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Process of Recalling Recovered Memories

Characteristics of previously forgotten memories of sexual abuse: A descriptive study. (Roe & Schwartz, 1996)
Impact: Following up on women who had previously been hospitalized for sexual trauma, this study aims to describe what people remember when they initially recall childhood sexual abuse after a period of self-reported amnesia for that abuse. Participants were more likely to recall part of an abuse episode, as opposed to an entire abuse episode, following a period of no memory of the abuse. Additionally, first memories tended to be described as vivid rather than vague. This process of recalling abuse appears to have taken an average of 4.2 years, with an average age of suspicion beginning at approximately 29 years.

Amnesia, partial amnesia, and delayed recall among adult survivors of childhood trauma. (Harvey & Herman 1994). Full Text.
Impact: Patients who experienced childhood trauma were found to show three general patterns of traumatic recall. (1) Relatively continuous recall of childhood abuse experiences coupled with changing interpretations (delayed understandings) of these experiences, (2) partial amnesia for abuse events, accompanied by a mixture of delayed recall and delayed understanding, and (3) delayed recall following a period of profound and pervasive amnesia. Variations among them suggest that the phenomena underlying traumatic recall are continuous and not dichotomous. The study suggests that the second category, mixed experiences of recall and amnesia, is most common among survivors.

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 “for this sample of women, memories resurfaced in conjunction with registering events or reminders and an internal process of rumination and clarification.”

Traumatic events: Prevalence and delayed recall in the general population. (Elliott, 1997). Full Text.
Impact: 72% of 505 respondents reported some form of trauma. In this subpopulation, 32% experienced delayed recall of the event. The most commonly reported trigger to recall of the trauma was some form of media presentation (i.e., television show, movie), whereas psychotherapy was the least commonly reported trigger.

Adult memories of childhood trauma: A naturalistic clinical study. (Herman & Harvey 1997). Full Text.
Impact: “The clinical evaluations of 77 adult outpatients reporting memories of childhood trauma were reviewed. Of 47% who reported some amount of delayed recall, idiosyncratic, trauma-specific reminders and recent life crises were most commonly cited as precipitants to delayed recall. A previous psychotherapy was cited as a factor in a minority (28%) of cases. By contrast, intrusion of memories after a period of amnesia was frequently cited as a factor leading to the decision to seek psychotherapy.

Memories of childhood abuse: Dissociation, amnesia, and corroboration. (Chu et al., 1999). Full Text.
Impact: Childhood abuse, particularly chronic abuse beginning at early ages, is related to the development of high levels of dissociative symptoms including amnesia for abuse memories. Participants who reported recovering memories of abuse generally recalled these experiences while at home, alone, or with family or friends. Although some participants were in treatment at the time, very few were in therapy sessions during their first memory recovery. This study strongly suggests that psychotherapy usually is not associated with memory recovery and that independent corroboration of recovered memories of abuse is often present.

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