Research discussing corroboration and accuracy of recovered
An Annotated Bibliography by Lynn Crook
Andrews, B., Brewin, C., Ochera, J., Morton, J., Bekerian, D., Davies,
G., and Mollon, P. (1999). Characteristics, context and consequences of
memory recovery among adults in therapy. Brit J Psychiatry 175:141-146.
Abstract: One-hundred and eight therapists provided information on all
clients with recovered memories seen in the past three years, and were
interviewed in detail on up to three such clients. Of a total of 690 clients,
therapists reported that 65% recalled child sexual abuse and 35% recalled
other traumas, 32% started recovering memories before entering therapy.
According to therapists' accounts, among the 236 detailed client cases,
very few appeared improbable and corroboration was reported in 41%. Most
(78%) of the clients' initial recovered memories either preceded therapy
or preceded the use of memory recovery techniques used by the respondents.
Techniques seemed to be used more to help the clients to elaborate the
memories than to facilitate their initial recovery. Clients with whom
techniques had been used before the first reported memory recovery were
no less likely to have found corroborating evidence than clients with
whom no techniques had been used before memory recovery. Some of the data
are consistent with memories being of iatrogenic origin, but other data
clearly point to the need for additional explanations.
Bagley, C. (1995). The prevalence and mental health sequels of child
sexual abuse in community sample of women aged 18 to 27. Child sexual
abuse and mental health in adolescents and adults. Aldershot: Avebury.
Abstract: 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
Bull, D. (1999). A verified case of recovered memories of sexual abuse.
American Journal of Psychotherapy, 53(2), 221-224.
Abstract: A case is presented that shows verifiable evidence of repression
at work. Rachel, a 40-year-old woman with no history of mental illness
and ten years of exemplary professional work, recovers memories of childhood
sexual abuse by her father through a call from her youth pastor in whom
she had confided as an adolescent.
Chu JA, Frey LM, Ganzel BL, Matthews JA. (1999). Memories of childhood
abuse: Dissociation, amnesia, and corroboration. Am J Psychiatry 156(5):749-755.
OBJECTIVE: This study investigated the relationship between self-reported
childhood abuse and dissociative symptoms and amnesia. The presence or
absence of corroboration of recovered memories of childhood abuse was
also studied. METHOD: Participants were 90 female patients admitted to
a unit specializing in the treatment of trauma-related disorders. Participants
completed instruments that measured dissociative symptoms and elicited
details concerning childhood physical abuse, sexual abuse, and witnessing
abuse. Participants also underwent a structured interview that asked about
amnesia for traumatic experiences, the circumstances of recovered memory,
the role of suggestion in recovered memories, and independent corroboration
of the memories. RESULTS: Participants reporting any type of childhood
abuse demonstrated elevated levels of dissociative symptoms that were
significantly higher than those in subjects not reporting abuse. Higher
dissociative symptoms were correlated with early age at onset of physical
and sexual abuse and more frequent sexual abuse. A substantial proportion
of participants with all types of abuse reported partial or complete amnesia
for abuse memories. For physical and sexual abuse, early age at onset
was correlated with greater levels of amnesia. 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. Suggestion was generally denied as a factor
in memory recovery. A majority of participants were able to find strong
corroboration of their recovered memories. CONCLUSIONS: 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. 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.
Corwin, D. & Olafson, 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.
Summary: This article presents a unique case involving the recovery of
traumatic memory by a 17-year-old victim of documented child sexual abuse.
The authors present the history, verbatim transcripts, and behavioral
observations of a child's disclosure of sexual abuse to Dr. David Corwin
in 1984 and the spontaneous return of that reportedly unrecallable memory
during an interview with Dr. Corwin 11 years later. Both the child's disclosure
at age 6 and the young woman's sudden recall of the abuse at age 17 after
several years of reported inability to recall the experience are recorded
on videotape. This article includes transcripts of the interviews at ages
6 and 17.
The case was originally referred to Corwin for a court-appointed evaluation
of allegations of sexual and physical abuse. The father was accusing the
mother of having sexually and physically abused their daughter (Jane Doe).
