THE MYTH OF REPRESSED MEMORY: False Memories and Accusations of Sexual Abuse by Elizabeth & Katherine Ketcham Loftus

THE MYTH OF REPRESSED MEMORY: False Memories and Accusations of Sexual Abuse

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A research psychologist whose specialty is memory pokes giant holes in claims that survivors of sexual abuse repress their memories of the abuse and can then recover them with the help of therapists. Loftus, who also teamed up with Ketcham to write Witness for the Defense (1991), points out that no scientific evidence exists to validate such claims. Comparing the current rash of sex abuse charges based on ""recovered memory"" to the 17th-century Salem witchcraft trials, she often opens chapters with quotes from The Crucible, Arthur Miller's play on that subject. Loftus describes her own research at the University of Washington, which found that false memories of a mildly traumatic childhood event (becoming lost in a large store, for example) were easily implanted in the minds of adult subjects. According to Loftus, therapists operating under the assumption that ""incest is epidemic, repression is rampant, recovery is possible, and therapy can help,"" implant similarly false memories of more serious traumas through a variety of therapeutic techniques, including suggestive questioning, age regression, and hypnosis. Memories ""recovered"" through these techniques, she asserts, can lead to painful and destructive confrontations that rip apart families and sometimes end in prison sentences for innocent people. Loftus, who has served as an expert witness, recounts her experience testifying in defense of George Franklin, whose adult daughter's recovered memories resulted in his conviction for the murder of one of the daughter's childhood friends. She also details the bizarre case of Paul Ingram (see Lawrence Wright's Remembering Satan, p. 216), whose recovered memories led him to confess to participation in quite unbelievable satanic rituals. Sure to arouse controversy: Proponents of the validity of repressed memories (""True Believers,"" as Loftus calls them) will see this as anathema; others will applaud her reasonable and restrained approach to a touchy subject.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1994
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: St. Martin's