The Conviction Integrity Review of People v. Friedman

June 28th, 2013 Comments off

UnknownOn Monday, the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office released a 155-page “Conviction Integrity Review” of a multi-victim child sexual-abuse case that ended in 1988 with a guilty plea by Jesse Friedman. The report includes four appendices with almost 1,000 pages. As stated in this New York Times story, the report concludes: “By any impartial analysis, the reinvestigation process prompted by Jesse Friedman, his advocates and the Second Circuit, has only increased confidence in the integrity of Jesse Friedman’s guilty plea and adjudication as a sex offender.”

The Friedman case has nothing to do with recovered memory. At least, the actual facts of the case have nothing to do with recovered memory. But ever since the movie Capturing the Friedmans (2003), the defense has been making claims that hypnosis poisoned the case against Jesse Friedman. The Times reported in October 2007 that “Friedman and his lawyer, Ron Kuby, say they have evidence indicating that some of the other youths who accused the Friedmans were hypnotized before testifying to the grand jury.” As it turns out, they did not have any evidence to that effect. The Conviction Integrity Review concluded that there was no credible evidence that hypnosis was used on any complainants in the case (pp. 77-79).

One underreported aspect of the report is the documentation of how misleading Capturing the Friedmans was in several places. We said as much in 2009, with this video critique.* The new report makes it clear that the Gregory Doe excerpt in the movie is even more misleading than we ever imagined. That is the excerpt that made it appear that the man did not disclose anything until after he started therapy. But the review panel examined the interview “in its unedited form” and concluded that it “reveals an account that is dramatically different” from what is portrayed in the movie (p.79). The man actually told the filmmakers that he disclosed to police “the very first night” (negating any claims that therapy that started three weeks later created his claims), that “he threw up for three days after he first disclosed to police,” and that he “developed an anal fissure after being sodomized.” As the report notes, all of those details were left out of the movie.

Read more…

Scrutinizing the “Lost in the Mall” study

April 30th, 2013 Comments off

There are a few studies of “false memory” that have attained almost iconic status. These studies are widely known, but not necessarily well understood. Perhaps the most cited but least understood study of all is the “Lost in the Mall” study by Professor Elizabeth Loftus. As part of an interesting new project at the New England Law School, Professor Wendy Murphy and two law students recently analyzed that study in light of the Daubert and Frye cases. Here is their critique. This project holds great promise for unmasking some of the myths and other inaccuracies that have crept into academic discussions of memory issues.

 

Blind to Betrayal

March 11th, 2013 Comments off

Professor Jennifer Freyd has a new book with Pamela Birrell called Blind to Betrayal. The book, officially published today, explores various case studies involving betrayal, its effects and how victims come to grips with it.  Most relevant to the Recovered Memory Project is the chapter about the False Memory Syndrome Foundation and how Pamela and Peter Freyd invaded Prof. Freyd’s privacy and tried to sabotage her career. That chapter also contains excerpts from a letter that Pamela Birrell wrote to Advisory Board Members of the organization in 1992 about the fallacies of the FMSF. The authors report that only two members of the board responded and neither was willing to engage in dialogue.

This is an important book for understanding the problem of betrayal trauma and for adding to the historical record about the early and indefensible actions of Pamela and Peter Freyd.

Oliver Sacks’ Myopia

February 19th, 2013 Comments off

In an article about memory in the current New York Review of Books, Oliver Sacks displays a surprising myopia for someone who is generally sensitive to complexity and appreciative of case-based evidence. Dr. Sacks repeats the same fallacies about recovered memory that advocates for the False Memory Syndrome Foundation have long promoted. Sacks, who refers to “so-called” recovered memories, seems to think that because some recovered memories are false, none are true. The archive of over 100 corroborated cases of recovered memory at this site was created to counter that misconception.

Dr. Sacks also describes some of the well-known research that demonstrates that eyewitness testimony can be inaccurate. No doubt that is true. But no reasonable person takes that evidence to mean that eyewitness testimony can never be true! Nor would any reasonable person argue that eyewitness testimony should not be admitted in court unless it is corroborated by other sources. But that is precisely the position that false-memory partisans take about recovered memories. Dr. Sacks apparently has a similar view. One wonders why. (If Dr. Sacks disagrees with these extremists, we hope that he will clarify his position in the future.)

