IPT Book Reviews

Title: The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse   Positive Review Positive Review
Authors: Elizabeth Loftus and Katherine Ketcham
Publisher: St. Martin's Press, 1994

St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
(212)674-5151
$22.95 (c)

This 290-page book brilliantly describes and then debunks the popular myths that have resulted in the recent explosion of recovered memories of childhood abuse.  The book, which is divided into 13 chapters, includes material from Dr. Loftus's research and the cases in which she has been involved.  Loftus and Ketcham stress that the book is about memory, not sexual abuse, and they readily acknowledge that sexual abuse is a serious problem.  But they dispute the claim that hundreds of thousands of women have been abused but have "repressed" the memories.

The core ideas and suggested techniques from popular survivors books are described and Loftus describes her personal meeting with Ellen Bass, coauthor of The Courage to Heal (Paperback)(Audio Cassette).  Stories from retractors and accused parents vividly illustrate the harm resulting from false memories.  Several actual cases are presented in detail, including George Franklin, who was accused of murdering his daughter's childhood friend based on the grown daughter's recovered memories, and Paul Ingram, whose detailed confession of ritual satanic abuse (later recanted) was based on memories recovered with the help of police interrogators.  Other examples include an accused father who hired a private detective to pose as a pseudo-client to find out what the therapist was doing and an investigative reporter from CNN-TV who infiltrated a survivors' group and found young women beating imagined perpetrators with rubber hoses while sitting on mattresses.

The book is easily read and understood by lay people, while providing solid information that will be helpful to professionals.  It is written in a first person style in terms of Loftus and includes many personal accounts of her experiences, for example, being physically attacked by her seat mate in an airplane when the woman realized who she was: "Oh no," she said.  "You're that woman.  You're that woman!  And I know this will be hard to believe she started swatting me over the head with her newspaper" (p. 211).

The authors accomplish their purpose of destroying the myths about memory.  It is highly recommended for therapists, attorneys, judges, social workers, nurses, psychologists, and anyone else who is concerned about repressed memory.

Reviewed by LeRoy Schultz, Emeritus Professor, West Virginia University.

Order this book: Hardcover Paperback

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