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Child Abuse Negl. 1998 Dec;22(12):1217-38.

Memories of childhood sexual abuse: a survey of young adults.

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University of Illinois at Chicago, USA.



To explore the prevalence of, characteristics of, and factors associated with forgetting of childhood sexual abuse memories in a large non-clinical sample (N = 1712).


Using an anonymous survey, we asked respondents about (a) the nature and severity of their childhood abuse; (b) the continuity of their abuse memories; and (c) their experiences with others suggesting to them that they might have been abused.


A substantial minority of victims in our sample reported having temporarily forgotten their childhood sexual abuse. Forgetting was largely unassociated with victim or abuse characteristics. Compared to individuals who always remembered their abuse, however, individuals who temporarily forgot were more likely to report that someone had suggested to them that they might have experienced abuse. Those who received such suggestions were particularly likely to suspect that they may have experienced childhood sexual abuse that they do not yet remember.


Forgetting may be less common than implied by earlier estimates from clinical samples, yet it is not uncommon. Also, a sizable minority of the population is wondering whether they have experienced unremembered abuse, and these suspicions are linked to having encountered suggestions from others. We discuss the implications of these findings for understanding the phenomenon sometimes labeled repression.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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