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Posts Tagged ‘FMSF Watch’

The $115,000 Question

July 25th, 2013 No comments

dalrympleA loyal reader of this site pointed our attention to a curious entry in the tax returns filed by the False Memory Syndrome Foundation in 2005 and 2006. In 2005, the organization spent $63,500 on something identified only as “book project.” They spent $52,227 more the next year. Their 2006 tax return lists “the Sturgis Group” as “authors” of the book they are funding. (See p. 10 of this document.) But there was never a book published after this date with the FMSF or the Sturgis Group listed as the author. Indeed, there was never even an announcement in the FMSF Newsletter informing its members that a book they spent more than $100,000 on had been published. One wonders why.

Here is what we have surmised from the available evidence. The president of the Sturgis Group is Mark Lasswell; the address for his advertising and promotion business is a Park Avenue apartment building where he lives with his wife, Clare McHugh, who happens to be the daughter of Dr. Paul R. McHugh, a controversial professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins. Dr. McHugh is listed as the sole author of a book published in 2008 called Try to Remember. The book reads like an FMSF newsletter. So it is not surprising that the preface states that Pamela Freyd suggested the book and “patiently supported” it. But there is no indication what kind of support Freyd, the Executive Director of the FMSF, provided. The preface also acknowledges a “yearlong collaboration” whereby McHugh’s daughter Clare “helped [him] put down an accessible draft.” Dr. McHugh mentions her “devotion,” but there is no mention of what happened behind-the-scenes: the FMSF paid Dr. McHugh’s daughter and her husband up to $115,727 to “author” this book.

The book was heralded by the FMSF on the opening pages of this newsletter; but the Foundation did not reveal anything about its significant financial interest in the project. Nor did Dr. McHugh disclose that his book received significant financial support from an advocacy organization. Disclosures of this nature are expected, of course, by the ethical norms and policies for scientists. The $115,000 question is why neither Dr. McHugh nor the FMSF decided to disclose their financial connection when the book was published. Was Dr. McHugh trying to create the false impression of having done this work independent of any financial support from an organization that is discussed favorably in his book? Did the FMSF conclude that the book would appear more scholarly if the public was unaware of their six-figure subsidy? Would reviewers have been more skeptical had they known this was practically a work-for-hire by the FMSF?

Blind to Betrayal

March 11th, 2013 No comments

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.

The FMSF Fades

January 15th, 2013 No comments

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 No comments

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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The Goldwater Rule and the FMSF

July 23rd, 2012 No comments

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 No comments

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.”

Ask a Simple Question (Part 1)

December 22nd, 2011 No comments

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 No comments

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 No comments

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 No comments

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 No comments

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 No comments

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 No comments

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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Is Meredith Maran a Reliable Narrator?

December 5th, 2010 No comments

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?

The Misrepresentation of the Case of Billy Banks

October 31st, 2010 No comments

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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