The False Memory Syndrome Foundation

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The False Memory Syndrome Foundation

Postby American Dream » Mon Apr 28, 2008 10:28 am ... foundation

The False Memory Syndrome Foundation
More drama than a Jerry Springer marathon! More lies than a Senate hearing!
oakling by oakling
Aug. 24, 2007

"The FMSF supports parents who say the accusations by their adult children of childhood sexual abuse are false. These parents are typically aged 50s, 60s and 70s. Their accusers are adults who, for one reason or another, have met unbearable emotional pain and insurmountable difficulties in adult relationships - at work, socially or at home - and have sought to relieve the burden of their memories." - Survivors of Swindon

A punchy enough quote. But a brief review of the background and personalities involved with the Foundation is enough to suggest that instead, this article should read:


The False Memory Syndrome Foundation was started in the United States in 1992, by parents whose children had come out about being sexually abused.

At least, that is the most neutral way to describe them.

As will be explained here, they are an organization which acts to discredit survivors of child abuse, founded and staffed largely by abusers.

On their website, they say their goals are:

* "to seek the reasons for the spread of FMS that is so devastating families,
* "to work for ways to prevent it,
* "to aid those who were affected by it and to bring their families into reconciliation."

It is crucial to understand, above all, that False Memory Syndrome, or "FMS," is not a communicable disease. It is not a valid syndrome at all, in fact. It is not recognized as such by any part of the medical community, and it does not qualify as a "syndrome" in the first place. It is a term made up by those accused of sexual abuse to shame and discredit survivors. The False Memory Syndrome Foundation, in short, invented this condition and then devoted itself to stopping its imaginary spread and healing its victims.


"Since 1995, I have become aware of the parallel between the intimidation and silencing in the microcosm of the abusive family and in the macrocosm of a society that is ill at ease in dealing with the abuse of children. During my childhood my father protected himself from being held accountable by threatening me into silence. I believe that published documents demonstrate how some members and supporters of false memory groups publish false statements that defame and intimidate victims of proven violence and their supporters. Such altered accounts are used to discredit others in court and in the press." - Jennifer Hoult

Their website is heavy on their history and theories, but extremely light on their actual actions. All they will say is that "the FMS Foundation has played a role as a clearinghouse of information and as a catalyst for discussion and research about the specific claims that have formed the basis of the debate in the areas of memory, social influence and therapeutic practice."

One of the FMSF's main activities is the filing of amicus briefs -- that is, unsolicited opinions -- in court cases relating to child abuse.

Between 1995 and 1998, the FMSF filed thirteen such briefs in the United States, mainly to appellate courts and once to a Court of Appeals.

They have also attacked therapists around the country. One of their tactics seems to be to sue therapists who treat survivors of ritual abuse, suing them for anything from trivial legal loopholes to alleged malpractice.

Primarily, however, they have acted as media boosters. From the beginning, the FMSF has pushed people to take their angry stories to the media, to talk shows as well as reporters. They have the benefit of a star-studded base of supporters: they have recruited many psychologists, lawyers, and government figures to their ranks. Their psychologists are often discredited, and their government connections are largely to the scarier parts of the CIA... but that just adds to the fun of it!

As Mike Stanton writes in the Columbia Journalism Review, "A [1996] study published by a University of Michigan sociologist, Katherine Beckett, found a sharp shift in how four leading magazines -- Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, and People -- treated sexual abuse. In 1991, more than 80 percent of the coverage was weighted toward stories of survivors, with recovered memory taken for granted and questionable therapy virtually ignored. By 1994, more than 80 percent of the coverage focused on false accusations, often involving supposedly false memory. Beckett credited the False Memory Syndrome Foundation with a major role in the change."

Child Rights Watch puts it in a more damning nutshell: "A legitimising barrage of stories in the press has shaped public opinion and warmed the clime for defence attorneys. The concept of false memory serves the same purpose as Holocaust denial. It shapes opinion. Unconscionable crimes are obstructed, the accused is endowed with the status of martyr, the victim is reviled."

Their Research

One of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation's main claims is that they simply promote the most recent scientific findings on memory. This is made easier for them by their Scientific Advisory Board, which includes such stellar figures as... well, actually, everyone discussed below except the Loftus couple.

Oddly enough, the scientific research produced by these people, and still promoted by the FMSF, has been thoroughly discredited.

For example, Board member Elizabeth Loftus is possibly the most vocal, visible, and quoted member of their organization. She produced the ground-breaking study entitled "Lost In the Mall: Misrepresentations and misunderstandings," wherein she presented twenty-four adults with four possible childhood experiences.

The experiences were presented as short written anecdotes, and culled from the subjects' relatives. The false story in each case featured the subject getting lost in a shopping mall as a child. Loftus asked the relatives to provide similar stories about childhood shopping trips. The subjects were asked to write anything they remembered about each experience, or to write that they did not remember the experience.

According to her study, six thought they remembered at least part of the one that never happened. One to two weeks later, the subjects were interviewed again. This time they were told that one of the stories had been false, and asked to identify which one. Nineteen correctly chose the shopping mall story; five did not. It is not clear whether those five students were part of the previous group of six.

Researchers Lynn Crook and Martha Dean have written several articles critiquing (among other things) the ethical and methodological issues involved with Loftus' study. However, even if her study had been airtight, it has very little relevance to the question of whether repressed memories are false.


Because a repressed memory of something traumatic which is unlike anything the family thinks happened does not have a whole lot of similarity to six out of twenty-four adults thinking they remember all of several similar childhood stories.

That is, repressed memories are generally of scary, threatening experiences. They are very different from what we convinced ourselves our childhood looked like. Loftus' study, and every other study I have seen which supported her findings, focuses entirely on seeing if it is possible to convince people that something happened to them which is very much like other things that they, and the researchers, know happened.

By way of example, a 1995 study by K. Pezdek and C. Roe entitled "The effect of memory trace strength on suggestibility" found that three of twenty subjects falsely recalled getting lost in (again) a shopping mall, but none recalled getting a painful enema.

And in a review of "Memory, Trauma Treatment, and the Law," (1998) attorney Helen L. McGonigle describes how the authors undertook a detailed review of thirty studies of memory and child sexual abuse, and found that "while base rates varied, the average rate of full amnesia across all thirty studies was found to be approximately 29.6%." That means that these studies consistently found that almost thirty percent of subjects had completely repressed the memory of the abuse; that's not even counting the many people who remembered only part of what happened to them. The authors also found that "the gist of recovered memories is generally accurate although perhaps not the insignificant, peripheral details."

Sidran Press, which publishes information on trauma, dissociation, and post-traumatic stress disorder, has a chart explaining the factors that affect whether a memory of trauma stays in conscious memory or is repressed:

Continuous Memory versus Dissociation/Amnesia
Single traumatic event | Multi-event (repetitive)
Natural or accidental cause | Deliberate human cause
Adult victim | Child victim
Validation and support | Denial and secrecy

Like a lot of information from Sidran Press, it is not true for everyone. But it is a good basic explanation of current findings in memory and trauma research.

So Who Are These People, Anyway?

The following does not represent their entire board or organization by any means; it's just a quick wander through their biggest names from the past ten years.

Peter and Pamela Freyd: Executive Directors, Co-Founders.

"I am the only one who speaks for the Foundation." (Pamela Freyd, in an interview with Treating Abuse Today)

In many ways, the entire battle of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation comes off as a family feud carried out to bombastic extremes.

Executive directors Peter and Pamela Freyd, upon being confronted by their daughter Jennifer Freyd (a professor of psychology) on their child abuse and rape, came up with a strange response. First, they published the accusations publicly and anonymously in Underwager and Wakefield's journal (see below), including what Peter would later admit were lies about their child's sanity and about what happened; then the four of them started the False Memory Syndrome Foundation.

Peter Freyd apparently told everyone that Jennifer was "brain damaged," and acknowledged to her later that in their public account of what happened, "tell the truth or make your lies more interesting|fictional elements were deliberately inserted." For her part, Jennifer Freyd has commented that "My family of origin was troubled in many observable ways. I refer to the things that were never 'forgotten' and 'recovered,' but to things that we all knew about.... during my childhood, my father sometimes discussed his own experiences of being sexually abused as an 11 year-old boy, and called himself a 'kept boy.'"
Jennifer's recovery of these memories took place without hypnosis or "recovered memory therapy." Nevertheless, the Foundation focuses on these two techniques and frequently claims that they are the cause of all recovered memories, and that all such memories are false. In fact, just as there is no such medical condition as "False Memory Syndrome," there is also no such therapy as "Recovered Memory Therapy."

