People Don’t Want to Believe They Were Sexually Abused

During the 1990’s, several mental health professionals decided that people remembering childhood incest did so because they “wanted to.” I have recently learned that this idea is still being implemented by some psychiatrists and psychologists, and some people are being discouraged from attempting to find help when they show signs of having been sexually abused in childhood, but have no memory of it.

“Incest is a “simple” answer for one’s failures and emotional problems. It gives a woman an excuse as to why she cannot live up to social expectations like marriage, family, and a career.”

This is absurd.

Memories and accusations of incest and child rape create an incredibly complicated and painful situation that can lead to a temporary period of increased suffering that results from being cut off from one or more biological family members, called names, and from being disbelieved. Some people even lose their inheritance. Claims of incest is far from being a “simple” solution for anything.

 “Accusations of abuse give a person a feeling of being accepted and a sense of finally belonging to a group of people. It gives them an excuse to play a victim.” 

Human beings don’t normally enjoy looking weak or victim-like. It is usually a person who was victimized as a child who behaves like a victim as an adult.

Dr. Lief, an advocate for “false memory syndrome,” believes feminism could be to blame for repressed abuse memories, but this totally contradicts the “playing a victim” theory. Feminists are the last people who want to look like victims. Feminists are often strong and aggressively productive women. Feminism arose out of women wanting to stop being victims and to cease from being oppressed.

Dr. Lief derogatorily labels self-help groups and twelve step programs as the “recovery movement” but these groups are merely the vehicle which has enabled a number of people to finally face personal realities. Joining Alcoholics Anonymous and becoming sober might consequently cause a person to finally remember their history of child abuse. People are not alcoholics without reason; they are trying to drown pain. Alcohol keeps people numb.

 “It is easier to blame someone else than to face one’s own problems and to change them.”

Holding a person responsible for a crime against a child is not about blaming them for the adult survivor’s personal problems. It is placing the responsibility for the abuse on the perpetrator, and it points to the root cause of the adult survivor’s difficulties in life. Finding the root cause of one’s problems is the only way to finding peace and healing.

Lynn Crook successfully sued her parents after remembering as an adult that she had been a victim of incest. In Crook vs. Murphy and Murphy, the judge showed his wisdom when he examined the defense’s claims of revenge. He could not find any evidence of vindictiveness in the case, in Lynn’s persona, or in her history. The court concluded that he did not see any reason for malevolence. He also did not find it to be a motive in the case. In fact, the judge felt that if malice had been a motive for Lynn to take legal action against her parents, then it would be the result of her having been the victim of incest, not due to fabrication of it.

“Clients are told by their therapist that recovering memories of child sexual abuse will help them overcome their problems.”

If memories, or a suspicion of childhood abuse, have already been established, then the therapist is not wrong, nor are they negligent in making this statement. It is absolutely true that a person can overcome suffering by remembering and facing their unresolved trauma.

If I had not remembered being a victim of incest, trauma, and physical abuse, I would most likely be on pharmaceutical drugs, divorced, or probably dead. I would have killed myself a long time ago from the physical pain I was constantly in, and from the mental anguish which no psychiatrist, psychologist, or medical doctor could help me with. It was only through psychoanalysis that I was able to heal from the disease that was attacking by mind and body.

If uncovering memories of unprocessed trauma is the path to a new life, then I would think a reasonable human being would embrace such a concept. With competent help, the person suffering will eventually overcome each phase of healing. With determination and patience, a previous victim of child sexual abuse, will turn their memories into something that can no longer hurt them consciously, physically, or emotionally. Anne Hart put it wonderfully, “After the information is made conscious, it can enter into normal declarative memory and fade into the past, rather than being stored as symptoms.”

 “The therapist has made a misdiagnosis of child abuse. My daughter wasn’t abused. She just has a ‘Personality Disorder’.”

