Recovered memory


Since 2016, The Medill Justice Project has been collecting cases that involve accusations based on recovered memories, or memories of a traumatic event the victims said they repressed— sometimes for decades—and later retrieved.

In what is believed to be the most comprehensive publicly available database of its kind, The Medill Justice Project identified and confirmed more than 100 cases of alleged recovered memories, using mostly English-language sources which helps to account for the majority of accusations having occurred in the United States. The sources include the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, the British False Memory Society, the Australian False Memory Association, Psyfmfrance and Brown University Prof. Ross Cheit’s Recovered Memory Project, as well as press accounts. The accusations are primarily comprised of criminal charges but also include instances when individuals were accused but not charged, or when charges were dropped. Cases involving alleged recovered memories largely emerged in the 1980s, peaked in the 1990s and continue to crop up today.

The database, created by Aditya Venkataraman, a graduate student at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering, shows the accusation, the accused’s relationship to the accuser, where and when the alleged crime occurred and when the accuser recovered his or her memory. The database excludes names because, in some cases, the accused was found not guilty or was later cleared of the crime.

If you have information about an alleged recovered memory case or cases and would like to add it to The Medill Justice Project’s database, please contact us at medilljusticeproject@northwestern.edu, or 847-491-5840.

–Rachel Fobar
The Medill Justice Project


To view Medill Justice Project investigations about a recovered memory case in Pennsylvania, click the following links:

Stranger Than Fiction? Deep in a Pittsburgh murder case: Can a witness suddenly remember a crime 15 years later?

Stranger Than Fiction? Investigating an old murder case built on circumstantial evidence, The Medill Justice Project finds police records and witness accounts that don’t add up