During an interview in Treating Abuse Today, Pamela Freyd was repeatedly asked to define "False Memory Syndrome" and could not. The interviewer finally gave up and asked her how she could call it "False Memory Syndrome" without any evidence as to whether the memories were false. The only response she can give is, "People can ask just as clearly, how does one know they are not?" In fact, she did not even know what dissociation was, which begs the question: How can she try to speak on a national level about repressed memory without knowing what dissociation is or how it works?

She often attacks apparently-feminist organizations fighting child abuse by calling them "lesbians." It is not clear how this supports her argument. As for her own side: in a 1992 issue of the Foundation's newsletter, Pamela explained how they knew the group's members, and those it supports, were not child molesters."We are a good-looking bunch of people, greying 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."

Well, that certainly clears that up. Thank God for Pamela Freyd!

As for Peter.... Psychologist and researcher Kathleen Sullivan has some keen observations. She writes, "What I find ironic is that Pamela Freyd and her cohorts proved the FMSF's connection to the CIA by how quickly they gained solid support from a host of former CIA contractors, starting with Martin Orne. Pamela also failed to mention that her husband, Peter Freyd, was involved in human experimentation.... A minimum of 29% of the advisory board members (of the FMSF, as of June 2002) were employed by universities and hospitals that, according to CIA records, were involved in human experimentation. There are other members who have been employed in the past, and there probably are other involved facilities that we do not have records on."

Which brings us to another quality member of the FMSF.

Harold Lief: Psychiatrist, CIA Researcher, Original Board Member.

And, inexplicably, Pamela Freyd's psychiatrist. Some people might call that a conflict of interest. Apparently not Doctor Lief!

Lief is a former colleague of Martin Orne's (a now-deceased board member; see below), having consulted with him in his work on "hypnotic programming" from the late 1960s on. Orne was a psychiatrist financed by the CIA to work on "the elicitation of 'anti-social' behaviour, dissolving memory and other mind-subduing techniques."

In fact, Harold Lief worked on many disturbing CIA projects. Dr. Colin Ross recounts one of his lesser connections: "[Robert Heath] did brain electrode implant research for the CIA and he would put brain electrodes in human brains for non-therapeutic purposes, and he would pour in psilocybin, mescaline, LSD, and other chemicals to see what would go tingle-tingle in the electrodes. And I will tell you more about that. He's funded by the CIA and the military. In one of his papers, he thanks Harold Lief for referring in one of his brain electrode implant research subjects."

It does not say much about what Lief himself did (or does now), but it does provide an illustration of the kind of work to which Lief and Orne have both been devoted.

In other words, the two of them are world-class specialists on the subject of trauma and repressed memory. They have dedicated their lives to these subjects. There are, hopefully, very few people who know more about the way that the human mind responds to extreme, inhumane, systemic, carefully planned trauma than Lief and Orne.

Although Ewen Cameron does come to mind.

Elizabeth Loftus: Former Psychologist, Professor, Board Member.

Loftus is probably the most often-referenced member of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. They consider her to be an incredibly innovative and powerful researcher, and call her a "Renaissance Woman" on their website.

Renaissance Woman she may be, but her ethics as well as her psychological research have been repeatedly called into question. The False Memory Syndrome Facts website has pointed out that "Her misrepresentation of the facts in articles in Skeptical Inquirer and Psychology Today caused APA ethics complaints to be filed by Lynn Crook and Jennifer Hoult [plaintiffs who prevailed in civil cases in which Loftus testified]. However, in a slick maneuver, Loftus resigned her APA membership before the complaints could be investigated."

Run away, run away, and live to fight another day. Or, in Loftus' case, to violate ethical standards another day. In 1997, psychiatrist David Corwin published evidence of a genuine repressed and recovered memory in a journal called "Child Maltreatment." He did not name his client, calling her only "Jane Doe." Loftus hired a private investigator to figure out who Jane Doe really was and track her down. She then wrote her own article for the Skeptical Inquirer, challenging Corwin's findings; in her article, she included enough personal information that Jane Doe was easily identifiable. She also made presentations to professional organizations in which she discussed intimate details of Jane's life. Now Jane Doe is suing her, for libel as well as for using identifiable private information.

Meanwhile, Jane Doe had complained to the University of Washington (where Loftus worked) about the blatant violation of her privacy. The University investigated her work for almost two years, but ultimately decided that she had done nothing wrong. According to the Boston Globe: "The committee told her that she could no longer contact Jane Doe's mother, who had become a friend, without its permission. And that she should take an ethics class. Rather than submit to such indignities, Loftus departed in the fall of 2002 for a $155,000-a-year job at the University of California at Irvine. 'It was horrible,' she recalls. 'I left all my friends and a house I had lived in for 29 years.'"

Somewhat ironically, there was no need for Loftus to end up in such a storm of drama and misconduct. There have been many other studies done on corroborated recovered memories, usually using more than one person. In fact, there is an entire Recovered Memory Project at Brown University, which at the time of this writing has a database of one hundred and one corroborated recovered memories. (By 1998 it had forty-five cases, so while it may not have been up to one hundred and one in 2002, it was still a big resource.) The Project requires that all its cases "be identified with sufficient specificity to facilitate independent examination by others.... (and) be corroborated by at least one of the following sources: confession, guilty plea, or self-incriminatory statement; testimony from other victims (or from an eyewitness to the abuse), or corroborative documentary evidence that is vitally relevant to the charges at issue; (or) corroboration of significant circumstantial evidence."

Imagine how many lucrative job offers Loftus could go through if she stalked each of them!

Martin T. Orne: Psychiatrist, CIA Researcher involved in Project Monarch/MKULTRA, Board Member.

Orne was called by some the "shadow chairman" of this Foundation, and there is certainly something shadowy about him.

In "The Search for the Manchurian Candidate," John Marks states that according to CIA documents, Orne contributed a chapter to a book on "The Manipulation of Human Behavior" which was funded by the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology, a CIA front. And, worse still, that Orne was involved in MKULTRA Subproject 84, one of their most-publicized forays into nonconsensual torture and experiments in mind control.

Furthermore, Orne spent many years at the University of Pennsylvania's Experimental Psychiatry Lab conducting human experiments to study the effects of over 16 biochemical warfare agents, the effectiveness of choking, blistering, and vomiting agents, toxins, poison gas, and various incapacitating chemicals. According to Toward Freedom, "During the same period, he also worked with the Cornell University-based Human Ecology Fund, sharing his findings with Dr. Ewen Cameron, who was then based at the McGill University Allen Institute in Montreal. At Human Ecology, electroshock, lobotomies, drugs, incapacitants, hypnosis, sleep deprivation, and radio control of the brain were all specialties of the house."

He is, by all accounts, a fairly notorious abuser, albeit one condoned and paid by the state. Why so much more is publicly known about his behavior than Lief's is not clear to me; it may be partly because Lief is still alive. Regardless, they are both quite a credit to the organization.

Ralph Underwager: Former Pastor, Former Psychologist, Co-Founder.

"The solution that I'm suggesting is that paedophiles become much more positive. They should directly attack the concept, the image, the picture of the paedophile as an evil, wicked, and reprehensible exploiter of children."

Underwager was once the director of the Institute of Psychological Therapies in Minnesota, but was forced to resign in 1993. He is married to Hollida Wakefield, and together they have written two books on this subject, been jointly interviewed in a Dutch pedophile magazine called Paidika, and published a journal for "child abuse skeptics" called "Issues in Child Abuse Allegations."

According to Child Rights Watch, FMSF founder Ralph Underwager told a group of British reporters in 1994 that "scientific evidence" proved that 60% of all women molested as children believed the experience was "good for them," and "in 1988, a trial court decision in New York State held that Dr. Underwager was 'not qualified to render opinion as to (whether) or not (the victim) was sexually molested.'"

In fact, that is only the tip of the iceberg as far as Underwager's history with the courts goes.

