We Are Survivors 

This blog is dedicated to the tens of millions of adult survivors of child abuse and neglect who get up every day and try to work and function in a world that seems to not care about us.

Dissociative Identity Disorder – Part 19

In my blog, Dissociative Disorders - Part 17, I wrote about Paul McHugh’s support of Catholic priests who had been charged with pedophilia. Now I want to address Elizabeth Loftus’ role as well. In Dissociative Disorders - Part 10, I wrote about her studies validating repressed memories. With her support of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF) and lucrative payments defending Catholic priests, she apparently reversed what she stated in her earlier research about the validity of repressed memories.

Please review Dissociative Disorders - Part 14 where I talked about how traumatic memories are not something you can test in a laboratory because developing research studies by traumatizing people and then testing your research years, even decades later, is unethical.

Prosecutors were finally researching Loftus’ supposed findings on suppressed memories and challenging her successfully in court as you will see in the following articles.

 

Article 1

“Loftus signed on with numerous defense teams and earned a reputation as an academic get-out-of-jail-free card. Her job: share with jurors her controversial research that argues memory can be manipulated, that sexual abuse isn’t something that the human mind can merely seal into some dark crevasse, that repressed memories are a myth.”[1] “But her tenure as a star defense witness may be over. On February 7, a jury in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, found Loftus’ most recent client, former priest Paul Shanley, guilty on two counts of child rape and two counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14. Last week, Shanley received his sentence :10-15 years in prison.”

“Shanley’s attorney called but one witness:  Loftus. Loftus told jurors: “I don’t believe there is any credible scientific evidence that years of brutalization can be massively repressed.” But Middlesex prosecutors were ready for this.”

“Lead prosecutor, Lynn Rooney, pored over Loftus’ studies and experiments on the inconsistencies of memory, experiments that the District Attorney Martha Coakley dismissed as “fairly trivial kinds of manipulation with memories.”

“During cross-examination, Rooney devastated the work of Loftus. Rooney asked the professor, why, in prior depositions, she admitted that people could repress memories yet was now insisting otherwise. Loftus then admitted to the jury that her celebrated experiments have never used memories involving deep trauma due to ethics concerns.” “Loftus has worked with other diocese [accused of molesting people in their congregation] across the country, and Coakley believes others will still contract with her.”

“Shanley was one of the most notorious figures of the Boston Archdiocese sex abuse scandal, a man who publicly spoke on the virtues of man-boy love was present at a meeting that would spark the creation of the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA).”

 

Article 2

“[Patrick J.] Fitzgerald’s target in the witness box was Elizabeth F. Loftus, a professor of criminology and psychology at the University of California at Irvine.[2] For more than an hour of the pretrial hearing, Loftus calmly explained to Judge Reggie B. Walton her three decades of expertise in human memory and witness testimony. Loftus asserted that, after copious scientific research, she has found that many potential jurors do not understand the limits of memory and that Libby should be allowed to call an expert to make them clear to them.”

“But when Fitzgerald got his chance to cross-examine Loftus about her feelings, he had her stuttering to explain her own writings and backpedaling from her earlier assertions. Citing several of her publications, footnotes and the work of her peers, Fitzgerald got Loftus to acknowledge that the methodology she had used at times in her long academic career was not scientific, that her conclusions about memory were conflicting, and that she had exaggerated a figure and a statement from her survey of D.C. jurors that favored the defense.”

 

“Fitzgerald cited a line in her book that overstated her research by saying that “most jurors” consider memory to be equivalent to playing a videotape. Her research, however, found that to be true for traumatic events, and even then, only 46 percent of potential jurors thought memory could be similar to a videotape.”

“When Loftus insisted that she had never met Fitzgerald, he reminded her that he had cross-examined her before, when she was an expert defense witness and he was a prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office in New York.”

 

Loftus suffered another setback when she was successfully sued for misrepresenting herself during one of her research projects. “…(a) judgment (was) entered … against Defendant ELIZABETH LOFTUS in the sum of $7,500… The case was based on the allegation that Loftus had misrepresented herself to Taus’s foster mother as the supervisor of Dr. David Corwin, someone Taus and the foster mother trusted.”[3]

In the meantime, the scientific research community continued to document the brain’s ability to repress memories.

“Scientists have found evidence that people can suppress disturbing memories by choosing not to think about them, a finding that could lead to improved therapies for posttraumatic stress, whose sufferers are haunted by scary memories they can’t control.”[4]

“By scanning brains of 16 healthy adults who had been shown gruesome photographs, researchers from the University of Colorado discovered subjects’ memory circuits slowed when they were instructed to push mental images of the photos from their minds.”

“You can train yourself to remember something, and you can train yourself to forget it,” said University of Colorado graduate student Brendan E. Depue, lead author of the study published in the journal Science.”

“Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientist John Gabrieli, who was not connected to the research, called the study “a big step forward.” Previous experiments by Gabrieli and others have shown that subjects can suppress memories of neutral words and images, material viewed as more forgettable than gory scenes or personal trauma. “The great issues for memory suppression are emotionally intense experiences,” he said, cautioning that no lab experiment can duplicate the trauma of real military combat or physical abuse.”

Some researchers questioned the study’s conclusions. Craig Stark, an assistant professor of psychology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who studies memory, said “deliberate memory suppression involves hard work:  You would expect brain activity to go up, not down.”

Hopefully, by now, as I begin to wind down this series, you are beginning to see for yourself what has been happening both in the psychiatric and legal communities as it relates to bringing child molesters to justice. My last blogs will highlight will give you an idea of where this is all heading.

 



[1] “Ex Cathedra: Loftus’ Luster Lost: Controversial professor is latest UCI employee associated with pedo-priests,” OC Weekly, February 18-25, 2005.

[2] “In the Libby Case, A Grilling to Remember,” The Washington Post, October 27, 2006.

[3] Superior Court of the State of California, County of Solano, Nicole S. Taus—Plaintiff vs. Elizabeth Loftus, Melvin Guyer, Carol Tavris, Shapiro Investigations, University of Washington, and Roes 1 through 20-Defendants.

[4] “Learn to shed bad memories, study suggests: Brain training might help those suffering from abuse, traumatic stress syndrome,” The Sun, July 13, 2007.

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