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False Memory Syndrome

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[b]"Repressed Memory: What the Science says"[/b]
(From "Accuracy About Abuse" May 1997)

Professor Alan Schefflin, Santa Clara University Law School and Dr. Daniel Brown reviewed 25 recent studies (spring 1996) on Amnesia for childhood sexual abuse. They state:

[b] "No study failed to find it....Amnesia for childhood sexual abuse is a robust finding across studies using very different samples and methods of assessment. Studies addressing the accuracy of recovered memories show that recovered memories are no more or no less accurate than continuous memories for abuse".[/b]

[b]Herman & Schatzow (1987)[/b]: 53 women - 36% always remembered, 64% some amnesia; 36% mild to moderate amnesia; 28% "severe memory deficits". 74% found corroboration, with 40% getting confirmation for perpetrators, other family members, physical evidence and 34% from siblings or other victims.

[b]Albach (in press):[/b] 97 women with a history of CSA and a matched control of 65 non-abused women. 35% in the sexually abused group reported amnesia at some time, compared to 1% in the control group who reported amnesia for nontraumatic unpleasant childhood experiences. Psychotherapy was not typically reported to be the cause of recovering the abuse memory.

[b]Roe & Schwartz (1996):[/b] 52 women, hospitalized for sexual trauma. 88% reported history of csa. 77% not remembered for significant time (3 to 45 years)

[b]Bernet et al (1993) :[/b] 624 undergraduates reported at least one experience of sexual abuse prior to age 15. 36% reported no memory for a time. Only 30% had been in therapy so "unlikely that they remembered their abuse as a consequence of psychotherapy"

[b]Belicki et al (1994):[/b] 55.4% of abused students in study reported disrupted memory. "Subjects reporting no abuse responded significantly differently than the other three groups with respect to definitons of sexual abuse, psychiatric symptoms and sleep and dream behaviour. There were no significant differences in response the the questions between those who reported and those who did not report corroboration of abuse. There were also no significant differences in response to the questions bewteen those who had disrupted memory and those who had continuous memory for childhood sexual abuse. Those who had recovered memories were just as likely as those who had a continuous memory to have corroborative evidence for the abuse.

[b]Van Der Kolk & Fisler (1995) :[/b] 46 adults in in depth interview. Of the 36 subjects with childhood trauma 42% had suffered significant or total amnesia at some time. Corroborative evidence available for 75%.<p>[b] Williams (1994) : [/b] 129 women who had been sexually abused as children. 38 % failed to report or were amnestic for childhood sexual abuse though it was clearly documented in medical records 17 years earlier. 32% said they were never abused. "Amnesia for sexual abuse in a community sample is not an uncommon event. There was a tendency for women with the [i]clearest evidence of abuse[/i] to be [i]more amnestic"[/i]

[b]Widom & Morris (in press) :[/b] Court substantiated abuse and child-neglect cases. 39% of the sexually abused failed to report the documented child abuse. "We have also found substantial under-reporting of sexual abuse among known victims of sexual abuse. This is particularly impressive since these are court substantiated cases of childhood sexual abuse"

[b]Spiegel[/b]: "Memories in dissociate amnesia are not so much distorted as they are segregated from one another."

[b]Williams[/b]: In general, women with recovered memories had no more inconsistencies in their reports than women who had always remembered....their retrospective reports were remarkably consistent with what had been reported in the 1970's....the stories were in large part true to the basic elements".

[b]Dalenberg (1996) :[/b] "Memories of abuse recovered in psychotherapy were no more or no less accurate than memories of abuse that had always beem remembered. The overall accuracy rate of both continued and recovered memories of abuse was quite high (70%) Just over half the patient sample significantly improved their accuracy for their abuse memories in the course of psychotherapy".

Now, that's only a handful of the studies. But they're all basically saying similar things.
 
Repressed memory in war vets or holocaust survivors has been a long acknowledged phenomena. It was only when it began to be about sexual abuse that people started jumping up and down. It has challenged some of the highest echelons of society. While it may have been necessary to challenge certain therapuetic praxis, I think it's not suprprising that there's been such a move to suppress the truths of survivors with recovered memories.
Add to this that many survivors of adult rape/s (self included) have also forgotten chunks of their experiences.

But even dodgy therapy does not necessarily a false memory make. There is the well-known case of Jill Christman (From Freyd, "Betrayal Trauma: The Logic of Forgetting Childhood Abuse") Christman attended therapy for some personal problems, and began to recover memories of childhood sexual abuse. The memories involved the presence of another child and were recovered in a confusing, cloudy way. Christman, who was aware of the memory polemics raging at the time, felt that the therapist was pushy and suggestive, and so abandoned therapy, deciding that her memories were "false". Later, she was sought out by the other victim who in fact corroborated what Christman had remembered in therapy.

The FMS brigade have disseminated much damaging misinformation. One of it's most simplistic views is that women are all too anxious to blame sexual abuse for all their problems. Among other things, anty reading of this board can show that we are often reluctant to identify the abuse that lies behind many of our sufferings. Many of us self-berate for not being "stronger".

