In a groundbreaking development, forensic regression was proved effective in enabling memory revivification following substance-induced amnesia.
Amnesia: a common effect of date rape drugs
In November 2016, the subject, a 5’5”, 100 lbs. woman in her 30s, was invited for dinner to the home of a man she had recently resumed seeing. She had met the unemployed 49 year-old the previous summer. Her initial lack of interest was met by his whirlwind attempts to win her over. It ended abruptly in August, when she accepted to meet him at his residence and found herself brutally pinned, face down, both wrists trapped in one of his hands, while he assaulted her with his other hand, deaf and oblivious to her repeated pleads he was hurting her. She interrupted all contacts with him. Months later, the 49 year-old resumed his romantic attempts to win her over, stressing what had happened over the summer was a misunderstanding, and ensuring he never meant to harm her. For weeks, he worked relentlessly at regaining her trust, until she eventually accepted to visit him again.
When she arrived at his residence, a fire was burning in the living room. He invited her to sit in front of the hearth and retreated to the kitchen. Returning with a small cup of warm sake, he indicated it would warm her up, since it was stormy and cold that day. When she brought the cup to her lips, the vapors emanating from it and the taste seemed strong and unpleasant. She dipped her lips in the warm liquid and put the cup down without consuming it. He withdrew to the kitchen once again and returned this time with a glass of sparkling Italian red wine. She began sipping the beverage as he stood watching her.
Within 15 minutes, she had lost all muscle function and motor coordination, along with the ability to think coherently. She later described feeling as if she had somehow left her body and suddenly found herself in some sort of dissociated, dream-like state. Confused and drowsy, she looked up at him and asked: “What did you put in my glass? I can’t feel my body!” Towering over her from his 6’4″ height, he snapped back: “Nothing. Just Lambrusco.” She attempted to stand but found herself stumbling, disoriented and dizzy. This was shortly after 4 pm.
She then experienced complete amnesia of the following 8 hours. Her memories resume after midnight, when she found herself naked, alone on her knees on the bathroom floor, vomiting over his toilet. Freezing cold, shaken, dizzy and violently nauseous, she continued vomiting for hours as her body desperately attempted to expel the ingested substances.
Around 2 am, when she was finally able to stand, she washed herself in the bathroom and made her way to the bedroom, where she found him cuddling his dog, his back turned to her. Cold and shaken, not understanding what had happened, she curled into bed against him, in an attempt to find warmth. When she placed her cheek against his chest, he head-butted her with his shoulder in a violent motion that propelled her away from him, and turned his back to her again. Standing up without a sound, she searched for her clothes, which she found on the ground, kicked in a discarded lump in a corner of the room. She dressed silently and fled the scene.
When she awoke the next day, she discovered her body was covered with bruises. Large, red, black and blue contusions marked her breasts, the inside of both forearms, her gluteus and legs. Without any recollections of the eight-hour period of time that extended between sipping the glass of red wine downstairs by the fireplace, and finding herself naked on her knees in the upstairs bathroom, she struggled to make sense of what had happened.
The medical, police and forensic teams that responded to her in the following days, examining her, taking photos of the bruising and documenting the facts, were adamant. The partial consumption of a glass of red wine is unlikely to produce symptoms of this severity within 15 minutes of sipping it. Even in cases of alcohol intoxication, the reasonable question that follows is who would disrobe and have sex for the first time with a partner whose judgment is impaired and who might even be unconscious. The combination of the complete amnesia of an eight-hour block of time and total anesthesia from all physical sensations she experienced indicates a likely benzodiazepines poisoning, a medical emergency that could have proved lethal for the 100 lbs. woman without previous exposure to synthetic drugs or sedatives.
Amnesia is a common side effect of date rape drugs. Benzodiazepines, whether they are legal like Xanax, Klonopin or Valium, along with a long list of anti-anxiety, muscle relaxants and antipsychotic prescription medications prescribed to manage psychosis, bipolar or borderline symptoms, emotional or mental disorders, anesthetics used in veterinary practices like Ketamine, or underground drugs like GHB or Rohypnol, no longer legal in the United States, can all cause drowsiness, confusion, loss of motor coordination, dizziness, numbness, nausea, seizures, vomiting, unconsciousness and death. Rohypnol, GHB and Ketamine are not the only drugs used to spike the drinks of unsuspected victims. Legal benzodiazepines like Xanax and Klonopin have also been used to facilitate crimes.
During the forensic regression, the woman was brought back to her last conscious memory: in front of the fireplace, beginning to sip the glass of wine. To prevent the possibility of tainting, leading or influencing her recollection, she was left to process the unfolding of the events on her own, without any input or interference from the forensic team.
From the safety of the deep, physical, mental and emotional relaxation we induce during a regression, surrounded by the protective presence of the team, the memories contained within the depths of her mind began to unfold gently, easily and effortlessly.
