Therapy, False Memory, And Sexual Assault Accusations
Modern society is predisposed to the idea of using therapy as a way of feeling better, fighting one’s demons, and becoming a better person. Often, individuals who are from a broken home, are dealing with divorce, or who have suffered any number of problems in their past will see a therapist. There is ample evidence to suggest that therapists are predisposed to finding trauma, including sexual assault trauma. There is a lot of literature written by experts all over the country about this phenomenon, and it is very real.
Memory does not work in the way that, for years, we assumed it did. Memory is not some constant videotape or hard drive, that one can simply pluck and recall at one’s leisure. Instead, it is a hopelessly complex and variable process, that we are only just beginning to fully understand.
Scientists studying memory now understand that every time a memory is deposited into the brain’s hard drive, recalled, and then put back in, it gets altered. A memory is not a videotape; it is a physical/physiological series of neurons residing in a physical space – the brain. Importantly, memory can be, and is, altered the same way that information on a laptop can be altered. Every time memory is accessed, recalled, and then resaved (or “re-remembered’), it is altered – simply by the process of it being recalled, pulled off the hard drive, and then resaved on the hard drive.
There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that simply talking about something is extremely suggestive. Talking about potential trauma, including whether or not someone was sexually molested or abused, has led to countless false memories being implanted into a person’s brain or “hard drive.”
Therapy is a wonderful thing that has helped millions and millions of people. However, there is no question that in some cases, it has created and implanted false memories, exaggerated memories, and led to countless numbers of false accusations. This is a defense that must be explored in every child molestation or sex abuse case. A child or an adult who makes a false accusation due to a false memory believes that the event actually occurred, but just because they believe it does not mean that it is true.
It’s been well-established that simply asking a question is suggestive, such as in the case of a mother asking her five-year-old child, “Has daddy ever touched you?” As a result, most police agencies use what is commonly referred to forensic interviewing protocol and a forensic interviewing center to conduct interviews of minors. Serious problems occur when the forensic interviewing protocol is not followed, or in some cases completely ignored.
When the topic is sexual assault, everything must be compiled as part of the discovery review, and “No” cannot be taken for an answer. This is especially true for cases where there is a suspicion that a forensic interview did occur. The fact that even the prosecutor does not think there was a forensic interview does not mean it did not happen. The prosecutor may be innocently mistaken that it did not happen, or even hiding the fact that it did. Either way, it is necessary to file Freedom of Information Act requests with the forensic interviewing center and the police or sheriff’s office that is investigating the case, as well as send subpoenas to fully explore whether such an interview took place.
For more information, a free case strategy session is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (248) 509-0056 today.