The F A L S E M E M O R Y S Y N D R O M E F O U N D A T I O N
3401 Market Street suite 130, Philadelphia, PA 19104, (215-387-1865)
F R E Q U E N T L Y
A S K E D
Q U E S T I O N S
THANK YOU FOR CONTACTING THE FALSE MEMORY SYNDROME FOUNDATION. Many
people have requested information from the Foundation and this booklet
was written in response to the questions most often asked. We hope
that it will provide a starting point for understanding the issues.
Pamela Freyd, Ph.D.
WHAT IS FALSE MEMORY SYNDROME? Dr. John F. Kihlstrom has suggested
the following definition: "a condition in which a person's identity
and interpersonal relationships are centered around a memory of trau-
matic experience which is objectively false but in which the person
strongly believes. Note that the syndrome is not characterized by
false memories as such. We all have memories that are inaccurate.
Rather, the syndrome may be diagnosed when the memory is so deeply
ingrained that it orients the individual's entire personality and
lifestyle, in turn disrupting all sorts of other adaptive behavior.
The analogy to personality disorder is intentional. False Memory Syn-
drome is especially destructive because the person assiduously avoids
confrontation with any evidence that might challenge the memory. Thus
it takes on a life of its own, encapsulated and resistant to correc-
tion. The person may become so focused on memory that he or she may be
effectively distracted from coping with the real problems in his or
The AMA considers recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse to be
of uncertain authenticity, which should be subject to external veri-
fication. The use of recovered memories is fraught with problems of
Council on Scientific Affairs American
Medical Association, June 16, 1994
FMS is not listed in the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual" (1994).
Although there are many early references to false memories, pseudo-
memories, and confabulations in the literature, the use of the term
"false memory syndrome" was introduced with the formation of the Foun-
dation. It quite properly takes many years for the official recogni-
tion of a problem but that does not mean that the problem doesn't ex-
ist. Whatever one calls it, the problem of FMS is real. The fact that
the American Medical Association was compelled to issue the warning in
the box above about recovered memories is ample evidence.
| This is the most worthwhile organization I never intended to join. |
| A Dad |
WHO CONTACTS THE FALSE MEMORY SYNDROME FOUNDATION AND WHY? People
contact the FMS Foundation for many reasons. Most people call because
they believe that they have been wrongly accused by someone who claims
to have "recovered memories" from a decade or more ago. Some people
have a professional concern such as law, mental health, education, law
enforcement or insurance, and they want information about the issues
that have been raised. Other people have a personal concern, and they
ask for help with their personal problem in addition to information
about the issues.
The most frequent kinds of help people ask for include: requests
from parents about how to reach their accusing adult children who will
not talk to them; requests from adult children who no longer believe
they were abused about how to reach their parents whom they once ac-
cused; requests from therapists who want to know how to tell true from
false memories; requests from people with recovered memories who want
to know if their memories are true; requests from people who are in-
volved in legal situations; requests from parents with dependent
children who can't see them because of accusations; and, starting in
the summer of 1994, requests from families asking for guidance in the
process of reconciliation. In the first two and a half years of its
existence, more than 17,000 families, including those with young
children, and thousands of professionals have called the Foundation to
ask for help.
Talking to people about the FMS issue can be helpful to profession-
als and to affected families. We urge readers to contact the volunteer
whose name is listed on the card enclosed with this booklet. In this
way readers can join local efforts and activities and also become an
active participant in the solution to the FMS problem.
| While our awareness of childhood sexual abuse has increased enor- |
| mously in the last decade and the horrors of its consequences |
| should never be minimized, there is another side to this situa- |
| tion, namely that of the consequences of false allegations where |
| whole families are split apart and terrible pain inflicted on |
| everyone concerned. This side of the story needs to be told, for a |
| therapist may, with the best intentions in the world, contribute |
| to enormous family suffering. |
| Harold Lief, M.D., November 1991 |
| Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania |
WHAT IS THE FALSE MEMORY SYNDROME FOUNDATION? The FMS Foundation is
a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization formed in March 1992 and located
in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
WHO FOUNDED THE FALSE MEMORY SYNDROME FOUNDATION? A group of profes-
sionals and affected families formed the FMS Foundation. They felt
that an organization was needed to document the extent of this new
phenomenon, to study the origins of the phenomenon, to disseminate the
latest scientific information on memory to the public and professional
community, and to help families.
HOW DID THE FMS FOUNDATION START? In November 1991, Darrell Sif-
ford, the late columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, wrote about a
couple who said that after entering therapy their adult daughter sud-
denly claimed to recover "repressed memories" of incest and other
abuse and who then cut off all contact with anyone who would not
"validate" her new identity. In the week following the publication
Dr. Harold Lief, who was quoted in the column, received close to one
hundred calls from affected families. "This is the big bang of ther-
apy for the 90's," Sifford stated. He said that he felt it was impor-
tant to write more columns and that there should be a place where
people who were affected could call to get information. That was the
seed that later grew to become the FMS Foundation.
| After the column appeared in newspapers around the country, I re- |
| ceived a response that was larger and more passionate than any- |
| thing that's come to me in more than a decade. About 25 percent of |
| the response was negative and outraged -- from people who felt |
| that I and those I interviewed didn't believe that childhood sex- |
| ual abuse ever happened. About 75 percent was positive and appre- |
| ciative -- from parents and family members who said they had been |
| falsely accused, and also from some "victims." |
| Darrell Sifford |
| January 5, 1992 |
| The Philadelphia Inquirer |
HOW IS THE FOUNDATION GOVERNED? The Foundation's Scientific and
Professional Advisory Board is composed of prominent researchers and
clinicians from the fields of psychiatry, psychology, social work,
law, and education. This group advises on issues of memory and therapy
practice and helps set the future direction for the organization. The
Foundation's Board of Directors sets policy and oversees the fiscal
and day-to-day operations.
