Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Some Of You Won't Like This

Children whose sexual abuse was videotaped by abusers had trouble remembering it.
Results:There was a significant tendency among the children to deny or belittle their experiences. Some children simply didnot want to disclose their experiences, some had difficulties remembering them, and one child lacked adequate concepts to understand and describe them


  1. I suspect I am one of those who is not supposed to like this.

    It is a study of only 10 children, making it little other than a list of anecdotes. The variation in behavior among those children is pretty high, which is a bit interesting. However, I find it hard to draw any sort of conclusion from this, as did the authors.

    What is it supposed to tell us? That children of a very young age, who were abused to a widely varying degree at an even younger age had varied reactions to interviews? Some of them denied the experiences, although we do not know the reasons. What does this tell us beyond what we already knew?

    I am a skeptic of the "recovered memory" events that led to the persecutions of innocent folks in some high profile cases. The techniques used, and the conclusions drawn were simply unscientific, and the abuse of these by prosecutors is such that those prosecutors should be in jail.

    Furthermore, the psychological theories that were used at the time (20 or more years ago) were more akin to cult beliefs than to science. American psychology was long in the thrall of Freudian nonsense, long after other countries (including, ironically, Austria) had realized that Freud was mostly wrong. Freud seeded our culture with theories of repression of memories, among many other things, and most of that theory (probably not all) is nonsense. But... it lives on.

    Psychology is very hard to do scientifically, and it is very easy for people with impressive credentials to fool themselves and others about the validity of their theories and the reliability of their techniques. I don't think we know the answers to a whole lot of this, but, like with climate change, there are plenty of folks who are happy to step up and claim that they do, in fact, have the answers.

    Again, none of this skepticism is to deny the evil of child sexual abuse. It is real, it is wrong, it is evil. But... when I see the reactions of our society - of turning kids into caged, fragile infants that have to be watched every second - I know we have gone too far, and we are harming kids ironically in our methods of trying to protect them from harm.

  2. Gee, why would children not want to discuss traumatic experiences with a stranger?

    If someone has forgotten sexual abuse that took place at an early age, and seems to have recovered well, for the love of God let the memories stay buried. If someone has lasting trauma and no memory of why, you may need to help him or her remember. Ditto with someone who wants to minimize things.

    As an analogy, if a wound has healed cleanly, no responsible physician would cut it open to find out exactly what lies under the surface. It's only if there's an infection that the wound may need to be sliced open again to cleanse the inside of the wound.

    Now, I personally forgot the guy who exposed himelf to me sometime when I was sixish until I was twelvish (no physical contact, but in retrospect the way he liked me staring and asking questions was pretty creepy) so I absolutely believe that some children would forget abuse and others would remember it as less severe than it was. I also "remember" taking my little sister our of her crib and putting her in a row on the bed arranged with my dolls in size order. However, I remember _not_ remembering this the first time I heard the story from my mother, I remember _not_ remembering it the first time I retold the story (honestly, as a story I heard from my mother), and so I am 99.99...% sure that this is an invented memory -- I heard the tale repeatedly, it's just like me, and I (inadvertently!) adjusted my memory from third person to first person.

    So believing that some children forget their abuse doesn't mean I necessarily believe in recovered memories; we have pretty good evidence from the abuse hysteria in the McMartin era (including but not limited to the McMartin case) that psychiatrists can persuade children to "recover" memories of events that never happened -- and that these memories traumatize the children.

  3. ebartley: Not surprising, but also evidence that traumatic events are often forgotten. While you wouldn't cut open an old wound, if you wanted to know what cauaed a current problem, knowing about past injuries is useful for figuring how to treat other symptoms.