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Checking up on abuse memories

4:55pm, February 12, 2003

When New Zealand police investigated a man suspected of coercing girls from poor families into engaging in sex acts for money with himself and a circle of male acquaintances, they found some unusually damning evidence. The suspect had a collection of hundreds of photographs and audiotapes of sexual acts between men and girls as young as 8, some of which directly implicated him in arranging the illegal encounters.

Those discoveries, when compared with the testimony of four girls soon after they took part in the so-called sex ring, provide a rare chance to pit memories of childhood sexual abuse against an objective record of what happened. In this case, all of the children offered accurate, detailed, and reliable information, say Sue Bidrose of the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, and Gail S. Goodman of the University of California, Davis.

In police interviews and courtroom hearings, the four girls—ages 8, 13, 14, and 15—described sexual exploitati

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