Individuals are sometimes exposed to information that may endanger their well-being. In such cases, forgetting or misremembering may be adaptive. Childhood abuse perpetrated by a caregiver is an example. Betrayal trauma theory (BTT) proposes that the way in which events are processed and remembered will be related to the degree to which a negative event represents a betrayal by a trusted, needed other. Full awareness of such abuse may only increase the victim’s risk by motivating withdrawal or confrontation with the perpetrator, thus risking a relationship vital to the victim’s survival. In such situations, minimizing awareness of the betrayal trauma may be adaptive. BTT has implications for the larger memory and trauma field, particularly with regard to forgetting and misremembering events. This chapter reviews conceptual and empirical issues central to the literature on memory for trauma and BTT as well as identifies future research directions derived from BTT.
- Betrayal trauma
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Until the 1980s, some states required corroboration from external witnesses to proceed with charges of rape, based on the assumption that women and children were prone to lying about sexual assault. These unreasonable requirements frequently prevented women and children from testifying about their own abuse, even when the event had just recently occurred and memories were fresh. Advocacy groups that today dismiss uncorroborated reports of recovered memory are adopting a similar position, often accompanied by the suggestion that women and children experience “false memories,” or worse yet, lie about abuse.
An additional impetus was the claim by a television documentary producer for PBS that after almost a year of research she could find “only one case where a claim of recovered memory could be backed up by anything more substantial than a woman and her therapist believing it so” (Johnson, 1995, p. C3).
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DePrince, A.P. et al. (2012). Motivated Forgetting and Misremembering: Perspectives from Betrayal Trauma Theory. In: Belli, R. (eds) True and False Recovered Memories. Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, vol 58. Springer, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-1195-6_7
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