Linda M. Williams

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Linda M. Williams
Born Linda Carol Meyer
Citizenship United States
Fields Sociology, criminology
Institutions University of Massachusetts Lowell
Alma mater University of Pennsylvania

Linda Meyer Williams (born c. 1950)[1] is an American sociologist and criminologist. She is currently Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on child maltreatment, research methods, and gender, race and crime.[2] Williams has researched in the field of psychology on topics including child abuse, family violence and violence against women, and trauma and memory (including recovered memory).


Williams received her B.A. (1971) from Beaver College (now Arcadia University), and her M.A. (1972) and Ph.D. (1979) in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied at the Center for Research in Criminology and Criminal Law.[2]

In the 1980s Williams spent time in Bermuda, working on prison reform and social justice issues while teaching courses in criminology and sociology.[3] From 1996 to 2005 Williams was Director of Research at the Stone Center at Wellesley College, working in the areas of child sexual abuse, rape, sex offenders, fatal child abuse, and memory of childhood trauma. Williams conducted longitudinal studies in some of these areas.[2][4] In 2005 she was appointed Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.[2]

The August 2007 issue of SAGE Journal of Child Maltreatment was co-edited by Williams and Veronica Herrera.[5][6]


Dr. Williams is notable in the field of Memory for her longitudinal studies in the area of violence against women[7] and childhood sexual abuse.[8] A study that has received particular interest is "Recall of childhood trauma: A prospective study of women's memories of child sexual abuse," published in 1994.[9] It has currently been cited 441 times[10] which is considered many in the field of Psychology.

During the 1970s, Linda M. Williams collected data from 206 girls between the ages of 10 and 12 who were admitted to the hospital emergency room because of sexual abuse. They were examined and these records as well as interviews with the child and parents were documented in the hospital medical records. In the early 1990s, William interviewed 136 of these women in what they believed was a follow-up of study associated with the hospital they were admitted to. They were not reminded of the sexual abuse record, however, some women associated the interview with their history of sexual abuse. Of the 136 interviewed, 129 were included in the analysis.

The results showed that 38% of the women failed to report the abuse that was documented in the hospital medical records. It was deemed unlikely that they simply did not want to discuss personal matters as 68% of this group reported other incidents of sexual abuse from their childhood. The conclusion was that many women who have been sexually abused as children have no memory of the abuse. This has major implications on childhood amnesia and repressed memories. A more detailed inspection of the results reveals that only 15 of the women (12%) reported they were never abused in childhood, which is much lower than was initially implied. It was suggested that 12% is an underestimation because the sample was only from reported abuse and not total numbers of sexually abused. Furthermore, because the abuse was reported the women were less likely to have repressed the memory compared to women whose abuse was never reported.

This final conclusion spurred a reply from Loftus, Garry, and Feldman (1994) titled "Forgetting sexual trauma: What does it mean when 38% forget?"[11] and has been a point of discussion in regard to traumatic memories and repression. This research is important because it is still a current issue in the field of Memory. Studies, like this one, help provide evidence to further understand repressed memories.

Achievements and awards[edit]

Dr. Williams has been President for the Board of The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children.[12]

Year Award
2001 Outstanding Service Award, American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (ASPAC) [13]
1994 David Caul Memorial Award, Best Research Study, International Society for the Study of Dissociation [14]

Selected bibliography[edit]


Journal articles[edit]