Are False Memory Organizations Unintentionally Covering Up Sexual Abuse?
By: Shawn Alli
Posted: March 27, 2015
*All individuals and organizations receive 3 full days of pre-publication notice.
The question of false memories and sexual abuse is a touchy subject to many. It's a place where common conversation stays clear of; where mainstream scientists are divided and courts unsure of how to rule due to the grey area of recovering "factual memories."
But necessity draws the conversation closer to home. In the United Kingdom (UK), sexual abuse cases are coming out of the shadows left and right with Jimmy Savile, and the North Wales and Elm Guest House scandal.
If India is the rape capital of the world, then the UK is the pedophile capital of the world (aside from Hollywood). It's almost as if child sexual abuse is part of the very foundation of high British society.
While such a claim may sound extraordinary, the proof is in the pudding. In 2015 many individuals and organizations speak out against the Savile pedophile scandal. But prior to scandal, the picture is very different.
Upon hearing Savile's death, only thundering praise of his character graces the press:
Broadcaster Tony Blackburn:
I've never known anyone quite like him. He was a blunt speaking northerner, but also kind and very respectful. 
Kind and respectful? Only to have access to his victims.
Fellow Disc Jockey Dave Lee Travis:
We are all going to be worse off without him around. 
You can say that again. Because in death, Savile gets away with everything. The world is worse off due to the incompetence and intentional acts of various parties in letting Savile get away with his crimes against humanity.
Fellow Disc Jockey Nicky Campbell:
Sir Jimmy Savile-a man so unique, a character so extraordinary, a personality so fascinating yet impenetrable. You could not have made him up. 
There's nothing fascinating about pedophiles.
Fellow Disc Jockey Paul Burnett:
He didn't have a family as such and so when he took on a charity, that became his family...He did a lot of work as a porter in the hospital that he collected money for. He would go there at night and work as a porter and I think he loved the people that he worked with, it wasn't just for the publicity, but he knew the charities were doing well out of it as well...He was capable of acts of great kindness. You didn't really ever get to know "the man" because he was a showman, and like so many showmen that's - that's their main thing in life and he did it brilliantly. 
Savile is a brilliant showman, no doubt about that, but for the purpose of pedophilia.
Baron Alan Michael Sugar:
Sad news on the death of Jimmy Savile very funny man and did loads of work for charity RIP. 
I doubt that his countless victims see him as funny.
Jeremy Hunt (UK MP, now Secretary of State for Health):
Sir Jimmy Savile was one of broadcasting's most unique and colourful characters. From Top Of The Pops, to making children's dreams come true on Jim'll Fix It, a generation of people will remember his catchphrases and sense of fun...But his lasting legacy will be the millions he raised for charity, tirelessly giving up his time and energy to help those causes he was passionate about. 
Making children's dreams come true? Only at the expense of his other victims.
Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust Spokesperson:
He was tireless in his attempts to fundraise for the hospital and was integral in the creation of the National Spinal Injuries Centre that we have today. Sir Jimmy will be sorely missed by staff and patients alike. 
He'll be missed by patients because he doesn't face any justice for his crimes.
Baron John Leslie Prescott (former UK Deputy Prime Minister, now an advisor to Labour Party Leader Ed Milliband):
Sad to hear of Jimmy Savile's death. Tireless fundraiser and a real character. 
Unfortunately, the analysis is false. Savile doesn't have real character, only one for show. I would question Prescott's ability to judge ones character, especially now that he's an advisor to the Labour Party Leader.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are saddened to hear of Jimmy Savile's death and their thoughts are with his family at this time. 
I look forward to future investigations to uncover Savile's accomplices in high British society. This type of double-speak applies to false memory organizations such as the British False Memory Society (BFMS) and the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF). On the surface their statements are politically correct; but in the past it's a different story.
The BFMS and FMSF exist as advocate organizations for individuals who accuse parents or teachers of past sexual abuse.
And yes, many individuals falsely accuse their perpetrators for various reasons; and yes, therapists are quite capable of "leading" a patient to recover false memories. In those respects, such organizations definitely have merit. Early psychologists/therapists do a great disservice to their patients by suggesting that most of their problems are due to repressed child abuse memories.
