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The False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF) is a group formed in 1992, which advocates on behalf of those who claim they have been falsely accused of committing childhood sexual abuse. The FMSF created the terms "false memory syndrome" and "recovered memory therapy" to describe what they believed were erroneous memories induced by questionable psychotheraputic methods.[1] The FMSF does not dispute the reality of childhood sexual abuse, but does dispute the "accuracy of claims of 'recovered' memories of abuse"[2]The FMSF assumes the innocence of people who come to the organization for support after being accused of child abuse.[3]

But in fact neither "false memory syndrome" or "recovered memory therapy" were ever widely used in the mainstream medical community.[4][5]

HistoryEdit

In 1991, Pamela Freyd, writing under the pseudonym "Jane Doe", wrote a first-person account of her daughter Jennifer's accusations of having been sexually abused in her childhood by Peter Freyd, Pamela's husband. Peter Freyd admits to "inappropriate" comments and behavior towards Jennifer, but emphatically denies sexually abusing her.[6]

Pamela's account first appeared in a non-peer-reviewed journal published by co-founder of the FMSF, Ralph Underwager, and his wife Hollida Wakefield. [7][8] The Freyd's daughter, Jennifer J. Freyd, was a psychologist and memory researcher at the University of Oregon, and co-developer of the "betrayal trauma" theory of memory loss associated with severe trauma.

In 1992, the FMSF was formally incorporated by Pamela and Peter Freyd, with husband and wife psychologists Hollida Wakefield and Ralph Underwager[9][10]

Jennifer Freyd wrote,

For the first two years of my work on betrayal trauma theory, I did not discuss my private life in public. ... In my own case I lost the ability to choose privacy. Approximately eight months after I first presented betrayal trauma theory, my parents, in conjunction with Ralph Underwager and others, formed the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF). Before the organization was formed, my mother, Pamela Freyd, had published an article under the name "Jane Doe". The Jane Doe article, when circulated to my professional colleagues and to the media by my mother, made public accusations about my professional and personal life, at the same time that it helped spawn the false memory movement. ... If people who dare to speak about sexual abuse are attacked by those whom they have relied on and trusted, is it any wonder that unawareness and silence are so common?[9]

Jennifer Freyd has received support for her account from a substantial portion of her family, including Peter Freyd’s mother.[11] Peter Freyd’s brother William has written that he considers the creation of the FMSF as the Peter and Pamela Freyd’s response to the truth, rather than the falseness, of their daughter Jennifer’s claims of abuse:

There is no doubt in my mind that there was severe abuse in the home of Peter and Pam. [...] The False Memory Syndrome Foundation is a fraud designed to deny a reality that Peter and Pam have spent most of their lives trying to escape"[12]

ControversyEdit

Scientific legitimacy issuesEdit

Stephanie Dallam, in a peer-reviewed 2002 article[11] in Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, was sharply critical of the FMSF, writing:

The "False Memory Syndrome" is a controversial theoretical construct based entirely on the reports of parents who claim to be falsely accused of incestuous abuse. The current empirical evidence suggests that the existence of such a syndrome must be rejected. False memory advocates have failed to adequately define or document the existence of a specific syndrome, and a review of the relevant literature demonstrates that the construct is based on a series of faulty assumptions, many of which have been disproven. Likewise, there no credible data showing that the vague symptoms they ascribe to this purported syndrome are widespread or constitute a crisis or epidemic.

Charles Whitfield, MD, in his 1995 book Memory and Abuse, states he had found that all critics of the studies showing support for the validity of delayed memories were members of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation advisory board.[13] It has been asserted that although cases of false memories may exist, the term "syndrome" is misleading and that as an advocacy organization, the FMSF is not a reliable independent source of scientific information.[3]

Noblitt and Perskin state that they beileve the FMSF solely exists to prove that the epidemic of child abuse accusations are the result of incompetent and overzealous therapists, circulates data that comes from biased and unscientific sources and from the same data derives unfounded conclusions,[14] though the book they do this in (Cult and Ritual Abuse) itself has been criticized for its oncoherence.[15]

Critics assert that although cases of false memories exist, the term "syndrome" is misleading and that the FMSF is not a reliable independent source of information about questionable memories.[16] [17]

Paedophilia controversyEdit

Hollida Wakefield and Ralph Underwager were appointed to the FMS Foundation Scientific Advisory Board when it was first created. In an interview with the editor-in-chief of Paidika: : The Journal of Pædophilia, Wakefield is quoted as follows:

"We can't presume to tell [pedophiles] specific behaviors, but in terms of goals, certainly the goal is that the experience be positive, at the very least not negative, for their partner and partner's family. And nurturing. Even if it were a good relationship with the boy, if the boy was not harmed and perhaps even benefited, it it tore the family of the boy apart, that would be negative. It would be nice if someone could get some kind of big research grant to do a longitudinal study of, let's say, a hundred twelve year old boys in relationships with loving paedophiles. Whoever was doing the study would have to follow that at five year intervals for twenty years. This is impossible in the U. S. right now. We're talking a long time in the future." [8]

In the same interview, Underwager is quoted as saying:

"Paedophiles need to become more positive and make the claim that paedophilia is an acceptable expression of God's will for love and unity among human beings. This is the only way the question is going to be answered, of whether or not it is possible. Does it happen? Can it be good? That's what we don't know yet, the ways in which paedophiles can conduct themselves in loving ways. That's what you need to talk about. You need to get involved in discourse, and to do so while acting. Matthew 11 talks about the wisdom of God, and the way in which God's wisdom, like ours, can only follow after. Paedophiles need to become more positive and make the claim that paedophiles is an acceptable expression of God's will for love and unity among human beings." [8]

In the storm of controversy that followed this interview, Hollida Wakefield and Ralph Underwager resigned from the FMSF. Pamela Freyd remains as Executive Director. Underwager argued that the quotations in the Paidika article were taken out of context.[18]

FMSF membersEdit

The FSMF's "advisory board" was initially comprised mostly of parents who, like the Freyds, disputed their adult children's charges of childhood sexual abuse.[11] Members of the FMS Foundation Scientific Advisory Board now include a number of members of the National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine: Aaron T. Beck, M.D., Rochel Gelman, Ph.D., Leila Gleitman, Ph.D., Ernest Hilgard, Ph.D., Philip S. Holzman, Ph.D., Elizabeth Loftus, Ph.D., Paul McHugh, M.D., and Ulric Neisser, Ph.D. The Scientific Advisory Board includes both clinicians and researchers. The FMSF has no affiliations with any other organizations. It is funded by contributions and has no ties to any commercial ventures.

NotesEdit

  1. Royal College of Physicians, 1997, quoted by FMSF.
  2. "The controversy is not about whether children are abused. Child abuse is a serious social problem that requires our attention. Neither is the controversy about whether people may not remember past abuse. There are many reasons why people may not remember something: childhood amnesia, physical trauma, drugs or the natural decay of stored information. The controversy is about the accuracy of claims of recovered "repressed" memories of abuse. The consequences profoundly affect the law, the way therapy is practiced, families and people's lives." FMS Foundation website.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Calof, DL (1993). A Conversation With Pamela Freyd, Ph.D. Co-Founder And Executive Director, False Memory Syndrome Foundation, Inc. Treating Abuse Today 3 (3).
  4. executive editor, Joseph P. Pickett (2000). American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  5. Whitfield, Charles L.; Joyanna L. Silberg, Paul Jay Fink (2001). Misinformation Concerning Child Sexual Abuse and Adult Survivors, Haworth Press.
  6. "One family's tragedy spawns national group", The Baltimore Sun, 12 Sept 1994
  7. Doe, Jane (1991), "How could this happen? Coping with a false accusation of incest and rape", Issues in Child Abuse Accusations, vol. 3, 154-165.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "Paidika Interview: Hollida Wakefield and Ralph Underwager", Paidikia: The Journal of Pædophilia", Winter 1993.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Freyd, J. (1996) Betrayal Trauma: The Logic of Forgetting Child Abuse. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. The history of the confrontations between the Freyds and their daughter Jennifer is recounted in the Afterword, pages 197-199.
  10. Hart, Anne (1995) "The Great Debate," MindNet Journal, vol. 1, #54.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Dallam, Stephanie J. (2001). Crisis or Creation: A Systematic Examination of 'False Memory Syndrome'. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse Vol 9; No. 3/4, pp. 9-36.
  12. Quoted in Memory and Abuse: Remembering and Healing the Effects of Trauma, Charles L. Whitfield, M.D. Health Communications, Inc., 1995. pp. 7–8.
  13. Whitfield, Charles (1995) Memory and Abuse, p. 71.
  14. Noblitt, JR; Perskin PS (2000). Cult and Ritual Abuse: Its History, Anthropology, and Recent Discovery in Contemporary America, Greenwood Publishing Group.
  15. Best, Joel (1996). Book Review: Cult and Ritual Abuse: Its History, Anthropology, and Recent Discovery in Contemporary America. Criminal Justice Review 21: 103.
  16. Calof, David L. (1993). "A Conversation With Pamela Freyd, Ph.D. Co-Founder And Executive Director, False Memory Syndrome Foundation, Inc., Parts 1 and 2," in Treating Abuse Today, Vol. III, No. 3. Available on the web at TAT.
  17. Astraea Household website.
  18. Underwager, Ralph, and Wakefield, Hollida. Misinterpretation of a Primary Prevention Effort
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