HOW IS THE FOUNDATION FINANCED? Membership dues and contributions
from families and friends are the major sources of funds for the Foun-
dation. Dues constitute less than half of the income. Small grants
from other foundations have allowed the FMSF to plan meetings with the
Advisory Board and to undertake two major conferences. Volunteers de-
vote significant time and effort. The Foundation's staff is small and
it would not be possible to exist without volunteers. A financial re-
port is available in the office. Because the FMS Foundation is a
501(c)(3) institution, contributions are tax deductible.
WHAT HAS THE ORGANIZATION ACCOMPLISHED? The Foundation has brought
the problem of False Memory Syndrome to both public and professional
awareness. Newspaper articles and television documentaries have ex-
plained the story to the public, while continuing-educational programs
and professional articles have alerted the mental health community to
the issues. In April 1993, the first professional and scientific con-
ference was held, Memory and Reality: Emerging Crisis, a three-day
event attended by over 600 professionals and families. Papers were
delivered by many of the world's experts on memory. Memory and Real-
ity: Reconciliation, the second scientific conference, (December 9-11,
1994) has been cosponsored with Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.
| For me, your work has performed a miracle: transforming a baffling |
| personal nightmare into a comprehensible and challenging social |
| problem. Building on the literature you have assembled, I am now |
| able to reach out to enlist other family members to help my |
| daughter. |
| A Dad |
DOES THE FOUNDATION SPEAK OUT AGAINST THE ABUSE OF CHILDREN? Yes. We
know that sexual abuse of children exists. There is empirical evidence
to substantiate that the sexual abuse of children exists to a much
greater extent than was previously recognized. It is a reprehensible
crime. Every effort should be made to help victims of sexual abuse and
to create a social climate in which abuse does not continue to take
HOW DO WE KNOW THAT THE FOUNDATION IS NOT HARBORING PERPETRATORS?
The Foundation cannot judge the truth or falsity of the reports that
it receives. It is the patterns in the reports that have caused alarm.
Families tell us that they would like to have their situations inves-
tigated. Each report deserves to be evaluated on its own merits by
appropriate monitoring boards.
WHAT ARE THE PATTERNS THAT HAVE CAUSED ALARM? One pattern that has
caused alarm is the use of "memory enhancement techniques" such as
hypnosis, sodium amytal, dream interpretation, guided imagery, body
massages, participation in survivor groups and reading of self-help
books in the belief that this will find "memories." In the summer of
1993, the AMA passed a resolution warning of the dangers of misappli-
cation in the use of these techniques. In June of 1994 they issued a
warning about all recovered memories. The American Medical Association
agreed with the American Psychiatric Association that "...there is no
completely accurate way of determining the validity of reports in the
absence of corroborating information."
Another pattern is that those who rewrite their history and change
their identity to that of incest survivors cut off contact from any
persons or situations that might challenge their new view of them-
selves. Cutting off contact is a cult-like behavior and not standard
| On April 4th our daughter wrote to her father (70 years old) and |
| me (67 years old). She accused her father of molesting her over |
| and over again and abusing her from ages 3 to 8. She accused her |
| older brother of knowing about the abuse because, she said, his |
| room was under the attic where it was supposed to have gone on. |
| There was no attic in that house. I asked her to go with me to |
| that house to see if there was an attic but she refused. On April |
| 30th, my husband of 46 years, died of a ruptured aneurysm. I know |
| he died of a broken heart. |
| A Mom |
WHO IS AFFECTED BY FMS? Like a pebble dropped into a pond, an accu-
sation has a n accusation has a ripple effect on the entire family --
the accuser, the accused and non-accused: parents, brothers and sis-
ters, grandchildren, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends. As of
October 1994, we have documented more than 14,000 reports of accusa-
tions that fit the pattern we have described. As part of an ongoing
effort to describe and understand the phenomenon, we collect in-depth
demographic information from affected families. Analysis of data is
ongoing. Here are some of the findings we reported in April 1993:
92% are female.
42% are first born.
74% are between ages of 31 and 50.
31% have education beyond college.
26% report memory of abuse prior to age 2; 50% prior to age 4;
66% prior to age 6.
64% of accusations are "repressed" between 20 and 39 years.
62% accused fathers of active abuse, and mothers of being "in
30% accused both mother and father of active abuse.
22% of accused are in their 70's or 80's.
74% have never been divorced.
18% are accused of participating in satanic ritual abuse.
67% have no contact at all with accusing child, others only limited
16% have been threatened with or are involved in legal action.
71% of siblings do not believe the accusations.
| Some days I want to go to my sister and hug her and tell her I |
| love her. Other days I want to scream at her and choke her. |
| Most days I am just numb. When two people you love say two differ- |
| ent things, and only one of them can be right, you have to choose |
| the one you believe. You do this knowing you will lose the other. |
| A Sister |
WILL I BE SUED? CAN I SUE? Child abuse is a criminal offense. Any-
one who has been accused of a crime should consult legal counsel. One
out of sixteen of the families that contact the Foundation tell us
that they are being sued. Of these suits, three-quarters are civil and
one-quarter are criminal suits. Of the civil suits, more than half are
dismissed with prejudice -- meaning the suit cannot be opened again.
The most frequent comment from families who have had lawsuits brought
against them is, "I won but I lost. I didn't get my child back." The
Foundation is currently tracking over 800 lawsuits brought on the
basis of recovered memories.
In June of 1994, the Ramona case in California was the first in
which a third party -- the father who was not a patient -- was allowed
to bring a lawsuit against his daughter's therapists. While the thera-
pists were found guilty of malpractice, there are many obstacles to
filing this type of case.
Many retractors, people who now say that their recovered memories
were false, are initiating lawsuits against their therapists. Some-
where between 60 to 70 percent of the retractors who contact the
Foundation inform us that they have begun a lawsuit.
| A decline in public respect for the presumption of innocence is no |
| minor matter. A society that lets a notion like "recovered memory"|
| gain such force that it overwhelms its most basic judicial prin- |
| ciples has waded into deep and dangerous waters. |
| Editorial, Wall Street Journal, December 1, 1993 |
WHAT IS MPD? Some parents tell us that their children have been di-
agnosed with MPD and they wonder what that is. The diagnosis of Multi-
ple Personality Disorder (MPD) was changed with the publication of the
"Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV" to Dissociative Identity Dis-
order. While there were only a handful of MPD cases reported in all
the world literature before 1970, there have been thousands reported
in the past decade. The leap in cases seems to have followed the pub-
lication and movies of "Three Faces of Eve" and "Sybil".
