top of page

What FMSF said they did:

“There is no question that child sexual abuse is a terrible problem and we support every effort to put an end to such abhorrent actions.” - Pamela Freyd, in the FMSF Newsletter. [1]

What FMSF actually did:

✓+ Key founders of the FMSF have disturbing views on CSA, Pedophila, incest, and abuse.
Multiple board members of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF) have given supportive statements about pedophilia and childhood abuse, dismissed childhood sexual abuse, or minimized the effects of childhood sexual abuse.

Pamela Freyd: Founding member and executive director of the FMSF.
In the foundation’s newsletter dated February 29, 1992 (not included in the foundation’s online archive), in an article titled “How Do We Know That We Are Not Representing Pedophiles,” Freyd explained why she thought it unlikely that the group’s hundreds of members included any perpetrators: “We are a good-looking bunch of people, graying 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.” [2]

Pamela Freyd denied this, stating in a letter published online that “In fact, the FMSF did not form until March of that year and had no newsletters in February 1992.” [3]

Peter Freyd: Founding member of the FMSF, Husband of Pamela Freyd, Editor of the FMSF Newsletter.
In an early expose of the FMSF, Michele Landsberg wrote that “Peter boasted to his small daughters about his sexual experiences as an 11-year-old boy, calling himself a "male prostitute." He had his daughters, at ages 9 and 10, dance naked, adorned with Playboy bunny tails, in front of his friends. He encouraged Jennifer, as a child, to read Lolita.” [4]

At the FMSF supported conference ‘A Day of Contrition,’ Peter Freyd stated: “Yes, there are some gray areas… younger people with older people, and obviously it's absurd to believe that sex on one day is illegal and on the very next day would be legal. I mean, obviously, we can't really take that as a very serious aspect of the law.” [5]

One of Peter Freyd’s grad students attests that Freyd tried to convince him he was gay, propositioned him, and pulled knives out of the kitchen drawers when the student declined. Peter Freyd admitted to these facts in an interview with Katy Heaney. [6]

Ralph Underwager: Founding member of the FMSF. FMSF Scientific Advisory Board Member.
In the FMSF newsletter, Pamela Freyd wrote: “There are not words enough 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.” [7]

Underwager has made statements supporting pedophilia. While being interviewed by a dutch magazine, he responded to the question of "Is choosing paedophilia for you a responsible choice for the individuals?" by stating "Certainly it is responsible... I don't think that a paedophile needs to [defend their choice]. Paedophiles can boldly and courageously affirm what they choose. They can say that what they want is to find the best way to love... With boldness, they can say, "I believe this is in fact part of God's will." [8]

Richard Gardner: FMSF Scientific Advisory Board Member. He spoke at FMSF conferences and wrote columns in the FMSF newsletter.

In his self published book True and False Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse, Gardner claims that pedophilia and childhood sexual abuse is “part of the natural repertoire of human sexual activity,” and that it is a positive practice which benefits human survival. Gardner supports this claim by arguing that pedophilia sexually “[charges] up” children, leaving them “highly sexualized” and making them “crave” sexual experiences – increasing the procreation of the species. [9]

In an analysis of his views on human sexuality, Jennifer Hoult concludes that “Gardner’s theory, holding male sexual violence to be reproductively beneficial to the species, does not construe sexual violence as abuse.” [10]

Concerning the treatment of children who’ve been abused, their mothers, and the perpetrators of abuse (fathers), Gardner recommends that the children and mothers are “encouraged to masturbate” and that the fathers should not receive therapy about their abuse. [11]

Read more about Gardner’s dubious views on pedophilia on his page or at the Leadership Council’s site.

Paul McHugh: Early FMSF Advisory Board Member supporting the clinical significance of False Memory Syndrome. First clinician to define FMS, processed FMSF survey data.