 “Borderline Personality Disorder” and “Personality Disorder” have a direct link to severe childhood abuse. A study done on 290 inpatients that had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder found that the patient’s BPD was caused by having been frequently abused as a child and that the abuse lasted more than a year. Other key reasons were that the person was vaginally or anally raped as a child, that the perpetrator used other kinds of violence, and the abuse was carried out by a primary care-giver….. often including more than one perpetrator. These are all commonly reported factors in cases of repressed sexual abuse memories.

The National Trauma Consortium says that eighty-one percent of adults who have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder were abused as a child. Common sense tells us that if a person displays signs of a Personality Disorder, shows symptoms of having been abused, and says they have recently remembered being abused, then the chances are excellent that they were a victim as a child —not suffering from some kind of chemical or hormonal imbalance, which is what the medical and mental health industry, and the FMS advocates often attribute to personality disorders.

Symptoms of Personality Disorder:

Poor self-image

Moody

Trouble trusting others

Promiscuity

Excessive spending

Depression

Irritability

Unpredictable behavior

Substance abuse

Over-eating

Rage

Sexual problems

Suicidal

Anxiety

The preceding symptoms are commonly experienced by those with continuous memories, as well as those with repressed memories, of child sexual abuse. Women are two to three times more likely to have a PD, and it is associated with having been a victim of incest as a child. Whitfield refers to the long list of physical, psychological, and emotional problems which stem from sexual abuse. He points out that they are the result of what the trauma does to a child, not a ‘defect’ in their personality.

Mental health problems, that are labeled as a “disorder,” are actually due to external influences projected onto a child by parents, siblings, and other significant people. The human mind has the ability to alter chemistry and hormones. This has been proven scientifically.

Tagging people with all kind of deficiencies can be detrimental to their ultimate well-being. Doing so causes many people to accept the medical diagnosis as ‘just a part of themselves,’ and they mistakenly feel that medication or “learning to live with it” is the only way to go forward. That is not moving forward. It is merely existing.

Experts who have worked with concentration camp survivors say the only way to effectively help the war victims to have a more peaceful life, is to mentally regress them back to the horrors of living under the Nazis.

William G. Niederland, M.D. found that by mentally taking war survivors back to the trauma, and working against their inclination to repress, suppress, and deny the trauma…they can heal their somatic and other symptoms. He suggests that an experienced therapist can even help the process of healing by using the “charged hypermnestic material” that comes to them in their dreams or nightmares in order to fill in memories which have not surfaced.

Niederland found that psychoanalysis was the best way to treat mentally disrupted Nazi concentration camp survivors. Many of the patients he treated displayed and expressed similar, if not identical symptoms, to those found in adults who had once mentally repressed having been sexual abused.

“False memory syndrome” advocates criticize the length of time that abuse survivors are in therapy, but Niederland found that because of the deep guilt, numb feelings, grief, and high number of somatic symptoms in previous prisoners of war, the process of healing was often difficult, slow, and long-term.  He noted that his patients often suppressed their experiences. They denied their pain and trauma by literally putting it “out of existence.”

Survivors who say, “I want to remember” are often ridiculed, or told they should just “move on,” but without memory (good or bad), we lose a sense of ourselves. When traumatic memory is dealt with, then it can be acknowledged and attended to. Somatic and emotional symbols become coherent and spoken in language, instead of beating us down with physical symptoms or emotional problems. Survivors must truly experience their past –instead of denying it- and then be able to have dialogue about it. They can finally say “I was abused and now I can speak about it.”

Suffering left unattended can only cause damage. I don’t know where these critics of psychoanalysis expect the un-discharged emotions to go. It is like leaving a program with a virus inside your computer and saying “I don’t know what good it will do to find the infected program and remove it.”

If the traumatic material remains in the subconscious mind, it will always have control. No amount of positive thinking or medication will ever quiet it. On the contrary, positive thinking, behavioral therapy, and pharmaceutical drugs will eventually cause the subconscious mind to revolt. The unconscious gets very angry when it is ignored, minimized, or numbed with medication.

