Treating Abuse Today Interview:
A Conversation With Pamela Freyd, Ph.D.
Co-Founder And Executive Director,
False Memory Syndrome Foundation, Inc., Part I
Originally published in Treating Abuse Today, 3(4), pp. 26-33
Copyright © David L. Calof. Used by permission.
APA-style citation for this article
A great deal of the present national furor over false memory may be traced to a robust and adroit public relations effort by the recently-formed False Memory Syndrome Foundation, Inc. Incorporated less thin two years ago, this advocacy group is for parents, usually in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, who claim they have been falsely accused by their adult children of often severe and sadistic childhood sexual abuse. Typically, they cite the psychotherapy process as generating the unexpected recovery of previously "forgotten" traumatic memories.
According to its 1992 Mission and Purpose statement, the Foundation was created "to aid the victims, both primary and secondary, of False Memory Syndrome; to seek reasons for the spread of the False Memory Syndrome; and to work for the prevention of new cases of false memory syndrome." They promise to pursue these ends in the following ways:
- "By publicizing the nature and prevalence of False Memory Syndrome, the conditions and practices causing and sustaining it, and the steps that affected individuals can take to bring truth and well-being back into their lives;
- By providing access to counseling and guidance to those who are injured and hurt;
- By promoting and sponsoring scientific and medical research into the existence and causes of False Memory Syndrome, and disseminating the resulting information and knowledge to psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, lawyers and the general public; and
- By helping the secondary victims (those falsely accused) to establish through polygraph and other methods of ascertaining the truth of such issues, the falsity of such incest and abuse charges, and the psychological and other reasons they are made, including the intentional or unwitting suggestion of therapists and therapeutic programs."
The FMSF, Inc. organization asserts that there is a new, national epidemic of false memories destroying thousands of families. The 1992 book Confabulations: Creating False Memories Destroying Families have (Eleanor Goldstein with Kevin Farmer, Boca Raton, FL: Social Issues Resources Series, Inc. [SIRS]), which has become the de facto "bible" of the false memory movement, purports to recount the stories of twenty families, out of more than 550 documented cases, ravaged by this epidemic." In the book's introduction, the authors write:"The final result is that hundreds, more likely, tens of thousands of parents been falsely accused of the most horrendous crimes of sexual abuse against the people they love the most in the world -- their children."
False memory advocates are especially skeptical of claims of satanic ritual abuse. In a February 20, 1992 letter sent to supporters less than a month before the incorporation of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, Pamela Freyd summarized a position regarding ritual abuse that has become the de facto position of the Foundation to this day:
"We have been assured in several conversations that evidence of satanic activity of the sort that has become a popular myth in our country simply does not exist. It must be obvious to rational people that accusations based on memories that include satanic ritual are delusions of some sort. For those. of us who are only accused of 'run-of-the-mill incest,' this should turn out to be some help. If 'memories' of satanic abuse can be induced in therapy then so can memories' of incest or anything else" (p. 1, "Dear Friends" letter, February 20, 1992).
The extent of the Foundation!s cultural influence may be seen in the state of Utah. For its large size and sparse population (1,770,000), Utah has a disproportionate number of FMS "member families." Of the total 3,681 member families reported in the May 3, 1993 FMS Newsletter, 146 live in Utah. The only states with higher numbers of FMS members in residence are the highly populous states of Pennsylvania (home to the FMS Foundation) (212), Florida (153), New York (162), California (679) and Washington (I 86)home to FMS Scientific Advisory Board Member, false memory activist, and renowned defense witness,Elizabeth Loftus, Ph.D. So great has been the concern over "false memory syndrome" in Utah that the Latter Day Saints Church has officially addressed it. At the LDS Church's semiannual conference in early 1992, Elder Rich ard G. Scott, a member of the Church's Quorum of twelve Apostles, remarked:
"Detailed, leading questions that probe your past may unwittingly trigger thoughts that are more imagination or fantasy than reality. They could lead to condemnation of another for acts that were not committed" (in Morris, M., "Psychologists decry 'hokey' therapy," Utah County Journal, April 24, 1992, P. A1)
To combat what they claim is an out of control public health crisis that is destroying families, false memory advocates identify two culprits. The first is bad therapy by bad or careless therapists. This is therapy in which the therapists' incautious, inappropriate and/or unwitting use of suggestion or leading, in concert with other factors, creates false memories of childhood incest or sexual abuse in the hapless, if not seriously disturbed, patient. The false accusations that follow result in horrible, untoward pain to their families. Ralph Underwager, Ph.D., the controversial FMS co-founder and former member of the FMSF Scientific Advisory Board, sometimes credited with coining the term "false memory syndrome," claims:
"There is an awful lot of bad psychotherapy out there. When you have a situation where a person has no recollection, no recall, but had some kind of trouble or problem or unhappiness, and they go to a therapist and recover a memory it's common sense to realize that the therapy caused the memory" (in Morris, 1992, P. A3).
Factors frequently cited to support this hypothesis include patients' psychodynamic distortions, the demand character for clients to probe and make productions for the therapist; various forms of countertransferrnce and counterdependence; and cultural expectations or demands that reward "victimhood." According to defense expert Underwager, "Being victims is the most popular sport in America today" (in Morris, 1992, P. A1). Misguided "do-goodism," "radical feminism' and "New Age" are frequently mentioned as cultural driving forces. Therapists' financial motives are not overlooked, either. In the conclusion to Confabulations, the authors ask:
"What is going on? The Recovery Movement is a billion dollar enterprise. Hundreds of thousands of people are making lots of money in this growth industry...As soon as a victim accepts that she has been abused, she is told 'recovery' will take two to six years, maybe a lifetime. The therapist has hooked a longterm patient..." (p. 328330).
False memory advocates argue that the combination of the above factors, along with the careless or exploitative use of techniques such as hypnosis and imagery, other projective tech niques, and narcohypnosis (sodium amytal), creates a folie à deux of false recollections of abuse in patient and therapist, often as a rationalization for therapy that is failing. Advocates claim that books, tapes, groups and seminars influence, reinforce and program individuals to develop false memories of sexual abuse.The second culprit is bad science. This is the position that decades-buried memories of massive childhood trauma are impossible or very rare. They argue that the concept of recovered memory of massive trauma is a grievous error-in-the-making in psychology at present. Perhaps the most cynical of these voices is award-winning Berkeley sociologist and FMS Scientific Advisory Board member, Richard Ofshe, Ph.D., who has called recovered memory therapy one of the "centuries most intriguing quackeries," which "no human society since the dawn of time has ever recorded except a bunch of wacked-out psychologists in America" (Robinson, K . "Memories of Abuse," The Seattle Weekly August 11, 1993, P. 27).
