Sunday, October 8, 2006

Tricks of Memory

I've listened with a sad heart, nodding my head at the hypocrisy, to the unfolding case against Congressman Mark Foley. Angela Shelton sent a statement to the press and held a press conference in Washington, DC last week speaking about this issue. Here's an excerpt:

"While America sits shocked at the news that Congressman Foley abused his power and acted in a predatory manner towards the very pages he was supposed to protect, I know all too well that this type of behavior is common. I, too was abused by someone I knew, someone I trusted and someone who was skilled at manipulation.

While America is shocked, I am not. The overwhelming majority of child sexual predators are people we know, people we like, people who look like the very people who would never rape a child. They are our fathers, coaches, family members, teachers, doctors, clergy, and yes even our elected officials.

Today, I stand here as a survivor and I demand that every member of congress bring the commitment of fighting this war against people who prey on our children back to their home districts in each of their states."

Here is a link to the entire press release. Thankfully there is someone out there like Angela who has the grassroots support to make noise while the spotlight is hot. How have we been raising our sons, I wonder, so that there is an epidemic of middle-aged men who prey on young children? As it gets easier to trace web traffic and email, more predators will be caught, but I fear there will always be more to take their place.

I find it extremely disingenuous for Foley to stand on the crutches of being gay and having been abused himself. Neither of those things excuses his behavior, and in fact, either or both of those truths should have made him more sensitive to the issue of the effects such abuse has on its victims. There is no Get Out of Jail Free card when it comes to your actions, you take responsibility for them. Period.

A stunning revelation came to me recently as I thought about my own abuse and how I dealt with it, my behavior and thought processes warped. After decades of thinking, talking and writing about it, it occurred to me for the very first time that not only do I have memory gaps of the abuse itself, I also can't remember most of my first "real" sexual experiences.

Specifically, I can't remember the act of intercourse itself. As if watching a movie, I see the events leading up to it (the date, dinner, even foreplay), and then afterwards, but that period of time while the act was going on is missing. I've edited it out and the snippets of movie are on a virtual cutting room floor somewhere. This is classic PTSD.

What is so disconcerting is that while I needed to do this during my abuse years, somehow I felt it was necessary even during consensual sex. I was extremely lucky with all of my adult partners, none of them were abusive, although many of them were confused, I suspect. I would come on so strong, doing the things I had been taught to do, but when they got me into bed I turned into a different person: pensive, silent, disconnected. I suppose it's a good thing that I continue to have revelations like this, but it just proves that I will always be dealing with my past.


  1. Wonderfully thoughtout and beautifully written. I understand.

  2. Thanks for posting this. It is an important reminder. I certainly understand PTSD, although mine has different sources. It's tough when something protectively gets in the way of you being completely honest with yourself. Strange mechanism.

  3. Hi Donna,

    Foley should go to jail for a long long time. As should anyone who helped him or who knew about what he was doing and didn't tell someone. This makes me very angry too. He has no excuse as far as I'm concerned.

    Your post is very thought provoking. I think I make the mistake of focusing on the short-term re the victim because I am so angry whenever I hear about this type of abuse. You made me remember that this type of abuse can change a whole life.


  4. donna-
    very good post. as a survivor of sexual abuse, i understand all too well what you mean. one thing that i have taken personally and been really offended by has been some members of the media actually BLAMING the pages. blame the victim. dammit.

  5. I remember watching an incredibly moving documentary about people with multiple personalities. For many of them, the creation of new personalities was due to needing to cope with sexual abuse - it was a form of disssociation from what was happening. So what you say makes total sense to me, although, as you say, it must be quite a shock to realise that you kept doing it even in the non-abusive situation.

    I hadn't really paid attention to the foley stuff, it is shocking.