What is most disappointing about Sacks’ article is his credulous acceptance of the claims that there were “thousands” of cases of false memory in the 1990s. Remarkably, Dr. Sacks employs the phrase “almost epidemic” without substantiation of any sort. As it turns out, the evidence for that claim is beyond flimsy. It generally stems from surveys of those who claim that other people have experienced false memory. There are obvious reasons why the people answering such surveys might be dishonest. Evidence from the person supposedly afflicted with this “syndrome” is never included, violating the principles that created the Goldwater Rule. Would Sacks accept an estimate of the number of false convictions in criminal court that was based entirely on a survey of prisoners? Would he diagnose someone as having a neurological disorder (his field of expertise) without ever examining the patient? Assertions about “thousands” of cases of false memory suffer from both of these problems. For further elaboration, see this critique.

Of course memory is fallible. Who has ever claimed otherwise? Indeed, those claiming to be victims of false memory might be the ones who are misremembering the past, although curiously that possibility is never raised by false-memory partisans. (Their memories are apparently the ones that they consider infallible.) But one would hope that a doctor like Oliver Sacks would not extend the simple idea that memory is fallible to reach one-sided conclusions that ignore the case evidence and peer-reviewed studies about recovered memory. One would also hope that a doctor would never invoke the word “epidemic” without actual scientific evidence.

NCRJ Reveals Itself

February 9th, 2013 Comments off

There was a powerful article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine on January 27 about the devastating effects of child pornography on victims whose images have been spread around the world on the Internet.  It is the kind of article that would seem to generate only sympathy and concern for victims. But the “National Center for Reason and Justice” proved otherwise. This Orwellian-named organization used the occasion to question whether real harms occurred and to smear Dr. Joyanna Silberg, one of the therapists named in the article. In a letter to the New York Times, published on the NCRJ website, the president of the organization, defense lawyer Michael Snedeker, claimed that “Joyanna Silberg, the therapist of one young woman in the story, is notorious for advocating the debunked myth of satanic ritual child abuse.” Snedeker also asserted that “obsessive attention paid to victims can paradoxically make their feelings of trauma worse, or even cause them in the first place.” He closed by expressing concern about giving “pseudoscientific, dangerous therapists another gravy train.”

These statements are wrong in every particular. Dr. Silberg is not even the therapist for the woman she mentions in the story! That woman lives in another city. Dr. Silberg merely conducted assesments for the purpose of litigation. Dr. Silberg did not receive a percentage of any legal judgments, nor has she received any payment other than the set fees for conducting an evaluation. The insinuation that she may have engaged in therapy that made the woman worse is beyond false, it is defamatory. It is also a claim that defies common sense. It is clear from the article that what Snedeker calls “feelings of trauma” were hardly caused by the therapists in this case. They were caused by the appalling actions of those who took these images and disseminated them. Moreover, Dr. Silberg has never advocated or endorsed anything pertaining to satanic ritual abuse. Instead, she is apparently a target for these smears because she has spoken up for victims of sexual abuse through the Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence.

There is real irony in the fact that an organization that claims to worry about false accusations would levy several of their own. One can only speculate why the NCRJ is so threatened by an article about victims of child pornography that it would make such baseless claims. Whatever the reason, their response reveals a great deal about their true values.

Note: we will be engaging the NCRJ’s extremist position on recovered memory in a future post.

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The FMSF Fades

January 15th, 2013 Comments off

There are many indications that the False Memory Syndrome Foundation is fading away. An electronic “FMSF news alert” sent on January 14th claims otherwise, but let’s look at the facts. (1) The FMSF did not release a single newsletter in 2012; the November 2011 newsletter was apparently their last. (2) The listing of information about FMSF chapters around the country is gone. (3) The address listed at the bottom of the FMSF web site as their headquarters was, according to Philadelphia Tax Assessor records, sold in May 2012. The organization apparently does not have a headquarters anymore. (4) There was a retirement-like dinner for Pamela Freyd, Executive Director of the Foundation, last fall. (5) Most significantly, the FMSF has disappeared from the news. An “all news” search on Lexis/Nexis for “Pamela Freyd” returns only two hits for 2011 and none for 2012. (One of the 2011 articles was a journalist who saw through the FMSF and wrote a critical story.)  We are planning some retrospective posts this year to correct the record on a variety of misrepresentations made by the FMSF over the years. But there will apparently be fewer of those in the future, as the FMSF slowly disappears.

ADDENDUM (2/7): The FMSF now has a blog that lists the address of the Foundation as a P.O. Box. The “news alerts” they have sent out recently are labeled there as “Newsletters.” There is no information about FMSF chapters and no indication whether Pamela Freyd is still taking a salary as Executive Director of this fading organization.

