For many survivors of childhood sexual abuse, it is extremely difficult to accept “yes, my abuse really did happen.” We spend our lives shoving it down deep inside of us; keeping it from our conscious minds, and then when we remember, or memories of the abuse come flooding back into our conscious minds we do not want to believe it is true.
When my repressed memories starting re-surfacing, I began having symptoms of shock. I was shaking and became extremely cold. I was quite eager to see my therapist—hoping he’d tell me it wasn’t true. However, my case was one of incest, and it may have been more difficult for me to accept because it was my father who sexually abused me. He had already passed away by the time I remembered the abuse. I thought, “if this is not true; I will mar the memory of him to everyone.” He was highly respected in his field of work, and most people thought highly of him. I would never forgive myself if I was wrong. My struggle with whether it was true, or not was very short lived. Once I had one memory resurface; it was a brief time until I was bombarded with many memories of him abusing me. Both parents were abusive to me, but my mother was not sexually abusive to me. The physical, mental abuse, and neglect I had remembered all along.
Knowing my abuse happened was one of the more difficult things to overcome in my healing and recovery. Suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder, I had two very distinct relationships with my father. Dot (the little girl within me) was the one that took the abuse, and Dottie was the one with the “normal” relationship with her father. Dottie loved her father very much and was totally devastated at his death. If I had only remembered then what he had done to me; I could have saved myself from much grief. He had been dead almost twenty years when my abuse re-surfaced.
Healing and recovery cannot begin until you take the step and accept your abuse was real and it did happen to you. Painful as it can be, you must go through the abuse with your trusted therapist giving you guidance and support. You then have the opportunity to see things from an adult perspective (feeling totally safe) and deal with it as an adult. At times, I wondered if I would not have been better off had I not remembered the abuse at all. But, I can now say I am thankful for that healing experience. My therapist helped me through some really difficult feelings I experienced as I journeyed through it. There was one particular incident that was imperative for me to recall, but I would only see a glimpse of it. I knew it was important because I kept seeing an old pump house in my minds’ eye and knew there was a horrid event attached to it. I was terrified to remember, but at the same time, I knew it had to come out. My therapist used EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy to uncover the deeply repressed memory.
The EMDR therapy was difficult, but I had my therapist with me and had his reassurance that I was safe and nothing would happen to me. The therapist using EMDR therapy has you to follow an object with your eyes as he moves it from side to side. Then he asked about the memory you are trying to recall. It was as if he flipped a switch on—I could even recall things such as temperature, the sun shining, even background noise, and emotional feelings. My suppressed memory was a death experience I had at the hand of my abuser that I couldn’t recall. EMDR therapy is often used with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is used for victims that experience extreme trauma (i.e. Vietnam vets, victims from the Oklahoma federal building bombing, etc).
Once you know and have gone through your abuse with your counselor, real healing can begin. Your therapist can help you to correct all the lies you were taught to believe, and to know it was NOT your fault. Therapists can help with dirt-low self-esteem issues, the relationships you currently are involved in and whether or not there are healthy boundaries in those relationships.
There is a school of thought that says, “you will continue to recreate abusive relationships in your life in order to try and fix the relationship that was very unhealthy for you.” Somehow, we believe if we can recreate the relationship and make it work that it will correct the abusive relationship—which is not true.