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"Recovered memory of a single incident is plausible, but years of abuse cannot be repressed and recovered."

“Robust repression… capable of stealing away from awareness knowledge of decades-long abuse and brutalization… remains utterly unsupported.” - Richard Ofshe, in the FMSF Newsletter. [1]

“Could people completely forget years of traumatic events such as rape, only to recall them later? … "massive repression" is probably not a human capacity.” - Mark Pendergrast, in the FMSF Newsletter. [2]


There are multiple corroborated cases of robust repression, where an individual repressed and subsequently recovered memories of multiple years of repeated abuse. These are four notable examples from the corroborated cases archive:

The Case of Claudia - 3 years
Claudia experienced three years of continual and repeated childhood sexual abuse by her brother, beginning at 4 years old. He regularly handcuffed her, burned her with cigarettes, and forced her to submit to a variety of sexual acts. Claudia had no recollection of these events until she recovered memories of abuse 15 years after he died in combat.

Claudia’s parents had left his room and his belongings untouched since then. When Claudia searched the room, she found a large pornography collection, handcuffs, and a diary in which her brother had extensively planned and recorded what he called sexual ‘experiments’ with his sister. [3]

Herald v. Hood - 12 years
Herald v. Hood was a 1992 civil case in which Julie Herald sued her uncle, Dennis Hood, alleging sexual abuse from age 3 (in 1962) through 15. Herald recovered her memories of childhood abuse as an adult, while watching her 4-year-old daughter play with a friend.

Herald had multiple forms of corroboration for her memories including a confession from the perpetrator in a taped telephone conversation. Two therapists also testified that at a meeting with Herald in their offices, he admitted sexually abusing her. She was awarded $150,000 in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. [4]

Pfiefle v. Hustwaite - 7 years
In Pfiefle v. Hustwaite, a 31 year old woman alleged that she was repeatedly raped and molsted by a teacher for 7 years – from 1969 to 1976 – while she was a grade school student. She recovered the memories of childhood abuse as an adult, and found several other victims who helped establish that the church-run school should have known about the teacher’s abuse. The school settled out of court in the woman’s favor for 1.4 million dollars. [5]

Haines v. Hodges - 12 years
In a civil case, Haines alleged “that Hodge repeatedly molested him and gave him drugs, alcohol and pornography for 12 years starting in 1969 when Haines was only 8, and offered assurances that ‘God will forgive you.’” Haines contended in his lawsuit, filed in August 1994, “that he repressed memories of the sexual abuse until they were brought out in therapy in 1993.” [6]

The case was corroborated by the successful claim of Jesse D. Hickan, who was molested by the priest in 1989 and 1990 and filed a similar suit to Haines' in the months preceding Haines' case. Both men had evidence “that church officials—including Johnson, the bishop of the diocese, and Weinhaurer, the former bishop—knew about child sex abuse by Hodges, but conspired to hide it.” [6]


[1] Ofshe, R., & Watters, E. (1994). Making monsters: False memories, psychotherapy, and sexual hysteria (pp. x, 340). Charles Scribner’s Sons/Macmillan Publishing Co.

[2] Pendergrast, Mark. (2003, November/December). Recovering from Recovered Memories. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 12(6), 6.

[3] Bower, Bruce. (1993, September 18). Sudden recall: adult memories of child abuse spark a heated debate. Science News 144(12) 184-86.

[4] Fields, R. (1992, July 25). Witness Says She Felt Confusion and Guilt; Memory of Sex Abuse Comes Back by Observing Daughter, Court is Told. Akron Beacon Journal.

[5] Pfiefle v. Hustwaite. (1991). Shepard’s/McGraw-Hill, Verdicts, Settlements & Tactics.

[6] Morrison, C. (1995, April 15). Lawsuit Accusing WNC priest of child sex abuse settled. Asheville Citizen-TImes.

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