If You Are a Survivor You Might Need This Some Day; The List

If You Are a Survivor You Might Need This Some Day; The List October 18, 2014

sexualassaultedby Nora Woodhouse cross posted from her blog A Heart Like Mine

There comes a day when all the careful considerations you have made as to why you know that you were really and truly sexually abused get assaulted.

    Even though you have read books, made your therapist explain over and over why you are not imagining things, there will be a day when you stand shakily on not so solid ground. So when you get there, because I have been there, I want you to have this methodical list to read over and over to yourself. Make it your mantra. I am going to help you systematically defend against every manipulative, destructive thing used against you to try and discredit you and make you doubt yourself.

Let’s start with a favorite shall we. The first line of defense by abusers and those who support them; False Memory Syndrome.

Here is the wikipeidia definition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_memory_syndrome

 I would not recommend going to the FMS foundation site, there is plenty of resources concerning them without you having to suffer the “ick” factor of using their site.

Truths about False Memories:

– It has been found that in a scenario such as a bank robbery individuals may not accurately remember details of the incident or the perpetrators. They may even wrongly describe what the perpetrators look like. However no one was ever confused as to whether or not the robbery occurred.

– Researchers have successfully implanted false memories of minor anxiety/trauma into individuals as well as non anxiety/ trauma memories. However what you need to understand is that none of these were childhood abuse or childhood sexual abuse memories. It is not ethical to subject subjects to such a test.
One study got adults to remember details of being lost in a mall as a child even though they had not. But even this is not black and white, because it relies on memories that are common occurrences. What child has not at one point been lost or thought they lost their parents for even just a moment in a crowd? And we know that we do not accurately remember things so the researches suggesting details that feel real to that scenario makes it easy to understand why the subjects would have thought it a real memory. It felt like a real memory and it even relied on a very real memory/feeling. In other words it took root because the subject probably did have a moment in childhood were they got lost or lost site of their parents in the crowd.
As I understand it, this means that the researches are not able to implant a false memory that does not have connection to a true memory. And just like with the bank robbery, abused individuals may have fuzzy details but are not confused as to whether or not something happened.
It has also not been proven that they could truly implant a false memory of something so traumatizing as abuse.

– In a therapy setting due to the consideration of suggestion affecting what the survivor remembers therapists in most cases don’t use guided questions/ suggestions about abuse or go digging to see if they can find any memory of such trauma.

– External factors and influences would need to be present for a false memory to exist.

– Getting subjects to use their imagination was also needed for some studies conclusions.


“The “False Memory Syndrome” is a controversial theoretical construct based entirely on the reports of parents who claim to be falsely accused of incestuous abuse. In 1993, the FMSF noted that “False Memory Syndrome” is “a condition that needs to be considered and then confirmed or rejected when further information emerges” (“Our Critics,” April 1993, p. 3). The current
*page 30*
empirical evidence suggests that the existence of such a syndrome must be rejected. False memory advocates have failed to adequately define or document the existence of a specific syndrome, and a review of the relevant literature demonstrates that the construct is based on a series of faulty assumptions, many of which have been disproven. Likewise, there no credible data showing that the vague symptoms they ascribe to this purported syndrome are widespread or constitute a crisis or epidemic.
This does not imply, however, that memory is infallible or that all people who are accused of sexual abuse are guilty. Both continuous and delayed memories are subject to distortion, and there are valid reasons to be suspicious of memories that are recalled only after the extensive use of suggestive techniques. Nevertheless, common sense and professional practice dictates that claims about a new diagnostic category reaching epidemic proportions require scientific substantiation. The public policy issues impacted by the false memory controversy are so important, that they deserve the most careful and intellectually honest scholarship that the academic and professional community has to offer. In the absence of any substantive scientific documentation, “False Memory Syndrome” must be recognized as a pseudoscientific syndrome that was developed by an advocacy group formed by people seeking to defend against claims of child abuse.”
“We found this “imagination inflation” effect in each of the eight events that participants were asked to imagine. A number of possible explanations come to mind. An obvious one is that an act of imagination simply makes the event seem more familiar and that familiarity is mistakenly related to childhood memories rather than to the act of imagination. Such source confusion when a person does not remember the source of information can be especially acute for the distant experiences of childhood.”
How often are Reports of Abuse False
“Research with children whose sexual abuse has been proven has shown that children tend to minimize and deny abuse, not exaggerate or over-report such incidents.”
Some great things to read on this subject:
Woody Allen and the History of False Memory Syndrome
A Child Abuse Investigators View
In consideration of adding a lot of links/resources I am going to break the list into a series of connected posts.

Nora is a member of the SASBN

More about Nora:

I am a former country girl and abuse survivor. I enjoy blogging because I find it personally therapeutic. It also allows me to share my experiences with others, and bring to light issues of abuse. I am a stay at home writer with a husband and house full of furry critters. I write under a pseudonym for my personal safety as well as to negate any potential legal trouble over sharing my story.

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  • Servelan

    A version of this can happen if you are gaslighted by an emotional abuser as well. Several times during and since my divorce, I’ve wondered if my perceptions were correct or whether I misremembered what had really happened. Fortunately, early in the process of quantifying what had happened to me, I wrote down a list of the ‘bag of tricks’ my abuser used over the years, and when in doubt I was and am able to refer to that list of over 40 things and remind myself that yes, the abuse occurred, and that yes, it was abuse and not ‘bad temper’ or some miscommunication.