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“What about retractors?”

“Dr. Loftus testified that fewer people believe in the concept [of recovered memory] today because of… the hundreds and hundreds of recanters and retractors.” - Judge Dougherty's, in the FMSF Newsletter. [1]

“That brave group of retractors, who had the courage to admit they were in error when they accused parents of abuse… [they] helped create public recognition that false memories were a societal problem.” - Allen Feld, in the FMSF Newsletter. [2]


Roland Summit theorized the Child Abuse Accomodation Syndrome based on “the collective experience of dozens of sexual abuse treatment centers in dealing with thousands of reports or complaints of adult victimization of young children,” a vast majority of which were corroborated by a confession from the perpetrator. It outlines five categories of reactions children [could have] to childhood abuse that are often a “contradiction to the most common assumptions of adults.” The fifth category, retraction, involves those who reverse their story and take back their accusations of abuse.

Summit writes that a child’s accusation “contradicts the entrenched beliefs and expectations typically held by adults, stigmatizing the child with charges of lying, manipulating or imagining from parents, courts and clinicians. Such abandonment by the very adults most crucial to the child’s protection and recovery drives the child deeper into self-blame, self-hate, alienation and re-victimization.”

“In the chaotic aftermath of disclosure, the child discovers that the bedrock fears and threats underlying the secrecy are true. Her father abandons her and calls her a liar. Her mother does not believe her or decompensates into hysteria and rage. The family is fragmented… Once again, the child bears the responsibility of either preserving or destroying the family. The role reversal continues with the “bad” choice being to tell the truth and the “good” choice being to capitulate and restore a lie for the sake of the family. Unless there is special support for the child and immediate intervention to force responsibility on the father, the girl will follow the “normal” course and retract her complaint.”

While not every retraction can be explained by Summit’s work, it shows that people who retract their accusations of childhood sexual abuse do not invalidate the phenomenon of recovered memories as a whole.

Read more on the subject of Retractors on the page [retractors].


[1] Rivers v. Father Flanagan's Boys Home and James E. Kelly, Doc. 1024 No. 743 (District Court of Douglas County Nebraska, 2005).
Cited in Legal Corner. (2006, January/February). FMS Foundation Newsletter. 15(1), 8.

[2] Feld, Allen. (2002, September/October) My Deepest Appreciation. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 11(5), 7.

[3] Summit, R. C. (1983). The child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome. Child Abuse and Neglect, 7, 177-193.

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