Contact: Rebecca Stewart

Telephone: 513-479-3335


New Report Reveals Junk Science in ‘Trauma-Informed’ Investigations, Recalls Earlier Exposés of Flawed Forensics, Wrongful Convictions

WASHINGTON / May 7, 2019 – A newly released report documents the flawed science in an investigative method known as “trauma-informed.” The report, titled “Trauma-Informed Theories Disguised as Evidence,” was issued by Families Advocating for Campus Equality (FACE), a campus due process organization (1).

Trauma-informed concepts were originally developed to help counselors and therapists assist persons who had experienced life-threatening events, such as human trafficking or forcible rape. But now, trauma-informed precepts are being used by detectives and investigators as a way to explain away inconsistencies in complainants’ accounts for events that are not life-threatening.

The highly referenced FACE report documents five logical fallacies and scientific flaws in the use of trauma-informed concepts in the investigative context:

  1. Is used to explain an ever-expanding range of symptoms and behaviors, some of which are not based on research.
  2. Illogically applies concepts like “tonic immobility” to situations that are not life-threatening.
  3. Presumes that failure to remember incidents is caused by trauma, not alcohol-induced black-outs or other factors.
  4. Asserts that stressful events impair memory, when research shows such events actually enhance recall.
  5. Ignores complainants’ vulnerability to post-event suggestions by friends and advocates.

As a result, investigators become susceptible to “tunnel vision,” decision-makers disregard exculpatory evidence, and the presumption of innocence is lost. Overall, a forensic possibility –- trauma-induced memory loss -– is converted into an investigational certainty that is pre-determined and ideologically ordained.

The FACE document echoes earlier reports that revealed the falsity of forensic methods that once carried the imprimatur of scientific respectability. Ten years ago the National Academy of Sciences revealed the widespread existence of junk science in criminal investigations. The report concluded that with the exception of DNA analysis, “no forensic method has been rigorously shown to have the capacity to consistently, and with a high degree of certainty, demonstrate a connection between evidence and a specific individual or source.” (2)

In 2015, the FBI revealed flaws with its hair analysis reports. The FBI admitted that its “examiners’ testimony in at least 90 percent of trial transcripts…contained erroneous statements….Defendants in at least 35 of these cases received the death penalty….Nine of these defendants have already been executed.” (3)