McHugh has covered up childhood sexual abuse, keeping perpetrators from being tried in the court of law. As Mara Math reports, “At least eight men have been convicted of sexually abusing Maryland children while under treatment at the "sex disorders" clinic McHugh runs at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine -- abuse the doctors did not report, citing client confidentiality. When Maryland law was changed to require that doctors report child molestation, the clinic fought it and advised patients on how to get around the law. The memo to patients suggested that molesters report their pedophilic activities to their lawyers, who could in turn tell staff; attorney-client privilege would then protect the molesters from being reported. This memo was fully approved by the boss -- Dr. Paul McHugh.” [12]

Eleanor Goldstein: Friend of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation who monetarily backed, co-authored, published, and distributed Pamela Freyd’s book about FMS.

In an interview with Mary Knight, Eleanor Goldstein described a father sexually fondling his child as a “mistake” and stated that in situations of sexual abuse, children should be “responsible for themselves and not carry a grudge from century to century.” The interview goes on to discuss this incident:
Knight: “But if there was sexual touch, do you think the family should still stay together?”
Goldstein: “Of course”
Knight: “Even after there was-”
Goldstein: “Absolutely.”
Goldstein: “I don’t think sexual touch is the horrible horrors. I don’t think so. I think we make a big to-do about nothing.” [13]

Harold Lief: Founding member of the FMSF. FMSF Scientific Advisory Board Member. Processed FMSF survey data.
In the FMSF Newsletter, Pamela Freyd wrote "The FMSF Directors honored… Harold I. Lief, M.D. who [was] instrumental in the founding of the FMSF.” [14]

Harold Lief, Pamela Freyd's personal psychiatrist… told Jennifer that her father couldn't have molested her because he had only "homoerotic fantasies.” … Lief estimated that 25 per cent of incest allegations are false "but I don't know where I got that figure. Sometimes I make up a number just to get reporters off my back." [4]

Elizabeth Loftus: Founding member of the FMSF Scientific Advisory Board.
Elizabeth Loftus was described as “a courageous founding member of the Scientific and Professional Advisory board of the Foundation,” [15]

During Loftus’ deposition in Sheldon vs. Hatlen, the plaintiff’s counsel referenced a time where Loftus stated that sexual abuse “wasn’t that big of a deal.” [16]

August Piper: FMSF Columnist who wrote official informational documents for the FMSF.

In his article “A Skeptic Considers, Then Responds to Cheit,” Piper implied that “sexual contact between children and adults” could be “neutral or positive,” and that children’s negative reactions to CSA are “adversely conditioned” by society as they experience “no significant harm.” [17]

✓+ Embraced Research that Argued CSA is not inherently traumatizing.
It is well known that childhood sexual abuse is a traumatic experience. Decades of research have shown the link between CSA and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; as the handbook of child sexual abuse states, “CSA is a significant risk factor for all 10 of the categories listed on the Trauma Symptom Inventory.” [18] However, the FMSF and associated persons have shown great interest in studies arguing the contrary: that childhood sexual abuse is not traumatic for the children.

“The person fails to think about the abuse for many years, NOT because it was so traumatic it was sealed off behind a "dissociative wall," but because it was nontraumatic.” - Richard Mcnally, in the FMSF Newsletter. [19]

Rind Study (1997)
“A Meta-Analytic Examination of Assumed Properties of Child Sexual Abuse Using College Samples” by Rind et. al claimed that childhood sexual abuse is “only slightly associated with psychological harm,” and that any harm caused is not due to the sexual experience itself. Furthermore, they claimed that “consenting” boys aren’t harmed by childhood sexual abuse, and that a “willing encounter with positive reactions" between children and adults should be termed “adult-child sex” – a morally neutral term – instead of being considered abuse. [20] The paper was praised by numerous pedophile advocacy groups as proof that "the current war on boy-lovers has no basis in science." However, this study has been thoroughly debunked, described as a “stacked deck of … misreported data and misrepresented findings that led to faulty conclusions.” [21] A full analysis of the Rind study can be found on The Leadership Council’s page.
The FMSF published a column about the Rind study in their newsletter, writing that “the authors found that CSA is not associated with pervasive harm and that a substantially lower proportion of males reports negative effects.” [22]
At the FMSF sponsored conference The Day of Contrition in 1997, Debbie Nathan – an invited speaker – described the Rind study as a “time for us to be courageous and break another silence” that “there is little or no evidence that the majority have suffered long-term harm from childhood sexual encounters with grownups.” [23]

