What are the strongest cases in the Archive?
This depends on which form of evidence you find most convincing. The cases adjudicated in criminal court were subject to the highest standard of proof, so these might be considered the most convincing cases. Perhaps most convincing are those where the defendant did not contest guilt, since those cases pose no factual question as to whether the abuse occurred. Then again, claims of innocence notwithstanding, there are cases in the archive that involve eyewitnesses, medical evidence, and physical evidence. There is even a case that an adjudicator found to meet Biblical standards of proof: two witnesses. Some people find clinical cases more convincing than court cases, since they do not evolve through the adversary system. Accordingly, the Archive contains a range of cases. Different people will find different kinds of cases to be the most persuasive.
What does it mean for a case to be corroborated?
For cases to be included in the archive, they must meet a standard of corroboration. Corroboration can be defined as “evidence which confirms or supports a statement, theory, or finding.” We consider evidence which supports a claim of recovered memory to be corroborative evidence.
Corroborative evidence usually involves physical evidence or statements from other parties which corroborate an individual’s recovered memories. Examples include physical documentary evidence, medical records, witnesses to events, confessions by perpetrators, or testimonies to prior disclosure by the survivor (which they may or may not remember having made). We also consider the existence of other victims, especially cases in which there were multiple other victims or in which the facts of the cases were similar, to be corroborative.
Why is the archive limited to corroborated cases?
This archive serves a specific purpose: to rebut claims that ignore, dismiss, or misconstrue the existence of corroborated recovered memories. So-called “skeptics” such as Fred Crews, Richard Gardner, and Paul McHugh claim that recovered memories cannot exist in reality, as there are no genuine corroborated cases. Others, including Elizabeth Loftus and Ofra Bikel allow for the occasional case, but reject the possibility that repeated abuse can be repressed and later recovered. As such, the focus of this archive is exclusively on corroborated cases.
The intention of corroborative evidence in our archive is similar to the use of corroborative evidence in a court of law; corroborative evidence is used to strengthen or confirm an already existing proposition or testimony. The corroborative evidence in our archive strengthens, confirms, or backs up the testimony of all recovered memories.
It is important to note that a lack of corroboration does not necessarily mean something is untrue or untrustworthy. The argument that corroboration should be required to believe recovered memories harkens back to a time where women’s accusations of sexual abuse weren’t believed without supporting evidence. As our rules regarding law and testimony in court cases have evolved, corroboration requirements have been eliminated in the name of respecting the integrity of a single victim's account.
Why do some cases have extensive documentation, while others have minimal information?
The Archive was established with the minimum standard that “cases” had to be identified with sufficient specificity that other researchers could find the case as published or have sufficient leads that researching the case would be possible. Some cases in the archive exceed that standard because additional information has been made available, along with consent to use it on the Web. Public information supplements other cases, where possible. It should be noted that this minimum standard has almost never been applied to the countless “cases” reported as false-memory. Many claims about the prevalence of that phenomenon and the merits of various cases remain unscrutinized by scientific processes such as replication and verification. The cases in this Archive are all open to scrutiny. The clinical cases are cited by publication, and all remaining cases are identified with sufficient specificity to conduct additional research.
Have any cases been removed from the archive?
As we have reviewed the archive in preparation for the newest iteration of the website, cases for which we wanted additional sources, or which we knew had had further proceedings (for example, an appeal was completed) were removed from the archive and put on hold for further review. This does not mean that the recovered memory in the case was not corroborated, but simply that we want to update the website with as current and complete documentation as is possible.
Previously, three cases were removed over time. Most recently, a case from the Legal section, Commonwealth v. Slutzker, was removed and placed on hold pending additional legal proceedings.
Two other cases were removed at a previous update, based on information provided by people who looked into those cases further. Both had been misreported in the press. First, the Owen Dulmage case from Canada was removed. While a major press report clearly indicated otherwise, later coverage indicates that the delay in coming forward was psychological, not memory-related. While remembering his abduction all along, Mr. Helferty “said that 38 years later, one of the things that disturbs him most is his inability to remember the details of his final four nights as a hostage.” Roik, “‘Boy snatcher’ still a risk; Crown seeks 4 years for ‘disturbed, dangerous’ Dulmage,” Ottowa Sun (March 3, 1999): p. 7. The second case removed from the Archive is the Shacklett case from Mt. Clemens, Michigan. It was also removed for the same reason as the Dulmage case. As it turns out, most of the coverage of this case misreported the memory issue, deeming it “a repressed memory case.” It now appears that the defense characterized the memory as “repressed,” an increasingly common technique of impugning those with continuous memory by falsely claiming that their memory was recovered. It should be noted that both of these cases are clearly corroborated cases of sexual abuse. But neither involved recovered memory.