One disturbing issue a sex abuse attorney comes routinely in contact with in the court room is the issue of “repressed memory.” Sadly, this pop psychological theory gone mad has put many innocent people behind bars and is still a reality today.
The concept of repressed memories first emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s. What started as a pop fad spilled into the legal field and became an issue regularly faced by a sex abuse attorney. Repressed memories typically result when a woman seeks counseling, and her counselor helps her “discover” past memories of sexual abuse. She perhaps suffers from a variety of issues, and he suggests that her inability to maintain relationships may be caused by a past sexual abuse, which she then remembers with much do praise from the counselor.
The trouble with “repressed memory” is its actual validity in the legal field when a sex abuse attorney encounters it. The patient receives affirmation and attention from the counselor, therefore grounding the story as evidence for a sex abuse attorney to contend with. The patient is under duress about events that happened decades ago and is naturally upset. Laws set up in the 1980s required counselors to contact the authorities in these instances, who would then build cases that prosecuted perfectly innocent people.
Perfectly normal people needed the help of a sex abuse attorney. Luckily, the myth of “repressed memory” began to be exposed in the 1990s. Many counselors and child psychologists didn’t accept the theory on face value, and prosecutors became nervous at prosecuting them. Still, it occasionally remains an issue today, as a sex abuse attorney will still come across it from time to time.
The case of Dr. Earl Bradley
In February of 2010, a Delaware Grand Jury returned a 160 page indictment of Dr. Early Bradley, including 471 counts of sexual crimes involving 103 children. Bradley sought the legal services of a sex abuse attorney. The police have asked to interview all the children involved. The problem is that many of the parents of these children maintain that their children were emotionally unaffected and that the trial experience would only be traumatic for them.
The prosecutor cites the “repressed memory” issue as a reason to do the interviews, maintaining that the process may uncover other instances of wrongdoing that would prove helpful to the prosecution. Yet the myth of repressed memory is well known to your average sex abuse attorney. Stories based on emotional disturbance in a counseling session have questionable authenticity. While they may prove helpful to a counseling session, they have no place in a court room before a sex abuse attorney.
Truth is in the eye of the beholder
Luckily, more judges and prosecutors are seeing the inherent faultiness of repressed memories, so they are becoming less common, although they still surface from time to time. A sex abuse attorney should always make a point of highlighting the vast amount of doubt created in a repressed memory instance, as it has no place in a court room. Until a higher court decides to make a concrete ruling on repressed memories, they will always come into question. All we can use to protect clients from them is our own common sense, from the judge to the jury.