False Memory” for Errors in Memory for Details, Journal: Ethics & Behavior 14(3) pages 201-233, 2004
One year later the society claimed victory in another case which again did not fit within the parameters of the syndrome, nor did the court find on the issue. Fiona Reay, a 33 year old care assistant, accused her father of systematic sexual abuse during her childhood. The facts of her childhood were not in dispute: she had run away from home on a number of occasions and there was evidence that she had never been enrolled in secondary school. Her father said it was because she was ‘young and stupid’. He had physically assaulted Fiona on a number of occasions, one of which occurred when she was sixteen. The police had been called to the house by her boyfriend; after he had dropped her home, he heard her screaming as her father beat her with a dog chain.As before there was no evidence of repression of memory in this case. Fiona Reay had been telling the same story to different health professionals for years. Her medical records document her consistent reference to family problems from the age of 14. She finally made a clear statement in 1982 when she asked a gynaecologist if her need for a hysterectomy could be related to the fact that she had been sexually abused by her father. Five years later she was admitted to psychiatric hospital stating that one of the precipitant factors causing her breakdown had been an unexpected visit from her father. She found him stroking her daughter. There had been no therapy, no regression and no hypnosis prior to the allegations being made public.The jury took 27 minutes to find Fiona Reay’s father not guilty of rape and indecent assault. As before, the court did not hear evidence from expert witnesses stating that Fiona was suffering from false memory syndrome. The only suggestion of this was by the defence counsel, Toby Hedworth. In his closing remarks he referred to the ‘worrying phenomenon of people coming to believe in phantom memories’.The next case which was claimed as a triumph for false memory was heard in March 1995. A father was aquitted of raping his daughter. The claims of the BFMS followed the familiar pattern of not fitting within the parameters of false memory at all. The daughter made the allegations to staff members whom she had befriended during her stay in psychiatric hospital. As before there was no evidence of memory repression or recovery during therapy and again the case failed due to lack of corroborating evidence. Yet the society picked up on the defence solicitor’s statements that the daughter was a prone to ‘fantasise’ about sexual matters and had been sexually promiscuous with other patients in the hospital.~ Trouble and Strife, Issues 37-43
If this demonstration proves to hold up under replication it suggests both that therapists can induce false memories and, even more directly, that older family members play a powerful role in defining reality for dependent younger family members." (p. 104). Elizabeth Loftus herself was sexually abused as a child by a male babysitter and admits to blacking the perpetrator out of her memory, although she never forgot the incident. In her autobiography, Witness for the Defence, she talks of experiencing flashbacks of this abusive incident on occasion in court in 1985 (Loftus &Ketcham, 1991, p.149)In her teens, having been told by an uncle that she had found her mother's drowned body, she then started to visualize the scene. Her brother later told her that she had not found the body. Dr Loftus's successful academic career has run parallel to her even more high profile career as an expert witness in court, for the defence of those accused of rape, murder, and child abuse. She is described in her own book as the expert who puts memory on trial, sometimes with frightening implications.She used her theories on the unreliability of memory to cast doubt, in 1975, on the testimony of the only eyewitness left alive who could identify Ted Bundy, the all American boy who was one of America's worst serial rapists and killers (Loftus & Ketcham, 1991, pp. 61-91). Not withstanding Dr Loftus's arguments, the judge kept Bundy in prison. Bundy was eventually tried, convicted and executed.
