Barrett and Trepper, in an article in the Family Therapy Networker (now the Psychotherapy Networker) in 1992, pointed out that families have multiple layers of denial, which often come out in the same order. As one breaks through each of these resistances, the next one pops up in its place.
The presence of these many stages of denial is not a reason to avoid attempting to metacommunicate. The presence of multiple resistances represents multiple problems to be solved, not multiple reasons for giving up. [....]
Barrett and Trepper’s predictable stages of denial are as follows:
1. Denial of facts (“it never happened; you’re a liar!”), followed by:
2. Denial of awareness (“I was drunk,” or “I didn’t realize I was neglecting you; you should have told me”), followed by:
3. Denial of responsibility (“You were the one who was seductive,” or “If your mother didn’t deny me, I wouldn’t have to have turned to you.”) and finally:
4. Denial of impact (“It only happened a few times,” or “It was only fondling,” or “OK, so I beat you. Why do you always have to dwell on the past? You’re just too sensitive; get over it!”).
...Yep, I've seen all of that.
The way of my people is to skip stage 1 and go straight to stage 2: "I don't remember." Neat, effective, keeps you arguing about whether or not they remember rather than focusing on the issue at hand. It also puts the power in their court because they can disremember anything inconvenient for as long as they like.
Someone online came up with a great reply: "I do remember, so we'll have to go by my memories." I haven't had a chance to use it, but my prediction is that when the power abruptly shifts to the other person's court, the person in denial will find their amnesia miraculously cured.