Your story has been an inspiration to me

I received the following feedback from a “36 year old of two beautiful young girls” She included aspects of her own story with her letter. I have ommitted those but am happy to share her testimony with you. I am very glad that my story has inspired her.

“I’ve just finished reading your book; “Innocence Revisited”.  Firstly, I want to express my admiration for your courage, for your incredible persistence and for your commitment to resolving your trauma and healing your life for your own benefit as well as for the benefit of your children and your husband…..

Thank you for the gift of sharing your story. It must have taken momentous courage to actually write your story and then to publish it.

 Many thanks again for your courage.  Your story has been an inspiration to me and has helped to give me some perspective on my own experiences.  You have renewed my inspiration and given me new hope that I can also attain some stability and long lasting inner peace.”

Church abuse victims deserve compensation without strings

Church abuse victims deserve compensation without strings

(published National Times May 20th – by Dr. Cathy Kezelman)

The Catholic Church has delayed proper compensation for victims of abuse for far too long. Photo: Reuters

In the past 50 years an estimated 30,000 victims from 25 countries have reported the crime of child sexual abuse by clergy within the Catholic Church. Only sustained global outrage has finally prised the lid off the systemic cover-up of clergy sexual abuse. It took until last week, however, for Pope Benedict to acknowledge the Church’s responsibility for these crimes and to attest that forgiveness does not obviate the need for justice.

The internal processes by which the Catholic Church in Australia “manages” child sexual assault cases, Towards Healing (and The Melbourne Response), have frequently been presented as ones to which other countries can aspire. Overseas we have seen how countless more crimes have been perpetrated as the Church moved its criminal clergy from parish to parish. However, fresh and very disturbing allegations from victims in Australia highlight how Australian victims of child sexual assault suffer not only from the original abuse and its impact, but from protracted and allegedly flawed internal Church processes. Not only have perpetrators not been brought to account but in some cases it would appear, have continued in their clerical roles, with their hierarchical positions honoured. Recent reports about the ongoing presiding roles played by a Sydney priest, Finian Egan and a Melbourne priest, Patrick Maye, despite serious child sexual assault allegations, are chilling.

One would have assumed that all children would be safe in Church. That of all organisations, the Church would have immediately expressed outraged about the abuse of innocent children within its walls. Surely the leadership of another organisation – a child-care facility, a kindergarten, on uncovering these crimes, would have brought such children to safety? Yet ironically the Church’s response has often been one of institutional risk minimisation. Not only have perpetrators not been brought to account, but justice has often been denied. In the case of Father Egan it is alleged that victim compensation was contingent upon one of his victims not going to the police.

It is high time for the Church to establish proper funds to enable the long-term expert care for all those harmed by child sexual assault within the Church. And it is time for these funds to be provided without strings or constraints.

The Pope recently put on record a call for all crimes to be reported to civil authorities. One can only hope that monetary settlements and confidentiality agreements will no longer provide a smokescreen behind which perpetrators hide. Hopefully systemic changes will finally mean that child and adult victims receive the care, support and justice they need and deserve.

In the past 20 years, victims of clergy abuse have gained a voice and their revelations have finally shone a light strong enough to penetrate the dark history of the Catholic Church. It is important to stress that despite the number of victims reporting abuse, many clergy are beyond reproach. The Church continues to do good works in many areas helping and supporting those in need. Sadly this scandal has tarnished the work of many well-intentioned and industrious clergy. This is the Church’s opportunity to expand its good works into the areas of child protection and pastoral care for victims. For the Church to show real leadership and provide public funds to lead the fight against child abuse, in Australia and globally.

This crisis has highlighted the destructive nature of systems of power that ensure silence and secrecy. The scale of this crisis within the Catholic Church is unprecedented. Yet the crime of child sexual assault is not limited to the Catholic Church. It knows no doctrinal boundaries and a plethora of other institutions and religions have their own crimes to answer. The victims of Catholic clergy abuse have courageously led the way. As the Australian victims who are now speaking out attest, the process of reclaiming one’s life is far from easy.

One would hope the tide is finally turning as regards to child sexual assault within the Catholic Church. As further Australian victims add their voices to those of other victims, we anxiously await the Church’s renewed response.

Dr Cathy Kezelman is chairwoman of Adults Surviving Child Abuse and author of Innocence Revisited – a tale in parts.

National Families Week Ambassador

For the second year in a row I have been appointed an Ambassador for National Families Week, an initiative of Families Australia.

