[The] Betrayal trauma theory suggests that psychogenic amnesia is an adaptive response to childhood abuse. When a parent or other powerful figure violates a fundamental ethic of human relationships, victims may need to remain unaware of the trauma not to reduce suffering but rather to promote survival. Amnesia enables the child to maintain an attachment with a figure vital to survival, development, and thriving. (E. Sue Blume, Secret Survivors).
There are several independent surveys and studies regarding the prevalence of sexual abuse and incest survivors who do not remember their abuse for varied periods of time. In a clinical sample of incest survivors conducted by J. Herman and E. Schatzow in the late 1980s, 28 percent reported severe memory deficits. Sixty-four percent reported some degree of amnesia. In a 1994 national sample of psychologists, conducted by S. Feldman-Summers and K. Pope, 23.9 percent reported childhood abuse. Of the psychologists who recounted abuse, 40 percent reported some period of time when victims forgot some or all of the abuse. In a prospective study of women’s memories of child sexual abuse conducted by L. Williams in 1994, 38 percent of the women studied did not recall sexual abuse that had been reported and documented in a hospital emergency room 17 years earlier. Women who were younger at the time of the abuse were more likely to have no recall of the abuse. In a survey conducted by E. Loftus, S. Polonsky and M. Fullilove in 1994, 54 percent of the 105 women in an out-patient treatment for substance abuse reported themselves as victims of past sexual abuse; nineteen percent reported they forgot the abuse over time, but the memory returned later. In 1993, J. Briere and J. Conte conducted a self-report survey for abuse in adults molested as children. This self-report survey revealed 59 percent of 450 women and men in treatment for sexual abuse at some time before age 18 had forgotten the sexual abuse.
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