Memories

Sometimes people ask me, “How did you know that there was something you forgot?”  On a conscious level, I didn’t.  But something seemed wrong.  I was so anxious and so sick, and no doctor could determine the cause.  I also found that there were huge gaps in my childhood memories.  I used to tell people in my family that I didn’t remember my childhood.  I specifically told my father that I had no memories of ever living with him.  He just shrugged it off, changing the subject very quickly.  Now I understand why.

My first memory came in November of 2009.  It was a rape by a friend of my father.  I was 9 years old.  Over time, I was able to remember everything about it.  I remembered the house where I was staying that night.  I remembered his wife trying to calm me down afterward.  I remembered being picked up by my parents later that night.  I remembered attempting to tell my mother, and how horrible I felt when she didn’t help me.  I remembered the severe pain of a urinary tract infection, and I remembered being taken to the doctor by a friend’s mother.  I remembered that the doctor called the police.  What I don’t remember is how my parents’ squirmed their way out of that one.  I was probably not present for that discussion.

That first memory didn’t make a lot of sense to me.  I had so many questions.  Why was I at this neighbor’s house?  Why did he do this to me?  Why did my mother refuse to help me?  Why didn’t my parents try to prosecute this guy for what he did to me?  Since then, I have had hundreds of memories.  The first memories just added to the confusion.  Was I the most unlucky girl on the face of the earth?  How could I have been randomly raped by so many people?  I kept coming back to the same devastating belief system: that somehow this was my fault.

But after a period of time, the memories started to fill in the puzzle pieces, and answer the questions about how my past fit together.  I now understand that my father and his friends used to trade their children under the guise of a babysitting cooperative.  This is why I always seemed to be sleeping in random unfamiliar houses when I was raped.  Sometimes, I was sold to pay for services like babysitting or swim lessons.  Sometimes, I was sold to random groups of men as party entertainment, so that my father could make extra money.

The memories don’t come in chronological order or anything that seems logical at first.  The memories seem to come in thematic groups that are triggered by a shift in my own perception.  When I was ready to trust myself, I recovered my first memories.  When I was confident enough to let go of the perfect family image I had created, I remembered the memories that linked my parents to the rapes.  When I started to understand my relationship to money, I retrieved memories that tied these activities to trafficking.  Most importantly, when I was ready to stop blaming myself, I recovered the memories showing the perpetrators’ constant attempts to make it my fault.  I am not fooling myself.  I don’t believe I have recovered every memory.  I know there are more to come.  But where I used to dread them, I now invite them.  I like having the additional information about my past.  I particularly like the healing that comes with it.

As I write this post about my own repressed memories, I understand the controversy surrounding them.  There are plenty of people that fervently believe they are not real.  There is an entire organization devoted to the promotion of “False Memory Syndrome”.  Therapists have been blamed and even sued for coercing memories out of clients.  I do not understand the mentality of the passionate “False Memory Syndrome” advocates.  It reminds me of those who claim we should not believe women when they claim they have been raped because 2% are lying.  Why would we withhold justice for thousands of women because 2% are lying?

I understand that it may be scary.  If we admit that repressed memories are real, then we have to admit that there may be something we don’t remember.  It takes a strong person to admit that there may be something about their own life that they don’t understand.  Open-mindedness takes courage.  Courage brings healing.  And more than anything, we need healing.

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9 thoughts on “Memories

  1. Wow. Elizabeth. I have started to read your blog and I am just…stunned. I had no idea you went through this (obviously) and I just disgusted at people who would do this to children and full of sorrow for the victims and enveloped in awe and respect for your strength. You are remarkable.

    I will keep reading, but I am currently wondering…what happened to your parents?

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    • Thanks Kelly. At this point, nothing has happened. They deny everything. They are still living in their world, and I am living in mine. I don’t think I have to tell you which one is based on reality.

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  2. Pingback: Suddenly I See | Trafficked

  3. This is interesting! I’ve been told that repressed memories don’t actually exist as well, and I have to say I was shocked the first time I heard it. I grew up believing I had repressed memories, without knowing what they were or why they were repressed. To this day, I feel like my memory is much worse than the average person’s memory, and I’ve come to link it to excess cortisol and trauma, but I haven’t recovered any memories that would make that make sense to me, and I’m not sure I ever will. I do believe that repressed memories exist, though, and I have to wonder why the existence of them is so fervently denied.

    Of course, the idea of false memories does make sense as well and seem as though it could be a possibility at times. You’re right, though–the possibility of lies or false memories does not mean that all of those who recover false memories should be doubted. That is terrible.

    I’m curious: have you ever gotten in touch with the children of the friends who took part in the “babysitting cooperative”? Those who were also sold/used?

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    • Thank you for your comment. There have been several conversations with others that confirm some of my repressed memories, but unfortunately, I am not the only one who chose to forget. It is a process for sure. If you think you have repressed memories, meditation and requests to the universe / God / your higher self can be helpful in bringing them forward. I do recommend that you have a therapist before you begin that process though.

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  4. Elizabeth, I am speechless and overwhelmed by your struggles. Growing up in the military, it always felt as though we had an extra layer of protection. Abusers know no boundaries or respect them. I cannot express enough my admiration for your strength in facing your past and not allowing it to destroy you. I am a strong believer in having control of our lives. Our choices define us. You are a remarkable person who is standing up for others. Love you Elizabeth!

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  5. I believe you. My own experience with forgetting is so minor by comparison – I went to a small college 3000 miles away from home and was so bitterly homesick and depressed and unhappy that I realized, years later, that I had forgotten whole chunks of my experience there – professors’ names, the name of the building where I took all my science classes, the names of hallmates, the layout of the land, everything. It was a shock to realize I had forgotten everything because my memory of my childhood (happy) was very sharp up until that point. The advent of facebook and the presence of all the people at that college who remembered me even 20 years later was a bit of a shock. I had forgotten many of them, but I was remembered. So, I believe you.

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    • Thank you so much. I have heard similar stories from people who had otherwise happy childhoods. I think memory repression can often apply to one event, one period of time, or like me, an entire childhood.

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