There is lively discussion as to the cause of this disorder in which
a person seems not to be aware of various aspects of him or her self.
Some claim that most cases are iatrogenic or doctor-induced. Others
claim that it is a "response to" or is "linked to" or is "an outcome"
of childhood maltreatment, generally sexual abuse. The flaw with this
line of reasoning is that the studies cited fail to consider other
aspects of a child's life. According to August Piper Jr., MD, "Whether
MPD is a discrete condition or simply a collection of symptoms having
no intrinsic relationship to each other, is unclear and controvers-
Whereas other diagnoses carry a negative stigma, MPD patients de-
scribe themselves as having special talents to survive. Retractors who
had MPD diagnoses tell us that they had frequent and expensive hospi-
WHAT ABOUT SATANIC RITUAL ABUSE AND ALIEN ABDUCTION? Patients who
have been diagnosed as MPD often also begin to believe that they were
part of an intergenerational cult that performed satanic ritual abuse
(SRA). While it is known that some rebellious teenagers dabble with
activities and symbols that are associated with satanic beliefs, there
is no evidence that there exists any kind of intergenerational cult
conspiracy that murders and tortures babies in elaborate rituals. In-
deed, law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, have delved deeply
into hundreds of reported cases and have found no evidence of the kind
of SRA activity that patients come to believe.
In the past few years, many therapy patients have come to believe
that they have been abducted by space aliens or that they were abused
in past lives. While these beliefs give the person a "reason" for un-
happiness or dissatisfaction, there is no empirical evidence that such
activity could have happened. Traditionally, therapists told us that
they were interested in the "feelings" that a patient had about his or
her memories. In recent years, however, therapists have come to see
their role as "validating" the patient's memories. This is a very big
change in therapy because it suddenly removes the therapy from the
office to the forensic arena and ignores the important clinical dis-
tinction between historical truth and narrative truth.
| Until hard evidence is obtained and corroborated, the public |
| should not be frightened into believing that babies are being bred |
| and eaten, that 50,000 missing children are being murdered in |
| human sacrifices, or that satanists are taking over America's day |
| care centers or institutions. No one can prove with absolute cer- |
| tainty that such activity has NOT occurred. The burden of proof, |
| however, as it would be in a criminal prosecution, is on those who |
| claim that it has occurred. The explanation that the satanists are |
| too organized and law enforcement is too incompetent only goes so |
| far in explaining the lack of evidence. For at least eight years |
| American law enforcement has been aggressively investigating the |
| allegations of victims of ritual abuse. There is little or no evi- |
| dence for the portion of their allegations that deals with large- |
| scale baby breeding, human sacrifice, and organized satanic con- |
| spiracies. Now it is up to mental health professionals, not law |
| enforcement, to explain why victims are alleging things that don't |
| seem to have happened. |
| Kenneth V. Lanning, Behavioral Science Unit, FBI |
| "Investigator's Guide to Allegations of Ritual Child Abuse" |
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN SOMEONE RETRACTS? The Foundation is currently in
contact with more than 300 families in which the accuser has retract-
ed. There isn't just one reason why someone happens to retract any
more than there is one reason why some people come to believe that
they had forgotten their own history. Generally, retractors tell us
that something happened that caused a break in therapy. Sometimes
insurance money for therapy ran out and the patient was dismissed.
Sometimes a significant life event caused a person to reflect and
reconsider. Such events are the death of a parent or a wedding or the
birth of a child. Other retractors tell us that something a friend
said or something that they read or saw on television started them
thinking. They say that they had been told that if they recovered an
abuse memory it must be true. They had never been told that the things
that we think of as memories can be confabulated or mistaken as well
as true. They tell us that they got lonely for their families.
| I entered therapy in the late fall of 1985 because I was unhappy |
| at the way I was dealing with my son, age 9. I thought he might |
| need some counseling because he had seemed very angry for a young |
| child. Soon the therapy began to focus only on my adult issues and |
| we did not work with my son. |
| Clinical depression runs in my family but the therapist kept me |
| involved in digging up my past. He kept looking for more, more, |
| more! |
| My mother died in January, 1992 and I never had a chance to tell |
| her how sorry I was for the accusations. I now have to make my |
| apologies at her grave. |
| After her death, I stopped working on trying to find memories |
| and began dealing with my loss and my marriage which was falling |
| apart. I began to slowly wean myself from the therapist. My hus- |
| band and I had started marriage counseling with another therapist |
| who I began slowly to trust. In the meantime I had been reading |
| the case of Dr. Bean-Bayog and Paul Lozano and heard about FMS. It |
| took me eight more months to finally get clear. |
| This past year has been very painful to me as I've really begun |
| to acknowledge what I lost as a result of therapy. I went from |
| being a very productive woman who was raising three children and |
| was serving on a school committee to a dependent, depressed, re- |
| gressed, and suicidal woman. |
| It's amazing to me that this situation could have occurred and |
| wrecked such havoc on my life. |
| A Retractor |
HAVE ANY FAMILIES RECONCILED? As of October 1994, more than a thous-
and families have called to say that their family now is in the pro-
cess of reconciling. While approximately 300 of these situations in-
volve retractions of the accusation, many do not. In many of the
cases, the person making the accusation attempts to resume contact and
acts as if nothing had happened. This is acceptable for some families
and not for others. There is much to be learned in this area. Dr.
Margaret Singer has suggested that perhaps families will need to
"rebond" before they can "review" the ideas that had been so hurtful
to everyone. Perhaps rebuilding ties of love and trust will enable
people to overcome the shame and embarrassment and then to talk about
what happened. The Foundation is seeking ways to help ease this trans-
ition for all members of families.