It is simple-minded and ignorant to think that a person with a massive amount of physical symptoms, severe depression, and debilitating emotional problems can just change their attitude towards life by ignoring them, or denying it by pharmaceutically medicating the disturbances taking place in their mind and body.

_____________________________________________________________

Sources:

From proceedings in open court, The Superior Court of the State of Washington in and for the County of Benton, Lynn Crook Plaintiff, vs. Bruce Murphy and Lucille Murphy, and the marital community composed thereof, Defendants No. 91-2-0011-2-5 Verbatim Report of Proceedings, Proceedings had before the Honorable Dennis D. Yule, Superior Court Judge, in and for the County of Benton, on the 4th day of March, 1994, at Kennewick, Washington.

Anne Hart M.A. The Great Debate” The California Therapist March/April 1995

Severity of reported childhood sexual abuse and its relationship to severity of borderline psychopathology and psychosocial impairment among borderline inpatients, Zanarini MC, Yong L, Frankenburg FR, Hennen J, Reich DB, Marino MF, Vujanovic AA, J Nerv Ment Dis 2002 Jun; 190(6):381-387, From: The Laboratory for the Study for Adult Development, McLean, Hospital, 115 Mill Street, Belmont, Massachusetts 02478 and the Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Send reprint requests to Dr. Zanarini; Department of Psychology, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, Rhode Island

Abusive relationships in families of women with borderline personality disorder, anorexia nervosa and a control group. Laporte L, Guttman H J Nerv Ment Dis 2001 Aug; 189(8):522-31

The relationships among childhood abuse, borderline personality, and self-harm behavior in psychiatric inpatients. Sansone RA, Gaither GA, Songer DA Violence Vict 2002 Feb; 17(1):49-55

Abuse and neglect in childhood: Relationship to personality disorder diagnoses.
Bierer LM, Yehuda R, Schmeidler J, Mitropoulou V, New AS, Silverman JM, Siever LJ.
CNS Spectr 2003 Oct; 8(10): 737-54.

Early traumatic life events, parental attitudes, family history, and birth risk factors in patients with borderline personality disorder and healthy controls.
Bandelow B, Krause J, Wedekind D, Broocks A, Hajak G, Ruther E.
Psychiatry Res. 2005 Apr 15; 134(2):169-79.

National Trauma Consortium http://www.nationaltraumaconsortium.org/

http://www.stanford.edu/~corelli/borderline.html Richard J. Corelli, M.D. corelli@leland.stanford.edu

Traumatic Amnesia: The Evolution of Our Understanding From a Clinical and Legal Perspective, Charles Whitfield M.D., Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 4, 2, 1997

Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, Psychiatric Disorders Among Persecution Victims: A Contribution to the Understanding of Concentration Camp Pathology and its After-Effects, William G. Niederland, M.D. Vol 139, 1964, page 472

Reconstruction and the Psychoanalytic Tradition, Elizabeth Hegeman, Memories of Sexual Betrayal: Truth, Fantasy, Repression, and Dissociation, Jason Aronson Inc., Edited by Richard Gartner, Ph.D, page 155

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21 Responses to People Don’t Want to Believe They Were Sexually Abused

  1. mary says:

    Ing about the way they would ignore my obvious mental anguish… just to have their fun. and in a way i was at fault too because my body would just freeze up… why didnt i know how to say no if sex was so terrible for me? i still blame myself for my own suffering. from my experience men dont care about whats going on in a females heart and soul as long as they can have access to the body. very few will stop to notice what is really going on. whenever i meet a promiscuous out of control woman with a smile that fades too quickly, maybe im being presumptuous, but i see someone who was abused in childhood crying out for help… and men who exploit her justify their selfishness by saying it’s what she wants to do…they dont want to take the time to think that maybe something happened to her in childhood to make her so “easy” in adulthood, maybe by indulging their urges theyd be hurting this woman… thats too inconvienent for them. sorry im rambling… with how common csa is, i just wish people understood

