I don't remember...oops, here it is!
July 02, 2011, at 08:07 PM
Content Warning: Discusses false memories i.e. FMS and whether memories can be 'recovered' in therapy, etc.
Can there be false memories? Oh, yeah, I'm pretty sure. If you're silly enough to let someone hypnotize you, and they're either incompetent or way too competent for your own good, and you want to allow them to do it on some level, yeah. I can accept that. [One thing I don't get about that idea is why would anyone want to allow someone to make up memories of abuse? But I guess there's an argument for anything.]
Are those memories you can open up the local newspaper a few years later and have splashed all over the front page? I think we all agree that if it's a false memory, that's pretty unlikely.
So, I remembered abuse situations that happened before the age of 7 when I was 13. One minute no memories, then they came back to me in one flash. When the memories came back to me they were vague, dreamlike. I wasn't sure whether they were real. I had no proof. The usual story for almost all victims of child abuse which results in memory loss. I'm pretty convinced that things happen to people that they're better off forgetting.
Nothing's changed about those memories. I've pieced together some things simply by deduction and verbal histories of my life from the people who were around me when I was younger. It's pretty sketchy.
But one day my mom shared a newspaper story with me. See, my perpetrator got caught. So no new memories came streaming in. I recognized his face, now about 30 years older, in the papers. I can find his name on the Internet and see that he was convicted to 2 lifetime sentences for possession of child pornography dating back to the 1970s. No new memories. No additional clarity on old memories. The 2 "kids" holding on to those memories for dear life are still adamant that they're not going to open up.
I'm one of the lucky ones. Sketchy memories, recovered years before I went to therapy, and well before any hypnosis -- unchanged since, but still proven by a court of law to be potentially correct. I have much more proof than just the newspapers and my own memories, but I'd rather protect other victims, even if they victimized me too. Children don't need to be held accountable for crimes taught to them by adults -- even if the only crime is silence.
So I'm walking talking proof that sketchy hazy dreamlike memories can be real true memories, and that recovering some memories does not require recovering fully vivid and accurate memories. I'm proof also that perpetrators can get caught and taken off the streets even if we're not the one who turns them in. And certainly it would be helpful if we were the one who turned them in if and when possible so that we don't allow the victim toll to rise. I struggle with that thought, I would like to be so brave as to turn someone in. But I'm hoping my fears are unfounded and that what happens as a child does not dictate what happens when you're an adult.
I didn't get myself involved in the trial. Call it cowardice. I didn't want to pick through the faces of babies and young children to identify victims who would have been my friends when I was a child. I didn't want to see my own face in the photos. I can be grateful that someone else turned this jerk in. Someone I never would have expected to do so. Thank you. I am ever-so-grateful to you for that. Thank goodness you were stronger than I was, and that you found out there was evidence to put him away, hopefully for more than the rest of his life.
If you're one of the people who doubts that recovered memories are real, or that memories can be buried, or half-remembered -- it's true. It's all true. I agree with some studies that recovered memories are pretty accurate, we're just not able to fully re-experience them and pull them up on the movie screen of our mind in Dolby Digital Audio, Technicolor & Smellovision.
When things are routine, as in recurring abuse situations where one day or incident blends into the next, it's even easier to forget it. At first it just seems routine, normal -- then something inside simply sneaks off with it and hides it away, or wraps around it, or uses mental magic to make it something -- or someone -- else. That's the way the magical universe of children works. In a child's universe you can just make things go away. You can just invent something. You can take one thing and make it something else. It's why kids enjoy cartoons -- they're more like a child's universe where almost anything can happen.
If you're someone with these fuzzy memories, and you take comfort in the idea that it might just all be a dream, or something you made up, and it may not be real -- I'm sorry. I have no evidence to support that. Consider who you're protecting by your own doubt -- is it yourself, or someone else?
Please take good care of yourselves.