"We are now talking to each other on the phone weekly. We try when
talking to have only good feelings which is not hard because we
love her very much, and we are happy to keep the lines of communi-
cation open. Neither of us speaks of the conflict we have gone
through. When my husband and I talk it over later we know, of
course, that nothing has really been solved, but I do not expect
it to change, at least in the near future...I realize that this
may not work for some families but in our case it is the only
thing we feel that we can do."
"My daughter is back. She is the same wonderful loving person she
was before she recovered memories. Her brother is upset because
she has not apologized but I don't need an apology. It is enough
to know that she is safe and to have her love."
"I was reunited with my parents after three horrible years of
being involved with a bad counselor and learning first hand what
the False Memory Syndrome was all about. Today I am very thankful
to God to be back together with my family. My parents have been
so forgiving and I am deeply thankful that we have been reunited."
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY MEMORIES ARE TRUE? Sometimes people call the
Foundation and ask us if their recovered memories are true. There is
no way that we could ever know what happened to other people many
years ago. In the absence of some independent external corroboration,
there is no magic formula that anyone has to discern true from false
memories. When people ask us this question, we generally try to get
them to reflect upon how the memory came to them. If memory enhance-
ment techniques such as hypnosis were involved, they should know that
while they may feel that they are remembering more, there is no evi-
dence that any of these techniques work reliably. Hypnosis and sodium
amytal ("truth serum") are especially unreliable. Other techniques of
"memory work" have not been studied systematically, so we do not know
much about them.
Memory does not work like a video tape recorder. There just is no
button or pill that anyone can take to guarantee historically accurate
memories. Memory is constructive. People take bits and fragments and
reconstruct a narrative from them that makes sense to them in the here
and now. There is a lot of filling in the blanks. Those blanks get
filled in with new information that mixes with the old information and
it becomes impossible to separate.
| We quite literally "make up stories" about our lives, the world, |
| and reality in general. Often it is the story that creates the |
| memory, rather than vice versa. |
| Robyn Dawes, 1993 |
ARE TRAUMATIC MEMORIES DIFFERENT? A host of scientific studies has
demonstrated that when events are accompanied by a great deal of emo-
tion, they are likely to be remembered. There is a parallel belief,
however, that it is common for people to repress memories of horrible
events. This means that the memories are cut off from consciousness
and relegated to a region of the unconscious where they are protected
from the kinds of decay that affects other kinds of memories. There is
also the belief that even though repressed, these memories can be dug
out with therapeutic assistance years or decades later. There is the
belief that once dug out that they are accurate and that digging them
out is essential for healing. This collection of beliefs, which we
abbreviate by calling a belief in repression, has not been supported
by scientific research.
Distortions to memory can take place in three broad areas: when a
memory is stored (encoded), while it is being stored, and when it is
retrieved. Something could be misperceived and thus an inaccurate
memory could be stored. We know that memories are subject to deteria-
tion and change over time when they are in storage. And we know that
our present expectations and beliefs can alter our perception of a
memory when it is recalled. Careful experiments have shown that it is
remarkably easy to influence people so that they come to believe in
memories that are false.
Some critics have said that this research is not relevant because
the events remembered were not traumatic. The argument, that a trau-
matic memory is not subject to the ordinary processes of memory such
as misperceptions, distortions, decay, and change, has no scientific
base. To the best of our scientific knowledge, all memories of events
are reconstructed and subject to change.
The issue is "false memories." The historical truth or falsity of a
memory is independent of whether or not a memory is traumatic. While
there is a lack of evidence accepted by the scientific community to
support the collection of claims we call repression theory, there is
solid, accepted scientific evidence that false memories can be
| The evidence from neurobiology on memory indicates that, "Memory |
| appears to be stored as distributed ensembles of synaptic change. |
| Neural networks are continuously resculpted as time passes after |
| learning, i.e., there are both gains and losses of synaptic con- |
| nectivity, and gradual changes in the substrate of memory. In gen- |
| eral, what is understood about the biology of memory fits tradi- |
| tional psychological accounts of memory that emphasize its prone- |
| ness to error and reconstruction, and change over time." |
| Larry Squire, Ph.D., Professor |
| Psychiatry and Neurosciences |
| University of California, San Diego. |
| Memory and Reality: Reconciliation Dec., 1994. |
ARE MEMORIES STORED IN THE BODY? Some people have claimed that they
knew they were abused because they had "body memories." They argue
that a traumatic memory is stored in the body and that years later it
can affect adult behavior without our awareness.
Memories are not stored in the body; they are stored in the brain.
Implicit memory, the kind of memory that is associated with motor
skills such as knowing how to ride a bicycle or how to touch-type on
a keyboard, has long been recognized. Even though it seems that the
body can do these things independently because there is no conscious
awareness of what is going on, the brain controls this type of activ-
The fact that people can have aversive reactions to things because
of some past conditioning is also well-known and accepted. Aversions
to food in particular have been studied. In the Ramona case one expert
witness testified that Holly Ramona's dislike of whole pickles and
bananas was a sign that she had repressed a memory of being forced to
perform oral sex. The fact that a person has an aversion, however,
does not tell us how that aversion came about. It is pure speculation,
a guess, when someone tries to infer a cause.
There simply are no sure signs or symptoms that indicate that sexual
abuse -- or anything else for that matter -- occurred.
(Analogies: Someone who has a brain tumor might have a headache, but
someone who has a headache probably does not have a brain tumor. The
fact that children's reading levels increase at the same time as shoe
size increases, does not mean that big feet cause better readers. A
correlation does not equal causation.)
WHY WOULD SOMEONE REMEMBER SOMETHING SO HORRIBLE IF IT DIDN'T REALLY
HAPPEN? This is a haunting question, but there are several possible
explanations. One is that the memory is a kind of symbolic expression
of troubled family relationships. Another is the cultural climate in
our society which has nurtured the belief in the relationship between
sexual abuse and individual pathology. When people enter therapy,
they do so to get better. People go into therapy because they want to
change. They have esteem for the person they have chosen to help them
or they would not be there. For the client to change, he or she must
acknowledge and agree with the validity of the therapist's opinion. If
the therapist believes that the reason the client has a problem is
because of some past trauma and especially if the therapist believes
that the patient will not get better unless he or she remembers the
trauma, the patient will work to find what he or she thinks is a
trauma memory in order to get better.
