Sexual offences on children are a very traumatic event for them. This is the main reason why they repress this abuse in order to protect themselves from the memories. The statute of limitation comes in handy for this kind of claims. It enables people to be able to defend themselves against these claims when they are innocent and it helps the plaintiff to give evidence they may have about the issue. There have been many cases where adults have been able to remember abuses from childhood and have taken their perpetrators to court. The main reason for doing this is that they want to claim some sort of
dignity they lost when they were children. There are many ways in which a person can remember the childhood abuse such as in therapy, hypnosis, age regression and group counseling. These ways in which the therapist helps the plaintiff have been questioned. This is because the courts and other psychologists believe that the repressed memory could have been distorted because of the influence the therapist has on the plaintiff.
Memories are a very fragile thing for human beings. Memory is defined as the process in which, the mind retrieves, saves and encode information (Bauer, 2007). The memories encoded come from the outside and pass through the senses. After encoding information, it is stored for a period of time. Then it is retrieved from where it is stored. There are many people in the world who have a problem in recollecting stored memory. The memories can be tampered and thus a person may not be able to recollect certain events or information. The memory could also be distorted thereby causing the individual to recollect the event that did not occur. There are those who have undergone traumatic events in their lies thereby they will not be able to recollect events that might have occurred. There are those who have undergone abuse especially the children therefore; they usually have a hard time remembering their childhood (Bauer, 2007).
Statute of limitation is defined as the law that has been passed by the legislature as a common law in order to prevent an exceeding event that has reached its legal time limit. When the time is up for a specified occupation or claim of something has ended then the claim is no longer valid. There are statutes of limitation when it comes to issues regarding the cases of child abuse memories recovered as adults. These at times are very useful in that it can protect people who might have been falsely accused of crimes they did not commit. In looking at history, the statute of limitations was very unfair because there were some certain ages that when a person passed they could not defend themselves. However, this all changed, and people have the rights to sue those who abused them for the damages of the abuse they suffered as children. These limitations are handled with respect in these cases. The reason why the statute of limitation for adults who claim that they were abused as children is because sometimes the memory gets distorted and, therefore, will confuse one person to another.
There are also claims that the therapist could influence a person to come up with that conclusion. There are many cases in which, people have come out and stated that they have been abused when they were children. The therapist will have a hard time trying to unblock, the memories from a person. There are many processes in, which a psychologist would use in order to help the client remember. Some of those ways are through hypnosis, questioning, dream analysis, group counseling with other survivors, reading books and age regression (Finer, 1996).
Public perception of sexual assault
Sexual assault is a very sensitive matter in the society for women and men alike. When it happens to the children, it becomes a different matter in that causes a lot of hate among the people and to those who have done the act. It is a fact that a sexual assault to children is very horrific and degrading event for the children. The truth is that the child is not only physically abused but also psychologically damaged or scarred for life. The child is also emotionally devastated, and the child’s trust on people ends. The traumatic experience the child gets from this horrific event will cause the child to forget the events. The child will forget this experience for years, but the effects will be there even to their adulthood. This memory of abuse however returns later on in life. It may take ten to thirty years, but it always returns (Courtois, 1992, p.26). There is always a triggering event that will cause a person to remember or be conscious of the abuse. This kind of memory is referred to as the repressed memory. In looking at the legal actions, taken upon the sexual offenders is very harsh in that if one is found guilty they might be sentenced to life imprisonment.
The society will also be very cruel to the offenders in that they might be discriminated and alienated by them. They would be labeled as sexual offenders in the society especially in the modern society where any sexual offender found guilty and imprisoned will registers as a sexual offender in that anyone in any area will be able to look online and find the file of the person. There are some judges during the sentencing who have referred the offenders as sexual predators or monsters. The hatred that there is against child sexual offenders has made even the congress as well as the legislature to enact or amend laws that are even harsher to the sexual offenders when found guilty. There are some child sexual predators that have been given treatment in order for them to stop longing for children. These measures may be taken, however; there are problems that occur when the child represses the memory and remembers it after being an adult. The statute of limitation will cause the victim not to be able to seek justice.
According to some of the researches done, most judges believe that the cases of sexual assault among children who repressed the memory to adulthood, problems occur when there are competing interests. There are some distorted memories thereby making the victim look like they might be lying and also the statute of limitation will help the alleged abuser from being unlawfully persecuted for crimes they did not commit. According to the judges, the reason for the statute of statute of limitation is useful that it encourages the plaintiff to search for more evidence in order to convict a criminal. Civil action against the civil cases for the sexually assaulted people is under the code of civil procedure section 340.1 (Taub, 2005).