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A Letter to Remember

September 28th, 2012 Comments off

One important function for this blog is to preserve  information that might otherwise be lost in the historical account of the so-called memory wars.  This entry is a reminder about an important letter to the editor in the APS Observer in March 1993, signed by 16 prominent psychologists, urging scientists and other scholars to spurn the phrase “false memory syndrome” for “the sake of intellectual honesty.” The popular press fell for the phrase, and so did some academics. But this letter stands as a stark reminder that a host of prominent psychologists recognized early on that this phrase was unscientific and unhelpful. It is the phrase that launched the FMSF.

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Forward and Back

August 31st, 2012 Comments off

Rev. Benedict Groeschel, blames "youngsters" for initiating sexual abuse

Earlier this summer, there was a confluence of several high-profile stories, all of which indicated social concern about the sexual abuse of children and the forces that might cause it to be minimized and covered up. Unfortunately, the end of the summer brings three reminders that for every two steps forward there seem to be at least one step back.

The first story involves the outrageous harassment of SNAP, the advocacy group for people victimized by priests. Two weeks ago, the Missouri Supreme Court declined to prohibit an undisguised effort to intimidate those who dare to advocate for victims of abuse by priests. Here is the story on their web site. Second, the Minnesota Supreme Court sided with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona in a case that means that a list of 46 priests in the state credibly accused of molesting children will remain secret. Here is the Star Tribune story. Third, Rev. Benedict Groeschel, described by the New York Times as “a beloved figure among many Catholics and a founder of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal,” recently gave an interview in which he said that “youngsters” as young as 14 were often to blame when priests sexually abused them and that priests should not be jailed for such abuse on their first offense. Remember when the Catholic Church pledged to do everything possible to address the sexual abuse of children? That was ten years ago. Look where the Church is today.

Yes, the Penn State story and others demonstrate increased awareness and concern about the sexual abuse of children. But these more recent stories remind us that even in this climate of heightened sensitivity and awareness there remains a powerful willingness to attack victims’ advocates, to advance technical defenses to avoid accountability, and even to minimize and deny the very nature of the problem by blaming the victims.

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The Goldwater Rule and the FMSF

July 23rd, 2012 Comments off

In the aftermath of the terrible tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, a few news organizations have broadcast remarks from various “armchair psychologists,” who have purported to analyze the gunman without ever meeting him. The Columbia Journalism Review just published a comment about this “irresponsible speculation.”  What ABC News recently did along these lines violates the “Goldwater rule,” an ethical standard adopted by the American Psychiatric Association after some psychiatrists signed a political advertisement that questioned the mental stability of presidential candidate Barry Goldwater.

It may seem obvious that mental-health professionals should not purport to diagnose people they have never met. But that is precisely what the False Memory Syndrome Foundation and its Executive Director, Pamela Freyd, have been doing since the organization began. Of course, Mrs. Freyd, whose training is in education, has no credentials in mental health and certainly is not subject to the ethical rules for psychiatrists. But that makes the practice of “armchair psychology” all the worse. The FMSF has frequently labeled cases as involving “false memory” based entirely on claims of the accused and without the benefit of talking to, let alone examining, the person who supposedly has this “syndrome.” Their claims about the number of “cases” of “false memory syndrome” are also based on this flawed approach. The aftermath of the Aurora shootings gives us the opportunity to recognize how much of what the FMSF did over the years falls into the same category as the “irresponsible speculation” pointed out by the Columbia Journalism Review.

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Jerry Sandusky, Msrg. William Lynn and the Horace Mann School

July 7th, 2012 Comments off

Child sexual abuse has recently been the focus of three high-profile stories. Most prominently, former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of sexually assaulting 10 different boys since 1998. Most dramatically, Msrg. William Lynn became the highest ranking official in the Catholic Church to be convicted of a crime connected to covering-up the sexual abuse of children by priests. Most controversially, the New York Times published a long story about sexual abuse by teachers, none of whom had been charged in court, at the Horace Mann School.

A recent editorial in the New York Times focused on one lesson that ties all three stories together: “the reality of late uncovering of child sexual abuse.” For psychological and emotional reasons, victims of sexual abuse often delay reporting their abuse. The law can recognize these realities by extending the statute of limitations to allow for civil and criminal cases to go forward in adulthood. But New York state law does not permit this. Their “egregiously short statute of limitations,” as the Times put it, “tilts the legal playing field against accountability, fairness and public safety.”

