FMSF NEWSLETTER ARCHIVE - July 21, 1992 - Vol. 1, No. 7, HTML version

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3508 Market Street suite 128,  Philadelphia, PA 19104,  (215-387-1865)

This address and the phone numbers have changed as of July 15, 2000

Dear Friends,

  People seem intrigued with the name False Memory Syndrome
Foundation. We get all sorts of questions about it. Last week when we
took some packets to the Post Office, a clerk asked, "What do you do
to belong to your club? Forget things? I'm always forgetting things."
  "Why yes," I replied, "it is about remembering and forgetting." 

  There has been no summer lull in the FMS Foundation office. Indeed,
the pace of the phone calls keeps increasing as does our understanding
of the scope and the nature of the phenomenon of the incest recovery
movement. A year ago we knew no other family in this situation. Today
we know more than 650 families with remarkably similar stories.
  One year ago, there seemed a veritable wall against even mentioning
the possibility of error in an accusation of sexual abuse based on the
recovery of a repressed memory during therapy. This year there have
been articles in the Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Toronto
Star, Miami Herald, Utah County Journal, Cleveland Plain Dealer,
Kansas City Star and many other papers that discussed these issues. An
article about false memory syndrome is soon to appear in the Science
Section of the New York Times. False memory syndrome is now a subject
that can be discussed and examined.
  Just a few months ago, families were reluctant to be interviewed.
Last week several families appeared on WWOR news which was carried on
cable stations across the nation. On the date of this newsletter,
other families are appearing on the Sally Jessie Raphaeal show. When
the Kansas City Star carried a front page story about a daughter who
publicly accused her prominent 73-year old father (in a very
well-advertised presentation), he just as publicly denied the
allegations (in a forty-minute televised news conference). He took the
occasion to demanded an accounting from the community organization
that sponsored the presentation of her accusations.
  Together we have made a start in getting some people to question
their assumptions about the accuracy of long-repressed memories. Just
because a person recovers vivid memories of abuse by space aliens does
not mean that space aliens have invaded our planet. Just because
someone recovers vivid memories of past lives does not establish the
reality of such lives. Just because someone recovers memories of abuse
during some sort of therapy does not mean that it really
happened. There are explanations for why people have very clear
memories of things they may never have experienced. Memories are not
stored like pictures from a camera or like data in a computer. Human
memory is a creative process and memories are reconstructed and
  There is a vast amount to do to inform people about the nature of
memory. We are pleased to be able to tell you that we have received
funding to hold a national conference at which important issues of
repressed memory can be discussed by memory-researchers representing a
variety of perspectives. We hope that such a conference will help
clarify and focus attention on the horrendous situation in which we
find ourselves. We are rushing to plan this for the late fall for we
understand the desperate pressure of time only too well.

                      WHO CALLS THE FOUNDATION?

  The office phone rarely stops ringing. We currently have two
phones. The 800 number is set up to take a message when the phone is
in use. The other number will give a busy signal if we are talking on
the phone. We get an amazing variety of calls.

  ACCUSERS: We have started to receive calls from people who question
the motivations of the FMS Foundation. We have been told that we are
supporting "perps" (perpetrators), and that because of our
organization, women will be afraid to come forward with their stories
of abuse. We reply that we are documenting stories that people tell
us, that we have no way of verifying the stories, that people found
guilty of abuse should be held accountable for their actions, but that
the huge number of stories and the patterns that they show are indeed
raising questions in the minds of many people. We note that in the
stories we have been told, people entered therapy for a variety of
reasons that did not include "incest." There is no reason why our
organization would prevent people from continuing to do that.
  We remind the caller that we have accused no one of anything and
that it is our understanding that in the United States and Canada,
people who are accused have a right to tell their side of a story. We
are recording the stories of parents and grandparents and sisters and
brothers, not "perps." We ask if there is not great prejudgment in
their use of a term like "perp." It is not for us to judge the stories
but to keep an open mind and provide a forum for the fact that there
are two sides to the stories which hinge on the accuracy of memories
and the notion of "repression." We record and document stories of
survivors when they call.
  We have begun to get a trickle of calls from people who are accusers
but who are questioning their own therapy. In the past month we have
talked with several more women who have reconsidered their memories
and who have the courage and integrity to say that maybe they were not
accurate memories. These women have told us of tremendous pressure
they felt in therapy or therapy groups to get memories.

