False Memory Defense in court, retractor information

December 21, 2009 § Leave a comment

The “False Memory” Defense: Using Disinformation and Junk Science in and out of Court Charles L. Whitfield, M.D., F.A.S.A.M.- Journal of Child Sexual Abuse 9 (3 & 4) Haworth Press (2001)

…in a study of 30 malpractice law suits by retractors against their former therapists for “implanting false memories” or “implanting DID,” Scheflin and Brown (1999) found that most of the 30 had recovered their memories and/or had the diagnosis of DID made before the sued therapist had seen them. There were many other kinds of direct and circumstantial evidence in these cases. Nearly all 30 retractors had been previously given multiple co-morbid psychiatric diagnoses that are extensively reported in the clinical scientific literature to be associated with or caused by childhood trauma, especially child sexual abuse (e.g., Herman, 1992; Whitfield, 1997c, 1998c). These included: major depression (e.g., Kendler, et al, 2000), anxiety disorders (e.g., McCauley, et al, 1997), PTSD (e.g,, Rowan, Foy, Rodriguez, & Ryan, 1994), major dissociative disorders (e.g., Whitfield, 1997c), personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder (e.g., Herman, 1992), and major addictions such as chemical dependence and eating disorders (e.g., Felitti, et al, 1998; Herman, 1992; McCauley, et al, 1997). Ninety percent (27 of the 30) had a diagnosis of either DID (11 retractors) or Dissociative Disorder, Not Otherwise Stated (DD-NOS) (17 retractors) (Scheflin & Brown, 1999).

Nearly all of the therapists sued had given the retractors appropriate stage-oriented trauma treatment. In none of the 30 cases was there any mention or evidence of “recovered memory therapy” or a single-minded focus on recovering memories of abuse. Scheflin and Brown (1999) said, “.later, after encounters with pro-false memory (mis)information, the patient came to misattribute the source of his/her abuse memory to the defendant therapist and forgot that it had been self-reported, sometimes being recovered outside the context of therapy” (p. 685). In fact Scheflin and Brown (1999) found that if any false information was implanted, it likely occurred by exposure to pro-false memory sources close to or after the time of the identified therapy sessions. They said, “in all 30 cases the plaintiff failed to report his or her vulnerability to post-therapeutic suggestive influences that might have been operative in the shaping of the retraction belief itself..the most striking finding from our analysis was [that] the significant post-therapeutic suggestive influences associated with the development of the retraction belief could be identified in every one of the 30 cases” (p. 687).

They conclude, “In our analysis of these 30 cases, significant exposure to false memory (mis)information occurred in the great majority of the cases and had a significant impact on the progressive shaping of retraction beliefs. .What do these data tell us? That sometimes litigious patients, plaintiff attorneys, and other individuals intentionally solicit other former patients in order to influence them” (Scheflin & Brown, 1999, p. 688). http://childabuse.georgiacenter.uga.edu/both/whitfield/whitfield24.phtml

The Myth of Epidemic False Allegations of Sexual Abuse in Divorce Cases

April 23, 2009 § Leave a comment

The Myth of Epidemic False Allegations of Sexual Abuse in Divorce Cases  by Merrilyn McDonald  (note: abstract summaries and web page addresses are not from the article)

CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE IS A COMMON EXPERIENCE. A more recent national survey found that 27 percent of women and 16 percent of men reported sexual abuse as a child. David Finkelhor, Gerald Hotaling, I.A. Lewis & Christine Smith, “Sexual Abuse in a National Survey of Adult Men and Women: Prevalence, Characteristics, and Risk Factors,” Child Abuse and Neglect: The International Journal, v14 n1 p19-28 1990. Abstract: The national survey of over 2500 adult men and women found a reported history of childhood sexual abuse of 27 percent in women and 16 percent in men. Correlates of higher rates of abuse (e.g., growing up in unhappy families) are reported for both men and women. http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/custom/portlets/recordDetails/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=EJ406942&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=EJ406942 The rates of 27 percent of women and 16 percent of men are considered to be solid, accurate rates by most researchers.

ALLEGATIONS OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE IN DIVORCE CASES ARE INFREQUENT. An excellent study on the incidence of sexual abuse in divorce was done by Thoennes and Tjaden of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts Research Unit in Denver, with funding from the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect. Data was gathered from domestic relations court staff in eight jurisdictions, during a six-month period. Staff in these jurisdictions completed a questionnaire each time there was an allegation of sexual abuse in a custody or visitation dispute. More than 9,000 families in these areas had custody or visitation disputes. Of these 9,000 families, less than 2 percent had allegations of sexual abuse. (Nancy Thoennes & Patricia G. Tjaden, “The Extent, Nature, and Validity of Sexual Abuse Allegations in Custody/Divorce Disputes,” Child Abuse and Neglect: The International Journal, v14 n2 p151-63 (1990). “A study of over 9,000 custody/visitation dispute cases found that sexual abuse allegations occurred in 2 percent of contested cases. Such cases involve a variety of accused and accusing parties and are no less likely to be “unfounded” than other sexual abuse reports.”

David P. H. Jones & J. Melbourne McGraw, “Reliable and Fictitious Accounts of Sexual Abuse to Children,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Vol. 2, No. 1, 27-45 (March 1987). “The various categories of reports of child sexual abuse were examined in Phase 1 of a two-part study. In this first phase, all the reports (N = 576) of child sexual abuse made to the Denver Department of Social Services were categorized. Most reports were reliable accounts (70%), but a small proportion appeared to be fictitious (8%)” http://jiv.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/2/1/27

Why Do Kids Recant?….The fact that a child recants does not mean that abuse never happened. It often means that pressure has been applied to the child and the child submitted. A child may also recant when he feels he is not being believed. Naturally reluctant to talk about abuse, a child may become silent or recant if those interviewing him seem skeptical of his disclosure. (Published in the Spring 1998 issue of Court Review)  http://www.omsys.com/mmcd/courtrev.htm

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