The New York legislature needs to do what the Pennsylvania legislature did years ago: extend the statute of limitations well into adulthood. Had that not occurred in Pennsylvania, the Sandusky case could not have gone forward. Neither could the case against Mrsg. Lynn. The state would have been as powerless to act as prosecutors in New York are now that a former Horace Mann teacher has admitted to sexually abusing students, adding weight to a story that some criticized for focusing only on teachers who are deceased.

We would all do well to remember who lobbied against extending the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania. When the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from victims of sexual abuse in 1994, there was one witness who testified in opposition: Pamela Freyd, Executive Director of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. Mrs. Freyd expressed the concern that extending the statute of limitations “may create more tarnished reputations” (Testimony of Pamela Freyd, Senate Judiciary Committee, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; May 24, 1994, p. 5). She urged the committee to amend the bill to “encourage and emphasize alternative means of resolving these matters other than courts” (Id., p. 7). We now know how well “alternative means” worked for children who were abused by Jerry Sandusky and for those abused under the supervision of the Catholic Church. We also know that justice would never have been done in those cases if Mrs. Freyd’s position had prevailed.

The simple fact is that the FMSF, through Pamela Freyd, lobbied against legislative changes that would increase accountability, fairness and public safety around child sexual abuse. Instead, they were more worried, as were those who covered up for Jerry Sandusky and for pedophile priests in Pennsylvania, about the possibility of “tarnished reputations.”

“False, Preposterous and Unjust”

May 31st, 2012 Comments off

That is how Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan responded to questions about whether his diocese provided pedophile priests with $20,000 pay-offs to leave the church. The language of denial is often filled with righteous indignation. The only problem is that the Cardinal was lying. As reported in today’s New York Times,  a spokesman for the archdiocese confirmed  that payments of as much as $20,000 were made to “a handful” of accused priests “as a motivation” not to contest being defrocked.

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Harassing SNAP

May 10th, 2012 Comments off

The New York Times reported in March about how the Catholic Church is harassing the primary advocacy group for victims of pedophile priests, Survivors Network of Priest Abuse (SNAP). These overbearing tactics, aimed at intimidating advocates for victims of abuse, have been condemned by many. See, for example, this editorial in the Star-Ledger.

But an organization called the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights has prepared a “report” that purports to justify the harassment. The report, which includes a host of excerpts from a recent deposition of SNAP Executive Director, David Clohessy, insinuates that SNAP has been coaching potential plaintiffs and/or working with plaintiff’s lawyers.

But a close examination of this “report” reveals the selective and deceptive use of quotations. For example, the “report” presents lines 15 through 19 below, but omits lines 20 and 21. Line 21 contains the  unambiguous response “No, we don’t.” But that response didn’t deter the Catholic League from insinuating otherwise and omitting the quotes that would demonstrate that they are wrong.

Harassing SNAP is bad enough. But the subsequent misrepresentations about David Clohessy’s testimony are even worse.

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Jury affirms recovered memory, rejects FMS defense

April 19th, 2012 Comments off

A jury in Stockton, California unanimously found that Rev. Michael Kelly should be held liable for damages related to three counts of child molestation. The plaintiff, a former U.S. Air force major currently on medical leave from his job as a commercial pilot, testified that he was molested by Rev. Kelly in the 1980s and only recently recalled the abuse. The abuse was apparently corroborated by a second victim whose testimony was kept from the jury. The defense relied on Dr. J. Alexander Bodkin, an associate professor of psychology at Harvard, who argued, in a rather circular fashion, that the plaintiff’s recollections must be false because the recovered memory has not been broadly accepted in the field. The jury rejected this defense and the church, which defended Kelly, has since allowed that there were no grounds for appeal. The Church settled the case for $3.75 million. Kelly, as reported in the LA Times, fled the country, while the  investigation of other claims is still pending.

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Too terrible to bear

March 8th, 2012 Comments off

There is considerable evidence concerning dissociative amnesia in Holocaust survivors. An annotated list of scholarly articles has long been part of this site.  A presentation at the Ninth Miami International Torah & Science Conference by Rabbi Professor Daniel Hershkowitz, Minister of Science and Technology of the State of Israel, should be added to evidence of memory repression in the Holocaust.

From the abstract:

Various studies have revealed that in the testimonies given through the decades by Holocaust survivors, the memory of children who were killed is blocked because it is too terrible to bear. Studies show that in the early years the testimony papers that survivors filled out characteristically lacked testimony about their lost children, and in later years had an abundance of testimony about these children. There are survivors who could not testify about their children who testified about their parents and their other close and distant relatives. The on-line database of names helped fill in the void, sometimes decades after the incomplete testimonies had been given. My talk will focus on the connection between the repressed memory of the children that Holocaust survivors lost and the contribution made by the on-line database of names in building a new memory of the Holocaust.

