To: MIT.EDU!witchhunt Date: Sat, 12 Nov 94 14:48 EST Cc:!fina012 (

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From:!!aaron (Aaron Larson) To: MIT.EDU!witchhunt Date: Sat, 12 Nov 94 14:48 EST Cc:!fina012 (c) The Buffalo News, 11/7/94, pg. 7. Guidelines May Restrict Repressed Memories For Sexual Abuse Convictions; Use Would Eliminate 'inappropriate Testimony' By Barry Brown Tight, psychological guidelines on so-called repressed memories in sexual abuse cases soon could restrict the number of "false memory syndrome" cases in Canadian courts, experts say. Canadian courts soon will use guidelines, produced by the Australian Psychological Society, that will make convictions on the basis of retrieved memories much more difficult, if not impossible, according to the president of the Canadian Criminal Lawyers Association. "In the past, courts accepted a lot of inappropriate testimony without a lot of critical analysis," said Bruce Durno of the lawyers' association. "When we started gaining access to therapist's notes, we found some who were looking to sexual abuse as the answer for all problems a child or an adult was having. One therapist's guidelines actually said, 'If you aren't sure if you were sexually assaulted, you probably were.' " The Australian guidelines, which still have no counterpart in Canada, stress that no empirical evidence supports the idea of repressed memory and no scientific evidence supports any general relationship between memory and psychological trauma. They also point out memories can be altered, deleted and created by other events and by the very effort of retrieval. Psychologists never should assume reports of no abuse indicates a repressed memory, or that a retrieved memory is accurate, or that the therapist's own expectations and questions haven't affected the patient's response. Alan Gold, a Toronto defense counsel, said the United States has some guidelines on "false memory syndrome," but the Australian guidelines are the most definitive he has seen. An increasing number of adults are charging they were abused as children and then taking their alleged, ancient abuser to court. In some cases, conflicting testimony about the alleged abuse for which there may be no physical or collaborating evidence, has led to the conviction of innocent people who fell victim to "invented memories," Durno said. "Absolutely, there are people in jail because of false memory syndrome, because then there was no critical look at this form of therapy, and so no way to challenge it," Durno said. Those who criticize retrieved memories have come under attack, he added, noting that Ontario Attorney General Marion Boyd recently told a meeting of judges not to believe such critics. The new guidelines will apply only to cases where the alleged sexual assault took place years before and the alleged victim denied any such assault occurred until years later when a so-called repressed memory suddenly is "retrieved." The "mind is very pliant in both adults and children when it comes to memories," Durno explained, adding there are "maybe 100" people in jail, convicted on evidence that might now been thrown out of court. "An American study estimated that 30 percent of sexual assault allegations that occur in a family undergoing divorce or separation prove to be false," he said. The new guidelines, he added, would come into play when experts are called to testify about a case of alleged abuse and the defense questions the prosecution witnesses about the reliability of allegations based on repressed memory. Not long ago, a number of adults were charged in Martensville, Saskatchewan, with abusing children. But after a long investigation and several trials, only one person was found guilty, and the rest were acquitted on the grounds the police got the children to describe their "abuse" only after intense prodding and leading them to give the "right" answers, Durno said.


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