Home > Psychology, Social Commentary > False Allegations, False Memories and False Remorse: Meredith Maran

False Allegations, False Memories and False Remorse: Meredith Maran


Meredith Maran self-identifies as a journalist, author and feminist. Twenty years ago, she believed she recovered repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her father because—get this—she was having dreams about his hands. She never confronted her father, but instead cut him out of her life and wrote books about it. She now has a new book, My Lie: A True Story of False Memory, in which she recants all of her previous memories and allegations and says she feels ’embarrassed’ by her actions and for the pain she caused her father and the rest of her family. 

Back in the 1980s, Maran states she was swept away by the Salem Witch Trial-esque hysteria of repressed sexual abuse memories spawned by the book, The Courage to Heal (Bass and Davis, 1988). Bass and Davis infamously claimed, “If you think it happened, it happened,” which is a prime example of emotional based reasoning. Feelings are not facts. If an individual doesn’t reality check his or her feelings, it almost always causes problems. Additionally, automatically accepting one’s feelings as facts is at the core of many personality disorders and general hysteria.

Today, Maran claims it was the confluence of the Bass and Davis book, her recently estranged same sex partner’s own dubious memories of childhood molestation and satanic rituals (that Maran believes are also fabrications) and her immersion in observing therapy sessions with incest survivors and interviewing molestors that led her to make such horrific claims against her own father. [*Read more in Salon’s interview: “My Lie:” Why I falsely accused my father. The comments are actually far better than the grapefruits the interviewer lobbed to Ms Maran.]

The interview is pretty much what you might expect; Ms Maran believed she was a hero when she falsely accused her father of molesting her in the most public fashion possible and she believes she’s a hero now for saying, ‘Whoopsy. My bad.‘ It’s unclear if Ms Maran would have reached this realization had she not separated from her former lover who played a large part in inspiring Ms Maran’s false beliefs.

Here’s what I found to be the most disturbing excerpt from Maran’s interview:

In the middle of the book, while you are still deeply in the mind-set of being molested, there’s a notion you agree with that if one innocent man goes to prison, but it stops a hundred molesters, it’s worth it. Do you still agree with that notion?

I’m fairly close to a man still in prison, and really believe he is innocent. I know how he’s suffered. I know he’s 80 years old and in ill health. He’s spent 20 years in prison, for no reason. If every elementary school child is now taught how to protect themselves from sexual abuse — and even more to the point, some father or preschool teacher who feels the urge to molest a child will be inhibited from doing so because they think there are guys still in jail for doing that — but innocent people are in prison, do I have to make that choice? It is a Sophie’s choice kind of thing. Would I allow an innocent man to sit in prison if it meant keeping children safe?

So would you make that choice?

I think so.

No words.

This attitude calls to mind the deliberate false abuse and false violence claims made against men who are torn apart from their children and lose their assets and homes based on nothing more than equally unsubstantiated claims. One wonders if Maran would be okay with that, too.

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  1. DEBBY
    September 29, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    Dear Freedom:
    You can only screen so much. Many times the mask doesn’t slip until it is too late and your secrets are out. Disordered people can be highly defended and can appear normal especially when no stressor is in their life at the time. I started to see flickers of weirdness before I saw the fire. That’s the scary part. Then I was on the run being stalked and harrassed for two years after I fled. Her mask didn’t slip it fell off and hit the floor. I remember thinking this person is clearly a psychopath. How do I get out of this one alive and control the damage. What she did to others and myself is unconsciounable to a person who has one.

    It was no different than somebody who is on a date with a “nice” guy and then he turns out to be a rapist. It is the same as what the men experience on this site when they first meet a BPD woman as well. They can be smart, funny and then the other side comes out. That is the reason why many people have problem trusting others in some cases because of how normal than can appear to be. Another disorder in the field that is prevalent is Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. Some of the traits are ones you want. If they have the whole disorder, they can be a horror show too leaving people in their wake who are severely damaged. Psychiatrists are notorious for large volumes of this disorder. The crazy models and ideas are from narcissists and they are not lacking either in the field. Psychopaths in various forms seek those jobs to have power and control over others or to inflict pain. Unless one has some knowledge of it, it can go by somebody very easily. Most people haven’t heard of a PD or would expect to find one as a licensed MHP. All of the above are skilled at making it sound like the problem is you and not them. It is simply a luck of the draw for the most part to find a good therapist. Too many horror stories to not believe otherwise.