Advocates to this position argue that trauma is not forgotten, but remains intrusive and problematic. They argue that it would be near impossible for a child to forget multiple events of abuse over long periods. They assert that long term repression has never been proven. Again, Ofshe (1993):
"Recovered memory therapy seems have been produced by a series of mistakes. . . . [Practitioners of recovered memory therapy] refuse to acknowledge that three generations of researchers have tried and failed to confirm the existence of the repression phenomenon, in even its most conservative form. They ignore the fact that no evidence suggests the human mind is capable of hiding from itself the numbers of traumatic events elicited from clients of recovered memory therapy"(1993, Society March/April).
Adherents to the bad science argument typically are non-clinicians with little or no experience in diagnosing, assessing or treating known traumatic stress reactions including dissociation and traumatic memory disturbance. While they are very loud in their opposition to the concept of longterm repression, they are mainly silent regarding traumatic dissociation and amnesia or the literature in which these reactions have been reported as post-traumatic sequelae in traumatic contexts other than child abuse, such as war, political torture and indoctrination, concentration camps, and cults. Underwager acknowledges traumatic amnesia but only to dismiss it as a sequelae for anything but "one single, highly traumatic experience." He explains:
"There are some people who do have [traumatic] amnesia for that [single] event and for things that occurred immediately before it. It is not repression and it is not for acts that are repeated." (Morris, 1992, p. A3).
The national discussion regarding the veridical truth of memories of childhood abuse will have a beneficial effect. Therapists will be reminded that dire consequences can ensue from poor practice, careless technique, and unchecked countertransference and parallel process. Hopefully, it will also stimulate legitimate research into the nature of traumatic memory.Unfortunately, the polemic often has been hysterical, scapegoating, accusatory, speculative, rumor driven, biased and antiempirical. Since many members of the FMSF, Inc. Scientific Advisory Board are frequent professional witnesses for the defense in cases of alleged sexual abuse, we questioned whether the organization was acting more as an advocate for a previously determined position or whether it was truly taking a scientific approach to determining the veridical truth of recollections of child abuse.
With these concerns in mind and with a strong desire to explore the claims of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, Inc. first hand, we decided to interview Pamela Freyd, Ph.D., its founder and first Executive Director.
As a founder of this advocacy group, Pamela Freyd is perhaps the most visible of those who claim their adult children have had "false memories" of childhood abuse. When we decided to approach Freyd, we had already seen her autobiographical account, "How Could This Happen? Coping with a False Accusation of Incest and Rape," by "Jane Doe" which appeared in Ralph Underwager and his colleague and wife, Hollida Wakefield's publication, Issues in Child Abuse Accusations [3(3), 154-165]. In the Jane Doe article, (which Freyd later acknowledges authorship for in the February 29, 1992 FMS Newsletter) she chronicles "the effects of a false accusation of childhood abuse and rape by a grown daughter against her father" (P. 154).
In addition to offering her view of the chronicle of events in her own family, Freyd offers a psychological analysis to support her contention that her daughter suffers from false memory syndrome. There is no data presented about the daughter's memories and no information as to how they occurred to her, only Pamela Freyd's arguments. Freyd contends that her daughter's "false" memories were brought on by a zealous, young therapist (age 32), "slop articles and books" such as Ellen Bass and Laura Davis' Courage to Heal [1988, New York, NY. Harper & Row] and "muddled thinking on the part of therapists" over the signs and symptoms commonly associated with sexual abuse (p. 160). Freyd's analysis and explanation of her daughter's alleged false memories of incest with her father fall into four general categories:
- Pamela Freyd and her husband's "faults as parents." These were not specified except as "a million things that I would do better a second time round if life let me sign on again" (p. 161);
- A possible "physical" or "chemical" problem (P. 161-162);
- Various "stresses" on her daughter and son in-law. Here the speculation went to her daughter's "feelings of inadequacy," possible marital conflict over a career decision, and conflict and exhaustion from being a mother with a demanding career. Freyd also speculates that her daughter may have felt "additional stress and inadequacy" because of the mother's own recent "tremendous professional success" and how this "might have been a trigger for the timing of [her daughter's] revelations' (p. 162);
- Contributing factors from the current "cultural context." Freyd wrote:
"Research is full of examples of how people are influenced by the expectations of the people they are with and by the way that questions are posed. To be against child sexual abuse is a politically correct position, especially for activist women. To be a 'victim' of something is almost a social necessity on college campuses. So much support and so much zeal abound for such accusations that more and more unjust ones, such as in our case, are being made" (p. 163).
When Treating Abuse Today interviewed Pamela Freyd during the month of April, 1993, we did not know then that she had reprinted her "Jane Doe" article in the Confabulations book. We add this because when we criticized this book in the interview, Freyd stated that the book does not speak for the Foundation and that she did not write it.As we approached the interview, we gave considerable thought to how we would deal with Pamela Freyd's personal and family involvement with allegations of incest. We realized that we could not accept prima facie Pamela Freyd's account that her husband was "falsely accused" as we had not heard the daughter's story nor, to our knowledge, was there an official inquiry pending or concluded in the matter. In fact, we have been a little horrified each time Pamela Freyd has been introduced in the media as the wife of a falsely accused husband. For the most part, these news stories have not strenuously challenged the parents' claims nor have they reported how the daughter's accusations were made, their specific nature, or how they were proven false, if indeed they were.
While we realize that Pamela Freyd's family situation is integral to her stance in this self-styled advocacy group, we thought we might still have a productive interview on the broad issues in the event she declined to discuss her personal situation. We decided we would proceed with the interview whether or not Dr. Freyd agreed to discuss her family situation.
When she did decline very early in the interview, we chose to avoid any further probing of the nature of the matter in Pamela Freyd's immediate family. We used the opportunity instead to focus for the most part on the claims and tactics of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, Inc. We believe this led to a fruitful dialogue.
This is a fast breaking story. Since our interview, two important developments have occurred that deserve reporting. In our background investigation prior to the interview, we found some very disturbing reports regarding Ralph Underwager, Ph.D., the controversial former member of the FMSF Scientific Advisory Board and seminal figure in the early development of the Foundation. Among other reports, we had seen an investigative story shown on the Australian 60 Minutes television show that found that many investigators, child advocates and courts in the United States and Australia had questioned Underwager's expertise, impartiality, and accuracy as a professional witness for the defense in cases of alleged child abuse.
He has been frequently criticized for entering cases as a direct advocate for the defense rather than the objective, scientific observer he purports to be.
At the time of our interview, Underwager was still a member of the FMSF, Inc. Scientific Advisory Board.
When we broached the subject of Underwager in our interview, Freyd volunteered, "I know that he is considered a very controversial figure within the child advocate community." When we asked her if she had seen the 60 Minutes report, she said that she had not but that her husband had and that videotaped copies of it had been sent anonymously to FMSF Scientific Advisory Board members.
When asked the Board's reaction to the report, Freyd replied, "Two people said it was disturbing." Freyd also told us that she had seen an information packet critical of Underwager put together and distributed by a child prosecutor that "frankly disturbed" her.