  "I thought I was being brave. I thought I was saving my family. I
thought if I didn't remember, I had a big chance of hurting my own
children. I lived in fear of what I might do if I didn't remember. I
was afraid because I didn't have any memories."
  Our hearts broke this week as we listened to a woman weeping that
she had killed her father with her accusations. We knew the gentle and
highly respected man who was her father. He told us that no one else
in the family believed his daughter whom he so loved and worried about
and whom he described as loving and kind before she went into
therapy. After several years of no contact, he finally had reason to
think that his daughter had begun to question her quite improbable
memories of abuse: she had left a phone message asking for
recommendations of different therapists to consult. He died before
they had a chance to talk.
   We welcome this daughter, with love and compassion. We will never
speak of her memories unless it is important to her. We have worried
from the beginning about the terrible burdens that will confront
children when they come back from their false memories. In the mission
statement of the Foundation the accused are called the secondary
victims of FMS. It is those with the false memories who are the
primary victims. They must live with the consequences of their actions
for the rest of their lives.
  It speaks of an illness in the mental health community that we could
even write this story. Although we have been told of at least a half
dozen fathers who died soon after the accusations, this is the first
time we have encountered something quite like this when the victim was
coming back from the false memories. It is truly heartbreaking.

  FAMILIES: We continue to document stories of families that are
devastated by accusations of incest and abuse by an adult child who
has recovered "memories" during some sort of therapy. Over and over
callers tell us that the accuser has cut off contact and that other
sisters, brothers and family members have no such horrible memories.
They tell us that the therapists and the accusing child have told them
they are "in denial," but callers insist that the abuse simply could
not have happened. "This is a hit and run attack," one parent
exclaimed. "This is not acceptable!"
  Information about lawsuits brought by accusing children against
parents is mounting. We are working on a separate study of these
cases. With the collaboration of families who are sharing their
experiences, we expect to have a story to tell soon. In addition, we
are preparing a special packet for lawyers and families involved in
legal actions which should be available by the end of summer.
  We receive many calls from desperate parents whose children have
been taken away from them and put in foster care because of an
accusation of abuse by someone. We also get calls from parents who
tell us that accusations have come as a result of divorce
proceedings. Although we document these calls, we do not include them
in our count of stories of adult children who make accusations based
on the claim of recovered "repressed memories" of long-past childhood
abuse. We refer these people to other organizations equipped to help
them. The San Diego Grand Jury has investigated these types of
accusations, and it has published several reports this year which we
urge every person to order. The reports are important not only because
of the system-abuse that is exposed but also because it helps to place
"repressed memories of abuse" in a broader context. 
( Call 619-236-2675 and ask for reports # 6 and # 8.)

  PROFESSIONALS: Approximately 40% of our calls now are from
professionals requesting information: lawyers, doctors, mental health
workers who tell us they question what is going on in their own
professions. This past week we received calls from administrators at
two universities who asked for information because they want to
examine the counseling services that are offered to their students.
We received a call from a "think tank" that advises insurance
companies. We have received inquiries from the Federal Trade
Commission and many state regulatory and law enforcement agencies. We
send whatever we have learned.
  We get calls from reporters just about every day. Some of these are
in response to our press release or to your letters to the media. Some
have heard about us in other ways. There are reporters across the
nation currently working on stories for papers and magazines.
Television producers also call for information. As families are
willing to appear, television coverage will follow. It is more
difficult to help producers as we try to match our goal of informing
the public about the nature of memory while providing dignity and
anonymity for people who have had their lives torn apart with the
media's craving for human drama. We do our best.
  There is nothing boring or routine about the phone calls to the FMS
Foundation office.