From Colin A. Ross, 1995: The writer is the brother of the man who co-founded the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. He is writing to WGBH about a program called 'Divided Memories', which you may have seen, that was supposed to be an investigation of memory. This letter also went to Congress and to the press, so it's a public letter. It's just unfortunate that the press, as far as I know, didn't pick it up. 'Gentlemen: Peter Freyd is my brother. Pamela Freyd is both my stepsister and sister-in-law. Jennifer and Gwendolyn [their daughters] are my nieces. There is no doubt in my mind that there was severe abuse in the home of Peter and Pam, while they were raising their daughters. Peter said (on your show, 'Divided Memories') that his humor was ribald. Those of us who had to endure it, remember it as abusive at best and viciously sadistic at worst. 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. There is no such thing as a False Memory Syndrome. It is not, by any normal standard, a Foundation. Neither Pam nor Peter have any significant mental health expertise. That the False Memory Syndrome Foundation has been able to excite so much media attention has been a great surprise to those of us who would like to admire and respect the objectivity and motives of people in the media. Neither Peter's mother (who was also mine), nor his daughters, nor I have wanted anything to do with Peter and Pam for periods of time ranging up to more than two decades. We do not understand why you would 'buy' such an obviously flawed story. But buy it you did, based on the severely biased presentation you made of the memory issue that Peter and Pam created to deny their own difficult reality. For the most part you presented very credible parents and frequently quite incredibly bizarre and exotic alleged victims and therapists. Balance and objectivity would call for the presentation of more credible alleged victims and more bizarre parents, While you did present some highly regarded therapists as commentators, most of the therapists you presented as providers of therapy were clearly not in the mainstream. While this selection of examples may make for much more interesting television, it certainly does not make for more objectivity and fairness. I would advance the idea that 'Divided Memories' hurt victims, helped abusers and confused the public. I wonder why you thought these results would be in the public interest that Public broadcasting is funded to support.
Although the terminology implies scientific endorsement, false memory syndrome is not currently an accepted diagnostic label by the APA and is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.; American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Seventeen researchers (Carstensen et al., 1993) noted that this syndrome is a "non-psychological term originated by a private foundation whose stated purpose is to support accused parents" (p.23). Those authors urged professionals to forgo use of this pseudoscientific terminology. Terminology implies acceptance of this pseudodiagnostic label may leave readers with the mistaken impression that false memory syndrome is a bona fide clinical disorder supported by concomitant empirical evidence.(85)...... it may be easier to imagine women forming false memories given biases against women's mental and cognitive abilities (e.g., Coltrane & Adams, 1996). 86
from: The Portrayal of Child Sexual Assault in Introductory Psychology Textbooks - Elizabeth J. Letourneau, Tonya C. LewisOne of the central questions surrounding the debate on memories of CSA is how often false or repressed memories actually occur. The APA working group (Alpert et al., 1996) and other experts (e.g., Loftus, 1993a) noted that no reliable method can distinguish between accurate and inaccurate memories. Therefore, no one can determine the prevalence of false or repressed memories. Nevertheless, six texts (30%) implied that false memories occur frequently (see Table 1). Of these, three included the opinionated suggestion that a "witch hunt" may be occurring in which innocent parents are routinely accused of, and then severely punished for, CSA. Two texts suggested that false memories of CSA must occur because an entire support group (the FMSF) has been formed for falsely accused parents. These authors apparently failed to consider that some members of the FMSF may actually have sexually assaulted children but are motivated to appear innocent. (85)
The people who were behind my abuse were very clever. They had created something which would be so difficult to explain, so difficult to make sense of, that it would be easier to dismiss it all out of hand as the ramblings of an over-imaginative child.Many people don't want to believe that child abuse exists, or are only willing to believe that certain kinds of abuse go on. They don't want to consider that something so horrific, and yet so widespread, is taking place in their community, perhaps only a door away from them, a few steps from their lives - or even in their lives if they would only open their eyes.I know this, not just because of my own personal experience, but through my work supporting and listening to survivors and those still experiencing abuse.To ask people not only to believe in the abuse but also to take on board all the details of what I'm revealing is a big step, and it has taken me many years to make the decision to tell my story, but it has to be done. This type of abuse is ongoing, as is the culture of disbelief to make people dismiss anyone who talks about it. This needs to be challenged. The things I'm telling you in this book have been kept close to me all my life; I have always known that talking of them, telling my full story, would make some people incredulous - but it's true. It's all true.Whatever the set dressing, they were rapists and abusers - just plain and simple/ The trappings that surrounded the abuse was just a way of creating something that would allow them to do what they wanted to, but which would also allow for confusion on our parts, and devotion on the parts of the 'followers'. I think this is what many people find so hard when they are asked to believe in this sort of abuse. It all seems so fantastical, so it's easy to dismiss. I'm not asking you to believe in any of that. I'm not asking you to believe in Satan, I'm not even asking you to believe in God. I'm just asking you to accept that there are some people who will go to extraordinary lengths to cover up the facts that they are abusing children.
