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November 21, 2017 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Relationships

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Disturbing Memories

Question:

I am turning 46 in a few days and getting ready to go back home to visit my mom, dad, and siblings. I am married (2nd marriage) and have 5 kids. Two teenagers live at home and the other is already living independently.

I have had a couple of memories that have been unsettling and disturbing for me, but I do not know what to do with them. My dad worked in construction and would leave early in the AM for work. We were living in an apartment for the summer while my dad worked on a construction job. I lived with my dad, mom, and two younger siblings and my dad's brother and his family. I slept on the floor with my younger brothers nearby.

I remember waking up early in the morning; no one else in the house was awake. My dad was kneeling beside me and my underwear was off and the sheet that I slept under was also off my body. I remember waking up being really embarrassed and ashamed and told my dad that I had a dream that I was getting ready for school. I put my clothes back on and I think I went back to sleep. I think that I was 8 or 9 years old. I remember this happening at least once or twice more. Each time, I had the same dream. The one in which I was getting undressed to get ready for school, or at least that was how I explained it. The difference between this time and the other times is that I don't remember my dad being there the other times I woke up with no underwear. I don't know exactly what made me think of this, but I tried to put myself in my dad's position. Why was he there? Why didn't he cover me? My memory of it just seems really odd and out of place. I have never been one to sleep walk or talk or do anything but sleep, even as a child. In fact, my mom used to be amazed that she could burn something in the oven and I would sleep right through the fire alarm.

If I had a really happy or healthy childhood in other respects, I would probably just write this off as an odd occurrence. However, I didn't. I had extremely religious parents and used to have a recurring dream that my father was trying to kill me (like Isaac on the altar - a sacrifice to God) and I was running from him. My mother knew what he was up to but she refused to intervene on my behalf. I have probably had this dream multiple times a year growing up and even into early adulthood, always with variations to the dream. The first time I dreamed it, I remember it vividly as I was on the monkey bars at a play ground. Since I was above him, he was waiting for me to come down so he could get me - I had nowhere to go and my mother was there but would not rescue me or try to stop my dad.

What should I do with this? I definitely don't want to make something out of nothing and I can't think of anything worse than being accused of child molestation. If anything did happen, I most likely slept through it. If it didn't, then it's just a really, really out of place memory. Incidentally, a number of years ago, my mom asked him if he remembers this incident and he says that he does not. Any suggestions are welcome. Thank you.

Lori, 46-year-old woman

Answer:

Dear Lori,

Such dreams and memories do not come from nothing. I am quite sure, this was childhood sexual abuse.

Indeed, the question is, what should you do about it. To my mind, it depends on whether other young children are at risk now, and in the future. Your dad is still alive, but he is now an old man. If you think he is likely to abuse other kids, you do have a responsibility to stop him. If in your judgment he is unable/unlikely to do further harm, then you only need to think about yourself.

If you do want to disclose and report to the police, first talk to SAFE: 512-267-7233.

Like many people, while you have these dreams and memories and no doubt other long term effects you haven’t mentioned, basically you have built a good life for yourself. Maybe all you need to do to make sense of this history is to work in some way to protect other children from harm. It is always healing to draw something good out of bad.

If you can manage it, perhaps the best thing you can do for yourself is to forgive him, not only for the sexual abuse, but the hypocrisy of running a “Christian” household that went against many of Jesus’ teachings. Forgiving does not mean condoning, or forgetting. He did something shameful and immoral, and this is between him and God. I saw no sign of resentment, hate, bitterness in your message. Such emotions are a hot coal we pick up to throw at someone - but it’s our hand that gets burnt. Therefore, if you do feel something like that, let it go.

So, congratulate yourself for having become a wise woman of 46, despite your childhood. Every day, act to make the world a better place, to prevent others from being abused. Be a shining light.

Bob

This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 31 years experience as a psychologist and is registered with the Australian Psychological Society. He practices in Australia. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counsellor.

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