Harvard psychology professor Richard McNally has dismissed studies involving memory loss and Holocaust victims with the following statement, reproduced on the FMSF site: “It is hardly surprising that isolated events, similar to others, had been forgotten…” But that logic has no application to forgetting the murder of a child, a singular event unlike any other. We look forward to seeing how Prof. McNally and others explain these findings, which cannot be chalked up to “normal forgetting.”

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Ask a Simple Question (Part 2)

February 29th, 2012 Comments off

And now for a quick look at the other four questions we posed to Pamela Freyd last summer in the hopes of receiving an answer before the FMSF issued what was apparently their final newsletter. As detailed in the post below, Pamela went to great lengths to try to maintain the false impression that the Johnson case was about recovered memory therapy. It was not. As for the other for questions:

1. We asked, will you correct the record about the use of Betrayal Trauma Theory in court? You falsely insinuated that Betrayal Trauma Theory was not accepted in court, when in fact, as documented here, it has passed the Daubert test? Pamela’s answer is that it “remains to be seen how this theory will be accepted in various cases.” But the question was not whether Mrs. Freyd could predicate the future, it was whether she would acknowledge that Betrayal Trauma theory had already been accepted under the Daubert standard, as documented in our post.  Pamela Freyd is apparently unwilling to make a simple statement acknowledging that fact. Daubert cases have great significance to the Foundation if they favor their views; otherwise, they apparently do not count. Readers can decide if that is science or politics.  Read more…

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Ask a Simple Question (Part 1)

December 22nd, 2011 Comments off

We have been away on other projects all semester, but we’re delighted to be back and we have big plans for 2012. But first, an update on the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, which apparently published its last newsletter in November. We had posed five simple yes/no questions to Pamela Freyd last summer in the hopes that the Foundation might provide some clear answers.

That did not come to pass, but the FMSF did provide some responses. They were evasive in some cases and downright false in others. But at least the Recovered Memory Project now has a proper citation in the newsletter of the organization that has studiously avoided acknowledging, let alone addressing, the 100-plus corroborated cases in the archive. The rest of this post addresses the FMSF’s most deceptive answer of all. The others will be addressed in a future post:

The first question we posed was: Will you inform your readers that the Johnson case in Wisconsin, as documented here, had nothing to do with hypnosis or “digging for memories” as you have falsely claimed in several places? Read more…

Five Easy Questions–for Pamela

July 29th, 2011 Comments off

Pamela Freyd, FMSF Executive Director

The False Memory Syndrome Foundation announced in its recent newsletter that their final email newsletter will be sent in October 2011. We hope that Pamela Freyd, Executive Director of the FMSF, will use the occasion to respond to a few simple questions:

1. Will you inform your readers that the Johnson case in Wisconsin, as documented here, had nothing to do with hypnosis or “digging for memories” as you have falsely claimed in several places?

2. Will you correct the record about the use of Betrayal Trauma Theory in court? You falsely insinuated that Betrayal Trauma Theory was not accepted in court, when in fact, as documented here, it has passed the Daubert test.

3. Will you acknowledge the evidence of guilt against serial child molester, Billy Banks, who was embraced by the FMSF? Your newsletter reported on his case without mentioning the evidence of guilt, which is documented here, including recent charges (to which he pled guilty).

4. Will you acknowledge that Wayne Sergent, mentioned favorably in the FMSF newsletter, admitted, as documented here, that his “false memory” defense was a ruse?

5. Will you acknowledge that memories recovered in therapy led to the conviction of Calvin Huss, who, as documented here, confessed to the crimes?

We hope that you will use the occasion of the final FMSF newsletter to respond to these questions, and we will report back after the October newsletter is published.

Recovered-Memory Victory in Minnesota

June 29th, 2011 Comments off

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled on Monday that Jim Keenan can proceed with his recovered-memory lawsuit against the Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis for personal injury and fraud. The court decided that Keenan should be able to present expert testimony that describes “memory repression and the characteristics that are present in an individual suffering from repressed memory.” (Doe 76C v. Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis; Court of Appeals of Minnesota, June 27, 2011). Overturning the trial court’s decision in the case, the appellate court also concluded that “genuine issues of material fact exist about when appellant was put on notice of a potential fraud claim.” Accordingly, Keenan’s claim that the archdiocese failed to disclose that Father Adamson had a history of sexual abuse will be allowed to go forward. One strong indication that the church knows that this claim is meritorious is that their spokesman is quoted as saying that the church “will continue to try and resolve the matter without the necessity of a trial.”