                          REPRESSED MEMORIES

  Some of our members have written that there is no such thing as
repressed memories. Unfortunately, the issue is not that simple. There
are some notions related to repression that are agreed upon and there
are others that are not. For most of us repression is terribly
  The theory of repression is one that has been fundamental to the
clinical practice of psychiatry. Clinicians do see patients who
recover memories. Once a patient recovers a memory, he or she believes
it. There are tremendous numbers of reports of recovered memories but
little is known about whether the self-reported memories are accurate.
  People observe things but often the scientific principle that
accounts for the observation is obscured or even counter to the
observation. Standing on Earth, the Sun is seen to move about the
Earth. There is no question that that is what one sees. In the last
few hundred years we have accepted a counter-intuitive interpretation
of the clear evidence of our eyes. Our experiences with earth-bound
bodies do not prepare us for the mechanics of the solar system but we
have learned that the apparent motion of the sun is, in fact, caused
by motion of the earth. Likewise what clinicians see in their work
with people who recover memories is certainly real but it does not
account for the memories themselves.
   The mental processes or the mechanisms of how a theory of
repression might work in the brain are far from clear and have been
and remain a subject of current interest and laboratory
research. There is general agreement that people do reject information
from awareness on a selective basis and that people tend to avoid
painful situations. There is also agreement that some mental
activities proceed without conscious awareness. Our minds, for
example, perform many functions automatically such as regulating our
breathing or interpreting sound patterns into meaningful
language. What is not agreed upon is how "smart" this level of mental
functioning actually is. The June, 1992 issue of the American
Psychologist, for example, has several articles on this issue. The
general feeling at this time is that there is no experimental evidence
of very "smart" unconscious processes.
  We have been asked to believe that the recovered memories of abuse
were repressed as a defense against the trauma of the horror and
betrayal in the abuse situation. We have been told that because the
abuser was more powerful and a person of trust, the child had to
repress the memories to accommodate to the situation -- to survive. We
ask in return why we have never heard stories of repressed memories
from survivors of the Holocaust? This is an acknowledged historical
event of almost unequaled horror that included rapes and torture. Why
no stories of repressed memories?
  We also ask how we should account for the fact that people have
recovered repressed memories of their trip through the birth canal,
abuse by space aliens, satanic ritual murders, and past lives. We feel
that these are fair questions to ask. They are all reported in the
literature and any theory of repression must account for them.

  We suspect that much fuel for the belief in the memories comes from
the conflicting and possibly inflated statistics about the actual
incidence of child sexual abuse. Hunches are reported as data.
Retrospective survey data are reported without being labeled as such.
  The past decade was a period during which a national priority was
implemented which dramatically increased the training and the number
of people with mandates to deal with child abuse. Simultaneously,
legal obligations fell to gate keepers (e.g., medical professionals,
educators, etc) to report any suspicions that they had on the abuse of
children. If those reports were ever proved to be unfounded there
would be no liability to the reporters. However, if they failed to
report, they potentially faced legal repercussions. It seems
reasonable to conclude that data collected during that period should
be reflective of the situation. How are we to make sense of the data
that we have?
  The National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse reports
that somewhere between 6% and 62% of women are molested before the age
of 18. They report that the molest rate of 1 out of 4 has become
accepted simply from being repeated so often. A range between 6% and
62% tells us that we do not have any reliable information on the
problem. (National Committee - add address)
  The Department of Health and Human Services Technical Amendment to
the Study....... ( ) seems to show that the correct estimate for
sexual abuse is 1.9 children per 1,000 children in the population
using the harm standard, and 2.1 children per 1,000 children in the
population using the endangerment standard found on pages 3 and 5,
i.e., 2 tenths of one percent of the population experiencing sexual
abuse per the 1980 definitions.
  A study released this year by the National Victim Center, Rape in
America, has data collected by telephone interview that indicate that
1 out of 8 women are raped during their lifetime. This study uses
strict definitions of rape.
  The most frequently cited figure is 1 out of 4 women molested before
the age of 18 but we have recently seen 1 out of 3 and even 1 out of 2
stated. Some of the discrepancy has to do with the different ways that
abuse and incest are defined. For example, in The Courage to Heal, the
reader is told that she has been sexually violated if "You had the
feeling your stepfather was aware of your physical presence every
minute of the day, no matter how quiet and unobtrusive you were."
(p.22). Accusations of incest now include emotional incest which we
have seen defined to include such events as any role reversal that
might have taken place in a family when a child took care of a sick
  Common sense tells us that there is something radically wrong with
the statistics on sexual abuse that are reported with such assurance
by the media. The discrepancies just do not make any sense -- even
considering differences in definitions. How can a reasonable person
reconcile rates of 2% with 25% or 50% or 62%. It doesn't make
sense. We do not question the fact that the statistics on child sexual
abuse were seriously under-reported in the past. They were. Given the
mandates of the last decade, however, it is difficult to believe that
data collected in a systematic and controlled manner by professionals
working with children should not be the more reliable data to consider
when reporting child abuse data. For the past decade everything has
been stacked in favor of over-reporting as a way of overlooking 
nothing. While still unacceptably high, the data of the Department of
Health and Human Services is in the single digit range.
  We ask that professionals with skills in these matters address this
matter. Irresponsible reporting of inflated rates of sexual abuse
contribute only to hysteria, not to addressing the problems.


