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Everything the human organism experiences is perceived and stored by the brain. The memories stay in the brain for life. Only a part of the overall human experience produces conscious awareness in real time, and consciously retrievable memories of past events. Many aspects of personal experiences never reach consciousness, but they still affect the whole human organism. These memories reside in the unconscious mind. They are relatively difficult to retrieve, but are usually recognizable as something encountered inside the mind before, even though they may contain major distortions of facts. The main problem with such memories is that they may not be recognizable as real life experiences. They are just in the mind, but their origin or reason for them is unknown. This kind of confusion is common in people who have lived through unbearable traumatic events.
Most traumatized individuals wish to block the reminders of their traumas at will, or to erase their past experiences, or to make all their memories of the traumas available to consciousness. Physiology of the brain may not support such wishes. Erasing memories is not possible. They are an integral part of the human brain and organism. Blocking memories at will is not possible either. If blocking or repression does occur, it is attributable to neural systems over which consciousness has limited or no control. And retrieval of traumatic memories is usually a difficult process with less-than-perfect retrieval outcome. In general, the more severe and more frequent traumas a person lived through, the more difficult it is to gain access to such memories.
MEMORIES OF INCEST
There are two types of people in this world. Those who do remember their sexual abuse in childhood, and those who do not.
Being raped in childhood is an extremely traumatic experience. The victim usually dissociates, which means that her Self does not consciously experience the events. She selectively blocks her cognitive links with emotion, sensory experience, and consciousness. She usually enters a state of mind that is similar to trance or hypnosis, but other dissociative modes are also common, such as those found in multiple personality disorder or complex dissociation. The mode and degree of the victim's dissociation may cause that she never stores consciously accessible memories of her abuse. The memories are only stored in a dissociative mode of the mind and are often retrievable only by reentering the dissociative mode during recall. A fully conscious person is typically unable to retrieve the memories. Incidentally, to forget sexual traumas in childhood is not only possible, but is much more likely than to remember them.
It is now widely accepted that adults have no consciously retrievable memories from the time between birth and 3 years of age. Similar total amnesia can affect a traumatized victim even at an older age. Or, she recovers the memories of her abuse only after some repression period. But even if she does access the traumatic memories, she may not be able to recognize them as her personal history. The retrieved memories may be correct or distorted. No one can tell for sure.
Every sexually abused child dissociates, but it is almost impossible to tell what she dissociates from. The concept of the conscious mind and the Self is too complex and proprietary to reveal here. All that can be communicated is that the conscious mind distances itself from the offensive cognitive input, and the memories of the abusive events are not stored correctly. In addition, severe traumatic dissociation always results in permanent brain damage. The affected area is tiny at first, but the more often traumas occur, the larger segments of the brain are damaged. The damage causes malfunction of the brain, graded loss of reality checking, and graded loss of emotional intelligence. Not surprisingly, the victims have increased level of suggestibility and tend to produce many false positives on recognition tests. Because of the neuropsychological impact, the recalled memories (if any at all) are fragmented or distorted in time and context. The accessible but unreliable memories (images, fragments, hunches, phobias, flashbacks, and false associations) make the impact of sexual abuse on the victim's life unpredictable. The retrieved memories are considered false by some, and true but repressed by others.
As for the veracity of such memories, there is not a simple answer, because several mechanisms influence the memories of traumas. The mechanisms may produce dissociated, confabulated, false, and repressed memories. Telling which part of the recovered memories is false and which part is true is difficult. It is much easier to differentiate between the recall of a purely fictitious account of sexual abuse and one that is true but recalled with severe distortions. A true account usually has the following features:
An entirely made up (confabulated) story usually has these characteristics:
Assuming for a moment that the victims' memories are totally unfounded, one has to wonder why so many women and also men come up with frequent claims of alleged sexual abuse in childhood, but the complaining persons do not make similarly outlandish but different accusations. Why almost no one accuses her parent of kidnapping her from her biological parents, or eating her younger brother, or bringing her to earth from a distant planet. Yes, very weird reports do occur from time to time. Some people claim to have been abducted by aliens, some believe that they are the reincarnation of a Saudi princess, and some believe that they are God. But how frequent are these patently false beliefs? Are they commensurable with the frequency of reports about child sexual abuse? Certainly not! Confirmed reports of child rape in wars reveal the true nature of the human animal. Armed bands roam the African continent, destroying, killing, maiming, and raping thousands. In Sudan, slavery, rape, and murder are everyday reality. In Iraq, women are staying at home for fear of being raped in the streets of Baghdad. In the Boston area, 250 priests sexually abused over 1,000 children. These are no false allegations, but verified facts.
Unfortunately, the true facts are much more sinister. Professionals working with child rapists know that an average offender abuses dozens of children. In the church, where the priest has easy access to children, the incidence of abuse is probably even higher than the uncovered one is. Multiplying the number of the confirmed cases by 100 would produce a result that is much closer to reality than the number of the officially acknowledged cases is.
REPRESSED AND SUPPRESSED MEMORIES
The human mind has the ability to choose information that reaches consciousness. This ability varies from focused attention to complex dissociation. Both senses and memory are processed this way. For example, during focused attention, we can make our senses to only notice unique features when looking for something. If we look for Mr. Jones in the crowd and know that he is wearing a bright purple hat, we filter out all other hats. Mr. Jones could be standing twenty feet away, and we might not notice him if he wore something else. Similarly, when processing memories, we only pay attention to the topics that we are interested in and discard nonconforming information. For example, when we try to remember how many cakes we had during the last picnic, we may ignore the total number of soda cans. The information is not sought and is ignored; that is kept out of consciousness.
The selectivity of our senses and memories is enhanced when a topic is emotionally charged. Significant pleasing events and facts are reliably stored in memory and are easy to recall. (Almost) everyone remembers his high school graduation, first kiss, wedding, or birth of child. By contrast, unpleasant events and facts are undesirable, and the conscious mind takes deliberate steps to keep them from surfacing. Consciously rejected memories of this type are known as "suppressed memories." Some very traumatic memories are suppressed unconsciously and are known as "repressed memories."
Suppressed memories are part of conscious experience and current knowledge, but are intentionally kept out of consciousness because they are painful, disgusting, shameful, or stressful. The most common suppressed memories are those that diminish our personal value and make us feel bad about ourselves. Issues of sexuality or harm to others are often associated with suppressed memories. For example, you were masturbating as a child, and your parent saw you doing it. Or you were a young teenager, curious about sexuality, and so you intentionally undressed your younger sibling. Or you were in war, and you shot and killed a child for no reason. Or you had sex with a prostitute while your wife was in the hospital. Or you stole money from poor people so that you could ensure your careless future. Or you illegally disposed of toxic waste, and many people died as a result. Memories like these make us very uncomfortable. We do not want them to disturb our current life, and so we make a conscious decision not to think about them. If a person having such suppressed memories is asked about them, they are readily available to consciousness. In addition, they are recognized as personal history when they are reported or documented by others. But repressed memories are different.
The name "repressed memories" suggests the nature of repression, which is suppression of memories beyond the realm of conscious awareness. Repressed memories almost exclusively relate to traumas of unbearable pain, fear, or disgust, and are experienced by the suffering person. The usual events that produce such repression of experienced traumas are torture, threat of severe personal harm, interference with the most fundamental biological needs, and sexual abuse.
