Recovered memories have been defined as the phenomenon of partially or fully losing parts of memories of traumatic events, and then later recovering part or all of the memories into conscious awareness. They have also been defined as the recollections of memories that are believed to have been unavailable for a certain period of time. There is very strong scientific evidence that recovered memories exist. This has been shown in many scientific studies. The content of recovered memories have fairly high corroboration rates.
There are many studies that have proven that the recovered memories of traumatic events exist. Brown, Scheflin and Hammond found 43 studies that showed recovered memories for traumatic events. The Recovered Memory Project has collected 101 corroborated cases of recovered memories. Hopper’s research shows that amnesia for childhood sexual abuse is “beyond dispute.” He states that “at least 10% of people sexually abused in childhood will have periods of complete amnesia for their abuse, followed by experiences of delayed recall”  In one study of women with previously documented histories of sexual abuse, 38% of the women did not remember the abuse that had happened 17 years before. Most recovered memories either precede therapy or the use of memory recovery techniques. One studied showed that five out of 19 women with histories of familial sexual abuse either forgot specific details or had “blank periods” for these memories. Another study showed that “40% reported a period of forgetting some or all of the abuse”. Herman and Harvey’s study showed that 16% of abuse survivors had “complete amnesia followed by delayed recall”. Corwin’s individual case study provides evidence of the existence of recovered memories on videotape.
Other researchers state:
Research has shown that traumatized individuals respond by using a variety of psychological mechanisms. One of the most common means of dealing with the pain is to try and push it out of awareness. Some label the phenomenon of the process whereby the mind avoids conscious acknowledgment of traumatic experiences as dissociative amnesia. Others use terms such as repression, dissociative state, traumatic amnesia, psychogenic shock, or motivated forgetting. Semantics aside, there is near-universal scientific acceptance of the fact that the mind is capable of avoiding conscious recall of traumatic experiences.
A body of empirical evidence indicates that it is common for abused children to reach adulthood without conscious awareness of the trauma
Many studies show high corroboration rates for recovered memories of traumatic events. These rates vary from 50 – 75%, 64%, 77%, 50%, 75% 68% 47%, and 70% . One study showed amnesia in 12 murderers, with “objective evidence of severe abuse…obtained in 11 cases”. There are also additional studies showing the corroboration of recovered memories.
1. What about Recovered Memories? Jennifer J. Freyd, University of Oregon ~jjf/whatabout.html
2. Research discussing corroboration and accuracy of recovered memories: An Annotated Bibliography by Lynn Crook ~jjf/suggestedrefs.html
3. Brown, Scheflin, & Whitfield. (1999). Recovered Memories: The Current Weight of the Evidence in Science and in the Courts Journal of Psychiatry & Law, 27, 5-156. “Brown, Scheflin and Hammond reviewed 43 studies relevant to the subject of traumatic memory and found that every study that examined the question of dissociative amnesia in traumatized populations demonstrated that a substantial minority partially or completely forget the traumatic event experienced, and later recover memories of the event. By 1999, over 68 studies had been published that document dissociative amnesia after childhood sexual abuse. In fact, no study that has looked for evidence of traumatic or dissociative amnesia after child sexual abuse has failed to find it.”
4. The Recovered Memory Project
5. Recovered Memories of Sexual Abuse – Scientific Research & Scholarly Resources by Jim Hopper “Amnesia for childhood sexual abuse is a condition. The existence of this condition is beyond dispute. Repression is merely one explanation – often a confusing and misleading one – for what causes the condition of amnesia. At least 10% of people sexually abused in childhood will have periods of complete amnesia for their abuse, followed by experiences of delayed recall.”
6. Williams LM (1994). Recall of childhood trauma: a prospective study of women’s memories of child sexual abuse. J Consult Clin Psychol 62: 1167–76. PMID 7860814. “One hundred twenty-nine women with previously documented histories of sexual victimization in childhood were interviewed and asked detailed questions about their abuse histories to answer the question “Do people actually forget traumatic events such as child sexual abuse, and if so, how common is such forgetting?” A large proportion of the women (38%) did not recall the abuse that had been reported 17 years earlier.”