National Families Week is timed to coincide with the United Nations International Day of Families on 15 May. This day is observed by the United Nations to mark the importance that the international community places on families as the most fundamental units of society, as well as to draw attention to the plight of families in many parts of the world.

National Families Week 2010 will be held between 15-21 May 2010.

The theme this year is “The best start: supporting happy, healthy childhoods”.

All children need and deserve to be loved, nurtured, cared for and adored.

However sadly that is not always the case.

Families these days come in all forms and for me connection is the key, especially for those whose families of origin have let them down. The sense of family, of belonging and of community is what truly counts.

Traumatic amnesia


 The following paper on the topic was co-authored by myself in my role with ASCA and the MHCC. It gives an overview of the scientific evidence available.

Traumatic Amnesia

Traumatic amnesia and delayed memory retrieval of traumatic events has been widely documented for almost one hundred years, and was scientifically accepted in the context of war, accident or disasters.[i] The concept only became controversial when it referred to child sexual abuse.


Both short and long-term traumatic amnesia have been observed following a range of aversive events such as: war, natural disasters, adult rape and child physical, emotional and sexual abuse, incest and witnessing or experiencing extreme violence.

When considering combat and war related trauma, as far back as 1941 a study on those with severe stress e.g. soldiers engaged in prolonged fighting in the battle of Dunkirk, established 35% experienced amnesia.[ii] In studying the Holocaust, 3.8% of concentration camp survivors and 10% of tattooed survivors of Auschwitz were found to display psychogenic amnesia.[iii]

Judith Herman explored the impact of trauma on the human psyche regardless of its origin, drawing parallels between trauma as a result of a natural disaster, political terror, captivity, combat and that in the private domain – domestic abuse, incest and rape. Her views on the posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex PTSD changed the way those in the psychiatric fields diagnosed and perceived trauma (1997, 2002).[iv]

Controversy surrounding the concept of ‘repressed memory’ peaked in the 1990’s with opponents questioning its validity, despite an abundance of claims supporting the recovery of memory from counsellors and therapists working with survivors. The clinical experience of therapists supporting the validity of the existence of delayed recall of abuse memories has now been upheld by innumerable prospective and retrospective studies in the field.  While it should be noted that every instance of recall involves some degree of reconstruction [v] the possibility that false memories can occur does not negate the fact that other recalled memories are true.

  • Study: A random sample of 724 individuals from across the United States was mailed a questionnaire regarding memory for traumatic events. Among respondents who reported some form of trauma (72%), delayed recall of the event was reported by 32%. This phenomenon was most common among individuals who observed the murder or suicide of a family member, sexual abuse survivors, and combat veterans (Elliot, 1997). [vi]


  • Study: The most definitive study on delayed recall was a non-clinical sample of adult survivors whose sexual histories had been documented at the time of the abuse (Williams, 1995).[vii] Between 1973 and 1975, 206 girls aged ten months to twelve years had been examined after a report of sexual abuse. Seventeen years later, 38% of 129 of the 206 subjects (i.e. those who could be located) had not recalled the abuse when interviewed. [viii]


View of professionals

In a survey of psychologists, 73% stated that they had personally seen a case they classified as ‘recovered memory’.[ix] Less than 10% of experimental psychologists and less than 5% of clinical psychologists hold the point of view that accurate recovered memory is not possible.[x]

The American Psychological Association’s Working Group on Investigation of Memories of childhood abuse agreed that: “ is possible for memories of abuse that have been forgotten for a long time to be remembered” (p. 993). The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (1998) found that there was a consensus across scientists of North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand that:

 1) traumatic memories are usually remembered in part or in whole

 2) traumatic memories may be forgotten, then remembered at some time; and

 3) illusory memories can also occur.[xi]

In considering allegations of sexual assault, the literature indicates that false allegations constitute a small proportion of cases and are not a common occurrence. A review of false allegations of sexual abuse in the Family Court in South Australia concluded that approximately nine per cent of allegations were false. Brown, (2003), (cited in Crime and Misconduct Commission, 2003) [xii] suggests that the commonness of traumatic amnesia is expressed not only by those in the therapeutic community, but also by legal scholars arguing for amendment to legislation.