Repressed memories are normally not accessible to consciousness even after long questioning and providing stimulation with pictures, sounds, or written documents of the repressed events. Unfortunately, this characterization obscures the nature of repressed memories. Repression is not caused by dissociation from the painful information during the attempted recall. The victim tries to recall her past, but she cannot do so, because "repression" is a consequence of dissociation during a traumatic event; the event is remembered incorrectly. Attempts to recover the information are unsuccessful until the "access code" is found. Victims often need to recall some characteristic sound, smell, image, taste, or somatic feeling before they gain access to the repressed memories. Once repressed memories are recalled, they are recognized by a reasonably healthy mind as genuine. But a mind that has been severely damaged through incest may fail to make a recognition and confirmation of the recovered memories.
Some incest survivors and psychotherapists believe that memories of traumas are associated with delayed recall. This idea stems from the fact that the traumatic memories were inaccessible for many years and are retrievable at some point in the future. It is critical to recognize that delayed recall is not a physiological mechanism of the brain and cannot be counted on to occur. Some abuse victims can remember their traumas later in life, but many more cannot. If memories begin to emerge, this is usually a sign that the adult survivor has found a safe environment and has reduced the level and frequency of her daily dissociation. Now her repressed memories may be brought to her conscious mind.
In the legal and political sense, repressed memories are the formerly inaccessible and now known memories of childhood abuse. They are the memories that are attacked by individuals and national groups that either deliberately or unconsciously try to keep incest hidden. Although such memories are frequently labeled by incestuous offenders as "false," the perpetrators do not object to "false memories" in general. When a daughter says before her dad that 7 x 7 = 58, the dad may be surprised, but will not take the daughter's teacher to court. Memories become false only when incest or childhood rape is involved.
Many psychologists and psychiatrists, usually those who have inadequate clinical knowledge about the impact of child abuse, do not accept the idea that repressed memories of extreme traumatic experiences could exist. The skeptical opinion is belief-based and has no physiological merit. The fact is that repressed memories are common even in the general population. Almost every person can dream in sleep. Some dreams are recurrent and take place more than once over the period of years or decades. However, many such dreams are not accessible to consciousness at will, and the conscious mind often does not even know that such dreams were encountered in sleep. It usually takes repetition of the dream in sleep followed by conscious reprocessing to recall that the dream has been seen earlier. At times, the dream need not be repeated, but the mind relaxes and enters a free-thinking mode. During moments like these, it is also possible to retrieve memories of an earlier dream that has been forgotten to exist. When such realization takes place, the mind needs to promptly enter consciousness and acknowledge the dream. Failure to do so within a few seconds or minutes may return the experience to oblivion.
The difference between repressed and suppressed memories is identifiable by contemporary lie detectors. Suppressed as well as readily accessible memories produce a prominent P300 response when the subject is knowingly lying when answering a direct question. This means that the subject has conscious awareness of such memories, but decides (usually for self-protective reasons) to deny the existence of the knowledge. Repressed memories, similarly as no memories, do not produce the P300 response when the subject denies knowledge of the information in question. In this case, the subject is not lying, because the suppressed memories cannot be accessed by his consciousness. The conscious mind believes that no such purported events ever took place. However, the Author's discoveries about the physiology of the memory system suggest that more advanced lie detectors should be able to determine the truth versus a lie even in the case of repressed memories. But the physiology and the associated event-related potentials are poorly understood by contemporary neuroscience, and no device with the necessary decoding abilities has been implemented.
These memories pertain to events and facts that never happened or did not happen as recalled; the memories are made up. This outcome is often attributable to multiple personality disorder and to the consequent isolation of personalities. In the absence of a sudden traumatic brain injury, such confabulated memories become important hints at multiple personality disorder or other dissociative disorders. Also alleged UFO abductions are produced by dissociative disorders.
The production of untrue memories is only one component of confabulation. The other component is the failure to check reality by the rest of the mind. And a third component of confabulation is the inability of the mind to block the confabulated memories from reaching consciousness. Despite the involvement of three psychological components, damage to emotional intelligence is enough to allow the production of confabulated memories, their delivery to consciousness, and their potential acceptance.
Although confabulation may involve seemingly biographical events, such as repeated childhood rape by a parent, many confabulated memories and stories have nothing to do with biographical experiences. Memories of this type tend to remain unchanged over many years. By contrast, true interpersonal traumas tend to produce a different kind of confabulation.
Memories that form during or shortly after a traumatic incident tend to be true, but may become altered beyond recognition over time. The outcome depends on the progression of memory consolidation and on the neuropsychological damage the victim suffers as a result of her abuse. Some victims of rape, brutal physical assaults, or helpless observers of murder of a loved one completely change their stories as time passes. These responses are indicative of dissociative disorders and disrupted memory consolidation. The dissociation is not just a matter of the latest trauma. Traumatic experiences in childhood have major influence on the remembering of current traumas. The childhood traumas predetermine how much the victim dissociates and how she reacts to future traumas.
"Implanted memories" is a political expression used by falsely accused incestuous rapists who aim to discredit the recovered memories of their victims. As for clinical psychology, some memories can be "implanted" in some people. For example, the entire United States government and 70% of all Americans have this implanted memory that Saddam Hussein poses immediate threat to the USA and the world. He has these long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles pointed at the heart of America, and within 45 minutes can launch tons of anthrax, bubonic plague, and smallpox, and thousands of nuclear warheads right into your backyard.
Although this example does not specifically relate to confabulation, it shows the capacity of the human mind for self-deception. A fabricated statement is enough for dissociated incest victims to believe lies. The loss of reality checking makes the incest victims unable to suppress false or irrelevant information, or to distinguish between semantic fiction and perceptual reality. Such individuals can and do fabricate accounts of being raped or attacked by someone famous or someone in a position of power, yet these victims are unable to remember their actual abuse at the hands of their close relatives. If these victims enter therapy, they may, under the influence of the topics they are exposed to, believe that the therapist implanted in their heads false memories. All the healer said was: "You have the same behavioral patterns as molested children have. Is there any possibility that you were abused as a child?" This suggestion may trigger an avalanche of false and also some correct associations, and the patient may later accuse the therapist not just of implanting in her mind false memories, but also of spreading evil spirits and collaborating with al Qaeda. What else can we expect in a country where over 40% of the population are functionally illiterate, 50% believe in angels, and over 90% believe in the existence of God? For them, belief is reality. Under the influence of such false beliefs, one woman killed her children when she heard on the radio that the Martians had attacked the earth. This historic case testifies to the seriousness of dissociation and to the lack of reality checking.
However, it would be incorrect to claim that implanted memories do not exist. Hypnotists are able to implant into the minds of healthy hypnotized subjects ideas about events that never happened. Similarly, the mind may generate untrue (self-implanted) memories in dreams. Furthermore, the untrue memories can be confirmed by the mind in a future repeated dream as being factually correct. Only when the subject regains consciousness can the untrue memories be successfully compared with biographical memories and recognized as not being part of the subject's living experience. More about mind control and implantation of ideas is on the page Multiple Personality.