We asked whether the Foundation was contemplating its own investigation of the situation, Freyd responded, "Not at this time ... I believe a lawsuit for slander pertaining the accusations you're citing is in process and I think we'll wait and see how that comes out." When we pressed our concern that by not internally investigating the matter the organization was conveying an attitude of "as long as he toes the party line, we'll let him in," Freyd replied, "No one has asked us for any kind of official response. If you would like to give me something in writing, I will make an official response."
Before we were able to do so, we learned that Underwager had resigned the FMSF, Inc. Scientific Advisory Board. His resignation came as pressure mounted following the discovery and wide dissemination of an inter view he and his wife and colleague, Hollida Wakefield, gave in the Netherlands publication, Paidika: The Journal of Paedophilia (Winter, 1993, Volume 3, Number 1). In this startling passage from that interview, Underwager clearly advocates for paedophilia:
P. "Is choosing paedophilia for you a responsible choice for the individual?"RU. "Certainly it is responsible. What I have been struck by as I have come to know more about and understand people who choose paedophilia is that they let themselves be too much defined by other people. That is usually an essentially negative definition. Paedophiles spend a lot of time and energy defending their choice. I don't think that a paedophile needs to do that. Paedophiles can boldly and courageously affirm what they choose. They can say what they want is to find the best way to love. I am also a theologian and as a theologian I believe it is God's will that there be closeness and unity of the flesh, between people. A paedophile can say, 'This closeness is possible for me within the choices that I've made.'
"Paedophiles are too defensive. They go around saying, 'You people out there are saying that what I choose is bad, that it's no good. You're putting me in prison, you're doing all these terrible things to me. I have to define my love as being in some way or other illicit.' What I think is that paedophiles can make the assertion that the pursuit of intimacy and love is what they choose. With boldness they can say I believe this is in fact part of God's will.' They have the right to make these statements for themselves as personal choices. Now whether or not they can persuade other people they are right is another matter (laughs)" (P. 3-4).
While Pamela Freyd was speaking to us on the record about her organization, another development was in the making in the Freyd family. Since Pamela and her husband, Peter Freyd, started the Foundation and its massive public relations effort in which they present as a "falsely accused" couple, their daughter, Jennifer Freyd, Ph.D., remained publicly silent regarding her parents' claims and the activities of the FMS Foundation. She only wished to preserve her privacy. But, as the Foundation's publicity efforts gained a national foothold, Dr. Jennifer Freyd decided that her continued anonymity amounted to complicity. She began to feel that her silence was beginning to have unwitting effects. She saw that she was giving the appearance of agreeing with her parents' public claims and decided she had to speak out.
Jennifer Freyd, Ph.D., is a tenured Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon. Along with George K. Ganaway, M.D. (a member of the FMS Foundation Scientific Advisory Board), Lawrence R. Klein, Ph.D., and Stephen H. Landman, Ph.D., she was an invited presenter for The Center for Mental Health at Foote Hospital's Continuing Education Conference: Controversies Around Recovered Memories of Incest and Ritualistic Abuse, held on August 7, 1993 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Dr. Jennifer Freyd's presentation, "Theoretical and Personal Perspectives on the Delayed Memory Debate," included professional remarks on the conference topic, along with a personal section in which she, for the first time, publicly gave her side of the Freyd family story.
In her statement, she alleges a pattern of boundary and privacy violations by her parents, some of which have occurred under the auspices of the Foundation; a pattern of inappropriate and unwanted sexualization by her father and denial by her mother, and a pattern of intimidation and manipulation by her parents since the inception of the Foundation. She also recounts that several members of the original FMS Foundation Scientific Advisory Board had dual professional relationships with the Freyd family.
We will be publishing the full, unedited text of Dr. Jennifer Freyd's public remarks in the issue (Treating Abuse Today Volume 3, Number 5) following the conclusion to our interview with Dr. Pamela Freyd.
Our aim is not to pruriently broadcast one family's painful dispute. Rather, we believe that because of the public identity of this family, the nature of the issues involved and the terrific public image Pamela Freyd and her husband have cultivated as "falsely accused" parents, an indepth understanding of the FMS Foundation is impossible without an exploration of the dynamics of one of the central founding families. As clinicians, we are mindful of the ever-present possibility of parallel process. This is an archetypal example of how family members are capable of living in parallel worlds. The two statements are a study in contrasts. We will offer no more comment except to say that in our opinion these two pieces clearly speak for themselves.
In the first installment of this wide-ranging and often spirited discussion, Pamela Freyd and David Calof discuss the genesis of the FMSF, Inc. organization; charges that it has fostered an accusatory and adversarial climate; the basis by which FMSF considers itself to be a scientific effort and the controversial use of the term "syndrome." They also explore the definition of "false memory syndrome," the criteria the organization proposes to use in judging the probable truth of memories of childhood abuse and the question of whether the organization is representing sexual offenders in its ranks. The entire interview was conducted over seven hours of telephone conversations during the month of April, 1993. We hope this spirited exchange will help to shed light on this controversial organization, its tactics and purposes. We encourage our readers to comment on this interview and on the issue of the credibility of alleged traumatic memory in general. We appreciate Dr. Pamela Freyd's availability and willingness to submit to comprehensive inquiry by a member of the trauma recovery clinical community.
TAT: Can you tell us a little about how you got interested in this area? Was this an academic interest of yours? Did it intersect personally? How did you get involved with the false memory movement?
Freyd: As a matter of fact, it intersected both personally and professionally. My background is in education. I am not a clinical person or a psychologist. In recent years I have been involved in some aspects of science education looking at children's learning of concepts in science. I became aware of how certain misconceptions can cloud or prevent understanding in other areas. When some of the issues as I have begun to see them in this particular phenomenon came about, it seemed that there were some misunderstandings about the nature of memory that were clouding peoples' understanding of what might really be going on.
TAT: And you said this intersected personally.
Freyd: It was something that happened in our family also.
TAT: Is that something you are at liberty to talk about?
Freyd: It is something that I do not talk about.
TAT: We'll consider that off-limits for now. From a social point of view then, why is this issue suddenly hitting the national scene? In the mid 1980's tens of thousands of people came forward claiming that their parents had been alcohol abusers, but no one raised the question of false memo ry even when the parents steadfastly denied the charges. Why has this issue of false memory come up regarding memories of sexual abuse but not memories of alcohol abuse?
Freyd: I think it is because of the severity of the accusation. When you are talking about sexual abuse, you are talking about criminal actions and criminal charges and police reports and investigations, so the level is significantly more serious.
TAT: Are you saying that the forensic arena stimulated this movement?
Freyd: Partially. Some of the cases that have been written about certainly have called public attention to the forensic issues, but it is more than that. At least from the people we have spoken to, it has to do with a tremendous blow to the very foundations of everything they had, at least, stated they had worked for and cared about in terms of their children.
