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Transfer Memories from Victim to Surrogate Victim--Could Court Evolve?:

 1 Kilyle, Mon, 21st Mar '11 5:43:05 AM from Procrastinationville Relationship Status: Yes, I'm alone, but I'm alone and free
Field Primus
Hoping to get some constructive criticism here on the angles I'm not seeing. Please pause to consider the implications of this plot bunny before you make a hurried answer (I already got the hurried "this'd never work" from a friend, so consider "what if it would work, what would this change?").

Plot Bunny

A psychic has the power to transfer memories from trauma victims into his own head. He uses this to compare their memories and track down serial assailants.

Details

Consider a world much like our own, except one guy has the power to transfer memories from the heads of other people into his own. It's not an easy power; these are the boundaries I've decided on so far:

  • He picks a subject, talks through the procedure with them, susses out whether they're up for it or not.
  • They lie down, with physical contact (e.g., holding hands, though I was thinking more psychic's hands to subject's head), and trance.
  • Psychic can't force memories, but guides the subject into dredging up the right stuff; subject relives the memories in vivid detail.
  • Memory contains only what is in the subject's brain, and often lacks detail, based on what was sensed at the time, how much detail was stored long-term, and how much has degraded or been lost over time.
    • It's all filtered through the senses and perceptions of the subject. This may mean that some false memory stuff can filter through, but the psychic is usually good at picking up on this, like a photoshopped image.
  • Psychic forms an index of the main memory and all the little details stored elsewhere or connected to other spots.
  • When the index is completed, the psychic uses it to move the memory completely into his own head. The patient forgets it permanently.
  • Psychic awakens drained and potentially traumatized.

Note: It should be possible to use this power to guide people through vivid recollections of their memories without the transfer procedure, but this isn't the psychic's primary use. He wants to help trauma patients forget - I mean, the ones who are so bad off that they can't work through it on their own - and also to compare and contrast memories to track down serial rapists and the like.

Questions

1. How would this change the American court scene, over time, to allow for it to be useful in legal matters?

I mean, right now, you have the right to face your accuser, for one; if your victim no longer remembers you, but this other guy who couldn't possibly have been your victim does, how does that all work out then?

And can a surrogate witness actually be worked into the law? How would juries take it? I mean, imagine an old man, under oath, testifying of the defendant that "He put his hands on my breasts; then he reached between my legs with one hand and..." etc.

Imagine it possible, and help me understand the ramifications.

2. What would be the psychological toll of a psychic accumulating dozens or hundreds of memories of sexual assault and even torture?

I mean, he could easily gather up more than a lifetime's memories. And he'd be having flashbacks of pain in physical parts he doesn't even have. How long could this go on without him going nuts?

What sort of trauma-based personal tics might he develop?

3. What sort of person would he have to be to use his powers like this to begin with?

I rather assume that he'd do his utmost to avoid additional exposure to violence. No scary movies and whatnot. Or am I going the wrong way there? Maybe he'd watch whole marathons, trying to help him deal with what's real inside him by watching what's unreal and outside him.

4. What sort of clients would seek him out?

Or would he be the one seeking them out, primarily?

How does this even come across to, say, the mother of a nine-year-old victim? "I know your daughter got assaulted, and I'd like to walk her through those memories in vivid detail before pulling them into my head, along with any associated memories. Assuming she's strong and brave enough to get through this, she's gonna have major gaps in her memories for life, but that's better than hanging onto this, right? Oh, and it might possibly help me catch the guy who did it."

I mean, I can kinda see scenes of this, here and there, but I'm sketchy on how it all comes together.

Which is why I'm here.
Only the curious have, if they live, a tale worth telling at all.
 2 Ralph Crown, Mon, 21st Mar '11 8:00:16 AM from Next Door to Nowhere
Short Hair
1. How would this change the American court scene, over time, to allow for it to be useful in legal matters?

I mean, right now, you have the right to face your accuser, for one; if your victim no longer remembers you, but this other guy who couldn't possibly have been your victim does, how does that all work out then?

That's true, you have the right to face your accuser. If the victim doesn't remember the crime, s/he can't testify, having nothing to testify about. The psychic's testimony would be a highly suspect form of hearsay. The defense could easily get such evidence thrown out. The real drama would be in a hearing where the prosecution attempted to get such evidence admitted.

But assuming science could back up the process, the psychic would become a surrogate witness. Maybe the victim's memories would be treated as a deathbed confession of sorts, since those memories would no longer be accessible to the victim and thus couldn't be presented in court.

