False Memory Syndrome – What The Studies Say

Professor Alan Schefflin, Santa Clara University Law School and Dr. Daniel Brown reviewed 25 recent studies (spring 1996) on Amnesia for childhood sexual abuse. They state:

“No study failed to find it….Amnesia for childhood sexual abuse is a robust finding across studies using very different samples and methods of assessment. Studies addressing the accuracy of recovered memories show that recovered memories are no more or no less accurate than continuous memories for abuse”.

Herman & Schatzow (1987): 53 women – 36% always remembered, 64% some amnesia; 36% mild to moderate amnesia; 28% “severe memory deficits”. 74% found corroboration, with 40% getting confirmation for perpetrators, other family members, physical evidence and 34% from siblings or other victims.

Albach (in press): 97 women with a history of CSA and a matched control of 65 non-abused women. 35% in the sexually abused group reported amnesia at some time, compared to 1% in the control group who reported amnesia for nontraumatic unpleasant childhood experiences. Psychotherapy was not typically reported to be the cause of recovering the abuse memory.

Roe & Schwartz (1996): 52 women, hospitalized for sexual trauma. 88% reported history of csa. 77% not remembered for significant time (3 to 45 years)

Bernet et al (1993): 624 undergraduates reported at least one experience of sexual abuse prior to age 15. 36% reported no memory for a time. Only 30% had been in therapy so “unlikely that they remembered their abuse as a consequence of psychotherapy”

Belicki et al (1994): 55.4% of abused students in study reported disrupted memory. “Subjects reporting no abuse responded significantly differently than the other three groups with respect to definitons of sexual abuse, psychiatric symptoms and sleep and dream behaviour. There were no significant differences in response the the questions between those who reported and those who did not report corroboration of abuse. There were also no significant differences in response to the questions bewteen those who had disrupted memory and those who had continuous memory for childhood sexual abuse. Those who had recovered memories were just as likely as those who had a continuous memory to have corroborative evidence for the abuse.

Van Der Kolk & Fisler (1995): 46 adults in in depth interview. Of the 36 subjects with childhood trauma 42% had suffered significant or total amnesia at some time. Corroborative evidence available for 75%. Williams (1994) : 129 women who had been sexually abused as children. 38 % failed to report or were amnestic for childhood sexual abuse though it was clearly documented in medical records 17 years earlier. 32% said they were never abused. “Amnesia for sexual abuse in a community sample is not an uncommon event. There was a tendency for women with the clearest evidence of abuse to be more amnestic”

Widom & Morris (in press): Court substantiated abuse and child-neglect cases. 39% of the sexually abused failed to report the documented child abuse. “We have also found substantial under-reporting of sexual abuse among known victims of sexual abuse. This is particularly impressive since these are court substantiated cases of childhood sexual abuse”

Spiegel: “Memories in dissociate amnesia are not so much distorted as they are segregated from one another.”

Williams: In general, women with recovered memories had no more inconsistencies in their reports than women who had always remembered….their retrospective reports were remarkably consistent with what had been reported in the 1970’s….the stories were in large part true to the basic elements”.

Dalenberg (1996):Memories of abuse recovered in psychotherapy were no more or no less accurate than memories of abuse that had always beem remembered. The overall accuracy rate of both continued and recovered memories of abuse was quite high (70%) Just over half the patient sample significantly improved their accuracy for their abuse memories in the course of psychotherapy”.

About those who coined False Memory Syndrome

Ralph Underwager, one of the founders of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, is credited with having coined the term. In 1993, he gave an interview with the Dutch paedophile magazine, Paedika, in which he was reported as saying that paedophilia could be a responsible choice and that having sex with children could be seen as ‘part of God’s will’. The other co-founders of the FMSF were Pamela and Peter Freyd, whose adult daughter made accusations of childhood sexual abuse. The American media gave them almost unquestioning support until their daughter, psychology Professor Jennifer Freyd, felt obliged to speak out publicly, to stop the damage that she felt her parents and their organisation were doing to abuse survivors.

