Letter: Memories of abuse

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The Independent Online
Sir: Dr Kevin Ilsley (letter, 3 October) is attacking the wrong windmill. While I can accept no responsibility for Freud I can assure him that the Royal College of Psychiatrists places great importance on the early recognition and treatment of sexual abuse in childhood. I agree with what he says about the suffering of adults who were abused as children.

The much less common problem which we are trying to deal with is the phenomenon of "false memories" which may be created in adult life and are followed by devastating consequences within the family. The suffering in these families is well documented and the accuser often gains little relief from the "revelation" and the isolation from those they had loved and depended upon which follows.

We are not questioning the reality of childhood abuse, but we are saying that it is the responsibility of therapists to ensure that the task of treating abused children should not blind them to the suffering which can occur when inappropriate therapy of adults generates false memories of past abuse.


Chairman, Royal College of Psychiatrists Working Group on Recovered Memories