A crime-fighting tool often kept under the radar, forensic hypnosis refers to the application of hypnosis in civil and criminal investigations to enhance the recall of pertinent details among victims and witnesses.
When law enforcement officials need victims or witnesses to relay information from a crime scene, their memories are not always as helpful as they would like them to be. Stress, fear and trauma can affect the normal functioning of our memory in a number of ways. In some cases, the traumatic event in itself can be partially or entirely repressed from the conscious memory. In other cases, while memories of the traumatic event remain intact, post-traumatic stress disorder can lead to subsequent troubles in the person’s capacity to focus, process, comprehend and retain information following the trauma.
In helping crime victims and witnesses recover their memories, forensic hypnosis provides law enforcement with vital information and leads allowing them to bring resolution to their unsolved cases.
The use of forensic hypnosis in criminal justice and law enforcement dates back to 1845. First used to solve a burglary case, it has since been used in a number of high-profile cases, including the criminal prosecutions of Ted Bundy, Dr. Sam Sheppard, the Boston Strangler, New York City’s Mad Bomber and the Scott Peterson case.
While Courts are divided over the admissibility of hypnotically elicited testimony, forensic hypnosis can be an important element in the preparation and outcome of a trial. Its use has been upheld by the US Supreme Court. In states where hypnosis is not admissible in court, forensic hypnosis, when conducted properly, can still produce vital information, leads and credible testimony to be pursued and verified independently.
Following an aggravated assault case in Oregon, we were called to address the state of anxiety and PTSD sustained by the victim. Found wondering the streets in a state of shock by a neighbor, the victim had no recollection of the attack or who had assaulted her. Bleeding from the nose and mouth, her jaw fractured, her memory of being brought to the hospital itself remained unclear and foggy.
In this case, our primary goal was to stabilize the victim’s emotional state. Our secondary goal was to retrieve her recollection of the attack to assist law enforcement with their ongoing investigation.
While forensic hypnosis and clinical hypnotherapy have different guidelines, procedures and requirements, it is possible to use both techniques when working with a victim or witness, in order to address the aftermath of trauma while preserving the validity of the information recovered.
In a state of hypnosis, the victim was brought back to the last memory she consciously retained of the day of the attack. She had returned home and was in the process of preparing dinner for her family. Emotionally shielded by the deep physical and mental relaxation characteristic of the hypnotic state, the victim was able to remember the flow of events leading to the time of the attack, the room where the assault took place and important details such as seeing her husband’s car in the driveway during the timeframe of the attack. The information collected enabled law enforcement to pursue redefined leads. The husband, who had a history of physical abuse, was later found guilty of the assault.
The victim had blocked the memory of her assailant out of her mind, in part due to the traumatic nature of the assault. The fear of the consequences she would have to face were her husband found guilty and incarcerated was an additional stressor impairing the normal functioning of her memory.
When not addressed, memories of a traumatic event can start replaying in the mind in the form of intrusive and uncontrollable thoughts. The feeling, commonly referred to as broken record, is common in post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression.
In addition to helping crime victims and witnesses recover the missing pieces of their memory, hypnosis enables us to address the secondary effects left behind by trauma and empower survivors to regain control of their emotional balance, strength and peace of mind.
To learn more about forensic investigative techniques, click on the following link: forensic hypnosis in Portland, Oregon and worldwide.
© GMB ~ Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, Genvièv Martin-Bernard is a Forensic and Clinical Hypnotherapist who consults locally, nationally and internationally. After graduating summa cum-laude from the University of La Sorbonne Paris with Master’s Degree and a DESS in Foreign Affairs and International Law, Genvièv spent a decade and a half as an International Executive in the Legal and Litigation Support field assisting major law firms with the coordination of their cases. She worked with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office on the production of prosecution exhibits for the O.J. Simpson and Menendez Brothers trials and followed intensive specialized training in Forensic Discovery and Computer Forensics. A published author and speaker, Genvièv has been featured in leading French and American television and radio shows. A professional member of the National Guild of Hypnotists, she is on the Board of Directors of the Oregon Hypnotherapy Association.