A Memory that Shattered Relationships

October 2, 2017

by Lina Pak YISS 11th Grade

False memories, also referred to as pseudo-memories or memory illusions, are misguided recollections that fail to reflect reality. Depending on external influences such as traumatic incidents, incorrectly applied psychotherapeutic approaches, or misinformation, people can either distort pre-existing memories or create entirely new ones. False memories remain to be an intriguing topic for psychologists to study because they provide important implications concerning various mental disorders.

A particular case from the 1990s played a crucial role in expanding the limited scope of

knowledge about false memories. On top of that, it also dramatically altered the life of Gary Ramona and his once-prosperous relationship with his family.

It all started when Gary Ramona’s daughter, Holly Ramona, charged his father of raping her.

Holly was receiving constant treatment at the Western Medical Center in Anaheim, California due to severe bulimia. When Gary Ramona went to the institution on March 15, 1990 to see his daughter, he was suddenly confronted with a shocking question from Holly: “Why did you rape me?” Investigation demonstrates that prior to the day, Holly had recalled disconcerting images of Gary molesting her body from age 5. Such memories gradually intensified after she consumed sodium amytal, a drug that put her in a state of hypnosis.

Holly, Stephanie (Holly’s mother), and Isabella (Holly’s therapist) soon became intransigent in believing in the recollections. For one, Isabella had mentioned in 1989 that 80% of the people with eating disorders were those who had been sexually exploited and continued to hold distrust towards Gary. Holly continued to suffer from painful images that made her feel dirty and suicidal, and Stephanie also realized that there were moments when Gary was being suspicious, such as when she saw Gary in his underpants next to Holly who was screaming because she had had a “nightmare.”

On the other hand, Gary Ramona filed a suit against Holly’s two therapists for manipulating Holly’s memories. For instance, Holly could not remember who exactly was the man raping her until therapists reinforced that it was Gary after she consumed the sodium amytal. It was only after Isabella told Holy what she had said throughout the sodium amytal interview that Holly began to wholeheartedly convince herself that it had all happened. He further asserted that the therapists had asked Holly suggestive questions and also falsely convinced Holly that it was impossible for one to lie after a consumption of a drug.

Due to the sensible theory Gary Ramona and his team proposed, the court decided to take his case and granted Gary $500,000.00. Although no one can fully comprehend who was telling the truth, this incident has opened up interest and research about false memories.


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