Academic journal article The Journal of Law in Society

Sexual Abuse Memory Repression: The Questionable Injustice of Demeyer

Academic journal article The Journal of Law in Society

Sexual Abuse Memory Repression: The Questionable Injustice of Demeyer

Article excerpt

  I. INTRODUCTION: PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF SEXUAL ASSAULT  II. WHAT IS A REPRESSED MEMORY AND HOW DOES IT OCCUR?      A. How Repressed Memories Are Discovered      B. The Dangers of Repressed Memories      C. The Repressed Memory Debate III. MICHIGAN'S VIEWS ON REPRESSED MEMORIES OF SEXUAL ABUSE      AND THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS      A. Meiers-Post      B. Lemmerman      C. Guerra      D. The Unbelievable Demeyer  IV. JUDICIAL REMEDY      A. The Policy Behind the Statute of Limitations      B. The Policy Underlying the Application of the Insanity         Tolling Provision      C. The Toppling of Meiers-Post's Significance      D. The Case for Demeyer and the Judicial Remedy That Should         Have Been   V. LEGISLATIVE ACTION      A. No Statute of Limitation      B. The Discovery Rule      C. The Way the Michigan Legislature Can Correct Demeyer  VI. CONCLUSION 

I. INTRODUCTION: PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF SEXUAL ASSAULT

Sexual assault on a child is a degrading and horrific event. The act itself is one of the most disgusting and degrading physical exertions of superiority and selfishness that a human being can perform. Not only is the minor physically assaulted, but the psychological damage, extortion of trust, and emotional devastation can wreak havoc on a victim's life for tens of years. The experience can be so traumatizing that a victim actually forgets about the event for years and seals it away from their consciousness. (2) Eventually, although potentially never, a "triggering event" will bring a victim's memories of sexual abuse rushing back into their conscious memory. This phenomenon, although up for great debate in the scientific world, is what is referred to as a repressed memory, and can stand in the way of a victim and their vindication. (3)

The law, in general, treats criminal sexual assault very heavy-handedly. A criminal offender found guilty of criminal sexual conduct could have a life sentence imposed. (4) The incarceration served by the guilty offender is only half of the penalty. The social stigma associated with a sexual predator, even after serving his sentence, has been referred to by one judge as "infamous." (5) Terms like "monster" and "sexual predator" are used to describe sexual offenders, and some people believe they are beyond the realm of reform and rehabilitation. (6) The stigma is so strong that Congress, and, arguably the judiciary, has refused to stand in opposition of laws against "sexual predators" that some may deem excessive or abusive (7) The Supreme Court of the United States has held that involuntary confinement for an indefinite period of time, sought by the state, for long-term care and treatment of a sexual predator, part and parcel from any jail sentence served, is constitutional and permissible by law. (8) Sexual offenders are regularly forced to identify themselves on sex offender registries and the federal government requires the Attorney General for each state to maintain such a registry. (9) The registries can contain personal identifying information including the address and the birth date of the offender as well as the offender's conviction, and are freely available to the public via databases and public websites. (10) Criminal sex offenders are punished heavily for their crimes.

With sexual predators being so feared, exposed, and loathed among the population, one would think that the civil counterpart to the criminal sentence--the civil judgment--would be obtained easily in cases alleging sexual abuse. However, the civil law seems to take a less aggressive stance towards sexual assault. Absent a slam-dunk-case brought immediately after the incident, civil vindication for the victim is rather difficult to obtain. Highly traumatic sexual abuse scenarios--the ones so horrendous the victim's memories of the attack are repressed for years--encounter an insurmountable obstacle preventing plaintiffs from recovering any compensation or redress for the tragedy they were exposed to: the statute of limitations. …

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