Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dissertation on shame. Chapter 15.4 False memories

15.4 False memories

Ellen is disabled because of the massive sexual abuse she suffered as a child, and feels much the same way as Gunhild and is not fond of herself. Helga seems to also feel the same way as Gunhild and Ellen in the conversation above. She feels like an idiot and feels stupid, like a cow. Nobody wants to be friends with her, she says. It seems plausible to conclude that this is because Helga was sexually abused as a child, something she might have been but she has said that she is uncertain of being sexually abused and is now searching for answers to questions that engulf her life. She does not remember having been sexually abused. She has come to the incest center because she senses that something is wrong and she believes she might have been sexually abused. Her feelings might be due to completely other matters than sexual abuse, something she is aware of.

This shows, in my opinion, how careful one must be not to induce false memories into those who wish to find answers which lay in past experiences. Even though I let Helga speak freely about her shame and other emotions and did not encourage her to speak of her past, she was in a focus group together with three other participants who where sexually abused as children committed by several perpetrators each, and their stories might have given Helga possible explanations for her own problems.

False memories (Brainerd and Reyna 2005; Loftus and Ketcham 1996) is not the subject of this exploration, but I am aware of the debate concerning this phenomenon, and am aware of the possibility of inducing false memories when meeting people who are searching for answers to unsolved problems such as Helga, and that it is possible that stories told by the participants and be false memories. It has not been the concern of this exploration to verify the stories that are told, and trustworthiness to the information given must be seen in relation to the trustworthiness given to the informants. A verification of the stories given such as from the police, child welfare, other family members, and the possible perpetrators, will most likely not be able to verify the stories. The stories in this exploration are taken as trustworthy, with the risk of some being a result of false memory.  

It can also be debated if Helga at all should have been included in the investigation in the first place, but the explanation for including her is not the focus on sexual abuse as such, but on the concept and phenomenon of shame. Helga speaks of the phenomenon of shame without yet having found the concepts to describe it or to understand it. This pre-conceptional description of shame by describing ones emotions and experiences is something Helga has in common with several of the other participants, and casts valuable light on the phenomenon of shame.

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