Recovered memories Quotes


This vacillation between assertion and denial in discussions about organised abuse can be understood as functional, in that it serves to contain the traumatic kernel at the heart of allegations of organised abuse. In his influential ‘just world’ theory, Lerner (1980) argued that emotional wellbeing is predicated on the assumption that the world is an orderly, predictable and just place in which people get what they deserve. Whilst such assumptions are objectively false, Lerner argued that individuals have considerable investment in maintaining them since they are conducive to feelings of self—efficacy and trust in others. When they encounter evidence contradicting the view that the world is just, individuals are motivated to defend this belief either by helping the victim (and thus restoring a sense of justice) or by persuading themselves that no injustice has occurred. Lerner (1980) focused on the ways in which the ‘just world’ fallacy motivates victim-blaming, but there are other defences available to bystanders who seek to dispel troubling knowledge. Organised abuse highlights the severity of sexual violence in the lives of some children and the desire of some adults to inflict considerable, and sometimes irreversible, harm upon the powerless. Such knowledge is so toxic to common presumptions about the orderly nature of society, and the generally benevolent motivations of others, that it seems as though a defensive scaffold of disbelief, minimisation and scorn has been erected to inhibit a full understanding of organised abuse.
Despite these efforts, there has been a recent resurgence of interest in organised abuse and particularly ritualistic abuse (eg Sachs and Galton 2008, Epstein et al. 2011, Miller 2012).

In the specific case of the use of the term false memory to describe errors in details in laboratory tasks (e.g., in word-learning tasks), the media and public are set up all too easily to interpret such research as relevant to false memories of abuse because the term is used in the public domain to refer to contested memories of abuse. Because the term false memory is inextricably tied in the public to a social movement that questions the veracity of memories for childhood sexual abuse, the use of the term in scientific research that evaluates memory errors for details (not whole events) must be evaluated in this light."
From:
What's in a Name for Memory Errors? Implications and Ethical Issues Arising From the Use of the Term False Memory for Errors in Memory for Details, Journal: Ethics & Behavior 14(3) pages 201-233, 2004

Some readers may find it a curious or even unscientific endeavour to craft a criminological model of organised abuse based on the testimony of survivors. One of the standard objections to qualitative research is that participants may lie or fantasise in interview, it has been suggested that adults who report severe child sexual abuse are particularly prone to such confabulation. Whilst all forms of research, whether qualitative or quantitative, may be impacted upon by memory error or false reporting. there is no evidence that qualitative research is particularly vulnerable to this, nor is there any evidence that a fantasy— or lie—prone individual would be particularly likely to volunteer for research into child sexual abuse. Research has consistently found that child abuse histories, including severe and sadistic abuse, are accurate and can be corroborated (Ross 2009, Otnow et al. 1997, Chu et al. 1999). Survivors of child abuse may struggle with amnesia and other forms of memory disturbance but the notion that they are particularly prone to suggestion and confabulation has yet to find a scientific basis. It is interesting to note that questions about the veracity of eyewitness evidence appear to be asked far more frequently in relation to sexual abuse and rape than in relation to other crimes. The research on which this book is based has been conducted with an ethical commitment to taking the lives and voices of survivors of organised abuse seriously.

We propose that use of the term false memory to describe errors in memory for details directly contributes to removing the social context of abuse from research on memory for trauma. As the term false memories has increasingly been used to describe errors in details, the scientific weight of the term has increased. In turn, we see that the term false memories is treated as a construct supported by scientific fact, whereas other terms associated with questions about the veracity of abuse memories have been treated as suspect. For example, recovered memories often appears in quotations, whereas false memories does not (Campbell, 2003).The quotation marks suggest that one term is questioned, whereas the other is accepted as fact. Accepting false memories of abuse as fact reflects the subtle assimilation of the term into the cognitive literature, where the term is used increasingly to describe intrusions of semantically related words into lists of related words. The term, rooted in the controversy over the accuracy of abuse memories recalled during psychotherapy (Schacter, 1999), implies generalization of errors in details to memory for abuse—experienced largely by women and children (Campbell, 2003)."
from: What's in a Name for Memory Errors? Implications and Ethical Issues Arising From the Use of the Term False Memory for Errors in Memory for Details, Journal: Ethics & Behavior

