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Accuracy of Recovered Memories

Recovered memories of abuse in women with documented child sexual victimization histories. (Williams, 1995). Full Text.
Impact: In a community sample of 129 women with documented histories of childhood sexual abuse that included women who experienced recovered memories, the authors found that “regarding the accuracy of the accounts, this study suggests that while the women’s reports of some details have changed (N.B., this may be a problem in the original account, not the adult memory) the women’s stories were in large part true to the basic elements of the original incident.” Secondly, “the woman’s level of uncertainty about recovered memories was not associated with more discrepancies in her account. While these findings cannot be used to assert the validity of all recovered memories of child abuse, this study does suggest that recovered memories of child sexual abuse reported by adults can be quite consistent with contemporaneous documentation of the abuse and should not be summarily dismissed by therapists, lawyers, family members, judges, or the women themselves.”

Dalenberg, C. J. Accuracy, timing and circumstances of disclosure in therapy of recovered and continuous memories of abuse. (Dalenberg, 1996)
Impact: Victims and perpetrators of abuse were interviewed to assess the accuracy of continuous and recovered memories of abuse. Memories of abuse recovered in therapy were found to be just as accurate as the continuous memories of abuse.

Recovered memory and the Daubert criteria: Recovered memory as professionally tested, peer reviewed, and accepted in the relevant scientific community. (Dalenberg, 2006).
Excerpt: “Research during the past two decades has firmly established the reliability of the phenomenon of recovered memory… There should be no negative assumption as to the accuracy of the recovered memory victim (as compared to the alleged continuous memory victim) in courts of law. Both should be subject to the same standards of proof for their allegations.”

Accuracy of adult recollections of childhood victimization: Part 1. (Widom & Shepard, 1996). Full Text.
Impact: Following up on cases of documented abuse about 20 years ago, the study suggests that in many ways, retrospective self-reports of childhood abuse are accurate. However, 40% of participants with documented abuse did not report their own abuse. Whether or not participants reported their documented childhood abuse depends on a complex array of factors, including sample selection and assessment methods, whether the person is male or female, and current mental health status.

Accuracy of adult recollections of childhood victimization: Part 2. (Widom & Morris, 1997). Full Text.
Impact: Following up on cases of documented abuse about 20 years ago, the study found that in general, a higher percentage of men did not report their document abuse than women. These gender differences may reflect inadequate measurement techniques or an unwillingness on the part of men to disclose this information. Overall, the study found substantial underreporting of sexual abuse among known victims of childhood sexual abuse. The underreporting means that there is a substantial group of people with documented histories of childhood sexual abuse who do not report these experiences when asked in young adulthood to do so. Whether this is due to loss of memory, denial, or embarrassment is not known.

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