Other early promoters of false memory syndrome in the US were Paul and Shirley Erberle. In the 1970s, when child pornography laws were less rigid, they edited a magazine called Finger in which there were explicit illustrations of children involved in sexual acts with adults, with features entitled ‘Sexpot at Five’, ‘My First Rape, She Was Only Thirteen’ and ‘Toilet Training’. Another key figure is Felicity Goodyear-Smith, author of First Do No Harm (1993). Felicity Goodyear-Smith admits to a personal as well as professional involvement in the issue. Her husband and parents-in-law were imprisoned for sexual abuse offences, having been members of the New Zealand community, CentrePoint, that encouraged sexual intimacy amongst its members, including the children. Although the adults involved were prosecuted for these acts, including public sex with children, Goodyear-Smith claims that this was simply ‘childhood sexual experimentation’ and quotes studies that claim to show that adult-child sex can be harmless. The false memory syndrome foundation was formed by Pamela and Peter Freyd, who were theirselves accused of abuse by their daughter (insidently their daughter – Jennifer Freyd – wrote an amzing bok called “Betrayal Trauma: The Logic of Forgetting Childhood Abuse“).

Is it just me, or do all of these people appear to have alternative motives?

Repressed memories in none sexual abuse cases

Repressed memory in war vets or holocaust survivors has been a long acknowledged phenomena. It was only when it began to be about sexual abuse that people start yelling about FMS.

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second it is violently opposed. Third it is accepted as being self-evident” (Arthur Schopenhauer)

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False memory syndrome foundation – ulterior motive for creation?

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Ralph Underwager, one of the founders of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, gave an interview in 1993 with the Dutch paedophile magazine, Paedika, in which he was reported as saying that paedophilia could be a responsible choice and that having sex with children could be seen as ‘part of God’s will’. The other co-founders of the FMSF were Pamela and Peter Freyd, whose adult daughter made accusations of childhood sexual abuse. The American media gave them almost unquestioning support until their daughter, psychology Professor Jennifer Freyd, felt obliged to speak out publicly, to stop the damage that she felt her parents and their organisation were doing to abuse survivors.

Other early promoters of false memory syndrome in the US were Paul and Shirley Erberle. In the 1970s, when child pornography laws were less rigid, they edited a magazine called Finger in which there were explicit illustrations of children involved in sexual acts with adults, with features entitled ‘Sexpot at Five’, ‘My First Rape, She Was Only Thirteen’ and ‘Toilet Training’. Another key figure is Felicity Goodyear-Smith, author of First Do No Harm (1993). Felicity Goodyear-Smith admits to a personal as well as professional involvement in the issue. Her husband and parents-in-law were imprisoned for sexual abuse offences, having been members of the New Zealand community, CentrePoint, that encouraged sexual intimacy amongst its members, including the children. Although the adults involved were prosecuted for these acts, including public sex with children, Goodyear-Smith claims that this was simply ‘childhood sexual experimentation’ and quotes studies that claim to show that adult-child sex can be harmless.

Child and Women Abuse Studies Unit

Do we see a pattern here in the backstories and activities of the founders and of the term over all? I do

To remember or not remember, to repress or not to repress

Quite often people tell me that I am lucky to not remember a lot of the abuse… But I’m not sure…

I do remember most of the abuse when I was a teenager, I remember the rapes and the beatings… But before the age of 14 is mainly blank, and as most multiples split before the age of 8… well put 2 and 2 together I guess…

I remember bits,it comes to me in flashes… not like flashbacks (I get them of my teenage years) but literally split second images in my head, or overwhelming emotions for no reason, or even sounds and smells… but I don’t know what any of these relate to…

My earliest memory it went I was very young, living with my grandparents. I only really remember being in the garden jumping from rock to rock over the flower beds before trying to climb across a pipe over a river lol. After that I remember being locked outside at about the age of 4, but I don’t know why… And I remember cold water being poured on me when I cried…

I don’t remember my mum and step-dad getting married when I was 5, nor my brother being born when I was 6. But I do remember my mum  attempting suicide not long after my brothers birth… I remember her laying on the floor in her own blood… apparently I called for an ambulance and went with her to the hospital, but I don’t remember this…

I have a scar on my stomach, it’s always been there and I’ve always wondered why, all I knew is when I looked at it I got a sharp burning sensation theere and felt intense fear… but then a few months ago I put my hand over it and *FALSH* I was 10 years old, in my parents kitchen, and my mum was coming at me with a knife… she stabed me… next thing I knew I was laying in our shower 22 years old with the water running again crying… but at least now I know where it came from.