This contention is also very insulting; it's really another way of saying that women are silly buggers who don't know their own minds. Thinking of theories which accuse women of fantasizing about sexual abuse is nothing new either, this has it's roots id Freud's "Electra Complex", a theory which has damaged and invalidated women for over a century. But this theory was infact invented by ol' Siggy because he was copping too much flack for believing that repectable Viennese fathers could rape their own daughters. Too damaging to those with power.
And so we come full circle. But the Electra Complex has at least gained some respectability (however dubious) while "False Memory Syndrome" is not and has never been a recognized psychiatric phenomena. As a matter of fact it was thought up by some son of a bitch named Ralph Underwager, a known supporter of paedophilic sexuality.

FMS proponents also have simplistic views about they ways in which they claim false memories are produced. Many, many survivors with recovered memories have not in fact experienced these brands of "therapy". These "methods" don't appear to be terribly common.

Of course it's awful to imagine anyone being convicted on dubious evidence. But by far the problem for victims of rape/child sexual abuse is the lack of justice executed by courts, particularly, thanks to the FMS, if the case is based on recovered memories.

A personal experience for me of the differences in survivors who do and don't remember: My sister and I were both sexually abused in early childhood. It took place in eachother's presence. I have always remembered, but my sister does not recall a single detail.

[b]All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second it is violently opposed. Third it is accepted as being self-evident" (Arthur Schopenhauer)[/b]

************************<p>You may also be interested to read "The Courage to Heal" it has a great section on recovered memories as well.

Peace,
Kellie

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[url="http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Taubman_Center/Recovmem/"]http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Taubman_Center/Recovmem/[/url]
An internet based project which contains recovered memories of abuse that have been corroborated by witness testimony.

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Splendid link:

Amnesia for childhood sexual abuse is a condition.

The existence of this condition is beyond dispute.


Repression is merely one explanation

– often a confusing and misleading one –

for what causes the condition of amnesia.

At least 10% of people sexually abused in childhood

will have periods of complete amnesia for their abuse,

followed by experiences of delayed recall.


[url="http://www.jimhopper.com/memory/"]http://www.jimhopper.com/memory/[/url]

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Thanks for posting this :)

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[quote name='' date='30 January 2002 - 08:14 AM' timestamp='1012400094' post='19141']
<a href="http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Taubman_Center/Recovmem/"><b>The recovered memory project</b></a>
An internet based project which contains recovered memories of abuse that have been corroborated by witness testimony.
[/quote]

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FYI - the original post that has the brown.edu link is from 2002, so it's likely that it got taken down since. But there are many, many other resources out there that do support childhood amnesia as a result of abuse and overwhelmingly dispute the claims of false memory syndrome.

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Hey Zephyr and Pavitra - the link is still there, fortunately - here it is: [url="http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Taubman_Center/Recovmem/"]http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Taubman_Center/Recovmem/[/url]

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Also, a couple of years ago Wikipedia was disseminating some really unbalanced information to the effect that recovered memories was totally discredited. It was completely biased, misleading and inaccurate. It gave me the shits, so I wrote to Ross Cheit (founder of the [url="http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Taubman_Center/Recovmem/"]Recovered Memory Project[/url] and survivor with corroborated recovered memories) expressing my concern, and he said he'd put a student on it to clean it up. Perhaps he did, because the [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repressed_memory"]Wiki info[/url] is currently far more balanced. Let's hope it stays that way.

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Thank you for this thread because it has been quite helpful for me.

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Thanks for the additional information Lou!

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Thanks for posting this, it took me 11 years and another close call before I finanlly started having flashbacks. And to make it worse is people still ask me if I'm sure that's what happened? Every time I close my eyes I see it, how can I not be sure?
Kristin

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sometimes i'm not sure if this would be me....what if ive actually got it all wrong and in fact nothing happened...
im afraid that if this is true, ive been hating someone for years for no reason

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Thanks so much for the information. One of the thing about my recovery that bothers me the most is that there are still SO MANY things that I cannot remember, no matter how hard I try. I cannot remember there being a bathroom in the house where my worst abuse took place, although my mother says that when I was seven I told her about something that happened in the bathroom. It's frustrating.
I also read an article recently that people with PTSD (as many survivors of CSA do) have deficiencies in the development in the hippocampus region of the brain, which governs memory. As if the will or the need to forget in order to survive, influences the memory center of the brain to forget. I trained my brain to forget so well that now I can't even remember to pay the electric bill!
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reading comments and so on here and thinking i need to block some of this out yikes
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/look-it-way/201001/recovered-memory-syndrome/comments

