Repressed Memory of Sexual Abuse a Creation of the Media?

by John McKiggan

The media has been full of reports over the outrage caused by disgraced priest and convicted sex abuser Paul Shanley’s appeal based on the (supposed) unreliability of “repressed memory”.

I posted about the story last week Priest Sex Abuser Appeals Conviction: Denies Existence of Repressed Memory .

Today I read an interesting post by Tim Lytton on the PrawfsBlawg about the issue. He makes the point that the media attention surrounding the various priest sexual abuse scandals has perhaps over estimated the incidence of repressed memory in historical sexual abuse cases.

Lytton points out that:

First, since claiming recovered memory is one way to overcome statute of limitations problems, clergy sexual abuse litigation makes the frequency of recovered memory among victims appear to be greater than it actually is. Second, most plaintiffs seeking to avoid dismissal of their claims under the statute of limitations do not allege recovered memory but rather delayed discovery of injury–claiming that, although they never forgot the abuse, they did not identify the damage that it caused or they did not attribute that damage to the abuse. Third, most lawsuits and prosecutions for clergy sexual abuse are supported by independent evidence of guilt.

I couldn’t agree more.

I have represented hundreds of victims of historical sexual abuse and in not one of them did my client, claim to have “repressed” the memory of the abuse.

In most cases the victim was aware of the fact of the abuse, but did not realize that their ongoing psychological problems were a product of their childhood.

Furthermore, in almost every single case we have been able to find independent evidence to corroborate my clients claims.

So perhaps the furor over repressed memory has been caused, in part, by the media. What do you think?

I have represented hundreds of victims of childhood sexual abuse in claims for compensation. As a public service I have prepared a resource guide for survivors of sexual abuse in Atlantic Canada. You can receive a free copy of this report by contacting me through this blog, or my website at or my blog or you can call me toll free 1-877-423-2050.

One Response to “Repressed Memory of Sexual Abuse a Creation of the Media?”

December 31, 1969 at 6:00 pm, Kittskat said:

I was repeatedly molested until I was 7 or 8 years old. It was not until I was about 15 ( and that was 20 years ago)that the memories came back to me, so I know exactly what repressed memory is,it is something that happens to protect our minds, not something that was created by the media!

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