  We will include survey forms in the August mailing to those who have
not yet received them. We apologize for mentioning the survey and then
not sending it. Please understand that in our wildest dreams, we
simply had no idea that so many families would contact us in such a
short time. We report this month on some information about the
children with false memory syndrome.

  We wondered if it might be easier to maintain the beliefs if
distance was involved. This appears not to be a factor. Looking at 120
surveys we found that
  54 lived in the same state
  15 lived in a bordering state
  46 lived in a distant state
   5 did not answer the question

  There seems to be no pattern as to whether accusing children are
single or married.
  53 were married
  47 were single
  15 were divorced
   5 did not answer

 N 127
            yes  no  NA
            ---  --  --
childhood    14 101  12
adolescence  22  94  11
college      29  75  13
adult        82  25  20 
any hospitalization  
experience, inclusive
             31  78  17

Most of the children who recovered memories do not have any history of
psychological or psychiatric treatment before going to a therapist as
an adult.

  N = 134 
This was an open ended question and responses were coded in the
following categories:

physical illness      12
emotional illness     14
significant relations 42
job/school stress     25
serious trauma        19
financial problems     9
pregnancy & birth  1
weight problem         7
job loss               4
drugs                  4
change (moving)        9
none                  13
not known             14

We might infer that these are the reasons that the children sought
therapy as adults keeping in mind that this information is as reported
by parents.


method     as a child  as a teen
------     ----------  ---------
spanking         55       4
talking          48      40
yelling          10       3
send to room     41       2
deny privileges  42      38
grounding        11      37
none              4      10
NA               10      18

Were their periods in which one parent assumed greater responsibility
for discipline in the family?
          yes = 78  no = 44  NA = 10

 If "yes" which parent?
      mother = 55  father = 21   NA = 56
We assume that methods of discipline were the same for siblings who
did not get the memories.

# in family  #in survey
       1          3
       2         28
       3         39
       4         22
       5         14
       6         10
       7          6
       8          0
       9          1

Did both parents work outside the home during period of alleged abuse?
         yes = 35  no = 94  NA = 2

Were there other people in the home as the accusing child was growing
up?(i.e.  grandparents, nanny, etc)
         yes = 46  no = 85  NA = 1

Were other adults in close contact with the accusing child while
living at home?  (i.e., friends, relatives)
         yes = 71  no = 57  NA = 4

The children with the false memories are probably in the last
generation to have a family situation in which the mother was at
home. In more than a third of the families there were other people
living in the home and in half of the families other adults were in
close contact with the children and who might observe unusual behavior
on the part of the children.

Age of accuser at time of initial allegations
N = 131 Female = 117, Male = 14
age     #
15-19   6
20-24  14
25-29  26
30-34  31
35-39  29
40-44  16
45-49   3
50-54   1
NA   5

Alleged abuse - starting age of child
    age      #
below 2 yr  18
      2     21
      3     15
      4     11
      5     13
      6      8
      7      5
      8      3
      9      2
     10      2
     13      3
     14      1
NA  30 (vague accusations)

How long were the memories repressed? (from age alleged abuse
supposedly began to age at which memory recovered)
years   #
10-14   7
15-19  11
20-24  14
25-29  19
30-34  30
35-39  11
40-44   7
45-49   1
NA  26 (accusations too vague to tell)

/                                                                    \
|                   For Help Call  1-800-568-8882                    |

/                                                                    \
|                     Where do 649 families live?                    |
|   AK(1)   AR(1)   AZ(34)  CA(60)  CO(5)   CT(2)   DE(1)   FL(10)   |
|   GA(4)   HI(1)   IA(2)   ID(5)   IL(14)  IN(9)   KS(14)  LA(4)    |
|   MA(10)  MD(7)   MI(20)  MN(8)   MO(8)   MS(1)   MT(2)   NC(5)    |
|   NH(1)   NJ(25)  NM(2)   NV(5)   NY(24)  OH(34)  OK(8)   OR(7)    |
|   PA(99)  RI(1)   SC(2)   TN(1)   TX(13)  UT(52)  VA(8)   VT(1)    |
|   WA(19)  WI(22)  DC(1)                                            |
|   Canada -   BC(6) MB(1) NS(1) ON(84) PQ(2) SK(1)  ABROAD (1)      |


Families have been meeting in formal and informal settings across the
United States and Canada. If you have not yet been in contact with
anyone from your state and you wish to do so, let us know.

