Recovered Memories are Not Sufficient Proof of Sexual Assault in Texas

The movie Doubt is best remembered for its star performances by Viola Davis, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Meryl Streep, but its character-driven drama hinges on the challenges of establishing certainty regarding accusations of sexual assault. Hoffman plays a priest who teaches at a Catholic school, and he becomes the subject of suspicions about inappropriate behavior toward a teenaged student. Throughout the movie, the audience is left uncertain about what happened between the teacher and the student. It stands to reason that a young student would hesitate to bring accusations against an authority figure, fearing social stigma or backlash.  The concept that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty also occurs to the viewer frequently throughout the movie.

Although the movie does not involve a lawsuit, only speculation, the challenge is similar in sexual assault lawsuits. Crime victims and alleged crime victims have rights, and so do defendants in criminal cases.  It is easy to ascertain the truth in some criminal cases based entirely on physical evidence or eyewitness testimony, but this is notoriously difficult in sexual abuse cases. For a period of time in the 1990s, courts in Texas and other states accepted as evidence “recovered” memories of sexual abuse, which accusers disclosed to therapists during psychological counseling. After the late 1990s, though, courts almost never accept recovered memories as evidence.

What are Recovered Memories?

Mental health professionals agree that traumatic events can have long-term effects on mental health. Living through a war or suffering from domestic abuse as a child increases your risk of suffering from depression, anxiety, addiction, and other mental health problems as an adult. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, some therapists in Texas and other states induced patients who were undergoing treatment for depression and eating disorders to “remember” episodes of childhood sexual abuse. The therapists claimed that the patients had repressed the memories of abuse as a way of coping with the emotional trauma. In Texas alone, between 1990 and 1998, courts decided 33 legal cases in which repressed memory testimony was the main evidence of sexual abuse.

The Trouble with Recovered Memories

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is the most authoritative reference book on psychiatry, does not accept the theory of repressing memories of trauma and recovering them during therapy. Furthermore, it does not endorse the techniques used by the memory-recovering therapists, such as hypnosis and drugs like sodium amytal, which make patients more suggestible. In fact, unless there is other evidence, it is not possible to tell with certainty whether someone has recalled a previously forgotten memory or has simply fabricated one. In fact, in the Carl v. Keraga case, Lynn Carl won a medical malpractice lawsuit against her psychiatrist Gloria Keraga, who had convinced Carl, through suggestive therapies, that she had been a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a satanic cult.

Contact Madrid Law About Sexual Assault Cases

Sexual assault is such a serious and emotionally sensitive matter that neither accusations nor denials are to be taken lightly. As with any kind of criminal case, the rules of due process apply. Contact Madrid Law in Houston for a consultation if you have been accused of sexual assault.

Recovered Memories are Not Sufficient Proof of Sexual Assault in Texas
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