Today, acknowledgement of the prevalence and harms of child sexual abuse is counterbalanced with cautionary tales about children and women who, under pressure from social workers and therapists, produce false allegations of ‘paedophile rings’, ‘cult abuse’ and ‘ritual abuse’. Child protection investigations or legal cases involving allegations of organised child sexual abuse are regularly invoked to illustrate the dangers of ‘false memories’, ‘moral panic’ and ‘community hysteria’. These cautionary tales effectively delimit the bounds of acceptable knowledge in relation to sexual abuse. They are circulated by those who locate themselves firmly within those bounds, characterising those beyond as ideologues and conspiracy theorists.
However firmly these boundaries have been drawn, they have been persistently transgressed by substantiated disclosures of organised abuse that have led to child protection interventions and prosecutions. Throughout the 1990s, in a sustained effort to redraw these boundaries, investigations and prosecutions for organised abuse were widely labelled ‘miscarriages of justice’ and workers and therapists confronted with incidents of organised abuse were accused of fabricating or exaggerating the available evidence. These accusations have faded over time as evidence of organised abuse has accumulated, while investigatory procedures have become more standardised and less vulnerable to discrediting attacks. However, as the opening quotes to this introduction illustrate, the contemporary situation in relation to organised abuse is one of considerable ambiguity in which journalists and academics claim that organised abuse is a discredited ‘moral panic’ even as cases are being investigated and prosecuted.

Although the terminology implies scientific endorsement, false memory syndrome is not currently an accepted diagnostic label by the APA and is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.; American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Seventeen researchers (Carstensen et al., 1993) noted that this syndrome is a "non-psychological term originated by a private foundation whose stated purpose is to support accused parents" (p.23). Those authors urged professionals to forgo use of this pseudoscientific terminology. Terminology implies acceptance of this pseudodiagnostic label may leave readers with the mistaken impression that false memory syndrome is a bona fide clinical disorder supported by concomitant empirical evidence.(85)...
... it may be easier to imagine women forming false memories given biases against women's mental and cognitive abilities (e.g., Coltrane & Adams, 1996). 86

Batley insisted that no cult existed but the jury found him guilty of 35 offences including 11 rapes. three indecent assaults, causing prostitution for personal gain, causing a child to have sex and inciting a child to have sex. The three women, who got Egyptian Eye of Horus tattoos apparently to show their allegiance to their organisation, were found guilty of sex-related charges.
Young boys and girls were procured by cult members to take part in sex sessions, the trial heard. The group preyed on vulnerable youngsters, impelling them to join with veiled death threats. Batley was accused of forcing a number of his victims into prostitution.
(Morris 2011)
There are, after all, no paedophile rings; there is no ritual abuse; recovered memories cannot he trusted; not all victimization claims are legitimate.
(Pratt 2009: 70)

from: The Portrayal of Child Sexual Assault in Introductory Psychology Textbooks - Elizabeth J. Letourneau, Tonya C. Lewis
One of the central questions surrounding the debate on memories of CSA is how often false or repressed memories actually occur. The APA working group (Alpert et al., 1996) and other experts (e.g., Loftus, 1993a) noted that no reliable method can distinguish between accurate and inaccurate memories. Therefore, no one can determine the prevalence of false or repressed memories. Nevertheless, six texts (30%) implied that false memories occur frequently (see Table 1). Of these, three included the opinionated suggestion that a "witch hunt" may be occurring in which innocent parents are routinely accused of, and then severely punished for, CSA. Two texts suggested that false memories of CSA must occur because an entire support group (the FMSF) has been formed for falsely accused parents. These authors apparently failed to consider that some members of the FMSF may actually have sexually assaulted children but are motivated to appear innocent. (85)

Allegations of multi-perpetrator and multi-victim sexual abuse emerged to public awareness in the early 1980s contemporaneously with the denials of the accused and their supporters. Multi-perpetrator sexual offences are typically more sadistic than solo offences and organised sexual abuse is no exception. Adults and children with histories of organised abuse have described lives marked by torturous and sometimes ritualistic sexual abuse arranged by family members and other care-givers and authority figures. It is widely acknowledged, at least in theory, that sexual abuse can take severe forms, but when disclosures of such abuse occur, they are routinely subject to contestation and challenge. People accused of organised, sadistic or ritualistic abuse have protested that their accusers are liars and fantasists, or else innocents led astray by overly zealous investigators. This was an argument that many journalists and academics have found more convincing than the testimony of alleged victims.