Let's turn on the television, shall we?

Here's an interesting program... an Australian episode of 60 Minutes which first aired there in 1990, two years before the FMSF was founded.
Dr. Anna Salter: Well, he is someone who makes his living going around the country and testifying against children in child sexual abuse cases. He says the same thing in essentially every case. Which is....
Reporter (voiceover): And Anna Salter knows what she's talking about. A Ph.D. from Harvard, and a Master's Degree in Early Childhood. She says young children can be believed.
Dr. Salter: This is consistent with the literature. If you look at what is the best legal textbook in the country today on children as witnesses, "Child Witness: Theory and Practice", John Meyers says clearly children as young as three can comprehend the duty to tell the truth.
Reporter: And this man is a highly respected legal scholar in America?
Dr. Salter: I think he's fairly clearly the chief leading scholar on child sexual abuse in the country.
Reporter: Six American states have given Dr. Salter a grant to check Underwager's methods in court. And what did she find?
Dr. Salter: That he isn't accurate. That what he says in court does not necessarily fairly represent the literature.
Reporter: He distorts the facts?
Dr. Salter: Uh, frequently. Sometimes he quotes specific studies, and he's frequently wrong about what the studies say.
Reporter: So we thought we'd get Dr. Salter to analyze the evidence Underwager gave under oath at the Mr. Bubbles hearing, where he testified his qualifications had never been questioned. But in an American case, the Swann case, this is what the courts said about Mr. Underwager.
Dr. Salter: The court remains convinced the psychologist did not have the qualifications to testify as a doctor. The trial court ruled that the psychologist's proposed testimony was not proper because there was no indication that the results of the doctor's work had been accepted in the scientific community.
Reporter: In the Mr. Bubbles case, he said his qualifications were never in question.... Now, the second incident, in the Mr. Bubbles case, was where Underwager said that 90 percent of accusations against child molesters are wrong. Now, is that backed up scientifically?
Dr. Salter: No, that's gobbledegook. I don't know of any study that would support that.
(Scene switch)
Reporter: This is Underwager's home base, Northfield, Minnesota. His so-called clinic is set on seventy acres of beautiful countryside. We arranged to meet him here to talk about his involvement in the Mr. Bubbles case. And, right on cue, Underwager presents his "evidence."
Underwager: Uh, there is a major German study that was done, and reported, in 1983 -- a major finding -- is that, for children who have been abused, the impact of adult behaviors toward actually abused children is more traumatic, and does more harm to the children than the abuse itself.
Reporter: Is that right?
Underwager: Yes. German . . .
Reporter: Uh, what report's this?
Underwager: Uh, it's (M.C.) Baurmann , 1983, in German it's, uh, "SexualitaÄt, Gewalt und psychische Folgen". Wiesbaden: Bundeskriminalamt, Forschungsreihe 15. (Sexuality, Violence, and Psychological Consequences)
(Scene switch)
Reporter: And what did Baurmann really say?
Dr. Salter: Well, I'm afraid what he said was, of the reported sexual contacts, half of the sexual victims claimed the sexual act itself to be the main cause of injury; one-third, the behavior of the suspect; and one-tenth each, the behavior of relatives, friends, or the police. In other words, instead of saying that the majority of children were harmed by the system, they said that it was a very small minority. (Editorial note: Compare this to Wakefield's comments on pedophila, below. See a trend?)
(Scene switch)
Reporter: Mr. Underwager, I have the Baurmann report in front of me.
Underwager: Yes sir.
Reporter: It's directly opposite to what you just said.
Underwager: No, I don't believe it is at all. I'm saying, I didn't say that that's what happens in every case.
Reporter: No, but you said the majority of cases.
Underwager: No, I don't believe I did.
(Scene switch)
Reporter: Over the past couple of years, courts across America have begun saying "No" to Underwager. That his "expert evidence" is unreliable. Two recent cases here in New York said just that. But even more damning was a case last year, the Hudy case (New York, May 1989).
Peters: It was the court's observation that Dr. Underwager's testimony was based on inadequate research, and his preparation was inadequate, and therefore lacking in sound foundation.
Reporter: Again, damning.

So: we add to their ranks a man who isn't even allowed to testify anymore in many states because he is notorious for making up evidence; who has dedicated his life to testifying against alleged victims of sexual abuse, who he doesn't even know, with the evidence he makes up; who was this thoroughly discredited before the False Memory Syndrome Foundation began, and who still produces arguments for them before various courts; and who, of course, helped create the entire organization.

And then there's his partner in crime....

Hollida Wakefield: Psychologist, Co-Founder.

A writer and editor working with husband Ralph Underwager. In their joint interview with Paidika, she explained her belief that it is not sexual abuse which hurts a child, but society's disapproval: that, in fact, if society would just lay off those poor pedophiles, there could be no harm done to the child. "The problem, as I would state it, is that in the United States, paedophilia is viewed so negatively that I think the possibility of harming the young man would be very real. I don't know if a positive model is possible in the United States. The climate is such in the United States that it would be very, very difficult for a paedophile, even with the most idealistic of motives and aspirations, to make his relationship actually work in practice. Even if the boy at some point viewed it as positive, after coming into contact with the way the society as a whole viewed it, the very real danger would be created of making the experience harmful."

Why didn't the rest of us think of that? Don't stop having sex with children - which is rape no matter what, by the way, because children don't have the developmental ability or knowledge required to be able to give informed consent about sexual acts - don't stop doing any of that at all! Just redefine it and make sure everyone tells kids it's great! They won't be harmed at all!

This is the kind of brilliant logic about the effects of child abuse that you can get from your local chapter of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation.

Interestingly, after that interview, Underwager left the organization, and I've repeatedly heard it implied that he was forced to leave. But Wakefield is still serving on their board.

Four and a Half Years of Struggle Against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice

That was the original title Adolf Hitler chose for Mein Kampf; it might just as well be the wail of the FMSF Board, trying to understand why they are so maligned by survivor and pro-survivor communities.

In Treating Abuse Today, nurse Stephanie J. Dallam writes:
"...The FMSF's 2,056 unsubstantiated reports of 'false memory' must be understood in relation to the estimated millions of cases of sexual abuse and subsequent traumatic amnesia in our society. Rather than demonstrating an epidemic of false memories, the statistics provided by the FMSF demonstrate just the opposite: In spite of heavy media coverage, relatively few families have contacted or joined the organization. Furthermore, the incidence of false memory claims, which was never significant in proportion to the population, has declined steadily since 1992."

As for its CIA connections, their inclusion here serves two purposes.

First of all, this organization above all denies that ritual abuse exists. And they use its perceived nonexistence repeatedly to argue against recovered memories. Pamela Freyd in particular, when interviewed by Treating Abuse Today, constantly cited people's memories of ritual abuse as proof that memories could be implanted and that all memories of abuse were questionable. Yet both their Board of Directors and (above all) their Scientific Advisory Board have always included some of the premier ritual abusers in the country, by almost any definition of the term, according to the government's own documents.

I'm just saying.

Secondly, several researchers and reporters have made the leap to asking why there are so many connections between the CIA and the FMSF. As Husayn Al-Kurdi observes in Toward Freedom newsmagazine, "With links to CIA mind control experts and accused child abusers, the false memory movement turns 'blaming the victim' into a science... It should come as no surprise, then, that long-time CIA and 'intelligence complex' operatives turn up on the FMSF Advisory Board."

Researcher and psychologist Colin Ross goes even further:
"...The idea that there could be a deliberate disinformation campaign element to the False Memory movement is perfectly plausible, consistent with history, and could be expected.... So here we have, with all of this documentation, all of this proof -- we know that it is perfectly possible that people we are seeing in therapy who are claiming to be victims of systematic military mind-control experimentation are telling us about what actually happened to them.... Fortunately.... there is no way it could conceivably be possible, you will all agree, that there could... be any nervousness in the Intelligence Community about Manchurian Candidates spilling out into civilian psychotherapies and that a disinformation program based on False Memories would be required. It is obviously absurd. Nobody but a CIA conspiracy nut would ever suggest that."