At meetings, people naturally share what they have learned. For
example, families are learning about licensing regulations for mental
health professionals in their states and legislative actions that may
affect them. Members discuss strategies for informing influential
people in govenrment, law, education, medicine and the media about the

At each of the recent meetings in Salt Lake City and Oklahoma City,
young women appeared and asked to have time to tell of their own
experiences with memories recovered in therapy which they now believe
were false. This is extremely helpful to parents in getting an
understanding of what has happened in their own families.

Call Jim at 602-860-8981

Saturday, August 30, 1992


The August newsletter will be brief because we will be on holiday for
part of the month. The August mailing will, however, include several
papers that have recently appeared and survey forms for families that
have not received them.

The July and August mailings are being sent by bulk mail. Please check
the date of the newsletter with the date that you receive it and let
us know if this cost-saving method is satisfactory. Time is precious
to us.

                         RECOMMENDED READINGS

Freudian Fraud: The Malignant Effect of Freud's Theory on American
Thought and Culture, 1992
by E. Fuller Torrey, M.D. 
Harper Collins
We repeat some past recommendations.

Hidden Memories, 1992
by Robert Baker
Prometheus Books
 Parents tell us that this is the best book they have read to
understand some of the issues of how their children could have gotten
such terrible memories.

Courage to Heal, 1988
Bass and Davis
Harper and Row
 Parents do not like this book which is known as the bible of the
incest recovery movement, but they say that it helps to explain the
strange and cruel behavior of their children. Many parents received
letters copied from this book.

                         A QUESTION OF ETHICS

Many parents have asked about the ethical behavior of therapists who
give their clients a book such as Courage to Heal. It appears that the
therapist who makes a diagnosis of incest then proceeds to tell the
client that a lawsuit is part of the recovery process to get money for
continued therapy and then gives the client a list of lawyers who take
such cases. People with this question may write to the Ethics
Committee American Psychological Association

Washington, DC

                          By Daniel Goleman

              Copyright 1992 The New York Times Company
         July 21, 1992, Tuesday, Section C; Page 1; Column 1
                       Reprinted by permission