It is important to consider the source of the report of false memory, especially of CSA, e.g. when the source of the report is the person accused of abuse, a perpetrator might deny the charges for a range of reasons.[xiii] It is also possible that perpetrators ‘forget’ or block out the abuse just like victims of CSA can.[xiv]

  • Study: A national sample of psychologists was asked whether they had been abused as children and, if so, whether they had ever forgotten some or all of the abuse. Almost a quarter of the sample (23.9%) reported childhood abuse, and of those, approximately 40% reported a period of forgetting some or all of the abuse (Feldman- Summers et al., 1994).[xv] 


Dissociation is the mechanism most commonly used to explain traumatic amnesia followed by recovered memory. The DSM-IV- TR (American Psychiatric Association, 2005) asserts that dissociation is normal, particularly in highly traumatic circumstances, and defines dissociative disorders as “a disruption of the usually integrated functions of consciousness, memory, identity or perception of the environment”, (p.519).

Dissociation describes the disconnection or lack of connection between things usually associated to one another. Dissociated experiences are not integrated into the psyche of the individual, resulting in discontinuities in conscious awareness (The International Society for the Study of Dissociation, 2004). Acute dissociative responses have been identified in survivors of overwhelming traumas such as combat, sexual abuse, accidents and natural disasters.[xvi] [xvii]

Dissociation occurring at the time of the trauma theoretically leads to a fragmentation of memory. The memory fragmentation then leads to the individual’s difficulty in memory retrieval at a later date. Frequently retrieval is triggered by a similar set of circumstances which resemble the emotional state and/ or physical circumstances to the original trauma.[xviii]

Louis Cozolino, professor of psychology at the Pepperdine University in the USA; author of several articles and books on neuroscience, psychotherapy and the rebuilding of the human brain after trauma, describes reaction to trauma as predictable and connected to well understood biological processes (2002). In the absence of a supportive context, creating the neurobiological conditions for the reestablishment of neural coherence through integration of cognition, affect, sensation and behaviours, an abused child or traumatised individual may remain dissociated from the trauma forever.[xix]

  • Study:  A prospective study of six people with different types of trauma. All reported gaps in their memory which occurred at the moment of their greatest fear (Yovell et al., 2003.[xx]


Dissociation is a key concept in a range of disorders such as PTSD and dissociative identity disorder. Key components to an acute dissociative response: derealisation (alteration in sense one’s perceptions), depersonalisation (alteration in one’s sense of self and connection to one’s own body), and memory disturbances (van de Kolk et al., 2005). [xxi]

Dissociative Amnesia


In the DSM-IV TR dissociative amnesia is “characterized by an inability to recall important personal information, usually of a traumatic or stressful nature, that is too extensive to be explained by normal forgetfulness”, (American Psychiatric Association, 2005, p. 519). Dissociative amnesia is suspected if there are gaps or blank periods in a person’s autobiographical memories.

During a traumatic experience such as an accident, disaster, or crime victimization, dissociation can help a person continue to function and tolerate what might otherwise be too difficult to bear. A person may dissociate the memory of the place, circumstances, or feelings about the overwhelming event; mentally escaping from the fear, pain, and horror. This may make it difficult to later remember details of the experience, as reported by many disaster and accident survivors.

For people repeatedly exposed to traumatic events, especially in childhood, dissociation is an extremely effective coping ‘skill’ which characteristically becomes reinforced and conditioned. It can protect them from awareness of the pain in the short-term.  However, over time, frequent dissociation affects a person’s sense of their history and who they are .More frequent dissociation results in serious dysfunction in school, work, social, and daily activities, especially when under stress.

  • Study: A prospective study of 129 reported cases of child sexual abuse in a community sample of women, 17 years after sexual abuse and evaluated in a hospital emergency room found one in 10 women (16% of those who recalled the abuse) reported that at some time in the past they had forgotten about the abuse. There is no evidence from this study that recovery of memories was fostered by therapy or therapists. The study looked at the accuracy of the recall and concluded that recovered memories of child sexual abuse reported by adults can be quite consistent with contemporaneous documentation of the abuse. [xxii]

Traumatic amnesia may last for hours, weeks or years and recall can be triggered by sensory or affective stimuli reminiscent of the original event.  This phenomenon logically occurs outside of the victim’s ability to, “consciously will a memory into existence”, (Cossins, 1999).[xxiii]

Traumatic memories


Traumatic memories are encoded in a particular way and stored as implicit memories. Implicit (sensory) memory refers to the behavioural knowledge of an experience and features the recording of sensory, kinaesthetic and emotional aspects of an event but without conscious recall. People who have been traumatized may live with implicit memories of the terror, anger, and sadness generated but with few or no explicit memories to explain the feelings.

