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February 14, 1996

Victims of Memory: Incest Accusations and Shattered Lives

Author Affiliations

Southwestern Medical Center Dallas, Tex New York University Medical Center New York, NY

JAMA. 1996;275(6):493-494. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530300077051

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Incest is one of the most horrendous forms of sexual abuse and lends itself to the creation of a body of both serious and sensationalistic literature. Accusations of imagined transgressions and their legal consequences have the potential of creating victims. At this time Philadelphia's False Memory Syndrome Foundation states that at least 800 civil and criminal cases have been filed based on repressed memories. Although long debated, judges in four cases have ruled that "testimony based on so-called repressed memories cannot be admitted because scientists say there is no evidence that such recollections are reliable" (National Law Journal, Monday, June 12, 1995, p A7).

In the foreword to his book Victims of Memory, Paul Pendergrast, not just as a parent but also as a professional investigative journalist and scholar, has probed the question of "how perfectly normal people like me could come to believe in such horrible delusions, and how