Recovered Memory Syndrome has falsely convicted scores of men in Canada. CanLaw
You really think you have rights?




Recovered Memory Syndrome More Feminist Fabrications

There is no such thing as Recovered Memory Syndrome. It is anothe lunatic fringe concept promoted by the ignorant. It is no different than accusing people of being witches. It is a modern version of mass hysteria based on hate, jealousy and the delusions of mentally ill women.

Recovered Memory Syndrome is another of the many absurd and fabricated diseases invented by a psychiatric profession which is based more on mumbo jumbo, then on any known science.

Unfortunately the women who claim to have recovered memories and the "therapists" who helped them fabricate these delusions are never the victims. It is always some innocent man, a father, husband or close relative in the life of a hysterical, demented woman. This sick woman, (the 20th century versions of the girls at Salem who accused innocents of being witches) is lashing out, seeking to find a scapegoat for her failures as a human being.

These are the women and therapists who insist that some innocent man take responsibility for things that never happened, but they never take responsibility for what they do or for their failure. These women and therapists never are jailed for falsely jailing innocent men. Why is that?



O F C H I L D S E X U A L A B U S E Press Release , 1st April 1998

On the Validity of Repressed Memory Therapy

A comprehensive review of the literature on recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse has concluded that when 'memories' are recovered after long periods of amnesia, particularly when questionable techniques were used to recover them, there is a high probability that the memories are false.

Published in the April 1998 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, the review article by Professor Sydney Brandon and colleagues presents the conclusions of an overview of recovered memories and the techniques used to elicit them. This follows last year's publication of consensus recommendations for good practice (Royal College of Psychiatrists Working Group on Reported Recovered Memories of Child Sexual Abuse, 1997). A recovered memory, in the context of this paper, is the emergence of an apparent recollection of childhood sexual abuse of which the individual had no previous knowledge.

A false memory is the recollection of an event which did not occur, but which the individual subsequently strongly believes.

The paper distinguishes different types of memory, namely episodic, autobiographical and implicit. Numerous studies in children and adults have found that psychologically traumatic events often result in an inability to forget, rather than a complete expulsion from awareness. Amnesia for prolonged recurrent abuse is rare. Adult patients suffering from amnesia are well aware of the gap in their memory. It has not been possible to demonstrate any clear link between clinical accounts of trauma and the neurobiology of memory.

Memory changes overtime and is subject to error and distortion

A growing body of research indicates that memory is fallible and vulnerable to suggestion; and that suggestibility and confabulation increase with the length of time between the events and later attempts to recall it. The authors conclude that individual autobiographical memory is unreliable, and that people are often unable to remember considerable parts of their past experiences. Expectations and beliefs can colour people's recollections, and gaps in memory will be filled to create a "life story" which they find satisfying.

Confidence in one's memory does not correlate with the accuracy of the memory. No autobiographical memory can be relied on without some external corroboration, but the frequent denial, even by proven abusers, and the secrecy surrounding child abuse often make such corroboration difficult to obtain.

Memory enhancement techniques questioned

Therapists may use a number of techniques, some of which are regularly employed in orthodox therapy but are questionable when used as 'memory recovery' procedures. These include:

  • Check Lists: there is no evidence that any check lists, syndromes, symptoms or signs indicate with any degree of reliability that an individual has been sexually abused in the remote past.
  • Drug-induced abreaction: It is inappropriate to use repeated abreaction to 'trawl' for traumatic events. There is considerable anecdotal clinical evidence that in repeated session patients will eventually generate material which is a product of fantasy. Even in a single session of abreaction great caution is required.
  • Hypnosis: this technique has been shown to be unreliable as a means of eliciting memories of past events, and such 'memories' are no longer admitted as legal testimony.
  • Age regression: there is no evidence for the efficacy of this technique, nor can it be shown that the subject's 'memories' actually do regress to the target age.
  • Dream interpretation: there is no evidence that dreams are a 'royal road' to historical accuracy; and interpretations usually reflect the training and personal convictions of the therapist.
  • Imagistic and 'feelings' work and art therapy: although many of these techniques are applications of accepted clinical practice, they can be powerfully suggestive and induce trance-like states. The beliefs of the therapist are the determining factor in how a patient's production are shaped.
  • Survivors' groups: whilst these can be supportive, the practice of mixing those who clearly remember abuse with those who are suspected by the therapist of having repressed their memories has been strongly criticised because of the risk of suggestion and contagion among group members.