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Hi Skat,

I know, I often feel the same way, especially when I am feeling good. I start to think that I must be making it all up somehow. Unfortunately something happens to trigger the memories again and it all comes crashing down on me again. I have to belive that I could never make this up, that there is no benefit to me for doing that. I just keep trying to trust myself, and I think I am getting better at that.
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warning may trigger.
hi im new here and this is my firt post.and just coming to terms with the idea of repressed memories. when i was five years old my sister who was fourteen at the time was raped by a close family friend of my parents. we used to go to his flat regularly at weekends he used to pretend to my parents that we where babysitting for his daughter. sometimes we did baby sit but most times we stayed at his. for many years i remebered a small part of him abusing me. but after having had a traumatic time in the last few years my memory began to unlock a lot of things and gradually the full horror of what happened that night through vivid flashbacks began to reveal itself.
i had always thought that my abuse and my sisters where two seperate incidents but in fact they both happened on the same night. he coaxed me to come and sleep in his bad as i felt unwell. i felt like the room was spinning. now with an adult mind i know that i was probably actually partially drunk. he abused me in his bed and then tried to penetrate me. i was five years old and didnt fully understand what he was doing. he then got out of bed and whent back into the room where my sister was sleeping and violently raped her. i tried to help her but he threw me against the wall and shouted to me to get out. when he had finished i was allowed to go back to bed with my sister. it came as a huge shock to me to realise the whole truth of what happened. i have since started to remember at least another three occasions when he abused me. and lots of occasions when he was probably abusing my sister.
my mum sensed that something was wrong after the rape of my sister but she would not admit it so my mum banned him from the house. so that abuse stopped when i reached the age of six yet still my sister used to meet up with him in secret and used me as an alibi and i was forced to keep these meetings a secret. i was told by my sister that if my dad found out or i told then my dad would kill him and my dad would be sent to prison for the rest of his life and i would never see my dad again. apparently he had actually threatened my sister that he would kill my dad if she told.
all my life i only remembered a tiny part of what happened and i can assure you that now that the full memory of it has returned it took 35 years for this to happen. i now realise just how much it has affected my life and there is no way that my memory is wrong the flashbacks are just way too vivid. i have also been sexually assaulted by my brother when i fifteen he was 13 years older than me and my ex husband used to physically and mentally abuse me and rape was a regular punishment he used against me.then after i left him his best friend tricked his way into my home and sexually assaulted me over a twelve hour period.while my two young children slept upstairs. i couldnt report it as i believed that the authorities would take my children off me for being stupid enough to let him into my home. he tricked his way in on the pretense that he would fix my washing machine.

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Hi Welshspirit

I'm glad you felt able to share this, and Ihope we can help you heal. Welcome.

Lou

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Thanks for this it made some things make sense for me.

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I love this thread.



I get the FMS people yelling at me all the time. There is a lot of external evidence, but they dont care, and they make me start to feel like a fake and a lyer, or that I've just gone mad and no longer know what is real.



Thankyou for this thread

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I am so grateful for this thread. I have no "real" memories of the abuse. What I have are body memories, flashbacks, dreams, and night terrors. Because I don't have a linear "movie" memory of any of it, I feel like maybe it didn't happen. Part of me knows the body memories and flashbacks are real and should be all the proof I need, but without any "normal" memories of what happened I sometimes feel crazy, as in -- am I making this up? But then, why in the hell would I do that? My life was going really well. Now I'm an anxious mess. I'm afraid of the dark, I need meds to sleep at night and even then I have problems. I can't work, my marriage is strained, why would I make it all up?

The first CSA flashback was three years ago. I was 42 years old. I'm 45 now. Since the first flashback I've had many others, some clearly about the same event, some not so clear (but just as real and scary). Many, many flashbacks, several body memory episodes, but still no "real" memories. I wish I could just trust that I didn't make it up. I know I have to accept that it really happened. This thread is another small step towards acceptance. But what if I never remember? How can I accept if I can't remember?

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Repressed memory in war vets or holocaust survivors has been a long acknowledged phenomena. It was only when it began to be about sexual abuse that people started jumping up and down.

I think there are some people who would (and still do) deny the experiences of Holocaust survivors based on the idea that memory cannot be repressed (and based on a number of other things that just aren't really all that valid. Many people just don't want to admit that the world can be a dangerous and painful place, or that real hurt that can't just be willed away instantly with a positive attitude can exist. From what I've heard, the False Memory Syndrome Foundation was created after a woman accused her father of sexual abuse based on memories she had recovered but not always remembered. That alone makes the entire concept fishy to me. The loudest voices against survivors who are recovering memories are adults who are trying to disprove allegations against themselves. It seems like if an adult is being accused of sexual abuse and really believes that he/she did not commit the act, he/she should be required to provide evidence that he/she did NOT do what was claimed and not try to create an entire foundation based off the idea that no one's recovered memories are valid. It ends up putting the survivor, rather than the accused perpetrator on trial. It's not just the survivor's story, but it's also their sanity, their decency, and possibly the credibility of their therapist (who may have helped them to recover those memories).

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I have one sister who cannot remember YEARS of her childhood. She is the one sis who hasn't had counseling...and the one who was molested by our dad. She has horrible anxiety attacks if a policeman pulls her over (to the point they think she's on drugs) because our dad was a policeman. I've always been certain that her mind is blocking it to protect her....before I'd even heard of such things.

Those who have blocked memories might try EMDR...I've experienced it...it takes the emotion out of the memory. It is used for PTSD, rape victims, etc. Any kind of severe trauma. It does work.

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I remember comeing across this article when I first read "The Courage to Heal". It was very interesting. :)

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