7. Andrews, B., Brewin, C., Ochera, J., Morton, J., Bekerian, D., Davies, G., and Mollon, P. (1999). Characteristics, context and consequences of memory recovery among adults in therapy. Brit J Psychiatry 175:141-146. “Of a total of 690 clients, therapists reported that 65% recalled child sexual abuse and 35% recalled other traumas, 32% started recovering memories before entering therapy. According to therapists’ accounts, among the 236 detailed client cases, very few appeared improbable and corroboration was reported in 41%. Most (78%) of the clients’ initial recovered memories either preceded therapy or preceded the use of memory recovery techniques used by the respondents. Techniques seemed to be used more to help the clients to elaborate the memories than to facilitate their initial recovery. Clients with whom techniques had been used before the first reported memory recovery were no less likely to have found corroborating evidence than clients with whom no techniques had been used before memory recovery.”
8. Bagley, C. (1995). The prevalence and mental health sequels of child sexual abuse in community sample of women aged 18 to 27. Child sexual abuse and mental health in adolescents and adults. Aldershot: Avebury. “Study of women 18-24 years who had been removed from home 10 years previously by social services due to intrafamilial sexual abuse. Of the 19 women for whom there was evidence of serious sexual abuse, 14 remembered events corresponding to their records. Two remembered that abuse had taken place but could recall no specific details, and three had no memory. Two of the last three described long blank periods for the memory of childhood corresponding to the age when abuse had taken place.
9. Feldman-Summers, S., & Pope, K. S. (1994). The experience of forgetting childhood abuse: A national survey of psychologists. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 62, 636-639. “A national sample of psychologists were asked whether they had been abused as children and, if so, whether they had ever forgotten some super mario run hack tool or all of the abuse. Almost a quarter of the sample (23.9%) reported childhood abuse, and of those, approximately 40% reported a period of forgetting some or all of the abuse….Of those abused, 40% did not remember at some time. 47% had corroboration. 56% said psychotherapy aided in recall. Differences between those who first recalled abuse in therapy and those who recalled it elsewhere were not significant.
10. Herman, J. L., & Harvey, M. R. (1997). Adult memories of childhood trauma: A naturalistic clinical study. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 10, 557-571. “Roughly half (53%) said they had never forgotten the traumatic events. Two smaller groups described a mixture of continuous and delayed recall (17%) or a period of complete amnesia followed by delayed recall (16%). Patients with and without delayed recall did not differ significantly in the proportions reporting corroboration of their memories from other sources.”
11. Corwin, D.; Olafson E. (1997). Videotaped Discovery of a Reportedly Unrecallable Memory of Child Sexual Abuse:Comparison with a Childhood Interview Videotaped 11 Years Before Child Maltreatment 2 (2): 91–112. doi:10.1177/1077559597002002001
12. The Leadership Council – Trauma and Memory
13. “True” and “False” Child Sexual Abuse Memories and Casey’s Phenomenological View of Remembering Joanne M. Hall, Lori L. Kondora – American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 48, No. 10, 1339-1359 (2005) DOI: 10.1177/0002764205277012 “Research shows that 64% of adult women childhood sexual abuse survivors had some degree of amnesia regarding the trauma; but in the majority of cases, corroboration was available to verify that abuse had occurred (Herman & Schatzow, 1987). Of 129 women with recorded histories of childhood sexual abuse, 38% did not recall the abuse that had been clearly verified and documented decades earlier. This lack of recall was especially likely among those abused at younger ages and among those whose perpetrators were known by them at the time of the abuse (L.Williams, 1994). In fact, a body of empirical evidence indicates that it is common for abused children to reach adulthood without conscious awareness of the trauma (Briere, 1992; Herman, 1992; Schetky, 1990; van der Kolk et al., 1996).”