  2. mary says:

    during my days of being dangerously promiscuous, lacking any self control whatsoever… or even just having sex in a committed exclusive relationship. i remember always feeling disconnected from the act of sex, in fact being severely disgusted with it and yet still never being able to say NO or control my physical body….i remember washing myself obsessively even because i felt this inexplicable feeling of dirtiness…to the point where i wanted to rip out my own skin just to get rid of the feeling. and men, who pretended to care for me, who i confided to would just tell me i was thinking too much… that it was all in my head…. due to my catholic upbringing, sex is natural etc etc. at the time i never made a connection with abuse and my dysfunction. so i just accepted whattheysaid. they would give me drugs to make me feel better.as long as i was giving them what they wanted…. i felt so much resentment towards them, they had no idea how much id suffer just to please them… i feel sick just even talki

    • Alethea says:

      Hi Mary. I was super promiscuous too. Dangerously so. I did whatever I needed to do in order to be loved and to feel self-worth.

      I look back now and think how very pathetic. How sad.

      • little nel says:

        “I did whatever I needed to do in order to be loved and feel self-worth.”

        Promiscuity frightened me because it did not deliver what I carved, intimacy.

        I had sport horses that substituted for my needs of affection and love for a while. It was dangerous and exciting, so I kept busy burning up energy with that “hobby.”

        I had friends however that kept me “informed and entertained” with their sexual exploits. They lamented many times to me that they felt unfulfilled in their endeavors but their stories were great to listen to. I envied them somewhat because I was so afraid of being naked and stared at by lustful eyes.

  3. Robert Ong says:

    Excellent article! Currently we are helping someone who has not fully recovered their memories of severe abuse.
    Before our therapy sessions start we discuss whether she wants to continue the path to recover these memories. She is given the opportunity to stop at any time. It is a natural function of her mind to want to try. To ‘unblock’ the gap in her memory is a constant need. As bad as the memory is, it is a part of who she is. And she wants to feel complete. She needs acknowledgement and will seek it out.

    • Alethea says:

      Thanks Robert. I think that those who attempt to remember trauma and abuse, or whatever has happened to them, are people who would rather hear the truth in their lives about everything in general. They are usually people who prefer painful truths over comfortable lies.

  4. mary says:

    Without going to the root cause. in fact, ill even argue that these pharmaceutical companies are trying to repress this truth, trying to write off the recovery movement because they know that if people knew that healing didnt necessarily require pills (i do believe they have a place… for emergency situations, if it meant the difference between someone killing themself and someone living) then their profit margins would just dive.

    • Alethea says:

      So true Mary! Pharmaceutical companies and medical doctors suppress the truth because there is BIG bucks in drugs and surgery.

      I am positive most of them know about the Quantum mind, and the mind/body/spirit connection.

  5. mary says:

    Thank you. No amount of positive thinking or medication can heal the subconscious mind if it is in denial, if it doesnt confront those demons. In my life i always ran into one abusive situation after another, and “let it go” yet still being left with this numb feeling of leaving things unfinished…only to run into the same situation, different people, different circumstances, different time…same situation. I know that once I decided to fully acknowledge the past for what it was…. my life changed, because i changed. Im not a victim, and who i am is not defined by the abuse, the rapes. The person who i was with all the positive gifts ive been given, nowadays all the good that was in me is coming out where before they were buried under the symptoms, the disorders, the eccentricities…. for that to happen i had to be honest with myself first though, with the things done to me and my own actions i had taken as well. it seems like society wants to punish and condemn people for whats wrong with them

    • Alethea says:

      “it seems like society wants to punish and condemn people for whats wrong with them.”

      Boy is that the truth Mary! God forbid anyone should actually be honest about their day, instead of saying, “You know, I feel like shit today. The abuse I suffered as a child sure is hammering at me today.” Can you imagine the reaction from friends and neighbors? They would probably run the other way, or suddenly have to go check dinner on the stove.

      When I first got really sick, my “best-friend” and neighbor stopped calling and stopped hanging out with me. Apparently I was too sick and I cramped her style.

