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Repressed Memories

Children repress memories of their sexual abuse in order to survive. Their very lives depend on their caregivers. Their little bodies know it's not safe to disclose, especially when there have been previous instances where they've said things and have not been believed. So their bodies do the only thing they can to survive - they repress. They forget. It's the only way to keep going. And it's pretty miraculous that the body is so intelligent that it has the power to do this. Children often do not remember until they are adults. And even then, the memories often take decades to surface. They come back when the body finally feels safe to remember them. The problem is that by that time, the statute of limitations has often run out, and their perpetrators can no longer be held accountable for their heinous crimes. The legal system is complicit in re-traumatizing victims. In a sense, they are told once again that they are not believed. We must work to end the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse (and all other forms of child abuse). Kim Mayer shared her story on our podcast. This is a follow-up submission from her about some memories that surfaced for her.

Submission by Kim Mayer

I left out what I believe is a very important part of my story. It is a HUGE reason why laws need to change so there is no statute of limitations for child sexual abuse or sexual assault. In my podcast, I spoke of being sexually assaulted by a missionary in our ward. I was 14; I blocked that memory until I was 62. I could have never reported that assault. When it was happening, I thought it was my fault. It felt good, and I felt wanted in some twisted way, even though I hated it and myself each and every time it happened. When he left, I forgot about it - until the memory came back at age 62 after watching "No Crime In Sin." I decided to become part of a class action lawsuit against the church. Because my story was so old, and happened in Kentucky, it went nowhere other than my name is among many in that lawsuit. Here is the other story:

My family of origin abandoned me during all of the church scandal mentioned in my podcast. No one in my family spoke to me for six years. I have three brothers and three sisters, and I did not hear from anyone. It was really hard for the first year, but it was time for me to find out who I am and what I am made of. My oldest sister came to visit me for the first time in six years after she got "permission" to do so from our mother. She wanted to have a specific conversation with me. She had a specific question for me she had wondered about since we were kids. She was then 50, and I was 47, and she asked me if our grandfather (on my mother's side) ever molested me. She explained that he had one time, climbed into bed with her (and she told me her age; I don't remember) and touched her and had her touch him. She told me he tried to do it again, and she said no, and it never happened again. She had always wondered if that had ever happened to me or our other sister. I replied that I had no memories of him ever touching me, because he died when I was very young. I believed that I was around three years old when he died. I had no memories of him at all. I didn't remember him ever being there when we would visit Grandma. She was completely astounded and told me I was 15 when he died. I didn't believe her. I asked her if I went to his funeral.... she said, “Yes, I remember you were there.” She was married and no longer lived with us, but she was at the funeral, and she said she was pretty sure I was too. How could I not remember him? I was 15 - how could I not remember being at his funeral??? This caused a lot of consternation for me. I could not pull up any memories at all of my grandpa being at that house when we visited my grandma. I knew him from pictures and stories only, and up until I was 47 years old, I believed he died when I was three. Why had I concluded I was three when he died? That age came from somewhere.

This caused me to start working on my memories. But working on my memories triggered horrible nightmares and flashbacks of sexual activity under a blanket. After a few months of this work, I had such a horrible nightmare. My husband woke me up from it. I was biting my arm. He said I had been whimpering, and I sounded like I was about three years old. I told him in my dream, someone was on top of me, and I was biting him to get him off of me. The next morning we talked and he held me and said, "Kim, maybe you should just count it as a blessing that you don't remember. Maybe you don't need to force this issue. Maybe if you need to remember, and you are ready to remember, it will come back to you, and it won't have to be through nightmares." That felt so good to my heart, I cried and thanked him, and I stopped doing that work.

A few months later I was volunteering at a self-help program in Dallas called Discovery. The next exercise coming up was about defining moments in our lives. I was in the corner of the room by myself stacking chairs, thinking about the defining moments in my life when the words came into my head, "You were just a baby, and so were they." Those words knocked the breath out of me, and I remember falling to my knees… I knew exactly what they meant. Then the words, "From about 10 months to 3 years." I had to quickly compose myself, because the training was about to start back up, and I had to be at the top of my game - and at the same time - that moment was a defining moment for me.

I had the rest of the day to process this, and on the way home, I told my husband what had happened to me, alone, in the corner of that training room. I really thought he was going to tell me I had made it up or that I was crazy or I really couldn't believe my crazy imagination. But in usual Carl fashion, he always has the words for me that bring me peace and comfort, and he said, "Kim, that is such a perfect gift. You do not have to rely on memories or anything or anyone else to know the truth. It came to you straight from your heart - that is the purest form of truth you could ever receive." That is exactly how it felt for me, but at that time in my life, I did not feel worthy of receiving the purest form of truth. I was so grateful once again for this man who has always seen me and my heart. I am actually thinking about writing a book about all of the things this man has said to me over the years to help me find myself. He is like no one else I have ever met - it is amazing to me we found each other... and he is exactly what I needed .

I know I am not alone in repressing memories, and we need people to understand this is yet another reason people do not come forward for so long. And when we finally do find the truth, we should be able to report it. This epidemic of child sexual abuse needs to be understood better, and we all need to believe these stories that do not come out for years and years. There is so much work to do in this arena. Thanks for allowing me to share even more.

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