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Amnesia in Childhood Sexual Abuse Victims
DID/Trauma/Memory Reference List
Amnesia in Childhood Sexual Abuse Victims

Without exception in every study of sexual abuse survivors, amnesia has been found. There have been no studies that asked about amnesia that found amnesia did not exist in the studied population. 
Albach, F., Moorman, PP, & Bermond, B. (in press) Memory recovery of childhood sexual abuse. Dissociation.
97 women with child sexual abuse and a matched group of 65 controls. 35% of CSA group reported amnesia at some time, compared to 1% of controls who reported amnesia for nontraumatic unpleasant childhood experiences. Psychotherapy was not typically reported to be the cause of recovering abuse memories.
Bagley, C. (1995). Child sexual abuse and mental health in adolescents and adults. Aldershot: Avebury.
Study of women 18-24 years who had been removed from home 10 years previously by social services due to intrafamilial sexual abuse. Of the 19 women for whom there was evidence of serious sexual abuse, 14 remembered events corresponding to their records. Two remembered that abuse had taken place but could recall no specific details, and three had no memory. Two of the last three described long blank periods for the memory of childhood corresponding to the age when abuse had taken place. 

Belicki, K., Correy, B., Boucock, A., Cuddy, M, & Dunlop, A. (1994). Reports of sexual abuse: Facts or fantasies? Unpublished manuscript. St. Catherine's, Ontario: Brock University. [cited in Scheflin & Brown, 1996]
55.4% of abused students in study reported disrupted memory. Subjects reporting no abuse responded significantly differently than the other three groups with respect to definitions of sexual abuse, psychiatric symptoms, and sleep and dream behavior. There were no significant differences in response to the questions between those who had disrupted memory and those who did not. Those who had recovered memories were just as likely as those who had continuous memory to have corroborative evidence. Those with disrupted memory were significantly more likely to have experienced repeated episodesof abuse; to have experienced a combination of both sexual and physical abuse and to have been abused by a family member.

Bernet, CZ, Deutscher, R., Ingram, RE, & Litrownik, AJ. (1993). Differential factors in the repression of memories of childhood sexual abuse. Poster session presented at the annual conference of the Association for the Advancement of Behavioral Therapy. [cited in Scheflin & Brown, 1996]
            624 undergraduates. 21% reported at least one experience of sexual abuse prior to age 15. 36% reported no memory for a period of time. Only 30% had been in therapy, so it was "unlikely that they remembered their abuse as a consequence of psychotherapy."

Briere, J, & Conte, J. (1993). Self-reported amnesia for abuse in adults molested as children. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 6, 21-31.
            450 subjects. 59% did not remember abuse at some point.

Cameron, C. (1996). Comparing amnesic and nonamnesic survivors of childhood sexual abuse: A longitudinal study. In K. Pezdek & W Banks (Eds.). The recovered memory/false memory controversy, 41-68. San Diego: Academic Press.
            60 women. 35% always remembered; 23% had partially forgotten; 42% had completely forgotten for between 15 and 50 years. 46% who had always remembered wanted to confront abusers. 63% who recovered memory wanted to confront, partly to help validate returning memory.

Corwin, D. & Olson, E. (1997). Videotaped discovery of a reportedly unrecallable memory of child sexual abuse: Comparison with a childhood interview taped 11 years before. Child Maltreatment, 2(2), 91-112.
            Case study of videotaped child interview and later interview in which adult had forgotten the abuse.

Dahlenberg, CJ. (1996). Accuracy, timing, and circumstances of disclosure in therapy of recovered and continuous memories of abuse. Journal of Psychiatry and Law, 24(2), 229-275.
            17 women recovered memories of sexual or physical abuse by their fathers in therapy. Ss and their fathers cooperated in finding evidence for the abuse, which was presented to and rated by 6 independent judges. Memories of abuse were equally accurate whether continuously remembered or recovered. 

