When you’ve been abused at an early age, it’s pretty normal to be confused or hazy about what you remember.
And it’s normal for kids’ stories to change based on who is doing the interviewing and how they’re doing it.
A few years had elapsed between the period of time when I was sexually abused, and when I told anybody about it.
I feel like I remembered what had happened and for how long— but I’m aware that I was in elementary school. Time can be hard to gauge when you’re that young, and memory can do odd things around abuse memories.
In any event, I know what I thought had happened— and I was asked to give an account of it to at least two professionals.
One was a male counselor who I barely remember at all. I might have seen him twice. I remember kind of being unsure what I was supposed to talk about— and being very anxious.
I know I didn’t tell him the full extent of what had happened— even though I did remember it.
I couldn’t tell you exactly why I didn’t tell him everything. At least part of it had to do with the fact that I felt I had actively colluded with my abuser, and aspects of the abuse had felt physically pleasurable— so I think part of it was about not wanting to be in trouble.
But the point is, anyone looking at my case would have one version of the story, based on the purposefully incomplete version I’d told him.
At some point after, I was being interviewed by another adult, who I assume was a type of social worker who specialized in child sexual abuse.
Before she interviewed me, she gave me a spiel: I specifically remember her saying that she had “heard everything under the sun,” so I shouldn’t be embarrassed about whatever I had to tell her.
It was at that exact moment that I decided I was DEFINITELY not telling her the entire story.
I mean, if she’d heard “everything under the sun,” surely she’d heard MUCH worse stories than what I remembered happening to me.
In that moment I felt foolish for even being there. I felt like I was what my peers, and probably my parents, thought I was: a lonely, dramatic, imaginative kid who was probably just seeking attention.
Not only did I not tell that lady what had actually happened, I specifically remember making up certain small details in what I DID tell her.
Afterward I was ashamed. I wished I’d never told anyone anything.
Anyone looking at my case would notice the discrepancy between what I told the counselor and the social worker.
I had reasons for telling different versions of the story to them. Yes, they were elementary school kid reasons, but I was aware even then that what I’d told the two professionals was inconsistent.
As I write this, I’m a 46 year old man remembering the experience of a kid who was probably, what, ten?
Yeah. It’s a little hazy.
Here’s my point: even if your memories of what happened are rough; even if it happened when you were very young; and even if your story changed over the years— it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
It doesn’t mean you should be disbelieved.
It doesn’t mean you should don’t “count” as an abuse survivor.
It’s real easy to get up in our heads about what we do and don’t remember. Our culture often tries, hard, to convince us what happened to us wasn’t a big deal, especially if we’ve gone on to achieve things in later life.
What you experienced counts.
Even if it’s hazy.
Even if your story changed.
Even if others have tried to get into your head about how “easy” it supposedly is to “remember” things that didn’t happen.
Don’t let it get in your head.
There are those of us out here who believe you.
I believe you.