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A perfect symmetry? a study of retractors' experiences of making and then repudiating claims of early sexual abuse

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  • James Ost
  • Alan Costall
  • Ray Bull
Recent research has attempted to inform the false/recovered memory debate by examining the circumstances surrounding retractors' experiences of coming to make claims that they were abused. The limited available research that is currently available has been heavily criticised on the grounds that retractors' experiences do not qualify as reliable evidence because retractors themselves may simply be highly suggestible or unreliable witnesses. The present study sought to examine these, as yet unqualified, criticisms by comparing retractors' experiences of both recovering and retracting claims of abuse. Twenty self-reported retractors completed a 62-item questionnaire regarding their experiences of recovering and subsequently retracting claims to have been abused. Analysis indicated a consistent asymmetry between the processes of recovery and retraction; for the majority of respondents retraction was reported to have taken substantially longer than recovery, and to have involved much less social pressure. Furthermore, several factors were revealed that respondents reported to be more important than social pressure in leading them to question the validity of their abuse claims (such as, the experiential qualities and logical inconsistencies of the recovered abuse memories).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-181
Number of pages27
JournalPsychology, Crime & Law
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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