Repressed Memory Debated at Hearing
Should Expert Testimony on the Condition be Allowed at a Trial
Involving Sexual Abuse Allegations at Girls and Boys Town?
By Rick Ruggles
Omaha World-Herald [Nebraska]
August 18, 2005
Lawyers and experts argued today over the concept of repressed memory and whether it should play a role in a trial involving sexual abuse allegations at Girls and Boys Town.
Todd Rivers of Omaha contends that he was sexually abused by a family teacher, Michael Wolf, and by the Rev. James Kelly while Rivers lived at Boys Town in the 1980s.
Rivers, 36, alleges that a repressed memory prevented him from recalling the sexual abuse until three years ago. He has since sued Boys Town and Kelly. Wolf died in 1990. Kelly and Boys Town deny that any sexual abuse occurred.
The two-day hearing before Douglas County District Judge Sandra Dougherty is designed to establish whether expert testimony on repressed memory will be allowed in the yet-to-be-scheduled trial. Dougherty may take the question under advisement after hearing Friday's testimony.
The concept of repressed memory is generally defined as a condition in which a person cannot remember a traumatic event.
Attorney James Martin Davis, defending Boys Town and Kelly, contends that repressed memory is an unproven hypothesis over which psychology experts are split.
Rivers' attorney, Patrick Noaker, argued in opening statements that repressed memory is scientifically accepted and has been proved through numerous studies.
"It's a theory," Davis said of repressed memory in his opening statement. "It's not reliable, and it's not valid."
Davis said his experts would show that repressed memory is "just a fad."
"At best, it's unproven," he said. "At worst, there's no such thing."
Noaker said many studies at universities around the nation have shown that repressed memory exists and is accepted by the psychological community. The American Psychiatric Association officially took the stance that repressed memory is legitimate, he said.
"It's not a theory," he said. "It's a fact, a psychiatric condition."
A widely used psychiatric reference book, called DSM-IV, recognizes memory problems as a feature of post-traumatic conditions, he said. The reference books cites "dissociative amnesia," or repressed memory, as a legitimate diagnosis, he said.
As to controversy surrounding repressed memory, he said, a "loud minority" has sought to debunk it. Repressed memory, he said, is recognized as real and reliable by most psychology experts.
Davis' expert, Dr. Harrison Pope of Harvard Medical School, said studies endorsing repressed memory tend to lack scientific validity and sometimes confuse simple forgetfulness with repressed memory. He said DSM-IV itself notes that the concept is controversial.
"It's not a hypothesis that has acquired general acceptance," Pope said.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
money guide of hospital products guide of international market guide of repair roof before winter guide of website income guide of secure your business guide of face makeup tools guide of jewellery arts guide of tv shows guide of best places on earth guide of job plans guide of cheap cars guide of creating products guide of women tools guide of eat less guide of car insurance process guide of sport stuff guide of garden home guide of cheap insurances guide of electronic tech guide of healthy feeding guide of what is next in fashion guide of improve company guide of tactical insurance guide of make money at home guide of development in business guide of dept loan guide of cooking secrets guide of correct companies guide of jobs with more income guide of reviews o general products guide of improving technology guide of ideal job guide of business sectors guide of dept problem guide of unlimited business guide of suitable insurance company guide of money cars guide of how to market guide of heatlhy diet tips guide of decoration tipse guide of security problems