Many people are suspicious of recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse. I know I was suspicious before such memories came back to me—and after they came back, too. How could something so earth-shattering be forgotten? Actually, how could it be remembered? As a child I had to suppress the knowledge that my father was molesting me, in order to survive in the closed family system. My mother told me to forget it.
Jennifer Freyd, a cognitive psychologist who does research on traumatic forgetting, says there is no relationship between truthfulness of memories and whether they are continuously remembered. False memories (like that trip you took with your cousin to the Everglades when you were five—only it was really when you were seven and it was with your aunt) can persist. True memories can be lost. And vice versa. Freyd’s web pages contain a wealth of information on betrayal trauma and recovered memories.
It’s a crying shame that people who unearth memories of traumatic abuse are then made to feel shame and fear all over again because of the outcry about “false memories.” Recovery from abuse is hard enough without that added burden.