Part 2 – An Important Truth
What happens after these first memories or utterances come up?
Little do us victims know as much as we try not to face it ourselves, the truth will eventually find its way out—often many more years later as we continue to wrestle it back down as far as we can. But, the truth WILL come out: to our health or to our demise. It is when we refuse to let the truth of what happened to us come out in a healthy way (with the guidance of a professional counselor) that the darkness will wield its further damaging effects on us: Fits of rage or anger, under-achievement, over-achievement, over-eating, anorexia, promiscuity, frigidity, health ailments, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, excessive fears, excessive drug or alcohol use or addiction, sleep disorders, marriage problems (especially when our child reaches the age we were when we were sexually
The effects of sexual abuse/assault on its victims are many and those effects will continue to wreak havoc on our lives as long as we don’t get the help we need.
Why would someone who has been sexually abused/assaulted remember some things but not others?
I’m going to answer this one with a couple of questions. Do you remember where you were when you heard the news about the attacks on September 11, 2001? Think about or write down everything you remember about the moment you heard the news. Be as detailed as you can. Now that you recall all that, please also detail what you had for either lunch or dinner that same day? Again, be as detailed as you can. Please detail what you did the day before, on September 10, 2001? Please detail what you did the day after, on September 12, 2001? Were you consuming any alcohol (that may have affected your memory) when you heard the news of the attacks on 9/11? I asked five people these same questions. Every single person gave very vivid and detailed memories of what they were doing when they heard the traumatic news. They quickly and easily recalled who they were with, described the room they were in, as well as what they were doing or what was actually happening at the moment when “trauma” suddenly struck their ears. Yet, most everyone I asked could not tell me anything definitive they did surrounding the time they heard the news. Can you imagine how much more traumatic it would be to have someone abuse your physical, sexual, and personal being? Trauma (and in this case traumatic news) seems to have a way of “imprinting” very specific details the moment trauma hits us. Yet, we cannot recall much, if anything at all, surrounding that moment of trauma. Please know this, there is absolutely no reason to ever doubt someone’s memory of sexual abuse/assault simply because they cannot recall the surrounding details beyond the traumatic detail of the abuse. Years after I entered counseling and came to the point where I needed to confront my abuser, one of the first questions I asked my abuser was, “How and when did it stop?” I asked, because I could not remember these details and many other details surrounding the abuse. However, sexual abuse/assault survivors do not forget the vivid details in the moments of the abuse we endured. Unfortunately, we will never forget.
Trauma seems to “imprint” very detailed memories of the exact moment the trauma occurs; but, fails to help us remember anything surrounding those details.
How do you know all of this?
I am certainly not an expert on sexual abuse/assault nor have I been trained in any kind of counseling or psychology, but I do know something about this. I am a survivor of repeated sexual abuse from age 13 through either age 14 or 15. I am also a survivor of a one-time sexual assault in college at age 20. I did both individual and group counseling for several years to specifically address the long-term effects of the sexual abuse, as well as the residual effects from my telling others the truth of what happened to me. I was the youngest person in my “survivor counseling group.” Every other woman in the group was in her 40-50s, all with struggling marriages or divorces, and many who ended up in counseling because they began acting out when their children (especially their daughters) became the age they were when they were abused. I’ve also, through the years, read books on the subject, and met women who shared their story with me. We all had different lives, yet many of our stories were similar: we buried it for years; it affected each of us in a multitude of ways; parts of our memories were vivid, others vague; many of us acted out in some ways, and all of us were struggling in our lives or relationships. We all were plagued by a darkness that was not our own and we couldn’t make sense of what happened to us.
Other people simply don’t want to believe that someone they know or love did such a horrendous and dark act. It is far easier for people to see the victim as a liar, to laugh at us, or force us to stop talking about it so that no one has to do the hard work themselves and deal with the real issue at hand: what to do about the fact that someone they know or love has done such a horrible thing?