It can be said that every dream is a self-implanted memory. The plot of the dream is produced within the unconscious mind. The stimulus to generate such a dream can come from daytime events or can be conceived internally by the sleeping mind from the total available knowledge. Although some dreams factually and correctly depict what happened in real life, the events are largely narrated stories (they are memories of memories), and not records of true events as they were experienced by the person. The unreliable nature of dreams makes it impossible to determine if the events of dreams are based on reality or are purely fictional. There is no way to tell whether being raped in a dream by a relative is indicative of past child sexual abuse. No good answer can be produced based on the dream alone. The person might have read in a book or seen in a movie that a child has been raped, and that stimulus alone might have produced the dream. Despite this uncertainty, frequent and repeated dreams about childhood sex are usually indicative of some sexual trauma. After waking up, the topics of dreams may serve as memory reminders and may allow access to true repressed memories. Unfortunately, research of these issues has been marked by a stunning split between theoretical assumptions and clinical manifestations.
Scholarly research of implanted memories has been trying to prove or disprove that unscrupulous therapists purposefully or unknowingly implant memories of childhood abuse into the minds of patients. The emotional damage caused by such false implanted memories has been widely discussed on the internet. However, all the studies had systemic flaws because the most important aspects of the research were based on subjective assumptions, and not on facts. The researchers assumed that relatively few people were abused in childhood, and most people, who presumably had normal childhood, were not abused. In addition, the population was often split into the group of patients in therapy and the group of the general population, which typically had no awareness of being abused. The researchers themselves had no knowledge of beings abused as children and assumed that they were objective observers and interpreters of facts. In reality, the subjective assumptions and beliefs upon which such studies have been built have no scientific merit.
To understand the nature of "false memories," one would have to explore several critical issues:
"False memories" may be either true or false. The adjective false implies that they are perceived as false by the consciousness of the incest survivor or by others. When the victim is under hypnosis, she may recover memories of her abuse. The memories are partly repressed, partly confabulated, and partly "dissociated." The survivor may initially believe them. Months or years later, the survivor may repress her recovered memories anew and recant her testimony.
Clinical literature on both sides of this issue portrays very similar accounts of false memories. A middle-aged woman has countless problems in her life. She enters therapy with the goal of fixing her immediate difficulties. She is not interested in looking into the issues of her childhood for possible solutions to her current problems. She does not even suspect that there might be a connection. An expert therapist, who sees patients like her many times a week and is acutely familiar with the visible signs of sexual abuse, suggests the possibility of incest. The first reaction is often denial, but the victim's subconscious mind begins to produce flashbacks and dreams. The victim of "therapeutic malpractice" is overwhelmed. She cannot sleep, work, or socialize. She confronts her abuser and breaks up all contacts with other family members. She changes her therapist. The diagnosis is the same. She finds a new therapist, and a new one, and a new one, until she finds the right one who says, "It is terrible what your old doctors have done to you." At last, she deals with someone who talks sense. All those memories were obviously false. They were implanted by the unscrupulous therapists. She recants her testimony that she was raped by Dad and finally understands what happened to her; she was brainwashed. Now is the time to renew contacts with her incestuous family, apologize to her abuser, and sue her old therapists. "Normalcy" returns to her life.
The amazing aspect of such cases is that the victim, her abusive relatives, and nationally renowned memory experts believe the veracity of the victim's latest memories: That she was never abused by the falsely accused party. By contrast, one has to wonder why the memory experts, the victim, and the perpetrator do not believe her original charge that she was abused sexually. Why is it that one set of subjective personal memories is believed, and another set of equally subjective personal memories is not believed? Does the belief versus disbelief have anything to do with science? Or are the attitudes reflective of belief-based reasoning, which is a common trait of many incestuously raped children? Is the belief in no abuse embraced because it is not painful for the victim and her abusive relatives? Is the belief in the nonexistence of incest and child rape accepted simply because it is more convenient and not controversial? Only the victim and her abuser know the truth. If they can remember it.
Many incest victims confirm their abuse only to recant it at a later time. Recanting of previous admission of abuse can be done by both sexually abused children and current adults who were abused in childhood. The admission of abusive acts and their denial are not absolute, but vary over time and allow some space for doubt or uncertainty. One revealing indicator that abuse did occur is almost universal unwillingness of the victims to discuss the issue in depth. The unwillingness is not absolute, but frequent enough to thwart purposeful therapeutic or legal work. Another indicator is steering away from the main issue and focusing on inconsequential details. The core of the issue may be ignored, and the victim may only pay attention to some minor discrepancy in the question. For example, the question "Were you sexually abused by your father?" may be replied to as "He is not my father, only my stepfather." Or, the question "Were you raped by your father last August?" can be answered as "Last August I was in a summer camp." Answers like these manifest a fragmented mind. Part of the mind hides from the painful aspect of the question, and another part of the mind answers the question with a slightly different slant that excludes the rape. If such victims are questioned repeatedly about the topic, it often becomes clear that they do not know they have been asked about being raped.
A nonabused person has nothing to fear when dealing with the theoretical idea of incest. But true victims always feel very uneasy about the stimuli. The victims may want to get away from the stimuli, may become impatient, fearful, angry, or totally detached, and may enter trance. A healthy, nonabused person NEVER exhibits such responses, even though she may become indignant because such crimes are committed against children. Also a true incest victim may become indignant, but her anger is very intense, more like rage that is unfocused or even misdirected. She may be shouting, cursing, banging on the table, or throwing things. Surprisingly, she may be more outraged by the explicit words (rape incest, penetration, hymenal tear, semen) describing such abusive acts, than by her actual emotional suffering or by her knowledge of her abuse. Of course, she has no conscious awareness of her actual abuse at this time. Her responses are only unconscious in this early stage.
A nonabused child who is asked whether or not she has been sexually abused by her dad may react with surprise, amused smile, or may ask the social worker what has led to the idea. The child is reasonable and is willing to cooperate with the investigator after the purpose of the interview is explained to her. She answers all questions accurately, factually, and thoroughly, without feeling guilt or fear, even though she may exhibit mild anxiety for having to be investigated for something that is perceived as wrong. The opposite is true about a real victim of incest. She always exhibits some body language that reveals her abuse. But it may take a thorough interview, and not just a 3-minute talk in the doorway. She often produces brief YES or NO answers, does not maintain eye contact, looks aside, or her eyes jump from place to place. She is giving the impression that she is sitting on a hot stove or a porcupine. Likewise, she easily succumbs to bursts of anger. The amazing aspect of her upheaval is that she commonly becomes outraged by innocent topics, but not by the alleged abusive acts.
An incest victim who is asked about the possibility of her abuse may deny her violation at first, and confirm it seconds later. Or, she may consistently deny for days and only admit her abuse occasionally. Just as often, the victim gives hints that something did happen that one cannot talk about. These inconsistent responses are largely caused by multiple personalities. The interviewing doctors are dealing with different personalities without realizing it. The manifestations of the different personalities can be subtle and impossible to distinguish. Next to multiplicity, there is a similar dissociative phenomenon with frequent denial and admission of abuse, but is not produced by switching between personalities. This memory mode is known from patients with right-hemispheric brain lesions during vestibular caloric stimulation. The subjects' cognition is usually correct during vestibular irrigation, but changes to denial of illness or denial of abuse during normal consciousness. In addition to these two modes, a third mechanism affects the admission or denial of childhood abuse. This mechanism exhibits slower changes, which depend on the process of memory consolidation. The subject may produce cycles of contravening statements before the answer settles on a final statement that is believed to be true. A similar "recanting" mechanism that is affected by memory consolidation exists in patients with anosognosia. Anosognosia is usually a temporary condition lasting days or weeks. The initial responses are completely incorrect or distorted. After anosognosia clears, the memories become correct again.
