• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Remembering Abuse

Woody Allen debate revives painful memories.

February 2, 2014

I have been ill this week and not functioning on all cylinders. Mostly this is because I picked up a bug that is going around. In part, though, it is because I become queasy every time the Woody Allen pedophilia issue gets a lot of press, because I was molested as well.

I have not written about this publicly before, and I'm not going to go into a lot of detail now. There was another victim, and I don't know how much of the story, if any, she has told. I don't want to inadvertently identify her through specifics.

I was younger than Dylan. I was at a friend's house. Her mother had left an older male relative in charge of us. I liked him.

We were playing a board game. He suggested adding another game—a chasing game—to make it more fun. He would chase us through the house if certain numbers came up on the spinner of the board game,or something like that.

At first it was fun. Then it was scary-fun—you know, like riding a roller coaster, or watching a horror movie that is just suspenseful enough—the accelerated heartbeat and the screaming are mostly exciting. Mostly. Then it got horrible. I really don't want to say any more.

I didn't tell anyone. My parents were the kind that hit you for even mentioning that you had nether regions; I could imagine the sort of hell I would bring on if I talked about this.

I don't know if my friend told anyone or not. We never talked about it. We stopped being friends soon after that, and in fact gossiped about one another to mutual friends, who were happy to relay the dirt in both directions.

We both became magnets for inappropriate male attention. We were both shamed for this in different ways. I was part of her shaming, to my everlasting regret.

I never exactly forgot about this episode, but I didn't really remember it, either. It was as if there were a force field around it; on some level I knew it was there but when I tried to go near it I was repelled.

Over the years, though, especially when I started to become sexually active, I was visited by what I came to call "shards"—fragmented images of the event. The face of a clock. My friend and me, running and screaming. These we're mixed in with some fantastical images, particularly one of a man putting on a wolf mask to pretend to scare us, and then turning into a real wolf. I was convinced I was "crazy."

When I did start confronting my memories and talking to others about them, many trusted friends and advisors assured me that I must be making it up. This has continued into my sixties. People really don't want to know. I can understand this. I sealed it off initially because I didn't want to know, either. It is ugly and disturbing. But not being believed had devastating repercussions for me. I doubted myself—not only about this instance but about nearly everything I said or even thought. For years, from my teens well into my twenties.

Fortunately, I sought out a good therapist, and for the most part those flashbacks are in the past. I am able to listen to friends' and clients' stories of abuse and be fully there for them. I no longer doubt my own veracity.

But reading stories and blog posts is upsetting on a different level. The contortions commenters go through to shame and disempower victims is, literally, sickening.


Back to Top