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What FMSF said they did:

“We must have a [FMSF sponsored] conference in which all sides are presented… In the best academic tradition, researchers must publicly present their evidence, listen to criticism and respond.” - FMSF Staff, in the FMSF Newsletter. [1]

What FMSF actually did:

✓+ Silenced Those Who Disagreed With Them

Michele Landsberg
After Landsberg published a newspaper column critical of the FMSF for the Toronto Star, FMSF founders Pamela and Peter Freyd lodged an official complaint against Landsberg with the Ontario Press Council, who ruled in Landsberg’s favor. Secondly, the founders of the Canadian Branch of the FMSF harassed Landsberg “endlessly with angry and pathologically defensive arguments (10 page hand-written letters!) to persuade me I was utterly deluded about recovered memory.” [2]

Katy Butler
Katy Butler was asked to write a story assessing the backlash against recovered memories, which included how the FMSF was involved with the backlash. Upset with how Butler portrayed the FMSF in previous articles, FMSF founders led a “well organized action to block the story or at least discredit Butler,” calling her “a zealot masquerading as a journalist.” Senior editors dropped the story in hopes of avoiding a “pissing match” with FMSF members. [3]

Anna Salter
Anna Salter published a detailed review of Ralph Underwager and Hollida Wakefield’s work, criticizing their “extraordinary number of distortions and errors” [4] in one of the first significant pieces of literature challenging Underwager's work. Shortly after, Underwager staged a lengthy harassment campaign against Salter, involving numerous lawsuits, an ethics charge, and phony phone calls. [5]

Civia Tamarkin
In 1996, ABC aired a program on Nightline titled “A Child’s Word,” produced by James Hill. Its goal was to “examine the consequences of categorically dismissing young children's testimony as unreliable.” [6] Despite the fact that this program had nothing to do with recovered memories – only continuous memories of children – the FMSF organized a campaign to shut the program down before it aired. Peter Freyd, one of the original founders of the FMSF, sent an email labeled “Nightline Alert” through the FMSF-News distribution list. He claimed that Civia Tamarkin was the producer of the upcoming program and the message contained “background information assembled by Debbie Nathan,” along with copies of two separate letters from Nathan to Nightline. In those letters, Nathan painted Tamarkin as espousing “discredited and downright bizarre child abuse theories.” [7]
Civia Tamarkin and ABC received considerable harassment over the show, both publicly and privately. This harrassment is acknowledged in the introduction to the show, and a response to a public news article was published in the Washington Post. The harassment was described as “distortion and unfair attack" by “extremists on the very difficult issue of child sexual abuse,” who sought to prevent ABC’s “informed, fact-based discussion.” [6]

Charles Whitfield
Pamela and Peter Freyd filed a defamation lawsuit against Charles Whitfield over his statements about the Freyds at conferences and in his book, Memory and Abuse. Whitfield discussed Jennifer Freyd’s accusations of abuse and her parent’s denial, described them as an “apparently dysfunctional family,” [8] speculated that “co-offenders [i.e. Pamela Freyd] may be 100% innocent," [9] and mentioned William Freyd’s letter supporting Jennifer Freyd’s abuse accusations. [7] Pamela and Peter Freyd lost the court case, as the court concluded that they “failed to show that Dr. Whitfield's remarks, taken in context, were defamatory.” [10] Read the court decision and memorandum.

✓+ FMSF conferences and events were one sided

The FMSF held quite a few national conferences on false memories and false accusations of abuse, and funded smaller conferences run by state branches of the FMSF [newsletter]. Programs for many of these conferences, especially state conferences, are unavailable to the public and were unpublished in the FMSF’s newsletter.

National Conference on Family Reconciliation, 2002
All speakers, giving individual presentations or sitting on a panel, supported the FMS position.

Memory and Reality: Return to Reason. Family Conference. April 2000
All 10 presentations over 2 days supported the FMS position. All speakers were either on the FMSF scientific and advisory board, or were highly involved in the FMSF in other ways.
False Memory Syndrome: New Perspectives. Scientific Conference. April 2000
All five presenters represented the FMS position – all but one were on the FMSF’s scientific advisory board.

New Mexico FMSF Conference. April 1998
In this untitled conference, all 5 speakers supported the FMS position.

Indiana FMSF Conference, April 1998.
Despite the fact that this conference ran an entire day (8:30am-4:00pm) the only speaker listed is the mother of a retractor.

Crisis in Counseling: In and Out of the Church. November 1997
Sponsored by the Florida FMSF branch, this conference’s speakers were all FMS proponents, accused parents, or attorneys who defended accused parents.

Memory and Reality: Next Steps. Family Friendly Conference March 1997
Of 10 speakers over 2 days, all represented the FMS position.
What’s New in the Memory Wars. Scientific Conference. March 1997
Of 10 speakers, only one supported recovered memories. Coon’s presentation on DID was immediately followed by a contradictory presentation arguing against the existence of DID.

Day of Contrition Conference, January 1997
Spanning two days, the Day of Contrition Conference in Salem, MA featured 2 moderated forums and 14 speaker presentations. All of them supported the FMS position, and none supported the phenomenon of recovered memories.

Clinical Issues in Dealing with False Memories. 1996.
All four speakers represented the FMS position. Three sat on the FMSF advisory board.

Basic Standards of Care in Diagnostic and Therapeutic Practices with Memory and the Process of Family Reconciliation. 1996
This conference was scheduled to be put on three times across the US: San Diego in March, Boston in April, and Chicago in June. Boston and Chicago were canceled. Of the 10 speakers, all represented the FMS position.

Memory and Reality: Reconciliation. 1994
Out of 34 speakers over three days, only one speaker supported the phenomenon of recovered memories.

Memory and Reality: Emerging Crisis. 1993
Out of 28 speakers and a panel discussion over two and a half days, only one speaker supported the phenomenon of recovered memories. All others supported the FMS position.
The FMSF newsletter wrote “This conference dispelled the pseudoscientific notions that have fueled the [FMS] phenomenon,” and placed “repressed memories” in scare quotes.


[1] FMSF Staff. (1992, October 5). Conference. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 1(9), 5.
[2] Landsberg, Michele. (2021, July 19). Personal Correspondence.
[3] Stanton, Mike. (1997, July/August). U-turn on memory lane. Columbia Journalism Review. 36(2), Pg. 44.
[4] Salter, A. (1992). Accuracy of expert testimony in child sexual abuse cases: A case study of Ralph Underwager and Hollida Wakefield. Unpublished manuscript.
[5] Anna C. Salter (1998) Confessions of a Whistle-Blower: Lessons Learned. Ethics & Behavior, 8:2, 115-124, DOI: 10.1207/s15327019eb0802_2
[6] Hayes, E., Hill, J., and Tamarkin, C.. (1996, December 28). ‘Nightline’ on ‘A Child’s Word.’ The Washington Post.
[7] Freyd, Peter. (1996, October 12). “Nightline Alert.” Personal Email Correspondence to “FMS-News” Email Listserv.
[8] Whitfield, Charles (1995). Memory and abuse: Remembering and healing the effects of trauma. Health Communications. Deerfield Beach, Florida. ISBN: 1558743200
[9] Pamela Freyd v. Charles Whitfield. Civil no. L-96-627. 972 F. Supp. 940 (D. Md. 1997).
[10] Pamela Freyd v. Charles Whitfield, Civil no. L-96-627 (D. MD 1997, July 18).

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