Considerations for experts in assessing the credibility of recovered memories of child sexual abuse: the importance of maintaining a case-specific focus
In this article, the authors argue that a variety of psychological factors stand in the way of providing expert advice to the courts in terms of assessing the credibility of a complainant's account of sexual abuse when there is a significant delay in reporting. These include difficulties in assessing (a) the complainant's account of how he or she claims to have remembered or forgotten the abuse, (b) whether (and how) the claim of abuse originated within a therapeutic setting, and (c) the difficulty of generalizing from empirical evidence. It is argued that all of these issues can be more easily avoided if experts maintain a case-specific focus. In this article, the authors review both the psychological and legal controversies surrounding the false-recovered memory debate, discuss how courts approach the admissibility and use of recovered memory testimony, and conclude that expert witnesses should carefully consider the above points before drawing general conclusions from the literature and applying them to individual cases.
Psychology, Public Policy, and Law