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False Memory Syndrome Foundation

The False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF) was formed in 1992 by Pamela and Peter Freyd, with the support and encouragement of therapists Hollida Wakefield and Ralph Underwager.[1][2] The Freyds were rapidly joined by a group of professionals with expertise in the area of suggestion, and by thousands[3] of parents who had been accused of child abuse by adult children who, according to the parents, had no memory of abuse before entering some form of therapy.

The founders of the FMS Foundation were concerned that the adult offsprings' devastating new beliefs about their childhoods developed because of therapy experiences that almost always included one of the following techniques used to "excavate hidden memories": hypnosis, relaxation exercises, guided imagery, drug-mediated interviews, body memories, literal dream interpretation, and journaling. It is the position of the FMSF that there is no scientific evidence that the use of consciousness-altering techniques such as these can reveal or accurately elaborate factual information about any past experiences, including sexual abuse. [4]

According to the FMS Foundation, "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." [5]

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. (deceased), 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 FMS Foundation has no affiliations with any other organizations. It is funded by contributions and has no ties to any commercial ventures.

The Random House Compact Unabridged Dictionary, 2nd Edition, 1996, Addenda defines "false memory syndrome" as "a psychological condition in which a person believes that he or she remembers events that have not actually occurred."


Stephanie Dallam, in a peer-reviewed 2002 article[3] in Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, concludes that "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[6] 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.

Anti-FMSF websites[7][8] 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 FMS.

Advisory Board Controversy

The public controversy and academic debate over the validity of recovered memories and the reality of false memories is covered in other articles (Repressed memory, False memory, and Recovered memory). Apart from this substantive debate, the FMS Foundation became the subject of a bitter public controversy of its own, concerning the personal motivations of its founders and the purpose of the foundation as an organization. The controversy resulted in the resignation of two founding members of the FMSF Scientific Advisory Board.

Writing under the pseudonym "Jane Doe", one year before she established the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, Pamela Freyd published a first-person account of her daughter's accusations of sexual misconduct against her husband, Peter Freyd.[9] The publishers of this journal were Hollida Wakefield and Ralph Underwager. [10]

The Freyds' daughter is Jennifer Freyd, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, University of Oregon. She writes,

"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?"[1]
Jennifer Freyd has received support for her account from significant members of the Freyd family, including Peter Freyd’s mother.[3]

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, 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, if 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." [10]

In the same interview, Underwager said this:

"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." [10]

In the storm of controversy that followed this interview, Ralph Underwager, who died in 2003, resigned from the FMS Foundation Scientific Advisory Board. Hollida Wakefield remains a member of the advisory board. Both Hollida Wakefield and Ralph Underwager have noted the above quotes are taken out of context. Ralph Underwager was attempting to say to the intellectual pedophiles of Europe that if they really believed what they do is right, they should say so publicity but be prepared to take the consequences, which could well mean jail. Neither Ralph Underwager or Hollida Wakefield has ever supported adult-child sexual contact. They believe it is often destructive and is at best neutral in its effects on the child. [10]

Pamela Freyd remains as Executive Director. Peter Freyd is on public record admitting that he was an alcoholic, that he himself was sexually abused as a child, and that he may have said and done things to his daughter that were inappropriate. He emphatically denies sexually abusing her. [11]

Critics have also taken issue with the foundation's lack of intake screening for new members; in an interview, Pamela Freyd once acknowledged that people who come to the FMSF for support claiming that they have been falsely accused are assumed by the foundation to be innocent.[12]


  1. ^ a b 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.
  2. ^ Hart, Anne (1995) "The Great Debate," MindNet Journal, vol. 1, #54.
  3. ^ a b c Dallam, S. J. (2002) "Crisis or Creation: A systematic examination of false memory claims". Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, vol. 9, (3/4), 9-36.
  4. ^ Royal College of Physicians, 1997, quoted by FMSF.
  5. ^ FMS Foundation website.
  6. ^ Whitfield, Charles (1995) Memory and Abuse, p. 71.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Astraea Household website.
  9. ^ 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. Available on the web at the ICAA website.
  10. ^ a b c d "Paidika Interview: Hollida Wakefield and Ralph Underwager", Paidikia: The Journal of Pædophilia", Winter 1993.
  11. ^ "One family's tragedy spawns national group", The Baltimore Sun, 12 Sept 1994. Available on the web at Skeptic Files
  12. ^ Treating Abuse Today Interview: A Conversation With Pamela Freyd, Ph.D.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "False_Memory_Syndrome_Foundation". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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