AGMs and Meetings
BFMS 2013 AGM
The BFMS AGM and Conference was held on Saturday 13th April 2013. Speakers included Dr Charles Fernyhough, author of Pieces of Light - the new science of memory, published Profile Books 2012 who talked about Memory, Narrative and Imagination; Ian Hynes, retired police officer of ITS Ltd talked about the impact of false memory and practical appliance of the science in a major crime investigation; and a father spoke about restoring family life after accusations. The meeting was held in central London.
The 2012 AGM was held in central London on 24th March 2012
- Professor Martin Conway '10 Thing everyone should know about memory'
- Christine 'A Wife's Perspective on coping with a police investigation'
- Roundtable discussions
The 17th Annual General Meeting was held in London on 9th April 2011. After the AGM business, Chaired by Sally Thompson, chair of the BFMS Trustees, the meeting welcomed, Dr Jo Woodiwiss, senior lecturer in Sociology from University of Huddersfield to talk on Why might women with no 'concrete' memories identify themsleves as victims of childhood sexual abuse? This talk was based on her reserach which formed the basis of her book,Contesting Stories of Childhood Sexual Abuse Palgrave Macmillan 2009. The publishers are offering a conference discount with flyer (available from BFMS) on this book until June 30th 2011 at £28.50.
Dr Kevin Felstead described the amazing detail of his family's story, The Creation of a Satanic Myth: a case study of Carol Felstead. My family's search for the truth. This story can be followed at www.justiceforcarol.com
After lunch the meeting was honoured to hear from Dr Pamela Freyd, Executive Director of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, Philadelphia. She spoke of The American Experience of Returning, Retracting and Reconciliation.
After Roundtable Discussions at ten different topic tables the meeting closed.
Below are articles and reports from previous AGMs:
Newcomers to the BFMS AGM share their experience of the 15th AGM below.
Coming to the Meeting for the first time
We arrived with some trepidation, concerned that we might face a catalogue of sad tales similar to our own. It wasn't quite like that, but it was something of a reality check, reminding us not to expect easy or quick solutions to the problem.
The meeting itself was very professionally run in a conference centre hidden in the heart of Marylebone. Name badges were handed out along with the coffee and croissants, and one of the trustees introduced himself and made us feel welcome as newcomers. There were about 100 people present. It could have been the AGM for Saga given the preponderance of late middle aged couples! Lady Gillian Parker (chairman of the trustees) gave the opening address, expressing her surprise that this was their 14th year - "We had hoped long ago to have made a big enough impact to convince everyone that false memories do happen, how they are brought about and why they occur. But it is now clear that this is by no means a simple matter..."
Madeline Greenhalgh's report opened our eyes to the wide range of issues that BFMS needs to tackle, not least in offering support to people facing legal challenges. Some of these legal cases are onerous, but many are successful. The most important message is, if you are unfortunate enough to face a legal challenge, seek the support of BFMS early. Much of Madeline's work involves widening the understanding of the problems of 'false memory'. The book, Fractured Families, is essential reading for anyone who seeks a better understanding of the issues, and well done to the mother who hand delivered a copy to Cambridge police. The book needs to be more widely read by professionals. It would be great if there could be a TV documentary, and Madeline is keenly aware of the potential but also aware of the difficulties of making the subject suitable for a TV audience.
We were eager to swap stories with as many of the participants as possible, but 'false memory' stories have many plotlines. Even though science has proven that between 37% and 85% of people tested in clinical trials succumb to a suggested false memory, it is unclear as yet what makes someone susceptible. Dr Kimberley Wade's presentation did suggest that a vivid imagination, stress and isolation can play a part.
We were grateful for everyone's honesty in telling their stories. One couple told us they had completely lost touch with their only daughter who left them 9 years ago. Another couple had all communication with their son and his wife severed for over 10 years, and only found out by accident that they had two grandchildren. Even now, they are not allowed to see them and birthday and Christmas presents are returned. What was amazing was how the parents so obviously continued to love their offspring in spite of everything, although one father said "How could he have said those things about me when he knew it would ruin my career as well as my life".