14. Corroboration of Child Abuse Memories “Studies vary in frequency. Between 31 and 64 percent of abuse survivors in six major studies reported that they forgot “some of the abuse.” Numbers reporting severe amnesia ranged from under 12% to 59%….Studies report 50-75% of abuse survivors corroborating the facts of their abuse through an outside source.”
15. van der Kolk, BA & R Fisler (1995), “Dissociation and the fragmentary nature of traumatic memories: Overview and exploratory study”, J Traumatic Stress 8: 505–25 “a systematic exploratory study of 46 subjects with PTSD which indicates that traumatic memories are retrieved, at least initially, in the form of dissociated mental imprints of sensory and affective elements of the traumatic experience: as visual, olfactory, affective, auditory and kinesthetic experiences. Over time, subjects reported the gradual emergence of a personal narrative that some believe can be properly referred to as “explicit memory”….Of the 35 subjects with childhood trauma, 15 (43%) had suffered significant, or total amnesia for their trauma at some time of their lives. Twenty seven of the 35 subjects with childhood trauma (77%) reported confirmation of their childhood trauma.”
16. “Recovered memories of abuse among therapy patients: A national survey.” Pope, Kenneth S.; Tabachnick, Barbara G. Independent practice, Norwalk, CT, US Ethics & Behavior 1995 Vol 5(3) 237-248 “about 50% of the patients who claimed to have recovered the memories had found external validation, a percentage that coincides with that obtained in the Feldman-Summers & Pope, 1994 study”
17. Herman, J L.; Schatzow E (1987). Recovery and verification of memories of childhood sexual trauma. Psychoanalytic Psychol 4. “Three out of four patients were able to validate their memories by obtaining corroborating evidence from other sources”
18. Kluft, RP (1995). The confirmation and disconfirmation of memories of abuse in Dissociative Identity Disorder patients: A naturalistic study. Dissociation 8: 253-8. “Nineteen, or 56%, had instances of the confirmation of recalled abuses. Ten of the 19, or 53%, had always recalled the abuses that were confirmed. However, 13 of the 19, or 68%, obtained documentation of events that were recovered in the course of therapy, usually with the use of hypnosis. Three patients, or 9%, had instances in which the inaccuracy of their recollection could be demonstrated.”
19. Westerhof, Y., Woertman, L. Van der Hart, O., & Nijenhuis, E.R.S. (2000). Forgetting child abuse: Feldman-Summers and Pope’s (1994) study replicated among Dutch psychologists. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 7, 220-229. “In a replication of Feldman-Summers and Pope’s (1994) national survey of American psychologists on ‘forgetting’ childhood abuse, a Dutch sample of 500 members of the Netherlands Institute of Psychologists (NIP) were asked if they had been abused as children and, if so, whether they had ever forgotten some or all of the abuse for some significant period of time. As compared to the 23.9% in the original study, 13.3% reported childhood abuse. Of that subgroup, 39% (as compared to 40% in the original study) reported a period of forgetting some or all of the abuse for a period of time. Both sexual and non-sexual physical abuse were subject to forgetting, which in 70% of cases was reversed while being in therapy. Almost 70% of those who reported forgetting also reported corroboration of the abuse.”
20. Lewis, D., Yeager, C., Swica, Y., Pincus, J. and Lewis, M. (1997). Objective documentation of child abuse and dissociation in 12 murderers with dissociative identity disorder. Am J Psychiatry, 154(12):1703-10. “Signs and symptoms of dissociative identity disorder in childhood and adulthood were corroborated independently and from several sources in all 12 cases; objective evidence of severe abuse was obtained in 11 cases. The subjects had amnesia for most of the abuse and underreported it. Marked changes in writing style and/or signatures were documented in 10 cases. CONCLUSIONS: This study establishes, once and for all, the linkage between early severe abuse and dissociative identity disorder.”
21. Martinez-Taboas, A. (1996). Repressed memories: Some clinical data contributing toward its elucidation. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 50(2), 217-30. “the author presents two well documented and corroborated cases of dissociated or delayed memories of child sexual abuse in patients with a diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). The patients had absolutely no conscious memory of their childhood abusive experiences and in both cases the author obtained definite and clear cut independent corroboration of the realities of the abuse. The amnesia was documented and memories were recovered in the course of treatment.”
