To: MIT.EDU!witchhunt Date: Wed, 14 Dec 1994 05:28:16 -0500 'Recovered' memories challenge

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From: romulus.ehs.uiuc.edu!saul.cis.upenn.edu!pjf (Peter Freyd) To: MIT.EDU!witchhunt Date: Wed, 14 Dec 1994 05:28:16 -0500 'Recovered' memories challenged Atlanta Constitution (AC) - Friday December 9, 1994 By: Anne Rochell STAFF WRITER Section: NATIONAL NEWS Page: C/1 Word Count: 717 TEXT: How we remember traumatic events, particularly abuse, has become a topic of discussion for everyone from Geraldo Rivera to the Harvard Medical School, because the debate centers on an unspeakable crime: Incest. A subject once so taboo it was never discussed, incest now has everyone choosing sides. On one side are those who believe in recovered memories. They say childhood sexual abuse, satanic ritual abuse and even alien abduction, dating back to infancy and usually lasting years, can be completely forgotten, only to resurface years, even decades later. On the other side are those who say these memories are confabulations, encouraged by a therapist and eventually adopted by the patient as a convenient explanation for a symptom, such as overeating or poor sex drive. Advocates of this point of view have dubbed the condition "false memory syndrome." "This is like the Hula Hoop craze," said Dr. Paul McHugh, director of the psychiatry department at Johns Hopkins University. "There is no more evidence for satanic ritual abuse than there was for witches in the 17th century." Beginning today in Baltimore, McHugh is presiding over a three-day meeting that has a decided slant on the subject, evident in the subtitle of the conference: "Scientific, clinical and legal issues of false memory syndrome." More than 600 clinicians - and parents alienated from their children by accusations of incest - are expected to attend the conference. The conference is hosted by the False Memory Syndrome (FMS) Foundation - which has more than 4,000 members, all of whom say they were falsely accused of abuse. It is the first such meeting to be co-sponsored by a prestigious research institute, and that has made the recovered memory camp furious. "This is a nonexistent syndrome," said Laura Brown, a clinical psychologist in Seattle, who believes memories can be repressed and retrieved. "I was appalled when I saw that this conference was going on," she added. "There is a large body of empirical research demonstrating that people can lose and regain access to memories of trauma. It's just that the mechanism is not known." McHugh said there is just as much evidence that memory can be distorted and manipulated. "If false memories can exist in alien abductions - and few people believe those memories are true - then it's quite clear they can occur in these other things," McHugh said. Both sides agree, however, that there is no tangible evidence in these controversial cases. However, the belief that memories can be lost and retrieved has gained considerable acceptance. Half the states in the nation have changed their laws to allow people to sue or press criminal charges against people accused of abuse years after the statute of limitations on the alleged act has expired. Such a bill was proposed in Georgia but did not pass. Several Georgia court cases have been based on recovered memories. DeKalb County businessman Al Wilson was accused by two daughters and a granddaughter of sexual abuse, and they sued him on the basis of recovered memories. The women dropped the case this fall. The Burches of Fayette County, elderly grandparents, were indicted on 19 counts of child molestation and cruelty to children in connection with their care of three granddaughters. The charges stemmed from the recovered memories of an adult granddaughter. The 1992 trial ended in a hung jury, and the Fayette district attorney's office has decided not to retry. The FMS Foundation is tracking some 800 criminal and civil cases nationwide of adult children accusing their parents of abuse, said the foundation's executive director, Pamela Freyd. She believes there are thousands more. But there is something else happening in the courts, she said. Patients are deciding these horrible things did not happen after all, and are suing the therapists who they say encouraged them to "uncover" these memories. There are now hundreds of these so-called "retractors," Freyd said, and they have even started a newsletter. Several plan to speak at the conference this weekend - an event that is certain to fuel both sides of the memory debate. "The question is how often the abuse happens and to whom it happens," said Kathy Steele, an Atlanta therapist. "The FMS people are saying it didn't happen just because they go to church and they look nice and they make a lot of money." Copyright 1994 Atlanta Newspapers Inc.

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