My view is that the false memory campaign is a spent force. It failed to realise its key goals, failed to renew itself and has largely faded away. Of course, the false memory campaign has left behind the sedimentation of doubt and disbelief that we will have to keep chipping away at. However it is important to recognise that we are witnessing an increasing, not decreasing, number of investigations and prosecutions for cases of organised and ritual abuse. Adults and children who disclose sexual abuse are more likely to be believed now than they were ten or twenty years ago, and that includes victims who describe organised and ritual abuse.Source: Interview with Lynn Schirmir
Well before she became famous — or infamous, depending on where you cast your vote — Loftus's findings on memory distortion were clearly commodifiable. In the 1970s and 1980s she provided assistance to defense attorneys eager to prove to juries that eyewitness accounts are not the same as camcorders. "I've helped a lot of people," she says. Some of those people: the Hillside Strangler, the Menendez brothers, Oliver North, Ted Bundy. "Ted Bundy?" I ask, when she tells this to me. Loftus laughs. "This was before we knew he was Bundy. He hadn't been accused of murder yet." "How can you be so confident the people you're representing are really innocent?" I ask. She doesn't directly answer. She says, "In court, I go by the evidence.... Outside of court, I'm human and entitled to my human feelings. "What, I wonder are her human feelings about the letter from a child-abuse survivor who wrote, "Let me tell you what false memory syndrome does to people like me, as if you care. It makes us into liars. False memory syndrome is so much more chic than child abuse.... But there are children who tonight while you sleep are being raped, and beaten. These children may never tell because 'no one will believe them.'" "Plenty of "Plenty of people will believe them," says Loftus. Pshaw! She has a raucous laugh and a voice with a bit of wheedle in it. She is strange, I think, a little loose inside. She veers between the professional and the personal with an alarming alacrity," she could easily have been talking about herself.
It was after a Frontline television documentary screened in the US in 1995 that the Freyds' public profile as aggrieved parents provoked another rupture within the Freyd family, when William Freyd made public his own discomfort.'Peter Freyd is my brother, Pamela Freyd is both my stepsister and sister-in-law,' he explained. Peter and Pamela had grown up together as step-siblings. 'There is no doubt in my mind that there was severe abuse in the home of Peter and Pam, while they were raising their daughters,' he wrote. He challenged Peter Freyd's claims that he had been misunderstood, that he merely had a 'ribald' sense of humour. 'Those of us who had to endure it, remember it as abusive at best and viciously sadistic at worst.' He added that, in his view, 'The False memory Syndrome Foundation is designed to deny a reality that Peter and Pam have spent most of their lives trying to escape.' He felt that there is no such thing as a false memory syndrome.' Criticising the media for its uncritical embrace of the Freyds' campaign, he cautioned:That the False Memory Syndrome Foundation has been able to excite so much media attention has been a great surprise to those of us who would like to admire and respect the objectivity and motive of people in the media. Neither Peter's mother nor his daughters, nor I have wanted anything to do with Peter and Pam for periods of time ranging up to two decades. We do not understand why you would 'buy' into such an obviously flawed story. But buy it you did, based on the severely biased presentation of the memory issue that Peter and Pam created to deny their own difficult reality. p14-14 Stolen Voices: An Exposure of the Campaign to Discredit Childhood Testimony
To take a specific example, a researcher in the Journal of Traumatic Stress interviewed 129 women with documented histories of child sexual abuse that occurred between the ages of 10 months and 12 years. Of those, 38 percent had forgotten the abuse. Of the remaining women who remembered, 16 percent reported that they had for a period of time forgotten but subsequently recovered their memories.  Thus, during that time a "false negative" recorded for those women. These are the sort of distinctions for which Elaine Showalter in Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Media fails to account.
