmark Arizona court ruling leads a Mesa woman, her former physician and expert witnesses through a continuing controversy over flashbacks of long-ago sexual abuse.

That September, Logerquist allegedly had her first "flashback," tried to kill herself with pills, then landed back in the psychiatric ward.

Records suggest her memories of the alleged sex abuse at first were foggy. (Those memories apparently cleared up by the following January, when Logerquist provided elaborate details to the Green Bay attorney.)

According to a November 7, 1991, evaluation at the psychiatric unit, Logerquist claimed Danforth's alleged attacks had been "discovered at the time, although the parents never acknowledged it. At about age 10, though, the patient changed pediatricians and recalls some discovery and possible incarceration of the pediatrician." (Logerquist later denied saying that.)

Renowned researcher/psychologist Dr. John Kihlstrom testified as an "expert witness" for John Danforth: "There are many things about Kim's memory that lead me to conclude it's inaccurate."
Renowned researcher/psychologist Dr. John Kihlstrom testified as an "expert witness" for John Danforth: "There are many things about Kim's memory that lead me to conclude it's inaccurate."
Mesa pediatrician John Danforth celebrates his victory: "This has been a cloud over my head for 10 years."
Todd H. Lillard
Mesa pediatrician John Danforth celebrates his victory: "This has been a cloud over my head for 10 years."

Logerquist spent hours in therapy at the mental ward. Though she'd deny it at her trial, hospital "progress notes" suggest she was considering that men other than John Danforth had sexually abused her.

"Patient thinks maternal grandfather was molester," one note said. "Abused mom physically and may have abused another aunt . . ."

Another time, Logerquist mentioned her late Uncle Wally as her possible attacker.

During her stay, Logerquist's therapists assigned her The Courage to Heal, a self-help book that has sold more than 700,000 copies since its first publication in 1988.

Written by two non-clinicians, the book became the backbone of treatment for those in the "recovered memories" movement. Some still swear by it, especially if the abuse has been corroborated; others say it's dangerous.

"It's a book that can make somebody crazy," Melvin Guyer testified at Logerquist's trial. "It says that failure to remember [being sexually molested] is proof that it happened, and remembering it happened is proof that it happened. It's like a prescription. Ten minutes of that book can taint your recollection."

Logerquist later said she'd read only about 75 pages of The Courage to Heal, which is more than 500 pages long.

Dr. Davis diagnosed Logerquist as suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome and borderline personality disorder. The latter is a mental illness that includes depression, a poor self-image, impulsiveness, anxiousness, and suicidal thoughts.

But now, at last, Logerquist was certain she'd found the "answer" for all her problems.

"I had been through psychiatric treatment in the past for depression and suicide attempts without any cause that anybody could come up with," she said in 1992. "My therapy didn't really get anywhere because they didn't know what was feeding into this. And when these flashbacks came back to me, I was told that they felt that this is what's been causing these feelings all along. That I had repressed it and had no conscious memory of it."

Because the alleged attacks had happened in Arizona, Kim Logerquist needed a local attorney to take her case. She found one in Kent Turley, an experienced, loquacious barrister based in Phoenix.

Turley filed the lawsuit in September 1992.

The following March, he asked John Danforth in a deposition, "And you feel indeed that you are being falsely accused by her?"

"Yes, sir."

"Do you have any thoughts why?"

Dr. Danforth's co-counsel, Frank Parks -- one of Arizona's preeminent medical-malpractice lawyers -- interrupted his client: "We are not going to answer that we think she is a crazy woman. . . . We are not going to get into that."

"Is he correct, that you think she's crazy?" Turley asked Danforth.

"I can't say, because I don't know her," the doctor replied, "but I certainly think the charges are false. Why she's doing it, I can't read her mind, whether she's a kook or whether she's been misled by some kooks."

In late 1993, Logerquist phoned the Mesa Police Department to report her alleged molestations of 22 years earlier. A detective later wrote that Logerquist told him her attorney had suggested she call.

Logerquist added a new wrinkle during her interview: "She also remembers Dr. Danforth saying, 'If you tell your mom and dad about the things that are making you cry, I'll tell your mom and dad there is something wrong with you, and you will have to go away and live where bad kids live.'"

The detective concluded, "At this time, I find that there is no probable cause to believe that a crime was committed in this case."

Both sides started marshaling the expert witnesses that inevitably accompany such cases.

Logerquist hired Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, the distinguished director of The Trauma Center, located near Boston. He has treated hundreds of apparently verifiable survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and authored the well-considered book Traumatic Stress.

Van der Kolk agreed to testify generally on the phenomenon of stress and how, in his estimation, it sometimes causes a kind of amnesia. But he never would interview Logerquist about her allegations.

Danforth's attorneys retained Dr. John Kihlstrom, a renowned researcher and psychologist at the University of California at Berkeley. Unlike van der Kolk, Kihlstrom doesn't treat patients. But he's written chapters on memory in standard texts used by students and professionals.

Kihlstrom says proof of trauma-induced amnesia is extremely rare, and that clinicians should find solid corroboration before believing a patient's accusations. In a May 1994 deposition, he said of Kim Logerquist:

"People like Logerquist are looking for reasons, are looking for answers, are trying to find out what caused them to have the difficulties that they are experiencing. . . . [But] there is nothing about Kim's memory that leads me to conclude that it is an accurate memory, and there are many things about Kim's memory that lead me to conclude that it's an inaccurate memory."

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