Whether the False Memory Syndrome Foundation is a CIA front or a group of innocent parents tearfully wondering why their children don't love them anymore - or something in between - one thing seems certain: they are a very, very bad idea. Because of the FMSF, much of the mainstream media in the United States is devoted to spreading the comfortable idea that abuse mostly doesn't happen, and that it's far more likely that a therapist is just messing with your head than that anything bad ever happened to you. Many a court case has been slammed shut because of misinformation from the FMSF. They taint the pool of information with discredited studies and misremembered "facts," and apparently, somehow, with sheer charisma.

But worst of all, I think, is the effect on the survivor who is just now recovering memories of abuse. There is the sonic boom impact of decades of concentrated emotion, the shock of understanding so much more about why things are the way they are, and of not understanding how such things could ever have happened. There is the long, wrenching, and powerful journey toward feeling safe and whole and loved. And now, the constant questioning of sanity and the twitching certainty that when we finally tell someone this awful truth that we've spent so long working to accept, they will refuse to believe it, insist we have FMS, or even sue the people who have helped us deal with it.

Abuse itself is physically and psychologically violating enough. To extend that violation into adulthood, as the False Memory Syndrome Foundation has done, is unconscionable.

*Roll Credits*
60 Minutes transcript
The Boston Globe on Elizabeth Loftus' firing
Child Rights Watch/Survivors of Swindon
Colin Ross on the FMSF
False Memory Syndrome Facts
False Memory Syndrome Foundation
Lief and Orne's work
Lynn Crook and Martha Dean
Jennifer Freyd’s history
Jennifer Hoult quoted in False Memory Syndrome Facts
Kathleen Sullivan
"Memory, Trauma Treatment and the Law" review
MKULTRA information from "The Search for the Manchurian Candidate"
Mike Stanton in the Columbia Journalism Review
Orne's involvement in Monarch/MKULTRA
Pamela Freyd's interview with Treating Abuse Today
Recovered Memory Project at Brown University
Recovered Memory Project's criteria
Sidran Foundation
Toward Freedom Magazine
Treating Abuse Today
Wakefield and Underwager's interview with Padika

False Memory Syndrome Foundation:
1955 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-5766
Telephone: 215-940-1040, Fax: 215-940-1042.
Pamela Freyd, Ph.D., Executive Director

Bonus Footage!

(Scene switch to Peters' office )
Reporter: Do you think Underwager has got a lot to answer for over the years?
Peters: I think so. I think a lot of children have suffered at his hand. Children who probably have been abused...have been put back into situations where they're likely to have been molested again.
(Switch to Vaughan's office)
Vaughan: I think that Underwager must have trouble sleeping.
(Switch to Underwager's house where Underwager is standing over the reporter. A hulk of a man, Underwager is trying to kick the entire television crew out of his house.)
Reporter: Why don't you, why don't you sit down and talk about this? All this research that you quote.
(Throughout the following exchange, they are talking at the same time)
Underwager: You are to leave, you are to leave, you are to leave my home.
Reporter: Mr. Underwager you have researched, and quoted research, inaccurately, and distorted it for years, and you know it.
Underwager: You are to leave my home. I am not willing to continue. I am not willing to continue. You are a bastard.
Reporter: No I'm not.
Underwager: You are a bastard.
Reporter: I just love children.
Underwager: And you're a bastard. To come here under false pretenses--
Reporter: Not at all. Some say you go to court under false pretenses, Mr. Underwager.
Underwager: You, leave my home. Your people can leave now, you go out the door now.
Reporter: Questions getting a bit hard, were they?
Underwager: You go out the door now.
Reporter: I would like to ask you about your qualifications. In the Mr. Bubbles case you said that your qualifications had never been questioned in relation to the Swann case.
Underwager: You go out the door now.
Reporter: You told an untruth in the Mr. Bubbles hearing.
Underwager: You go out the door now.
Reporter: You don't want to answer that?
Underwager: I'm telling you to go out the door now, or I'm calling the police.
Reporter: I think, uh, you're showing your true colors, we should leave. Thank you, Mr. Underwager. Appreciate the time. Sure you don't want to continue the interview?
Underwager: (Gives a small laugh) I'm sixty-one years old Saturday. And I think you are one of the most dishonorable men that I have ever met.
Reporter: That's what a lot of clinical psychologists say about you. You should be aware of that.
Underwager: I am fully aware of that.
Fade to black.
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Postby Searcher08 » Mon Apr 28, 2008 10:48 am

Some might say the article leaves out the close ties between the leading "SkepiNazi" organisations and the FMSF people.
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Postby American Dream » Fri Oct 30, 2009 8:00 pm

Alexander Cockburn wrote:
...Now this was in the early 1990s, please note. This was when the wave of hysteria over satanic abuse of children was in full spate with people being imprisoned for life on just the sort of ‘evidence’ the cops are now trying to marshal against Williamson. Massachusetts actually saw the first trial of a daycare teacher charged with satanic abuse. Bernard Baran was released after twenty-two years and exonerated three years after that, on June 9 of this year.

As the attorney Mike Snedeker, who co-authored with Debbie Nathan the 1998 book Satan’s Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt, recently reminded us here on the CounterPunch website, there are victims of that hysteria, almost certainly innocent, still rotting in prison: Fran and Danny Keller in Texas; James Toward and Francisco Fuster in Florida almost a generation later.

Earlier this year Nancy Smith, a school teacher, and Joseph Allen, a Head Start bus driver, were released from Ohio prisons after SERVING fourteen years for committing phantom crimes against five-year-olds. John Stoll—convicted of allowing people he barely knew to sodomize his 6-year-old son, and himself sodomizing young children he had just met and then sending them on home after school—was released in 2004 after twenty years in state prison. He is featured in the documentary Witch Hunt, narrated by Sean Penn, and recently settled a civil rights suit against Kern County, California, for $5.5 million.

Among the many brilliant observations of Morse Peckham in his 1969 book Art and Pornography (published by the Kinsey Institute) was that the concern with sexual behavior has nothing to do with sex but everything to do with policing. American sexual prudery is part of political and social policing within the nominally legal context of supposed individual freedom. People learn to be prudish with sex before they understand anything else in society and this prudery is transferred to other areas later which are even more important for social control and stability.

The control of sex and pornography is, as Wilkinson suggested to me, a major part of promulgating a puritanical political culture without ever imposing an overt political censorship regime. Sexual repression, through the allegation of ‘deviant’ fantasy crimes, is often the designated stand-in for violations of the social order harder to stand up in court.

The “satanic abuse” hysteria was particularly appalling, but year after year in America prudery exacts a terrible toll – as witness the unfortunate female schoolteachers packed often to prison with hefty sentences for having affairs with boys in their mid to late teens. Is America permanently lodged in the seventeenth century so far as moral policing is concerned? The answer is Not exactly, since gay marriage wasn’t a big item on the legislative agenda of the colonies at that time. But regulation of sexual behavior is the preferred route to wider social control...

Excerpted from:
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Postby lightningBugout » Fri Oct 30, 2009 9:45 pm

In case you didn't notice the date in the URL string, this is from today.

ps. on edit - from what I know, the case against the Stolls was very weak. Though Witchhunt, the Penn-narrated film, was terrible. Capturing the Friedmans, despite my complete opposition to its message, is a tremendously well-made and very compelling piece of propaganda. Witchhunt felt like a community college video project.

What bothers me so much about Cockburn is 1) his round endorsement (spanning years now) of Debbie Nathan's very shoddy work and 2) his theorization of sexuality and the social policing is one-dimensional and, to me, does not at all gibe with the complete proliferation of pornography and the sexualization of children that has accompanied the burgeoning of the Tween demographic.
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Postby barracuda » Fri Oct 30, 2009 9:59 pm

I don't get it. American Dream, do you have some conclusion or point to make with regard to your juxtaposition of these two articles? Do you have any comment on the resolutions of the Stoll or Baran cases vis-avis the corrupt machinations of the FMSF?
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Postby American Dream » Fri Oct 30, 2009 10:08 pm

I wasn't too happy about Alexander Cockburn's comments, personally. For someone who purports to be the paragon of left-wing enlightenment, he's sure got his head up his ass on this issue, in my opinion.

But no- nothing in particular intended by linking his words with a FMSF article, other than that I am trying to avoid thread proliferation and this seemed as relevant a place as any to put the quote from Cockburn.
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Postby Project Willow » Sat Oct 31, 2009 3:23 pm

Cockburn has come out in defense of FMSF before, this is an appropriate place for the article. I wonder if it's a little jab in timing with Bryant's efforts. Surely Nick has contacted some of Cockburn's associates recently in his attempt to get media coverage. Cockburn fences himself off here.