Interestingly, an incest victim who denies her alleged abuse often cannot get rid of her thoughts about the topic. Months, years, and even decades later, when all the dust of the baseless accusation settles and no one thinks about it anymore, she may suddenly utter, totally out of context, that she was not abused.
The other amazing aspect of false memories is that people take sides. Many "memory experts," judges, juries, and amateur bystanders believe that the recovered memories of incest are false. Most of the believers have no personal knowledge of the alleged victim or her alleged abuser, but rush to defend the accused parent against such accusations. The third parties typically have no clinical experience with the treatment of incest victims nor do they understand how the human brain works, and yet they spread their unqualified opinions as reality.
One of the most visible organizations promoting the philosophy that adult children who accuse their parents of incestuous rape must have false memories is the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. This remarkable collection of memory experts does not seem to have one board member who treats sexually abused children. Another prominent feature of the FMS Foundation is its attack against the symptoms of incest. If an illness or condition is found to be caused by incest, the FMS Foundation attacks the finding as false. For example, the FMS Foundation disputes the reported prevalence of multiple personality disorder and its direct association with incest . The FMS Foundation also denies that bulimia and anorexia are caused by childhood sexual abuse . It is one thing to seriously question the validity of repressed memories, but when you attack anything and everything that exposes incest, the effort manifests a different psychological dimension.
Another organization that is against the recovery of repressed memories of incest is the The Royal College of Psychiatrists in Britain. Actually, this organization also has members in Ireland. And how the Irish/British society deals with the accusations of incest is exquisitely documented in an internet article . There is silence, passivity, and no protection of the victim. By dismissing the recovered memories of incest and by effectively banning the recovery of such memories in therapy , the Royal College of Psychiatrists prevents incest victims from healing. Is it malpractice or is the Royal College of Psychiatrists really able to tell what is true and what is sexed-up? The answer comes from the very Royal College of Psychiatrists in an article about the nonexistence of multiple personality disorder: "The diagnosis of MPD represents a misdirection of effort which hinders the resolution of serious psychological problems in the lives of patients" . What can one say to that? Long live the Queen.
In addition to these two groups, many leading hypnotists do not believe that recovered memories of child sexual abuse are true. The belief is interesting because hypnotists work with the unconscious mind and know very well that events experienced during hypnosis can be recalled with significant distortions. One would hope that professionals who understand the propensity of memory to become distorted would be more likely to believe the distorted accounts of childhood sexual abuse. Hypnotists know that it is possible to instruct a hypnotized subject to forget all about the events in a hypnotic session. Some hypnotists have misused this property of hypnosis and raped their patients during hypnotic trance. The memories became repressed, and the raped patient had no idea what happened to her . Hypnotists also know that a future hypnotic session can bring such repressed memories back at the command of the hypnotist. But when it comes to repressed memories of child sexual abuse, most hypnotists deny the existence of these memory mechanisms. The reason behind the denial is that hypnotists are predominantly incest victims or child abusers and have lost much of their emotional intelligence.
The strangest phenomenon of the so-called "false memories" involves selective acknowledgment of reality, or one might call it selective amnesia. Both pro-rapist scholars as well as child rapists themselves ignore known cases of repressed memories and do not include them in their mental schemes. The denial of repression is absolute despite evidence that the phenomenon exists. Over the last four decades, countless women were raped on the job in controlled environments of the police, FBI, or military. The rapes were often captured on cameras or they were discovered by a third party as they were happening. Thus, there were witnesses to the acts. The victims received medical care in hospitals, and the diagnosis of the physicians was rape. Many of the victims received months of psychotherapy for their traumas. Reports about the rapes were filed by the appropriate state or federal entities, and there is no doubt that such rapes occurred. Surprisingly, a few years later, about one-third of the victims had no conscious awareness of ever being raped. These were adult women. Children rarely receive such recognition or support. Their sexual abuse is kept a family secret and is never talked about. No wonder the children do not remember their early-life traumas in adulthood.
These memories exist in isolated packets of information. They are the forbidden memories of the suffered abuse. They may become recovered, which changes their status to repressed memories. Majority of the dissociated memories are located in young abused personalities. Healthy personalities guard the memories from being disclosed. The reason behind it is to keep the memories hidden from the world and to protect oneself against the traumas. By contrast, the traumatized personalities constantly attempt to spread their knowledge to get help and to tell the world. The ongoing fight changes the landscape of the brain. Personalities break up internally, regroup, and form alliances. These dynamic relationships give rise to confabulated memories that are partly true and partly fabricated. No one can tell the difference between fact and fiction now, and the survivor is not believed by other people. Even worse, she does not believe herself and can be easily manipulated. If many people around her claim one thing, she is prone to accept the claim. The reason behind her gullibility is loss of emotional intelligence and its reality-checking function.
THE TANGLED MASS
Most recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse consist of all the discussed components and could be labeled as "distorted memories." There is some truth to such memories, meaning that some kind of very traumatic abuse took place, but some of the factual claims may be distorted so much that the story, as a whole, appears unbelievable. The distortion pertains to time, space, sequences of events, ways of abuse, the identity of the abuser, and the number of abusers. The child often claims to have been raped by a stranger, neighbor, family friend, or distant relative when the rapist is her father. In most cases, she is unable to remember her abuse at all. These consequences indicate that sexual abuse damages the brain and mind, and anything that is recalled later can be factually distorted. The distortions are used by skeptics, abusers, or other incest victims who still cannot remember their pasts to discredit the person's claims about abuse. The alleged incest victim is believed to have developed brain damage for an unknown reason, and that is why she makes such outrageous, untrue, and inconsistent claims. In reality, her brain has been damaged by the traumatic experiences of her repeated rape and is recalling the true events in a distorted way.
If memories of traumas reach the victim's consciousness, the true and the fabricated memories have a slim chance of being correctly distinguished by her dissociated mind. The mind is divided into personalities; the interhemispheric channels are limited; the prefrontal cortex is hypoactive; the top-down communication is erratic; the episodic and semantic memories do not mutually map into each other, and many neurons and their information have already been destroyed. So, even if it were possible to heal the patient and eliminate dissociation altogether, many elements of the victim's personal history would remain unrecoverable or factually distorted.
LAW AND MEMORIES
The theoretical veracity of repressed memories seems important in the court of law. If the jurors believe the plaintiff, the defendant may spend some time in prison for child rape. No rapist likes that. He employs lawyers and memory experts to persuade the court about his innocence. The jurors are to believe his version over that of the alleged victim. What can the court possibly decide? Such trials often have no tangible evidence and come down to: He said - she said. The same kind of case can come up even without repressed memories. A woman and a man are in an elevator. He grabs her genitals and forcefully kisses her. They walk outside on the ground floor, and she accuses him of sexual assault. What can a jury possibly do in such a case? There were no witnesses; there is no video tape; there is nothing to show that any such event ever took place. And if the memories of such an alleged assault are repressed and are reported decades later, who could possibly show that the events did happen as reported? This is where the government and the constitution come in.
