Who are the accused?
The FMS Foundation was formed because families that had been accused solely on the basis of claims of recovered repressed-memories of sexual abuse were looking for help and explanations from professionals. The FMSF Newsletters section From Our Readers is filled with stories, thoughts, and suggestions from accused families. It was always the first place that most families looked when they received the Newsletter. We suggest that readers browse the Newsletter Archives on this site to learn how other families have coped.
In Victims of Memory, Mark Pendergrast describes many accused families. He has posted an excerpt on his website that may be of interest. Victims of Memory
How can I reach my child?
Perhaps the most frequent question of all from parents is "What can I do to reach my child?" When possible, FMSF Advisors have said, families should try to maintain contact in non-confrontational ways. Cards or letters or phone calls may keep the family in touch when personal contact is cut off. Postcards with messages of love are effective because no envelope needs to be opened for the message to be seen. Sometimes, unfortunately, the best that can be done is to rely on other family members or a family doctor or pastor to stay in touch with the accuser.
Finding ways to maintain contact is a challenge. A retractor recently told us she thought her parents didn’t care about her because they didn’t make every effort to stay in touch. Then she remembered that she had threatened to sue them if they did contact her! People who once seemed logical put away their logic when caught in the FMS belief system.
Parents often ask if they should send their children information about memory or FMS. Because most accusers have closed their minds on the topic of the accusations, this otherwise valuable information is likely to fall on deaf ears. Although there may be long-term benefits to sending information about memory or FMS, it is likely to be perceived as threatening and, therefore, may contribute to added stress in the short term. However, the many examples of families in which contact has been resumed provide us with reason to maintain hope.
We are now talking to each other on the phone weekly. We try when talking to have only good feelings, which is not hard because we love her very much, and we are happy to keep the lines of communication open. Neither of us speaks of the conflict we have gone through. When my husband and I talk it over later we know, of course, that nothing has really been solved, but I do not expect it to change, at least in the near future...I realize that this may not work for some families but in our case it is the only thing we feel that we can do.
Should I be concerned about legal action?
Child abuse is a criminal offense. Anyone who has been accused of a crime should consult a lawyer.
In the past it was not uncommon for families to contact the Foundation to say that they were being sued. Starting in 1994, the number of such calls began to decrease. As of 2014, the Foundation is aware of only a handful of suits against parents each year.
As Courts learned about the malleable nature of memory and the unreliable nature of claims of recovered memories, they began to change the manner in which recovered memory claims were handled. For example, some courts agreed to hold special pre-trial hearings on the scientific status of repressed memories. Such hearings represented an important advance in judicial understanding and practice, because they often result in exclusion of testimony about repression and recovered recollections. Of equal importance, other courts began to insist on verifiable evidence of the alleged wrongdoing.
(See Legal Section for more information.)
Can a mental health professional help?
This is a personal question that we cannot answer. Some families say they were helped enormously, others did not seek help. Most agree that finding a way to become proactive helped them rise above all the negative emotions resulting from the accusations.
Although we cannot answer the question of whether an individual should seek professional help, there is information about what to look for in seeking mental health help.
(See Therapy section for more information.)
What have other families done?
Families have told us that articles below from past FMSF Newsletters have helped them cope with this terrible situation.
Suggestions for Accused Parents: A Proposal and an Analysis
August Piper, Jr. (1994). FMSF Newsletter, 1994, Vol. 3, No. 5
Thoughts and Observations from the Father of a Retractor
Saul Wasserman (1997). FMSF Newsletter, Vol. 6, No. 8
A Way to Help Someone Who Believes in the Irrational
August Piper, Jr. (1996). FMSF Newsletter, Vol. 5, No. 9
Alan Feld (1999). FMSF Newsletter, Vol. 9, No 1.
Last Updated: April 9, 2014
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