To: MIT.EDU!witchhunt _The Myth of Repressed Memory_: False Memories and Allegations of Se

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From: William Kreuter To: MIT.EDU!witchhunt _The Myth of Repressed Memory_: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse_, by Elizabeth Loftus and Katerine Ketcham. Reviewed by Doug Esser, The Associated Press, and published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Thursday, December 22. We may now be coming out of a period of mass hysteria the likes of which have not been seen since the last witch was burned in Salem, to judge by "The Myth of Repressed Memory." This modern-day witch hunt has targeted some older parents, accusing them of molesting their children years or even decades ago. These allegations are based on the alledged victims' repressed memories, sometimes with no other proof. Such memories, often created in therapy, are no proof at all, writes Elizabeth Loftus. She is a University of Washington psychology professor and an expert on memory. With the help of writer Katherine Ketcham, Loftus says that theory has mutated in pop psychology into a belief that memories of specific acts, even repeated acts over a number of years, lie buried uneasily in the subconscious, causing problems and disorders until they can be recovered, confronted and conquered. Loftus writes movingly about how she deals with families who feel they have "lost" their children to cultlike therapies. She also defends herself in political battles with survivor advocates who accuse her of being anti-feminist and of protecting pedophiles. She is careful to distinguish between false memories and proven cases of abuse where there is corroborating evidence. Those victims are entitled to whatever it takes to get on with their lives. In contrast, Loftus exposes how memories can be created and tied into a cockeyed belief system of victimization where the absence of proof becomes the evidence. The most notorious case involves the Paul Ingram family in Olympia. Ingram, a former sheriff's deputy and Republican Party leader, is serving time for a confession -- which he has since recanted -- of sexually abusing his daughters in a satanic cult. Loftus explains the confession as a confabulation brought about through fundamentalist religious beliefs that treat Satan as real, intimidation by investigators and suggestions from counselors. The Ingram case was the focus of another book, "Remembering Satan," by Lawrence Wright. How a father could make such allegedly false confessions is hard to understand even after it is explained in these books. And the courts have yet to accept his change of heart. "The Myth of Repressed Memory" is not an easy read. The allegations of sex abuse are bizarre and disquieting. Loftus reminds us that even our worst fears can be unfounded and that we should be led by scientific proof rather than our sympathies for those who believe they are victims.


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