  IS it Satan or is it Salem? A wave of cases in which men and women
suddenly remember traumatic events from their childhood has set off a
debate among psychologists who study memory and trauma.
  Some psychotherapists say that symptoms like depression can result
from childhood sexual abuse, even if the memories of it have been
repressed. A few even claim that some of these cases of sexual abuse
were part of the rituals of Satanic cults.
  Others, mainly experimental psychologists who study suggestibility
and memory, say that the eagerness oftherapists to uncover abuse, and
their reliance on methods like hypnosis, can create imagined memories
that the patients gradually assume to be fact. These critics liken the
wave of such cases to the hysteria and false accusations of the Salem
witch trials.
  The notion of repressed memory has been around since Freud proposed
it near the turn of the century. But as yet there is no experimental
evidence that bears directly on the puzzle of how a memory of such
significance could be repressed for decades and then suddenly spring
to mind under the right circumstances.
  The question is all the more compelling because of recent widely
publicized cases in which long-repressed memories of murder and sexual
abuse have apparently been corroborated. In one, George Thomas
Franklin, a San Mateo, Calif., firefighter, was found guilty of murder
after his daughter, Eileen Franklin-Lipsker, testified that she had
only recently recalled his bludgeoning a playmate to death 21 years
earlier. Ms. Franklin-Lipsker said the memory came back to her as she
gazed at her own daughter's face, which she said reminded her of the
  Mr. Franklin was sentenced to life in prison. Prosecutors said his
daughter's testimony was corroborated by that of other witnesses and
physical evidence.
  In another case, Frank Fitzpatrick, a 38-year-old insurance adjuster
in Cranston, R.I., began remembering having been sexually molested by
a parish priest at age 12.
  Mr. Fitzpatrick's retrieval of the repressed memories began, he
said, when "I was feeling a great mental pain, even though my marriage
and everything else in my life was going well." Puzzled, Mr.
Fitzpatrick lay down on his bed, "trying to let myself feel what was
going on." Mr. Fitzpatrick, who is now 41, slowly realized that the
mental pain was due to "a betrayal of some kind," and remembered the
sound of heavy breathing. "Then I realized I had been sexually abused
by someone I loved," said Mr. Fitzpatrick. But it was not until two
weeks later, that he suddenly remembered the priest, the Rev. James R.
  "I remembered Father Porter taking me up to his parent's house in
Revere, Mass.," he said. "Supposedly he was taking me to a ball game
in Boston, but we never went there. I remembered details of the trip,
like his giving me mince meat pie to eat. But I still don't remember
the exact details of the sexual abuse."
  In Mr. Fitzpatrick's case the accusations have apparently been
corroborated by about 50 other men and women, and Mr. Porter, who is
no longer a priest, has acknowledged abusing an unspecified number of
  Most of the victims never forgot the molestation, said Mr.
Fitzpatrick, but remained silent all those years out of shame and
fear. Two other victims had also repressed the memories. One man
started having flashbacks of sexual abuse from Father Porter the
moment he heard the news of the accusations on a radio broadcast. The
other found himself crying at work soon after hearing the news, and
then began to have a flood of his own memories.
  The rising numbers of such cases have led 21 states to extend the
statutes of limitations in sex-abuse cases. Even so, corroboration of
memories of childhood abuse is often difficult to find, leaving an
accuser and the accused in a struggle for belief.
  "The terrible thing is that it's a situation where, finally, you
just don't know what the truth is about something that may have
happened decades ago," said Dr. John Kihlstrom, a psychologist at the
University of Arizona and a leader in research on memory.

                         Debate Over Memories

  Dr. Kihlstrom and other researchers are part of a scientific debate
over whether the methods sometimes used by therapists to retrieve
memories of sexual abuse can lead to fabricated memories.
  The debate has implications beyond the therapy session, as a
mounting number of adults who remember sexual abuse in childhood are
being urged to sever all ties with their families, and even sue their
parents for damages. And now some parents, saying they have been
falsely accused, are suing the therapists involved for medical
  "If incest is the worst crime, just imagine the devastating impact
on parents who are falsely accused," said Dr. Pam Freyd, a
psychologist and executive director of the False Memory Syndrome
Foundation in Philadelphia. Founded in March, the foundation has since
been contacted by more than 650 parents who say that a grown child,
usually a daughter, has falsely accused them of having sexually abused
her as a child.
  On the other hand, Dr. Renee Fredrickson, a psychologist in
St. Paul, whose book "Repressed Memories: A Journey to Recovery from
Sexual Abuse" was published this month by Fireside Books, said, "There
are a large number of repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse
that were later corroborated, and only a small number that were proven
  Both sides in the debate agree that the effects of sexual abuse are
terrible, that most cases go undetected at the time and that the
trauma of such abuse can lead people to repress their memories of what
happened. A report in the current issue of the journal Child Abuse and
Neglect concludes that adults who were sexually abused in childhood
are more prone than others to depression, sexual problems, anxiety and
thoughts of suicide.

                        Methods Are Questioned

  A study by Dr. Judith L. Herman, a psychiatrist at the Women's
Mental Health Collective in Summerville, Mass., found in a 1987 study
that about three-quarters of women who reported sexual abuse in
childhood were able to corroborate the memory in some way. For about a
quarter of the women, those memories had been repressed, most often
when the abuse was during early childhood.
  Some therapists say that even if a memory of childhood abuse is only
symbolically true, it should be taken seriously in therapy, even if it
is not objectively true. Others fear that the debate over the
credibility of some memories of childhood abuse will be used to
discredit people who are in the difficult position of making
legitimate assertions that long-past abuses took place.
  The debate focuses on the methods some therapists use to help people
retrieve repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse, particularly
hypnosis and "narcoanalysis," in which the sedative amobarbital sodium
is used to induce a trancelike state. Critics caution that such
methods make people suggestible enough that they can confuse their
fantasies with fact.
  "While memory is often right, it's sometimes wrong," said Dr.
Kihlstrom, the University of Arizona psychologist. "Everything we know
about the memory of events says it is highly susceptible to