TAT: Can you tell us a little about how the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, Inc. came together, its founding members, the organizations mission?
Freyd: The Foundation was formally started on March 14, 1992. That is when the real aspects of it were taken care of. It was formed by a group of professionals and families coming together to try to document what at that time was a rumor, that there were many people in their 60s, 70s and 80s who were telling therapists that they had been accused by their children of doing horrible things to them. The people calling therapists were adamant that the accusations were false, while those who were making them were equally adamant they were true. In the process, families were being destroyed. We wanted to find out if this was just a few disgruntled people or if it was a larger problem.
TAT: How did this original group get together?
Freyd: Actually, some therapists told me they were getting calls from people and I said I would like to talk to the people.
TAT: You are quoted in the newsletter of the National Center for the Prosecution for Child Abuse that the initial membership of the Foundation was drawn from 202 families who had contacted therapist and expert defense witness Dr. Ralph Underwager. Was this the genesis of the Foundation? [Ed. Note: In the February 29, 1992 FMS Newsletter, under a column heading, "... How Many Families are We?" Dr. Pamela Freyd wrote: "A listing by state was compiled from 202 families who have made direct contact either with IPT or with me and consequently are on the FMS Foundation mailing list as of 2/29/92" (P. 2). The IPT is Ralph Underwager and Hollida Wakefield's Institute for Psychological Therapies.]
Freyd: Well, no. Underwager was one of the people who referred families to us when we first got together and began to compare notes in a group of about ten families. We shared our observations with therapists and found you could take letters from one family and interchange them with letters from another family. The patterns of behavior were so formulaic: the way in which the memories developed and the way the accusations were made. It seemed that it couldn't possibly just be chance that something might be going on.
At the same time a writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer named Darrell Sifford did a column in which he presented an alternative view, or questioned, actually, that just because an accusation of abuse is made, doesn't mean it's necessarily true ["When Tales of Sex Abuse Aren't True," Philadelphia Inquirer, November 21, 1991].
That column received such an out pouring of response. So many people called him and Dr. Harold Lief [M.D.], who was mentioned in the column, that Sifford said that, though he wanted to, he couldn't do another column unless there was some kind of place or number to which people could turn to get help. So we pooled our pennies, if you will, and decided we would have a 1-800 number. We asked Ralph Underwager if he and his wife Holly (Hollida Wakefield] would answer the telephones since they had a staff [at their Institute for Psychological Therapies in Northfield, Minnesota] and we did not have any kind of facilities. They did that for several months until we got an office in May, 1992.
TAT: How is the Foundation funded now? You said that you "pooled your pennies" to begin with.
Freyd: The Foundation is funded primarily through people that contact the Foundation both professionals and families. To date we also have one small grant from the Curry Foundation.
TAT: Why was there such secrecy surrounding the organization when it was first formed?
Freyd: I didn't know there was.
TAT: In your first newsletter you remained anonymous, asking readers to understand that you "couldn't" give your name. Then there was the Jane Doe" piece. Why was that?
Freyd: Oh, things have changed a great deal from then, haven't they?
TAT: But I am curious, why? If you're going to try to be out front as an organization, that gave a funny impression --
Freyd: -- Because people lose their jobs when they are accused. People lose lots of things.
TAT: are you implying it had some thing to do with the stuff we said we weren't going to talk about in your personal life?
TAT: Okay, you needn't go further with it then. Now, you've had a tremendous public relations effort in the last year. I have noted the topic of false memory syndrome discussed on numerous national TV and radio shows and in numerous printed news stories. I am also aware of a developing form of grass roots movement where there are local "false memory" chapters springing up. I don't know if there are official chapters but there are certainly local meetings on the subject.
Freyd: There are meetings. We have not yet reached the point where we have resolved or even had in-depth discussion on what kind of relationship there ought to be. I think in the hearts and minds of most people that are connected with the Foundation is the hope that some of these issues can be resolved very quickly so that we can go out of business.
TAT: I'll ask you later on to tell us what the world might look like that would indicate to you it was time to pack up your tent. Did you hire a public relations firm?
TAT: You don't employ a public relations firm to deal with the national media?
Freyd: No, we don't have that kind of funding. What we do have is a group of people who are articulate, intelligent, who are caring, who have initiative. I want to put it in focus. We have been told by many people who call the Foundation that the literature we have provided has taken, what was to them, a very baffling personal problem something that they just couldn't understand and had no conceptual framework for and provided a conceptual framework for viewing it as a social phenomenon. It becomes something that they can do something about. So, if for any reason we have been effective, that is the reason.
TAT: I understand you have a group of recanters: people who claim they have resolved their "false memory syndrome" by rejecting their false memories of abuse. I understand that you have only about 60 such cases despite more than a year of national publicity. Tell me something about your reaction to these numbers. To me they seem small, perhaps an important problem, but very rare according to those kinds of numbers. Would you have expected more?
Freyd: It's only a trickle. I couldn't agree with you more. It's a tiny number. I think that's because this phenomenon is fairly recent. As time goes on, there will probably be a larger number. Will it ever be 100%? I'm afraid not. Is that what you're looking for? The questioning we've done is terribly threatening to everybody.
TAT: Let's talk a little about the scientific basis for the Foundation's claims. Your literature professes that you take a strict scientific approach. You have taken a strong tone against what you see as sloppy or unscientifically-based therapy work --
Freyd: I just want to interject a couple things here just so the ground rules and understanding are the same. We work very closely with therapists and they are wonderful therapists. Most of the therapeutic community is. We find them concerned and supportive and nobody wants to hurt anybody unnecessarily and perhaps some of what has taken place has been without anybody noticing it on all sides. Second, we are fully aware at the seriousness of abuse and the extent of it and that it is a shame that in a society such as ours, children are treated so poorly -- not just in terms of sexual abuse, but in terms of all aspects of abuse.
TAT: Unfortunately, people who purport to represent your organization's point of view do set a very strong adversarial tone. A colleague of mine attended a local "FMS meeting" recently and found there wasn't any talk about bridging common concerns but rather she found sarcasm, character assassination and ad hominem remarks maligning the motives of therapists and patients.
Freyd: David, David, you know, I have to agree that the people are hugely angry. I should tell you that when people call, something profound is going on. Even if we assume for the moment that ALL the parents have dissociated and forgotten what happened and have an unreal image of life, imagine how they could feel that somebody has come into their lives and stolen or harmed their children. And maybe they are foolish and they don't really love them, but if somebody comes into your house and harms your child or someone in your family -- I mean, people shoot people for that.
The families feel that their homes and their families have been invaded in some way. When people call to tell us their stories, the first question we are apt to be asked is, "Can we sue the therapist?" I mean that is what people ask when they call US. And we certainly can only tell them what we know and that is, that's probably not the route that one wants to go for a number of reasons.