But in respect to actual sexual abuse by teachers, peers or parents, these organizations are blurring the lines of scientific knowledge and destroying the credibility of real sexual abuse victims.
In a December 2003 BFMS newsletter, they give space to Claire Fox, the Director of Institute of Ideas (a "libertarian think tank"), to argue against transparency protocols for the Catholic Church:
Look at today's "abuse aware" Catholic Church. Parish priests and bishops, the traditional embodiment of authority, now look rather pathetic, ridiculed as perverts or protectors of abusers. But in their place, an army of counsellors and therapists are engaged in training and supervising relationships within the church. Armies of abuse consultants hire themselves out to seminaries where they deliver lectures on see-through confessionals and preach at priests who are told to repeat mantra such as the new orthodoxies of "inappropriate behaviour". "Don't hug first communicants", "never meet a grieving widow alone". This is the new "behaviourally correct" catechism for our times. Those who elect to become priests or nuns now have to endure the humiliation of being interrogated by therapists charged with analyzing their sexual orientation...
...The increased preoccupation with child abuse is often bound up with a growing suspicion of those in authority per se, a new deference towards self-proclaimed victims and their therapeutic advocates and a climate of mistrust in which we are all either potential victims or abusers. We must wage an intellectual war against these trends if we are to ensure that false allegations do not continue to be a hidden injustice and if real justice is ever to be done. 
A war against greater scrutiny and transparency protocols for an institution that practices and covers up sexual abuse?
In an email request for comment I ask Fox:
1. Do you still stand by such claims?
She doesn't respond.
In 2002 former Chairman of Psychiatry of Johns Hopkins University Dr. Paul R. McHugh becomes a member of the National Review Board (the Catholic Church's response to the scandal).
The problem is that Dr. McHugh is then (and still) a member of the FMSF (since April 1992 ).   McHugh doesn't believe that repressed memories or multiple personality disorder are legitimate disorders.  Even more controversial are his claims about transgender individuals in a 2014 Wall Street Journal Op-Ed:
Yet policy makers and the media are doing no favors either to the public or to the transgendered by treating their confusions as a right in need of defending rather than as a mental disorder that deserves understanding, treatment and prevention. 
This sounds eerily familiar to psychiatrists past claims of labeling homosexuality as a mental disorder in their Diagnostic Statistics Manual.  I believe that McHugh wants to claim homosexuality as a mental disorder but can't due to social and political pressure.
In an email request for comment I contact numerous LGBTQ organizations and ask them what they think of Dr. Hugh's comment.
GLAAD, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center (The Center), the National LGBT Task Force, and Egale Canada Human Rights Trust doesn't respond.
But the FMSF has more problems than McHugh's statements. They have to deal with the allegation that two of their members support pedophilia.
Dr. Ralph Underwager (deceased) and Hollida Wakefield (Underwager's wife, a practicing psychiatrist and still a member of the FMSF), gives an interview to Paidika, The Journal of Paedophilia in 1990. The journal publishes an article in 1993 where Underwager and Wakefield claim that pedophilia is normal and god's will.  Underwager and Wakefield issue a 14 page explanation that claims their comments are taken "out of context" and "misinterpreted." 
In their explanation they state:
Our position is that sexual contact between an adult and a child can never be positive but can only be from neutral to destructive. 
Umm...neutral? In an email request for comment I ask Wakefield:
1. How can sexual contact between an adult and child be neutral?
"I am talking about the long-term emotional damage.
I believe that because of the age difference it can not include the intimacy needed in a positive sexual relationship but research shows that it doesn't always result in serious long-term psychological and emotional damage."
Umm...I don't know what to say to that...so I'll leave it at that.
But my eyebrows continue to climb higher in shock as I read Underwager and Wakefield's explanation further:
Pedophiles have the right to make the claim that they love children. However, they are personally responsible for their behavior and they must accept the consequences. They should be courageous and speak up, telling us what they believe to be true about themselves and children. It is our responsibility and our opportunity to listen to them, try to understand them, carry on a reasoned and balanced discussion, and seek to find ways for them to understand our concerns and our perceptions. 