The authors conclude that memory enhancement techniques do not actually enhance memory, and that there is evidence that they can be powerful and dangerous methods of persuasion. Many of the memories 'recovered' by these measures refer to events in the early months and years of life, which fall within the period of infantile amnesia, and must be regarded as implausible for that reason. The evidence suggests that all the techniques outlined above can create entirely new and false memories, not only experimentally but also in clinical practice.

Can repeated, severe childhood abuse be forgotten?

There is no evidence that memories can be 'blocked out' by the mind, either by repression or by dissociation. Given the revalence of childhood sexual abuse, even if only a small proportion of memories are repressed and only some of them subsequently recovered, there should be a significant number of corroborated cases recovered through psychotherapy in the literature. In fact, there is none.

Distortion of memory may occur in any therapeutic situation, and psychiatrists need to be aware of the techniques employed by other members of their teams, such as community psychiatric nurses, psychologists and social workers.

The review paper ends with a series of guidelines to help psychiatrists to avoid the pitfalls of memory recovery. The issue of false or recovered memories should not, the authors emphasize, be allowed to confuse the recognition and treatment of sexually abused children. However, it is also essential to minimise the risk of creating false memories of abuse which will cause the patient and family further suffering. More research is needed into the reported associations between childhood sexual abuse and later adult psychopathology. The authors conclude that at present there is no specific post-sexual abuse syndrome.

For press copies of the paper or further information contact
Deborah Hart
or Vanessa Harries
on Tel 00 44 171 235 2351 ext 127 or 154




  • Psychiatrists are advised to avoid engaging in techniques which are intended to reveal evidence of past sexual abuse of which the patient has no memory, and should regard with extreme caution memories of this kind whenever they appear. There is no evidence that the use of consciousness-altering techniques, such as drug-mediated interviews or hypnosis, can reveal or elaborate evidence of childhood sexual abuse. Techniques of 'regression therapy' (age regression, guided imagery, 'body memories' journaling, or literal dream interpretation, where this is used as evidence of fact) are of dubious provenance.
  • Forceful or persuasive interviewing techniques are not acceptable in psychiatric practice. Doctors should be aware that patients are susceptible to subtle suggestions and reinforcements, whether or not these communications are intended.
  • The psychiatrist should alert the patient to any doubts about the historical accuracy of recovered memories of previously unknown sexual abuse. This is particularly important if the patient intends to take action outside the therapeutic situation. Memories, however emotionally intense and significant to the individual, may not necessarily represent historical truth.
    Memories may be
    (1) historically true,
    (2) metaphorical representations,
    (3) caused by the psychological state of the patient or
    (4) be the result of unintentional suggestion by the practitioner.
  • It may be legitimate not to question the validity of a recovered memory while it remains within the privacy of the consulting room, although this introduces the risk of colluding in the creation of a life history based upon a false belief.
  • The psychiatrist should help the patient think through the consequences of any confrontation. In these circumstances it is important to encourage a search for corroborative evidence before any action is taken. The truth or falsity of the underlying memories cannot be known in the absence of such evidence.
  • Where an alleged abuser is still in touch with children, serious consideration must be given to informing the appropriate social services. This must be done where there are reasonable grounds for believing that the alleged assault took place and that children may still be at risk. The psychiatrist must also be prepared to state clearly whether he or she believes that the grounds for any accusation are unlikely or impossible.

Alongside reports of recovered memories of sexual abuse there have been growing numbers of cases of multiple personality disorder (also known as dissociative identity disorder).