I used to keep a dream diary, in the hope that it would uncover some of these memories, but no such luck… there are other things like that scar, things that I feel pain or fear when exposed to, but I don’t know why… I guess the main point its that it’s hard to recover when you have no idea what you are recovering from… that and thanks to the false memory people noone believes the memories anyway, so then you start to doubt them yourself… and then because you doubt the “recovered” memories you start to doubt ALL of your memories… I don’t know what is and isn”t real, I have no way to be sure… I’m not even sure that I am real, I mean meybe I have no memories because I am not the core/host as I thought, but an alter created to replace the host when they were 14?

this book is  a fantastic one about repressed memories, it’s one of the only things that has helped me regain any degree of confidence in who I am and what I remember.

The alternative of course is to remember everything, and to be haunted by it… I do remember my abusicve relationship between ages 16 and 19 fairly well, there are a few months and weeks missing here and there but it’s almost in tact. From this I get flashbacks and nightmares often…

The problem is I can never be 100% on which symptoms/effects are from what I do remember and which are from what I do not… Makes a comparison kind of difficult… That and I am so so so scared of the false memory syndrome people coming and telling me I’ve made it all up, etc. and belittling me…

In conclusion I guess…the options are both ****, I think it’s a bit like comparing apples and oragnes… there are good and bad points to each, or maybe it depends on the person, maybe some people cope better with knowing and some with repressing…

Why I love the NHS

Ok, there has been a lt of NHS moaning recently… and to be hnest it’s upset me, I know it’s tupid but earlier I was literally crying…

The NHS has saved my life on more occations than I can count. They have even sent a taxi for me and paid for it when I couldn’t get to hospital. They have given me a safe place to stay when I’m unsafe. They have given me treatment that would have cost several thousend pounds if I had to pay myself. They have kept me alive, they have saved my life, etc.

When I was 18 I even had a non-essential opperation to remove some keloids the size f golf ball. Before the opperation they tried steroids (which will have cost a bit) and then some pressure pads which were worth over £500 each!!! In the end it took 4 opperations and 2 doses of radiotherapy to get  rid of them, none of which I had to pay for. Can you imagine if I did have to???

3 times I have considered going private, each time I’ve changed my mind after meeting the staff… I even had one doctor call me “poor scum”, why  would I want a doctor invlved in my treatment who thought I was scum???

Therapy wise I will admit the NHS waiting list is long. But when I tried to ind a private therapist they were all unsuitable, one was even one of those “false memory syndrome” people, which isn’t a good mix wwith someone who has DID. Another told me that the abuse was my own fault!!! I honestly do not see why I should pay to be insulted, not that I can afford it anyway as I cannot work currently and so my partner and I have £360 a mnth to live on which doesn’t even cover our rent. So without the NHS what would I do?

The research of Ms Clancy (author of the trauma myth – part 1)

Prior to “the trauma myth” Ms Clancy wrote a book entitles” abducted” abot peole who believe they were abducted by aliens. She was interested in false memory syndrome and started to investigate this by interviewing victims of childhood sexual abuse, some of whom had ‘remembered’ the abuse only after they had been hypnotised. But this work provoked so much hostility that she switched to abduction memories, which she hoped would be less contentious. She spent 5 years studying this.

In the book she presents her findings with numerous verbatim statements by her interviewees. She has chapters asking how people came to believe they were abducted, why they have memories of something that didn’t happen, and why abduction stories are so consistent.
A main reason why abductees have these experiences, Clancy thinks, is that they provide them with a sense of meaning, and they function in many ways as a religion substitute. This emerged when she asked her interviewees if they would have preferred not to be abducted. Although the experiences were usually terrifying and traumatic, not one would have missed having them. Some of them described what had happened to them in openly religious and mystical terms. Being abducted had radically transfomred their attitudes to life and revealed depths of meaning to them that they would otherwise never have discovered. Unlike science, which always offers answers that are provisional and open to doubt, the abduction experience provides certainty, and this is what many people crave. I found this an interesting theory.

