Myers underwent recovered-memory therapy, which coaches people into “remembering” things from their past, often while hypnotised or under the influence of strong tranquilisers.
The approach is now shunned by most mainstream professionals because of the danger of creating false memories – leading patients to recall events that didn’t actually occur. Yet some psychotherapists still use the techniques.
Researchers are warning that the current publicity around historic abuse claims could lead to a resurgence of the idea of recovering memories. “The real victims are giving credibility to those who are more questionable,” says Elizabeth Loftus of the University of California, Irvine.
It may seem incredible that anyone can be mistaken about being abused, but there have been countless cases where claims were proven to be false. In the 1980s and 1990s there was a global epidemic of false satanic abuse claims from children, typically thanks to leading questioning from misguided social workers.
A 1994 UK government report into 84 satanic abuse claims found that none was supported by physical evidence, such as scars left on alleged torture victims or forensic evidence from rooms that were supposedly the sites of multiple murders.