I've been told that I may of been sexually assaulted as a small child. Could I have repressed the memory of it?
I’ve been told that I may of been sexually assaulted as a small child.i can’t remember this. Could it be a repressed memory?
Hello there, and welcome to Ask Pat.
We appreciate you reaching out and we thank you for your question, it is very important to us.
You say you have been told you may have been sexually assaulted when you were a small child but that you don’t have any memories of it, and so you ask if this could be a repressed memory.
This is very unsettling information to be told and we know you might be feeling worried, anxious, or even scared. The research around repressed memories can be a bit confusing even for people who study them, so we found some articles that might help in this matter that we will link to you in this answer.
Why some professionals think we as human beings repress memories is because of something traumatic that happened to us when we were younger. Trauma is when something bad outside affects us on the inside. So, examples of trauma can be sexual, physical, emotional, or environmental abuse. We know from lots of studies that when we experience trauma at a young age, it can affect how our brains store memories and how we remember certain things about our past. Sometimes when traumatic events happen, we can dissociate from our minds or bodies. Dissociation means that a memory is not actually lost but is for some time unavailable and so we cannot remember it. Our brains do this to protect us from the pain those memories could cause us.
No one’s memories are perfect. We think of them sometimes as photographs that stay forever as they are in our brains, but actually this is not true. Every time we remember something, it can change depending on new information we get, how or what we’re told about the memory or how we feel about that time in our lives. You may remember your tenth birthday like a photograph. You may remember you had a cake shaped like a dinosaur and if anyone said it wasn’t a dinosaur cake, you wouldn’t believe them. But then you find out that actually, the dinosaur cake was at your twelfth birthday and in fact, you had a racing car cake for your tenth. Your brain will automatically update that memory in your head so that the next time you think about it, the right cake is remembered. You can find some helpful articles about repressed memories here: https://www.apa.org/topics/trauma/memories and https://www.bustle.com/wellness/signs-you-might-be-repressing-negative-childhood-memories-51958.
The most important thing to keep in mind is you have a right to know about your past and to be safe. This is a very delicate matter, but you are not alone. There are organizations which help people who have experienced abuse that could support you in this difficult moment. CARI (Children At Risk in Ireland) provide professional, child centred therapy and counselling services to children, families, and groups who have been affected by child sexual abuse. https://www.cari.ie/. They offer therapeutic services to children and adolescents, and they also have a Care Line 0818 924 567.
Childline are also here for you any day of the year, at any time. You can contact the Childline team by phone 1800 66 66 66, text 50101 or by chatting online at www.childline.ie. We will always listen, never judge and would love to chat with you.
We hope we have helped you. We will be here if you need us.