People who have experienced trauma relive their traumatic memories as flashbacks or in nightmares and over time the recalled memories are stored as narrative or explicit memory. Over time the traumatised individual develops a narrative of his/her past laying down explicit (narrative) memory which includes the traumatic past and with it the ability to consciously recall facts or events related to it.  [xxiv]

Trauma causes arousal of the autonomic nervous system, producing a flight/fight response, with increased activation of the limbic system, which controls emotion and the inactivation of Brocca’s Area, the area related to language. The amygdala, in the limbic system regulates fear, anger and aggression as well as memory, while the hippocampus, which is very sensitive to stress, is also involved in memory and emotion. Trauma stored in the limbic system processes emotions and sensations, but not language or speech. Neurological research on dissociation [xxv] shows that trauma leads to fragmented, emotional and sensory memories without an awareness of the actual events, and no verbal component to the memory.

Acute dissociative states which are more likely to occur when in a state of terror or high stress lead to poor encoding of a traumatic event. When in such a state, individuals undergo a shift from explicit memory to implicit formation, in which access to conceptual-linguistic thought processes is severely restricted, and involves actual neurological changes in the limbic system.[xxvi] This means that during trauma, sensations and perceptions fail to be integrated as a conscious memory.[xxvii] ,[xxviii]  Rather they are encoded as implicit memories – images, smells and sounds, sensorimotor modalities and somatic sensations.[xxix] ,[xxx]

When individuals encounter similar sounds, smells and sensations to the original trauma (i.e. when the encoding and retrieval contexts match), feelings of terror can re-emerge and trigger the memories.

Electroencephalograms (EEG) and MRIs show that physically, sexually and psychologically abused children and adults and combat veterans have reduced left-sided hippocampal size. As previously stated the hippocampus is very important for learning and memory and is very sensitive to stress activation. Additionally, danger or threat affects the hippocampus and connected cortical areas ability to store certain types of information (such as verbal), while effectively storing others (such as non-verbal) [xxxi]

When people recover traumatic memories they are often left reliving fragments of the original trauma but are unable to articulate what is happening, as they are often overwhelmed by the terror of what is happening.   An autobiographical narrative is developed when an individual has a sense of personal ownership of the memory and the events the memories convey.

The narrative memory, which can be intentionally retrieved and does not depend on situational triggers to be brought to mind adds cohesion to personality over time and establishes context. This enables a narrative to be conveyed to a listener, which is verbal and time-condensed – they become stories which are flexible and adapted to a particular audience. They are not like a videotape of the memory but reconstructive in nature – condensed and symbolised.

  • Study: A study of 17 patients who reported both continuous and recovered memories for abuse in therapy provided sources of evidence for the validity of memories and indicated that details of continuous and recovered memories were equally accurate. More than 1/3 of the alleged perpetrators confessed to at least one act of abuse contained within a recovered memory (Dalenburg, 1996).[xxxii] 

Traumatic Amnesia –research


Animal and human participant research has documented impairment of memory after periods of great stress or fear. Stress interferes with the encoding of memory. The science of memory has always supported the existence of impaired memory and recovery of memory for aversive or traumatic events.

If memory can be undermined and rendered less available by high stress, and if important facets of trauma memory can be lost even days after an event, it follows that a portion of child sexual abuse survivors would have poor memory of their childhood traumas, especially years later. By telling stories, individuals reinforce aspects of their narrative memory but with traumatic memory, which is not accessible to recall, less rehearsal and avoidance will produce poorer memory.

  • Study: A sample of 450 adult clinical subjects reporting sexual abuse histories were studied regarding their repression of sexual abuse incidents. A total of 267 subjects (59.3%) identified some period in their lives, before age 18, when they had no memory of their abuse (Briere & Comte, 1993).[xxxiii]

Effects of cortisol on memory impairment appear with greater magnitude in delayed rather than in immediate tests, suggesting interference of stress with encoding of trauma material.[xxxiv] Similarly, low dose epinephrine injected directly into the amygdala of animals facilitates memory function, whereas higher doses impair memory for the same task.[xxxv]

  • Study: A study of Posttraumatic stress associated with delayed recall of sexual abuse in the general population reported that 42% of participants with a history of sexual abuse, described some period of time when they had less memory of the abuse than they did at the time of data collection (Elliot & Briere, 1995).[xxxvi]


False Memory Debate:


The debate on “recovered memories” and “false memories” dominated media coverage on child abuse for much of the 1990s. Science has increasingly affirmed the existence of traumatic amnesia and the reality of “recovered memories”.

