Fragmented memories

Fragmented memories

Artist Name: Kim Downey

Artist Bio: I am an Officer in the Canadian Military and paint to relax and, sometimes, to express

Description: In the past decade, research in neurobiology has evolved to explain the problem of fragmented memory in sexual assault survivors …the intense fear experienced during a traumatic event will activate an area of the brain involved in fear and stress processing. In response to this activation, hormones are released that help the individual cope with the physical and emotional pain, explaining why victims respond in ways that make it seem like they could be lying, even when they’re not. This is why, experts say, sexual assault victims often can’t give a linear account of an attack and instead focus on visceral sensory details like the smell of cologne or the sound of voices in the hallway.

My current tasking as a member of the Canadian Military is to develop a training and education framework to address the harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour which has been a significant problem in our organization. Police officers with no specialized training often antagonize victims as they zero in on discrepancies. It’s understandable: they learn to interview by establishing and verifying a timeline and key facts. But this honing in on discrepancies can lead a detective to press victims in a way that yields misleading or false information, as victims prematurely try to piece together fragmented memories. Knowing that many victims of a traumatic event such as a sexual assault suffer from fragmented and inaccurate memories will become an important consideration for the training of our investigators, who must be taught that trauma influences victims in ways law enforcement won’t necessarily understand.

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