Mark Pendergrast

"Pendergrast is an affable guide on a wondrously labyrinthine tour. He explains complex phenomena with remarkable clarity, in a relaxed tone, and with a sense of humor." —Philadelphia Inquirer
"Mark Pendergrast, the ultimate free-lance journalist with an eclectic mind, writes about deceptively narrow topics that in fact have figured in world history for millennia." —Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Mark Pendergrast speaks at universities, schools of public health, business conferences, management seminars, and psychological meetings. His presentations are tailored to his audience but are always entertaining, thought-provoking, and challenging. Contact him to arrange an event. Click here for links to speeches, TV, and radio appearances. Click here for comments on his presentations.

Victims of Memory: Sex Abuse Accusations and Shattered Lives

by Mark Pendergrast

The acclaimed, comprehensive book about the debate over recovered memories.

Ordering Information
US  Edition, click to see larger image

North American version

Purchase Online from Upper Access Books:
Paperback 2nd edition (June 1996)
Upper Access Book Publishers; ISBN: 0942679180
Dimensions (in inches): 1.28 x 9.51 x 7.02
List price: $24.95

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There is a raging debate regarding “recovered memories” of sexual abuse. Essentially, the debate boils down to the question of “massive repression.” Can human beings completely forget years of traumatic events, only to recall them later?  This book explores that question.  But readers must make up their own minds, once they have read the entire book.

What the Reviewers Say:

“An impressive display of scholarship…a comprehensive treatment of the recovered-memories controversy…. Pendergrast offers a broader portrayal of the social and cultural contexts of the recovered-memories phenomenon [than other books on the subject]. His treatment is also distinguished by some welcome historical perspective…. Pendergrast demonstrates a laudable ability to lay out all sides of the argument…. [He] renders a sympathetic portrayal of recovery therapists as well-intentioned but misinformed players in a drama that has veered out of control.” — Daniel L. Schacter, Scientific American

“An even-handed treatment that presents all the different positions with empathy.” —Psychological Reports

“Anyone touched by the subject of repressed memories would do well to read this book.” — Burton Einspruch, M.D., Journal of the American Medical Association

“Victims of Memory constitutes the most ambitious and comprehensive, as well as the most emotionally committed, of all the studies before us. Pendergrast’s book stands out from the others in several respects. For one thing, it transcribes his numerous interviews…allowing the cruel unreason of the recovery movement to be voiced with a minimum of editorial mediation. Second, he is the author who delves most deeply into the movement’s antecedents in witchcraft lore, mesmerism, early hypnotherapy, and the treatment of so-called hysteria…. Third, Pendergrast offers illuminating material about physiological states (sleep paralysis, panic attacks) that have traditionally been mistaken for “body memories” of one lurid kind or another. And it is Pendergrast who devotes the most effort to analyzing the contemporary Zeitgeist in which the recovery movement thrives” — Frederick Crews, The New York Review of Books

“Pendergrast has written a well-researched and important book, and his findings should rightfully scare all of us…. Pendergrast tries for evenhandedness, going so far as to offer in-their-own-words chapters by those with repressed memories and the therapists who treat them. But there is also a chapter from the ‘retractors,’ women who have realized that their memories of abuse were only products of their own imagination. Pendergrast’s account of this controversial subject is wide-ranging. He covers everything from the nature of memory and hypnosis to such related forms of sexual hysteria as the Salem Witch Trials to this country’s growing cult of victimization…. His strongest and most effective assaults are reserved for the book The Courage to Heal , the bible of the repressed-memory movement…. Pendergrast makes a strong case that what began as a way to empower women has now victimized them, isolating them from friends, families, and their true memories. This is a book sure to spark a long-overdue debate, and it deserves to be on library shelves, right beside The Courage to Heal.” — Ilene Cooper, Booklist

“Victims of Memory is an impressive account of remembering and misremembering events of vital personal importance. Pendergrast, a distinguished journalist, provides a readable and scholarly treatment of the issues that converge when we consider the mnemonic consequences of childhood sexual abuse. His style is engaging — even riveting…. Pendergrast provides a magnificent account of the evidence and thinking that underlie claims of recovered vs. false memories. His analysis forces us to confront a series of difficult questions about the historical and social factors that operate to create the present accusatory climate. All in all, Victims of Memory should be required reading for anyone interested in understanding the current controversy.” — Peter Ornstein and Catherine Haden, American Scientist

