The Forgotten #MeToo and #Time’sUp Victims

In all the #MeToo talk about sexual harassment, assault and rape it dawns on me that one category of victim remains undiscussed, almost taboo to talk about:  the victims of childhood incest.

Meet Elizabeth Spalter. Buoyed by today’s open conversation about sexual crimes Elizabeth wants the world to know her story. 

Elizabeth had what looked like a privileged childhood. The youngest of four children growing up in a luxury New York City apartment she and her brothers attended private schools. They had a country home in Connecticut. Their mother, Josie, was a homemaker and their father, Harold Spalter, was a former Air Force captain and a prominent eye doctor in Manhattan. Respectable on the outside but a monster on the inside having sexually abused his daughter from the time she was six until she left for college. Dr. Spalter also psychologically and physically tortured his sons.

Elizabeth as a Child –
Already an Incest Victim

One of Elizabeth’s brothers would later reveal that he saw his father naked in his 12-year-old sister’s bed and that they lived in a “house of terror.” Another brother said when he returned home from school it seemed as though “the life had gone out (of Elizabeth) and never came back.” In truth, Elizabeth’s only escape was to pour out her loneliness, shame and anger into her private journal.

“Sadly, so many people in my life knew about the abuse,” Elizabeth told me, “but (they) didn’t stand up to my father.” After she went away to college at 17 Elizabeth never lived with her parents again. She and her Mother were very close but Elizabeth kept the ugly truth from her to protect the family structure. At 23 Elizabeth entered much needed therapy as she struggled with post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression.

Josie Spalter was diagnosed with cervical cancer in April 1995 and within 10 months she died at home.

Elizabeth Spalter Today – Happily Married With Twins and Living in Vienna

“The night before she passed away, my father became irate at me, and screamed at me,” Elizabeth told me in an e-mail from her home in Vienna, Austria.

“He said, ‘You killed your mother! She read your journals!’  I shouted in response, ‘You are blaming mom’s death on the sexual abuse YOU did to me?!’” And there it was. In 1996 the vile family secret was fully out in the open but still no one came to Elizabeth’s aid. No one dared to confront the domineering Dr. Spalter.

“To protect my mother, I sacrificed so much, and what he said was devastating to me.” Elizabeth wrote. “I sacrificed innocence, honesty and intimacy with my family, keeping this secret was lonely and a heavy burden to bear, especially as a child.”

About two years after Josie’s death Spalter married his secretary, Diane Rogers, a woman not much older than Elizabeth.

Josie Spalter, Mother of Four, Died of Cancer in January 1996

It’s probably no coincidence that Elizabeth chose to live as far away as possible from her father. She earned a degree in psychotherapy, taking out student loans for her education, and today she operates her own practice in Vienna. She is happily married and has beautiful twin daughters. It was in that protective cocoon, and following the 2014 death of her 84-year-old father, that Elizabeth found the courage to file suit against Dr. Spalter’s sizable estate.

Last Spring, Elizabeth won what’s believed to be the largest sexual abuse settlement ever recorded in the state of Connecticut. Each of her brothers offered testimony on their little sister’s behalf. Elizabeth’s complaint to the court asked for $8 million dollars. After an emotional and contentious month-long trial, during which it was revealed that Dr. Spalter had told relatives that he sometimes got “confused” and mistook Elizabeth for his wife, the jurors decided $8 million was not enough. They more than doubled the amount, awarding Elizabeth $20 million. Stepmom and estate executrix, Diane Rogers Spalter, has appealed the decision.

Elizabeth’s case got scant media attention last year and now she wants to make sure that the #MeToo and #Time’sUp movements include dialogue about childhood incest victims.  Elizabeth told me she was especially moved when actress Mira Sorvino recently issued a public apology to Dylan Farrow for not believing her story of childhood molestation at the hands of her adoptive father, director Woody Allen. Sorvino said she now regrets ever working with the director. (Allen has long denied the charge.)

The Movement Surely Realizes Not All Sex Criminals Live in Hollywood

If the current movements are to make a measurable difference it seems clear they need to concentrate on helping those most egregiously victimized and to draw a firm line between them and women who were merely made to feel “uncomfortable” on the job or stayed too long on a bad date. Incest is a crime and the #MeToo and #Time’sUp groups would do well to embrace its victims and help them pursue convictions.

“The stigma, shame and fear silences us and I’m hoping with this dialogue,” Elizabeth wrote me, “with more stories in the press, (survivors) will feel emboldened and safe to come forward.”