  • Study: In one retrospective study approximately half of those who reported memory loss also reported corroboration for the abuse (Feldman-Summers & Pope, 1994). [xxxvii] 


False Memory Syndrome:

The term False Memory Syndrome was created in 1992 by the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF). It is ‘a pseudoscientific syndrome’ that was developed by individuals and families to defend against claims of child abuse. The primary purpose of the syndrome was to discredit the testimony of people alleging child sexual abuse in court. No empirical validation has been offered for the syndrome, nor have the symptoms been described and studied.


Questions surrounding therapeutic techniques:

The FMSF claims that “False Memory Syndrome” is caused by “Recovered Memory Therapy”. There is no psychological therapy called “Recovered Memory Therapy”, and the term was invented by the Foundation in 1992. However some therapeutic techniques have been called into question when associated with recovered memories of child sexual abuse. [xxxviii] The most controversial of these techniques include hypnotism, guided imagery / visualisation, dream interpretation and interpretation of body memories.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists in Britain has officially banned its members from using therapies designed to recover repressed memories of childhood abuse. The British Psychological Society, in a 1995 report urged therapists to “avoid drawing premature conclusions about memories recovered during therapy”. The report also denied that there is any evidence suggesting that therapists are creating false memories of abuse in their patients, a charge levied by members of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation.

Researchers caution that both hypnosis and guided imagery can induce dissociative states and therefore may increase the risk of suggestibility and the recovery of false memories. [xxxix] In Australia, clinical standards and guidelines state that clinicians should not initiate searches for memories of abuse or engage in any “memory recovery techniques” designed to elicit memories of abuse about which the client has no memory. [xl] However, it is important to recognise that whatever memories individuals recall, whether traumatic or pleasant, every instance of recall is a process of individual reconstruction, and therefore involves some degree of distortion (Hopper, 2008.) [xli]

The additional issue is whether a therapist’s questions or comments are excessively suggestive or directive.[xlii] It is important to ensure that the client is the one leading any process in which memories are being recovered including the interpretation of that material, rather than suggesting any particular interpretation of the material which arises – i.e. to follow the principles of non-directive practice. 

Critics of recovered memory also report that some therapists tell patients who report no history of CSA, that their symptoms indicate repressed memories of CSA, that many patients cannot recollect their abuse, but that healing depends upon recovering memories of abuse, (in: Lindsay, 1994).[xliii]

The issue has been stated as the need to distinguish between (1) those cases in which someone knows and has always known that he or she was abused, from (2) those cases in which someone independently remembers forgotten memories, from (3) those cases in which a therapist facilitates recall of forgotten memories, from (4) those cases in which a therapist suggests memories of abuse.[xliv]  Unprofessional practice, it has been suggested should be classed in the latter phenomenon.

  • Study: Two prospective studies in which participants had been abused 16 to 18 years earlier and the abuse had been corroborated by medical or social services. One study 26% of participants were either unable to clearly remember details of the abuse or could not recall the verified abuse.[xlv]  In the other study 38% did not recall abuse or chose not to disclose it (Williams, 1992).[xlvi]


In 1997, Herman & Harvey reported that the data from their clinical study suggested that “delayed recall of childhood trauma is often a process that unfolds over time rather than a single event, and that it occurs most commonly in the context of a life crisis or developmental milestone, with a trauma-specific reminder serving as a proximal cue to new recall”.


Psychotherapy was not implicated in the early stages of delayed recall in most cases.

However, “retrieval of memories, once begun, proved to be a powerful incentive for entering psychotherapy”. Herman and Harvey found that patients usually did not seek therapy in order to recover more memories, rather they sought to gain more control over intrusive, involuntary re-experiencing of the trauma and wanted to make sense of the fragmented, often confusing and disturbing recollections they already had (p.567). [xlvii]

Furthermore Herman and Harvey (1997) wrote that the proper role of psychotherapy is to provide confidential environment that is empathic and non-judgemental, and where uncertainty, complexity and ambivalence are tolerated. A stance of open-minded, reflective curiosity should prevail. Within such an environment, with careful pacing, exploration of abusive childhood experiences may be carried out safely. The purpose of such exploration is not the forensic documentation of facts, but the construction of an integrated, personally meaningful narrative that helps free the patient from the persistent noxious effects of traumatic events in the distant past, (pp.568-569).[xlviii]



Complete or partial memory loss is a frequently reported consequence of trauma, particularly childhood trauma and most commonly, child sexual abuse. Traumatic amnesia refers to the full or partial recovery of such memories after a gap of some years. Amid the controversy surrounding the existence of the concept and therapeutic treatments associated with the recovery of traumatic memories, professional associations such as the Australian Psychological Society (APS, 2000) and Psychotherapists and Counsellors Federation of Australia (PACFA) have developed or are developing ethical standards and guidelines for practice related to recovered memory to protect clients and assist in dealing with reports of recovered memories in therapeutic, forensic and scientific contexts. [xlix]

