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)

The feelings of an abused child

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An attempt to express the feelings that a child goes through during an abusive upbringing. This needs some editing, I wrote it while still semi-dissociaty after a flashback while the feelings were still there so the grammar and stuff needs looking at.

They claim that they love and care for you, but that you need to be taught about the horrors and evils of the world to be made stronger. They both protect and comfort you, but also place you in situations where you feel that you are going to die you experience pain so intense that you cannot think; your head spins; our insides burn; you can no longer remember who you are or why you are here.

All you know is pain, all you feel in desperation. You consider crying out for help, but no one will listen, you can’t stop nor change what is happening. No matter that you do or say the pain will never stop. You are told the pain and suffering, the fear and horror is for your own good. Told that you need discipline, that you asked for it with your misbehaviour. Betrayal seems like too simple a word to describe the feelings of pain, loneliness and isolation.

When you try to talk about the pain you are told that you must be crazy: “nothing bad has happened to you”, “stop looking for attention”, “shut up already”. Each day you begin to feel more and more like you no longer know what is real. You stop trusting your own feelings as no one else acknowledges them so you must be over-reacting.

You learn to do everything that you are told with the upmost compliance, you forget everything that you ever wanted or hoped for. The pain is still there, lurking beneath the surface, but it is easier to pretend it’s not there, to bury the horrors that are in the deepest darkest corners of the mind.
The pain grows to an unbearable level, until your feelings start to shut down, you become numb: lonely and desperate you begin to give up on the senses that make people feel alive. You feel dead, you wish you were dead, there is no way out and there is no hope.

My Truth

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I’m very passionate about mental health and abuse awareness, mainly due to my own expieriances. I am very open about my past, which I know is something that many do not like, but I do not see why I should stay silent – afterall that’s what the abusers told me to do and I can’t let them win can I?

I don’t want nor do I expect pity or sympathy. I do not deserve it, and I do not want it, what happened happened and I am only who I am today because of it. I do not want hugs and people saying they are sorry, what I want, what I fight for every day, is for OTHERS to feel safe that they will not be judged. What I want is to make it so that those who currently suffer in silence scared of what may happen if they open up know that they are not alone, and maybe make it so that they no longer have to fear judgement and blame.

I know that my work and my speaking out will not end abuse, discrimination and suffering, but if I can just let people know that they are not alone and do not have to suffer in silence and maybe if I can make a few people stop and think then I am happy with that. I cannot stop abuse, I cannot change the world, but maybe I can help to plant the seeds of change, plant that idea in to the minds of others, and then they can help that idea to grow until one day change can and does occur. Maybe one day the things which I fight will no longer exist, but I doubt that I will see that day. I can do so little, but it’s the best I can do, I just have to hope that human nature is not as bad as I fear and that these seeds if change and the glimmer of hope will take root.

I tell my story, my truth, not for pity, but for the hope that I can help to ignite change in this world. I know most will not believe this, but I know my truth and I hope that a few of you know this truth too. This is why I spend so long creating websites, writting letters, speaking in schools, raising money and trying to spread awareness. It’s an inconvenient truth I know, but it’s a truth that needs to be known, I cannot just sweep it under the carpet when I know that it could help others. So I fight and strive with the hope of helping, of making the suffering of others that little bit better that bit more bearable.  I wish that this truth was not there, that it did not need to be spread, but it is and it does. And for this I am sorry

This is my truth

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

Freud and dissociative identity disorder ( DID )

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The majority of patients in Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud’s book Studies on Hysteria (Breuer & Freud, 1895/1983) were described as having been victims of sexual abuse and up until 1895 Freud considered that the majority of his patients were suffering from the aftermath of sexual abuse in childhood.

Freud then rejected this idea. There has been a great deal of speculation regarding this decision. Freud’s biographer, Ernest Jones (Jones, 1953), proposed that given many of the fathers of his patients were part of his own social circle, it would have been difficult for Freud to publicly state that his patients had been sexually abused as children.

to then explain the symptoms of his patients, in the absence of any real trauma, Freud produced a socially acceptable theory that denied the reality of childhood sexual abuse. Once the memories of sexual abuse reported by personalities were rejected by Freud as not being memories of true events, then the interpretation of the nature of these additional, or ‘alter’ personalities had to change.

Whereas others, such as Morton Prince (Prince, 1905/1978), had embraced the idea that there could be parallel rational conscious activity which could be described as “subconscious” or “co-conscious”, Freud rejected this idea and invented his unconscious (Freud, 1915/1995). From this point onward Freud referred only to an unconscious as distinct from a subconscious (Ellenberger, 1970.).

The unconscious of Freud, therefore, was not able to hold accurate memories, assume rational control of the body, or to think as would a rational adult. If the sexual abuse was not seen to be true, then the alter personalities (or the “unconscious” for Freud) must be irrational.

Despite the many great contributions made by Freud, this theory and the acceptance of his theory meant that many victims of sexual abuse were not believed and many patients with multiple personalities (or Dissociative Identity Disorder – DID) were to be misdiagnosed. For most of the twentieth-century the reality of many DID patient’s condition was also rejected as their appearance did not fit accepted theory.