Cockburn's been defending Fuster since he's had a column. It's ridiculous (or it should be read as a huge glowing billboard) that these writers get away with defending despicable criminals. Every time he dares mention the name, he should be pelted with a shower of well sourced moral outrage.

Fuster and his arguably controlled wife were running their daycare while Fuster was still on parole for his 1982 conviction of lewd and lascivious behavior with a 9 year old. He'd also spent time in prison for killing a man.

Here's a tidbit from a review of Countrywalk:

One expert, a pediatrician, tested Fuster's own son Noel for gonorrhea, and the throat culture tested positive for the presence of gonorrhea.
Magistrate's report, p. 8

A good debunking of PBS Frontline program lies about the case by Ross Chiet here:

Despite all of that, the case still gets thrown onto the satanic panic pile. If you repeat a lie often enough...
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Postby American Dream » Wed Nov 04, 2009 6:09 pm ... :_Yyc:aUUJ

Disturbed patient, disturbing therapy by St. Cloud psychologist

State board disciplines a St. Cloud psychologist who seemed to believe her client's delusions more than her client did.

By LORA PABST, Star Tribune
Last update: October 31, 2009

She was a deeply disturbed woman who claimed her parents began torturing her as an infant. Both of her brothers reportedly committed suicide. She had multiple personalities. She drew pictures of a house in Canada where she thought she underwent government mind-control experiments. And she feared a satanic cult was trying to control her with lasers.

But whenever the troubled woman expressed doubts about her lurid delusions, her psychologist, Suzanne James, told her she was "in denial" and encouraged her to concoct even crazier theories, state investigators concluded. Without a shred of proof, James believed it all. The St. Cloud psychologist even provided dark sunglasses to shield her client from the cult's lasers.

In a report released last week, the Minnesota Board of Psychology found James violated numerous laws and regulations governing doctor-patient conduct. Instead of helping her client get better, the board said, James made her sicker, fostering a state of unhealthy dependence that made it virtually impossible for the client to function independently. James even came up with a daily schedule for the woman's alter egos.

But James didn't lose her license. In fact, she can continue treating her existing patients, even those suffering from multiple personality disorder.

Through her attorney, James declined to comment on the charges, which she admitted under terms of the consent order.

R. Christopher Barden, a lawyer and psychologist who served on the Minnesota Board of Psychology in the 1990s, said licensing boards struggle with inherent conflicts of interest because they're supervising their peers. In a previous interview with another newspaper, Barden described such agencies as "captured boards" that act more like therapists than regulators aimed at protecting the public.

"The problem of how to deal with harmful quack psychotherapies goes far beyond what the small staff of licensing boards can manage," Barden said this week.

In 1999, the Minnesota board banned Renee Fredrickson from treating patients in cases involving potential cult abuse. Barden represented a female patient who sued Fredrickson for allegedly manipulating her into recalling false memories of ritual cult abuse, torture, dismemberment and murder. The case was settled later and Fredrickson remains licensed.

Since 1984, the Minnesota board revoked the licenses of 27 psychologists, though three practitioners were later reinstated. The board investigated 119 complaints last year, imposing discipline in 13 cases.

"It takes a lot for someone to actually lose their license," said Pat Labrocca, a regulations analyst with the board.

Labrocca said fraud and sexual misconduct are the kind of violations that typically trigger license revocation. In cases involving unethical or improper treatment, the board looks at several factors, including whether a psychologist can be rehabilitated, she said.

Growing paranoia

James' client, who was not identified in the state report, came to James in 2002, a referral from a colleague who felt James was well suited to handle a patient suffering from multiple personalities. James had been specializing in such cases for more than 10 years.

The first major revelation apparently came in 2004, when the woman -- who was considering suicide -- began telling stories about how she had been abused as a child. The tales became increasingly far-fetched, as James helped her discover more "recovered memories."

The woman described satanic rituals in which her three babies were killed while her mother helped, and of how her parents sold her two brothers for mind-control experiments. She claimed cult members were still pursuing her.

In a 2005 letter to a state agency, James explained that her client "appears to have been a survivor of the U.S. Government mind control experiments," which she said "fits with historical accounts of such programs."

State investigators said James appeared to believe in the delusions more than her client did, and that she often "encouraged and embellished" her client's "memories." She told investigators she was convinced by the "consistency" of the woman's stories, but she admitted she never attempted to corroborate any of the woman's claims by talking to other family members.

n January 2005, her client's psychiatrist told James she could no longer treat the woman, saying she couldn't go along with James' treatment methods. The psychiatrist said she would share her concerns with the client.

James responded by telling the woman that it was better that she stop seeing the psychiatrist since "she neither understood nor approved of what we were doing," the state report says.

Putting her in danger

Convinced a cult was going to abduct her client on her 50th birthday, James decided to take action. First, she introduced the woman to another client, a woman whose family was trying to get her committed to a mental institution. The woman also was facing gun charges.

Both women claimed to be cult survivors.

In January 2006, James brought the two women to a library, where they met with a detective from the county sheriff's office. James told the detective she was afraid the cult was going to kidnap her client and force her to marry its leader. James said she feared her own life was in danger.

The detective followed up on at least one of James' claims, but the information did not check out, according to the state report. It's not clear what happened later. Local law enforcement agencies said they have no record of the incident.

James told investigators she knew it was "outside the box" to bring her two clients to a hotel in March 2006, where the women camped out to avoid a feared abduction. But she said it was the best way to combat her client's "compulsion" to drive to Canada and join the cult that had been pursuing her for decades.

"This is going to sound loony tunes,'' James told state investigators. "She had been set up from conception to become the bride of the High One at age 50 and at that point she would supervise the cult rituals."

The board cited the incident as evidence of James' "impaired objectivity," and said she should have brought the woman to a hospital if she feared for her safety.

In its report, the board concluded James is "unable to practice with reasonable skill and safety," and placed limitations on her work for at least two years.

She must undergo counseling and training on professional boundaries. She can continue seeing three patients with multiple personality disorder, but can't take on any new patients with that diagnosis. She has to meet with her supervising psychologist for at least two hours each month.

James' attorney, Thomas Pearson, said she cooperated with the investigation. He declined to comment further.

Gary Schoener, executive director of the Walk-In Counseling Center and an expert in cases of professional misconduct, said James clearly stepped over the line. But he said psychologists sometimes become overly absorbed in their clients' lives.

"Some therapists are suggestible," he said. "The clients are very convincing and they get worried about the client and they lose their boundaries."

Suzanne James
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Postby lightningBugout » Wed Nov 04, 2009 6:37 pm

Jesus why doesn't the FMSF just take out a full page ad telling survivors to shut up?

So, is this going to be one of the first strikes against MC survivors beginning to come forward? Are we about to see a new Frontline special that finds the most looney-tunes sounding survivor, still in the deeply confused and abreactive part of his/her treatment and uses it to debunk all of us? My guess? Yep.

What about those of us who are very highly functional and don't believe that laser beams are being hurled at us? What about those of us who take a fairly cold, sober view of our past, who acknowledge the inevitability of real memories getting mixed-up with confabulations as we go through the process of healing? What about those of us who work, oftentimes with a therapist, to rigorously question the validity of our experiences and our memories? What about those therapists who are smart and responsible, who foster greater independence in their clients?

Wild guess says noone's going to be writing stories about us.
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Postby lightningBugout » Wed Nov 04, 2009 6:44 pm

To keep the FMSF in perspective, here is their newsletter piece about priest Paul Shanley:

Reprinted from FMSF Newsletter 14(2), 2005

Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Paul Shanley,
Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Middlesex
SS Superior Court, No. 2002-0894

On February 7, 2005, a Boston jury found defrocked Roman Catholic
priest Paul Shanley guilty of sexually abusing now 27-year-old Boston
fireman Paul Busa when he was a young child. Shanley, age 74, was
sentenced to 12-15 years in prison.

