"...a segment (just how big is yet to be known) of the current
accusations are coming from people claiming to have 'recovered' repressed
memories of abuse after years and sometimes decades have passed. Such
memories are, according to many skeptical scholars, the result of
atrocious therapeutic technique and highly suggestible patients'
imaginations. " Jon Trott 1
"I doubt [that] it [repressed / recovered memory therapy] will die out
completely. Once an idea enters the cultural mainstream, it has a way of
resurfacing like a bloated corpse every few years." Mark Pendergrast.
"We're going to see more guilty priests in the future, and
therefore more falsely accused priests. The motive and the means are
there."Dean Tong, a false-accusation consultant and
professional forensics expert.
"If you think you were abused, and your life shows the symptoms, then you
were." Ellen Bass & Laura Davis. 4
"Avoid being tentative about your repressed memories. Do not just tell them;
express them as truth. If months or years down the road, you find you are mistaken about
details, you can always apologize and set the record straight. You cannot wait until you
are doubt-free to disclose to your family. This may never happen." Renee Fredrickson.
"The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie -- deliberate,
contrived, and dishonest -- but the myth -- persistent, persuasive, and
unrealistic." J.G. Kennedy. 6
"If these Catholic cases start hinging on repressed memory, then
we're going to see a new rash of cases brought against the Church."
Major concern about abusive hebephiles and pedophiles in the Roman Catholic priesthood (and
to a lesser degree among other clergy) surfaced in early
2002. As of 2002-MAY, new incidents are being featured almost daily on TV news
broadcasts. Associated with this panic has been the revival of belief in the
usefulness of Recovered Memory Therapy (RMT), and of
belief in the reliability of recovered, long-repressed memories which it generates. Repressed
memories are a.k.a. dissociative amnesia, traumatic amnesia, betrayal trauma,
and by other names.
According to author Mike Pendergrast, "surveys that
indicated [that] some 25% of American counselors specialized in recovered memory
therapy at its height in the early 1990s." 2 RMT had since
been largely abandoned by mental health practitioners. It is now experiencing a
comeback in connection with clergy abuse.
What is RMT?
RMT is a therapeutic technique which is based on the belief that many
children repress all memory of severe sexual abuse. According to this belief,
they may have been brutally raped many times a week over a period of five years;
yet, as adults, they have no recollection of the attacks. In fact, they might
believe that their childhood was quite happy. RMT therapists believe that
symptoms of insomnia, depression, anxiety, relationship difficulties, etc.,
often appear in adulthood because of these repressed memories. These therapists
typically use some combination of suggestive techniques, like hypnotism, guided
imagery and visualizations, dream therapy, age regression, automatic writing --
or even simply having the client imagine abuse that might have happened to them.
After weeks or months of therapy, many client begin to recall what appear to be
fractured images of abuse. These gradually coalesce into what feel like actual
memories of sexual abuse.
RMT appears to be a mechanism by which the beliefs
of the therapist produce what appear to be memories in their clients. Sometimes,
these "memories" are of abuse on board UFOs, abuse during former lifetimes, or
Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) by demon worshipers. A new
theory is that memories of future events can be "recovered." Most people give
such "memories" little credibility. But some believe that "memories" of
childhood sexual abuse recovered by RMT are credible.
Some adults who have
gone through RMT have recalled being sexually abused by clergy, and are
launching law suits against priests, ministers and pastors. Some therapists,
DA's and police investigators are accepting these "memories" as valid evidence
of childhood abuse. Almost all memory researchers, all major professional mental
health associations, and most therapists regard RMT as a dangerous, unproven
therapy that often creates memories of events that never happened -- often
called "false memories." Many hundreds of people have been unjustly
convicted on the basis of false memories in the past. History may be repeating
Types of memories:
Adults may recall events during their childhood in at least three ways:
Always-present memories: The person may have continually recalled
childhood abuse from the time that the abuse happened to the present time.
They often experience hypermnesia -- an unusually vivid set of memories from
long ago. There
is often some distortion in these memories: sometimes a recollection will
contain elements of two or more events; some details will be lost over time.
But the memories are generally of events that really happened.
Dormant memories: The person may have simply not thought
anything about the
childhood events. But some trigger -- a picture, smell, location, newspaper
article, TV program, etc -- may unexpectedly cause the memories to come
rushing back -- generally within seconds. Most people have experienced
long-forgotten, non-abusive memories flooding back as a result of some
such trigger. It sometimes happens with memories of childhood abuse as well. These
memories also tend to be related to real events.
Repressed memories: These are typically assembled over a period of
During intense RMT, or
During periods of self-hypnosis using techniques described in The
Courage to Heal or other self-help books, or
Within self-help, mutual support groups.
There is a near consensus among memory researchers, and a growing agreement
among therapists that most of these "memories" are false. They are not of real
events. In fact a report of the Working Group on
Reported Recovered Memories of Child Sexual Abuse of theRoyal College of Psychiatrists
in England went so far as to say: "We can find no evidence that apparent
memories of long forgotten and repeated child abuse have ever been proven to be
There is a consensus among memory researchers that memories of events which
happened before the age of 48 months are unreliable; actual recollections before 24
months of age are unknown. However, a small percentage of clinicians maintain that people can be
age-regressed, and be able to recall memories during their birth process; some even believe
that a person can be regressed into a former lifetime.