  2. ron
    September 28, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    My XW’s sister, aPhd in Biochemistry with multiple suicide attempts and incredible promiscuity, suddenly recalled that her uncle, a mentally and sight challenged little guy, abused her when she was a kid.
    Lo and behold, suddnely, my XW, a serial cheater and alcoholic, remebered the same. Then , another siter magiically recalled, as well(this one is a true NPD).
    So, they confronted him as an old, dying man and he was completely shattered.
    I have no doubt it was total BS and all three of these psycho women made it up. My Xw had never mentioned this before her older, crazy sister came up with the idea. Then, she could not stand being out of the limelight, so she had to join up.

    • ozymandias
      September 28, 2010 at 10:28 pm

      Ron – this about the scariest post I’ve seen on here. Truly.

  3. DEBBY
    September 28, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Many years ago, a BPD Cluster B “Psycho” therapist asked me who put a pillow over my head when I was having a physical breathing problem. She was a huge fan of Freud. I had to laugh. However, my laughter soon stopped when I thought of how dangerous her repressed memory belief could be when a therapist doesn’t know how memory works. I hadn’t even heard of any of the above yet either.
    I can just imagine the damage she caused by her faulty belief. I reported her to the FMS (False Memory Syndrome Organization)in recent years. They didn’t find it funny.
    I tried to report her as well. They defended her by saying that she must have had some smarts and ignored the above and many other horrific behaviours and crazy ideas she had. At times she was psychotic and had many homicidal states with a conscience like Swiss Cheese. I was told it would be hard to prove. I see no reason for an Office of Discipline give those rationalizations. I thought I called the department who defends crazy psychotherapists by mistake.
    It is important to know that many and I mean many Cluster B people are licensed Mental Health Professionals. She is still out there talking about children in her head and all kinds of crazy ideas.
    When they are found to be wrong, the no skin off my back belief of theirs is used.

    • Freedom
      September 29, 2010 at 5:52 pm

      I know what you mean. having a cluster Bs a mental health professional would be like making Lindsay Lohan a guidance counselor. sometimes the therapist can be more screwed up than the patient. that’s why its always important to screen the therapist as well. some of their outlandish tactics for “improving” the patient cause much more harm than good. kinda like how the side effects of a medication are worse than the actual problem.

  4. XFiles
    September 25, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    Sadly, I am not surprised. Like kiwihelen, my husbands ex used to tell him how her father supposedly abused and beat her. Her sister said it never happened. She fabricated the story to gain his sympathy and excuse some of her cuckoo behaviour “I was traumatized so how could you even expect me to be normal”. Professional victim indeed.

    Now of course the abuser and villain in her stories is my husband. She has even claimed that he is now abusing me. Sometimes I wonder if I should sue her for slander? She put all this in writing on a pubic internet forum.

  5. kiwihelen
    September 25, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    I struggle with this whole false memory stuff. Abuse does happen and is more likely to happen within families. For every false acusation it reduces the empathy and understanding given to those who are legitimate victims.

    My SO’s BPD-ex claims she was abused by her father. Yet she has a better relationship with him than with her mother, to whom she is estranged. She claims she has “forgiven” him.

    I just don’t understand. It is amongst the craziest stuff in the whole BPD picture

  6. Tony
    September 25, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Along with the harm the false accusers cause the accused this harms the credibility and takes resources away from those men, women and children who make legitimate claims of abuse. She is obviously clueless, superficial and emotionally immature. False allegations are a crime and she clearly should be prosecuted as an example that this isn’t a pretend game.

  7. skidmark
    September 24, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    I was a CPS worker in the 70’s and 80’s, with a rather extensive (for my suburban jurisdiction and the times) caseload of child sexual abuse cases. None of them were the serial, prolonged, and bizzare scenarios that made headlines in the decades after I left the field. Nor were most of the cases the then-stereotypical “hillbilly marries sister” stories.
    The absolute lack of remorse this woman exhibits (“Sorry” does not cut it) tells volumes about her me-first/me-only mindset both then and now. Not only is she not remorseful for what she did to her father and the rest of her family, she shows no remorse for what she did, now twice, to both the true victims of sexual abuse and those who like her were caught up in the hysteria of the repressed-memories movement. The attempt to declare deciding on sending one innocent man to prison in exchange for ensuring that all guilty ones go is not a “Sophie’s chioce” by any means. It is a clear declaration that she still believes all men harbor thoughts of molestation that they are just wating for the chance to act on.
    What is worse, in my mind, is that the vast majority of reviews of her book grasp tightly to their collective bosoom the fact that she never comes out and absolutely, definitavely, irrevocabably declares that there was no way in “haich eee double-hockey sticks” that all of her accusations and the recovered-memory movement were and continue to be false. They use the ambiguity that creates to champion the possibility that she herself might merely be trying to re-repress the memories, and that the movement must be valid because otherwise someone will have to be accountable for all the evil things that have happened to innocent persons because of the hysteria caused by a false notion.
    And we do not have a wild fungus to blame the whole thing on. (Salem witch hysteria linked to ergot infestation by many researchers – fairly good evidence to support the conclusion.)
    I would not support incarcerating her for making false accusations so much as I would force her to pay for the care of her aging father as he deals with Alzheimers. Let her pay for her mistakes in a meaningful way, rather than continue to profit from them.

    stay safe.