Both incest and the Holocaust have been subject to furious denial by perpetrators and other individuals and by highly organised groups such as the False Memory Syndrome Foundation and the Committee for Historical Review. Incest and the Holocaust are vulnerable to this kind of concerted denial because of their unfathomability, the unjustifiability, and the threat they pose to the politics of patriarchy and anti-Semitism respectively. Over and over, survivors of the Holocaust attest that they were warned of what was happening in Poland but could not believe it at the time, could not believe it later as it was happening to them, and still to this day cannot believe what they, at the same time, know to have occurred. For Holocaust deniers this is a felicitous twist, for their arguments denying the Holocaust and therefore the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state capitalize on the discrepancies of faded memory. In the case of incest, although post-traumatic stress disorder, amnesia, and dissociation represent some of the mind's strategies for comprehending the incomprehensible, incest deniers have taken advantage of inconsistencies to discredit survivor testimony.
One hundred twenty-nine women with previously documented histories of sexual victimization in childhood were interviewed and asked detailed questions about their abuse histories to answer the question "Do people actually forget traumatic events such as child sexual abuse, and if so, how common is such forgetting?" A large proportion of the women (38%) did not recall the abuse that had been reported 17 years earlier. Women who were younger at the time of the abuse and those who were molested by someone they knew were more likely to have no recall of the abuse. The implications for research and practice are discussed. Long periods with no memory of abuse should not be regarded as evidence that the abuse did not occur. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol 62(6), Dec 1994, 1167-1176
Treating Abuse Today 3(4) pp. 26-33TAT: I see the agenda. But let's go back: one of the contentions the therapeutic community has about the Foundation's professed scientific credibility is your use of the term "syndrome." It seems to us that what's happening here is that based solely on anecdotal, unverified reports, the Foundation has started a public relations campaign rather than a bonafide research effort and simply announced to the world that an epidemic of this syndrome exists. The established scientific and clinical organizations are taking you on about this and it's that kind of thing that makes us feel like this effort is not really based on science. Do you have a response to that?Freyd: The response I would make regarding the name of the Foundation is that it will certainly be one of the issues brought up during our scientific meeting this weekend. But let me add that the term, "syndrome," in terms of it being a psychological syndrome, parallels, say, the rape trauma syndrome. Given that and the fact that there are seldom complaints over the use of the term "syndrome" for that, I think that it isn't "syndrome" that's bothering people as much as the term "false."TAT: No. Frankly it's not. It is the term "syndrome." The term false memory is almost 100 years old. It's nothing new, but false memory syndrome is newly coined. Here's our issue with your use of the word "syndrome." The rape trauma syndrome is a good example because it has a very well defined list of signs and symptoms. Having read your literature, we are still at a loss to know what the signs and symptoms of "false memory syndrome" are. Can you tell us succinctly?Freyd: The person with whom I would like to have you discuss that to quote is Dr. Paul McHugh on our advisory board, because he is a clinician.TAT: I would be happy to do that. But if I may, let me take you on a little bit further about this.Freyd: Sure, sure that's fair.TAT: You're the Executive Director of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation - a foundation that says it wants to disseminate scientific information to the community regarding this syndrome but you can't, or won't, give me its signs and symptoms. That is confusing to me. I don't understand why there isn't a list.