These guidelines support the evidence outlined in this paper, regarding the possibility of complete or partial memory loss as a result of trauma. There is general agreement that memories of such experiences may be incessant, intrusive, complete, selective, fragmented, distorted or absent depending on the context and nature of the abuse and the survival strategies available to the individual as a child or as an adult in later in life; that all memories are susceptible to revision and influence from the time of encoding up to and including the time and context of retrieval, as well as in the disclosure and reporting process; and that the percentage of child sexual abuse experiences that are (a) recalled for the first time during therapy and (b) are the subject of litigation, is very small in comparison to those that are remembered but unreported, and whose effects may or may not require treatment. [l]

Dr Cathy Kezelman

Chair, Adults Surviving Child Abuse

Jenna Bateman

Mental Health Coordinating Council 


[i] Thomson, D. M. (1995). Allegations of Childhood Abuse: Repressed Memories or False Memories?” Psychiatry, Psychology and Law (Vol. 2) Number 1, pp. 97-105.  Available :

[ii] Sargant, W., & Slater, E. (1941). Amnesic syndromes in war. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 34, 757-764.

[iii] Kuch, K., & Cox, B. (1992). Symptoms of PTSD in 124 survivors of the Holocaust. American Journal of Psychiatry, 149, 337-340.

[iv] Herman, Judith Lewis (1997, 2002). Trauma and recovery: The aftermath of violence from domestic abuse to political terror. Basic Books.

[v] Hopper, J. (2008) Recovered memories of Sexual Abuse: Scientific Research and Scholarly Resources.

[vi] Elliott, D. M. (1997). Traumatic events: Prevalence and delayed recall in the general population. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65, 811-820. 

[vii] Cossins, A. (1999). Recovered memories of Child Sexual Abuse: the Science and the Ideology. In

Breckenridge & Laing, (Eds) (1999). Challenging Silence. Chapter 9, p.109.

[viii]  Williams, L. (1994). Recall of childhood trauma: A prospective study of women’s memories of child sexual abuse. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 62, 1167-1176.  In Cossins, A. (1999). Recovered memories of Child Sexual Abuse: the Science and the Ideology. In: Breckenridge & Laing, (Eds) (1999). Challenging Silence. Chapter 9, p.109.

[ix] Pope, K., & Tabachnick, B. (1995). Recovered memories of abuse among therapy patients: A national survey. Ethics and Behavior, 5, 237-248.

[x] Dammeyer, M., Nightingale, N., & McCoy, M. (1997). Repressed memory and other controversial origins of sexual abuse allegations: Beliefs among psychologists and clinical social workers. Child Maltreatment, 2, 252-263.

[xi] Dalenberg, C. (2006). Recovered Memory and the Daubert Criteria. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, Vol 7, No 4, Oct 2006 pp. 274-310. Sage Publications.

[xii]  Inquiry into the Practice of Recovered Memory Practice. (2005). Report by the Health Services Commissioner to the Minister for Health, the Hon. Bronwyn Pike MP under Section 9(1)(m) of the Health Services (Conciliation and Review) Act 1987.

[xiii] Rubin, L.J. (1996). Childhood sexual abuse: False accusations of “False memory”? Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 27, 447-451.

[xiv] Resneck-Sannes, H. (1995). A feeling in search of a memory. Women and Therapy, 16, 97-105.

[xv] Feldman-Summers, S., & Pope, K. S. (1994). The experience of “forgetting” childhood abuse: A national survey of psychologists  . Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 62, 636-639.

[xvi] Brown, D.F., & Endekov, Z. (2005). Childhood Abused: The Pandemic Nature and Effects of Abuse and Domestic Violence on Children in Australia. Melbourne: The Alannah and Madeline Foundation and La Trobe University.

[xvii] Sivers, H., Schooler, J. , & Freyd, J. J. (2002) Recovered memories. In V.S. Ramachandran (Ed.) Encyclopedia of the Human Brain, Volume 4. (pp 169-184). San Diego: Academic Press.

[xviii] Dalenberg,  C (2006). Recovered Memory and the Daubert Criteria. Trauma, violence and Abuse, Vol. 7, No. 4, October 2006 274-310.

[xix] Cozolino, L. J. (2002). The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy: Building and Rebuilding the Human Brain. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, p. 263.