                          Fabricated Memory

  A pertinent experiment on the malleability of human memory will be
presented next month at the annual meeting of the American
Psychological Association by Dr. Elizabeth F. Loftus, a psychologist
at the University of Washington who is a specialist in eyewitness
testimony. In a preliminary study, Dr. Loftus was able by suggestion
to persuade people to remember details of an imaginary incident when
they were supposedly lost at age 5, while their family was shopping.
  With James Coan, a graduate student, Dr. Loftus had a close relative
of her experimental subjects describe three events from the subject's
childhood, and offer specifics for the setting of a fictitious fourth
event, the time the person supposedly got lost. "We told the subjects
we were studying childhood memories, and asked them to write
everything they could remember about each of these incidents," said
Dr. Loftus.
  In the pilot study, the subjects, two children and three adults,
proceeded to supply details of the fictitious incident, apparently not
realizing it was not true.
  In earlier research, reported in Science in 1983, psychologists
showed that similar false memories -- like having been startled awake
by gunshots in the middle of the night -- can be implanted in people
during hypnosis. On recovery, the subjects believe the stories and
embellish them.

                        A Confession Recanted

  Another striking demonstration of suggestibility is described by Dr.
Richard Ofshe, a sociologist at the University of California at
Berkeley, in an article to be published in the next issue of The
International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. The
article concerns the case of Paul Ingram, who is now appealing a
prison term he is serving in Washington State for sexual abuse. While
he originally pleaded guilty, Mr. Ingram has recanted his confession.
  Dr. Ofshe was brought into the case by the prosecutor but ended up
testifying for the defense. Dr. Ofshe said Mr. Ingram, under intensive
police interrogation, had come to believe his grown daughters'
accusations of childhood sexual abuse by him and several friends, who
the daughters claimed were part of a satanic group. But Dr. Ofshe's
investigation convinced him that Mr. Ingram was the victim of false
memories, both his daughters' and his own.
  "He believed he had repressed memories of what he had done up to the
moment of his arrest," said Dr. Ofshe. "I decided to run an
experiment. I invented a set of facts, that one of his sons and one of
his daughters told me he made them have sex so he could watch. At
first he said he couldn't remember it. So I asked him to go through
the steps that had helped him remember the other charges."
  Mr. Ingram's pastor and a psychologist had told him that if he could
picture something, it was the beginnings of a repressed memory, and
that if he "prayed on it" he would remember more. "I asked him to
picture it and go back to his cell to pray on it," said Dr. Ofshe.
"The next day he told me he had a vivid memory of the scene."

                         Grounds for Caution

  Psychologists view such data as grounds for caution in retrieving
repressed memories.
  But therapists who specialize in helping adults retrieve memories of
childhood abuse insist that their methods are necessary because of the
delicate threads of fleeting images or half-remembered sensations that
connect people to long-repressed memories.
  "Most people I see who are survivors of sexual abuse, maybe 80
percent, have at least fragmentary or partial memories of what
happened to them, while others have no specific memories, but believe
something abusive happened to them and want to find out what it was,"
said Dr. Fredrickson.
  Dr. Fredrickson's book describes methods people can use to retrieve
repressed memories of sexual abuse, including interpreting dreams,
writing free associations in a journal and hypnosis. In one technique,
the person lets the associations a mental image brings to mind develop
into an imagined scenario that may offer clues to what actually
  Critics object to the ease with which such methods can be skewed by
subtle influence from the therapist. Dr. Ofshe said: "The therapist
starts out by presupposing a search for repressed sexual abuse, and,
since patients want to please therapists, that interest reinforces
anything the client comes up with in that direction. Then the
therapist gets the patient to actively imagine an image of abuse,
saying, 'Try to picture this happening to you,' and encourages the
patient to elaborate on that fantasy. Then the patient becomes
convinced that it was not merely imagination, but a repressed memory
of abuse."
  Dr. Fredrickson cautions therapists to avoid leading questions while
using these methods, advice that not all therapists heed.
  Some groups say that these are just the techniques that can lead to
false memories. Dr. Freyd, director of the parents' group, said, "We
hope that people will not automatically respond with the assumption of
guilt in cases involving memories that were unknown for decades, and
then recovered in a therapeutic session."