Corwin had three interviews with the child and also met with both parents.
The evaluation along with previous documentation (Jane was seen for burns
to the bottom of both feet after her mother punished her by burning them)
strongly supported the child's allegation of both physical and sexual
abuse by her mother. Jane made consistent statements regarding the identity
of her sexual abuser and the nature of the abuse in all three forensic
interviews. Her accounts included sensory detail and she reported detailed
maternal threats not to disclose. In her first interview, her disclosure
was spontaneous and not in response to a question directed to sexual abuse.
In addition to the interviews, the records included protective services
reports, court declarations by the parents, pleadings, court decisions,
reports by prior evaluators and therapists, letters from Jane's parents,
friends, and relatives, and Jane's medical records.
Parental behavior during the interviews was also consistent with the mother
having abused Jane. Before each parent left the room, Corwin asked each
one to tell Jane to tell him the truth about anything he asked her. The
father did so with ease. However, instead of telling Jane to tell the
truth, her mother asked her to repeat what they had been talking about
that morning. Psychological testing of the mother was consistent with
the mother having a dissociative disorder. In addition, psychological
testing on Jane's mother indicated impulsivity, inadequate judgment, and
problems with perception and thinking. The father's psychological testing
indicated emotional constraint but found no problems with perception and
thinking. Based on the weight of the evidence the court gave Jane's father
full custody and denied visitation Jane's mother.
Jane was close to her father. However, at age 16 Jane was placed in foster
care after her father had a stroke and was placed in a nursing home. Jane's
foster mother recounts Jane's difficult and rebellious early adolescence.
Jane resumed contact with her mother during this time. After her father's
death, Jane wanted a closer relationship with her mother. Jane no longer
had any memory of the abuse but did remember that she had alleged abuse.
Her mother denied the abuse allegations and told Jane that her allegations
were based on pressure by her father so he could get custody of her. Jane
contacted Dr. Corwin and told him that she would like to see the videotapes
of herself because she was unable to recall the actual events. Jane said:
"I've chosen to believe that my real mom didn't do anything, even
though I don't really remember if she did or not."
Before showing her the videotape, Corwin asks Jane to remember everything
that she can about her interviews with him at age 6. Corwin asks her if
she remembers "anything about the concerns about sexual abuse."
Jane says: "No. I mean, I remember that was part of the accusation,
but I don't remember anything--wait a minute, yeah, I do." Corwin
asks her what she remembers. Jane responds, "My gosh, that's really,
really weird." This is followed by tears and Jane's speech becoming
choked up. Jane remembers the pain of her mother vaginally penetrating
with her finger during bath time. Jane only remembers only one instance
of this happening and wonders if it was an intentional act. Jane also
remembers making accusations about her mother photographing her with her
older brother and selling the pictures.
Corwin then shows Jane the videotapes of his interviews with her when
she was 6 years old. After watching the videotapes, Jane believes that
the child on the tapes was telling the truth, but still wants to believe
that maybe her mother hurt her accidentally and that she made it out to
be worse then it really was.
The authors discuss the case noting that Jane remembered the accusation
and the act of being digitally penetrated in the bathtub accurately. However,
she also remembers an making an accusation that she never in fact made-the
one about her mother taking and selling pictures of her and her brother
(a search of available records located no allegations by Jane about her
mother taking pictures). It is not known whether such an event occurred
and was not recorded or if a memory contaminant attached itself to an
otherwise accurate recollection. After recalling her mother's abuse and
viewing the tapes, Jane states that she wishes to continue seeing her
mother and notes that she does not yet know what her feelings are about
what she has remembered.
Dahlenberg, C. (1996, Summer) Accuracy, timing and circumstances of disclosure
in therapy of recovered and continuous memories of abuse. The Journal
of Psychiatry and Law.
Abstract: Seventeen patients who had recovered memories of abuse in therapy
participated in a search for evidence confirming or refuting these memories.