Is speaking of rape , abuse and violence “fear mongering”?

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As anyone who has read The Morning After: Fear, Sex and Feminism by Katie Roiphe will know there is a general belief that talking about sexual violence, abuse, and other crimes can lead to a fear of violence and therefore is fear mongering. Roiphe argues that that by exaggerating the dangers faced by women, feminists have taken away the sexual freedom that were fought for so hard by so many. By implying that women are victims, they have made women feel weak and afraid. Fear of violence is, therefore, far greater than its actual incidence.
This may have some degree of reality within it. However, unfortunately this naivety can lead to the dismissal of the real threat by creating black/white thinking of either “the world is dangerous and scary, everyone is evil” or “the world is safe, everyone is nice and kind, and anyone who says it isn’t is lying”, this fails to realise that in reality the world is neither black nor white in fact it is generally grey. Naivety can also put people at risk, studies have shown that women who are aware of the potential hazards are not over trusting and are less likely to be assaulted. Not all people are violent, not all rape and not all are dangerous, but it is difficult (if not impossible) to tell those who are/do from others. I mean people don’t walk around with giant florescent lights above their heads naming their intensions.

I admit there may be a contradicting here, of wanting people to be free and independent but at the same time wanting people to be careful which may seem to infringe upon this independence. However, surely the resolution of this conflict involves speaking out about violence and campaigning for change to what society seems to regard as an acceptable level of violence. Until such a changes occur, however, we have no choice but to prepare our friends, children and others for what the world is, and regrettably this includes warning them of the dangers. A balance must be struck between empowering people to be independent, taking precautions’, in so far as possible, and campaigning for a change in the status quo. As much as I wish we could, we cannot alter the world to protect people from the truth, and I feel it would be irresponsible to go around telling people that everything is safe and to never be on their guard as it’s not needed… being on your guard and taking precautions’ is part of life, I mean you’d never cross the road without checking for cars would you? But first you need to know that roads and cars can be dangerous, same with people, people can be dangerous, people are vulnerable to harm, but there are things we can do to limit this vulnerability.

But how can we limit our vulnerability unless we know we are vulnerable to start with?

Ritual abuse. What is it? (potentially triggering)

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Many people with DID suffered some form of ritual abuse either in a cult or in some other organisation during childhood. As such I thought it might be a topic I should touch upon in this blog…

A cult is a group of people who share an obsessive devotion to a person or idea. Some cults use violent tactics to recruit, indoctrinate, and keep members. Ritual abuse is defined as the emotionally, physically, and sexually abusive acts preformed by violent cults, many of these cults do not openly express their beliefs and practices, often living separately from the general public, isolating and alienating their members from outside influences.
Some victims of ritual abuse are children abused outside of the home by non-family members, often in public settings such as day care centres and Sunday schools. Other victims are children and teenagers who are forced by their parents, or other family members, to witness and participate in violent rituals. Adult ritual abuse victims often include these grown children who were forced from childhood to be members of the group. Other adult and teenage victims are people who unwittingly joined and organisation or social group that slowly manipulated and blackmailed them into becoming permanent members of the group. All cases of ritual abuse, no matter what age of the victim, involve intense physical and emotional trauma.
Violent cults may sacrifice humans and animals as part of religious rituals. They use torture to silence victims and other unwilling participants. Ritual abuse victims say that they are degraded and humiliated and are often forced to torture, kill, and sexually violate animals or other helpless victims. The purpose of the ritual abuse is usually indoctrination. The cults intend to destroy these victims free will by understanding their sense of safety in the world and by forcing them to hurt others.
In recent years a number of people have been convicted on sexual abuse charges in cases where the victims had reported elements of ritual abuse. These survivors (mainly children) described being raped by groups of adults who were wearing costumes or masks and said that they were forced to witness religious-type rituals in which animals and humans were tortured or killed. In one case, in 1989, the defence introduced in court photographs of the children being abused by the defendants. In another case, the police found tunnels etched with crosses and pentagrams along with stone alters and candles in a cemetery where abuse had been reported. The defendants in this case pleaded guilty to charges of incest, child cruelty, and indecent assault.
There are many myths concerning the parents and children who report ritual abuse. Some people suggest that the whole idea of ritual abuse is nothing more than “mass hysteria”. They say that the parents of these children who report ritual abuse are often just on a “witch hunt”. These sceptics claim that the parents fear Satanists and used their knowledge of the Black Mass (a historically well-known sexualised ritual in which animals and humans are sacrificed) to brainwash their children into saying that they have been ritually abused by Satanists.

The practice of ritual abuse is a difficult topic for many to confront or even comprehend. The children are tortured and brainwashed in order to assure compliance and loyalty to the group. The memories of ritual abuse survivors are often so graphic and perverse that some people question whether any of the stories could be true. Yet ritual abuse survivors experience overwhelming pain and trauma related symptoms as they remember the abuse: flashbacks; body memories; dissociation; anxiety; fear; etc. all of which are also seen in torture victims from wartime incidents, prisoners of war and war crimes.

Ritual abuse is a real, systematic and brutal practice happening today

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