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The role of repression in the recovery of memories of childhood sexual assault

26 July 1996


The field of psychology is quite divided over the issue of how to deal with recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). The concept of repression has historically been used to explain the phenomenon of victims of CSA "Forgetting" for long periods of time that they were abused at all, only to remember the abuse many years after it has ended. Repression, however, is not accepted by everyone in the field as a valid construct. This paper explores whether or not repression is useful concept in understanding the phenomenon of recovered memories of CSA. This requires a foray into the literature on repression and amnesia, memory, and an exploration of trauma's specific role in memory. A case for the special nature of CSA as a form of trauma is made, and our current knowledge of the processes underlying repression is explored.


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