Many children who have been abused by either their parents or neighbors always replace these memories. The reason for this is because of a traumatic experience they feel, therefore, in their minds decide to forget these memories. Sigmund Freud is among the first psychologists who have talked about the repression of memory as a way of defense mechanism to forget something bad that has happened (Loftus, 1993). According to most psychologists, they believe that the forgotten information is very bad for a person because it could cause a person to have emotional and mental injury.
There are some things that will trigger the memory of the person ones they have grown thereby could lead one to do various things such as commit suicide. This is because a person could remember their parents physically or sexually assaulting them when they were younger. There are other things that have caused the repression of memory other than sexual abuse or physical abuse (Courtois, 1992, p.26). The other factors that lead to repression of memory are because of the bizarre events that occur in one’s life such as attacks or drug and alcohol abuse. Children however are the ones who usually repress their memories after an abuse. It is obvious as an adult it is not that easy to recall events after repression in childhood. This is why there are some triggering events that occur in order to bring to light the memories.
How the repressed memories can be discovered
There are triggering events that cause one to remember an event that occurred in their childhood. Some of the ways that can cause one to remember is by watching television. In the television, there could be a program that is discussing how the child was abused by a parent, teacher, neighbor or a family friend (Loftus, 1993). The abuse could be talked in details of how the child was abused, for example, the child was molested, raped or physically beaten. There could be some evidence of certain objects that the child was used to be abused that might resemble the one the person had when they were a child. This could cause a person to start having some flashbacks of some of the abuses that might have occurred to the person. There are some people whose memories cannot be triggered by simply watching the television others get their memories by having therapeutic exercises from the psychologist.
Dissociation and psychogenic amnesia
The other ways in which, children who have been abused forget their trauma is through dissociation and psychogenic amnesia. Dissociation according to the psychologist is said to be the alteration of the consciousness and memory of a person. This is because the individual’s actions and feelings have been altered due to some traumatic experience. Dissociation of people who have been abused as children have caused them to have amnesia or have multiple personalities. It has been claimed that 18 percent of the people who complained in courts for childhood abuse had multiple personalities. When a person got dissociation when they were younger is because they were trying to forget their traumatic experiences, therefore, they are using this as their escape goat. This will help the child to forget the abuse but when they are adults, it is easy for them to recover this memory through age regression and hypnosis.
The psychogenic amnesia causes the children not to recall at all of what happened when they have been abused. This act can be seen when a person is unable to recall some of the most important personal information. Some of the people who have this problem occur when they have undergone severe torture, confinement and violent physical abuse. When such an event occurs on a child, it would be suppressed in the unconscious thereby, the child would be able to live a happy childhood without remembering. There are cases were the children might be able to remember the traumatic events that have occurred through the collaboration of the siblings, family members and parents. This amnesia could occur until they passed their adulthood (Taub, 2005).
Therapeutic ways of retrieving repressed memories
There are many ways in which, the memory can be retrieved by a psychologist. Some of the ways include hypnosis, age regression and therapy. The psychologist helps the patient to remember some of the memories they might have repressed or forgotten (Lushnat, 2012, p.529). This could help the client to remember some of the things that might have happened to them when they were younger. In order for the client to remember, the psychologist mostly, uses hypnosis in order for them to remember events that might have happened.
Hypnosis is one of the most used processes by therapist in order to help the client to remember certain events in their lives. Research shows that 17 percent of the people who recall being abused when they were children used hypnosis (Taub, 2005). According to most researches that have been conducted, hypnosis is one of the most effective ways in which a person will be able to remember (Courtois, 1992, p.20). This is the reason why some of the witnesses or abused people who cannot recall use to remember and help put criminals in prison. This process has shown how successful it can be, but there are many problems that accompany it. This is because when people repress some of the traumatic events that occurred to them when they were younger will cause emotional turmoil to them. The fact that they had forgotten these events helped them to have a normal childhood. When they remember the abuse, it will cause them to have emotional problems such as depression.
There are some psychologists who believe that hypnosis causes the people to have a false memory (Finer, 1996). This is because they believe that the psychologist will implant the false memory on the client by ways of suggestions. The psychologist will then encourage the patient that whatever they had stated is the truth. This will make the patient believe that whatever they thought they had remembered is the truth this could cause them to file unlawful cases if the statute of limitation has not passed. They would end up claiming an innocent person to have possibly assaulted them when they were young. This could end up ruining the image of that person even when the truth comes out that the person had a false memory. According to the researches conducted, although the false memory implantation exist this does not stop the people from using hypnosis in order to get information of abuses that occurred to them in their childhood. Research shows that a third of the complainants who used hypnosis have multiple personalities.