Treating Abuse Today 3(4) pp. 26-33While Pamela Freyd was speaking to us on the record about her organization, another development was in the making in the Freyd family. Since Pamela and her husband, Peter Freyd, started the Foundation and its massive public relations effort in which they present as a "falsely accused" couple, their daughter, Jennifer Freyd, Ph.D., remained publicly silent regarding her parents' claims and the activities of the FMS Foundation. She only wished to preserve her privacy. But, as the Foundation's publicity efforts gained a national foothold, Dr. Jennifer Freyd decided that her continued anonymity amounted to complicity. She began to feel that her silence was beginning to have unwitting effects. She saw that she was giving the appearance of agreeing with her parents' public claims and decided she had to speak out.Jennifer Freyd, Ph.D., is a tenured Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon. Along with George K. Ganaway, M.D. (a member of the FMS Foundation Scientific Advisory Board), Lawrence R. Klein, Ph.D., and Stephen H. Landman, Ph.D., she was an invited presenter for The Center for Mental Health at Foote Hospital's Continuing Education Conference: Controversies Around Recovered Memories of Incest and Ritualistic Abuse, held on August 7, 1993 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Dr. Jennifer Freyd's presentation, "Theoretical and Personal Perspectives on the Delayed Memory Debate," included professional remarks on the conference topic, along with a personal section in which she, for the first time, publicly gave her side of the Freyd family story.In her statement, she alleges a pattern of boundary and privacy violations by her parents, some of which have occurred under the auspices of the Foundation; a pattern of inappropriate and unwanted sexualization by her father and denial by her mother, and a pattern of intimidation and manipulation by her parents since the inception of the Foundation. She also recounts that several members of the original FMS Foundation Scientific Advisory Board had dual professional relationships with the Freyd family.
You're the Executive Director of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation - a foundation that says it wants to disseminate scientific information to the community regarding this syndrome but you can't, or won't, give me its signs and symptoms. That is confusing to me. I don't understand why there isn't a list.From journal Treating Abuse Today
Dr. Lois Jolyon West was cleared at Top Secret for his work on MKULTRA. West's numerous connections to the mind control network illustrate how the network is maintained, not through any central conspiracy, but by an interlocking network of academic relationships, grants, conferences, and military appointments. Some doctors in the network were not funded directly by the CIA or military, but their work was of direct relevance to mind control, non-lethal weapons development, creation of controlled dissociation and the building of Manchurian Candidates.
Jolly” West was born in New York City on October 6, 1924. He died of cancer on January 2, 1999. Dr. West served in the U.S. Army during World War II and received his M.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1948, prior to Air Force LSD and MKULTRA contracts carried out there. He did his psychiatry residency from 1949 to 1952 at Cornell (an MKULTRA Institution and site of the MKULTRA cutout The Human Ecology Foundation). From 1948 to 1956 he was Chief, Psychiatry Service, 3700th USAF Hospital, Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas Psychiatrist-in-Chief, University of Oklahoma Consultant in Psychiatry, Oklahoma City Veterans Administration Hospital Consultant in Psychiatry. [...]Dr. West was co-editor of a book entitled Hallucinations, Behavior, Experience, and Theory. One of the contributors to this book, Theodore Sarbin, Ph.D., is a member of the Scientific and Professional Advisory Board of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF). Other members of the FMSF Board include Dr. Martin Orne, Dr. Margaret Singer, Dr. Richard Ofshe, Dr. Paul McHugh, Dr. David Dinges, Dr. Harold Lief, Emily Carota Orne, and Dr. Michael Persinger. The connections of these individuals to the mind control network are analyzed in this and the next two chapters. Dr. Sarbin (see Ross, 1997) believes that multiple personality disorder is almost always a therapist-created artifact and does not exist as a naturally-occurring disorder, a view adhered to by Dr. McHugh, , Dr. Ofshe and other members of the FMSF Board, .Dr. Ofshe is a colleague and co-author of Dr. Singer, who is in turn a colleague and co-author of Dr. West. Denial of the reality of multiple personality by these doctors in the mind control network, who are also on the FMSF Scientific and Professional Advisory Board, could be disinformation. The disinformation could be amplified by attacks on specialists in multiple personality as CIA conspiracy lunatics, , , . The FMSF is the only organization in the world that has attacked the reality of multiple personality in an organized, systematic fashion. FMSF Professional and Advisory Board Members publish most of the articles and letters to editors of psychiatry journals hostile to multiple personality disorder.