TAT: Yes, but I'm not talking about those callers. Obviously, you can't control them completely. I'm talking about the tone set at the national level by people on your advisory board, your leadership.
Freyd: I don't think we're going to get anywhere in terms of solving these things if the issues are framed in away that's adversarial. That's not our nature and that's not what we want to do. We are in touch with clinicians on our advisory board, who write to us and talk to us.
TAT: Here's an example. In the 1992 book, Confabulations: Creating False Memories - Destroying Families, Eleanor Goldstein [with Kevin Farmer, Boca Raton, FL: SIRS] suggests that abuse is always remembered and concludes that the increasing reports of delayed-memories of childhood abuse are shams. She includes incendiary language suggesting that a false memory syndrome epidemic exists because of "hundreds of thousands of people ... making lots of money" in a "growth industry." This cannot help this situation or unite the factions in this debate.
Freyd: First of all that book does not speak for the Foundation. I am the only one who speaks for the Foundation. And let me say one more thing. I didn't write the Confabulations book, and there are going to be many people writing other kinds of books.
TAT: I take issue, however, with the fact that it seems to have a kind of tacit approval by omission. It seems to me that the leadership of your organization needs to address how the field is polarized in part because of these tactics. Crying fire and maligning motives will not improve our art or science.
There's such in obvious ax to grind against therapists in Confabulations. There's no talk there of truth on both sides, there's no talk about coming together in collaboration, only talk about coming after therapists. I am curious what the Foundation's attitude is about such an adversarial book as Confabulations, a book that's written by someone who will chair one of the panels at your first scientific meeting this weekend [Memory and Reality. Emerging Crisis, Valley Forge, PA, April 16-18, 1993].
Freyd: I will pass these criticisms on These are people who are looking for the truth, or the evidence. People in psychology don't have uniform agreement on this issue. I could throw back the question. In the same way we could talk about the value judgments that are made by the choice of the terms "survivor" and "perpetrator" opposed to the terms "allegations" or "accused person."
TAT: I appreciate that, but what is the rationalization for making new scapegoats? We in the therapeutic community hear in your message that this is a basically a question about therapists' hidden motives.
Freyd: Uh huh. You probably have seen the [FMSF, Inc.] newsletter so you are probably aware of these figures as much as I am. In a study of the crime victims' compensation fund in the State of Washington, that had nothing whatsoever to do with the Foundation, they found that from 1987-1992 the percentage of money that went to victims of sexual assault crimes went from 25% to 50%, which is fine. I don't have any problems with that. They also found that of the money that goes to victims of sexual assault crimes, as opposed to other kinds of crimes, 90 percent of it goes to therapists. I also don't have any problems with that, as that's probably the kind of help people need. But here's where a problem arises and maybe you can give me an explanation. The original data we received for 1992 - and I will give you an update when I get it - indicated that for victims of sexual assault outside the home, the average payment was something like $1,552. For sexual assault victims inside the home it was around $1,970. But for a repressed memory case, it was $9,100. Now you look at that and you have to ask, what's going on?
TAT: I am not aware of those figures. But if they are true the explanation may be that the more severe, prolonged and sadistic the abuse, the more likely it will be repressed. So these cases may represent relatively more severe cases than the less severe [presumed] single incident cases. That would be my guess.
But, if I may, I'd like to move us back to the question of scientific objectivity and validity. How do you respond to the argument that the Foundation is anti-empirical, anti-scientific, and really has no data to support its claims of a national epidemic except anecdotal, second and third-hand stories that have been recycled from news story to news story? My colleagues wonder what makes this "science." How do you respond to that?
Freyd: The efforts we are making to try to get accurate information about memory to the public and to try to encourage understanding of some of the scientific issues involved is a beginning. When the Foundation started a little more than a year ago, the common response to this situation was that if somebody was accused of abuse and they confessed, then they were obviously considered guilty and if they denied it - if they said it didn't happen - they were said to be "in denial" with the implication that they were also guilty. There was no method, no standards in place to begin to discuss or determine what might have gone on. That was the situation at that time. If an accusation was made, then it must be true and the first thing that -
TAT: - Who held this position? That's not something I really identify with and I'm curious who you are thinking about when you think about that position.
Freyd: For the people who have contacted the Foundation, that is what has happened in virtually every single story. Let me throw the question the other way.
TAT: Go ahead.
Freyd: This is the question we are wanting to ask the therapeutic commmunity. When accusations of decades-forgotten abuse such as this arise, what would be the appropriate steps to take?
TAT: Are you speaking forensically or therapeutically?
TAT: Well, I can tell you something of my practice. I discourage confrontation with the family. Perhaps, when the client is done with their therapy, we can determine if they still have the need to confront. Clients may take on their families in immature or dependent ways midway through their therapies. By the end of the therapy, often they decide they don't want to pursue a legal or forensic solution afterall. My emphasis in the clinical situation is to leave it somewhat insulated and --
Freyd: -- How do you, how do you -
TAT: - in fact, I have discouraged MY clients from suing.
Freyd: Yeah, how do you respond to clients who recover memories of space alien abduction?
TAT: Haven't had any of those.
Freyd: Why is it that some therapists have clients who do?
TAT: Well, I don't know. I think that's a little beyond the pale here.
Freyd: But I think that it's a fair question for a lay person to ask. Why do some therapists have clients who recover memories of satanic ritual abuse and others who don't? These are the kinds of questions that can have scientific answers. And these are the questions we want to try to find the answers to.
TAT: I see the agenda. But let's go back: one of the contentions the therapeutic community has about the Foundation's professed scientific credibility is your use of the term "syndrome." It seems to us that what's happening here is that based solely on anecdotal, unverified reports, the Foundation has started a public relations campaign rather than a bonafide research effort and simply announced to the world that an epidemic of this syndrome exists. The established scientific and clinical organizations are taking you on about this and it's that kind of thing that makes us feel like this effort is not really based on science. Do you have a response to that?
Freyd: The response I would make regarding the name of the Foundation is that it will certainly be one of the issues brought up during our scientific meeting this weekend. But let me add that the term, "syndrome," in terms of it being a psychological syndrome, parallels, say, the rape trauma syndrome. Given that and the fact that there are seldom complaints over the use of the term "syndrome" for that, I think that it isn't "syndrome" that's bothering people as much as the term "false."
TAT: No. Frankly it's not. It is the term "syndrome." The term false memory is almost 100 years old. It's nothing new, but false memory syndrome is newly coined. Here's our issue with your use of the word "syndrome." The rape trauma syndrome is a good example because it has a very well defined list of signs and symptoms. Having read your literature, we are still at a loss to know what the signs and symptoms of "false memory syndrome" are. Can you tell us succinctly?
Freyd: The person with whom I would like to have you discuss that to quote is Dr. Paul McHugh on our advisory board, because he is a clinician.
