False Memory Syndrome Foundation

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Group.png False Memory Syndrome Foundation  
(NGO, Advocacy groupSourcewatchRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Leaders• Pamela Freyd
• Peter Freyd
InterestsFalse Memory
Foundation that claimed that "false memories" of child abuse in many cases remembered in adulthood, are not connected to events that have actually ever happened.

The False Memory Syndrome Foundation was an advocacy group for people who have been accused of child abuse. Their argument was, that so called resurfacing memories, aka "false memories" of abuse in many cases remembered in adulthood, are not connected to events that have actually ever happened. Thus people being accused are actually innocent. The term "false memory syndrome" did not enter the scientific literature and was by informed accounts invented to shield child abusers from legal consequences. The organization shut down at the end of 2019.

Micheal Salter-FMSF comment.png

Reception and impact

The Columbia Journalism Review states that "Rarely has such a strange and little-understood organization had such a profound effect on media coverage of such a controversial matter."[1] A study showed that in 1991 prior to the group's foundation, of the stories about abuse in several popular press outlets "more than 80 percent of the coverage was weighted toward stories of survivors, with recovered memory taken for granted and questionable therapy virtually ignored" but that three years later "more than 80 percent of the coverage focused on false accusations, often involving supposedly false memory" which the author of the study, Katherine Beckett, attributed to FMSF.[1]

J.A. Walker claimed the FMSF reversed the gains made by feminists and victims in gaining acknowledgment of the incestuous sexual abuse of children.[2] S.J. Dallam criticized the foundation for describing itself as a scientific organization while undertaking partisan political and social activity.[3]

The claims made by the FMSF for the incidence and prevalence of false memories have been criticized as lacking evidence and disseminating alleged inaccurate statistics about the problem.[3] Despite claiming to offer scientific evidence for the existence of FMS, the FMSF has no criteria for one of the primary features of the proposed syndrome – how to determine whether the accusation is true or false. Most of the reports by the FMSF are anecdotal, and the studies cited to support the contention that false memories can be easily created are often based on experiments that bear little resemblance to memories of actual sexual abuse. In addition, though the FMSF claims false memories are due to dubious therapeutic practices, the organization presents no data to demonstrate these practices are widespread or form an organized treatment modality.[2][4] Within the anecdotes used by the FMSF to support their contention that faulty therapy causes false memories, some include examples of people who recovered their memories outside of therapy.[3]


Related Quotation

Ritual abuse“In the Netherlands, if a child or adult discloses ritual abuse, then by law, the case must be referred to a panel who manages "false allegations". The allegations are mothballed - not a single case referred to the panel has been prosecuted in over two decades. The panel has stated publicly that there is no evidence of ritual abuse in existence. This is patently false. There are criminal prosecutions for sexual offences involving ritual abuse dating back to the 1980s in a range of countries, including serious multi-perpetrator cases. I stated in the documentary that I've personally seen crime scenes splashed in animal blood and occult symbols, and injuries to the bodies of victims. This claim has apparently caused quite a stir in the Netherlands. But I've written and spoken about this publicly for 15 years.”Michael Salter24 July 2020
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  1. a b https://web.archive.org/web/20071216011151/http://backissues.cjrarchives.org/year/97/4/memory.asp
  2. a b Walker, JA (2005). Trauma cinema: documenting incest and the Holocaust. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 64–5
  3. a b c http://www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/res/dallam/6.html
  4. Olio KA (2004). "The Truth About "False Memory Syndrome"". In Cosgrove L; Caplan PJ (eds.). Bias in psychiatric diagnosis. Northvale, N.J: Jason Aronson. pp. 163–8
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