Journal of Traumatic Stress

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 21–31 | Cite as

Self-reported amnesia for abuse in adults molested as children

  • John Briere
  • Jon Conte


A sample of 450 adult clinical subjects reporting sexual abuse histories were studied regarding their repression of sexual abuse incidents. A total of 267 subjects (59.3%) identified some period in their lives, before age 18, when they had no memory of their abuse. Variables most predictive of abuse-related amnesia were greater current psychological symptoms, molestation at an early age, extended abuse, and variables reflecting especially violent abuse (e.g., victimization by multiple perpetrators, having been physically injured as a result of the abuse, victim fears of death if she or he disclosed the abuse to others). In contrast, abuse characteristics more likely to produce psychological conflict (e.g., enjoyment of the abuse, acceptance of bribes, feelings of guilt or shame) were not associated with abuse-related amnesia. The results of this study are interpreted as supporting Freud's initial “seduction hypothesis,” as well as more recent theories of post-traumatic dissociation.

Key Words

amnesia dissociation/ sexual abuse survivors 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Briere
    • 1
  • Jon Conte
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Southern California School of MedicineLos Angeles
  2. 2.School of Social WorkUniversity of WashingtonSeattle

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