The evidence in the case consisted entirely of Busa's recovered
memories. Busa testified that his girlfriend called him on January 31
to tell him about a Boston Globe article about Shanley.[1] Busa said
he was surprised because everyone had liked Shanley. His girlfriend
called again on February 11 to tell him that his friend Gregory Ford
was accusing Shanley. Busa then called Ford. He testified that his own
memories then started coming back. "I felt like my world was coming to
an end."[2] At the time, Busa was a military police officer in

On February 12, Busa visited a military therapist and then flew to
Boston. According to investigative reporter Jo Ann Wypijewski.[3] the
ticket was paid for by attorney Rod MacLeish who was representing
Ford. Busa also met with the same mental health professionals as Ford
and he also retained MacLeish. After Busa returned to Colorado and
entered counseling, he was told to start a journal of his memories. He
backdated the journal to February 1. Busa was discharged from the
military in April.

In the 1970s, Father Shanley was known as a charismatic "street
priest" who worked with troubled adolescents and supported gay rights.
Until the criminal trial, no one had ever accused Shanley of being
sexually involved with young children. There were, however, claims of
his involvement with adolescents or young adults in the 60s and 70s.

After the publication of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe
series and a later press conference by attorney MacLeish, Shanley
became one of, if not the, most high-profile figures in the church
abuse scandals. Shanley is one of the few priests to be criminally
charged in Massachusetts. Because he had moved to California in 1990,
the clock stopped on the 15 year statute of limitations.

There were two young men, besides Ford and Busa who made claims
against Shanley. They all attended the same Catholic religious classes
at St. Jean L'Evangeliste in Newton, Mass. They all said that Shanley
would take them out of class and rape them in the rectory,
confessional and restroom from the time they were six until they were
11 or 12. They all claimed that they immediately forgot being raped or
abused and that they recovered the memories after the Globe article.
They all had the same lawyer. There is no record of any person during
those years who noticed anything unusual involving the boys and

In April 2004, all four received settlements from the Church in civil
cases. Ford is said to have received more than $1.4 million and Busa
received $500,000.

In July 2004, prosecutors said that "in order to make this the most
manageable case for a jury to hear," it would drop Ford and another
person from the case. A great deal had been learned about Gregory Ford
and his life that caused many questions about the reliability of his
memories. The other accuser was dropped on the day jury selection
began because no one could find him.

The trial began in mid-January and was shown on CourtTV. Busa sobbed
during some of his highly emotional testimony, and his wife described
his awful pain and suffering after he recovered memories. Classmates
and two former teachers from the school took the stand. None of the
classmates testified that they ever saw Shanley remove anyone from
class, although students were sent out of the class. One student
testified that he had once been sent to Shanley who had told him to
stop giving the teacher a hard time and sent him right back to class.
Under cross-examination, teachers could not recall Shanley taking
children out of class. One stated that Busa would not even have been
in the religious class at the age he claimed.

James Chu, M.D., an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, was
an expert for the prosecution. He testified that repressed memory is
more common among people who suffered repeated trauma as children than
in those who suffered a single traumatic event. "It really is more
this repeated trauma that tends to be forgotten by some mechanism." He
noted that memories can return in a flood of images and physical
symptoms such as anxiety and sleeplessness, all of which Busa said he
experienced. Dr. Chu used the term "dissociative barrier" to describe
the mechanism that keeps traumatic memories locked up. Under
cross-examination, Chu acknowledged the intense debate about the
validity of repressed memories and that false memories can be

Elizabeth Loftus, Ph.D., the only witness for the defense, testified
that her research shows that people can come to sincerely believe
implanted memories. On cross-examination, prosecutor Rooney asked
Loftus about statements she had made about repressed memories in the
past that were at odds with her current statements. Loftus was unable
to complete her answers, and defense attorney Mondano did not follow
up on redirect.

In closing arguments, Prosecutor Rooney said that the emotion Busa
showed when he testified was evidence that he was not fabricating his
claims. "The emotions were raw. They were real. They were reflective
of the pain he experienced," she said. In his closing, defense
attorney Frank Mondano argued that Busa's story was not reliable and
that he made up the story to get the money from a civil trial.
Prosecutor Rooney argued that Busa already had the money from the
civil trial so that would not explain his willingness to endure the
pain of the criminal trial.

The jury deliberated 13 hours before reaching its decision. Jury
member Victoria Blier remarked that the jury agreed after discussion
that you can experience something up to a point, and then not think
about it and have plenty of other things in your life that are more

Attorney Frank Mondano has said that he intends to appeal the

[1] Pfeiffer, S. (2002, January 31). Famed 'street priest' preyed upon
boys. Boston Globe, p. A21.
[2] Lavoi, D. (2005, January 26). Shanley's accuser testifies at child
rape trial. Associated Press State & Local Wire, 4:56 Wednesday, BC
3] Wypijewski, J. (2004, September-October). The passion of Father
Paul Shanley. LegalAffairs. Retrieved February 9, 2005, from

Ballou,. B., & Lawrence, J. (2005, February 8). Shanley guilty;
verdict delivers 'victory,' vindication. Boston Herald, p. 7.

Kukjian, S., & Cullen, K. (2002, June 21). Grand jury indicts
Shanley, charges rape of four boys. Boston Globe, p. A22.

Lavoie, D. (2005, January 31). State wraps up case against
defrocked priest. Associated Press.

Lavoie, D. (2005, February 7). Defrocked priest convicted in
notorious clergy sex abuse case. Associated Press, Monday, BC
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Re: The False Memory Syndrome Foundation

Postby American Dream » Mon Jan 25, 2010 12:06 pm

More false memory discourse spewing from Counterpunch:

January 25, 2010

Only in Massachusetts ...

Judges' Shock Ruling Okays Fantasist/s "Repressed Memories" Fraud


"A disgusting sinkhole of racism and vulgar prejudice” was Alexander Cockburn’s apt characterization of Massachusetts on this site the other day— and we can now add this: the commonwealth is the last sanctuary for sex fantasists keen to lock someone up, perhaps for life, on no evidence at all.
On January 15 the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts distinguished itself as the last court in America to accept, in the face of voluminous research and scientific opinion to the contrary, repressed memory (also called massive amnesia, dissociative amnesia, recovered memory) as valid evidence in a criminal prosecution.

It did so in its ruling in the case of Paul Shanley, the defrocked Catholic priest who in 2005 was convicted of raping and otherwise molesting a child on nothing more than the tearful “recovered memories” of the now-grown accuser. Shanley had become the eye of the panic storm over priestly abuse that swept through Boston and then the nation in 2002. The accuser, Paul Busa, was one of three young men who all had the same personal injury lawyer; all went to the same therapists; all talked together at length; all described nearly identical heinous assaults occurring in the same place and time when they were little boys in the same religious education class; all, miraculously, experienced total amnesia after each assault, so that they went innocently with the priest to be raped again and again every Sunday for years; and all, even more miraculously, recovered their memories of these agonies at the same time, after The Boston Globe decided to make Shanley its No. 1 “depraved priest”.

They also all were plaintiffs in a civil suit that the Archdiocese of Boston settled, before Shanley’s trial and against its lawyers’ advice, thereby collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars for their claimed suffering. Busa pocketed $500,000. His friend Gregory Ford, the first to recover his memories and, until he was discredited, the poster child of priests’ victims, got at least $1.4 million, the biggest individual payment made by the Catholic Church in Boston in the midst of the scandal. All three, along with another man, who was represented by the same personal injury lawyer, made essentially the same claims but had been in a different class as a kid, were complainants in the criminal indictment against Shanley brought by the then-Middlesex County DA, Martha Coakley.

That was in June of 2002. Then one by one the prosecution’s “victims” began to fall. Gregory Ford became a huge liability. A psychically troubled individual since adolescence, over the years he had also accused a neighbor, a cousin and his father of rape. Those denunciations his parents had always quashed, but after reading a Globe article they seized the opportunity that perhaps his troubles could be tied to Shanley, and pressed Gregory to remember until he succumbed and fell to the floor crying, telling them what they wanted to hear. Coakley and company ultimately decided that Ford, who once threatened to kill his whole family and burn down their house, might not make the most stable, sympathetic victim. The other friend was also dropped. He had claimed his memories returned while traveling to and from trips to Las Vegas, where he gambled away a lot of money and might have been perceived as an opportunist out for financial gain from the church. The fourth man had his own vexed back story and took himself out of the case, disappearing after a pretrial hearing.
That left Paul Busa, a former air force man who had hated his job and was looking for a way out of the military when the scandal broke. He found it, and at the time of trial was a fireman in Newton, married and with a story to tell the jury that was unencumbered by the more troubling biographies of his friends, not to mention the phenomenal coincidence of their amnesia and convenient remembering.