Draijer, N. (1990). Seksuele traumatisering in de jeugd: Govolgen oplange termijn van seksueel misbruik van meisjes door verwanten. Amsterdam, SUA.
1054 women. 82% reported denying abuse; 57% had full or partial amnesia.

 Elliott, DM, & Briere, J. (1995). Posttraumatic stress associated with delayed recall of sexual abuse: A general population study. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 8(4), 629-648.
           Random general population study. 505 subjects. 30% of women and 14% of men report sexual abuse. 42% had full or partial amnesia. 7% were in therapy. 13% said therapy involved recovery of memory. Therapy was the least endorsed trigger of recovered memory.

Elliot, DM, & Fox, B. (1994). Child abuse and amnesia: Prevalence and triggers to memory recovery. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Society of Traumatic Stress. Chicago, IL. [cited in Scheflin & Brown, 1996].
           484 students. 36% of women and 15% of men reported abuse. 30% reported significant periods when they had no memory of the abuse. The least commonly reported triggers for recovered memory was psychotherapy.

 Ensink, BJ. (1992). Confusing realities: A study of child sexual abuse and psychiatric symptoms. Amsterdam, VU University Press.
            100 women. 29% had times when they had completely forgotten. 57% had intervals where they had never thought about it or had completely forgotten.

 Feldman-Summers, S. & Pope, KS. (1994). The experience of "forgetting" childhood abuse: A national survey of psychologists. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 62(3), 636-639.
            330 psychologists. 24% physical and 22% sexual abuse. Of those abused, 40% did not remember at some time. 47% had corroboration. 56% said psychotherapy aided in recall. Differences between those who first recalled abuse in therapy and those who recalled it elsewhere were not significant.

Femina, D, Yeager, CA, & Lewis, DO. (1990). Child abuse: Adolescent records versus adult recall. Child Abuse and Neglect, 14, 661-676.  

Fish, V, & Scott, C. (in press). Childhood abuse recollections in a non-clinical population: Forgetting, secrecy, dissociation, and absorption. Unpublished manuscript. [cited in Scheflin & Brown, 1996]
423 counselors. 14% physically abused; 25% sexually abused. 52% had forgotten all or part of the abuse for a period of time. 32% had said they forgot abuse completely for a period of time. 

Gold, SN, Hughes, D, & Hohnecker, L. (1994). Degrees of repression of sexual abuse memories. American Psychologist, 49, 441-442.
105 subjects (87% women). Initial interview: 30% had no memory of abuse; 40% had partial memory; 30% had always remembered. 

Grassian, S., & Holtzen, D. (in press). Sexual abuse by a parish priest I: Memory of the abuse.
99 victims of Father James Porter. Of the 42 who responded to questions about memory, 19% reported "no thoughts" about the abuse. The data revealed two groups: internalizers, who had few thoughts about the abuse over significant life periods, but became symptomatic thought out their lives and showed intensification of symptoms when they recovered the memory; and externalizers, who retained continuous memory but showed consistently lower adjustment in the form of conduct and addictive behaviors.

Harvey, MR, & Herman, JL (1994). Amnesia, partial amnesia, and delayed recall among adult survivors of childhood trauma. Consciousness and Cognition, 4, 295-306.  

Herman, JL, & Schatzow, E. (1987). Recovery and verification of memories of childhood sexual trauma. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 4, 1-4.
52 women. 36% always remembered; 64% partial amnesia; 36% mild to moderate amnesia. 74% found some corroboration; 40% got confirmation from perpetrator.
Kluft, RP. (1995). The confirmation and disconfirmation of memories of abuse in DID patients: A naturalistic clinical study. Dissociation, 8(4), 253-258.
34 DID patients. 19 (56%) had confirmation. 10 of the 19 (53%) had always recalled the confirmed trauma. 13 of the 19 (68%) obtained confirmation for events that were recalled during the course of treatment. 3 (9%) had instances in which inaccuracy of their recollection was demonstrated. 85% of confirmed memories were accessed with hypnosis
Kristiansen, CM, Felton, KA, Hovdestad, WE, & Allard, CB. (1995). The Ottawa study: A summary of the findings. Unpublished manuscript. Ottawa, Ontario: Carleton University.
113 women. 61% had some corroboration. 51% had partially or fully forgotten; 49% had always remembered.