Elizabeth is more than a survivor in my book. She is a warrior.



  1. Diane Dimond on January 29, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    Reader Suzanne writes:

    Good morning, Diane,
    I just read your excellent article, “Incest and the Forgotten “MeToo Victims”. Thank you.

    I have been waiting for us to be included. Your article is the very first mention that I have read. I wonder how and when more attention will be paid.

    Thank you again. Maybe you could keep writing about it to focus awareness.


  2. Diane Dimond on January 29, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    Facebook Friend Ginnie Oleskewicz Schwartz writes:

    She is a Hero in my eyes!!! God Bless her…

  3. Diane Dimond on January 29, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    Facebook Friend Jeannette Albarran writes:

    She is a warrior! But I must wonder if the mother truly didn’t know, or didn’t want to confirm until she read the journals. Absolutely heartbreaking that no one protected her, even after it was out in the open.

  4. Diane Dimond on January 29, 2018 at 3:42 pm

    Facebook Friend Kyla Thompson writes:

    Laws that require the girl to tell her parents before an abortion are often the girl having to tell her dad – who was her abuser. I’ll never forget Marilyn VanDerbur’s story in Denver about her father’s long time abuse of her. She always said, BELIEVE THE CHILDREN. Her mother didn’t believe her.

  5. Diane Dimond on January 29, 2018 at 3:43 pm

    Facebook Friend Alan Fountain writes:

    What suffering people have had to endure while the abusers are at the top of the food chain in years and decades past. It’s obvious there is a shift is social awareness although until this translates to the powerful institutions in government and a purge and reformation takes place will we ever have a chance at true change. This is why such citizen and political movements as the #releasethememo circulating the country. Having transparency with our government is the Weinstein moment that will shock the public and is now needed in government for a counterbalance. Those memos need to be released to begin the political confessions or attrition of public sins. We will never evolve until the body politic/ Govt is held to the same public scrutiny. The fighters to suppress this memo are the equivalent of our predator enablers. It’s persons who either by denial, shame or Stockholm Syndrome have bonded with their captors and fighting change of status quo. Request the house intelligence committee votes to release these memos and let’s begin the national healing of our country. Secrets of this magnitude weakens us all.

  6. Diane Dimond on January 29, 2018 at 6:08 pm

    Facebook Friend Lisa Leonard-Adler writes:

    Such a brave woman!

  7. Diane Dimond on January 29, 2018 at 6:08 pm

    Facebook Friend Facebook Friend Dina Monaco-Boland writes:

    You are absolutely correct. Thank you for bringing this to the forefront. With your permission, I’d like to share.

    • Diane Dimond on January 29, 2018 at 6:09 pm

      Diane Dimond replies:

      Please! share far and wide….!

  8. Diane Dimond on January 29, 2018 at 6:09 pm

    Facebook Friend Nancy Spieker Robel writes:

    Good story, Diane. These are the victims we should be supporting and assisting.

  9. Diane Dimond on January 29, 2018 at 6:11 pm

    Twitter Pal June Hanniman@junehanniman writes:

    Such a heartbreaking story of Elizabeth, it does leave one to wonder how many more Elizabeth’s are still out there and suffering in silence?

    • Diane Dimond on January 29, 2018 at 6:12 pm

      Diane Dimond replies:

      Such a good question, June. Alas, no answers because its such a secretive crime victim/survivors don’t often report. No national database I could find either. Let’s hope the current more open atmosphere brings survivors strength.

  10. Diane Dimond on January 30, 2018 at 2:32 pm

    Facebook Friend Debbie Cabrera writes:

    I did. I was freed at age 8 when my sister told a church member. My dad claimed he didn’t “remember”. I told him I was here to remind him. I remember everything. Scars last forever.

    • Diane Dimond on January 30, 2018 at 2:32 pm

      Alan Fountain replies:

      Debbie Cabrera I love your strength. What a powerful statement. You told him “you were here to remind him”. That’s powerful.

    • Diane Dimond on January 30, 2018 at 2:33 pm

      Diane Dimond replies:

      Debbie – Thank you so much for sharing your story. I think that by bringing this painful topic out into the sunshine it can only help other survivors. May I ask what happened to your father after you and your sister revealed?