TAT: I would be happy to do that. But if I may, let me take you on a little bit further about this.
Freyd: Sure, sure that's fair.
TAT: You're the Executive Director of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation - a foundation that says it wants to disseminate scientific information to the community regarding this syndrome but you can't, or won't, give me its signs and symptoms. That is confusing to me. I don't understand why there isn't a list.
Freyd: Okay, let me just talk about what happens or what is common in the behaviors we are seeing. A person who is disturbed, a distressed individual, enters therapy for that distress, not necessarily with an individual therapist -- it could be with some kind of self-help group or in another therapeutic setting -- to deal with whatever their problems are at the time. Then, in some way the notion becomes embedded that the reason for their distress isn't anything having to do with their present life but that it's the result of some kind of past trauma, except that nobody knows just what that trauma was.
TAT: Uh huh.
Freyd: So there begins a search to find memories of the trauma. During this time there is a breaking off from the family of origin. Several techniques are reported over and over again in the stories we have. These include hypnosis, sodium amytal, interpretation of dreams, and others. These are methods that to my understanding do not produce memories that are any more or less reliable than any other memories - some of which are probably true, some of which are probably embellished or confused, and some of which may be false. Then, an "obsession" takes place. That is the word the parents virtually use. The descriptions given by the parents is that the language becomes almost mechanical, robotic. As I men- tioned earlier, the letters from one case to another are almost interchangeable. They are so patterned, um --
TAT: That feels like a partial answer. But what I am mainly hearing is a description of therapists' behaviors - much of which seems to me to be pretty bad therapy. Maybe there is a therapists' syndrome we ought to coin, but I think you claim that FMS is a syndrome of the patient.
Freyd: Let me read a few passages from a letter that I ran in the [FMS Foundation] newsletter to Paul Ekman, who was one of the people who signed a letter published in the American Psychological Society Observer that expressed concern about our use of the term "syndrome."
Freyd: "We understand all too well the problems that can be tied to the name of the Foundation, but we think that the word 'syndrome' is appropriate for several reasons. Syndrome means a collection of reproducible features that derive from some common cause. In false memory syndrome, we recognize a constellation of emotions, behaviors, and responses to the environment that are remarkably similar from one patient to another and derived from an imagined event, i.e., false memory of abuse, alien abduction, past lives. It tends to run a particular course both in its development and its dissolution. We wish to emphasize the existence of a condition that needs to be confirmed or rejected when further information emerges. For that aim, the 'false memory syndrome' is satisfactory. Many psychological syndromes are not pathological but psychologically generated from normal, even though distressing, life circumstances - as with anxiety syndrome or depressive syndrome. Regarding your term, 'disputed memory problem,' the 'dispute' is a problem of an involved group, not just the patients. The false memory syndrome on the other hand, describes the patient's condition, the constellation of symptoms and their course." Does that help you?
TAT: Well, a bit. But one of the problems about your description is that it proceeds a priori from the assumption that the disputed memories are false.
Freyd: I have stated again and again and that's why I tried to bring it up earlier. When people use the terms "survivors" and "perpetrators," these are as value-laden as the term "false."
TAT: Alright. But the signs and symptoms of the clients you describe often sound like those of legitimate survivors of sexual abuse. This leads me to another criticism I hear -
Freyd: - Alright, very good.
TAT: The cases you describe are basically word against word. Your basis for saying they're false memories is that the parents dispute them. The problem with that is we don't see how you have gone about verifying that these are actually "false memories." Have you have ruled out sociopathy, dissociative process or false memory syndrome among the parents who are members of the Foundation? How do you rule out the possibility that some may have committed abusive acts while in alcoholic blackouts and not remembered?
Freyd: I have said from the beginning, we don't know the truth or the falsity of any story. We have asked on many occasions, how does a therapist begin to verify the truth of what a client remembers? I think those are equally fair questions. I think the example that was very disturbing to many people was Dr. Corydon Hammond on the Prime Time Live show where he offered no empirical evidence for his claims regarding the widespread existence of satanic ritual abuse.
TAT: We are still mixing the forensic with the therapeutic. I'd like to go back to my question. If we don't formally know if the several thousand members of False Memory Syndrome Foundation are telling the truth or not, how can we say their accusers have false memories?
Freyd: People can ask just as clearly, how does one know they are not? That's why we kind of need to put some brakes on what's going on. It gets back to forensic issues. When these memories are of criminal actions, when they result in the destruction of families, and when therapists do not validate or make any effort to check the historical records . . .
TAT: I'd like to go back to my question concerning the signs and symptoms of false memory syndrome. I have a document here that came from the Foundation titled, "Criteria for Judging an Allegation." Do you know this?
Freyd: I am aware of a two-page paper that was done as an early draft outline where I quoted a list of criteria from a newspaper article by Hollida Wakefield.
TAT: Yes, I think that's the outline I have here. It begins, "Despite the lack of empirical research on this, from our experience, we suggest that the following criteria for assessing the probability or improbability of an allegation of recently remembered abuse." It goes on to list twelve criteria. I'd like to get your reactions to the first four, okay?
Freyd: Uh huh.
TAT: Item number one says, "When there is no corroborating evidence and the alleged behaviors are highly improbable, it is unlikely the abuse actually happened." First of all, what does that mean to you?
Freyd: When people recover memories of space alien abduction --
TAT: -- Well, we're not talking --
Freyd: -- But that's improbable to me.
TAT: Fair enough, but our readers --
Freyd: Some people recover memories of satanic ritual abuse and that's improbable to me.
TAT: Okay, but you have already admitted you're not a clinician. I hear verifiable stories in a given day that would raise hair on a cue hall.
Freyd: I didn't write the criteria but it seems to make sense. If one hears a story that seems improbable one is more apt to be a little more skeptical.
TAT: What does "improbable" mean, though?
Freyd: I have given you some examples.
TAT: But little of that has anything to do with the kind of stuff clinicians see on a daily basis in our offices.
Freyd: It has to do with the stuff the Foundation is concerned about. We are just as concerned about people and situations where people recover memories of space alien abduction.
TAT: Well, obviously that's not as much an interest of ours --
Freyd: -- You don't have those clients, but we have talked to some people who have.
TAT: I believe you, but what I'm getting at is that this criterion could be greatly misused because it is so very subjective. Do you have any more comment on this one?
Freyd: I don't have the list in front of me, could you read this one again?
TAT: Sure. "When there is no corroborating evidence and the alleged behaviors are highly improbable, it is unlikely that the abuse actually happencd."
Freyd: And you disagree with that?
TAT: Well, I don't actually know, since I don't know what "improbable" means.
Freyd: And I have given you two examples, but you don't seem to want to hear them. Another is past-life therapy.
TAT: Our readers work in the field of sexual abuse recovery. They don't regularly work with people who claim past lives necessarily or alien abductions as their presenting problem. Would you be concerned to know that this criterion has been used, prima facie, to discredit reports of extreme and severe abuse merely because they were extreme and severe?