      About a year after I shared with a close married friend that I was abused by a female, we were talking about going on a weekend trip together. I mentioned that I wanted to get my own room. My friend said condescendingly, “What do you think, that I am going to try to come on to you?”

      Look at Elizabeth Smart, she says that rape and trauma victims ought to ‘just move on with their lives,’ and let it go. She is condescending to those who actually suffer from trauma symptoms and says that “retail therapy” can help you heal quickly.

      What a slap in the face –especially to those who can’t afford retail therapy.

  6. little nel says:

    “People want to believe that they were sexually abused”

    Fuck that statement!

    It should read, “People do not want to believe that they were sexually abused.”

    Who wants to have to readjust their thinking and dump their denial system to accommodate something so humiliating and painful?

    People avoid pain! We create ways to deny sexual abuse. We have to be painfully “challenged” by our bodies and minds before we can acknowledge sexual abuse.

    • Robert Ong says:

      Yes agreed and correct! People do not want to believe. That is the reason why they are in denial. The human mind, indeed the human condition, is wired to repress negative traumatic events.
      What is even more abhorrent is that some people know how to exploit this function of the mind. These evil beings use the ultimate in fear to gratify their own selfish ways.

      • little nel says:

        “the ultimate in fear” is why we get death threats to keep us quiet.

        It isn’t enough for the perps to just abuse us and go away. Oh, no, they have to “emphasize” everything that they did with death threats so we keep getting re-traumatized when we recall the abuse.

        • Alethea says:

          Death threats are THE most powerful thing they use. The death threats are what has caused me the most painful and prolonged symptoms. Look at shingles. It is a serious illness that attacks the nervous system. That’s how serious the death threats were to me…they gave me shingles on that part of my jawline where my father held his knife to my throat.

    • Alethea says:

      Thanks Little Nel. I changed the title.

      I was trying to use a title that would intrigue readers.

  7. little nel says:

    “If the traumatic material remains in the subconscious mind it will always have control”

    In my mind it created a struggle for control between the conscious mind that wanted to deny the abuse and the subconscious mind that wanted to acknowledge everything and resolve it.

    The battle for control affected every part of my life in the physical, the mental, and the emotional, until I could find the courage to accept what had happened in childhood. I had to begin to question all my motives, my reactions, and my “truths” to weed out the lies and/or excuses that I used in an effort to justify my denial of the abuse.

    It wasn’t until I accepted the truth that it wasn’t my fault and that “bad karma” wasn’t controlling my life, that I was able to get beyond the guilt and seek solutions. My parents controlled my painful childhood not “bad karma” from a “past life.” I was a child of neglect and they used the “karma” explanation to absolve themselves from responsibility for my well being.

    I did not “deserve” to be abused in childhood because my parents believed that the “law of karma” entitled them to neglect their children.

    • Alethea says:

      “In my mind it created a struggle for control between the conscious mind that wanted to deny the abuse and the subconscious mind that wanted to acknowledge everything and resolve it.”

      Boy can I relate Little Nel. I had painful and debilitating physical symptoms from this very problem. The subconscious does not like it when we lie to ourselves.

      • little nel says:

        “The subconscious does not like it when we lie to ourselves.”

        I noticed that when I stopped lying to myself about the abuse that other problems just disappeared or went away without any effort from me.

        Death threats from my “professional military” brother , who was trained to kill people and given a title of “Captain” for his efforts, caused me to get shingles. Now, I have a bodyguard.

        • Alethea says:

          Just curious Little Nel…did your shingles always come on one part of your body, or all over?

          • little nel says:

            My waistline and back.. Shingles was very painful for me but it got my attention. I knew that those death threats coupled with violence caused it because that is when it manifested. I had a protective order in force when he assaulted me at the nursing home but it did not stop him from battering me.

            Since I now have bodyguards, I have not had any more of the recurring nightmares that began in childhood. I feel and think that I’m finally free of all that oppression and fear. I feel so good about me now. I have real protection since the PO didn’t stop his violence against me.

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