On January 31, 2002, Busa was told about the Globe’s story accusing Shanley of having sex with teenagers and young adults, and his first reaction was surprise; he’d always thought of the priest as “a nice guy”, he told his girlfriend, now wife. But later when she told him his friend Gregory Ford claimed to have been serially raped by the priest from the age of 6, Busa’s memories went to the alteration department.

He spoke to Ford, after which conversation he said his own memories hit him “like a tidal wave” and he cried for six hours. Then he spoke to Ford’s personal injury lawyer, Roderick (“Eric”) MacLeish. Then he went to the air force shrink, saying he needed to take a leave from the base to return to Boston to “pursue a class action lawsuit”. The shrink encouraged Busa to explore these new memories of abuse by keeping a journal. Write anything that comes into your mind, the shrink told Busa. Think of it as an “emotional barf bag”.

Thus began the accumulation of “evidence” that alone would put Shanley behind bars for twelve to fifteen years. At the top of each page Busa wrote, “Memo to Eric MacLeish, attorney confidential communication”.

“Journaling” is a common technique among therapists who believe in repressed memory. The theory is that through free-association and other quick-writing techniques, memories stored in the unconscious might break through the filters of thought, screening, logic and control that contribute to repression in the first place. In the annals of memory cases such techniques tend to produce fantasies, which can metastasize into false memories, as writing “whatever you want” slides effortlessly from game-like exercise into emotional release into documentary record. For Busa, the journal seems to have been both “barf bag” and serious business from the start, which accounts for such anomalies as his references to Shanley as “that faggot” or “that fucking faggot” in entries for days when he admittedly had no memories of sexual abuse but was making notes for himself and his lawyer that would later form the basis of his legal complaints.

It was February 11, 2002, when he was first told that Gregory Ford had recovered his memories, but Busa backdated his journal to February 1, the day after he discovered that the Globe considered Shanley a dirty pervert. Thus in one of the earliest entries, Busa writes, “Still no memories.” A few days later: “Remembered Shanley used to pull me out of class to talk all the time.” The next day: “Remembered Shanley leading me to the bathroom. Starting to get sketched out.” As he explained in a civil deposition, by the 9th of February he was “getting weirded out”, but this was retrospective, since it would not be until two days later that he “heard Greg was coming out [as a victim], tidal wave”. To that last entry he appended an exact time, 1300 Mountain Time. It was the wrong time, since his girlfriend didn’t telephone him until about 1500: a simple misremembering, the assistant DA said at trial; he was writing fast, and he was upset.

On the witness stand Busa gave a performance of pain and rage, remembering exactly how Father Shanley had defiled him. It’s possible that he told himself, his lawyer, his journal and various therapists those stories so many times that they had become true for him. But some things that he had earlier remembered for purposes of the prosecution’s indictment he forgot by the time he reached the stand. Since, as Judge Stephen Neel himself instructed members of the jury, nothing presented in court corroborated the accuser’s central claims, it was short work to drop the counts that had hinged on those previous memories and just go forward with the ones that remained.

There never was any other evidence on which to hang the case. No physical evidence: Busa, too, would have been 6 years old when the weekly rape and abuse began, but no one noticed anything wrong with him. None of the many people who were in the church every Sunday before mass, when these crimes were supposedly committed, including Gregory Ford’s mother, who taught one of the classes and said in a deposition that she never noticed a thing. No one saw Busa alone with the defendant. None of the teachers who were called to testify supported his claim that he was regularly plucked from class by Shanley, or that he was sent out to see the priest because of bad behavior. In fact, they contradicted Busa’s claims.

It hadn’t mattered to the jury members, who apparently bought the prosecutor’s argument that people remember what is important to them, and sending a bad kid to see the priest over and over again just wasn’t important to those teachers. The absence of corroborating evidence didn’t matter to the Supreme Judicial Court either. Not that Shanley’s appellate attorney, Robert Shaw Jr., had asked the high court to review to that level of detail. But it is reflective of the general shoddy nature of the high court’s ruling that it opens its description of the case with a falsehood. It states that among the prosecution’s witnesses were “individuals who could corroborate that the victim…occasionally left those [religious education] classes for behavioral reasons.” No such corroboration was given at trial.

So the ruling begins dishonestly and never deviates. The crux of Shaw’s argument was that the belief in repressed memory, by whatever name, is just that, an idea unsubstantiated by scientific research, an unproven hypothesis, and therefore inadmissible in court. He argued that Shanley had ineffective counsel because his trial lawyer, Frank Mondano, had not rigorously challenged the basis of the prosecution’s case, had presented the trial judge with no countervailing data or expert opinion on which to assess the testimony of the prosecution’s expert witnesses and make a reasoned judgment as to the admissibility of Busa’s “memories”.

Shaw was not asking the court to divine Busa's veracity or even to determine that the hypothesis of repressed memory is, finally, true or false. That, he asserted, is the function of scientific research. But, as amply demonstrated in voluminous material he presented to the court, the research now available shows that there is nothing beyond faith to support the hypothesis of massive repression.

Almost fifty years of research on memory and trauma, involving 120 studies and more than 14,000 people with documented experiences of rape, sexual abuse, torture, death camps, war or other horrors, reveals no evidence of repressed memory—that is, an inability to remember that cannot be explained by ordinary forgetting, infantile amnesia, intoxication or brain injury. People may forget certain details of Nazi cruelty, but they don’t forget they were in Auschwitz, and don’t exist for years in a la-la land of neutral thoughts about the place until one day a tidal wave of memory hits them. They may not remember every child they killed, every village they destroyed or every gaping wound of a buddy bleeding out, but they don’t forget they were in a hell called Vietnam or Iraq or Afghanistan. They may not remember every unwanted touch or traumatic visitation by Uncle Harry, but there is not a shred of support for the idea that somehow repeated sexual trauma is different from torture, war, death camps such that it completely alters the process by which the mind creates and stores memory; that only sex can be so damaging as to reverse the process by which humans learn and have learned for millennia. The only circumstances under which childhood sexual abuse past the age of 4 has been demonstrably forgotten and re-remembered, according to Richard McNally, a research psychologist at Harvard who has conducted numerous experiments on the relationship between memory and trauma, is if the abuse was not first experienced as traumatic. That cannot apply to Busa, who claimed rape.

As dozens of pre-eminent social science researchers stated in an amicus brief, “Decades of research and scientific debate have clarified over and over again that the notion of traumatic events being somehow ‘repressed’ and later accurately recovered is one of the most pernicious bits of folklore ever to infect psychology and psychiatry.”

It was on that basis that Shaw challenged Shanley’s conviction, and since no Massachusetts court had ever fully considered the scientific, evidentiary basis for repressed memory, he and Shanley and his family had every reason to hope that when the Supreme Judicial Court agreed to hear the appeal last year, it did so with a serious intent to review the research and join numerous other courts in the land of rationality.

Contrary to what the court ultimately ruled, repressed memory is not “generally accepted in the relevant scientific community”. Nor is it generally accepted by courts, though it once was. From 1992-94, 354 lawsuits based on repressed memory were filed in US civil and criminal courts. From 2000-04, there were twenty. One of the reasons for the drop off was a 1993 Supreme Court decision, in Daubert v. Merrel Dow Pharmaceuticals, which held that scientific expert testimony must be both relevant and reliable to be admissible. A second decision, in 1999, extended the ruling to all expert testimony in federal courts. Since the mid-90s, many states have adopted similar standards, and judges have been dismissing cases or overturning convictions based on repressed memories, often after pretrial hearings featuring legal-scientific teams. R. Christopher Barden, a lawyer, psychiatrist and major proponent of the science-intensive approach, successfully led a team of five full-time defense lawyers and seven national experts in a monthlong landmark Daubert hearing in Rhode Island in 1999. He has litigated many such hearings in many jurisdictions across the country and has won them all, driving a stake through prosecutors’ use of this junk science to ruin people’s lives.