  8. George
    September 24, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Oh my Gosh!!!! So her poor father suffered for 20 years and now it’s whoopsy! Just made it all up!!!! She should be put in jail for false allegations like that! Does she even have an idea of the pain and misery that she must have caused her poor father? For 20 years he was very publicly accused for a horrific crime that he never committed. Can she even imagine the heartache, embarrassment, public ridicule, stress, and isolation she must have caused this man? In addition to all of the emotional ramifications, I’m sure that being painted as a molester wasn’t great for his career, social life, and community standing too! What’s even more incredible is that she wants to think that she is a victim/hero in all of this mess! Perhaps they should put her in jail for 20 years so as to help prevent others from making false allegations like this against other innocent persons!

  9. Justin_Case
    September 24, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Wow.

  10. Ivo Vos
    September 24, 2010 at 10:19 am

    The notion that “it’s better to put innocent men in jail is something of a Sophie’s choice kind of thing” is realy interesting in this context. First of all, as far as I understood, Sophie’s choice was about a forced choice between two completely impossible outcomes, it was not her choice at all, so the association with Sophie’s choice should have lead to the conclusion that, if there would have been a ‘choice’, it would have been keeping innocent men out of prison and keeping children safe. It probably would take an experienced Psy.D. to explain the implied emotional association of Ms. Maran that she is in the same moral position as Sophie in the concentration camps.
    Underneath this amazing, at least for me, association are the unfounded idea’s that men are the sole perpetrators of child abuse, which doesn’t surprise me since she declares herself to be a feminist, and that putting people in prison acts as a deterrent for criminals. For instance June Tangney has published some interesting material about this persistent idea that seems to be more related to our personal emotions than social reality.
    As an aside, if putting people in prison, or for that matter stone them publicly to death, actually would have been a strong deterrent, both the US, with the highest percentage of men put behind bars, and Afghanistan, with the highest percentage of people publicly stoned to death, would have been wonders of societies without crime. And for instance European countries (by some diehard feminists regarded as the countries of ‘choice’) with the lowest percentage of people behind bars would be countries with rampant criminality. However, the opposite seems to be the case.
    (I´m aware of the fact that some people view these European countries as examples of Sodom and Ghomorrah)

  11. Freedom
    September 24, 2010 at 5:09 am

    One of the things i find truly disgusting is the question (and Ms. Maran’s ridiculous response)of:

    “there’s a notion you agree with that if one innocent man goes to prison, but it stops a hundred molesters, it’s worth it. Do you still agree with that notion?

    what a stupid question and answer, because there can not possibly be a real-world trade-off. If that offer were really on the table and could be made possible, I would volunteer to be the innocent guy in prison. but there IS NO offer like that in the real world, nothing like that is possible, cuz an innocent man sitting in prison is nothing more than an innocent man sitting in prison. the offenders should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and the innocent should not. but now after those false accusations, seems to me it would be fitting to send her off somewhere and let her know what it is like to sit in prison. Like you said Dr. T, an “oops, my bad” after ruining someone’s life – especially her own father’s – and then writing another book to capitalize on it… THIS goes hand-in-hand with your previous post about why narcissism is on the rise. the answer… because people can profit from it, one way or another.

  12. jp
    September 24, 2010 at 1:25 am

    Gerald Amirault spent 18 years in a Massachusetts prison after he, his sister and his mother were all accused of sexually abusing the pre-schoolers in the nursery school they owned and ran.

    The children were coaxed in their accusations by hysterical social workers and Amirault was never allowed to face the children in court.

    The accusations alleged he wore a clown suit, inserted knives into their rear ends, and performed other sexual acts, all in a secret basement in the school.

    There was no physical evidence of any kind to support any of the allegations…no knife wounds or marks of any kind, no secret room, no clown suit, etc.

    His conviction tool place at the height of the child sexual and statanic ritual abuse hysteria of the 80s.