Memories of abuse were found to be equally accurate whether recovered
or continuously remembered. Predictors of number of memory units for which
evidence was uncovered included several measures of memory and perceptual
accuracy. Recovered memories that were later supported arose in psychotherapy
more typically during periods of positive rather than negative feelings
toward the therapist, and they were more likely to be held with confidence
by the abuse victim.
Duggal S, Stroufe LA. (1998). Recovered memory of childhood sexual trauma:
A documented case from a longitudinal study. Journal of Traumatic Stress
Summary: A child with documented history of sexual abuse, who had no recall
of this event in extensive interviews as a teenager, recalls memories
outside of therapy at age 19. Includes prospective and restrospective
data, multiple corroboration of sexual trauma in early childhood, prospective
evidence of memory loss in oral and written measures in consecutive assessments,
and evidence of spontaneous recovery of memory.
Duggal, S., & Sroufe, L. A. (1998). Recovered memory of childhood
sexual trauma: A documented case from a longitudinal study. Journal of
Trauma Stress,11(2), 301-321.
This account contains the first available prospective report of memory
loss in a case in which there is both documented evidence of trauma and
evidence of recovery of memory. The subject "Laura" participated
in a prospective longitudinal large-scale study of children followed closely
from birth to adulthood which was not focused on memory for trauma. Laura
spontaneously reported a recovered memory during a routine interview.
The memory was corroborated by historical records of a therapist who worked
with the family when the subject was 4 years old. There was abundant evidence
suggesting that Laura was being abused by her father during visitations.
However, there was no report of penetration, only fondling. Without physical
evidence, CPS did not feel there was enough evidence to prosecute the
father. However, because the father was a drug addict and alcoholic, it
was decided that Laura would only see her father during supervised visitations.
As a young child, Laura entered short-term therapy to deal with her anxiety
and anger towards her father along with her sexualized and regressive
behaviors. Evidence in the historical records shows that Laura's memory
for the abuse persisted until she was at least age 8. The last clear evidence
of memory of trauma is in the therapy records from third grade. Her mother
did not discuss the abuse unless Laura brought up the subject. As a result,
the subject was not discussed again.
At age 16, Laura filled out a questionnaire which asked if she had ever
been sexually abused. At this time, Laura indicated in writing that she
had never been sexually abused. It is noted that her denial does not appear
related to poor rapport with the interviewer or embarrassment, as she
was open and answered multiple questions about drug/alcohol abuse, family
relationships, and dating relationships which contained sensitive questions
without any apparent discomfort. At 17, Laura again denied any terrible
or unusual experiences including sexual abuse. Visitation had been increased
with her father as Laura indicated that she felt good about spending time
with her father.
At age 18, Laura had a conversation with boyfriend in which they discussed
their earliest memories. Her boyfriend asked her about her earliest memory
with her father. Laura reported that this question elicited a strange
reaction: "I told him and then all of sudden I got this really overwhelming
feeling, like that was, that was really weird and like, and I just shut
up and didn't say anything more
Partial recall of the memory returned in the school office while talking
with a trusted teacher about her father's drinking. Her recall consisted
largely of her father kissing her along with a compelling sense that there
was a sexual component to the interaction with her father. At the same
time, she felt a fear of her father that she didn't ever remember feeling
The memory was not suggested by a therapist and there were no apparent
rewards for remembering the abuse which created a great deal of pain and
confusion for Laura, especially concerning her feelings about her father.
Feldman-Summers, S., & Pope, K. S. (1994). The experience of forgetting
childhood abuse: A national survey of psychologists. Journal of Consulting
and Clinical Psychology, 62, 636-639.
