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Pamela Freyd

Founder of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation.
Founded the False Memory Syndrome Foundation and ran the organization for many years. Disbelieved her daughter when her husband was accused of abuse, and deliberately worked to undercut her daughter’s career.

“My background is in education. I am not a clinical person or a psychologist.” [1]

Pamela Freyd founded the False Memory Syndrome Foundation after her husband, Peter Freyd, was accused of sexual abuse by their daughter. Besides serving as the FMSF's executive director, Pamela Freyd played a key role throughout the entire recovered memory controversy: she signed off the FMSF's newsletter, organized meetings, influenced legislators, filed complaints, sued people supporting recovered memories, and gave numerous interviews to the press.

Pamela Freyd has continuously dismissed her daughter’s claims of abuse. She has exposed details about her daughter’s claims without consent, and has actively worked to undermine her daughter’s career.

Family Dynamics:
Articles on the Freyd family, detailing how and why they started the False Memory Syndrome Foundation:
‘The Memory War’ by Katie Heaney.
‘War of Remembrance’ by Stephen Fried.

Upon hearing about her daughter's success in memory and trauma research, Pamela Freyd wrote and published an anonymous article titled “How Could This Happen? Coping with A False Accusation of Incest and Rape” about her daughter, Jennifer Freyd, in Ralph Underwager's self-published journal Issues in Child Abuse Accusations. It included easily-identifiable information – such as Jennifer Freyd’s academic achievements, tenure status, previous research grants and presentations, previous cities of employment, and details of her move cross country for work – as well as sensitive details about Jennifer Freyd’s accusations of abuse, casting her in a negative light. [2] Pamela Freyd circulated this article to Jennifer Freyd’s employers while she was being evaluated for a promotion to full professor, making it clear with a signed letter that she was the author. [3]
Quotes from Pamela Freyd’s article:
“I don't suppose there is really any nice way to accuse your father of incest, but the cruel dramatic gestapo-like techniques… set in motion reactions that have made dealing with the revelation more difficult.” [2]
“I have had the feeling that ever since this sad business began, my daughter has been trying to fit me into the paradigm of the wife of a child abuser and I have found it insulting.” [2]
“[Jennifer] had done lots of experimenting with drugs when she was a teenager. Could that have caused memory confusion?” [2]
“I have come to believe that our very sad situation happened because my daughter's mental stress happened at this particular time and place in history.” [2]

In a document titled “Trial By Therapy,” Pamela Freyd described how she distributed copies of “How Could This Happen? Coping with A False Accusation of Incest and Rape” to “75 top clinical psychology departments” - including Jennifer Freyd’s senior colleagues. [4]

In a follow-up letter (and the first edition of the FMSF’s newsletter), Pamela Freyd identifies herself as the author of the previous article, Jane Doe.
Quote from the follow-up letter:
“Personally, I am able to [maintain hope of reconciliation] by thinking of my children as (temporarily?) mentally ill.” [5]

Jennifer Freyd’s account of Pamela Freyd publishing the Jane Doe article, circulating it to Jennifer Freyd’s senior colleagues, and founding the FMSF can be read in Jennifer Freyd’s book, Blind to Betrayal: chapter 10 “The Risks of Knowing” and chapter 13 “Speaking Our Truth.” Jennifer Freyd stated that her parents' behavior has had “a pattern of boundary violation, a pattern of invasion and control, a pattern of inappropriate and unwanted sexualization, a pattern of family and relationship dysfunction, and a pattern of intimidation and manipulation.” [3]

Statements about the FMSF:
Within a week of founding the FMSF, Pamela Freyd wrote and sent out the organization's first newsletter. While addressing the question "How do we know we're not Representing pedophiles?" Pamela Freyd wrote “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.” [6]

Pamela Freyd later 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.” [7]

Pamela Freyd was interviewed by David Calof. Within this interview, she admits that ‘False Memory Syndrome’ is an inadequate name for the phenomena and acknowledges that she doesn’t know whether or not FMSF members have perpetrated the abuse they were accused of. [1]

