Pennsylvania & The Repressed Memory Theory in Child Sex Abuse Cases: Dalrymple v. Brown


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Dalrymple v. Brown was a 1997 Pennsylvania Supreme Court case which refused to allow the repressed memory theory to be used in any Pennsylvania child molestation or child sex abuse civil case. The issue in the Dalrymple case involved allegations of child sex abuse which occurred 20 years prior to when the plaintiff filed suit against the abuser.The statute of limitations had long run or expired and the plaintiff sought to use the repressed memory theory to toll the statute and allow her to bring the claim.

Pennsylvania & The Repressed Memory Theory

In the case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court discussed the highly controversial “repressed memory” theory at length and found that because it was subject to so much debate among psychologists and psychiatrists, such evidence was not scientifically sound enough to be permitted in child sex abuse cases.

The Repressed Memory Theory

The repressed memory theory surfaced in the 1990’s and is subject to debate because there is no way to discern whether a recalled memory is in fact, true.  However, the Dalrymple court touched on this issue and hinted that while a “repressed memory” theory would not be permitted to toll the statute of limitations, the statute could be tolled when the plaintiff reasonably does not know that an injury has occurred. The reality is that many victims of child sex abuse, especially when the abuse occurred or began at a very young age, are often unsure of whether the abuse even occurred.

It is time to challenge and change Pennsylvania’s stance and approach to child sex abuse and the statute of limitations.

Victims of child sexual abuse and molestation in Pennsylvania who believe their cases are barred by the statue of limitations should contact me to discuss their case. The time is right to challenge Pennsylvania law and with the right case, Dalrymple can be overturned, or at least, modified. Victims of child sex abuse deserve justice in the civil courts, and challenging the Pennsylvania statute of limitations laws is the first step.

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Published: September 14, 2012