Does trauma memory play a role in the experience of reporting sexual assault during police interviews? An exploratory study.
Hardy A., Young K., Holmes EA.
A recent study indicated that 94.4% of reported sexual assault cases in the UK do not result in successful legal prosecution, also known as the rate of attrition (Kelly, Lovett, & Regan, 2005). Scant research has examined the role of trauma-related psychological processes in attrition. Victims of sexual assault (N =22) completed questions about peri-traumatic dissociation, trauma memory fragmentation, account incoherence during police interview, and likelihood of proceeding with legal cases. Higher levels of dissociation during sexual assault were associated with participants reporting more fragmented trauma memories. Memory fragmentation was associated with participants indicating that they provided more incoherent accounts of trauma during police interview. Importantly, people who viewed themselves as providing more incoherent accounts predicted that they would be less likely to proceed with their legal cases. The findings suggest trauma impacts on memory, and these trauma-related disruptions to memory may paradoxically contribute to attrition.