Abstract: A national sample of psychologists were asked whether they had
been abused as children and, if so, whether they had ever forgotten some
or all of the abuse. Almost a quarter of the sample (23.9%) reported childhood
abuse, and of those, approximately 40% reported a period of forgetting
some or all of the abuse. The major findings were that (a) both sexual
and nonsexual abuse were subject to periods of forgetting; (b) the most
frequently reported factor related to recall was being in therapy; (c)
approximately one half of those who reported forgetting also reported
corroboration of the abuse; and (d) reported forgetting was not related
to gender or age of the respondent but was related to severity of the
Summary: 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
Herman, J. L., & Harvey, M. R. (1997). Adult memories of childhood
trauma: A naturalistic clinical study. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 10,
The clinical evaluations of 77 adult outpatients reporting memories of
childhood trauma were reviewed. A majority of patients reported some degree
of continuous recall. Roughly half (53%) said they had never forgotten
the traumatic events. Two smaller groups described a mixture of continuous
and delayed recall (17%) or a period of complete amnesia followed by delayed
recall (16%). Patients with and without delayed recall did not differ
significantly in the proportions reporting corroboration of their memories
from other sources. 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.
The implications of these findings are discussed with respect to the role
of psychotherapy in the process of recovering traumatic memories.
Herman, J. L., & Schatzow, E. (1987). Recovery and verification of
memories of childhood sexual trauma. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 4, 1-14.
Abstract: Fifty-three women outpatients participated in short-term therapy
groups for incest survivors. This treatment modality proved to be a powerful
stimulus for recovery of previously repressed traumatic memories. A relationship
was observed between the age of onset, duration, and degree of violence
of the abuse and the extent to which the memory of the abuse had been
repressed. Three out of four patients were able to validate their memories
by obtaining corroborating evidence from other sources. The therapeutic
function of recovering and validating traumatic memories is explored.
Kluft, R. (1995). The confirmation and disconfirmation of memories of
abuse in DID patients: A naturalistic clinical study. Dissociation: Progress
in the Dissociative Disorders, 8(4), 253-258.
Abstract: Reviewed the charts of 34 dissociative identity disorder (DID)
patients in treatment for instances of the confirmation or disconfirmation
of recalled episodes of abuse occurring naturalistically in the course
of their psychotherapies. 19 Ss had instances of the confirmation of recalled
abuses. 10 of the 19 had always recalled the abuses that were confirmed.
However, 13 of the 19 obtained documentation of events that were recovered
in the course of therapy, usually with the use of hypnosis. Three patients
in which the inaccuracy of their recollection could be demonstrated. Results
suggest that stances that are either extremely credulous of retrieved
recollections or extremely skeptical of retrieved recollections are
inconsistent with clinical data.
Lewis, D., Yeager, C., Swica, Y., Pincus, J. and Lewis, M. (1997). Objective
documentation of child abuse and dissociation in 12 murderers with dissociative
identity disorder. Am J Psychiatry, 154(12):1703-10.
OBJECTIVE: The skepticism regarding the existence of dissociative identity
disorder as well as the abuse that engenders it persists for lack of objective
documentation. This is doubly so for the disorder in
murderers because of issues of suspected malingering. This article presents
objective verification of both dissociative symptoms and severe abuse
during childhood in a series of adult murderers with dissociative
identity disorder. METHOD: This study consisted of a review of the clinical
records of 11 men and one woman with DSM-IV-defined dissociative identity
disorder who had committed murder. Data were
gathered from medical, psychiatric, social service, school, military,
and prison records and from records of interviews with subjects' family
members and others. Handwriting samples were also examined. Data were
analyzed qualitatively. RESULTS: Signs and symptoms of dissociative identity
disorder in childhood and adulthood were corroborated independently and
from several sources in all 12 cases; objective evidence of severe abuse
was obtained in 11 cases. The subjects had amnesia for most of the abuse
and underreported it. Marked changes in writing style and/or signatures
were documented in 10 cases. CONCLUSIONS: This study establishes, once
and for all, the linkage between early severe abuse and dissociative identity
disorder. Further, the data demonstrate that the disorder can be distinguished
from malingering and from other disorders. The study shows that it is
possible, with great effort, to obtain objective evidence of both the
symptoms of dissociative identity disorder and the abuse that engenders
Martinez-Taboas, A. (1996). Repressed memories: Some clinical data contributing
toward its elucidation. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 50(2), 217-30.