However, she goes on to state the more usual “reasons” for fake memories: sleep paralysis, memory distortion, fantasy-proneness, culturally available scripts, sleep hallucinations, and scientific illiteracy, aided and abetted by the suggestions and reinforcement of hypnotherapy. And it is this research which she then builds upon in her child abuse studies

EDIT:

I have just been through the referances of the book and looked inot a few and I’ve found something interesting… here is an example of inaccuracy. In the book “abducted” speaking of a meeting with a number of abductees she says, “Highlight of Saturday evening was a conversation with two brothers from Manchester, New Hampshire. These men were relatively well known abductees who had written a book about their experiences. One night in the late 1960s they had been canoeing on a lake in Maine and had seen some weird lights across the water. A few years later one had fallen down an elevator shaft at work; he’d suffered brain damage, developed epilepsy and became severely depressed.” The simple fact of the matter is that there were four people involved, not two; the event took place in August, 1976, not in the 1960s. The book The Allagash Abductions was written by an experienced investigator, engineer Raymond Fowler, not by the brothers. It was based on data obtained independently from each of the four. The book is, though is not referenced but she has 14 pages of noted references including 146 items. Her own “research” papers were each cited several times…

Explanation for those on twitter

There has been a slight misunderstanding on twitter.

I hae posted about flase memory syndrome using the hashtag #FMS, however it turns oout that fibromyalgia aso uses this hashtag, and so we hae been accused of spreading missinfomation. So I need to rectify that.

FIBROMYALGIA

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes pain all over the body. The condition affects the muscles, tendons and ligaments (bands of tissue that connect bone to bone), resulting in widespread pain, fatigue and extreme sensitivity to pain.

FALSE MEMORY SYNDROME

False memory syndrome (FMS) is a term created by Peter J. Freyd and popularized by the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF) that describes an alleged condition in which a person’s identity and relationships are affected by memories which are factually incorrect but are strongly believed.
The question of the accuracy and dependability of a repressed memory that was later recalled has contributed to some investigations and court cases, including cases of alleged sexual abuse or child sexual abuse. Some such recollections have been supported by enough corroborating evidence to enable successful prosecution, while others have been deemed confabulations or “false memories” that were not legally admissible.

In other words false memory syndrome is used to discount peoples accounts of abuse. False memory syndrome is the main argument used by the skeptics of DID
Despite 10 years of intense scrutiny, no empirical validation has been offered for “False Memory Syndrome” as a diagnostic construct; nor have its symptoms been systematically described or studied. As a result, this so-called “syndrome” is not accepted as a valid diagnosis by any professional organization.

I hope that clears up the missunderstanding

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

EMDR is an information processing therapy and uses an eight phase approach to address the experiential contributors of a wide range of pathologies. It attends to the past experiences that have set the groundwork for pathology, the current situations that trigger dysfunctional emotions, beliefs and sensations, and the positive experience needed to enhance future adaptive behaviors and mental health.

Basically, EMDR is a therapeutic technique in which the patient moves his or her eyes back and forth while concentrating on a problem or a traumatic memory. The therapist waves a stick or light in front of the patient and the patient is supposed to follow the moving stick or light with his or her eyes. The therapy was discovered by therapist Dr. Francine Shapiro while on a walk in the park.

Noone is really 100% sure of how EMDR actually works. A commonly proposed hypothesis is that dual attention stimulation elicits an orienting response. The orienting response is a natural response of interest and attention that is elicited when attention is drawn to a new stimulus.
Another theory is that humans naturally process memories and new informaion during REM sleep, but with traumatic memories this processing does not fully occur, leaving the memories unstored and still strongly connected to emotions and physical sensations. The idea here is that the eye movment in EMDR simulate REM sleep allowing the memory which is beng focused on to process.

However, there is a lot of empirical evidence for the effectiveness of EMDR, esspecially in the treatment of PTSD.

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