[xx] Yovell, Y., Bannett, Y., & Shalev, A.Y. (2003). Amnesia for traumatic events among recent survivors: A pilot study. CNS Spectrums, 8, 676-685.

[xxi] van der Kolk, Roth, Pelcovitz, Sunday, and Spinazzola (2005). Disorders of Extreme Stress: The Empirical Foundation of a Complex Adaptation to Trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress Vol. 18, No. 5, October 2005, pp. 389–399.

[xxii] Williams, L. M. (1995). Recovered memories of abuse in women with documented child sexual victimization histories. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 8, 649-673. 

[xxiii] Cossins, A. (1999). Recovered memories of Child Sexual Abuse: the Science and the Ideology. In Breckenridge & Laing, (Eds) (1999). Challenging Silence. Chapter 9, p.107.

[xxiv] van der Kolk, Roth, Pelcovitz, Sunday, and Spinazzola (2005). Disorders of Extreme Stress: The Empirical Foundation of a Complex Adaptation to Trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress Vol. 18, No. 5, October 2005, pp. 389–399.

[xxv] Everly, G. S., & Lating, J. M. (1995). Psychotraumatology: Key papers and core concepts in post-traumatic stress. New York: Plenum Press.

[xxvi] Catherall, D.R. (2003). How fear differs from anxiety. Traumatology, 9, 76-92.

[xxvii] van der Kolk, B.A. (1996). Trauma and memory. In B.A. van der Kolk, A.C. McFarlane and L. Weisaeth (Eds.),

Traumatic stress: The effects of overwhelming experience on mind, body, and society. New York: Guilford Press.

[xxviii] van de Kolk, B.A., & Fisler, R. (1995). Dissociation and the fragmentary nature of traumatic memories: Overview and explanatory study. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 8, 505-525.

[xxix] Cozolino, L.J. (2002). The neuroscience of psychotherapy: Building and rebuilding the human brain. New York: Norton and Company.

[xxx] Rothschild, B. (2000). The body remembers: The psychophysiology of trauma and trauma treatment. New York: W.W Norton & Company.

[xxxi] Bremner, J., Southwick, S., Brett, E., Fontana, A., Rosenheck, R. & Charney, D. (1992). Dissociation and posttraumatic stress disorder in Vietnam combat veterans. American Journal of Psychiatry, 149, 328-332.


[xxxii] Dalenberg, C. (1996). Accuracy, timing and circumstances of disclosure in therapy of recovered and continuous memories of abuse. Journal of Psychiatry & Law, 229-275.

[xxxiii] Briere, J., & Conte, J. (1993). Self-reported amnesia for abuse in adults molested as children. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 6, 21-31. 

[xxxiv] Elzinga, B., Bakker, A., & Bremner, J. (2005). Stress-induced cortisol elevations are associated with impaired

delayed, but not immediate recall. Psychiatry Research,134, 211-223.

[xxxv] Basden, B., Basden, D., Coe, W., Decker, S., & Crutcher, K. (1994). Retrieval inhibition in directed forgetting andposthypnotic amnesia. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 42, 184-203.

[xxxvi] Elliott, D. M., & Briere, J. (1995). Posttraumatic stress associated with delayed recall of sexual abuse: A general population study. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 8, 629-647. 

[xxxvii] Feldman-Summers, S., & Pope, K.S. (1994). The experience of “forgetting” childhood abuse: A national survey of psychologists. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 62, 636-639.

[xxxviii] Feldman-Summers, S., & Pope, K.S. (1994). The experience of “forgetting” childhood abuse: A national survey of psychologists. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 62, 636-639.

[xxxix] Wakefield, H., & Underwager, R. (1994). Return of the furies: An investigation into recovered memory therapy. Chicago: Open Court.

[xl] PACFA (2005). Guidelines for Working with Recovered Memory. Draft Position Statement.

[xli] Hopper, J. (2008). Recovered memories of Sexual Abuse: Scientific Research and Scholarly Resources. Available:

[xlii] Brown, D., Scheflin, A.W., & Whitfield, C.L. (1999). Recovered memories: The current weight of the evidence in science and in the courts. The Journal of Psychiatry and Law, 27, 5-156.

[xliii] Lindsay, D.S. (1994). Contextualizing and clarifying criticism of memory work in psychotherapy. Consciousness and Cognition, 3, 426-437.

[xliv] Yapko, M.D. (1994). Suggestions of abuse: true and false memories of childhood sexual trauma. New York: Simon and Schuster.

[xlv] Bagley, C. (1990). Validity of a short measure of child abuse for use in adult mental health surveys. Psychological Reports, 66, 449-450.


