Expert sceptical of repressed memories

John Malpas reports

CLAIMS that the repressed childhood memories of sexual abuse victims can be “recovered” by psychotherapists are not backed by science.

That was the message delivered to the Family Law Bar Association’s annual conference earlier this month by chartered clinical and forensic psychologist Bryan Tully, one of a number of speakers to address the three-day event.

Tully told the gathering of around 150 barristers at the London conference that for millions of people traumatised by tragic events, including sexual crimes, the problem was to avoid the memories.

Presenting a paper to the conference, he said: “The research shows the main problem for documented cases of post-traumatic stress reactions and disorders is that memories are intrusive, no matter how much someone tries to avoid thinking of the event. The reports concerning recovered memories of traumatic sexual abuse are wholly contrary to what otherwise has been found.”

Other speakers at the conference were Lord Mackay, who spoke about his Family Law Bill, and David Body QC, who reviewed the domestic violence aspect of the Bill.

Association chair Elizabeth Lawson QC said there had been an informal and constructive exchange with Mackay, but added the association was worried his plans could threaten public access to legal advice.