Crime and memory.
J. L. Herman,
Bull. Amer. Acad. Psychiatry & the Law
23(1): 5-17, 1995.
The conflict between knowing and not knowing, speech and silence, remembering and forgetting,
is the central dialectic of psychological trauma. This conflict is manifest in the individual
disturbances of memory, the amnesias and hypermnesias, of traumatized people. It is manifest also
on a social level, in persisting debates over the historical reality of atrocities that have been
documented beyond any reasonable doubt. Social controversy becomes particularly acute at moments
in history when perpetrators face the prospect of being publicly exposed or held legally accountable
for crimes long hidden or condoned. This situation obtains in many countries emerging from
dictatorship, with respect to political crimes such as murder and torture. It obtains in this country
with regard to the private crimes of sexual and domestic violence. This article examines a current
public controversy, regarding the credibility of adult recall of childhood abuse, as a classic example
of the dialectic of trauma.