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The Memory Debate

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How safe are Survivor Groups?

A recent press release by the Royal College of Psychiatrists of a study by Professor Sydney Brandon said

"Therapists may use a number of techniques, some of which are regularly employed in orthodox therapy but are questionable when used as 'memory recovery' procedures. These include ..................
Survivors' groups: Whilst these can be supportive, the practice of mixing those who clearly remember abuse with those who are suspected by the therapist of having repressed their memories has been strongly criticised becasue of the risk of suggestion and contagion among group members."


I have not had much contact with survivors' groups but can clearly see the positive support that such groups can bring and how the sharing of things in common although different can be therapeutic. One must assume also that the client would be asked to join the group or would themselves seek out such a group and could only join through their own application.
I am also concerned that if such contagion and suggestion is as prevelant as Professor Brandon believes, I fear for the survivor living in a society which denies the existence of childhood sexual abuse, repressed and recovered memories. This must cause the survivor to deny there experience.
If then the survivor's parents (who may well be the abusers) deny that any abuse happened, the contagion and sugestion in family life must only serve to increase the state of denial.

We are faced with the fact that life is not a laboratory in which all the variables cannot be controlled. We must leave people to find solutions that will help them and make their mistakes along the way. It is therefore important that the survivor remain in control of the rebuilding of self, making their own decisions helpful or not. Control is at the centre of most abuse and it can be an easy step for the survivor to be abused by those desiring help by taking control.

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