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Repressed Memory Should Not Be Used As Evidence In Court

1909 words - 8 pages

Since the 1980's till today, one of the most controversial in law and psychology has been the validity of repressed memory. Repressed memory refers to a memory of experience, especially a traumatic one that is recalled after an often lengthy period of time. In this essay it is argued that repressed memory should not be used as evidence in court. Four main arguments are presented against the validity of repressed memory used as evidence in court. First, evidence from cases in America suggests that people use repressed memory as a use of financial gain within the American court system. Second, research shows the unreliability of repressed memory. Third, it is difficult to distinguish false memories from true memories. Fourth, is a repressed memory can be induced.One of the most controversial issues in psychiatry and law today is the so-called "Repressed Memory Syndrome." Repressed memories are traumatic memories which have been buried only to reemerge much later (Gleaves, D.H., Smith,S.M., Butler, L.D. & Spiegel, D. (2004). These memories are often of a highly emotional nature, such as violent crime or child abuse. There have even been instances of people claiming to have recovered memories. Revived memories, often brought to the surface by psychiatrists and hypnotists asking leading questions, are often used in court cases alleging child abuse, rape, and other emotionally-charged crimes years after the fact. While many therapists hold that repressed memories are valid, many critics both inside and outside the mental health community contends that repressed memories are just suggestions planted by therapists and therefore have no value.The first argument against the validity of repressed memory used as evidence in court is that many citizens in America have been documented to use the excuse of repressed memory to gain financially. Repressed Memory Syndrome (RMS) is often referred to as "False Memory Syndrome" (FMS). Shaky stories of FMS, and the results of being falsely accused of child abuse or rape can have devastating effects on individuals and families. There has even been a "False Memory Syndrome Foundation" (FMSF) started by a woman whose husband was falsely accused of child rape by her daughter ("Backlash," 1994). The FMSF states that its goals are to work for the prevention of new cases of FMS and to aid the victim (usually a parent accused of the abuse) of FMS. Based in Philadelphia, the organization claimed 2,345 families as members just one year after its starting point in 1993 ("Backlash," 1994). Their first national conference was held in April of 1993. The FMSF describes the FMS phenomenon as "… one in which people (mostly well-educated, financially comfortable women in their 30's) recover memories which others say are false, become obsessed with the memories and isolate themselves from their family" (qtd. in "Backlash," 1994). Implicit in this statement is the assumption that those who suffer from FMS are seeking financial...

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