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Archive for November, 2010

In my blog entry yesterday, I kicked off the topic of whether it is possible for a child abuser to “forget” or repress memories of abusing a child. My mother is a person who does not appear to have any conscious memories of having been an abuser or of delivering her own children to a group of ritual abusers. However, I have no question that she carries memories of the abuse at least at a subconscious level.

I wrote about one incident here. I (through an alter part) confronted my mother when I was in graduate school about the sexual abuse. I yelled at her, “You already f@#$ed me as a child. You are not going to f@#$ me as an adult!!!!” Her response was to hang up on me, get out a gun, and strongly contemplate killing herself. That does not sound like a woman with no memory of what she did. If she truly had no memory on any level of what she did, her reaction would have been very different.

Here is another example: During the summer after I graduated high school (after my mother’s sanity snapped from my father’s sudden death), my mother broke down crying at the breakfast table and told me that my 15-year-old sister had been raped a few months ago. Here was the story she told me: My sister and her best friend were at a male friend’s house. He tickled both of them and chased them into the bedroom. He tied them both up to the bed. He raped one while the other was forced to watch. Then, he did the same to the other one. She begged me not to tell my sister and told me that she was getting my sister help.

Several years later, I asked my sister about this incident, and she swore up and down that it never happened. My sister pointed out that both she and her friend were the size of adults and that the friend was a black belt in Judo. A man would have a difficult time restraining both of them without a weapon.

My world was turned on its ear. My mother had provided me with a very detailed accounting and was crying when she told me (something she rarely did). Then, when I recovered a flashback, it all made sense. I wrote about the incident in detail here. Here is a summary of what I recovered in the flashback:

I was three years old the first time my mother performed oral sex on my baby sister in front of me. She took us to the basement and tied us to chairs with my father’s ties. First, she performed oral sex on me while my sister watched. Then, she forced me to watch her do the same to my sister.

Sound familiar?

My therapist strongly suspects that my mother has schizophrenia based on the symptoms I have shared with him. I am also pretty certain that she suffers at the very least from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from child abuse that she has shared with me that she recovered through flashbacks. I don’t know what information she retains in her daily memory about the horrors she inflicted, but I know the truth is in her head based on these incidents as well as others I won’t go into here.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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On my blog entry entitled Remembering Sexual Abuse Incidents but Not the Rapes, readers posted the following comments:

Is is possible for an abuser to forget the abuse that he or she did, or to forget the abuse that he or she enabled? I know the victim can forget – can the abuser(s)? ~ Lilo

So can an abuser have ‘forgotten’ or is he/she manipulating people in believing that (s)he is completely innocent (and we, the victims consequently crazy) and is (s)he just lying/denying all the way? ~ Chloe

This is a topic that continues to haunt me as well because I am in the same boat. I truly do not believe that my mother/abuser carries a conscious memory of the abuse that she inflicted upon my sister and me, but I know that she carries memories of it in her subconscious mind. I will get into that in tomorrow’s blog entry.

Before proceeding with this topic, let me add my therapist’s warning – He told me that I need to stay out of my abuser’s head. He said that, regardless of what was going on in her head, her actions hurt me. So, whether or not my mother/abuser consciously remembers the abuses that she inflicted does not change the damage done to me. Her mindset has no bearing on the wounds inflicted or my right to heal.

While I understand where my therapist is coming from, I think it is completely human and understandable to want to know the answer to this question. This woman turned my childhood into a living hell. Could she possibly be walking around in her day-to-day life with no memory of the damage she did for decades? If she does remember, she is a d@#$ good liar. If she doesn’t remember, then why in the h@#$ did she put me through it in the first place? What was the point? Either way, it makes no sense.

The other reason I think we child abuse survivors feel a need to know is because we question our own sanity when we recover very detailed memories of abuse that are denied. When we know that we were harmed in a very specific way with very specific details, it makes us feel “crazy” when our abusers can look us straight in the eye and flatly deny that it happened. That sets us up for an “either you are crazy or I am” dynamic, and our abusers are perfectly happy to let us believe that we are the crazy ones. I guess that is why my therapist cautions me against “going there” at all.

Today is just an introduction to the topic. Tomorrow, I will share my “evidence” that my mother/abuser has memories of committing the abuse (at least at a subconscious level). Then, I will share some of my theories in answer to this question on Wednesday.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Today I am going to talk about a topic that will most likely only appeal to those of you who are further along in healing. When I first heard about this topic when I was early into my healing journey, I rejected it outright. However, I have come to appreciate the wisdom of this topic, which is why I am writing about it today. If you are not ready to hear this message today, just let it go, but tuck it into the back of your mind for the future.

Early into my healing journey, I heard people say that it is not the child abuse itself that causes the emotional damage but, instead, our reaction to the abuse. Specifically, it is the lies we embrace after experiencing the abuse that causes the problems. If you are reacting strongly in a negative way to this idea, I understand … I was once there myself. Bear with me for minute, though.