Richard Ofshe and Ethan Watters have noted that "No one -- not the
patients, therapists, parents, or critics of recovered memory therapy
-- questions that this therapy is an intensely difficult and painful
experience. That the pain of therapy is real should not be accepted,
however, as an argument that the memories uncovered are accurate.
One's emotional reaction to a perceived memory need not correlate with
the veracity of that event, but rather only to whether one believes
that event to be true" (p 109 Making Monsters).
Therapists may work in the belief that they are helping clients and
improving a culture in which sex abuse is far too prevalent. A patient
may find group acceptance in the cadre of survivors and find "the"
reason for problems. Patients suffering from severe psychological
symptoms are known to engage in what is called "effort after meaning"
in that they seek some explanation, however remote, for suffering.
| EFFORT AFTER MEANING |
| When you first remember your abuse or acknowledge its effects, you |
| may feel tremendous relief. Finally there is a reason for your |
| problems. There is someone, and something to blame. |
| Bass and Davis p. 173 "Courage to Heal" |
IS AN EATING DISORDER A SIGN OF SEXUAL ABUSE? The belief that a
person with an eating disorder must have been sexually abused has been
widespread. It is, however, unfounded. Not only are there many dif-
ferent causes for eating disorders, the research linking sexual abuse
with bulimia and anorexia has so many methodological flaws that the
claim that sexual abuse is a risk factor for eating disorders is not
justified. A review of the research in this area appeared in the April
1992 American Journal of Psychiatry. The August 1994 issue of this
same journal has additional articles urging caution. These articles,
"support measured skepticism about the specific role of sexual abuse
apart from other aspects of disturbed family organization and func-
tion," noted editor Aaron Esman.
The attempt to find "the" cause for something is not new, but the
reality is that complicated psychological and social issues have com-
HOW DO I REACH MY CHILD? Over and over again, parents ask us what
they can do to reach their child. Professionals have urged families to
try to keep contact in a non-confrontational way when it is possible.
Cards or letters or calls that can keep the family in touch are the
most effective. Although there may be long-term benefits, parents who
want to send information about memory or other relevant material to
their child should be aware that, generally, this strategy doesn't
work. As Richard Gardner, MD has written, "When the father, mother,
and other family members try to convince the accusing woman that her
beliefs are false and that many of the elements in her scenario are
absurd and even impossible, their arguments fall on deaf ears. If the
accusing woman does respond, she provides some kind of a rationaliza-
tion that may be as implausible as the original scenario. These
patients and their therapists commonly claim, 'There was no point to
even confronting him: he would deny it anyway, so why waste time.'
When the mothers of these women try to convince them that the accusa-
tion has no basis in reality, they will claim that the mother is only
trying to protect the father in order to preserve her marriage."
(Academy Forum, Fall 1994)
For the many thousands of families that are affected with this prob-
lem, the way to reach a child may not be direct. By working together,
families can alert the mental health professional organizations to the
desperate need for them to intervene in this area.
| Strange as it may seem for such an exacting discipline with such |
| potential to influence people's lives for good or ill, psychother- |
| apy is not a licensed profession. Therapy is an "unregulated |
| field." No regulatory body at any governmental level oversees cert-|
| ification and maintenance of professional standards for the prac- |
| tice of psychotherapy as such, though standards exist for psychia- |
| try and the other professions most psychotherapists belong to. |
| Legally, anyone can call him or herself a "psychotherapist." p 73 |
| The Consumer's Guide to Psychotherapy |
| Engler & Goleman, 1992 |
WHAT IS GOOD THERAPY? This is a very difficult question. An impor-
tant thing to remember is that any technique with the power to help
also has the power to harm. Missing in the scheme of things in the
mental health community is any kind of effective monitoring of the
benefits and the risks of therapy or therapists. While in most states
a hairdresser must show his or her license, anyone can get a small
business license and claim to be a therapist. Counseling programs and
hypnotherapy programs abound, eager to supply certification for at-
tending weekend workshops. Concern has been growing about the chaotic
situation that currently exists in the mental health field. It is
difficult for consumers to know what to do. A place to start is to
consult a licensed therapist.
Validated therapeutic practices focus on responsibility and are
forward-looking. One prominent clinician has written that "Seeing
ourselves as victims of childhood makes us prisoners of the past and
erodes our sense of responsibility. All successful therapy has two
things in common: It is forward-looking and it requires assuming
responsibility. Therapy that reviews childhood endlessly, that does
not focus on how to cope in the here and now, that views a better
future as incidental to undoing the past, has a century-long history
of being ineffective." (Seligman, 1994, What You Can Change & What You
Psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and marriage and fami-
ly counselors bring different expertise and focus to their work. Some
of the techniques that therapists use have been tested and shown to be
safe and reliable. If a therapist uses a technique that has not been
tested and shown to be safe and reliable, then the patient should be
informed of that. One of the concerns about recovered memory therapy
is that many patients have not been informed that the technique is
novel and that it has never been demonstrated to be effective in
Currently, professionals are working on appropriate guidelines for
informing patients and for monitoring their work when dealing with
this type of recovered memory therapy. Few have yet asked the basic
question as to whether the assumptions underlying this type of therapy
are valid and if the risks and costs of using it are acceptable.