Susan Clancy - The Trauma Myth
Susan Clancy, whose work has “often been reported in this [the FMSF’s] newsletter,” [24] and quoted multiple times by Pamela Freyd, argues against the ‘Trauma Model’ – the idea that sexual abuse is inherently a traumatic experience. Instead, Clancy states that “The notion that sexual abuse is and should be a traumatic experience when it happens -- something done against the will of the victims… for most victims this is not the case.” She goes on to say that childhood abuse “is not a significant experience when it happens -- it's weird, perhaps” but quickly forgotten. For those who undergo non-traumatic sexual childhood experiences, she argues that “The trauma model of sexual abuse not only does not help these people, it makes matters worse for them.” [25] These quotes are all published in the FMSF newsletter, and Clancy’s argument is published in her book, The Trauma Myth: The Truth About the Sexual Abuse of Children and Its Aftermath. The book references the Rind et. al study, and received praise from pedophile advocacy organizations as “a very important step in the right direction.” [26]
Clancy’s book has been criticized by many for her position that sexual abuse isn’t inherently traumatic. Dr. Marylene Cloitre argues that Clancy’s view requires a narrow definition of trauma, emphasizing only the immediate violence of the event. In comparison, Judith Herman defines trauma as contextual, complex, and dependent on many variables related to the environment, the child, and the abusive relationship – all of which must be considered when assessing whether an event was traumatic. Many people experience delayed or long-lasting negative effects, which are considered a result of the traumatic experience. Cloitre argues that one’s reaction to a traumatic event – which includes those who were not aware of what was happening or do not immediately feel harmed – does not change the fact that the event is considered trauma. [27]
The FMSF newsletter published a glowing review of Clancy’s book, describing it as “sure to anger many readers because it challenges a treasured belief of our society: child sexual abuse is necessarily traumatic.” It goes on to say that “The Trauma Myth should be of interest to all and especially to those who have a personal or professional interest in child sexual abuse.” [28]

✓ + Worked to Gut Laws Protecting Children.

Key members of the FMSF in administrative positions formed a secondary lobbying organization out of the Illinois FMSF office, advertised to and composed of FMSF members. [29] Through this, the FMSF organized lobbing efforts against laws protecting victims of childhood sexual abuse, even in cases unrelated to memory.

Examples of legislation the FMSF lobbying against include:
The Child Abuse Accountability Act, which allows those who successfully sue their parents for sexual abuse to receive compensation from the defendent’s pension. This is legislation completely unrelated to recovered memories. [30]
Child Abuse Protection and Treatment Act (CAPTA), which authorized demonstration grants and provided funding for child protective service systems and foster care. [31]
Raising the Statute of Limitations to bring charges of sexual abuse: This referrs to the fixed period of time in which legal charges can be brought after an alleged crime has occurred. Raising the statute of limitations would allow survivors to pursue justice for abuse that occurred years before, after realizing they were abused. [32]

You can read more about the FMSF’s lobbying efforts in detail on our [Lobbying Page]