Pamela Freyd, Executive Director the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, said recently that the FMSF may soon quietly disappear. They apparently think that their work is done.  But the unanimous decision of this three-judge panel once again demonstrates that, fortunately, recovered memory deniers have not won the so-called memory wars. Instead, common sense still prevails at the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

A Journalist Reconsiders the FMSF

April 18th, 2011 Comments off

Ralph Underwager, Founding FMSF Board Member

Steven Elbow wrote an article in the Madison Times last December about the Johnson case, discussed in the post below.  Yesterday, Mr. Elbow wrote a remarkable follow-up story titled “Rethinking the ‘false memory’ controversy.” Mr. Elbow came to the view that the FMSF is “a highly organized public relations machine.” He also came to understand how the FMSF ignores or denies the fact that “there have been numerous cases of repressed memory that have been verified by witness accounts, DNA, perpetrator confessions or other means.” (Perhaps he came across the Archive of more than 100 corroborated cases on this web site.) Finally, Mr. Elbow saw the FMSF Executive Director, Pamela Freyd, in a new light when she defended Ralph Underwager’s interview with a Dutch pedophile magazine. The stated purpose of the magazine was “to demonstrate that paedophilia has been, and remains, a legitimate and productive part of the totality of human experience.” One can only wonder why the Executive Director, who claims to abhor child sexual abuse, refuses to distance the FMSF from Underwager’s revealing interview with a pro-pedophile magazine.

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The Incredible Distortion of Johnson v. Rogers Memorial Hospital

February 4th, 2011 Comments off

In an unusual and highly controversial lawsuit by Charles and Karen Johnson against the therapists who treated their adult daughter, a jury in Wisconsin recently awarded the parents $1 million. Their daughter Charlotte was not party to the suit, and her lawyer successfully moved to quash a subpoena that would have forced her to testify at trial.[1] Three therapists were named in the suit; the jury found one non-negligent, and they apportioned liability between the other two on a 70-30 percent basis. The False Memory Syndrome Foundation has cast the case as a victory against therapists who, according to Executive Director Pamela Freyd, “use a variety of dubious techniques, including hypnosis, to try to excavate supposedly repressed memories.”

But that is an incredible distortion of the case. The case did not involve hypnosis—even though the parents used the spectre of hypnosis as an argument to obtain access to their daughter’s confidential medical records. Indeed, the case did not involve any of the other “techniques” mentioned by Pamela Freyd. Hollida Wakefield, the primary expert for the Johnsons, admitted that the therapists “didn’t actively try to get her to recover memories,” that they did not use hypnosis, that there was no “digging for memories,” and that there was no evidence that the therapists planted any memories of abuse.[2] In short, there was no evidence that the memories in this case were caused or created by therapyRead more…

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Betrayal Trauma Theory and the Daubert Test

January 28th, 2011 Comments off

Dr. Jennifer Freyd, a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, has written extensively about Betrayal Trauma. Her 1996 Harvard Press book by the same name is subtitled The Logic of Forgetting Childhood  Abuse. Betrayal Trauma Theory has been the subject of many studies since then. It has been widely cited and was featured in the prestigious 2010 Nebraska Symposium on Memory and Motivation. Yet, an item in the Fall 2010 newsletter of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation suggests that Betrayal Trauma is not accepted in the scientific community because a state judge in Clark County, Washington, after conducting a Kelly-Frye hearing, disallowed it for a particular application not involving memory. What the FMSF omitted in its newsletter is that Dr. Freyd’s Betrayal Trauma Theory has been accepted in federal court under the Daubert standard.

In U.S. v. Chatman (CR 07-178-RE), the state moved to allow Dr. Freyd’s testimony. Here is the government’s memorandum in support of admission. According to the Minutes of the Proceedings on May 15, 2008: “The court finds that Dr. Freyd’s reasoning and the methodology underlying her testimony is scientifically valid, that the proposed testimony is relevant, and that the testimony will assist the jury by providing information beyond common knowledge.” This testimony helped convict a 32-year-old cheer-leading coach of two counts of abusive sexual contact on a 16-year-old girl. Betrayal Trauma Theory was also admitted in a state administrative proceeding in Oregon that was upheld on appeal. See, Waisanen v. Clatskanie School District, 215 P.2d 882 (2009).

