If you put recoveredmemory.net into a web browser, you do not end up here. You end up at the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. Why? Because Pamela Freyd bought the domain name and instituted auto-forwarding to her site. Does that mean she is cybersquatting? In a word, no. We did not trademark the name of this site, nor has Freyd tried to sell us the .net domain name at a profit. And we are quite content simply being recoveredmemory.org. But most important, we believe in free speech and we would much rather engage Pamela Freyd on the facts than waste time on arguments about domain names. Why does this come up today? We will have more to say about that in the future. In the meantime, Pamela, recoveredmemory.com is still available if you want it.
A 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?
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.
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.”
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…
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.