DUTCH ADVISORY REPORT
ON RECOVERED MEMORIES
In 1997-OCT, the Netherlands Ministry of Justice issued an advisory report
that was prepared at their request by Dr. Peter van Koppen. He is a legal expert and
psychologist at the Netherlands Study Center for Criminality and Law Enforcement. It
is entitled: "Recovered Crimes: About Accusations of Sexual Abuse Made
Minister of Justice Madame Sorgdrager developed concern about the growing numbers of
court cases arising from recovered memories. They appear to follow a common format: a
woman goes into therapy to cure a treatable emotional problem such as an eating disorder.
She is told by her therapist that her real problem is due to repressed memories of sexual
abuse during childhood. To "help" the clients recover the memories, a variety of
techniques are used: hypnosis, guided imagery and dream interpretations. "Unfortunately,
this so-called "recovered memory therapy" leads to pseudo memories, memories
about events that never took place." This in often turn leads to accusations,
which may include charges of infanticide, against the client's parents. "The
lives of the falsely accused I listened to have been ruined, whole families have been
driven apart. All because of nonsense." Very few charges lead to convictions.
There have been more than 500 such cases in the Netherlands in recent years, and only one
conviction. The latter based on a confession.
Dr. van Koppen is highly critical of the therapists' role in the creation of these
accusations. He claims that there has been no empirical proof for the existence of
repressed memories. "Repressed memories are just not found in people who have
experienced other types of trauma, such as Vietnam veterans and concentration camp
victims. Their problem was rather the reverse of repression: their intrusive memories just
would not go away. There is no reason to believe that a lengthy history of sexual abuse
could ever lead to suppress [such memories]."
Accusations sometimes escalate to include Satanic rituals, cannibalism, violent
abortions, mass sacrifice of infants, etc.
One cause for the flood of court cases is the pressure that some therapists apply to
their clients to bring charges against the alleged perpetrators. It is not known how many
Dutch therapists are involved in this practice. Another cause was the 'De Beaufort'
guidelines which were drafted in the 1980. They urged that the police take all
allegations by sexual abuse victims seriously. From these guidelines grew the concept that
all memories of abuse victims must be grounded in real events and thus had to be believed.
Dr. van Koppen recommended that professional organizations condemn the practice of
recovered memory therapy, as the British Royal College of Psychiatrists has recently done.
The Minister of Justice has ordered new guidelines which instruct police how to deal
with this type of case. An accused person will only be arrested "after the
therapist has been examined and supporting testimony has been obtained."
Dr van Koppen concludes that women need protection from dangerous therapies: "Unaware,
they run into the wrong therapist and are saddled with a gruesome and concocted past. When
as a police investigator you fail to deal with this critically, you may initiate years of
wretchedness in a criminal case that ultimately leads to nowhere"
Ellen de Visser, "'Hervonden incest' is onbewijsbaar" ('Recovered
incest' is unprovable) , De Volkskrant (Amsterdam Newspaper) 1997-OCT-6