False Memory Syndrome Foundation

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False Memory Syndrome Foundation

The False Memory Syndrome Foundation was founded in 1992 in response to the large number of reports by people that they had under hypnosis, dream revelry, or other related therapeutic technique have remembered experiences that in normal waking consciousness had previously been forgotten. These experiences were of such a traumatic nature that seem-ingly, one would not only remember them, but be unable to forget them. However, hundreds of patients were reporting incidents of childhood sexual abuse, participation in Satanic rituals, abductions aboard UFOs, and subjection to intimate and painful medical examinations, the memories of which were completely lost until some later date, often years or even decades later.

Those therapists who believed such accounts to be true also believed that traumatic experiences were frequently repressed immediately after their occurrence. The memories of these events would resurface at a later time through a variety of physical and mental symptoms that collectively became known as the survivor syndrome, or due to the frequent connection of the symptoms with a girl's memory of abuse by a father or other male relative, Incest Survivor Syndrome (ISS). Those afflicted with ISS were led to therapists who specialized in recovered memory therapy (RMT) that included a variety of techniques designed to bring forth the repressed memory. RMT rose to prominence in the late 1980s as it came to be associated with several widely publicized court cases, especially the McMartin Dayschool Case.

At the same time, therapists were witnesses to parents whose lives were being disrupted by the sudden accusation of their now adult children of abuse and involvement in Satanic ritual abuse, usually several decades in the past. Suddenly, seemingly happy families were torn apart by accusations of parental abuse and in some cases, the parents were arrested and tried on the basis of an offspring's supposed recovered memory.

In 1992, a group of families and therapists in the Philadelphia and Baltimore area created the False Memory Syndrome Foundation to document and study the phenomenon. The foundation emerged out of previously existing parent support groups that had formed in many cities. Soon after it formed, a network of parents and therapists formed across North America. Elizabeth Loftus, a psychologist at the University of Washington and specialist in the study of memory emerged as the most vocal defender of accused parents and exponent of the reality of the false memory syndrome. False memory syndrome suggests that during the attempt to recover memories, fantasies are misperceived by the patient who, through misguided therapy, comes to believe the fantasies are accurate memories.

Through the 1990s, the work of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation has been largely successful, and the tide of belief in repressed memory that includes both belief in UFOabductions and Satanic ritual abuse have been discredited, though strong pockets of belief in both remain. Several psychologists who supported belief in repressed memory have been successfully sued by former patients and at least two psychologists known for their work with abductees, Elizabeth Fiore and Richard Boylan, have been forced to give up their licenses. During the years of the foundation's existence, court cases have moved from a focus upon parents who reputedly abused their children to therapists, whose use of RMT, abused their patients. Recognition of Loftus' contribution came with her recent election as president of the American Psychological Association.

The foundation is located at 3401 Market St., Ste. 130, Philadelphia, PA 19104. It has an Internet site at http://www.fmsfonline.org/.


False Memory Syndrome Foundation. http://www.fmsfonline.org/. May 16, 2000.

Loftus, Elizabeth and Katherine Ketchum. The Myth of Repressed Memories: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996.

Ross, Colin. Satanic Ritual Abuse: Principles of Treatment. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995.