sexual abuse

“Have you ever been sexually abused?”

Silence. Absolute lack of conversation, or “I don’t know.” At this point, I am 16 years old, and usually pouty and angsty enough that nobody really feels sorry for the suicidal pink haired girl, maybe. I don’t know, I’m biased, I was the suicidal 16 year old. I was the one answering every single question from mental health professionals with “I don’t know,” only not to be difficult, just because I didn’t know.

Fast forward for now.

I have one memory.

It shuts off part way through, like a corrupted video file. It shuts off like most of my childhood memories are shut off from the start, from before that. They all were really, until this February, now just most of them are.

I was 23 years old this February.

Another day, another month maybe, another mental health professional. “Your symptoms seem consistent with physical or sexual abuse, have you ever been abused by anyone as a child?” They eye my mom as an afterthought, “we can have this conversation alone, if you’d like.”

“I don’t know.”

So next we fast forward, I’m 17, older but still a teenager, losing mental functioning already but still hopeful that this brutally suicidal depressive episode will end soon – it has to, right? When the memories start, at age 13, when I moved to the USA. Well, technically six months or so before. When my dad moved out. When we started planning the move to another continent, setting up our dual citizenship, myself, my brother and my mother. When my dad wasn’t really around. When things were quieter.

My memory starts and stops. It’s hard to stay on task. To be “together”.

But there’s that question, “have you ever been sexually abused?” and that year, late 2009, when I was 17 and being asked that question and being asked that question and being asked that question.

Let’s write it out three times, for the three psychiatric hospitalizations within days of each other that I had where they asked it upon admission each time, for accuracy. I had to write a list of coping techniques 100 items long to be allowed home after that third hospitalization.

“Have you ever been physically or sexually abused?”

I don’t know. I don’t know.

“I don’t know.”

“That’s not an answer. I need to put yes or no.”

“I don’t know. No.”

“Have you ever been sexually abused?”

“I don’t know. No. I don’t think so.”

“Okay…” then they move onto the next question on the computer. “have you had thoughts of harming others, or only yourself?”

“Have you ever been sexually abused?”

“I…. no.”

So now it’s almost November 2016, and my memory has slipped into a state of “it probably has to be there a little bit still for me to even be alive, right?” but not caring at all about any effects ECT could have on me if they ever get around to that treatment, because memory loss doesn’t scare someone with little to no short term memory already.

I have this one memory. Big windows. My childhood home. Curtains? Embroidered darker green curtains. It comes and goes. Something happened, maybe. I shouldn’t have seen that. Then it cuts off. Why are his pants off? Why can’t I remember his face? Why is he approaching me like that, when I remember being young, too young for a memory like that. Is it even real? It shuts off.

I told my mom about it on the phone while in an ER earlier this year, after February. Her first reaction was that the brain can fabricate and alter memories, which while true, is the most invalidating thing you can say to someone who just told you they might have been sexually abused.

I dissociate a lot. I am hypersexual at times. You can trace my cPTSD easily to other abuse, to being raped, more than once. Of course I am a mess. I am such a mess my symptoms and traumas are hard to untangle. I have self harmed by having sex with people I knew I would hate myself for doing it with. I have self harmed in other ways. I have a brain that I can barely keep afloat on a day to day basis, I have monsters to slay every second of the day, but it plagues me in a different way that I don’t know.

I don’t know. I don’t know. I remember too much, I know things I shouldn’t, but there are other explanations for that. I don’t know. He would leave the tv on late and fall asleep with porn on in the bedroom we shared, that doesn’t mean he did anything.

I also can’t say nobody didn’t.

I guess this is less valid than a solid, real trauma I could pinpoint and take all the way to the legal system, if I wanted to. I have traumas I can pinpoint but this is not one of them. However, this also isn’t “was I touched in ways I shouldn’t have been?”

Instead it’s, “How inappropriately young was I when I was first touched in this one way? What about in this other way, without consent, a way that nobody should ever touch someone? How old was I the first time that happened?”

My lack of memories that are of my abuse aren’t evidence that it didn’t happen, I remember other things very clearly that are mostly gone but that I know happened enough times, and probably many more.

Trauma being “blacked out” in memory is a common response.

Why does this one memory start out this way? Why does it shut off?

Why does it shut off? I don’t know. I don’t know. It makes me angry, hurts, I stop thinking about it.

Usually, and in about five minutes, at least.

“Have you ever been sexually abused?” Nobody is asking me any more, partly because I am avoiding care, due to a mistrust of the system built on its deep flaws and glaringly bad history of taking care of me within the past few years. Nobody is asking, but I am asking myself in this blog post. Because:

I don’t know.

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