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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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How do I know if I have repressed sexual abuse memories?I

Resolved Question:

How do I know if I have repressed sexual abuse memories?
I am certain my Dad was physically, and emotionally abusive and an alcoholic.
I have dreams on occasion about his emotional and sometimes physical abuse toward me.
So thats no mystery to me. Yet, subconsiously when I think about the possibility of sexual abuse, I get sick and divert my thoughts (which anyone would do I suppose?) I have no concrete memory of anything happening except for physical abusive incidents. So are my subconsious thoughts of serious adversion to the idea normal? (My mom was sexually abused by her own Dad) . My Dad would make negative comments about my developing body as an adolescense, but I dont remember anything he did to me. In fact, he would sometimes tell me that what my own Mom suffered was horrible from her own Dad, and I agreed. I have no memories or reason to believe I was sexually abused, just a horrible feeling (maybe just related to physical and psychological abuse?) Im confused.... thanks....
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

Hi, I'd like to help you with your question.


Abuse often causes memory loss. It is a defense mechanism that helps a person who has been abused as a child cope with the horror of being abused. As you know, recalling memories as an adult can upset you and bring back the trauma of the abuse. As a result, your mind helps you deal with what you went through by blocking some, if most or all, of the abuse.


Given that you can recall some of the abuse you suffered, this is a sign that you did not block out most of what happened to you. That may mean that you developed other ways to cope that allowed you to recall some of your abuse.


It is very normal for people to be repulsed by thoughts of their parents sexually abusing them. So your reaction is normal. Because you were physically and emotionally abused by your father, the thought of also being sexually abused by him may cause a stronger reaction in you because you already feel an aversion to him. Also, you have your mother's sexual abuse to cope with as well. This can impact you and create trauma for you as well, even through it happened to her. You do not have to witness it or be involved in any way to be traumatized by it. Just hearing it, especially as a child, can traumatize you. It can also confuse you and create false memories for you since you heard it as a child and children process information differently than adults do.


The best way to find out if you are repressing memories of sexual abuse is to talk to a therapist. They can help you explore your childhood memories in a safe environment. You may also want to try hypnosis. It works for some people and can help you remember more about your childhood which in turn will trigger additional information for you to go on.


I hope this has helped you,

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