| A LESSON FROM HISTORY |
| The witch-craze of the 16th and 17th centuries "made clear that |
| validation means something much more than proposing ways -- even |
| consistent ways -- to make the diagnosis even of something that |
| does not exist. That is, the witch hunters received explicit and |
| operational ways of identifying witches. They taught each other |
| and wrote their procedures in a large and influential book. This |
| book entitled Malleus Maleficarum or the Hammer of Witches spelled |
| out in exquisite detail the kinds of behaviors that characterize |
| the witch and identify the evidence on her body of congress with |
| devils, incubi and succubi. The Malleus had as its epigraph: |
| Haeresis est maxima opera maleficarum non creders (to disbelieve |
| in witchcraft is the greatest of heresies) |
| What was learned from this that might illuminate practices with |
| repressed memories? First: The fact that there is a manual telling |
| how to recognize the manifestations of repressed memories does not |
| confirm them. It is an exercise in creating a consistent approach |
| to the diagnosis amongst therapists -- a uniformity of diagnostic |
| practice and does not validate the presumed abusive experience... |
| The issue for repressed memories is validation -- and validation |
| in every case when it appears...To treat for repressed memories |
| without any effort at external validation is malpractice pure and |
| simple; malpractice on the basis of standards of care that have |
| developed out of the history of psychiatric service -- as with |
| witches -- and malpractice because a misdirection of therapy will |
| injure the patient and the family. |
| Paul McHugh, MD |
| Chief of Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins Hospital |
| Paper presented at Memory and Reality Conference, April 1993 |
DO CHILDREN GET FALSE MEMORY SYNDROME? The FMS Foundation formed in
response to the specific situation in which an adult suddenly claimed
to have "recovered memories" allegedly repressed since childhood --
memories he or she never had the slightest idea existed until entering
some therapeutic program. The adult redefined his or her identify in
terms of abuse and ceased communication with anyone who would not val-
idate the alleged abuse. The Foundation, however, has also received
thousands of calls from people who say that a dependent child has made
accusations that are false. The situation with dependent children is
similar to FMS to the extent that the issues of memory, suggestibil-
ity, and interviewing techniques may be involved. The situation with
young children is different to the extent that "repression" or "amne-
sia" are seldom claimed. The situation with young children is more
complicated to the extent that child welfare agencies, police, and
custody issues are usually involved. While adults speak for them-
selves, do not claim to be in any danger, and are not dependent on
those they accuse, children must be protected.
SOME READINGS FOR PEOPLE WITH DEPENDENT OR MINOR CHILDREN.
FMSF Bibliography of articles related to Child Testimony.
Send stamped self-addressed envelope with request.
Ceci, Steven (1993) Suggestibility of the child witness: A historical
review and synthesis. Psychological Bulletin Vol 3 pp. 403-439.
Gardner, Richard (1992) True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse,
Creative Therapeutics, 155 Country Road, Cresskill, NJ 07626-2675. (A
guide for legal and mental health professionals.)
Issues in Child Abuse Accusations A quarterly journal published by
Institute for Psychological Therapies, 13200 Cannon City Boulevard,
Northfield, MN 55057-4405 (507) 645-8881. IPT has an extensive
Tong, Dean (1992) Don't Blame Me Daddy, False Accusations of Child
Sexual Abuse Hampton Roads, (Personal experiences and lists some
Wexler, Richard (1990) Wounded Innocents: The Real Victims in the War
Against Child Abuse 369 pages Prometheus Books
SOME RESOURCES FOR PEOPLE WITH DEPENDENT OR MINOR CHILDREN.
National Child Abuse Defense and Resource Center. Contact Kimberly
Hart, Executive Director, P.O. Box 638, Holland, Ohio 43513 (419)
865-0513. FAX (419) 865-0526
VOCAL (Victims of Child Abuse Legislation) Contact George
Wimberly. P.O. Box 1314, Orangevale, CA 95662 (916) 863-7470 (Many
active state groups)
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF JOINING FMSF?
"People who care deeply about victims of sexual misconduct should be
appalled by those who falsely cry wolf...In the end, everyone bene-
fits from a policy which deters false accusations and encourages
true accusations." Alan Dershowitz, 1994
Perhaps the greatest benefit of joining the Foundation is the know-
ledge that you are contributing to the solution of a tragic problem.
The good news is that this is a problem that has solutions.
Families that have been torn apart desperately need help in reconci-
ling. The good news is that we know that reconciliation can happen. We
need to learn how to expedite and nurture this process.
Long-term planning is vital to ensure that this kind of misdirec-
tion in therapy practice does not happen again. The good news is that
the scientific research base is there to be tapped and that the major-
ity of professionals care about this and are eager to join in the
Legislative initiatives are needed to bring a field that has ex-
ploded without structure into an orderly system. The good news is that
this shouldn't take long once society recognizes the importance.
Better educational efforts are vital. To be effective, these must
encompass elementary through college and continuing education pro-
grams. The good news is we know how to do this.
MEMBERSHIP in the Foundation gives families, retractors, and pro-
fessionals an opportunity to work together in these efforts.
MEMBERS receive a Basic Information Packet, one year's subscription
to the FMSF Newsletter, announcements of local meetings, a contact in
their state, discounts on printed material for educational outreach,
legal resources, and help in finding answers to their questions.
B E C O M E P A R T O F T H E S O L U T I O N
JOIN THE FMS FOUNDATION
SHORT BIBLIOGRAPHY (October 1994)
When the FMS Foundation started in March of 1992, there already ex-
isted a large body of scientific research that was pertinent to the
issue of recovered memories. Of note are many peer-reviewed articles
on the reconstructive nature of memory and on the unreliability of
"memories" elicited with hypnosis or other "memory enhancement tech-
niques." Since 1992, numerous articles have been published that use
that basic scientific research to explain or address aspects of the
current FMS phenomenon. Following are just a few. (A complete bibli-
ography of reprints available through FMSF will be sent upon request.
Please enclose stamped self-addressed envelope.) Only articles
followed by an order # and price are available through FMSF.
FMSF BASIC PACKET #300 [$25.00]
Selection of articles from newspapers and journals. This packet is
included with membership to FMSF or it may be ordered separately.
Collection F: MEMORY AND REALITY: Emerging Crisis #520 [$23.00]
334 pp. unbound, 16 articles. Papers from the FMSF Conference in
Valley Forge, PA , April 16-18,1993
FMS Foundation NEWSLETTERS, Volume 1, 1992. #310 [$12.00]
84 pp. bound While supply lasts.