22. Viederman M. (1995). The reconstruction of a repressed sexual molestation fifty years later. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 43(4): 1169-1219. Reconstruction of a previously completely repressed memory of sexual molestation. Six years following termination of analysis, the patient wrote a letter describing a confirmation of the event, now sixty years past, from the sole other survivor of the period who had knowledge of what had happened.
23. Bull, D. (1999). A verified case of recovered memories of sexual abuse. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 53(2), 221-224. “a 40-year-old woman with no history of mental illness and ten years of exemplary professional work, recovers memories of childhood sexual abuse by her father through a call from her youth pastor in whom she had confided as an adolescent.”
24. Dahlenberg, C. (1996, Summer) Accuracy, timing and circumstances of disclosure in therapy of recovered and continuous memories of abuse. The Journal free xbox live codes of Psychiatry and Law. “Seventeen patients who had recovered memories of abuse in therapy participated in a search for evidence confirming or refuting these memories. Memories of abuse were found to be equally accurate whether recovered or continuously remembered.”
1. Brown, Scheflin and Hammond (D. Corydon), 1998, “Memory, Trauma Treatment, And the Law” W. W. Norton (0-393-70254-5)
2. Knopp, F. H. & Benson, A. R. (1996) A primer on the complexities of traumatic memory childhood sexual abuse; a psychobiological approach. Brandon, VT : Safer Society Press
3. Leavitt, Ph.D., F. Manufactured Memory, Altered Belief and Self Report Mirage: The Alleged False Memory of Jean Piaget. Child Abuse & Neglect, 1999, 23, No. 12, pp. 1221-1224. 
4. van der Kolk, B. A. (1994). The body keeps the score: Memory and the evolving psychobiology of post love here traumatic stress.
5. van der Kolk, B. A. & Fisler, R. (1995) Dissociation and the fragmentary nature of traumatic memories: Overview and exploratory study.
6. Whitfield M.D.,C. Memory and Abuse – Remembering and Healing the Effects of Trauma Health Communications, Inc 3201 SW 15th St, Deerfield Beach, FL.33442-8190.
7. Whitfield M.D.,C. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 4, 2, 1997, Brunner/Mazel.Inc. c 1997, Traumatic Amnesia: The Evolution of Our Understanding From a Clinical and Legal Perspective
8. Whitfield M.D., C. Traumatic Amnesia: The Evolution of Our Understanding From A Clinical and Legal Perspective(Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 4(2), 3-34, 1997)
9. Whitfield M.D., C. Trauma and Memory: Clinical & legal understanding of traumatic amnesia (Chapter 12) in Burgess, Ann W. (ed): Advanced Practice Psychiatric Nursing. Appleton & Lange, Stamford, Ct., 1998, pp 171-186.
10. Widom, C. and Shepard, R. (1996). Accuracy of adult recollections of childhood victimization: Part 1. Psychological Assessment, 8(4), 412-421. “accuracy of adult recollections of childhood physical abuse was assessed. Two hour in-person interviews were conducted in young adulthood with 1,196 of the original 1,575 participants. Two measures (including the Conflict Tactics Scale) were used to assess histories of childhood physical abuse. Results indicate good discriminant validity and predictive efficiency of the self-report measures, despite substantial underreporting by physically abused respondents.”
11. Widom, C. and Shepard, R. (1997). Accuracy of adult recollections of childhood victimization. Part 2. Childhood sexual abuse. Psychological Assessment 9: 34-46. “A prospective study in which abused and neglected children (court substantiated) [N=1,114] were matched with non-abused and neglected children and followed into adulthood. There was substantial underreporting of sexual abuse, when compared to court and medical records. Victimization recall was checked by comparing crimes disclosed in victimization surveys found in police records.”
1. Recovered Memory Data
2. Recovered memory corroboration rates