The FMSF newsletter has reported with approval on several Daubert rulings that have supported positions adopted by the foundation. FMSF Advisory Board member August Piper has called the Daubert approach “a good road map” for deciding what constitutes scientifically valid evidence. We are waiting to see whether an organization that claims to have an educational purpose will inform its readers that Betrayal Trauma Theory has passed that test. Or will they leave the false impression from their Fall 2010 newsletter uncorrected?

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Remembering the Case of Wayne B. Sargent, Jr.

December 31st, 2010 Comments off

Pamela Freyd, FMSF Executive Director

One purpose of the new blog format of this site, launched four months ago, is to make sure that important people and events in the “memory wars” are not forgotten. The detailed post about Billy Banks, a serial child molester embraced by the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, is one example of a significant story that has largely been overlooked.

Wayne Sargent is another. Sargent earned an uncritical mention in the “Legal Corner” section of this FMSF newsletter, edited by Pamela Freyd, after he successfully appealed his criminal conviction for sexually assaulting his two minor step-children and one of their friends. See, State v. Sargent (1999). The court ruled that Sargent should have been allowed to present a “false memory” expert to the jury. But the FMSF never reported the rest of the story.

Sargent was convicted by a jury after a second trial that included a “false memory” expert for the defense. That conviction was upheld by the New Hampshire Supreme Court, a court that is often touted by the FMSF for the 1997 Hungerford decision. But the second appellate decision, State v. Sargent (2002), was never mentioned in the FMSF newsletter. Neither were the remarkable events that unfolded after his second trial. Before being sentenced, Sargent admitted that his “false memory” defense was a ruse. He confessed his guilt, apologized to the children, and, as reported by the Associated Press, told the judge: “I wasn’t in denial for what I had done, but I just didn’t want to pay the consequences.” Judge Smukler, mindful of the fact that Sargent put three children through two separate trials before admitting the truth, sentenced him to 21 to 54 years in prison.

As the calendar turns to 2011, we would all do well to remember Wayne Sargent, who hid behind the “false memory” defense for years. We should also remember that the FMSF, which claims to abhor child sexual abuse, never condemned Mr. Sargent and never informed its readers that the case once heralded in their newsletter as a victory was actually nothing more than a baseless defense offered by a craven child molester.

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Curiouser and Curiouser

December 22nd, 2010 Comments off

Meredith Maran

Meredith Maran, author of a new book called My Lie: A True Story of False Memory, was quoted in an interview last month saying:

In the writing of the book, for example, I was going back-and-forth between the warring sides. I spoke at length with both Pam and Peter Freyd, who are the founders of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, and I also spoke at length with their daughter with whom they are estranged [**]. So I would listen to Jennifer Freyd tell me her version of what had happened in her family, and I would listen to Pam and Peter — Pam, in most cases — tell me what she believed. And they were opposite. It was challenging, but it was the point of the book to sit with the reality that each presented to me, and make peace with that myself. Read more…

Is Meredith Maran a Reliable Narrator?

December 5th, 2010 Comments off

Meredith Maran has a new book called My Lie: A True Story of False Memory. The book tells the story of how Maran accused her father of sexual abuse and much later decided that her accusations were false. This story turns entirely on the author’s veracity.

So, is Meredith Maran a reliable narrator? Her recent interview with Douglas Mesner indicates that she is not. In that interview, which has since been promoted by the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, Maran is quoted as saying: “I spoke at length with both Pam and Peter Freyd, who are the founders of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, and I also spoke at length with their daughter with whom they are estranged. So I would listen to Jennifer Freyd tell me her version of what had happened in her family, and I would listen to Pam and Peter — Pam, in most cases — tell me what she believed. And they were opposite.” (Here is a screenshot of that portion of the interview, posted on November 29.)

But Jennifer Freyd has not given an interview about these matters since the early 1990s. Indeed, Maran makes it clear in her book that Professor Freyd “told me that she no longer discusses her family of origin in public” (p. 205). Later, she reiterates that Professor Freyd “wouldn’t talk about her family, and I begged” (p. 231). Begged.

So why did Maran recently claim that she had “listen[ed] to Jennifer Freyd tell me her version of what had happened in her family”? More importantly, how can we trust anything in this “true story” given that the author cannot even tell a straight story about her own recent research for the book?

Jury Faults Delaware Parish in Repressed Memory Case

December 2nd, 2010 Comments off

Francis DeLuca admitted that he sexually abused John Vai (and others)

Yesterday, a jury in Dover, Delaware found that St. Elizabeth Roman Catholic parish was grossly negligent in its failure to properly supervise then-priest Francis DeLuca and is responsible for $3 million of $30 million in damages awarded to John M. Vai, who repeatedly was molested as a teenager in the 1960s.