2. What would be the psychological toll of a psychic accumulating dozens or hundreds of memories of sexual assault and even torture?

He would have to compartmentalize them somehow or go insane. He might even develop multiple personalities—which he'd have to be able to call up at will in court. So he'd need a hypnotist (or another psychic) who could help him file away those memories and recall them.

That said, his subconscious would give him nightmares every night. He'd always be sleep deprived. He could develop aversions to almost anything, especially being touched—he might wear gloves and/or a mask to avoid contact.

3. What sort of person would he have to be to use his powers like this to begin with?

I rather assume that he'd do his utmost to avoid additional exposure to violence. No scary movies and whatnot. Or am I going the wrong way there? Maybe he'd watch whole marathons, trying to help him deal with what's real inside him by watching what's unreal and outside him.

Take it a step further. To exorcise his borrowed demons, he re-enacts the traumas that he absorbs. After he treats a rape victim, he has to track down and rape a similar victim in a similar way. Or, to cancel out the trauma, he tracks down the rapist and metes out punishment.

4. What sort of clients would seek him out? Or would he be the one seeking them out, primarily?

Suppose you had this power. You wouldn't want to set up a streetfront shop, where anyone and everyone could come to you. You'd burn out inside a week. You'd be hard to find, or you'd charge an outrageous fee, so that you could keep the clientele down to a manageable level. Or you'd go to them, on your schedule and on your terms. Maybe you have a sort of empathy, so that you can sense trauma, particularly the level of trauma, inside people nearby.

So, we've got a shadowy figure who shows up unannounced, face and hands hidden, to counsel rape victims. After he's gone, the victim doesn't remember the rape and may not remember his visit either. He may be a serial rapist or a serial killer. I think the DA would be more interested in making him a defendant than a witness.

Edit—once the victim loses his/her memories of the crime, s/he is no longer able to help the police find the perpetrator.

edited 21st Mar '11 8:21:31 AM by RalphCrown

Under World. It rocks!
 3 Kilyle, Sun, 27th Mar '11 3:12:17 AM from Procrastinationville Relationship Status: Yes, I'm alone, but I'm alone and free
Field Primus
Yeah, making the psychic into a rapist goes in a whole different direction from where I hoped to go with this, so that's out. I suppose it's useful that it got brought up, though.

Is there a reason you think being touched would be an especially strong aversion? I didn't plan on his powers being activated without that meditative trance he goes into. Not like "I brushed your skin and now I know what you went through" stuff.

Though the idea of a guy who maintains distance from human contact is very interesting to me. It also makes me think about how much we need normal human contact to keep from going insane, and make me think he probably has some ritualistic ways to get regular touch, such as going to a massage parlor weekly. Or perhaps he just has a significant other, or intimate (non-sexual) friend, who gives him regular human touch.

I do think that he's picking clients on his own terms, yes. In fact, one of the ways I cast the early idea for plot was that it starts when a victim's mother seeks him out, and he tries to explain why he doesn't run around just "healing" every possible victim.

For one, if the victim isn't strong enough to bear through the entire procedure, he can't complete the mind-wipe, and thus they've been re-traumatized for nothing. And he's been traumatized on top of that. So he assesses their courage and mental stamina as part of the early vetting process.

Might have some unusual way to do that. One of those quirky "why did he do that?" things. Hmm.

Oh, and he's got a team that works with him, or at least one person, who tends to meet with the potential clients and figure out which ones to recommend. I'd considered having the helper guy be somehow hurt or out of the way, and having a replacement be the eyes through which we meet this guy (he's learning all the little rituals the guy has to go through to stay sane).

Also, that the victim does not remember the trauma doesn't mean that their family members don't remember being sideline to it. And I'd envisioned this scenario as an intro to his skills:

  • A man is being tried for rape of a close family friend. The "victim" is trying to testify on his behalf ("he never touched me! he wouldn't do that sort of thing!") but is blocked by the legal system. When she gets a chance to see our hero face-to-face, she assaults him for trying to destroy her beloved Uncle Charlie. All this because she completely doesn't remember what happened.

And lastly, the scientific proof got worked out a decade or more ago: This guy can walk through your brain and take info that later even your brain doesn't remember (as brain scans attest), and info that there's absolutely no way he could know if this didn't work as he says.

There are certainly people who are nervous about his abilities. Probably even people who protest him or try to harm him. And his testimony may not be admissible everywhere in the U.S., possibly only in a couple states. (Assuming we're talking the U.S. to begin with.)

edited 27th Mar '11 3:15:05 AM by Kilyle

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