The male-dominated American society decided that no alleged criminal can be forced to testify against himself. By turning this concept into a constitutional law, criminals have created a serious obstacle to their convictions. Technology is so advanced nowadays that lie detectors can indicate who is telling the truth and who is not. The accuser and the defendant could be subjected to mandatory lie detector tests, and the truth could be found that way. By banning science, technology, and the search for truth, the U.S. Government and the People are defending crime. Not any crime, but child rape. Because of this fact, the issue whether repressed memories are true or false is totally irrelevant. The alleged abuser's memories cannot be used to convict him, and the claims made by the alleged victim do not rise to the level of evidence. But lawyers, judges, and lawmakers make money anyway.
DEGREE OF REPRESSION
How much a traumatized person represses varies profoundly. The inability to remember depends on the severity of the trauma, relationship with the abuser, and the dissociative modes during and after the abuse. The repression can be simple, and the repressed topic can become available to the consciousness as soon as an access code to the information is found. In other cases, the events are retrieved gradually over the course of weeks, months, and years. However, some victims never remember their traumas, not even when the events are confirmed by other family members. A person with multiple personality disorder, bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder may have an especially hard time remembering the past. Such a person not only has difficulty with remembering, but also struggles with recognition of the recall as her personal history.
Clinical work with severely dissociated subjects indicates that anything and everything can be blocked from consciousness. A grossly dissociated incest victim may repress, be unable to recognize after reminders, and be unable to confirm after seeing a videotape the following:
Just as frequently, incest victims tend to distort their accessible memories. A girl who is impregnated by her father and delivers his child may later believe that she had the child with her boyfriend when she was too young to marry. On top of that, she may say that her father has died although he is in prison or left the family shortly after her pregnancy became known. She is not lying. She truly believes her distorted memories. If her mother tries to explain to her what truly happened, the incest victim may not believe it. These dissociative mechanisms have allowed incest to thrive throughout human history.
SIGNS OF REPRESSED MEMORIES
People often wonder if there are any signs indicating that a person has repressed memories. The inquiry is usually incorrectly formulated. In reality, the inquirers want to know whether or not there are any manifestations of past traumas. The answer to this question is that there are plentiful indicators of past traumatic experiences in every severely abused individual, but the existence of repressed memories is not that obvious.
In general, it is not possible to identify the presence of repressed memories just by looking at a person. Repressed memories are special instances of memories and need not exist in every traumatized person. Formation of repressed memories requires at least momentary consciousness during a trauma, followed by suppression of the experience by the unconscious mind, and no higher degree of dissociation may occur. These conditions need not be satisfied in all traumas. Instead, the traumatized person may suffer from multiple personality disorder or from complex dissociative disorders. Both conditions keep memories away from the currently activated conscious segment of the mind. The memories are not simply repressed; they are neurobiologically isolated from consciousness. The body language arising from the trauma may be apparent to a doctor, but he may have a hard time bringing the isolated memories to the consciousness of the subject and making her accept such memories as part of her personal history. In the case of multiple personality, merging of personalities into one mind may lead to a successful retrieval of the inaccessible information. But if the brain has been affected by complex dissociation, no amount of clinical work may achieve the desired goal. However, most unbearable traumas do produce repressed memories, and these can be retrieved by the subject's mind.
RECOVERY OF REPRESSED MEMORIES
You should ask yourself whether you really want to remember the past. You may recover more material than you know today, but even this information may be incomplete and may not lead to the resolution you are hoping for. The new memories may stir up even bigger chaos inside your mind. Have realistic expectations. Some memories are not recoverable. Not all psychotherapists will agree with this conclusion. They rely too much on clinical observations, which are only subjective and often imperfect. To come to the correct conclusion, the therapists would have to understand the function, organization, and physiology of the human brain. The brain functions in such a way that all memories are remembered forever and are accessible throughout lifetime in a normally functioning brain. This does not mean that a person can remember such memories at will on a moment's notice. As memories age, they become more difficult to retrieve. But once recalled, even the old memories are recognized by a healthy brain as being factually correct. But if memories are recoverable, why do not traumatized people remember their experiences?
One of the factors interfering with recall of childhood traumas is biological immaturity of the brain at a young age, which affects the process of memory consolidation. Memory has to pass through several stages before it becomes part of the long-term narrative memory. This process is invisible, and most memories of the distant past are available to the conscious mind with ease. During severe traumas, however, the consolidation process becomes disrupted and does not follow the usual path. Some parts of the memory system become "locked in time" and cannot age. This happens to young personalities in multiple personality disorder. All other memory fragments and consciously unresolved (unattended) knowledge meet the same fate. Bridging the dissociative barriers and finding the missing information is a difficult process with only partial successes.
The most popular techniques used in memory recovery are: hypnosis, dream interpretation, automatic writing, somatic stimulation known as body work, and EMDR. All these methods, with the exception of EMDR, attempt to access traumas via the unconscious mind. Interestingly, even body work addresses memories stored in the brain. They do not reside in the body. Body work just activates memory pointers that access the traumatic memories. The methods involving the unconscious mind are useful when direct reasoning leads to nowhere. If you stay fully alert and try to remember traumatic memories, you are fighting the physiology of the brain. Naturally, you are not successful.
Below are several methods that can assist you in remembering the past. The first method relies on the fact that the brain cannot receive a demanding memory task and immediately produce the correct answer. The brain needs time to process the request, and time to find the information. You should allow at least 2 hours of relaxation for 1 hour of work on the past. This cycle of demand and relaxation can be used in all the other methods described below.
Mental Demand and Relaxation
Spend at least 2 hours trying to remember the missing parts of your childhood. Write down the questions you have about the unknown material. Think about each question for several minutes and make a silent wish to remember the information. You must pay full attention. By the end of the session, silently restate the most important things you wish to remember. Now is the time to have some fun. Do your favorite activity for several hours. The activity must be slow, relaxing, and not dangerous. Avoid activity that requires concentration, such as playing a new piece of music, precision work, or counting. Do not drive a vehicle in this state! Do activities, such as painting, walking, gardening, sunbathing, watching the ocean waves, etc. An incredibly powerful activity that allows rapid recovery of remote and suppressed memories is taking a shower when feeling tired. Turn off the lights, adjust the temperature for maximum pleasure, and enjoy. You will likely enter light hypnosis during this time. Your subconscious mind will be working with the issues you addressed hours earlier. Do not stop relaxing when you get an idea. Let the subconscious thoughts flow at their own pace. If you try to assist your memory by paying attention, you will be impeding your progress. Relax. This is why you are doing it. Enjoy your time and do not expect immediate results. The answers to your questions may arrive during the night, or early in the morning, or only the following day. Take it easy. The memories will come gradually and only when the subconscious mind is ready. Expect at least 3 months, but more likely 6 months, before you remember very painful memories. The most dangerous memories may resist remembering for up to 12 months, and in some cases even longer. All these estimates are based on daily work on the past. If you only see your therapist once a week and do no other therapeutic work at home, then you may need 10 or 20 years to remember. You have to do the work! No therapist can do it for you.