According to the Wilmington News Journal, the jury found that Vai only became aware of the sexual abuse he suffered as a child in 2007 after reading an article about a different priest sex abuse case brought against DeLuca. As an earlier story about Mr. Vai’s testimony explains, “Vai testified that he repressed the memories of abuse until he read about a lawsuit filed by Robert Quill in 2007 charging that DeLuca molested him. Quill was younger than Vai but lived in his neighborhood and walked to school with him. Vai said the story caused him to explode with emotions, the memories came flooding back and he was filled with guilt and shame that he had not spoken up in 1966.”

Since the recovered memory of sexual abuse in this case is corroborated by DeLuca’s confession, there is no question that his memory was true. So, will the False Memory Syndrome Foundation express condemnation of the perpetrator and those who covered up for him? Or will they side with the perpetrator because they are unwilling to recognize even the most corroborated cases of recovered memory? Or will this be another one of the multitude of cases on this site that the FMSF never acknowledges?

What the New York Times Missed

November 7th, 2010 Comments off

John Anderson’s story in today’s New York Times explores the ethical issues involved in the relationship between documentary filmmakers and their subjects. Great topic. Too bad that Mr. Anderson, who wrote at length about Capturing the Friedmans, did not actually research the court file in the case. He would have found this remarkable letter from Sam Israel,  Jesse Friedman’s personal lawyer at the time, accusing Andrew Jarecki of the same kind of coercion and manipulation that Jarecki attributes to law enforcement in the underlying case.  Mr. Anderson might also have found this description of an e-mail from Andrew Jarecki, telling Jesse Friedman’s lawyer at the time: “I’m not going to give you access to materials now. Wait. Wait for the press to build up a little more.” (Hearing, October 3, 2007, p.10)

Jesse Friedman’s recent loss in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals was based on the statute of limitations. Accordingly, there is a good argument that his appeal was doomed by how Andrew Jarecki exploited the matter. Not that Friedman would ever have won on the merits anyway. See, Critiquing “Capturing the Friedmans.”

“False Memory” Advocate Loses AG Election in Minnesota

November 3rd, 2010 Comments off

The Republican candidate for Attorney General in Minnesota this year was R. Christopher Barden, a lawyer and psychologist who has played a prominent role in numerous cases challenging the existence of recovered memories of abuse. Barden has argued that recovered-memory testimony should be rejected as unreliable even in cases where there is corroboration. One example of this extreme position was the Quattrochi case in Rhode Island—a case so strong that it is contained in the archive on this web site (Legal Cases, No. 24).

Barden, who lived in Utah for years, moved to Minnesota recently and obtained the Republican nomination for Attorney General as a virtual unknown. He launched a strong attack against incumbent Attorney General Lori Swanson, challenging her ethics and accusing her of corruption. One newspaper described Barden’s charges as “over the top”; another noted that he “offered no significant proof” for his claims. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune concluded that Barden is “clearly an ideologue.”

In a year when incumbents were at a strong disadvantage and Republicans had momentum across the country, Christopher Barden was nevertheless soundly defeated, losing by more than 200,000 votes. Minnesotans apparently have the common sense to identify and reject extremism and over-zealousness.

The Misrepresentation of the Case of Billy Banks

October 31st, 2010 Comments off

The False Memory Syndrome Foundation claims to condemn the sexual abuse of children. In their words, “Child sexual abuse is a reprehensible crime….Every effort should be made to help victims of sexual abuse and to create a social climate in which such mistreatment does not continue to take place.” So why did they sympathize with Billy Banks, a serial child molester?

This is the first in a series of occasional posts that will highlight and document cases in which the FMSF has taken the side of someone charged with child sexual abuse without apparent regard for the evidence of guilt.

The Case against Billy Banks

Billy Banks was convicted in 2005 on 10 counts of sexual battery on a child under 12 years of age. (Three counts were overturned on appeal—two on double jeopardy, and one was outside the statute.) The charges included acts of rape, forced oral sex, and fondling of his daughter and his adoptive niece from 1965 to 1970. Banks was also facing two charges of lewd, lascivious or indecent acts on a child under 16 for sexually abusing his two granddaughters 20 years later, in 1990-1. After being convicted on the first counts, Banks pled no contest to one of these later counts. He was sentenced to life on the sexual battery charges and three and a half years for the charge to which he pled no contest.

Read more…

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