In a therapist’s office in the 1990’s, a young woman client was asked if she’d been sexually abused as a child. The client, a psychologist and newly appointed Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon, was startled by the question. No one had ever asked her this before. She said, ‘no’, but returned home and shook for the next two days.
Her name is Jennifer Freyd. Her parents, Peter and Pamela Freyd reacted by joining Dr. Ralph Underwager, founder of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. Peter and Pamela become the organization’s executive directors.
The False Memory Syndrome Foundation claimed that the helping professions were planting memories of child sexual abuse in the minds of patients and clients. Thousands of affluent parents with grown children looked to the Foundation to safeguard their retirement savings from lawsuits being brought forward by their grown children who claimed to have been sexually abused by them when they were vulnerable children. These people, now adults, were no longer powerless.
The Foundation suffered some setbacks. In 1993, Underwager embarrassed the organization by publicly stating that it is “God’s will” that adults use children for sex. Members of the Foundation’s board of directors were physicians previously employed by the CIA in mind control experiments. Their names include Dr. Martin Orne and Dr. Harold Lief.
1993 witnessed heated arguments over the question of recovered memories. At a mental health conference in Michigan, Jennifer outed her parents. Her parents countered by explaining that their daughter was suffering from a brain injury! This is the young professor who was a productive researcher into memory and who wrote her respected book, Betrayal Trauma. Her book puts forth the theory that it is the huge betrayal that forces children to forget abuse by the adults to whom the child’s safety was entrusted. She doesn’t sound like someone with a brain injury!
In the 90’s many therapists were afraid of helping clients who presented as victims of child sexual abuse, fearing being attacked by the Foundation for planting “memories.” Thankfully, science saved the day when brain imaging revealed the physical changes to a traumatized brain. No helping professional could cause these invisible wounds.