Treating Abuse Today (Tat), 3(4), pp. 26-33
Freyd: I see what you're saying but people in psychology don't have a uniform agreement on this issue of the depth of -- I guess the term that was used at the conference was -- "robust repression."
TAT: Well, Pamela, there's a whole lot of evidence that people dissociate traumatic things. What's interesting to me is how the concept of "dissociation" is side-stepped in favor of "repression." I don't think it's as much about repression as it is about traumatic amnesia and dissociation. That has been documented in a variety of trauma survivors. Army psychiatrists in the Second World War, for instance, documented that following battles, many soldiers had amnesia for the battles. Often, the memories wouldn't break through until much later when they were in psychotherapy.
Freyd: But I think I mentioned Dr. Loren Pankratz. He is a psychologist who was studying veterans for post-traumatic stress in a Veterans Administration Hospital in Portland. They found some people who were admitted to Veteran's hospitals for postrraumatic stress in Vietnam who didn't serve in Vietnam. They found at least one patient who was being treated who wasn't even a veteran. Without external validation, we just can't know --
TAT: -- Well, we have external validation in some of our cases.
Freyd: In this field you're going to find people who have all levels of belief, understanding, experience with the area of repression. As I said before it's not an area in which there's any kind of uniform agreement in the field. The full notion of repression has a meaning within a psychoanalytic framework and it's got a meaning to people in everyday use and everyday language. What there is evidence for is that any kind of memory is reconstructed and reinterpreted. It has not been shown to be anything else. Memories are reconstructed and reinterpreted from fragments. Some memories are true and some memories are confabulated and some are downright false.
TAT: It is certainly possible for in offender to dissociate a memory. It's possible that some of the people who call you could have done or witnessed some of the things they've been accused of -- maybe in an alcoholic black-out or in a dissociative state -- and truly not remember. I think that's very possible.
Freyd: I would say that virtually anything is possible. But when the stories include murdering babies and breeding babies and some of the rather bizarre things that come up, it's mighty puzzling.
TAT: I've treated adults with dissociative disorders who were both victimized and victimizers. I've seen previously repressed memories of my clients' earlier sexual offenses coming back to them in therapy. You guys seem to be saying, be skeptical if the person claims to have forgotten previously, especially if it is about something horrible. Should we be equally skeptical if someone says "I'm remembering that I perpetrated and I didn't remember before. It's been repressed for years and now it's surfacing because of therapy." I ask you, should we have the same degree of skepticism for this type of delayed-memory that you have for the other kind?
Freyd: Does that happen?
TAT: Oh, yes. A lot.

Treating Abuse Today 3(4) pp. 26-33
TAT: I want to move back to an area that I'm not real comfortable asking you about, but I'm going to, because I think it's germane to this discussion. When we began our discussion [see "A Conversation with Pamela Freyd, Ph.D., Part 1", Treating Abuse Today, 3(3), P. 25-39] we spoke a bit about how your interest in this issue intersected your own family situation. You have admitted writing about it in your widely disseminated "Jane Doe" article. I think wave been able to cover legitimate ground in our discussion without talking about that, but I am going to return to it briefly because there lingers an important issue there. I want to know how you react to people who say that the Foundation is basically an outgrowth of an unresolved family matter in your own family and that some of the initial members of your Scientific Advisory Board have had dual professional relationships with you and your family, and are not simply scientifically attached to the Foundation and its founders.
Freyd: People can say whatever they want to say. The fact of the matter is, day after day, people are calling to say that something very wrong has taken place. They're telling us that somebody they know and love very much, has acquired memories in some kind of situation, that they're sure are false, but that there has been no way to even try to resolve the issues -- now, it's 3,600 families.
TAT: That's kind of side-stepping the question. My question --
Freyd: -- People can say whatever they want. But you know --
TAT: -- But, isn't it true that some of the people on your scientific advisory have a professional reputation that is to some extent now dependent upon some findings in your own family?
Freyd: Oh, I don't think so. A professional reputation dependent upon findings in my family?
TAT: In the sense that they may have been consulted professionally first about a matter in your own family. Is that not true?
Freyd: What difference does that make?
TAT: It would bring into question their objectivity. It would also bring into question the possibility of this being a folie à deux --

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