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  • Print publication year: 2000
  • Online publication date: January 2010

20 - Recovered and false memories

from Part III


The issue of selective forgetting of childhood sexual abuse has produced very complicated and sometimes confusing arguments. Essentially, they revolve around the question of whether or not trauma can be forgotten and later remembered. Early advocates of the concept of selective forgetting took the extreme view that all instances of recovered memories have historical truth. The challenge to the notion of selective forgetting is consistent with evidence from patients suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In these cases, memories for trauma intrude into consciousness and are remembered unintentionally. The individual would prefer not to remember details of the trauma; yet, thoughts and memories of the trauma cannot be controlled. Many people's lives have been profoundly affected by the phenomena of recovered memories: parents who have been falsely accused; retractors (people who recover memories and later retract their accounts), and people who recover memories of genuine childhood sexual abuse.