But faith and politics are powerful things, particularly in a place like Massachusetts, where the ground was laid by self-described feminists and therapists back in the 1970s for airy but wildly destructive notions that unremembered childhood sexual abuse, sometimes involving Satanic ritual, was epidemic, that numerous adult psychological problems or anxieties or even characteristics like lack of self-confidence could be attributed to it, that the magic bag of therapy could coax the memories into the light and thus bring “healing”, often in tandem with someone going to jail. Add that to the hysteria around the priest scandal and in particular around Shanley, whom the entire power structure and its servants had convicted before court action even commenced, and it required a stiff-spined panel of judges to bring sense to the situation.

The Supreme Judicial Court turned out to be spineless, a prisoner of media interest and public sentiment, however irrational. Middlesex County prosecutors had relied on two therapists prominent in the warped little world of Boston’s repressed memory promoters. Dr. Daniel Brown and Dr. James Chu. Brown had appeared as a certified expert in courtrooms for years, stating that the mind’s capacity for “massive repression” was generally accepted as demonstrable fact in the psychological professions. That was always false, and by 2004 many of the therapists whose work Brown recommended had been disgraced, stripped of their licenses and revealed as dangerous frauds in successful malpractice suits. Brown's own testimony had been rejected as unreliable by courts in New Hampshire and Rhode Island. In 2007 an Indiana court rejected his testimony as misleading, and a federal judge threw out a $1.75 million verdict in a case that hinged on Brown’s expertise.

Brown’s confederate, Chu, had connections to the International Society for the Study of Dissociation, an organization peppered with believers in Satanic conspiracies, over which he once presided and whose journal he was editing at the time of Shanley’s trial. Formerly known as the International Society for the Study of Multiple Personality and Dissociation, it was co-founded by Bennet Braun, one of Chu’s mentors. Braun ran the country’s first dissociative disorder clinical unit and promoted belief in Satanic ritual abuse, also in a cult involving, among others, the Klan, the US military, the Mafia and FTD Florists. His career ended with a $10.6 million settlement of a lawsuit brought by a patient who had come to believe in therapy that she was a Satanic priestess.

In his appeal to the high court Shaw did not fault Judge Neel for his pretrial ruling on the admissibility of repressed memory. In that hearing Shanley’s trial lawyer offered nothing that would have enlightened the judge, not a single witness or study to rebut the prosecution’s so-called expert witness. He merely huffed and puffed cross-examining Brown, and himself called up Chu—just to clarify a few matters. The high court decided that extended cross-examination, however ignorant, was enough to provide Neel with the full scope of the debate on the reliability and general scientific acceptance of repressed memory.

Truth be told, Neel had punted the memory question to the jury. The jury had punted it back, relying on the wisdom of judge, prosecution and its trial expert, Chu. The high court merely punted again, saying there’s no reason to believe that a fuller presentation of the research and opinion of the scientific community would have changed anyone’s mind. Perhaps that is an accurate reading of Massachusetts temperament. The long knives were drawn for Shanley by everyone, including the shameful remnant of the gay movement, immune to fact or reason.

But the high court’s job is not to hew to popular prejudice. Its members can’t simply say, “Look, no one wanted to free the faggot, and neither do we.” So it made a charade of ruling, mischaracterizing the appellate argument for its own ends.

It discussed the issue of repressed memory almost entirely with reference to the evidence at the pretrial hearing, as if the judge’s action there were the focus of the appeal. It stated that Shaw challenged repressed memory on grounds that there is no peer-reviewed literature and that scientific study is not possible. Those “arguments” appear nowhere in his submissions. In fact, the material before the court emphasized methodologically sound prospective studies that contradict the notion of repressed memory, and in an affidavit Dr. Harrison Pope, an internationally recognized psychiatrist, scholar and expert on research methodology, spelled out a valid method for testing agreed upon by the scientific community.

The court accepted at face value Daniel Brown’s claims for the eighty-five studies he brandished to support his opinions. It accepted patient self-diagnosis and therapists’ reports, upon which Chu had relied, as scientific evidence of how the brain works. It did not trouble itself to grapple with Pope’s affidavit, which analyzed in scrupulous detail the body of studies upon which Brown had relied: the flawed research (without controls or error rates, with faulty methodology, with subjects who report abuse in infancy and therefore would not remember because of normal infantile amnesia, with subjects who suffered brain injury along with trauma, etc.), or flawed conclusions from studies. It ignored the record of chicanery piled up by the authors of some of those studies, as spelled out in Chris Barden’s scathing affidavit, as well as the recent history of other court rulings rejecting Brown’s testimony.

In fact, the court offered no analysis whatsoever of the impressive documentary material that Shaw provided, none of which had been available to the trial court. “In sum”, it ruled, “the judge's [Neel’s] finding that the lack of scientific testing did not make unreliable the theory that an individual may experience dissociative amnesia was supported in the record” that had been placed before him.

Who are we to “second guess the judge or reach a different conclusion”, the justices postured in a footnote right near the end, and then, as if aware of their titanic bad faith, added in that same footnote:

The defendant does not challenge on appeal the sufficiency of the evidence. We do not consider whether there could be circumstances where testimony based on the repressed or recovered memory of a victim, standing alone, would not be sufficient as a matter of law to support a conviction.

As Robert Shaw told me later,

“How could they possibly say that this appeal, focused upon the fact that repressed memory is invalid and unreliable and the only basis for conviction, does not deserve to receive such consideration? They are doing so because the argument was not labeled as a ‘sufficiency of the evidence’ argument. This harkens back to the days … where labels used could be decisive to outcome, tossing aside the principle that the purpose of legal submissions is to facilitate a proper decision on the merits those submissions make apparent.

“What the Court is doing here is really offensive in that the Court is no doubt aware that in sexual assault cases involving the testimony of an accuser, the legal system in this Commonwealth does not require corroboration of the accusation before such accusations can be considered legally sufficient.… Sexual assault cases are tried every single day in this Commonwealth wherein the only evidence of the alleged crimes is the testimony of the accuser concerning the accuser’s memories of the alleged crimes. It is precisely for this reason that the relevant question in this case concerns the validity of clothing memories as ‘repressed memory’ with expert testimony, and therefore the reliability of ‘repressed memory’ when admitted as evidence in a court of law.

“When the government presented testimony of the victim as repressed and recovered memories by mixing it with expert testimony on the subject, it made this a repressed memory case. Much like pouring blue die in a bucket of water, the result is blue water. If blue water in unacceptable, then the water must be thrown out. Essentially what the Court is saying is that ‘You challenged the blueness, not blue water.’”

Back in 2002 virtually the entire media swallowed the story of Shanley’s monstrosity as presented by personal injury lawyer MacLeish. They then regurgitated it back to a gullible and easily lead public. Political ideology offered no buffer from this dangerous nonsense, as so-called leftists abandoned any interest in justice or reason, blinkered simply by disdain for religion and the Catholic Church. Homophobes and the homosexual establishment were as one against Shanley, repeating MacLeish’s lie that he was a founder of NAMBLA, that he had a long history of documented sexual abuse, that he had been moved from parish to parish because of this, that because he’d had sex with young men he must be a child rapist. The Boston Globe, a disgraceful paper that, like Martha Coakley, deserves every blow it has recently suffered and would best disappear from the scene, didn’t care that its reporters either never reviewed the entire documentary record about Shanley or willfully misrepresented it.

In late 2004, shortly before his trial the next year, Coakley’s office offered Shanley a deal: plead guilty to one minor charge and receive sentence of time served, plus two and a half years’ house arrest. Shanley declined. “I’m 74 years old”, he told me from prison after he was convicted; “why would I take a deal?” But “can you imagine”, he added, “here I am, the worst monster, a danger to children everywhere, and they offer me time served? Seven months [the time he’d spent in jail awaiting bail]. But for refusing to lie, I got twelve to fifteen years.”

Still, Shanley hoped that if only people had the information… Now the Supreme Judicial Court joins the rest of the Massachusetts rogues’ gallery, demonstrating again that, in a match-up against prejudice, the truth will not necessarily set you free.

JoAnn Wypijewski has been reporting on the Shanley case since 2002, writing about it for Legal Affairs as well as The Nation and CounterPunch. She can be reached at
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