Dear ISSTD Community,
This month, two pioneers in the field of complex trauma and dissociation retired: Professor Jennifer Freyd and Professor Ross Cheit. They were personal heroes of mine a long time before I had the chance to meet them. While each has made a distinctive contribution, I’ve been struck by their similarities. They are not only esteemed scholars but also renowned advocates for survivors of child sexual abuse.
Jennifer’s research on the impact of betrayal on trauma responses has transformed our understanding of the relational and contextual dimensions of memory. Her early career as an academic psychologist was marked by the establishment of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation by her parents. The grace and thoughtfulness with which she faced those controversies left an indelible impression on me. Time and again, Jennifer has enriched the field with new conceptual and empirical insights, including her recent focus on institutional courage as the antidote to institutional betrayal. Jennifer has served the ISSTD as the editor of the Journal of Trauma and Dissociation since 2006 and the journal has flourished under her stewardship.
In 1994, in the midst of the so-called “memory wars”, Ross filed suit against the San Francisco Boys Chorus, having recalled child sexual abuse committed by a summer camp counsellor. Ross’ testimony was corroborated by other victims as well as the confession of the perpetrator, and the Chorus settled the claim and apologised for Ross’ abuse. His suit was a powerful statement about the credibility of recovered memories of child sexual abuse. Since that time, Ross’s impactful research and publications on child sexual abuse have been characterised by a forensic attention to detail. His magnus opus “The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children” is the definitive history of the American response to child sexual abuse.
While their scholarly achievements are immense, I’m particularly grateful to Jennifer and Ross for the personal example they have shown: the courage to break through disbelief and silence, to find words for harms that haven’t been named, to speak on behalf of people who have been denied a voice. May all our work by guided by the same commitment to justice.