Rebecca Stewart: 513-479-3335


 ‘Trauma-Informed’ Bulletin Is Replete with Misrepresentations and Mistakes: CPI Report

WASHINGTON / September 3, 2019 – A new Center for Prosecutor Integrity report documents factual errors and faulty conclusions contained in a 2019 bulletin published by End Violence Against Women International. Titled, “Understanding the Neurobiology of Trauma and Implications for Interviewing Victims,” the EVAWI bulletin purports to summarize the research on the neurobiology of trauma and provide recommendations for law enforcement personnel who investigate allegations of sexual assault.

The new CPI report was researched and written by behavioral neuroscientists Sujeeta Bhatt, PhD and Susan Brandon, PhD.

“Trauma-informed” proponents claim that persons who experience sexual assault are unable to accurately recall the incident, and that inconsistencies in their accounts should be taken as proof that the assault occurred. But citing numerous studies, Bhatt and Brandon reject this theory, concluding, “The impacts of trauma on memories and recall are widely variable. The stress accompanying and resulting from trauma may produce strong memories, impair memories, have no effect on memories, or increase the possibility of false memories.”

Bhatt and Brandon argue that criminal investigators do not need to use special interview methods with purported trauma victims: “Examination of studies across these domains did not reveal any evidence to support the notion that victims of potentially traumatic events require interview methods that are different from those that have been shown to be most effective for accounts of events that are presumably not traumatic.”

Their critique is more fundamental, saying an “undue emphasis on brain science increases the likelihood of hindering an investigation” because it can promote confirmation bias and undue stereotypes. The new CPI report is available online (1).

Separately, the Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA) recently published a Position Paper on “Trauma-Informed Training and Neurobiology of Trauma” that sharply criticizes the assumptions, precepts, and methods of trauma-informed advocates (2).