Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, Vol. 17, No. 1, January 2005 (
Recovering Memories of the Offense in “Amnesic”
W. L. Marshall,
L. E. Marshall,
and Y. M. Fernandez
This paper describes a technique designed to assist sexual offenders to recover
memories of their offense. We have consistently observed that some sexual offend-
ers present as having no recall of their offense although they are able to remember
other events of the day of the offense. This failure to recall offense details pre-
vents the offenders from making an appropriate disclosure which, in turn, blocks
attempts to identify their offense pathways and develop relapse prevention plans.
The memory recovery technique we describe is based on experimental literature
on memory and we outline its use with 22 clients, 20 of whom showed satisfactory
recovery of their memories.
KEY WORDS: amnesia; memory; recall; sexual offenders.
Some sexual offenders deny they committed the offense for which they
were convicted while others minimize the nature of their offense or diminish
their responsibility for the crime (Barbaree, 1991; Maletzky, 1991). There are
now programs available to deal with these problems (Marshall, 1994; Marshall,
Thornton, Marshall, Fernandez, & Mann, 2001; Pithers, 1994; Schlank & Shaw,
1996). However, some sexual offenders, while perhaps agreeing that they must
have committed an offense, claim they have no memory of the events. All sorts of
reasons are advanced by the offenders for why they cannot recall the offense. Some
claim periodic blackouts as a result of epilepsy or head injury, some attribute their
loss of memory to drugs or alcohol, while others offer no explanation for their
memory deﬁcits. In any event, this inability to recall the events presents an obstacle
in treatment because it is hard to see what meaning can be given to admissions such
as “I must have done it, but cannot remember any of the events.” Not only does this
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2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.