Recently I came across a very good blog post on the Overcoming Sexual Abuse blog about three words that are nearly always used when an abuse survivor attempts to talk about the abuse they experienced - "forget about it".
I know I’ve been told so many times “just forget about it”. So often what that person means is “shut up about it.” Sometimes they follow the “forget about it” with “it happened so long ago, what are you doing talking about it now, you should just forget about it, after that it happened so long ago.”
To suggest that a person forgets the first 20 years of my life is totally unrealistic. BUT that is what is being suggested.
My life is as it is because of the abuse. My life is different than it would have been because of the abuse. I am who and how I am because of the abuse. The abuse formed the person that I am today just as anyone’s else’s past has formed the person that they are.
I’ve often wished I could forget but I can’t, it’s all too vivid to me for that. Although I have huge gaps in my memory I’ve always known abuse happened and have always lived with trauma.
Being told to “just forget about it” is so dismissive, undermining and minimises the person’s experience.
No one can “just forget” a large portion of their life. I will live with what happened to me for the rest of my life. Some days are better than others.
What follows is a short excerpt from the blog post.
“Have you ever thought how ridiculous these three words are? “Forget About It!”
I’ve spent so much time and energy trying to follow that suggestion and I have come to the conclusion that it is absolutely impossible to do.
How does one forget about it? It’s my past. It happened. I lived it. I felt it, I touched it, I smelled it. Tell me HOW am I supposed to forget it? Do I snap my fingers, click my heels three times, or pray that it leaves? Can I smash it with a hammer like an old computer hard drive or do I try to replace it with more happy memories? Can someone tell me where the delete button is, because I have tried everything possible to remove my memories of abuse and it hasn’t worked.
Those experiences are locked in, never to leave. Sure, I wish it never happened. But it did. There is no doubt about that. My memories don’t lie. No one planted them in my head. I didn’t read it from a book. It happened.
It wasn’t so much the physical pain of the abuse—it was pain of my broken heart that hurt so much. Yes, there is pain in remembering my abuse. But there is much, much more pain in trying to forget about it.
Each time I revisit those memories, I release more pain and reveal a part of me that was hidden. I am in those memories I tried so hard to forget. Pieces of me. Whether it be an emotion or something I touched, or smelled, or even a thought. Me. To forget about IT, means forgetting about ME. I’m remembering and healing and rescuing myself from the past. I’m my whole self in the present. Forget about it? NEVER!!!”
The entire article can be read at http://overcomingsexualabuse.com/2011/06/04/forget-about-it/