Freyd: I don't believe that it has. I would be very suspicious of anybody who ruled out abuse on the basis of just one piece of evidence or the lack of one piece of evidence.
TAT: Alright. The next criterion reads, "When an accusing adult is claiming 'repression' or 'amnesia' and has only recently 'remembered' the abuse, it is less likely to be true than if she maintains that she has always remembered the abuse but is only now disclosing." This basically says that if someone claims to have forgotten, their memory is less likely to be true. Why do you hold to that position?
Freyd: That's not a position of the Foundation.
TAT: This list came from the Foundation.
Freyd: That was something that was thrown out as a first attempt to draw something together. I'm just going to take an aside here and say that the American Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers, and the American Psychiatric Association are the appropriate forums for developing the kinds of criteria I think you are asking for. We are delighted that the American Psychological Association has put together a task force to deal with this particular issue. That's on one hand. But to jump right into the fire here, on the other hand, my understanding is that most traumatic events unfortunately are remembered, rather than forgotten.
TAT: You seem to be taking a position that goes against a body of literature that documents dissociation and traumatic amnesia in war and in other kinds of verifiable traumatic circumstances. People do repress and forget trauma and then have delayed memories of it. You seem to be saying that if it was forgotten it cannot be true.
Freyd: Absolutely not. People forget things. Horrible things. Here at the Foundation someone had a repressed memory, or what would be called a repressed memory, that she had been sexually abused.
TAT: That is confusing to me as I now hear you saying that you believe in the possibility of repressed memories and perhaps dissociated memories.
Freyd: I don't even want to use the term "repression" if I can avoid it. It is such a loaded term that I think anything we can do that will calm or cool the beat would an appropriate thing to do. I have tried to move away from using the term "repression" and look instead for evidence of types of memories.
TAT: Let me move us to the next area which is a somewhat troubling one for us. The next criterion reads, "If there are allegations of a series of abusive incidents across time in different places and situations, the abuse is less likely to be true than if it is for a single incident." What's the rationale for that?
Freyd: I think it approaches the probability issue again. What is the probability that one is going to dissociate events from the age of 3 to the age of 27 - that's one story. When the reports include repeated events over long periods, it becomes a little bit more difficult to understand how such a thing could happen.
TAT: Don't take this personally but it may in fact be hard to understand for somebody who doesn't work in the field of sexual abuse. Stories of multiple perpetrators are not rare. Why should it be that just simply because someone is reporting multiple perpetrators in multiple venues that they should be doubted anymore than someone who says there was a single incident or perpetrator?
Freyd: Well, it's here that we would want to discuss some of these things with people who represent a variety of perspectives and a variety of techniques for studying memory and issues of repression and it's my understanding that, uh --
TAT: -- But this criterion doesn't mention repression. It just says that if the allegations include incidents of abuse from different times and situations, they are less likely to be true. I just don't understand.
Freyd: I'm going to give you a layman-in-the-street's response. That is, whatever might cause a young child to dissociate or not remember something, happens in a frame of reference and with an understanding of the world and life experiences that are very different than someone in her teens or twenties. When claims are made of repeated events over decades and decades, it becomes much more difficult to understand.
TAT: Why is that? I don't understand why it is difficult for you to understand that Uncle Harold visits once a year and molests the kids each time. Why is that hard to understand?
Freyd: Let's just take it period by period here. What would be going on for a young child to dissociate and why would it be the same for somebody whose world experience and understanding is very different decades later?
TAT: First of all, I'm not so sure that their world of understanding is necessarily different years later, without intervention. There is plenty of evidence to show that thinking styles become arrested and don't change over time. The purpose of dissociation is to get away from the painful realities whether they be physical or emotional.
Freyd: Are you saying this is intentional?
TAT: Do you mean consciously determined? No, I don't believe it is consciously determined at all. I believe it is a selection the organism makes at a deep level in its self-interest. Why does a soldier dissociate in the middle of a battle? Once, when I was white water rafting I fell out and injured myself on the rocks. I got back in and finished out the run and only at the end of it did I realize I had been bleeding. I hadn't even felt it --
Freyd: - That happened to me white water rafting!
TAT: That's dissociation --
Freyd: -- I got hit by a stick on the forehead.
TAT: You see, we didn't have to think about dissociating, it just happened It's the organism's way of getting away from feeling or thinking.
Freyd: I see. I didn't understand how you were using the term.
TAT: Yes, to describe the function of dissociation. But let me go back to something that I alluded to before, if I may. It seems that the position of the FMSF is that we should be very careful to determine the objective, forensic truth of allegations our patients make, whether in or out of the forensic field. Yet, it also seems that the Foundation is saying that it doesn't need to do this with it's own membership. I was very alarmed and concerned about something you wrote in one of the Foundation newsletters about the question of whether you are representing pedophiles --
Freyd: -- That was one of the very first --
TAT: - I'm sure you regret it. I want to remind you of what you wrote in that article ["How Do We Know We are Not Representing Pedophiles?", February 29, 1992 FMS Foundation Newsletter]. This is an important question.
Freyd: It's a tremendous question, and I would like to think that we've carried it further since then.
TAT: I would like to know how you've done that, because what you said in your article was disturbing. You talked about the issue in terms of its importance to your image and the ability of the Foundation to get things done. There was less indication that it would be a terrible fact if true.
Freyd: It would be horrible if that's what we're doing. We have stated -- I don't know how many times -- that there is no way we can know the truth or the falsity of events to which we're not a party. I don't know how therapists know that either.
TAT: But if that is true we must also accept the premise that without outside corroboration, it is just as impossible to prove that a memory is false.
You are saying that there's a false memory epidemic across the country that is tearing families apart, but you really don't know for sure if the memories involved are, in fact, false. The way you wrote about the possibility the Foundation is representing pedophiles really disturbed me. You wrote, "The first way of addressing this issue has to do with who we are. We are a good-looking bunch of people, graying hair, well dressed, healthy, smiling; just about every person who has attended is someone you would surely find interesting and want to count as a friend." That wouldn't rule out Ted Bundy, Pamela. That's not scientific!
Freyd: Not scientific at all. You are absolutely right, there's no claim that it's scientific. Not everything written in the newsletter is scientific. I wrote that, I think, remembering a remark that was made frequently when people first got together to discuss what was going on.
TAT: I could say the same thing about some of the survivors. They are people you would want to have as friends, but that wouldn't do much to inform us whether their stories are true.
Freyd: When you use the term "survivor" you're making a value judgement just as much as when you use the term "false."
TAT: Okay, I will restrict myself to describing them as "survivors" only in those cases where I know there has been corroboration.
Freyd: If that kind of concern and work toward corroboration had taken place, I don't think the Foundation would exist.