FMS Foundation NEWSLETTERS, Volume 2, 1993. #311 [$17.50]
160 pp. bound (with index) While supply lasts.
THE FALSE MEMORY SYNDROME PHENOMENON #350 [$10.00]
44 pp. bound, 16 articles from newspapers and professional journals
published prior to or in 1992. While supply lasts.
FMS Foundation: SUMMARY OF LEGAL RESOURCES #600 [$200.00]
For Those Accused of Sexual Abuse of Children Based on Repressed
Memories of Long Duration (1994).
FMS Foundation: Seven (7) AMICUS CURIAE BRIEFS. #610 [$40.00]
FMS Foundation: RAMONA v. RAMONA DOCUMENTS. #611 [$50.00]
AMA COUNCIL REPORT (1985) Scientific status of refreshing
recollections by the use of hypnosis. JAMA 1985 Vol 253.
(Hypnosis) #350a [$2.00]
AMA COUNCIL REPORT (1994) Memories of childhood abuse. #5-A-94.
BLOOM, P.B. (1994) Clinical guidelines in using hypnosis in uncovering
memories of sexual abuse: A master class commentary.
International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis,
Vol XLII, No 3, July, pp. 173-178. (Therapy) #485 [$2.00]
CAMPBELL, T.W. (1992) Therapeutic relationships and iatrogenic out-
comes: The blame-and- change maneuver in psychotherapy."
Psychotherapy, Vol. 29, No. 3, Fall. (Therapy) #495 [$3.00]
DAWES, R.M. (1992) Why believe in that for which there is no good
evidence? Issues in Child Abuse Accusations,
Fall, Vol. 4, No. 4: pp. 214-218. (Social) #515 [$2.00]
DAWES, R.M. (1991) Biases of retrospection. Issues in Child Abuse
Accusations, Winter, Vol. 3, No. 1: pp. 25-28. (Memory) #510 [$1.00]
FRANKEL, F.H. (1993) Adult reconstruction of childhood events in the
Multiple Personality literature. American Journal of Psychiatry,
150:6. (MPD) #537 [$2.00]
GANAWAY, G.K. (1992) Alternative hypotheses regarding satanic ritual
abuse memories. Paper presented at the 99th Annual Convention of the
APA, San Francisco, CA, August 19, 1992. (SRA) #540 [$4.00]
GARDNER, M. (1993) Notes of a Fringe Watcher, the False Memory Syn-
drome. The Skeptical Inquirer, Summer. (Social) #542 [$2.00]
GARDNER, R.A. (1993) Sexual abuse hysteria: Diagnosis, etiology, path-
ogenesis, and treatment. Academy Forum,
Vol. 37, No. 3, Fall: pp. 2-5. (Social) #541 [$1.00]
GUTHEIL, T.G. (1993) True or false memories of sexual abuse? A foren-
sic psychiatric view.
Psychiatric Annals 23:9/September. (Legal) #543 [$2.00]
HEDGES, L.E. (1994) Taking recovered memories seriously. Issues in
Child Abuse Accusations,
Winter, Vol. 6, No. 1: pp 1-31. (Therapy) #543a [$5.00]
LANNING, K.V. (1992). Investigator's Guide to Allegations of 'Ritual'
Child Abuse, Behavior Science Unit, National Center for the Analysis
of Violent Crime, Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI Academy,
Quantico, VA 22135. (SRA) #550 [$5.00]
LIEF, H.I. (1992) Psychiatry's challenge: Defining an appropriate
therapeutic role when child abuse is suspected. Psychiatric News,
Aug. 21, Vol. 27, No. 16, p.14. (Therapy) #555 [$1.00]
LOFTUS, E.F. & ROSENWALD, L.A. (1993) Buried memories shattered
lives. ABA Journal, November: pp. 70-73. (Legal) #562 [$1.00]
McHUGH, P. (1992). Psychiatric misadventures. American Scholar,
Fall: pp. 498-510 (Social) #565 [$4.00]
MERSKEY, H. (1992). The manufacture of personalities: The production
of Multiple Personality Disorder. British Journal of Psychiatry,
Vol 160: pp. 327-340. (MPD) #567 [$4.00]
MULHERN, S. (1991). Satanism and psychotherapy: A rumor in search of
an inquisition. In The Satanism Scare, Richardson, Bromely & Best
(Eds.) Aldine de Gruyter Publishers, Hawthorne, NY, pp. 145-172.
(SRA) #568 [$5.00]
NAGY, T.F. (1994). Repressed memories: Guidelines and direction. The
National Psychologist (July/August). (Therapy) #569 [$3.00]
NASH, M. (1987). What, if anything, is regressed about hypnotic age
regression? A review of the empirical literature. Psychological
Bulletin. Vol 102, No 1, pp. 42-52. (Permission Requested)
(Hypnosis) #570 [$3.00]
OFSHE, R. (1992) Inadvertent hypnosis during interrogation: False con-
fession due to dissociative state; misidentified multiple personality
and the satanic cult hypothesis. International J. of Clinical and Ex-
perimental Hypnosis, Volume XL, No 3: 125-155.
(Hypnosis) #571 [$5.00]
OFSHE, R. & WATTERS, E. (1993). Making monsters. Society,
March/April, Vol. 30, No. 3: pp.4-16. (Social) #570 [$4.00]
PASSANTINO, R. & PASSANTINO, G. (1992). Hard facts about satanic
ritual abuse. Christian Research Journal, Winter 1992.
(SRA) #574 [$2.00]
PERSINGER, M.A. (1992) Neuropsychological profiles of adults who
report 'Sudden Remembering' of early childhood memories: Implications
for claims of sex abuse and alien visitation/abduction experiences.