The extent to which parents are prepared to make sacrifices is in such contrast to the apparent casual way in which a 'false memory' accusation is made. A GP came to speak on behalf of her friend whose husband is in prison. He refuses to raise an appeal because he does not want to put his daughter through the trauma of a retrial; he prefers to sit out his 8 year sentence. There will be no remission, because he will not admit any guilt.
There were also some siblings present. Their anger at their brothers/sisters and their fierce protection of their parents was very good to hear. How we wish our only son had a sensible down to earth sister! One sister went to her younger sister saying "you made this accusation about our dad; I was there too, you must tell me what happened". The younger sister was unable to supply any details and refused to talk about it further. That was how the older sister knew the accusations were false.
Most amazing of all was to hear a presentation by E, a 25 year old girl who had accused a healthcare professional, her father and a family friend when she was 13. She was undergoing psychiatric treatment as an in-patient in an NHS hospital where she came to believe that sexual abuse might be the root cause of her problems. She vividly described how she felt trapped and how she felt that her only escape was to agree with the psychiatrist. E is now recovered, and reunited with her parents. She got a first at Oxford and is now doing her PhD. It took a long time for her to recover, and required a lot of sensitive support from her friends and family. Hearing her story, although very different from our own son's case, highlighted the deep traumas that may underlie and maybe even be the cause of the 'false memory' accusation. Although our son is outwardly happy, by all accounts, we remain concerned for him for as long as we are unable to communicate with him directly.
It is alarming how widespread the problem of 'false memory' is becoming. There were 100 of us at this meeting. The BFMS has received nearly 2500 calls from people facing problems of 'false memory' accusations. This is probably a fraction of the total. At the meeting I met someone I had worked with at a major pharmaceutical company - a former medical director of research, now retired. When his daughter accused him 10 years ago, he made the decision to inform his company's HR department. They came back to ask him if they could pass on his name to someone else with the same issues! Since then, he has been 'consulted' by half a dozen people, all referred to him by word of mouth.
It is very easy to create a dramatic story about childhood sexual abuse - the book Angela's Ashes sold millions of copies even though the author, when asked, was very flippant about the accuracy of the story. It is not so easy to create a story around 'false memories'. The BFMS has tried to develop a broadcast-able, or filmable, story, even consulting with Matthew Graham (writer of Life on Mars), but so far nothing has emerged. That does not make it less real, just more complex.
It was not easy to go to the meeting for the first time, but the welcome and support we received from the moment we entered the door was reassuring. Next time will be easier knowing that we will be meeting friends and supporters. We all live in the hope of being able to report on some positive progress in a year's time, even though now we understand that the road may be longer and stonier that we had imagined.
A member has offered to host informal family meetings for members in the London area. If you are interested please contact Madeline at the BFMS - tel: 01225 868682.
DVDs for sale at £10 (inc p&p)
2008 AGM:- .
Dr Kimberley Wade - Repressed & Recovered Memories: What does science say?
Emma, a retractor - How it was for me.
Ivan Tyrell - Human Needs, Depression and Psychotherapy
Andrew - Institutional Prejudice
Professor Gisli Gudjonsson - Family Survey update
Rosie Waterhouse - From Satanic Panic to Dissociation - a media perspective
Eileen, a mother - Never give up Video recordings are available for previous AGMs:-
Professor Gisli Gudjonsson - False Confession and 'Recovered Memory'
Open discussion with panel members: Professor Gudjonsson, Chris Saltrese, Margaret Jervis and Jim Fairlie.
Dr Janet Feigenbaum - A Journey Down Memory Lane : the biology of memory
Discussion Panel with Professor Jeffrey Gray, Dr Janet Feigenbaum and Dr Peter Naish
Oliver Cyriax - Justice in Psychotherapy : Prospects for reform
Discussion Panel with Dr Janet Boakes, Ali Malsher, Solicitor and Oliver Cyriax
Dr Chris Barden - Litigation and Legislation, Turning the Tide of False Memory Battles
Alan D. Gold - Recovering our Senses Instead of Memories, The Canadian False Memory Experience
Dr Pamela Freyd - Picking Up the Pieces, Family Reconciliation
Please contact Carolyn on 01225 868682 to order copies.