When a child is abused, the child internalizes numerous beliefs that are lies. Here were some of mine:

  • I am fundamentally unloveable.
  • I cannot trust anyone.
  • The world is completely unsafe.
  • Who I am is not good enough.
  • I am fundamentally f@#$ed in the head.
  • If anyone saw the real me, he would run from the room screaming.
  • I am worthless.

These beliefs were my reaction to being a victim of child abuse. I have come to recognize that it was my choice to continue believing these lies that caused the emotional damage long after my body was safe.

Why does this distinction even matter? Because what I can choose, I can also “unchoose.” If my belief in lies is what is causing my pain, then my choice to embrace the truth has the power to relieve my pain.

Contrast this view with what I initially believed – that the pain was caused by having experienced the child abuse itself. If it is true that having experienced child abuse condemns a person to a lifetime of misery, then I am destined to be miserable for the rest of my life. It is not possible for me to go back in time and stop the abuse from happening. So, if experiencing child abuse means being in pain forever, then there is no hope for me to heal.

However, if the cause of my pain is actually from the lies I have embraced in reaction to being abused as a child, then I can choose to fight the lies with the truth and ease my misery. I can dismantle the lies, replace them with the truth, and live the rest of my life free from the pain of having been abused as a child. My history will not change, but my reaction to my history will do a complete 180.

I think this theory also explains why different people can experience the same abuses but react differently. Each child buys into his own set of lies. Some of the lies are common among child abuse survivors (guilt, shame, etc.) while others are unique to the individual. This could also explain why different healing tools work to varying degrees with different child abuse survivors – You need to figure out which healing tools will be most effective in helping you dismantle the lies that you have carried over from childhood.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Thankful for All of You

In honor of Thanksgiving, I would like to take a break from the intense topics we have been exploring this week and focus on being thankful. I have a friend who writes down what she is thankful for every Thanksgiving, so I thought I would do the same here. Feel free to tell me what you are thankful for in the comments.

Here are some things that I am thankful for this Thanksgiving:

  • My child – I spent many years not knowing if I would ever be a mother.
  • My husband – He is a good provider and loves me, even though the person I am today barely resembles the wounded girl he married two decades ago.
  • My sister – What would I do without my fellow foxhole dweller? I don’t think I would have survived my childhood without her.
  • My friends – I have built my own family of women who are as close to me as sisters. I am so blessed to have a group of women who would do just about anything for me, as I would for them.
  • My job – I am blessed to have a flexible, part-time, from home job that provides me with income to travel and “play” and gives me the opportunity to use my mind. It is also a rewarding job where I feel like I am making a difference in the world.
  • My Internet access – Okay, okay. I admit it – I am a complete computer geek and junkie. The Internet has enriched my life, bringing me into contact with fellow child abuse survivors, fellow adoptive mothers, and other groups of people that I would never have met otherwise. I cannot imagine what my life would be like without the enrichment I experience from knowing all of you!
  • My life – I really have a great life. Those of you who have read my story might marvel at me saying this, but I feel so incredibly blessed to have lived the life that I have. I have overcome numerous obstacles and thrived.
  • My dogs – I adopted a couple of retired racing greyhounds a few years ago, and they are such a great addition to our family. They are very low maintenance. They just want to lie at my feet while I write on my computer, and they love to go for long walks with me in the pretty weather.
  • My relationship with God – I don’t know where I would be without my faith.
  • And last but definitely not least … My relationship with all of you!! – Even though I have never met any of you face-to-face, you know me in ways that many people in my day-to-day life do not, and I have gotten to know many of you well. I am so blessed by your comments, your emails, and your advice. I am blessed that you take time out of your busy day to read my blog. All of you are such a blessing to me, and I am truly thankful that you are a part of my life.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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*** sexual abuse and hymen triggers**

I have received some questions about the hymen bleeding after the first consensual intercourse when the person recovers memories of childhood rapes. I did not know that this could happen, either. The memories I dissociated the hardest were the vaginal rapes. I wanted to believe that they had never happened, and I truly believed (through my host personality) that I was a virgin until my husband. I held onto experiencing bleeding (albeit light bleeding) after our first sexual experience as my “proof” that my self-told lie was correct.

Chrystine Oksana’s book Safe Passage to Healing is the book that shook me free from the lies. I read this passage and experienced a sickening awareness that I had, in fact, been vaginally raped:

Some survivors are baffled by memories of repeated rapes, yet they also remember bleeding during their first conscious experience of intercourse. This would seem to imply that their hymen had not been broken. Like other genital tissue, hymens can heal and regenerate very quickly. While they may not return to their original intact shape, the regenerated hymen and scar tissue may bleed after a period of sexual inactivity. ~ Safe Passage to Healing, p. 76

I have frequently heard references to bleeding after your first experience with intercourse, but people generally do not talk about the quantity of blood. My memory of my first rape involves blood, but I don’t have a good feel for how much bleeding was involved. I was too young to have a period and, therefore, had no experience with vaginal bleeding, so I have no measure of how much bleeding is to be expected after an intact hymen is broken.

