Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology



First Advisor

Kathryn Quina


This study is an in-depth examination of women who reported childhood sexual abuse (CSA). Among a non-clinical sample of 26 women, ages 22 - 65, 11 reported they had always remembered CSA (continuous memories) and 15 reported they had forgotten CSA for some period of their lives (delayed memories). Participants completed a questionnaire which included demographics, abuse history, therapy history, symptom checklists, Family Functioning Scale, Dissociative Experiences Scale, and the Adult Sexual Victimization Scale, and were then interviewed. Eighty-six percent of women with delayed, and 46% with continuous, memories reported corroboration. Only one woman reported a therapist was the first to raise the possibility of abuse. Quantitative comparisons revealed that women with delayed memories were younger at the time of their abuse and more closely related to their abusers. Family functioning and dissociative experiences were not significantly different, due to small n and high variability, but there was a trend towards more negative but ritualistic family patterns and greater dissociative tendencies among the women with delayed memories. In qualitative interviews, women with delayed memories reported that they had had more positive or ambivalent relationships with their abusers, and had, as children, disclosed their abuse less frequently than those with continuous memories; when they did disclose, they were disbelieved. While disclosures among women with continuous memories led to mixed reactions, at least one person had believed them. Recovered memories were described as generally fragmented and isolated, as physical or affective sensations, or disconnected visual flashes, qualities which did not change with therapy. Women with continuous memories described their memories as clear and visual, and were more able to give a sequential narrative of abuse incidents. All women reported some distress attributed to the sexual abuse, including suicidality, which had been more pervasive and severe for women with delayed memories. Results expand upon previous data, and support suggestions that young children may forget trauma. Results supported Jennifer Freyd 's betrayal trauma theory, which posits that children who are dependent upon their abuser -betrayer are more likely to deny the abusive part of their lives, as a strategy for emotional and physical survival.



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