Perceptual and Motor Skills, 75: pp.259-266. #574a [$3.00]
PIPER, A. (1994) "Truth serum" and "recovered memories" of sexual
abuse: A review of the evidence. Journal of Psychiatry & Law/ Fall :
pp. 447-471. (Pemission Requested) #574aa [$2.00]
POPE, H.G. & HUDSON, J.I. (1992) Is childhood sexual abuse a risk
factor for Bulimia Nervosa? American Journal of Psychiatry
149:4: pp. 455-463. #574b [$3.00]
ROEDIGER, H.L. & McDERMOTT, K.B. (1993). Implicit memory in normal
human subjects. In (Boiler & Grafman, Eds) Handbook of Neuropsy-
chology, Vol 8. Elsevier Science Publishers.
ROGERS, M.L. (1992) Evaluating adult litigants who allege injuries
from sexual abuse: Clinical assessment methods for traumatic memo-
ries. Issues in Child Abuse Accusations,
Fall, Vol. 4, No. 4: pp. 221-238. (Legal) #575 [$4.00]
SLOVENKO, R. (1993) The Multiple Personality and the criminal law.
Medicine and Law 12: 329-340. (Legal) #581a [$4.00]
STONE, ALAN A. (1993) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the law:
Critical review of the new frontier. Bulletin of the American Academy
of Psychiatry and the Law, Vol. 21, No. 1. (Legal) #582 [$4.00]
ON THE ISSUE OF REPRESSION
* Citing evidence for repressed memories ~ Questioning the evidence
* BRIERE, J. & CONTE, J. (1993) Self-reported amnesia for abuse in
adults molested as children. Journal of Traumatic Stress
6, 21-31. (Permission Requested) #408 [$4.00]
* HERMAN, J.L. & SCHATZOW, E. (1987) Recovery and verification of mem-
ories of childhood sexual trauma. Psychoanalytic Psychology
4, 1-14. (Permission Requested) #409 [$4.00]
~ KIHLSTROM, JOHN F. (1993) The recovery of memory in the laboratory
and clinic. Paper presented at the joint convention of the Rocky
Mountain Psychological Association and the Western Psychological
Association, Phoenix, Arizona, April. #545 [$4.00]
~ LOFTUS, E.F. (1993) The reality of repressed memories. American
Psychologist, Vol. 48, No. 5, May: pp. 518-537. #560 [$4.00]
~ POPE, H. & HUDSON, J. (in press) Can memories of childhood sexual
abuse be repressed? Psychological Medicine. Advance copy may be
obtained by writing to Harrison G. Pope, Jr., M.D., McLean Hospital,
115 Mill Street, Belmont, MA 02178, or by phone (617) 855-2911.
*~ PRESSLEY & GROSSMAN (Eds.) Applied Cognitive Psychology 8 (4)
August, 1994. RECOVERY OF MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE. Special
price of $19.50 for members of FMSF (includes air postage). To order:
John Wiley & Sons, Baffins Lane, Chichester, Sussex PO19 1UD, ENGLAND
FAX 44-243-530-361. Issue contains overview paper by Lindsay and Read
and responses to it by Pezdek, Ceci & Loftus, Cohler, Berliner &
Williams, Morton, Shuman & O'Connor, and Read & Lindsay's reply to
*~ SINGER, J.L. (Ed.) (1990) Repression and Dissociation. Chicago, IL:
U of Chicago Press. Collection of articles. Note especially Holmes
"The evidence for repression: An examination of sixty years of
* WILLIAMS, L.M. (in press) Recall of childhood trauma. A prospective
study of women's memories of child sexual abuse. Journal of Consulting
and Clinical Psychology. To appear: December 1994.
FMSF COLLECTIONS OF ARTICLES FROM POPULAR PRESS
COLLECTION A - (1992) #400 [$10.00]
Newspaper / Magazine Articles 42 pages, 9 articles, unbound
COLLECTION B - (January - June 1993) #401 [$10.50]
Newspaper / Magazine Articles 50 pages, 12 articles, unbound
COLLECTION C - (August - December 1993) #405 [$11.00]
Newspaper / Magazine Articles 56 pages, 13 articles, unbound
COLLECTION D - (January - July 1994) #406 [$9.00]
Newspaper / Magazine Articles 28 pages, 6 articles, unbound
COLLECTION E - (Ramona Trial) #407 [$10.50]
Newspaper/ Magazine Articles 48 pages, 39 articles, unbound
CAMPBELL, TERENCE, (1994) Beware the Talking Cure: Psychotherapy May
be Hazardous to Your Health. $14.95.
To order: Upton Books. 800-232-7477
DAWES, ROBYN (1994) House of Cards: Psychology and Psychiatry Built on
Myth. $22.95 The Free Press, Division of Macmillan, Inc. 866 Third
Avenue, New York, NY 10022.
GOLDSTEIN, ELEANOR & FARMER, KEVIN (1992) Confabulations: Creating
False Memories - Destroying Families. (1993) True Stories of False
Memories. SIRS Books 800-232-7477.
LOFTUS, ELIZABETH & KETCHAM, KATHERINE (1994) The Myth of Repressed
Memory. $22.95 + $4.50 SHIPPING. St. Martin's Press. 800-288-2131
OFSHE, RICHARD & WATTERS, ETHAN, (1994) Making Monsters: False Memory,
Psychotherapy and Sexual Hysteria. $22.00 Charles Scribner's
PENDERGRAST, MARK (1994) Victims of Memory: Incest Accusations and
Shattered Lives. Special price for FMSF members $22.50 Upper Access
UNDERWAGER, RALPH & WAKEFIELD, HOLLIDA, (1994) Return of the Furies:
Analysis of Recovery Memory Therapy. $16.95 Open Court Publishing
VICTOR, JEFFREY (1993) Satanic Panic. Open Court Publishing Co.
WRIGHT, LARRY (1994) Remembering Satan: Case of Recovered Memory and
the Shattering of an American Family. 205 pages $22.00 Knopf.
YAPKO, MICHAEL (1994) Suggestions of Abuse. 271 pages $22.00 To
order: Simon & Schuster, Rockefeller Center, 1230 Avenue of the
Americas, New York, NY 10020
FALSE MEMORY SYNDROME FOUNDAATION
Article Mail Order Form
October 30, 1994
City State Zip
* MAIL the completed form with payment to:
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