According to the researchers, nearly 80 percent of the complainants of childhood abuse claim that they were able to get their memories through therapy (Courtois, 1992, p.20). Most of the plaintiffs believes that the reason why they were able to recall some of the abuse was due to the fact that they felt some certain comfort in therapy in that they were able to remember. The fact that therapy is a very significant part that causes a person to remember has caused many to believe that the therapist has a lot of influence on the complainant. This makes some of the courts to believe that some of the memory could have been suggested by the therapist and the fact that the complainant feel safe around them causes them to believe it to be true (Finer, 1996). It is a fact that the psychologist think that dreams have hidden meaning, therefore, when a client states a certain dream it may mean something that might have happened to them. This is how some of the complainants are able to feel or remember that they might have been abused when they were children.
Statute of limitation
In the 1990s, that is when many states in the United States of America had enacted a statute that will allow the filing of cases by adults who claim childhood abuse. Some of the first states to allow this statute were in Washington and California. These two states have had the highest number of court fillings of childhood abuses compared to the other states. The first case about childhood abuse by an adult was done in the Washington State Supreme Court. This was in the case of Tyson v Tyson done in 1986 (Taub, 2005). The court was worried about the amount of time that had passed since the abuse and had a concern over the reliability of the memory. In the Tyson case, the courts were not convinced that the process of how the memory was found was reliable. The other problems that occurred were that there was not enough proof for the court to believe the abuse occurred in childhood. The same concerns that occurred in this case are still being felt in the modern cases. The courts still believe the same way.
This is the reason why most courts do not want the statute of limitation to be extended to only the cases where there is just a repressed memory recovered. These cases were about a repressed memory claim. Repressed memory lawsuits have also been reported in other states such as Ohio, Texas, New York and Michigan. However, most of these states do not have a statute of limitation with regards to childhood abuse. They can, therefore, file for delayed discovery of abuse. There is a statute of repose where a child cannot file for a report of abuse until they have reached adulthood. It has been claimed that the statute of limitations can be reached when a person starts to have the first memory. These statutes have been applied in the first generation when the it was amended in 1994.
The second-generation statutes are the amendments made after 1995. The main reasons for this amendments are so that to avoid any fraudulent claims. Some of the amendments, made was in 1995 in California CCC S 340.1(d)(e) (Taub, 2005). In this amendment, it states that all plaintiffs of childhood sexual abuse should have an attorney and a licensed mental health practitioner. The attorney of the plaintiff should ensure that the client has been seen and reviewed by several therapists. In the second-generation amendments, the legislature is trying to balance the case of childhood abuse. This is done in order to ensure that the plaintiff will be heard and also to avoid any fraudulent complaints.
The Lemmerman V. Fealk case is another case that is well known for repressed memory by a person who has been abused as a child (Lushnat, 2012, p.539). In the case Marlene Lemmerman, claimed to have been sexually and physically abused by her father for ten years. She had repressed this memory for a long time but once she started therapy, she began recalling those events. In the claim, she stated that her mother about the abuse and never did anything to help her and at times threatened her with scissors. What her mother caused her to have two personalities in order to protect herself. The trigger that caused her to start remembering was in the deathbed of her father. He apologized profusely over and over again for hurting her. She told the court about this in her testimony. The reason why she lost the case was because of the fact that her father had confessed to her for what he did before dying. The result of this case caused the court to look at the Tyson case. The statute of limitation has tried to handle with respect the claims of adults that they were abused when they were children but in looking at history and past cases these limitations have hurt the plaintiffs more.
In conclusion, many children who have been physically, sexually and mentally abused always repress those memories. The reason for repressing these memories is because they are trying to protect themselves. This loss of memories can last for years. The effects of the abuse can be seen on the adults because they could have depression, become criminals and have a hard time maintaining relationships. The processes of retrieving those memories are what are causing the psychologist and the courts to question the liability of the complaint (Taub, 2005). There are some psychologists who believe that during hypnosis the therapist is the one who is instigating a memory for the client. This will therefore, cause the client to have false memories. The statute of limitation is very essential for both the complainant and the defendant. This is because it causes the complainant to find more evidence and give the defendant a fair trial. There are some cases where the plaintiff makes false complaints in order to gain money. Therefore, the court will be able to protect the defendant.
Bauer, P. J. (2007). Remembering the times of our lives: memory in infancy and beyond. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Courtois, C. A. (1992). The memory retrieval process in incest survivor therapy. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 15-32.
Finer, J. J. (1996). Therapists' Liability to the Falsely Accused for Inducing Illusory Memories of Childhood Sexual Abuse - Current Remedies and a Proposed Statute. Journal of Law and Health.
Loftus, E. F. (1993). The Reality of Repressed Memories. American Psychological Association.
Lushnat, J. (2012). Sexual abuse memory repression:the questionable injustice of demeyer. The Journal of Law Society, 529-542.
Taub, S. (2005). Recovered Memories of Child Sexual Abuse: Psychological, social and legal perspectives on a contemporary mental health controversy. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas, Publisher.