The False Memory Syndrome Foundation claims to condemn the sexual abuse of children. In their words, “Child sexual abuse is a reprehensible crime….Every effort should be made to help victims of sexual abuse and to create a social climate in which such mistreatment does not continue to take place.” So why did they sympathize with Billy Banks, a serial child molester?
This is the first in a series of occasional posts that will highlight and document cases in which the FMSF has taken the side of someone charged with child sexual abuse without apparent regard for the evidence of guilt.
The Case against Billy Banks
Billy Banks was convicted in 2005 on 10 counts of sexual battery on a child under 12 years of age. (Three counts were overturned on appeal—two on double jeopardy, and one was outside the statute.)The charges included acts of rape, forced oral sex, and fondling of his daughter and his adoptive niece from 1965 to 1970. Banks was also facing two charges of lewd, lascivious or indecent acts on a child under 16 for sexually abusing his two granddaughters 20 years later, in 1990-1. After being convicted on the first counts, Banks pled no contest to one of these later counts. He was sentenced to life on the sexual battery charges and three and a half years for the charge to which he pled no contest.
Banks’ adoptive niece had an abortion at age 13, and there is evidence that Banks was the father. Allegations of sexual abuse against Banks go back as far as 20 years before the police investigation; a relative told the police that “there has always been talk that [Billy] messed with young girls.” Banks refused to take a polygraph during his interview with the police. He was convicted on the basis of the testimony of his daughter and niece, now adults. There is no indication in any of the court documents that recovered memories were involved in either of these cases against Billy Banks. In fact, his niece says, “every day I think about it. There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think about [it],” and his daughter says that “I was always trying to…put it behind me.”
How the False Memory Syndrome Foundation Misrepresented the Case
In the July/August 2005 issue of their online newsletter, the False Memory Syndrome Foundation included a brief column on the case of Billy Banks. They claimed the case relied on the “recovered memories” of the two victims, and they insinuate that those memories are false.
The FMSF claimed that the defense was crippled by the court’s not granting them a continuance to allow their “expert [on] the fallibility of recovered memories” to testify. The expert they offered was Dr. Terence Campbell, a member of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation Advisory Board. As the state points out, however, Dr. Campbell “has [n]ever been certified as a ‘memory expert.’” In any case, the nature of his planned testimony had nothing to do with recovered memory. He intended to testify about the “effect of time on memory,” for which the court ruled no expert was needed.
The Foundation claimed that these “recovered memories” were implanted for the daughter in counseling and for the niece in rehab. But the daughter testified that she entered counseling in the first place because she was “having flashbacks all the time,” and the niece testified that she entered rehab “to forget about everything that happened to me.” The Foundation also claimed that the daughter’s credibility should be doubted because of prescription drug use, but there was no evidence presented that her medications affected her memory.
The FMSF cites only media articles as sources, and most of their defenses of and claims about Billy Banks are irrelevant or untrue. This case has been misrepresented as involving and proving the fallibility of recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse. But in the words of one of the detectives on the case, Detective Sergeant John Cummings, “One person [coming forward with a false allegation], I could understand it. Maybe even two. But four people who are not in the same area, who really aren’t communicatin’, who don’t have any…they don’t gain anything from this. As a matter of fact, they’re gonna catch a whole bunch of grief out of this.”
Not only do the two adult women never mention recovered memory, but Banks pled no contest to recent charges involving two other girls, which also did not involve recovered memory. The False Memory Syndrome claims to condemn the sexual abuse of children. So why did they embrace Billy Banks, a serial child molester?