There seems little doubt that many of these cases are iatrongenically (caused by the doctor or therapist ed.) determined.

Any spontaneous presentation of multiple personality disorder should be sympathetically considered but should not be made the subject of undue attention nor should the patient be encouraged to develop 'alter personalities' in whom to invest aspects of their personality, their fantasies or their current life problems.

Psychiatrists should be particularly aware of the unreliability of the memories reported in these cases and of the close association both with prolonged therapy and with recovered memories of sexual abuse, particularly alleged satanic abuse. Since there is no settled view of the validity of multiple personality disorder, and because of the very strong correlation with recovered memories of sexual abuse which is itself a disputed concept, there is a strong case for a consensus paper on multiple personality disorder based upon a substantial review of the literature.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists working party produced also a full report which was published in the April 1998 issue of the house organ of the College the British Journal of Psychiatry. The following are the conclusions of that report based on a study of the relevant scientific research:

(from the Royal College report)
  1. There is NO empirical evidence to support either repression or dissociation, though there is much clinical support for these concepts. Evidence does not support the existence of "robust repression."
  2. Events are constantly forgotten and remembered on a daily basis.
  3. There is abundant evidence, both clinically and experimentally, that memory can be distorted and that false memories do occur.
  4. Illusory memories can arise during the course of any psychological treatment, whether or not it is designated as "recovered memory therapy". Their creation seems to depend upon the conviction of the therapist or the patient that child sexual abuse underlies adult psychopathology.
  5. Memory enhancing techniques do not improve the quality of remembering. They do increase the conviction with which memories, true or false, are held. They appear to be dangerous methods of persuasion.
  6. More research is needed into the associations between childhood sexual abuse and later adult psychopathology. At present we can only conclude that there is no pathognomic post sexual abuse syndrome.
  7. There is no means of determining the factual truth or falsity of a recovered memory other than through external evidence, difficult though this is to obtain. Some reported events are so incredible that they could not have occurred and should not be believed.

For the full report and biblography see The British Journal of Psychiatry (1998) 172, 296 - 307


THE GLOBE AND MAIL, Editorial Wednesday, April 15, 1998

Remember Those Justice Forgot
'SCIENCE helped convict him. Science exonerated him," wrote Mr. Justice Fred Kaufman in his inquiry into the wrongful conviction of Guy Paul Morin for the 1984 murder of Christine Jessop. Mr. Morin is lucky, if you can use such a word to describe the ordeal he has endured, because DNA evidence allowed him to triumph over the failures of the Canadian criminal justice system. Like Judge Kaufman, though, we believe Mr. Morin is not the only innocent person to have been "swept up in the criminal process."

Unfortunately, many of these people are unable to marshal DNA or any other evidence to bolster their protestations of innocence. That's because they have been convicted of horrible crimes, including rape and murder, based on nothing more substantial than an accusation founded on so-called repressed and then recovered memories of sexual abuse. Most of them can't even publicize their stories because publication bans have been imposed to protect the privacy of the alleged victim.

Recovered-memory therapy was one of the most pernicious trends to sweep North America in the late 1980s and early 1990s, fracturing thousands of families and leading to hundreds of arrests and financially crippling lawsuits. Almost two years ago, the Canadian Psychiatric Association followed the lead of the Americans and the Australians and produced a position paper saying that memories of childhood sexual abuse triggered in adults during psychotherapy are unreliable and should not be accepted without corroborating evidence. In January, a leaked report from Britain's Royal College of Psychiatrists went even further.

"Despite widespread clinical and popular belief that memories can be "blocked out' by the mind, no empirical evidence exists to support either repression or dissociation," said the report, which went on to say that "repression and recovery of verified, severely traumatic events, and their role in symptom formation has yet to be proved."

These denunciations have yet to penetrate the Canadian criminal- justice system. That's why we are calling on Justice Minister Anne McLellan to order an inquiry into all convictions based on this internationally discredited therapeutic theory. There are precedents for such a review.