This sounds like a justification for pedophiles to fight for the rights that the homosexual community now have (in Western-European society).
The embarrassment is too much for the FMSF and Underwager resigns from the board in July 1993.  While this is a significant embarrassment to the FMSF, in their May 1992 newsletter they have trouble defining what the term "pedophile" means:
Our definition of "pedophile" a few weeks ago was simplistic. Until recently, the term was reserved for psychological or psychiatric diagnoses and in that context it has an extensive technical definition. In recent year, however, the press has begun to use the word as synonymous with "child abuse." For a complete technical definition, you should consult the DSM-III-R. In general, for most of us it will suffice to keep in mind that the word is a diagnostic term and not a legal one. As for any word with the breadth of definition changing, we need to keep in mind the context it is used in order to understand its meaning. 
The context which it's used? What? In an email request for comment I ask the FMSF:
1. What is your current definition of the term "pedophile?"
They don't respond.
Because of the Underwager scandal, I believe that the FMSF is intentionally downplaying his role in the creation of the FMSF by only mentioning him and his efforts briefly on their website:
The Philadelphia group learned about the Dallas group from Hollida Wakefield M.A. and Ralph Underwager, Ph.D. at the Institute for Psychological Therapies...
At the same time, a group of nine families in the Midwest had also found each other though the now defunct Cult Awareness Network. Underwager and Wakefield also put them in touch with the Philadelphia group. 
However, in another May 1992 newsletter, they describe Underwager and Wakefield's efforts in a different light:
There are not words enough [sic] to thank Holly Wakefield and Ralph Underwager at the Institute of Psychological Therapies for the loving professional support that they have given to the FMS Foundation to help us become an independent organization. We would not exist without them. 
One notable surprise on the FMSF's board is James Randi's name. In an email request for comment I ask Randi:
1. Why are you a member of the Scientific and Professional Advisory Board of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation?
He doesn't respond.
The current poster child for the FMSF is Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, a member of the board since 1992.  In an email request for comment I ask her:
1. Do you believe that some repressed memories are a real phenomenon (not a false memory)?
2. Do you believe that multiple personality disorder (now dissociative identity disorder), is a legitimate mental disorder?
3. Do you believe that homosexuality or transgender is a mental disorder?
4. Do you believe that bad parenting (teaching children to be obedient to authoritative figures) is a contributing factor for them to potentially develop false memories?
Loftus is the only one kind enough to respond:
1. "People can not think about things for a long time and be reminded of them. that's ordinary forgetting and remembering. i know of know [sic] credible scientific support for massive repression."
2. "it's a condition. it's a diagnosis. question is how people got that way. was it from childhood trauma? or suggestions from therapists and others."
4. "i have no information on this."
The reason why I ask Question # 4 is because early on in the FMSF newsletters, readers wonder why their highly educated adult children (who are accusing them of sexual abuse), are suggestible to psychotherapy. It's a mystery to me as well, hence the question of whether the obedient authoritative archetype plays a contributing role.
Switching continents, the poster child for the UK's BFMS is psychology professor Chris French of Goldsmiths, University of London, and regular columnist for the Guardian. I must admit, many of his articles are quite good in describing the media bias toward parents wrongly accused of sexual abuse by their adult children.  The problem is that he stretches the truth:
It follows that not only can memories of events that we actually did witness become distorted but the mind is even capable of generating apparent memories for entire episodes that never took place at all. These are what is referred to in the scientific literature as "false memories". Such memories can range from everyday, harmless examples (Did I lock the back door or just think about locking the back door?) through to extremely damaging examples of "recovered" memories of childhood abuse or even ritualised Satanic abuse, taking in along the way bizarre false memories of alien abduction and past lives. 
Going from locking the door to satanic abuse and past lives is a disingenuous association of false memories. The dangerous assumption is that satanic abuse or past lives doesn't exist. While the latter is generally unfalsifiable, the former isn't as unrealistic as it seems.