Abstract: Recently there has been considerable controversy about the validity
of memories recovered during psychotherapy. In the last two decades, a
plethora of studies have been published that leave no reasonable doubt
that many children are victimized and abused. Proponents of false memory
syndrome have taken the position that "memories" that surface
in the course of psychotherapy are not the product of real traumas, but
are instead,"pseudomemories" implanted by therapists through
techniques such as hypnosis and abreactions. In response to these claims,
the author presents two well documented and corroborated cases of dissociated
or delayed memories of child sexual abuse in patients with a diagnosis
of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). The patients had absolutely no
conscious memory of their childhood abusive experiences and in both cases
the author obtained definite and clear cut independent corroboration of
the realities of the abuse. The amnesia was documented and memories were
recovered in the course of treatment. Only through the publication of
clear cut cases can the debate about repressed memories be settled in
an empirical way.
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.
Summary: 46 adults with in depth 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,
Summary: 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., Woertman, L. Van der Hart, O., & Nijenhuis, E.R.S.
(2000). Forgetting child abuse: Feldman-Summers and Pope's (1994) study
replicated among Dutch psychologists. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy,
Abstract: In a replication of Feldman-Summers and Pope's (1994) national
survey of American psychologists on 'forgetting' childhood abuse, a Dutch
sample of 500 members of the Netherlands Institute of Psychologists (NIP)
were asked if they had been abused as children and, if so, whether they
had ever forgotten some or all of the abuse for soem significant period
of time. As compared to the 23.9% in the original study, 13.3% reported
childhood abuse. Of that subgroup, 39% (as compared to 40% in the original
study) reported a period of forgetting some or all of the abuse for a
period of time. Both sexual and non-sexual physical abuse were subject
to forgetting, which in 70% of cases was reversed while being in therapy.
Almost 70% of those who reported forgetting also reported corroboration
of the abuse. The forgetting was not related to gender or age, but was
associated with the reported early abuse onset. These results were remarkably
similar to the resulats of the Feldman-Summers and Pope's original study.
Widom, C. and Shepard, R. (1996). Accuracy of adult recollections of
childhood victimization: Part 1. Psychological Assessment, 8(4), 412-421.
Abstract: Using data from a study with prospective-cohorts design in which
children who were physically abused, sexually abused, or neglected about
20 years ago were followed up along with a matched control group, accuracy
of adult recollections of childhood physical abuse was assessed. Two hour
in-person interviews were conducted in young adulthood with 1,196 of the
original 1,575 participants. Two measures (including the Conflict Tactics
Scale) were used to assess histories of childhood physical abuse. Results
indicate good discriminant validity and predictive efficiency of the self-report
measures, despite substantial underreporting by physically abused respondents.
Tests of construct validity reveal shared method variance, with self-report
measures predicting self-reported violence and official reports of physical
abuse predicting arrests for violence. Findings are discussed in the context
of other research on the accuracy of adult recollections of childhood
Widom, C. and Shepard, R. (1997). Accuracy of adult recollections of
childhood victimization. Part 2. Childhood sexual abuse. Psychological
Assessment 9: 34-46.
Summary: 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, L. M. (1995, October). Recovered memories of abuse in women
with documented child sexual victimization histories. Journal of Traumatic
Abstract: This study provides evidence that some adults who claim to have
recovered memories of sexual abuse recall actual events that occurred
in childhood. One hundred twenty-nine women with documented histories
of sexual victimization in childhood were interviewed and asked about
abuse history. Seventeen years following the initial report of the abuse,
80 of the women recalled the victimization. One in 10 women (16% of those
who recalled the abuse) reported that at some time in the past they had
forgotten about the abuse. Those with a prior period of forgetting - the
women with "recovered memories" - were younger at the time of
abuse and were less likely to have received support from their mothers
than the women who reported that they had always remembered their victimization.
The women who had recovered memories and those who had always remembered
had the same number of discrepancies when their accounts of the abuse
were compared to the reports from the early 1970's.
Brown, D., Scheflin, A., and Whitfield, C. (1999). Recovered memories:
the current weight of the evidence in science and in the courts. The Journal
of Psychiatry & Law 27/Spring 1999