Ideomotor responses were established for her to indicate when the revivification had begun, confirm it was still unfolding, and signal when she had reached the reconnection to her conscious recollection of being on her knees on the bathroom floor.
Among the recovered memories were:
His voice, as he was towering over her in front of the fireplace, asking her: “Would you like to go upstairs?” Her clear response: “I wouldn’t be able to stand… What did you put in my glass? I can’t feel my body!” These words alone were alarming to her, as she had never before had to ask this question.
Flashbacks, images and sounds continued unfolding in her mind:
Staring at his open closet, from the bed upstairs where she found herself laying on her back, noticing the rigid and clinical color coordinated alignment of clothing, exclusively in shades of black and gray.
Finding herself naked, pinned down under his naked body, while she repeated: “I’m scared … I’m scared…” His voice responding: “Don’t worry… I’m not going to take you until you relax some more…”
Her own voice stating: “I’m not on the pill…” His response: “I have condoms. The last thing I want is an unplanned pregnancy…”
What was never recovered was any awareness whatsoever of physical sensations during the 8-hour timeframe, indicating the ingested substances had in fact produced a complete state of physical anesthesia.
Among other missing blocks of memory was the absence of recollection as to how her clothing was removed from her body. This was disturbing to her considering she was wearing multiple layers: a snug winter dress with a full-length zipper in the back that came all the way up to the nape of her neck, stockings, thick knee-high winter socks and boots.
These missing parts indicate the very real probability she slipped in and out of consciousness. This is also hinted by the fact she remembers nothing further until she was shaken by his loud screaming in her ear as he came. The loud, painful shouts against one of her ears, jolted her back to consciousness for a moment. She became aware only then, in her dream-like state, that he was inside of her. An observation she deducted from the positioning of his body trapping and engulfing hers and his screaming. Yet, again, there were still no physical sensations of any kind. Her body remained entirely numb through the complete block of time.
The degree of confusion and distress prompted by amnesia is difficult to understand without having experienced it. The mind spins in endless loops in an attempt to recover the missing memories. It is challenging for the mind to comprehend how a large block of life can somehow disappear from conscious awareness. The depth of relief provided by memory revivification is immensely therapeutic and beneficial in recovering from the debilitating hold left behind by traumatic events.
This was groundbreaking research for our team. It is often assumed forensic regression is not likely to facilitate results in cases of substance-induced amnesia. Yet, we consistently obtain results clinically regressing patients to experiences they had in surgery, while under general anesthesia. Memories sometimes confirmed by those present at the time. If part of the mind remains aware while in a controlled state of unconsciousness like general anesthesia, we should expect memory revivification to be possible in other types of drug-induced amnesia.
Close to 75 percent of rapists and sexual offenders are friends, family members or partners of the victim. Most acts are premeditated and occur behind closed doors as an attempt from the perpetrator at gaining control. Perpetrators are trained manipulators, who convince themselves and others that they are never at fault for their actions.
Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault (DFSA) is a criminal act punishable by up to 20 years of imprisonment and fines for intent to commit a crime of violence by distributing controlled substances to another individual without their knowledge (Drug-Induced Rape Prevention and Punishment Act of 1996).
About the Author
Genvièv Martin-Bernard, President of the Oregon Hypnotherapy Association, is Board Certified and a Certified Instructor with the NGH, a Valedictorian from the Ivy League Sorbonne University of Paris, and an Emergency Medicine First Responder with the Wilderness Medicine Institute. She has decades of experience researching, practicing, and teaching the concepts and applications of working with brain plasticity and forensic hypnosis in the U.S. and overseas. With specialized training in forensic discovery, and years of expertise in the legal field, she acted as a communication liaison in complex and critical situations, including duties for the Department of Homeland Security and the US Court System.
The niece of Bernard de Gaulle, nephew of General Charles de Gaulle, President of France, and Leader of the Resistance Forces during WWII, she comes from a long family tradition of national and international defense. The support, morale and wellness of troops, law enforcement and government officials are at the core of her personal and professional values.
According to Senior Special Agent John Kilnapp of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, forensic hypnosis may be the only way to recover the details of a traumatic event crime victims blocked out of their mind. Neuroscientists studying electroencephalograms of the alpha and theta brain cycles experienced during hypnosis, explain the deep, attentive physical, mental and emotional relaxation characteristic of this state produces a significant increase in endorphin levels, our body’s natural opiate system, as well as in dopamine and norepinephrine levels, enhancing our focus and attention.
This creates an ideal state for synthetic thought and creativity, functions of the right brain hemisphere, placing us in an optimal condition to learn new information, remember facts and data, memorize new languages and analyze complex situations. Helping witnesses and victims enhance their clarity of mind, enables us to revisit their recall, thereby providing law enforcement officials with vital information and leads.
When conducted properly, forensic hypnosis can be an important element in the preparation and outcome of a trial.