The method of mental demand and relaxation can be used in combination with sleep. Experience suggests that disruption of the regular sleep pattern is useful in remembering of very traumatic experiences, particularly in people with multiple personality disorder. The disruption of regular sleep confuses the most powerful personalities. They become tired and fall asleep. At this moment, the abused personalities enter your mind and disclose their secrets. To achieve this state of mind, start your work on memory recovery shortly before you normally go to bed. Think about your childhood, write down what you wish to remember, and draw simple diagrams to identify the missing parts of your life. Continue working for 3 hours past your normal sleep time. If you stay up for only 2 hours past your regular sleep time, the method may fail. Also, staying awake, but doing an unrelated activity will not help you. Before you finish your work, silently restate the topics you would like to know about. Now go to bed. The subconscious mind will do the rest. Write down your memories immediately when you wake up. Include every detail.
Work with Details
Recovery of traumatic memories does not use the normal mechanism of remembering. Normal events are recovered directly. You can ask yourself a question or have a thought, and the information is recovered. Traumatic memories need to use an indirect address. For example, the victim cannot recall that she was raped by her father, but she may recover some innocent detail that leads to the critical information. The detail is the access code. Find it, and you gain access to the whole traumatic episode. An event that can be recalled quickly is usually unimportant, but a traumatic scene is originally inaccessible in its full scope. The victim may remember only one detail, and everything else is missing. If you find an isolated detail that is for some reason on your mind (you recall it three times), start working with the detail and find a related detail. Continue the search for details until you reconstruct the whole scene. For example, you have had three visions of a towel lying on the floor. The image makes you feel bad, you are afraid, and have difficulty breathing. Listen to your body. The subconscious mind is reacting to the trauma. Such a physical reaction is a signal that you have uncovered something important. Write down every detail you can identify in the image of the towel: Color? Position? Shape? Wet? Blood? Floor pattern? What room? Your feelings? Are you physically present? Increase your scope. What happened before? What happened after? What is the object next to the towel? What is the second next object? Where is the scene located? When?
You may only see the towel and nothing else. Other senses can be affected in a similar way. Most of the whole scene is missing, and the visible part is often still. This is known as "tunnel vision" and is well documented in victims of traumatic experiences. They focus on only one object that occurred during the original trauma, and their memory cannot retrieve the missing information. You will have to work with the little information you have available.
Work with the Unknown
If you discover that you cannot remember some significant event or fact from your childhood, focus on it. For example, if you remember waking up on the sofa in the living room, but have no idea why you slept there, then you have a "prime suspect" to work with. If you associate some place with fear, but do not know why, again, you need to explore this issue. If you recognize that you do not know anything about your fifth grade, this is an indicator of severe repression of the past. If you remember that your sibling was not at home for a longer period of time and you cannot recall why, you have something to work with.
Write the story of your childhood. Begin with the most pleasing moments. Explore your wishes and goals. Become a child once again. Re-experience the moments. Become lost in your indulgence. This will trigger a broad range of your childhood issues. The most traumatic ones will come at the very end. Do not worry about them now. They need to ripen, and you need to be ready to acknowledge them. If you come across details that you cannot explain, focus on them and try to recall the circumstantial information. For example: What happened to my doll? What was behind our house? Where did I write my homework? Where was my bed? Where did we keep shoes? Did we have any large mirrors? What did the ceiling look like? Did we have a pet? etc. A successful memory search depends on your curiosity and your ability to ask questions.
Sometimes you may remember the critical details correctly, but you associate them with false interpretations and beliefs. For example, you may remember that you used to lock the door to your room during childhood. You may firmly believe that it was because there were burglars in the area. You may even correctly remember that you believed the justification at a specific time in your childhood. But your belief then and your belief now do not make the beliefs a reality. Analyze the explanation. Does it make sense? People usually lock the house door to protect themselves against burglars, and they lock the door to a specific room when they want to protect themselves against other occupants of the house.
"But there were burglaries in our neighborhood. When I was fifteen, there was a series of them."
"And when did you start locking your door?"
"At eleven. Why?"
"Oh, just asking."
The above example exposes the classical neuropsychological damage resulting from child sexual abuse. The victim is often incapable of making the correct association between cause and effect and is also unable to understand the thought processes of others.
Write a profile of your family. Do not take a direct approach with the intent to uncover a trauma. Make it an enjoyable experience. Express the wishes, hopes, and dynamics of your family in a playful way. Write whatever and whenever you please. Focus on the following issues.
Imagine that you return to the house of your childhood. Go from room to room in your mind and write down the feelings you have. Draw the exact layout of your house. Pay special attention to the bathroom and bedrooms. Draw or document every piece of furniture and decoration, especially around your bed. Identify who slept where. Describe five bad experiences you had in the bedroom and five bad experiences in the bathroom. Remember ten moments of desperation, anger, or worthlessness you felt anywhere in the house. Which part of the house were you in? What did you do there? Where exactly and in what position were you? How did you feel? Who else was there with you? Who else was in the house? Who else knew about you at that moment? What was the reason behind your feelings and your being there? Did you have a hiding place? Locate it in the house. Recall at least five instances of hiding. What were the specific reasons for your hiding? Did other siblings hide as well? Why and where? Write down the details.
Parental Habits and Values
How did your parents approach sex? Were they faithful or promiscuous? Were they your biological parents? Did they hide sexual accessories: condoms, contraceptive pills, pregnancy test kit, underwear, dildoes, adult magazines? Did they talk about sex in front of children? Did parents rate each other's sexual performance? Did they do any sex education with you or other siblings? Did they explain the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases? Did they joke about sex? Were they inappropriately sexual in public (kissing, sexual touching, constant physical contact)? How did they express affection? Through physical contact or by paying attention to each other? Was there any sexual touching of the children? Did your father grab your body in public? Did he excessively hold you for his physical pleasure or to assert his control over you? Did your parents strictly guard your sexuality or social life? All these details should agree with the character of your family. If there is a disagreement, then something is not right. Find out why.
Inventory of your Sex Life
Write down every detail of your first three sexual experiences (or additional memorable sexual experiences) with every partner you had. Pay special attention to these issues:
Sexual abuse in childhood, even if consciously forgotten, is permanently captured in the unconscious mind and affects the behavior of the victim. The most prominent effects are seen in the victim's interpersonal acts and attitudes.
Up till now, the assumption has been that your abuser was a member of your family, presumably your parent. If you have done all the above exercises and found no connection with the past, try to extend your search to the following persons:
The above mentioned methods help you retrieve completely forgotten traumas. The EMDR method is best used for the retrieval of memories that are only partly repressed, but cause undue distress in daily life. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. This method was discovered in 1989 by Francine Shapiro . The core of the method is guided eye movement from side to side while the subject thinks about a specific traumatic experience . EMDR places the brain in a suitable operating mode and brings the inaccessible past experience to your consciousness. In addition, the operating mode allows the subject to resolve the old experience and cancel its traumatic nature. The expression desensitization is unfortunate, however.
