The senate hearings with supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have riveted the nation this week. While watching a particular portion I was triggered. When Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was asked about her memory of the event she testified that it was Brett Kavanaugh and that she could clearly describe the room where it happened. But the rest of the memories of the event were fuzzy. In many cases of sexual assault and rape, this is very true. And it often becomes an issue in prosecuting these cases, especially when there may be no physical evidence and it becomes a “he said, she said” case.
The reason why I was triggered was that I have been troubled by my own lack of clear memories in my own sexual abuse case. Like Dr. Ford, I too can describe the room and location of where I was when both of my abuses occurred. But the rest is rather hazy, not to mention that my age in both instances was below five. The other funny thing about memories is that when we are traumatized we often “block” them, it is a survival mechanism. Years later these memories would come flooding back to me under certain circumstances that triggered the memory. Or when I am extremely relaxed the mind-body can sometimes decide that is a good time to process an old memory and ruin a perfectly good vacation.
I have a hard time even talking about all this, I get sort of a deer in the headlights look that I recognized in Dr. Ford during her testimony. For me writing has always been my liberator. The words flow out onto this blog somewhat effortlessly. I typically can’t sleep when I am to process something by writing and so here we are again at 4am wearing out the keys on my 2011 MacBook Pro.
Oddly enough, prior to all this I was heavily researching the prosecution (or lack of) of sexual assault cases. I ended up reading a number of books and articles on the topic. The most accessible of which for the lay reader would be Jon Krakaur’s book “Missoula”. In the book Krakaur lays out several cases of rape in Missoula, Montana that the college there. As you read the book you learn why some cases are not prosecuted especially when there is gaps in memory and lack of physical evidence. Like all Krakaur books, it is an excellent and riveting read. For the more technical reader here is a good paper on the topic. For childhood sexual abuse victim there are some differences in encoding and recall of certain types of memory, here is a paper on the topic.
Typically like many victims of sexual abuse I freeze when triggered and will often not even be able to cognitively link what just happened to abuse that happened thirty five years ago. In my own research on the topic there is very little written on the topic of males abused by a female perpetrator. One only has to open the news to read all about male perpetrators of abuse. I did run across one paper on the topic of female perpetrators and found some interesting things to be true in my own case. Such as: female perpetrators will almost always choose young prepubescent victims, around 21% of childhood sexual abuse cases are female perpetrated, the perpetrators tend to be younger in age, and are less likely to use violence or force.
Last month I was in a Zen meditation retreat called a Sesshin at the Ithaca Zen Center. I have traveled there for 11 years for their body mind detox retreats. Sesshin this year was a first for me. During this week long meditation, I did come to a place where all my sexual relationships unraveled before my mind. Many long time meditators have mentioned that this is a common occurrence. However the point of view was not really my own, but from an ego-less place. In watching these old memories come up it struck me how much of my interactions with women came from the lens of a victim. I have through the years froze many times or became extremely non verbal during or shortly after sex. As you can imagine and some of you know it has lead to some very tumultuous dating life for me. I don’t do well with overt seduction, it triggers me. It became very clear to me how much my childhood sexual abuse has affected my sexual life as a grown man. Later in the Sesshin meditation I touched someplace quiet and deeply healing and somewhat inexplicable. The edge of Satori? The beginning of an understanding of Nirvana? Time will tell. I scratched the surface of something deep and healing that I do not understand nor do I need to. Zen is a beautiful tradition in that way.
In working on my healing, I have not really followed a conventional path. I have never been on a psych drug, I have never been to formal counseling on the topic. However, my sexual abuse (and its healing) it has come up during Hanbleceya (vision quest), Sundance, Soul Retrieval, on Ayahuasca, on Psilocybin mushrooms, and now during a Sesshin. I have found all of these to be deeply and profoundly healing to me. For more on altered states of consciousness and healing see “How to Change Your Mind” by the amazing Michael Pollen. Or come talk to me!
To all those who have been caught in the crossfire of my confusion, I am sorry and just now unraveling it all. To my wife, Jen, I am healing and doing my work, thank you for your love and support.