TAT: I have to get back to the question again of how do you know the thousands of couples you claim are falsely accused aren't lying?
Freyd: How do you assume they are?
TAT: I don't assume it, but the operating assumption of the Foundation seems to be that they are all, in fact, falsely accused when that has not been proven.
Freyd: The claims of the people who have called the Foundation are that they have been falsely accused and to the same extent - to the same way of thinking - the people who have made the accusations say that they are true.
TAT: So it's word against word.
Freyd: How do you know?
TAT: That's the point. That's what I'm asking you.
Freyd: And that's why dialog and getting together and supporting the kind of work that the APA task force has got to do is vitally important.
TAT: I guess what were responding to is what we think of as sloppy thinking. You talk about the inflammatory use of the term "survivor" yet your literature is full of references to "falsely accused people" even when there isn't a shred of evidence to prove that they are false accusations - even in your recanters, I believe. It is still just word against word in perhaps every case. You happen to believe one side, other people happen to believe another, bur all you and I have determined so far is that we cannot know the truth in these cases without independent corroboration.
Freyd: Okay, David. Now let's just pause for a minute and could you tell me how or when you stopped beating your grandmother?
Freyd: How can you prove a negative?
TAT: How do you prove that it didn't happen?
Freyd: That's right. That's the situation people are in: how to prove it didn't happen.
TAT: I believe the Foundation should be more responsible when automatically asserting that memories are false. Your literature abounds with references to a national &quor;epidemic" of falsely accused couples.
Freyd: There's an epidemic of people who are saying that they have been falsely accused and have been unable to meet with the people who have made these accusations to try to discuss them or to do whatever a human being can do in a rational, calm and reasoned fashion.
TAT: How does one become a member of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, Inc.? What are the criteria for membership?
Freyd: We have a membership form. People send in the membership form and state they would like to join us. The members are a different set from the families that are kept in the count.
TAT: This 2000+ count of "false memory families?"
Freyd: Yes. We have many professional members.
TAT: The 2000+ group you talk about is kept anonymous, is that correct?
TAT: Is there going to be an attempt to determine and rule out sociopathy dissociative disorder, or alcohol-related abuse among the group of 2000+?
Freyd: We are trying to keep records as scrupulous as possible so, at the first opportunity, independent researchers can come in and begin to check things that really ought to be checked out.
TAT: You are talking about researchers outside the Foundation?
TAT: But at this point you really cannot tell us with any degree of certainly whether or not any of those individuals on your anonymous list are perpetrators or not?
Freyd: I don't like to use that term.
TAT: How about whether they have committed sexual offenses? You apparently cannot tell us that.
Freyd: Not without some validation.
TAT: Precisely. So you don't know for sure at this time.
Freyd: I'm going to ask you: how do you know that? Or, how am I to know if you have stopped hearing your grandmother? How do you prove or show negatives?
TAT: I'm not talking about negatives, I'm talking about testing for the possible existence of alcoholic blackouts, dissociative disorders, sociopathy. Those aren't negatives.
Freyd: Absolutely. You're right.
TAT: Alright. I notice that Martin Orne's and David Dinges' Experimental Psychiatry Research Foundation is throwing a reception at your scientific meeting to honor these families. If you don't know whether any of these individuals are guilty or not, why are you having a reception to honor them?
Freyd: Everybody who comes to the conference - attendees, speakers, and staff - will go to the reception and be honored in the same way.
TAT: But again, I'm talking again about a kind of tone that produces an adversarial climate. You don't know scientifically if some of the people who will be honored are guilty of crimes they've been accused of. The signal that sends to the rest of us is, "We don't care about objectivity here, we've got an ax to grind and we're going to grind it."
Freyd: We have people who are begging to have their situations investigated.
TAT: I have had offenders tell me the same thing. That alone doesn't prove anything.
Freyd: What would you have us do besides go out of business, David?
TAT: I would have you truly do what you say you're trying to do. That is, have a dialogue that is both objective and scientific and not inflammatory and I would have you tell people who --
Freyd: - Then how can we begin to have this dialogue?
TAT: Tell people who have written books like Confabulations that their tone doesn't help. Tell your advisory board members to conceal their disdain when they speak of people who report delayed-memories. You can start there. You can start by not having receptions to honor people without knowing if they are sex offenders. You can say, "We don't know." You can turn your data over.
Freyd: But what about people who, in a sense, honor survivors without validating their stories? I mean --
TAT: -- Two wrongs don't make a right.
Freyd: No they don't.
TAT: I find I'm still left wanting to know how to tell if my patient has false memory syndrome. What's the test? How do I determine if my patient is suffering from this syndrome?
Freyd: What are the tests if some body is suffering from " repressed memory syndrome?"
TAT: Well, I can give you several symptom clusters - dissociative, cognitive, affective, somatic effects they're well documented. But, I'm asking you the question. You're telling me, David, as a clinician: you must be aware of the possibility your patients may have false memory syndrome. Okay, how should I be aware of that? How am I going to know? How do I test for it?
Freyd: David, I'm going to ask Dr. Paul McHugh to talk to you because he is a clinician and I have stated from the beginning that I am not.
TAT: I appreciate that, Pamela. But here's my issue with you not knowing. If I was talking to the Executive Director of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, who presumably is also not a clinician, I'll bet he or she could give me the signs and symptoms of muscular dystrophy. But in the case of false memory syndrome, so far no one seems to be able to say.
Freyd: Gotcha. I'm in agreement with you. I will discuss this with Dr. McHugh. There arc some soft areas here that need to be clarified and clearly formulated to answer exactly what you have questioned here: how to test for this, specific signs and symptoms. I think it's important that you have that.
TAT: Not having that is one of the main reasons we have so strenuously objected to your using the term "syndrome."
Freyd: Fine, let's call it something else. So let me talk to Dr. Paul McHugh and a couple of the other people who have felt very comfortable with using it and let's see if we can't pull something together that will be helpful to you.
TAT: Thank you. I'll look forward to our next discussion.
Freyd: You're welcome.
David L. Calof is highly regarded internationally as a clinician, consultant and frequent presenter on marriage and family therapy, and the treatment of abuse, post-traumatic stress, and the dissociative disorders. He is the author of numerous professional publications and is founder and editor emeritus of the professional journal Treating Abuse Today. His latest book is The Couple Who Became Each Other: Stories of Healing and Transformation From a Leading Hypnotherapist (Bantam, 1998). You may reach David at Tele: 206-306-9026, Facsimile: 206-306-9631, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following is the APA-style citation for this article, which may be copied and pasted into your document.Calof, David L. (1993). "A Conversation With Pamela Freyd, Ph.D. Co-Founder And Executive Director, False Memory Syndrome Foundation, Inc., Part I," in Treating Abuse Today, Vol. III, No. 3. Retrieved April 07, 2009 from the World Wide Web: http://fmsf.com/v3n3-pfreyd.html