To resolve any severe trauma that was repressed, the subject has to process the information in full consciousness and re-experience the trauma. The mental pain and reaction are as strong or even stronger than they were during the original experience. EMDR does not reduce the degree of the affective experience. The word "desensitization" was probably chosen based on the incorrect assumption that the EMDR technique somehow reduces the painful effects of the memories and thus makes them retrievable. But this is not what is happening; this is not how the human brain functions. Anyhow, once the memories are resolved, they no longer bother the affected subject with spontaneous and undesirable flashbacks or instinctive responses. But the affective power of the memories is still preserved. Even years later, the subject is able to voluntarily recall the events and feel the pain of the old experience. Also external triggers can bring back the old memories after a successful resolution. The resolved experience stays with the subject for life, but can be controlled at will. The subject can now determine whether or not to re-experience the event and to what degree. It may be said that a resolved experience never hurts the conscious mind nowhere near as much as the unresolved experience does, even when the subject does her best to re-experience the old pain at its maximum.
EMDR is typically done with the assistance of a therapist, but you can do it yourself. To get the maximum benefit of the technique, you need to create the right environment. Close the blinds and create semidarkness. You should be able to see well, but concurrently perceive the relative darkness of the room. Such a condition occurs naturally about half an hour after sunset. You can wait longer until it is totally dark outside, and then turn on a small light in an adjacent room. The light should not be visible from your room. Place the light behind furniture if needed. Only the reflected and diffused shine should enter through the door of your room. Set the door ajar to obtain the appropriate level of illumination.
Next, sit down with your back to the center of the wall that neighbors the adjacent room with the light. You may feel exposed, but you get a clear view of the left and right corners at the opposite wall. You can now think about a partly repressed event and move your eyes from corner to corner. Do the back and forth eye movement about six times. Each peek should be attentive (look and focus) and should take several seconds. Longer peeks and longer series of peeks are more effective than a few brief peeks are. You should repeat the series of peeks at least every 30 to 50 seconds to maintain the operating mode of the brain. When moving your eyes, you can move your head a little, but try to move mainly your eyes. Do this naturally and do not pay too much attention to the precision of the execution. Your attention should focus on the trauma, not on the eye movement, even though you need to visually perceive during each peek. After a little practice, you will be able to move your eyes easily.
You can enhance the eye movement technique by talking to yourself. Incest victims are great actresses and excel in pretending and playing games. You should have no problem pretending that someone (your dog, abuser, or family member) is in each corner. You can talk to them about the traumatic experience. This will allow you to move your eyes from corner to corner naturally, and also use your hands as you casually point to the subjects. Hand movement from side to side achieves the same effect as eye movement does and ensures that your mind stays in the desirable operating mode. The partly repressed memories will come back spontaneously. It may not happen instantly, but you should see the results within two or three sessions. You can make the sessions as long as you like. Half an hour or two hours, whatever amount of stress you can handle.
After about three sessions, you may want to dedicate one session to memory reprocessing. Retrieval and reprocessing happen concurrently, but your environment can enhance one mode over the other. Semidarkness is great for memory retrieval, and broad daylight is particularly suitable for memory reprocessing. Reprocessing stands for interpretation and comprehension of the affective meaning of the trauma. You move your eyes in both types of sessions, but the intensity of illumination favors one memory-processing mode over the other.
EMDR can also be used for other purposes than just simple retrieval of repressed traumas of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse. Even the retrieval of everyday memories can be helped by employing EMDR. When you cannot momentarily recall a person's name or address, doing EMDR for a few minutes often can retrieve the information. Furthermore, EMDR can be used to boost your alertness and make you feel relaxed when you are exhausted or unduly stressed. It is important that either you or someone tells you that after the exercise you will feel better, relaxed, and happy. The EMDR method can also facilitate merging of personalities in a person with multiple personality. The technique is applied to every personality individually, and the effects weaken dissociative barriers.
Both lay people and professionals have been wondering whether EMDR can produce distorted or false memories as it often happens in hypnosis. Physiology of the brain indicates that the EMDR technique does not do anything extraordinary to the mind. We enter this operating mode spontaneously during many everyday tasks. The mode is not the prevalent operating mode of the brain, but is absolutely normal. Most importantly, this mode exists in full consciousness. When in this mode, the brain retrieves the memories as they are and without additional distortion. The mode only facilitates memory recovery and does not affect the original information. Unfortunately, sexual abuse damages the mind in many ways and affects most aspects of brain physiology. The mind can become permanently damaged, and information can become distorted within the neural substrates of memory. When retrieval is attempted by means of EMDR, the already distorted memory reaches consciousness without additional distortion. The preexisting distortion is inherent and independent of the retrieval mode.
The effects of preexisting memory distortion should not be underestimated. Even highly qualified experts working with EMDR may not always be able to tell the difference between reality and distorted memories. An example is offered by psychotherapist Dr. Randi Fredricks, Ph.D. in her internet article "Retrieving Repressed Memories with EMDR." Dr. Fredricks seems to genuinely believe that she authored the article. In reality, the entire article (as of October 19, 2011) is an excerpt from this copyright registered webpage. Neither the bogus references listed below the article nor Dr. Fredricks' inability to justify her claims about the physiology of EMDR seem to bother her distorted reality.
By contrast to memory recall in full consciousness, operating modes, such as hypnosis, dreams, and automatic writing, rely on the unconscious mind. In addition, there is a hybrid mode of memory recall. A mind damaged by incest often operates in a quasi-hypnotic mode, when the brain employs some of the same neural substrates that cause memory distortion in hypnosis. The subject appears normal, conscious, and shows no obvious signs of pathology despite variable degree of mental deterioration. The neuropsychological damage leads to distortion during recall of traumas even when done in "full consciousness" and without the use of EMDR. Obviously, it is not full consciousness, but very close to it. The conscious mind of an incest victim is active most of the time, say 99%, and the unconscious mind occasionally modulates the subject's awareness. The unconsciously retrieved 1% of all memories contains some information that may be distorted. Healthy substrates of the conscious mind can weed out the distortions before they reach the subject's awareness. But an incestuously damaged mind often fails to identify the infrequent distortions. They are accepted as true memories. The strange thing is that the affected subject has no idea that his or her memory is not functioning perfectly. Moreover, the subject may positively recognize the distorted memories as real-life experiences.
Although EMDR is a powerful technique, it may not work well at times. The conscious mind may access the sought memories, but the leading personalities of someone with multiple personality could probably not confirm the retrieved memories as something that was experienced by the subject. The naive personalities did not have such experiences during their control of the human organism. In addition, EMDR may cause major breech of dissociative barriers between personalities, flooding, and rapid destabilization  of unsuspecting personalities. The emotionally overwhelmed patient is likely to quit therapy or commit suicide. The same thing may also happen to other victims of severe traumas who do not have multiple personality. EMDR is a very powerful technique that can be beneficial if used in a measured and controlled way. Or EMDR can become a destructive force that unleashes repressed traumas and overwhelms both the conscious and unconscious minds. Improper use can be deadly! For this reason, EMDR was initially not recommended for treating patients with dissociation. Only during the last twenty years, safer techniques have been developed to employ EMDR in people with multiple personalities.
Repressed memories are just that. They are memories that can be true or false. By contrast, physical evidence in cases of childhood rape is seen as the golden standard of reality checking. But the golden standard is only as good as the messenger and his interpretation of the evidence are. One particular issue emerges when a young woman claims that she was raped by her biological father throughout childhood, became pregnant, and was forced to have an abortion. After a long court battle and testimonies by memory experts, the case is undecided. At that point, the defendant's lawyer may request that the victim be examined by a gynecologist. And the gynecologist finds, to the surprise of everyone, that there is absolutely no chance for the alleged victim to have been raped because she is still a virgin! Case closed. You cannot get better evidence than that.
