Today there is a general consensus that victims of crime benefit from psychotherapy, particularly when they have experienced emotional trauma. While legal systems in previous eras did not recognize the emotional difficulties borne by the victims, today they do so almost routinely. It has widely been assumed this understanding of what the victims of serious crimes experience would translate into important legal benefits as well.
We test this assumption through an analysis of the test case of female victims of childhood incest. Contemporary psychology casts these women in a radically new light, one which has brought about legal recognition of the fact that memories of abuse can be repressed until adulthood or even years after the victim reaches maturity. Recent years have seen the development of legislative amendments to lengthen the statute of limitations in both torts and criminal cases, in Israel and elsewhere. The situation, however, is not as rosy as one might have hoped and expected. The legal system has not become dramatically more receptive to the victims of childhood sexual abuse, either in terms of sentencing in criminal cases or monetary compensation in tort claims. This paper asks why and how psychological insight can foment a bona fide legal revolution.
We conclude that psychology on its own cannot effect far-reaching legal change in favor of the victims of crime without the establishment of a legal-social bond. The holistic multi-system approach is an appropriate vehicle to disseminate the new psychological understanding of incest to the victims, and thus ensure that psychology will be of true benefit to the legal system.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/limor_ezioni/1/