[1] Freyd, Pamela. (1993, March 5). ‘Dear Editor:’ [Letter to the editor]. Published in: Our Critics. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 2(3), 3.
[2] Freyd, Pamela. (1992, February 29). How Do We Know We Are Not Representing Pedophiles? FMS Foundation Newsletter. 1(0), 1.
[3] Poppy, C. (2021, February 12). New York Magazine Is (Also) Ignoring This Letter from a Central Character in Their Story. Medium.
[4] Landsberg, Michele. (1996, February 4). Incest: Stop the Nonsense and Get to the Difficult Truth. Toronto Star. A2.
[5] Freyd, Peter. (1997, January 13). Forum B: Social Science Issues. [Audience Commentary]. Day of Contrition Revisited, Salem, MA, USA.
[6] Heaney, Kaite. (2021, January 6). The Memory War Jennifer Freyd accused her father of sexual abuse. Her parents’ attempt to discredit her created a defense for countless sex offenders. The Cut.
[7] Freyd, Pamela. (1992, May 21). Dear Friends. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 1(5), 1.
[8] Joseph Geraci. (1991 June). Paidika interview: Hollida Wakefield and Ralph Underwager Part I. No Status Quo Websites. Retrieved 2023-04-25.
[9] Gardner, Richard. (1992). True and false accusations of child sex abuse. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics.
[10] Hoult, Jennifer. (2006). The Evidentiary Admissibility of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Science, Law, and Policy. Children's Legal Rights Journal, 26(1).
[11] Dallam, Stephanie. (1998). Dr. Richard Gardner: A review of his theories and opinions on atypical sexuality, pedophilia, and treatment issues. Treating Abuse Today, 8(1), 15-23.
[12] Math, Martha. (2002, September 20). Dubious choice for resolving church scandal. SFGATE.
[13] Eleanor Goldstein and Mary Knight. Personal Interview. Retrieved from:
[14] Freyd, Pamela. (1998, June). Dear Friends. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 7(5), 1.
[15] FMSF Staff. (2007, Spring) Loftus Case: Court Tosses All But One Claim. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 16(2), 3.
[16] Tamia Sheldon v. Leif Hatlen. (1999). Deposition of Elizabeth Loftus. Superior Court of Alaska, Third Judicial District at Anchorage. Case No. 3AN-98-5153 Civil
[17] Piper, August. (1999). A skeptic considers, then responds to Cheit. Ethics & Behavior, 9(4), 277–293.
[18] Goodyear-Brown, P. (2011). Handbook of Child Sexual Abuse: Identification, Assessment, and Treatment. John Wiley & Sons.
[19] McNally, Richard. (2005, March/April). Sidebar. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 14(2), 2.
[20] Rind, B., Tromovitch, P., & Bauserman, R. (1998). A meta-analytic examination of assumed properties of child sexual abuse using college samples. Psychological Bulletin, 124, 22-53.
[21] The Leadership Council. (2005). The Leadership Council's Examination of the Rind Meta-analysis. The Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence.
[22] FMSF Staff (1998, March). A Meta-Analytic Review of Findings. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 7(2), 4.
[23] Nathan, Debbie. (1997, January 14). The Need to Listen, The Need for Justice: How False Accusations Hurt Women and Children. [Conference Presentation]. Day of Contrition Revisited, Salem, MA, USA.
[24] FMSF Staff. (2006, July/August). Recovered or Discovered Memories? FMS Foundation Newsletter. 15(4), 5.
[25] Rogers, Thomas. (2010, January 19) “The Trauma Myth”: The child betrayed. Salon.
Cited in: New Books: The Good and . . . (2010, Spring). FMS Foundation Newsletter. 19(2), 8.
[26] Herman, Peter. (2011). Book Review: “The Trauma Myth.” NAMBLA, North American Man/Boy Love Association.
[27] Meinzer, Kristen. (2010, January 25). New Perspectives on Child Sex Abuse and Trauma. [Radio Broadcast interviewing Marylene Cloitre and Susan Clancy]. The Takeaway. WNYC, PRX, WGBH.
[28] FMSF Staff. (2010, Spring). New Books: The Good and… FMS Foundation Newsletter. 19(2), 8.
[29] Simon, Judith. (1995). The Highly Misleading Truth and Responsibility in Mental Health Practices Act: The “False Memory” Movement’s Remedy for a Nonexistent Problem. Moving Forward, 3(3), 12-21.
[30] Quirk, Sherry & DePrince, Anne. (1995). Backlash legislation targeting psychotherapists. The Journal of Psychohistory, 22(3), 258. Retrieved from
[31] Ohme, Herman. (2002, March). It felt something like the WTC Towers 9-11 attack. Ohio Association of Responsible Mental Health Practices (OARMHP) Newsletter.
[32] Senate Judiciary Committee, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; May 24, 1994, p. 5-7

bottom of page