Complaints and Lawsuits:
Pamela and Peter Freyd filed a defamation lawsuit against Charles Whitfield for his discussion of Jennifer Freyd’s accusations of abuse against Peter Freyd. At three conferences, Whitfield discussed the situation as a whole and speculated that "co-offenders [i.e. Pamela Freyd] may be 100% innocent.” [8] In his book, ‘Memory and Abuse,’ Whitfield described them as an “apparently dysfunctional family” and noted “in my and others’ opinion… [William Freyd’s Letter] affirms and validates a part of Jennifer’s experience and provides some external corroboration that the abuse happened.” [9] In the FMSF newsletter, ‘Memory and Abuse’ was described as an “egregious personal attack on the character and emotional capabilities of [Pamela] Freyd and her husband…. Dr. Whitfield resorts to the technique of sleazology (sleaze with footnotes) to show that the Freyds are indeed the kind of creeps that would abuse their daughter… [and] to demonstrate that the Freyd family was dysfunctional.” [10]

The results of the court case were:
“The Court finds that the Freyds have made themselves into public figures, at least for the limited purpose of commenting on repressed memories and Jennifer Freyd's accusations.” [11]
Whitfield’s book did not constitute malice.
“The Freyds also have failed to show that Dr. Whitfield's remarks, taken in context, were defamatory.” [11]
“The Court concludes that Dr. Whitfield's remarks constitute protected opinion and thus cannot form the basis of a defamation action.” [11]
These quotes can be read in the court’s decision, and are supported by the memorandum.

Pamela Freyd filed a formal complaint against Michele Landsberg, who wrote critically about the FMSF. The complaint was dismissed by the Ontario Press Council, which ruled in Landsberg’s favor. You can read more about Michele Landsberg and her associated experiences of harassment on her page.

Statute of Limitations:
When the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from victims of sexual abuse in 1994, Pamela Freyd was the only person who testified in opposition of raising the statue of limitations – the fixed period of time in which legal charges can be brought after an incidenct has occurred. Raising the statute of limitations would allow survivors – with continuous or recovered memories – pursue justice for abuse that occurred years before. Pamela Freyd expressed the concern that extending the statute of limitations “may create more tarnished reputations,” urging the committee to amend the bill to “encourage and emphasize alternative means of resolving these matters other than courts.” [12]


[1] Calof, David. (1993, April). An Interview with Pamela Freyd, PhD, Co-founder and Executive Director, FMS Foundation, Inc, Part I. Treating Abuse Today. 3(3).
[2] Doe, Jane (1991, Summer). How Could This Happen? Coping with A False Accusation of Incest and Rape. Issues In Child Abuse Accusations, 3(3).
Author identified in Freyd, Pamela. (1991, November 15). I am “Jane Doe.” Letter to Carole Roscielny.
[3] Freyd, Jennifer & Birrell, Pamela (2013). Blind to Betrayal: Why We Fool Ourselves We Aren't Being Fooled. Wiley.
[4] Freyd, Pamela. (1993, September 6). Trial By Therapy. FMS Foundation. Unpublished Manuscript.
[5] Freyd, Pamela. (1991, November 15). I am “Jane Doe.” Personal correspondence to Carole Roscielny.
[6] Freyd, Pamela. (1992, February 29). How Do We Know We Are Not Representing Pedophiles? FMS Foundation Newsletter. 1(0), 1.
[7] Poppy, C. (2021, February 12). New York Magazine Is (Also) Ignoring This Letter from a Central Character in Their Story. Medium.
[8] Pamela Freyd v. Charles Whitfield. Civil no. L-96-627. 972 F. Supp. 940 (D. Md. 1997).
[9] Whitfield, Charles (1995). Memory and abuse: Remembering and healing the effects of trauma. Health Communications. Deerfield Beach, Florida. ISBN: 1558743200
[10] Hochman, John. (1995, October 1). Book Review “Memory And Abuse: Remembering and Healing the Effects of Trauma”. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 4(9), 3.
[11] Pamela Freyd v. Charles Whitfield, Civil no. L-96-627 (D. MD 1997, July 18).
[12] Testimony of Pamela Freyd, Senate Judiciary Committee, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; May 24, 1994, p. 5

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