” By far the most thorough journalism done on this issue [the recovered memory debate] appears in Victims of Memory.” — Katy Butler, Los Angeles Times

Victims of Memory is…a comprehensive study of a disturbing phenomenon which began to sweep the U.S. in the mid-Eighties, reaching Britain in the early Nineties.” — Sarah Strickland, The London Observer

“A much-acclaimed rebuttal to various bibles of the recovered-memory movement.” –Richard Marius, Harvard Magazine

Victims of Memory traces the roots of a phenomenon that exploded in the late 1980s and is now reaping a thunderous backlash. Pendergrast interviews therapists, survivors and “retractors” — accusers who withdraw their allegations and, in some cases, sue their therapists for malpractice. He explores a variety of contexts for the phenomenon, from Freudian theory and witchcraft hysteria to fundamentalist religion and the modern feminist movement. Informing Pendergrast‘s book is a deep sense of social history.” — Joseph P. Kahn, The Boston Globe

“By far the best, most detailed, most accurate, most compassionate history of this tragic witch-hunt is Victims of Memory.” — Martin Gardner, The Skeptical Inquirer

“Explosive material — massive researched and lucidly argued.” — Ann Diamond, Montreal Gazette

“This latest entry on false memory syndrome is the most readable to date….The author discusses why the ‘repressed memory’ phenomenon is so prevalent today and also offers a short history of other psychological fads. Recommended.” — Library Journal

Pendergrast worries that false accusations will ultimately weaken the case of those who really were violated….Well documented and very readable. All levels.” — V. L. Bullough, Choice

Victims of Memory is the best exploration I have seen of the social forces that permit the development of a phenomenon such as the ‘recovered’ memories movement….This book is indispensable for anyone interested in the role of psychologists and radical feminists in shaping American culture and the ‘recovered’ memory movement itself.” — Martha Churchill, Transitions

Victims of Memory remains the best general overview [of the recovered memory debate and ‘Christian’ counselors’ involvement] available.” — Cornerstone

“This is a fascinating and scholarly work…a book of heart, soul, and intelligence. It should be required reading for everyone in any kind of therapy or recovery.” — Sherry Armendariz, Small Press Review

“This book attempts to address the phenomenon of recovered memory in a thorough and comprehensive way, compelling the reader to consider very carefully the scientific evidence currently available about how human memory works, and, perhaps more importantly, how it doesn’t work.” — Karen M. Donahey, Doody’s Health Sciences Book Review Journal

“Though this book is aimed at specific problems, it contains a universal message of folly and tragedy: people tend to see what they want to see, and to find whatever it is they are looking for. If they look for witches, or people possessed by demons, or ‘hidden memories,’ they find them. In searching the chartless depths of the subconscious, the monsters and serpents that can be found are limited only by the power of the imagination.” — Scott Owens, Gannett News Service

“Powerful and impassioned, Victims of Memory should be essential reading for all counselors, clients, parents and children. Whatever side of the controversy you stand on, this book will shake you up and force you to re-examine your assumptions.” — Bruce Wilson, Vancouver Sun

“Victims of Memory is an expose made all the more convincing by Pendergrast’s evident compassion and respect for the suffering of all concerned, from survivors of real incest and abuse to those whose needs, confusion — or therapists — lead them to convince themselves that they, too, are victims…. I find it hard to believe that anyone who reads from one end of Victims of Memory to the other can still accept the sort of virulent nonsense exemplified by The Courage to Heal.” — William Craig, Valley News

“Sensible therapists with a grip on their profession’s limitations helped rescue many of the patients whose case histories Pendergrast documents. But the worst therapists can be found across the board — from ‘Christian counselors’ who might have taken a workshop once and see Satan’s hand behind every neurosis to totalitarian psychiatrists. — Mike Miner, Chicago Reader

“Pendergrast is emphatic on two points. He abhors incest and sexual abuse and hopes that his book will help true victims by weeding out the false. But he compares the research behind repressed memories, some of them ‘retrieved’ through dreams, truth serums, hypnosis and massage, with ‘cultural folklore’.” — Molly Walsh, Burlington Free Press

“According to mental health professionals who subscribe to Pendergrast‘s point of view, [Victims of Memory ] is one of the best-researched, most thorough studies of the theory that memories of a traumatic childhood can be fabricated.” — Anne Rochell, The Atlanta Journal/Constitution