    Shickingly, his conviction was confirmed by the state supreme court and despite his case being complete discredited and a groundswell of public and official opinion calling for a pardon or commutation, Mass. governers continued to let him rot in prison to protect the system that put him there.

    While in prison he refused to attend programs for sexual offenders despite the fact that do so would have drastically reduced his prison time.

  13. TheGirlInside
    September 24, 2010 at 12:19 am

    If she were truly remorseful, she would spend every dime made on that book to assist people suffering from actual abuse. Atonement goes a lot further than empty self-important “wah-wah for me” words.

  14. mellaril
    September 23, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    We can only admire Ms Maran’s sense of sacrifice. She appears to have George Bernard Shaw’s philosophy:

    “Self-sacrifice enables us to sacrifice other people without blushing.” – Man and Superman (1903)

    Change her hair to blonde and she kind of looks like Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction.”

  15. Kate
    September 23, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    This story SICKENS me. Yet, I shouldn’t be surprised. My husband’s ex-wife (I really hate that the word wife is even in there) has had numerous false memories over the years including sexual abuse from her father (she just recanted in 2009), memories of being abused by a doctor, though her mother standing right there remembers no such thing. Then there are the abuse allegations she tossed around at my husband during their divorce. They ranged from calling him a dictator (though she did whatever she wanted when they were married including blowing through money he worked hard for) to outright accusing him of emotional and physical abuse. None of it is true. But she IS always the victim.

    It makes me sick that men (and women) are subjected to the deranged false memories and lies of another. Thank you for bringing up this topic for examination and discussion. It is too important to be ignored.

  16. September 23, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Want to bet we hear from the lady herself at some point?

    • shrink4men
      September 23, 2010 at 6:59 pm

      I doubt it. Shrink4men is pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things and I’m fairly certain it’s not on her press junket.

      • An Non
        September 26, 2010 at 2:11 pm

        Insignificant!? Your humility is admirable. Regardless of whether or not you ever see or hear from Ms. Maran, do give yourself credit where it’s due.

        Your site is only one of a handful that fairly addresses men’s issues and specifically the types of issues in this article. IMHO, your work is documenting the “Misandry Bubble” http://www.singularity2050.com/2010/01/the-misandry-bubble.html

        “[Misandry Bubble] Executive Summary : The Western World has quietly become a civilization that undervalues men and overvalues women, where the state forcibly transfers resources from men to women creating various perverse incentives for otherwise good women to conduct great evil against men and children, and where male nature is vilified but female nature is celebrated. This is unfair to both genders, and is a recipe for a rapid civilizational decline and displacement, the costs of which will ultimately be borne by a subsequent generation of innocent women, rather than men, as soon as 2020. “

  17. Mr. E
    September 23, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    I like how she shrugs off responsibility by claiming she was caught up in mass hysteria…

    What a terrifying story.

    • shrink4men
      September 23, 2010 at 6:34 pm

      File it under and this could happen to you. . .

      This is what happens when you combine a high degree of suggestibility, emotional reasoning, attention seeking, zero accountability, zero consequences, female gender bias and an emotionally reactive media and culture who are quick to believe any little girl (no matter her age) who cries wolf.

      Real child abuse happens every day. What this woman and others like her did is an affront to true abuse victims. Just like the Canadian woman who faked having cancer to scam money out of people (http://news.aol.ca/ca/article/ashley-kirilow-faked-cancer-to-raise-money/19584046). Fine, you could say Maran is a victim of her own propensity for confabulation, but she profited off her claims then and she is profiting by coming clean now. I don’t see much difference.

  18. September 23, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    What an alarmingly narcissistic woman, capitalizing TWICE on her fake ‘victim’ story! What a case of ‘feelings converted to false facts.’ And then she has so much ego despite all this, she shows a false sense of remorse by completely intellectualizing her story as ‘poor me’ AGAIN! Unbelievable!!! This is nothing more than the ‘intellectualized’ and ‘witchy’ (literally) version of that acid-attack hoax ‘victim.’ What is so sad is that narcissistic women like these in their orgy of imagined victimhood take the attention away of REAL victim stories of actual childhood abuse and the horrible misogyny faced in many places of the world.(such as female circumcision in Africa or stoning in Iran.) If they were real feminists they would do something about that – but no – they want the spotlight ALL to themselves and search for ‘attackers’ in their own circles to keep their book deals and grants alive.

