Part 7: Fear
These new memories came more slowly and took much longer to process. One of the hardest parts was determining whether they were real. Sexual abuse was easy to understand and it was validated by the men she knew in her men’s group. Even though people did not want to talk about it, everyone knew it was going on. Estimates ranged from 25% to 40% of adults were sexually abused as children. But this was something different; it stretched credulity. Aside from the one group leader–no one we knew had heard of ritual abuse; it wasn’t real.
The emotional strain on Vicki was certainly real—much more so than the memories of sexual abuse. To be raped by half a dozen men at a gathering was not unusual. And the fact that she had been handed over to the group by her father invoked more shame. But there was also torture and violence in these groups. In another memory of the Hawaii group, she witnessed the leader call one of the women into the center of a circle of members. “You told!” he railed at her, “you know what you must do.” The leader handed her a large knife and she stabbed herself in the stomach. “This is what happens to people that tell,” he intoned to the group. With the hindsight of twenty years on this memory work, I don’t know if this happened for real. I know it seemed real to me as a child and that was the terror that I remembered some thirty-five years later as an adult. Real or not it was meant to instill fear and it certainly did that. It was a potent form of brainwashing. The feelings of needing to stab myself in the belly were so dangerously real. But my maternal feelings of needing to protect my unborn baby were stronger and I knew I could never hurt her. After this memory Vicki, more than once, was grateful for being pregnant. While an incident 35 years old in a very dimly lit past seemed to hold an immense amount of sway on her present life, there was no way she was going to kill her own baby.
As winter deepened Vicki was unable to make therapy sessions in either direction. With spring she made a couple more sessions with Isaac before closing down therapy for the birth of her baby. Isaac was initially puzzled by these new memories and seconded her notion to postpone any memory work until after the baby was born. But her memories had their own schedule. As a present to herself after the baby was born, she bought a set of expensive cotton sheets for our bed. They had a rich and colorful tropical floral print and as soon as she put them on our bed she knew she had made a mistake. She was reminded of Hawaii and the jungle where the meetings were held. A series of flashbacks came and more horrific nightmares. Those sheets went off our bed and were not used for several years.
When she returned to Isaac in mid-summer, his attitude was different. He had been reading about ritual abuse because another of his clients was revealing similar recovered memories. He did not want to work with Vicki anymore, ending the relationship of over two years abruptly. The truth was that Isaac was afraid. Like Vicki, Isaac wondered whether her father was still involved. Therapists were often a target of these groups. And when Vicki came home with that bit of startling information, she was more terrified than ever. Isaac had been her trusted talisman and now she didn’t have a counselor to help and guide her. Besides, if Issac was scared enough to drop me, I knew there was good reason to be afraid. Isaac was ex-military and packed a gun. Life was so hard at that point, surrounded by fear–it was part of every waking moment and impossible to explain. Also, I was taking care of a houseful of 8 kids and getting little sleep at night, becoming more and more undone. Jody, angry and confused that things were getting worse and not better, was always there to do memory work with me, no matter how strange, but he could not do night duty–and that was the time I dreaded. The routine of housework and the love of family kept me going. The kids were always needing love and attention and giving lots of love in return.
One of the main differences between the incest work and this new memory work was the level of fear. According to her memories it had been programmed into her from her childhood. If she ever told, she needed to self-destruct and if she didn’t they would come after her and do it themselves. And now she was telling. It was usually only me she was telling as I listened to her remember out of the forgotten abyss of her childhood, but she was breaking the silence. Fear swept through our lives. While I was less fearful than Vicki, she had enough for the both of us and more. Was her father still involved? We didn’t think so but we didn’t know for sure. For the first time in our lives she locked the doors each night and paid careful attention to where the kids were at all times. Could our phone be tapped? These men from her past were her father’s age. Had they been keeping up with her all these years? How much did they know about our lives? Were our kids in danger?
Donate or Learn More About our Work
If you would like to see the ongoing work we are involved with in Guatemala, please visit our website at www.safehomesforchildren.org. Our child advocacy work there is designed to keep families together which is the foremost deterrent to exploitation of children. Vicki does public speaking on child trafficking in the United States, and if you would like to support this work, you can make donations to Safe Homes and note its specified purpose. In the near future, you can submit donations or learn more about trafficked children at our new and specially dedicated site (launch and new address to be announced in an upcoming post).
Follow this series on Tuesdays of each week (read previous posts, 1-6 here).
Photo Image Credit: ”Burning Man” by Herby.