The people who support and defend those accused of child sexual abuse indiscriminately, those who join organizations dedicated to defending people who are accused of child sexual abuse with no screening whatsoever to keep out those who are guilty as charged are likewise not necessarily people engaged in an objective search for the truth. Some of them can and do use deceit, trickery, misstated research, harassment, intimidation, and charges of laundering federal money to silence their opponents.Those of us who are the recipients of bogus lawsuits and frivolous ethics charges and phony phone calls and pickets outside our offices must know more than theCONFESSIONS or A WHISTLE-BLOWER 123research to survive such tactics. We must know something about endurance and about the importance of refusing to be intimidated.Confessions of a Whistle-Blower: Lessons Learned Author: Anna C. Salter. Ethics & Behavior, Volume 8, Issue 2 June 1998
The BFMSS [British False Memory Syndrome Society]The founder of the 'false memory' movement in Britain is an accused father. Two of his adult daughters say that Roger Scotford sexually abused them in childhood. He denied this and responded by launching a spectacular counter-attack, which enjoyed apparently unlimited and uncritical air time in the mass media and provoke Establishment institutions that had made no public utterance about abuse to pronounce on the accused adults' repudiation of it.p171-172The 'British False Memory Syndrome Society' lent a scientific aura to the allegations - the alchemy of 'falsehood' and 'memory' stirred with disease and science. The new name pathologised the accusers and drew attention away from the accused. But the so-called syndrome attacked not only the source of the stories but also the alliances between the survivors' movement and practitioners in the health, welfare, and the criminal justice system. The allies were represented no longer as credulous dupes but as malevolent agents who imported a miasma of the 'false memories' into the imaginations of distressed victims.Roger Scotford was a former naval officer turned successful property developer living in a Georgian house overlooking an uninterrupted valley in luscious middle England. He was a rich man and was able to give up everything to devote himself to the crusade.He says his family life was normal and that he had been a 'Dr Spock father'. But his first wife disagrees and his second wife, although believing him innocent, describes his children's childhood as very difficult. His daughters say they had a significantly unhappy childhood.In the autumn of 1991, his middle daughter invited him to her home to confront him with the story of her childhood. She was supported by a friend and he was invited to listen and then leave. She told him that he had abused her throughout her youth. Scotford, however, said that the daughter went to a homeopath for treatment for thrush/candida and then blamed the condition on him. He also said his daughter, who was in her twenties, had been upset during a recent trip to France to buy a property. He said he booked them into a hotel where they would share a room. This was not odd, he insisted, 'to me it was quite natural'. He told journalists and scholars the same story, in the same way, reciting the details of her allegations, drawing attention to her body and the details of what she said he had done to her. Some seemed to find the detail persuasive. Several found it spooky.p172-173
Many professionals have to sign gagging clauses or face the sack if they speak out. The social worker and therapist was familiar with the scare that revelation brings to the survivor. […]We are in this story. It isn't ours, but we are in it nonetheless, not least because of the viscous campaign which has followed us over the last ten years. Any organisation with which we work may receive correspondence from the accused adults’ and ‘false memory’ movements. Some of these propagandists are confidentially dominating the professional and political arguments using new information technology to spread what we consider to be smears, innuendo and misinformation. P8(refers to authors Beatrix Campbell & Judith Jones – a journalist and a social worker/therapist)
Another preoccupation fed into this dynamic relationship between discovery and denial: does sexual abuse actually matter? Should it, in fact, be allowed? After all, it was only in the 19070s that the Paedophile Information Exchange had argued for adults’ right to have sex with children – or rather by a slippery sleight of word, PIE inverted the imperative by arguing that children should have the right to have sex with adults. This group had been disbanded after the imprisonment of Tom O’Carroll, its leader, with some of its activists bunkered in Holland’s paedophile enclaves, only to re-appear over the parapets in the sex crime controversies of the 1990s. How recent it was, then, that paedophilia was fielded as one of the liberation movements, how many of those on the left and right of the political firmament, were – and still are – persuaded that sex with children is merely another case for individual freedom?Few people in Britain at the turn of the century publicly defend adults’ rights to sex with children. But some do, and they are to be found nesting in the coalition crusading against evidence of sexual suffering. They have learned from the 1970s, masked their intentions and diverted attention on to ‘the system’. Others may not have come out for paedophilia but they are apparently content to enter into political alliances with those who have. We believe that this makes their critique of survivors and their allies unreliable. Others genuinely believe in false memories, but may not be aware of the credentials of some of their advisors.