In an email request for comment I ask French the same questions that I ask of Loftus.
He doesn't respond.
French's November 2014 article in the Guardian, "Satanic child abuse claims are almost certainly based on false memories," definitely discredits sexual abuse victims. It's as if false memory organizations are saying: You can claim sexual abuse, but if you mention anything satanic then it's garbage.
Think of that from a perpetrators standpoint. Knowing that mainstream scientists will support the idea that it's nonsense and all of the evidence rests on a horrible video file, a perpetrator would be able to get away with occult rituals.
But it's important to draw a distinction between Anton Lavey's Satanism and Aleister Crowley's occultism. They're worlds apart, with the latter being much worse.
If French, the BFMS or the FMSF have difficulty believing in satanic sexual abuse they merely need to research Crowley occultism and the fringe followers it has.
But I don't recommend this type of research to the global general public or to journalists. Crowley occultism is quite dark and beyond disturbing.
One tactic that the FMSF uses to discredit satanic/occult ritual abuse is to refer to former FBI Supervisory Special Agent Kenneth V. Lanning's 1991 and 1992 publications, "Ritual Abuse: A Law Enforcement View or Perspective" Child Abuse and Neglect and Investigators guide to allegations of ritual child abuse. Behavioral Science Unit & National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime.   
My problem with this tactic is that they ignore Ted Gunderson's work. Ted Gunderson (deceased) is the former Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles FBI Division. After he retires he focuses on satanic cults, government drug smuggling and MKULTRA (Please see MKULTRA pdf1 & pdf2).
Oddly enough, the FMSF has a stronger mainstream presence then Gunderson. I'm only able to find a handful of mainstream media (MM) articles that mention him (including one on his death).    Yet, there are numerous videos of his work available on YouTube.       I believe that MM outlets intentionally ignore his legacy because he focuses on such issues.
In an email request for comment I ask the FMSF:
6. Why is their little or no mention of former Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles FBI Division Ted Gunderson in your newsletters?
They don't respond.
I also ask them the same four questions I ask of Loftus and French.
They don't respond.
In September 2009 Paul R. Shanley (a convicted pedophile priest), tries to use the BFMS and FMSF theory of repressed/false memories to overturn his conviction.  The FMSF and 100 scientists file amicus curiae in defense of Shanley.   Luckily, the Massachusetts State Supreme Court ignores it and upholds Shanley's conviction in January 2010. 
The FMSF deals with criticism of its organization by attacking the credibility of their critics and issuing disingenuous statements. In their Spring 2011 newsletter they say:
The people who founded the FMSF had no connection with the McMartin trial. Is she [Dr. Faye Snyder] referring to members of the FMSF Advisory Board? They did not start the Foundation nor are they principles, although they are "principled" and experts in issues of memory. 
The statement is disingenuous because of a past description in their December 1993 newsletter:
It is the presence of the Advisory Board that has given our efforts credibility. 
Without the board, the FMSF would likely operate as a small community support group. The board plays a significant role in catapulting the FMSF into the mainstream consciousness.
Finally, it's important to show the hypocrisy of the BFMS' position on false memories. In an email request for comment I ask French to consider a hypothetical scenario:
Let's say that, a few years prior to his death, a victim publicly accuses Jimmy Savile of rape. In one of your articles you state:
Donald Thomson, an Australian psychologist, was bewildered when the police informed him that he was a suspect in a rape case, his description matching almost exactly that provided by the victim. Fortunately for Thomson, he had a watertight alibi. At the time of the rape, he was taking part in a live TV interview - ironically, on the fallibility of eyewitness testimony. It turned out that the victim had been watching Thomson on TV just before the rape occurred and had confused her memory of him with that of the rapist. 
With his strong TV image and sensational popularity, would you claim that the victim is creating a false memory of Savile's TV image? And let's say that all of the evidence rests on the memory of the eye witness.
1. In this hypothetical scenario would you claim that this is a case of false memory?
He doesn't respond.
While false memory organizations may not be covering up sexual abuse intentionally, they're definitely destroying the credibility of sexual abuse victims.
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