In 1995, the justice minister and solicitor-general asked Madam Justice Lynne Ratushny of the Ontario Court's Provincial Division to review nearly 100 cases of women convicted of murder or manslaughter before 1990, when the Supreme Court ruled that battered- women syndrome is a legitimate defence. As a result of the review, the federal government granted conditional pardons or early release to four women and referred the case of a fifth woman to an appeal court.

Recognizing battered-woman syndrome provided a retroactive defence to women charged with murdering their partners. A similar consideration should be extended to people who were convicted based on another syndrome that has, in this case, been discredited. We aren't the only ones arguing for such a review. Late last month, Alan Gold, president of the Criminal Lawyers Association made a similar appeal in a letter to the Justice Minister. He asked her to "conduct an inquiry into this entire category of convictions, with a view to releasing forthwith all those prisoners who would not have been convicted but for the testimony of 'recovered memories.' " As Mr. Gold said, "an urgent and powerful need exists" to act on this matter without delay.


Alan Gold's Letter

Minister of Justice and Attorney General for Canada
Justice Building 239 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0H8


Under the direction of your predecessor in office, a special inquiry was conducted into a particular category of past criminal convictions, namely that of women found guilty of murdering their husbands; you were involved in acting on that inquiry's conclusions. The ground for reopening all those cases was not the usual one applied in appeals of individual convictions (such as errors at the trial level or new evidence); rather, it was a new psychological concept (the "battered wife syndrome"), one not explicitly existing in law at the time of the original trial, but later deemed applicable to an entire group of cases.

Without considering the merits of the earlier inquiry, it has become increasingly plain that an urgent and powerful need exists for that type of governmental action in another category of cases. In recent years, a certain concept has been allowed uncritically into jurisprudence in Canada and elsewherethat of "repressed" and later "recovered" memory. There was never any legitimate reason for regarding such alleged memories as trustworthy; but by this point in time it is perfectly clear that they are not.

In the past two years, professional associations of psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental- health workers in various countries (including Canada) have officially warned that such "memories" are so unreliable in general that their evidential value in any individual case is zero. In fact, great numbers of practitioners in those fields maintain that memory "repression" (an unconscious act, not mere forgetting) does not exist at all, certainly not in the case of serious trauma. But that debate is immaterial to the concerns of the Justice system; real or not, such alleged memories are too readily confused with the results of suggestion and confabulation to have any degree of reliability.

As realization of the total unreliability of "recovered memory" has taken hold in the justice community, courts in many places have responded appropriately. In the US, Appellate and Supreme Courts in New Hampshire, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Tennessee, Texas, Rhode Island, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Arizona, California, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Utah and Maryland have issued judgments recognizing the injustice of an accused being convicted on grounds of "recovered memory".

And yet that now-discredited concept has by this point in time been applied in scores of court cases in our country. More recently, such "evidence" has not been allowed to hold sway in Canada either. But those men convicted under the older naive views continue to suffer - and some of them are still in prison because of it. Worse yet, courts in certain individual "repressed memory" cases in Canada have turned down appeals based on today's greater awareness of how memory works - apparently on the narrow grounds that all was done properly under the jurisprudence of the time. Because of these circumstances, the undersigned believe, there is only one just and proper thing for the Justice Minister to do. Conduct an inquiry into this entire category of convictions, with a view to releasing forthwith all those prisoners who would not have been convicted but for the testimony of "recovered memories".

Given the systemic nature of the original injustice, and given the failure of Canadian courts to act on the problem even in individual cases, and given the ongoing suffering of those convicted without any adequate grounds, it is absolutely imperative that you act on this matter without delay.

Yours very truly,

Alan D. Gold,
President Criminal Lawyers Association

Also signed by dozens of other lawyers


 |   |    |   |   |     |  
You really think you have rights?
      CanLaw Inc.   
Ask CanLaw
Find Canadian Lawyers on CanLaw. CanLaw Inc is a free referral service and lawyer directory for individuals and business looking for lawyers and legal help anywhere in Canada