Irwin, HJ (1996). Traumatic childhood events, perceived availability of emotional support, and the development of dissociative tendencies. Child Abuse and Neglect, 20, 701-707 

Loftus, EF, Polonsky, S, & Fullilove, MT (1994). Memories of childhood ssexual abuse: Remembering and repressing. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 18, 67-84.
105 women in treatment for substance abuse. 54% reported memory of child sexual abuse. 19% "forgot" documented abuse, 12% had partially forgotten, and 69% had always remembered.
Melchert, TP (1996). Childhood memory and a history of different forms of abuse. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 27(5), 438-446.
553 nonclinical sample reporting physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Percent that reported they had periods without memory of abuse are consistent across subsamples: 21% physical, 18% sexual, 18% emotional.
Roe, CM, & Schwartz, MK (1996). Characteristics of previously forgotten memories of sexual abuse: A descriptive study. Journal of Psychiatry and Law, 24(2), 189-206.
52 women, hospitalized for sexual trauma. 88% reported history of Child sexual abuse. 77% had not remembered for a significant amount of time (3 to 45 years.).
Scheflin, AW, & Brown, D. (1996). Repressed memory or dissociative amnesia: What the science says. Journal of Psychiatry and Law, 24(2), 143-end.
Describes 25 studies on repressed memory of childhood sexual abuse. Although the studies had various methodologies every one showed evidence of repressed memory, and with the exception of 2 studies, were relatively uniform in the percentage of repression.
Swica, Y, Lewis, DO, & Lewis, M. (1996). Child abuse and dissociative identity disorder: The documentation of childhood maltreatment and the corroboration of symptoms. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 5(2), 431-447.
Careful and extensive documentation of repressed memories in DID patients.

van der Kolk, BA, & Fisler, R. (1995). Dissociation and the fragmentary nature of traumatic memories: Overview and exploratory study. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 8, 505-525.
          46 adults with indepth interviews. Of the 36 with childhood trauma, 42% suffered significant or total amnesia at some time. Corroborative evidence was available for 75%. 

Viederman, M. (1995). The reconstruction of a repressed sexual molestation fifty years later. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 43, 1169 -.
Single Case Study: Reconstruction of a previously completely repressed memory of sexual molestation. Six years following termination of analysis, the patient wrote a letter describing a confirmation of the event, now sixty years past, from the sole other survivor of the period who had knowledge of what had happened.
Westerhof, Y, Woertmann, L, & van der Hart, O. (In press). Forgetting child abuse: Feldman- Summers & Pope's (1994) replicated among Dutch psychologists.
Psychologists with abuse histories. 39% report forgetting and later recovering memories of abuse. 70% of recovered memories were corroborated. Delayed recall is "not a North American culture-bound phenomena."
Widom, CS, & Morris, S. (In press). Accuracy of adult recollections of childhood victimization: II. Childhood sexual abuse. Psychological Assessement. [cited in Scheflin & Brown, 1996].
A prospective study in which abused and neglected children (court substantiated) [N=1,114] were matched with non-abused and neglected children and followed into adulthood. There was substantial underreporting of sexual abuse, when compared to court and medical records. Victimization recall was checked by comparing crimes disclosed in victimization surveys found in police records. The question should be not whether reports of childhood sexual abuse are valid or not, but what is the best way to ask questions to make answers more valid.
Williams, LM. (1995). Recovered memories of abuse in women with documented child sexual victimization histories. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 8(4), 649-674.
In interviews with 129 women with documented history of child sexual abuse, 38% had some degree of amnesia, and 12% denied they had been abused.

Williams, LM (1994). Recall of childhood trauma: A prospective study of women's memories of child sexual abuse. Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology, 62, 1167-1176.


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