The Validity of Recovered Memories

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Defense Paper One: The Validity of Recovered Memories
The sudden recovery of repressed memories from a traumatic event such as childhood sexual abuse can be both validating and confusing for clients that are seeking help with various problems. These new memories might be able to help client identify the cause of their feelings and issues that are affecting their life. However for others it can be a very difficult time because of the conflicting emotions about the abuser. Worst of all when dealing with the recovery of repressed memories they may be all together false. The accuracy of recovered memories in regards to sexual abuse is low and can come with significant consequences. These false memories can be very harmful to the client as well as anyone falsely accused of sexual abuse. In the late nineteenth century Sigmund Freud began using the term repression to explain how memories of a traumatic event can be inaccessible for a period of time and then return at a later date sometimes suddenly while during other times slowly developing over a period of time into a more clear memory. It was believed that repressed memories or motivated forgetting was a defense mechanism for people who needed to protect themself from the harmful and painful memories of a traumatic experience (Boag, 2006). More recently repressed memories being recovered about childhood sexual abuse (CSA) has caused more studies to be conducted to determine if the memories being recovered are valid or if false memories are be produced due to the fact that “human memories are vulnerable to distortion, that illusory memories can be created and therapies designed to recover memories of repressed abuse may inadvertently foster false memories of trauma” (Clancy, Schacter, McNally, & Pitman, 2000, p. 26)

Some therapist believes that memories that have been repressed can be successfully recovered with therapy and that these memories accurately portray the past events to the extent that legal action can be taken. Some states have even ratified laws to accommodate the recovery of repressed memories so that believed offender of CSA can be prosecuted once the client has recovered their memory of the traumatic event (Partlett & Nurcombe, 1998). These memories can be recovered using various therapies such as hypnosis, dream interpretation, guided imagery and truth serum. Many of the therapies used for recovering repressed memories include having the client in a relaxed state so that the memories can then be recalled more effectively. However a fallacy can occur when trying to help a client recover a repressed memory. If a therapist explains how a type of therapy such as hypnosis is helpful in recovering memories of CSA the client may then remember such instances of abuse simply because they believe the therapy works, so it does. ***As with any type of memory recovered memories are also subject to corruption and can vary from partially true to completely false. Recovered memories can be a fabrication of events and details that never actually took place. Because of these false memories being about such extreme information such as CSA an organization called False Memory Foundation was created in 1992 to help those who have been accused of such acts. The foundation will help the accused get in touch with attorneys that specialize in cases regarding repressed and recovered memories (Lein, 1999). For example a women’s recovered memory of being forced to drink blood as a child was later discovered to be nothing more than her drinking from a communion cup as a child. The wine she drank was explained to her as the blood of Christ when going to church and as a child thought the wine to be of real blood. This caused what appeared to be a traumatic memory but turned out to be a memory that was explained easily and while the memory was true the actual act of drinking blood was not (Pope & Brown, 1996). At times the memories that are recovered are later found to be true with...
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