After writing publicly for more than a year, I received the first blog comment that attempted to deny the truth of my story. I have never received these comments because I am telling the truth and truth is easy to spot. Survivors know it. Clinicians know it. Everyone knows it. And honestly, why would I make this up. Why would I leave my entire extended family, raise my children without any familial support and write for hours each week for no pay? If I wanted attention, there are millions of more pleasant approaches I could take. I am a good writer. I could write a parenting book. And I have always wanted to work on my singing voice. I would love to win a Nobel Peace Prize too. If I wanted revenge, what would I want revenge for? Abuse?
When I first read the comment, I was a little confused. The commenter claimed to have a Ph.D, but they were making uneducated statements. And why would they care enough to take the time to write a comment denying my understanding of my abuse? Why would they care? And if they cared so much, why did they leave an email address that was fake? And why would they make up a name like Georgia England? And why do their comments sound exactly like my own family’s denial of my abuse?
Word for word …
Oh … wait …
Because it IS my family.
I cannot believe that took me longer than five minutes to figure out. I’m a little ashamed.
My next question was more important. What do I do with the comment? If I approve the comment on the ABOUT page, not everyone will have the opportunity to read it. And that is not good. So, I decided to post it here, so that all of my followers could get a close look at the words that incestuous families use to invalidate the abused. My readers can get first-hand knowledge of what perpetrator denial looks like. And this stuff is good.
Here’s the comment:
“There is very little evidence that people ever forget their trauma actually and in fact more often than not what happens is that in intense therapy memories are created.
I am so sorry that you believe this happened to you but as a social worker you need to be aware that the way the brain works is that you would not only remember the trauma but it would dominate your thoughts and feelings and you wouldn’t “forget” something that intense.
It sounds like you did have anxiety and you were clearly were “abused” but it was probably at the hands of an unskilled therapist
Check out the various articles on “repressed memories” http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/scientists-and-practitioners-dont-see-eye-to-eye-on-repressed-memory.html ”
I would like to address these statements, so that the next time you hear them, you can tell that individual to step out of their denial and support the abuse survivor.
First, there is a ton of evidence that people forget their trauma. It is known as dissociative amnesia. WebMD describes dissociative amnesia. And an official government site focusing on Complex PTSD specifically lists traumatic memory loss as a symptom. Yes folks. It is a real thing. It is listed in the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). It has been researched and studied countless times by reputable researchers in many fields. It has been discovered in childhood abuse survivors, rape survivors and war veterans. Most reputable trauma researchers agree that traumatic memory loss happens and is even common.
Second, let’s talk about how the brain works. There are two key structures in the limbic system that impact memory during traumatic stress. The amygdala responds to the trauma by sending adrenaline to the hippocampus to suppress thought. This is helpful in acute traumatic experiences because it eliminates the decision-making process and allows the individual to respond quickly to threats.
When a child experiences prolonged trauma, the hippocampus, which is supposed to store memories among other functions, will start to malfunction because it has been flooded with cortisol for an extended period of time. The hippocampus may actually shrink in size or not grow to the correct size. It may hold a memory, but it may not be accessible to the cortex or conscious mind. However, the fear and other emotions related to the experience may be stored in the amygdala separately. This explains why some trauma survivors don’t have conscious memory of their trauma, but deal with daily fear and anxiety … anxiety that the commenter curiously has witnessed in me.
Here are links to further information about the brain on trauma:
At the end, the commenter inevitably mentions the widely overused false memory syndrome and blames it on my therapist. This is the standard approach taken by perpetrators who are denying abuse. The commenter references an ambiguous article about repressed memories primarily authored by Elizabeth Loftus. Elizabeth has helped free countless pedophiles using her research regarding memory. She claims that memory is suggestible and malleable. She claims that therapists can put ideas in the heads of their clients. She has proven this theory by showing that a memory can be suggested … a memory about going to the mall.
Most trauma experts will agree that memory can be suggested and that it is not always accurate. Ironically, it is the constant suggestions by my family that I was making up my abuse that eventually led me to agree with them. (Of course, these suggestions were accompanied with death threats, so that helped.) I would not rely on 30-year-old repressed memories to tell me the time of day, what I was wearing or the eye color of the person who raped me. But I can tell you what happened to me. That is unmistakable.
The idea of suggestible memory has been used to blame countless therapists, so it is extremely important to note that I never retrieved a memory while in a therapist’s office. I was never hypnotized or used any other controversial therapeutic method. My memories came to me, by myself, in my own time. And as I recovered my memories, my body healed. All of my physical challenges with my body greatly lessened … challenges that had been described by doctors as incurable with no real cause.
I do want to get back to Elizabeth Loftus, a woman who was sexually abused by a babysitter, but said “It was not that big a deal”, a psychologist who does not work with trauma survivors in her memory research, a researcher whose primary goal is to prove that a memory COULD be false.
Pedophiles and abuse-deniers latch on to Loftus because she is the only chance they have to avoid jail, but her research is unrelated and incomplete when it comes to traumatic memory.
Here is what some of the most prominent trauma experts say about her:
“I have nothing good to say about Elizabeth Loftus,” says Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
“She doesn’t study traumatic memory, she studies normal memory,” asserts Judith Herman, M.D.
Here is what Elizabeth Loftus has said:
“You know, I’ve seen so many of these cases there’s a cookie-cutter quality to them now. But I do wonder,” she admits. “I have these moments when I think, What if I’m wrong about memory? What if people really do shove this collection of experience into the subconscious and bury them there, and they leak and you can recover them in some accurate form and rely on it? I’m not saying it’s impossible. Even the Hungerford case–where the daughter claimed her father raped her from the age of five until 23, including just days before her wedding, and then repressed all the memories until a few years later, when she entered therapy–even that I wouldn’t say was impossible.”
Don’t allow perpetrators to point to incomplete memory research to convince others that they are innocent.
Don’t allow them to blame therapists who listen to their clients.
Don’t allow them to continue to intimidate their victims with arguments which have no basis in reality.
If you do, then the perpetrators win … again.
Educate yourself on repressed memories and the affects of trauma on the brain, so you can protect our world from the nonsense forced on us by perpetrators.
I have created a page with trauma resources to help build our knowledge and make the truth a priority.
3 Steps to Overcoming the Awareness Challenge
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