[xlvi] Williams, L.M. (1992). Adult memories of childhood abuse: Preliminary findings from a longitudinal study. The Advisor, 5, 19-21.

[xlvii] Herman, J. L., & Harvey, M. R. (1997). Adult memories of childhood trauma: A naturalistic clinical study. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 10, 557-571.

[xlviii] Herman, J. L., & Harvey, M. R. (1997). Adult memories of childhood trauma: A naturalistic clinical study. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 10, 557-571.

[xlix] APS. (2000). APS Ethical Guidelines relating to recovered memories. Available:

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[l] APS. (2000). APS Ethical Guidelines relating to recovered memories. Available: forms/APS_recovered_memories_ethical_guidelines.pdf

Child sex abuse victims. Why don’t we believe them? Radio Australia editorial

Child sex abuse victims. Why don’t we believe them? (by Phil Kafcaloudes)

5 May 2010

Today I interviewed a woman who was one of the lucky people to have survived being sexually abused as a child.

So severe was the abuse she endured from the age of 6 until 14 or so, that the entire decade of her childhood was blocked out of her adult memory. The whole thing just wasn’t there. She went on to become a respected doctor, a mother, a person who contributed to society, but for much of this time Cathy Kezelman had no memory of much of her childhood. There were snatches, sure, but she didn’t think back to Kindy or First Class or Year Five like many of the rest of us.

She couldn’t. It was wiped.

How? It was pretty simple. Cathy, as a medical practitioner, can see how. She says children have an amazing resilience, and can cope with just about anything. At a price.

When her father started sexually abusing her, her child’s mind reacted in a way that allowed her to keep going. It fooled her into thinking that this can’t be a bad thing.

Her father though, was not so resilient. He killed himself, perhaps out of guilt for what he was doing to his daughter, perhaps because he was a flawed personality. Cathy doesn’t think it was the latter. She says that he was very loving, and would snuggle up with her, non-sexually, as a father should, and do all the things that father must do, like reassure, love and care. Most of the time.

More horrifically, after her father passed on, Cathy’s sexual abuse continued, carried out by other people who were in positions of power over her. And finally, some years later, a trusted family doctor sexually assaulted her, again and again.

Where was her mother in all this? According to Cathy, her mother denied that this was happening. When Cathy told her mother that the doctor had started touching her inappropriately, her mother said something like: “Oh that’s just him, just tell him not to be silly”. This is a sentence that speaks volumes, for a mother who suspected the truth, and was too fearful to stand up for her daughter.

You see Cathy’s mum was a victim herself, a victim of the Holocaust. Her parents were murdered by the Nazis, and Cathy says it is easy to see now that the damage caused to her mother as a young woman came down the line. Her mother sheltered herself from the bad by denying it, just as her daughter did for thirty years.

Cathy’s father too had a traumatic childhood. He was a sexual abuse victim.

It is called patterning, and it happens with some victims of abuse, where they will do the same to young people in their care. I remember as a court reporter, hearing psychiatrists tell judges that a convicted sexual abuser was a victim themself. I even remember hearing one abuser, a scout master, say in his defence that it happened to him as a child and it did him no harm; it was a way of being loved. The judge wore none of it, explaining to this 50-something year old man that sexual abuse has nothing to do with love. It is about being a predator. The pattern may have been set, but it was up to him to break that pattern.

No-one could suggest that patterning happens in even a majority of cases. There must be thousands of abused people living good lives, the abuse a secret that in many cases will never be revealed, locked in their minds by feeling of guilt or fear of not being believed or fear of the damage it would do to their fathers or uncles. Others, like Cathy, have dealt with it and lives with the memory.

But there are many who don’t come through it. Recent statistics show that victims of childhood sexual abuse are eighteen times more likely to commit suicide, and are 49 times more likely to die of a drug overdose.

Cathy, mother, doctor, almost went this way too. Once her memory of the years of abuse returned to her (after counselling), she found herself standing at a cliff edge, going closer to the precipice, saved only by a voice that told her to speak to her counsellor. The talk pulled her back to this world, and into a life where she was determined to share her story, if only to let other victims learn that they are not alone.

Sexual abuse is part of every society. It is one of those things that just keeps on, like corruption, thievery and tax avoidance. The difference is that this one kills.

And there is far too much denying, perhaps from the victims, and certainly from the people who should believe them.

Cathy Kezelman interviewed on The Circle 4th May

Cathy Kezelman is interviewed on The Circle about her personal process of recovery for her own childhood abuse.