My last memory of being raped in childhood was when I was around age 12 or 13. My body was still growing, and I wonder how much that factors into how well the hymen regenerates. My next sexual experience involving that part of my body was being “fingered” at age 18, and I did experience a little bleeding then. I would call it “staining” – enough to wipe with toilet paper but not need a pad. I don’t know if bleeding after “being fingered” is normal or not.

My next rape was at age 19 by an ex-boyfriend. After that incident, I had enough bleeding that I thought my period was starting early. (I immediately dissociated the rape – an alter part experienced the rape.) Again, it was more “staining” than a flow.

Finally, I had intercourse by choice for the first time at age 23, which would be four years after the last rape. Once again, I experienced very light staining. I think it involved two wipes with toilet paper and that was it.

I apologize if I am providing too much information, but I thought my experiences might be helpful to those of you who are wrestling with blood flow after rape and consensual sex. To this day, I have no idea what quantity of blood is considered normal for the person whose first intercourse experience is consensual.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Remember in the 1990’s when recovering repressed memories was all the rage? Then, right on the heels of this came the propaganda that any memory that you have not always had in your conscious memory is suspect. Talk shows covered false memory syndrome, accused therapists of planting memories of abuse, etc. I don’t think society ever recovered from this, and now many people completely discount any memory that a person has not always held in his conscious memory bank.

I periodically receive emails from people questioning the veracity of my story because I had no memory of it until my late thirties, accusing me of everything from false memory syndrome to being psychotic. My response is always, “Then why have I improved through therapy?” They have no answer for this.

What kills me is that the same people who discount my recovered memories don’t think a thing of a soldier who has repressed the memory of his buddy being blown to bits in front of him. The only difference between his experience and mine is that other people can vouch for a battle having taken place whereas my abuse took place in secrecy. Without a witness, these people believe that my abuse couldn’t possibly have happened.

I know a little boy who survived a car crash that killed his mother when he was five years old. His mother died on impact, and he was stuck in his car seat for hours until somebody found the wrecked car. The little boy had no memory of the car crash the next day, and nobody questioned his sanity. Nobody said that the car crash couldn’t have happened or that he was psychotic because he has “blocked out” the memory of this traumatizing event. In fact, most people’s reactions were that blocking out the memory was “normal” and that it was a “blessing” that he did not remember sitting in a car for hours with his dead mother.

Being abused is equally as traumatizing, and yet when the child does the same exact thing (“blocks out” the memory), people assume that the child must retain a working memory of the trauma for it to have happened. This five-year-old child will likely start having flashbacks when he is an adult as he processes the trauma, and nobody will accuse him of being psychotic, having false memory syndrome, or making it all up. However, a child abuse survivor processing trauma in the same way will be questioned because the memory was not always held in conscious awareness. Why is that?

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I recently wrote a blog entry entitled Is it Possible to Have Been Raped as a Girl and Not Remember?. After this blog entry published, I received emails from readers asking me to discuss this topic further. This is my first installment. If you have specific questions or issues you would like for me to cover, please email them to me or post them in the comments to this blog entry. You can find my email address on the About Faith Allen page. I will not use your name unless you ask me to.

One reader wants to know more about the situation of remembering some sexual abuse incidents but repressing the memories of the rapes. This was my situation for about a year. I first entered into therapy after I began recovering memories of being sexually abused by my mother. (Before this, I had no memories whatsoever of sexual abuse.) As I dealt with those memories, more memories surfaced of other forms of sexual abuse, but none of them involved vaginal rape. I kept telling myself that I could handle the memories as long as I was never vaginally raped. As I continued to heal, I reached a place when I had to face that this, too, had been taken from me. It was incredibly painful, but I needed to remember to heal.

Why did I remember multiple other incidents of sexual abuse but not the rapes? My guess is that I found the vaginal rapes to be the most traumatizing. Different people are going to have different memories that they consider to be the “worst of the worst.” For me, it was vaginal rapes. For my sister, it was animal rape. For others, it is mother-daughter sexual abuse or other forms of abuse. I think we often save for last the memory that we fear will break us. We ease ourselves into remembering the worst.

I have talked with child abuse survivors who have always remembered some forms of sexual abuse but not others. My observation has been that those whose sexual abuse began after age six appear to be more likely to remember some of the sexual abuse but might have dissociated the accompanying emotions or some of the more traumatizing incidents.

I know one sexual abuse survivor who remembered being raped hundreds of times by a family member. Because she had these memories, she did not believe that anything had been repressed. She was wrong. Through therapy, as she healed from what she had already remembered but had refused to “feel,” she started recovering memories of other abuses that were even more traumatizing than the memories she had always held. She took this very hard because she thought that what she remembered was hard enough. She felt like she was losing her mind as more memories of even more traumatizing abuses surfaced.

It is normal for people who have endured trauma to repress the memory. It is possible (and common) for child abuse survivors to have memories of some of the abuse but not others.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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