Unfortunately, the given example is not such a clear cut. Female gynecologists are often incest victims and dissociate on their jobs. Many male gynecologist are often rapists, dissociate, and their children frequently have visible evidence of incestuous abuse. Gynecologists like these commonly perform illegal abortions and falsify medical records. For example, the Attorney General of Kansas discovered dozens of concealed cases of child rape, incest, and late-term abortions in 2008 . Doctors perform such abortions for their friends whose daughters become pregnant, and also for the friends of friends, and for others who are referred to the doctors. The monetary rewards are enormous.
History shows that illegal abortions by doctors were common throughout Europe before World War II, and repairs of torn hymens used to be common practice in the Soviet Union during the following decades. These medical services may exist in other countries to this day. But even without any medical intervention, a torn hymen can heal in 9 days . Telling whether a "virgin" who is now in her twenties was raped as a child is not that easy without special examination. Moreover, clinical research shows that sexual abuse does not cause predictable symptoms and responses . This uncertainty affects both physical and psychological indicators. In one study, more than 80% of sexually abused children had at least some post-traumatic symptoms , while a different study found about one-third of sexually abused adolescents who had no significant trauma-specific symptoms . Physical indicators are often absent, even when the perpetrator admits to penetration of the child's genitalia . Three studies of meaningful signs of abuse have produced fairly consistent outcome. The results of physical examination are within normal limits in 80 percent of cases of child sexual abuse ; or 84% of children with suspicious anogenital (anal and genital) symptoms have no findings that would be suggestive or indicative of abuse , or 95.6% of children examined for alleged sexual abuse have entirely normal findings despite high likelihood of having been abused . In agreement with the above studies, only 32% of virgins between 12 and 17 years who are raped sustain genital injuries that would be indicative of penetration if examined several weeks later . Similarly, examinations of raped females between 14 and 19 years find no injury in 36% of the subjects . And just 9.1% of raped females with no prior sexual intercourse have hymenal perforation . Stunningly, definitive symptoms of penetration are found in only 2 of 36 pregnant adolescents . This lack of symptoms explains the origin of the religious term "immaculate conception." The numbers further reveal that negative findings during a physical examination of an alleged victim are not indicative of no rape. The numbers also mean that it is time for the medical community to redefine normal anogenital anatomy.
But if sexual penetration of the vagina does not provide a reliable indicator of abuse, what other signs are there? There are many visible signs and aftereffects that are indicative of sexual penetration or sexual abuse in general. The problem is that the indicators are not absolutely persuasive. They only provide hints and suggest a high probability of abuse. There is no certainty, because the symptoms are interpreted by people who do not understand the symptoms or do not want the symptoms to be symptomatic of sexual abuse. This type of symptoms includes major vaginal tears, and even pregnancy. If a juror or judge does not want to believe that the tears are the result of rape, the symptoms prove nothing. If pregnancy occurs, the defense lawyer, the judge, and the jurors may rationalize that the sex was consensual. One needs to understand that people who rape children or are victims of childhood rape do not want to see the symptoms as indicative of abuse. But the more indicators a child has, the more likely it is that she has been abused. In addition, most symptoms of abuse are psychological and are not easy to notice or correctly interpret. Psychologists and therapists have collected many such symptoms. There is "no proof" that they are truly caused by child sexual abuse, but can be seen over and over again in children who are known victims of sexual abuse. The significance of the symptoms is that they have nothing to do with the actual abusive act. They are secondary aftereffects that are triggered by the shock and stress of the sexual abuse. You can sew up a torn hymen or perform a secret abortion on a pregnant girl to cover up her abuse, but you cannot hide her psychological indicators without killing her. The explicit knowledge of abuse is hidden in the mind of the victim and the abuser. This is why American lawmakers have universally banned the use of lie detector tests in the legal system. Can you imagine the scandal if you could prove that a child of an Honorable pillar of the society has been raped by him? Can you imagine the scandal if you could show that a Judeo-Christian patriarch has raped his child? Of course, this scenario must never be allowed to occur. Both Democrats and Republicans have enacted laws to make sure that rape in the family remains hidden from the public. For the same reasons of personal protection, federal lawmakers and judges have decreed that rape must not be punishable by execution of the perpetrator.
The outright denial of rape by the society sharply contrasts the facts of life. All healthy humans without exception are sexual creatures. They develop sex drive during their preteen and teen years, and engage in sexual intercourse with their peers. If in rare cases a woman in her twenties appears to be a virgin, one has to seriously question why. Many incest victims refrain from sexual intercourse for a number of years after the last abusive episode. The subjects may be in their twenties, but that does not mean that these women never ever had sex, never ever were raped, and never ever became pregnant. So, if a woman suddenly remembers that she was raped as a child, or if she believes that she was abducted by aliens, or if she believes in angels, she is facing only one possibility: her brain has suffered serious damage. Clinical work suggests that childhood sexual abuse is virtually always behind such mental problems. Finally, during the coronation of Emperor Napoleon, four 18-year-old virgins were supposed to assist him in the ceremony. Napoleon sent out experts to find the virgins. In the entire country of France, they were unable to find four 18-year-old virgins. Now, what are the chances that a woman in her twenties who claims to have been raped by her father throughout childhood is a virgin? It seems that we should start playing the lottery. The odds are better.
When it comes to recognizing incest in psychotherapy, the current school of thought stresses the importance of memories of sexual abuse. Corroborating evidence is only used later to support the memories. The Author's discoveries in the field of symptomatology and memory reverse this approach. Memories can certainly be instrumental in getting corroborating evidence, but memories alone rarely provide an accurate picture of the victim's abuse. A set of objective qualifiers (see the Visible Signs of Incest) is a better indicator of child abuse than memories are. The qualifiers have to be sought in the whole family of the victim in these areas:
Regardless of the memory retrieval technique used, there is no guarantee that an incest victim will ever remember her traumatic experiences. The main reason for the failure is usually dissociation. The person is unable to overcome the mental pain of her memories and acknowledge them consciously.
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 Randall Schlievert, MD. Evaluating the prepubertal child for sexual abuse: A primer (from the March 2006 issue of FPR). Retrieved April 24, 2008 from http://www.fpronline.com/article.cfm?ID=210
 American Academy of Pediatrics: Guidelines for the Evaluation of Sexual Abuse of Children: Subject Review [Electronic version]. PEDIATRICS Vol. 103 No. 1 January 1999, pp. 186-191.
 John N. Briere Diana M. Elliott Immediate and Long-Term Impacts of Child Sexual Abuse. http://www.futureofchildren.org/usr_doc/vol4no2ART3.pdf.
 Nancy D. Kellogg, Shirley W. Menard & Annette Santos. Genital Anatomy in Pregnant Adolescents: “Normal” Does Not Mean “Nothing Happened.” Pediatrics 2004;113:e67–e69. http://www.pediatrics.org/cgi/content/full/113/1/e67
 Marleen Biggs, Lana E. Stermac & Miriam Divinsky. Genital injuries following sexual assault of women with and without prior sexual intercourse experience. CMAJ 1998;159:33-7.
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