    Maran comes across as the lowest forms of attention-seeker – so engrossed in her own narcissism that she literally capitalizes upon imagined victimhood falsely incarcerating her OWN father! (20 years!) If she was so concerned of abuse she should have got her ass to places that really have it widespread and saved some real victims. In my judgment Maran and those like her are simply the ‘educated’ version of some of the reality show ‘poor me’ attention seekers. And worse. The women who are doing something against real abuse are the unknown, unnamed women detectives who at least do do some real groundwork in identifying actual-and-proven child molesters. Yet women like Maran happily forget to mention the names of women like that who risk their lives out in the line of duty. It’s all about ‘poor, poor me, look at me’ for her.

    This reminds me of the story of a genuinely kind-hearted man I knew at work whose borderline ex-wife laid false charges against him about their daughter. It was horrible but finally the daughter herself spoke up that her father was innocent and she wanted to live with him instead of with the crazy mother. Not surprisingly, during the ‘hooking-phase’ said-mum had said she herself had been molested in childhood – accusations that were later proven wrong and she herself confessed had used that line to make that kind hearted man feel sorry for her. In pure cluster-B fashion she had gotten pregnant on the week he’d wanted to break up with her 16 years back. He stayed on for 16 years for the sake of the daughter and after finally leaving (after an awful divorce) now is happily married to his shrink! But had the ex-wife succeeded she’d have got him into prison Maran-style.

    Thanks for this article Dr. T and all the recent ones. So well-researched and well -written! As I often say, what a refreshing breath of rationality and objectivity.

    • shrink4men
      September 23, 2010 at 6:19 pm

      I don’t believe Maran pressed charges against her father nor do I believe he was incarcerated. She defamed him in the most public way possible and yet he seems not to have had the opportunity to say, “This is a lie.” Instead, he had to wait 20 years for his adult daughter—who was a grown woman when she made the false allegation—to say, “It’s a lie.” Otherwise, her father would have gone to the grave being labeled a child abuser. Even though Maran has admitted she is a liar, I’m sure there are still people who will believe her original claims and attack Maran for turning on feminists and female victims of abuse. If I were her father, a simple, “I’m sorry” wouldn’t be good enough.

      • September 23, 2010 at 6:34 pm

        Thanks, T. Phew – at least he wasn’t imprisoned. On reading that interview, this line of hers: “It’s a little embarrassing for a person who’s always been thought of as a critical thinker. There’s a lot about writing this book and putting it out there that’s embarrassing. It’s not exactly the most flattering portrait.”

        “Critical thinker”??? Wow! If that’s how ‘critical thinkers’ really think, then I wonder how the ’emotional thinkers’ do! Descartes should be rolling in his grave if people like Maran claim a ‘critical thinkers’ title. So, so narcissistic that she still hollers about the loss of her ‘portrait’ to the world and ’embarrassing’ to ‘put herself out here’ (and making money off it!) What about what the dad went through?!!

        Absolument incroyable! Chilling and sinister. Truly.

        • shrink4men
          September 23, 2010 at 6:41 pm

          I feel, therefore, it must be true.

          —not Rene Descartes

      • October 5, 2010 at 10:03 pm

        I too think a simple apology isn’t enough. I wonder how she would respond, society even for that matter, if he were to sue her and take most of the proceeds she made on both books.

    • Cousin Dave
      September 24, 2010 at 5:27 pm

      Gipsy, I think a lot of Cluster Bs make up or greatly exaggerate stories of childhood abuse to excuse their behavior. My BPD ex used to talk constantly about how cruel her family was to her, and particularly her sister, whom she accused of abandoning the family. However, I eventually got to know the sister well and I realized that she was an entirely decent and sane lady, and her only “crime” was wanting to get away from her crazy family and live a normal life.

  19. Cousin Dave
    September 23, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    I wonder if her father is still alive, or if he went to his grave with this false accusation hanging over his head.

    • shrink4men
      September 23, 2010 at 5:58 pm

      He’s still alive. When she finally contacted him to apologize, he asked, “What I really want to know is how the hell you could have thought that of me?”

      Good question. Based on her Salon interview, I think her explanation is pretty lame. However, in fairness, I have not read her book nor do I want to do so, unless the proceeds of her book are going to a charity that helps free the wrongly imprisoned.

  20. September 23, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    I rather doubt any pedophile will be deterred by the fact that some pedophiles are in prison or even their own prison stay, so Maran’s sacrifice of the “innocent man” would seem rather futile.

    From another perspective, would Maran be willing to do the time herself if it would prevent other females from making false accusations that could destroy a parent, father or child’s life?

    • shrink4men
      September 23, 2010 at 4:45 pm

      Great question, Old Guy. She made money off of falsely accusing her father and now she’ll make more money recanting her former fictitious allegations. Who’s the victim again?

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