      • Diane Dimond on January 30, 2018 at 2:52 pm

        Debbie Cabrera responds in a series of emails:

        My father was arrested and then sent to a mental hospital where I think he got shock treatments. My mother moved us all (5 kids) from Florida back to Rhode Island. My father showed up in RI when I was about 14 and thought he was gonna move right back in with us. Aaah nope. He stayed in our lives till about 17 years ago when he just up and moved away. We had to see him all the time. He came over when ever he wanted. Telling us he doesn’t remember anything. My mom and sisters don’t like to talk about it. They just want things to go away. I refused to let that happen. I still talk about it to anyone that will listen hoping it will spare another child from that kind of hell. ///
        Btw, he always managed to live near schools when he was here and when we found out where he lived he would up and move. ///
        Last I know, he moved to NJ. I have not been able to find anything about his whereabouts since. He would be 84 years old now. ///
        He abused his first set of children before us too but no one ever came forward. It could have stopped had they just come forward then.///The sick thing was, as a teenager, my dad would always try to give me money. Every time he came over he would give me $50. Listen, in the 80’s that’s a lot of money to a teenager. I would tell my mom and she would say, “just take it”. I didn’t want anything from him so why would I take his money? I don’t even want to know if my mother knew about anything that happened because knowing if she did know, would probably just kill me. She sure doesn’t like when I have ever brought the subject up. “Oh Debbie, why you want to talk about that for?” Umm because it messed me up mentally and I need to talk about it. I’m going to be 50 this year and I’m still dealing with it. Sad.

        • Diane Dimond on January 30, 2018 at 3:27 pm

          Seems pretty clear your mom knows about it NOW. Very sad that she doesn’t see the reason why you NEED to talk about it and why you NEED family support to heal. Hope you are getting or have gotten therapy – and wish you could get your mother to go with you!!
          Best of Luck, Debbie.

  11. Diane Dimond on January 30, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    Reader Deborah of California writes:

    Ms. Dimond,

    I just read your column about Elizabeth Spalter. It may be of some interest to you to learn that incest survivors are speaking out, myself included. You will find my recently launched blog on the subject here, but I first urge you to watch this video-recorded speech given last November to a group in Denver by incest survivor and former Miss America, Marilyn van Derbur Atler, who, at 80 years of age, remains the most authoritative and articulate witness to the personal, lifelong physical and emotional impact of incest. I strongly urge you to familiarize yourself with Mrs. Atler’s work and to share it with others. She continues to answer any and all inquiries from incest survivors around the world.

    Deborah XXXXXXX

    Note: Deborah’s blog spot can be found here:

    • Diane Dimond on January 30, 2018 at 3:10 pm


      Thank your for taking the time to write. I have long known the story about the former Miss America Marilyn van Derber. Her story is unique, in my opinion, because when she first revealed (or rather, was “outed” by the Denver Post) it was something virtually undisclosed in America. All these years later incest crimes still seem to be “in the closet” so to speak.

      I’m hoping that with the recent conversation surrounding the #MeToo movement ALL victim/survivors will have a voice at the table!

  12. Diane Dimond on January 30, 2018 at 11:34 pm

    Facebook Friend Danielle Stewart writes:

    My dad molested me 1st-4th grade. I didn’t really know it was wrong (it wasn’t talked about back then). When I did inadvertently tell my mom, she left my dad. When they divorced, I felt it was my fault. I held that guilt for so long. As an adult, I love and admire my mom for leaving him. She did the right thing.

    • Diane Dimond on January 31, 2018 at 8:59 am

      Debbie Cabrera replies:

      As children we always think everything is our fault. That stuff stays will us and eats us alive sometimes. Good for you for telling. God bless.

  13. Diane Dimond on February 3, 2018 at 5:55 pm

    Reader C.M. in Oklahoma writes:

    I read your The Forgotten #MeToo Victims column and appreciate your message as I was also a incest victim. Additionally, though, I think all child sexual abuse victims have been forgotten and should be included in the #me too movement.
    The harsh reality is Adverse childhood experiences (ACES) like child sexual abuse traumatized the most vulnerable and innocent. The damage to the brain of a child victim is life long damaging both physical and mental health as well as enduring learning and behavior problems in school. Victims of ACES suffer higher rates of depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, suicidal tendencies and chronic illness I.e. heart disease, cancer, diabetes compared to individuals who did not.
    The #metoo movement should include and raise awareness of the #childtoo because they will be adding their name to the #metoo list if as a society we do not. Removing the barrier of ignorance and stigma that allow both sexual abuse of children and sexual harassment to continue with impunity in our country is vital.

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