Counseling/not knowing...

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"I have always had a kind of bad family situation. My mom is well I guess the closest word to describing it would be crazy and I met my dad once when I was about 6 or 7 I think and haven't seen him since. I was taken away from my mother when I was a few weeks old because she wasn't taken care of me and I was then put in my grandparents care, well mostly my grandmothers because when I was about 5 my grandfather had a stroke and suffered brain damage leaving him with the mentality of pretty much a child.Living there my mom would come by every once and a while sometimes stay for a couple days and then leave for weeks. When I was about 10 my grandmother found out she had breast cancer, she went through the chemo and surgery but she was just getting worse and was unable to take care of me and my grandfather anymore so I was sent to live with my cousins that I had spent a few weekends here and there with.
My grandmothers house wasn't really a good place for a child, with my mother there talking about people taking her wheels and saying she was going to take me "home" when she got a place, and with one of my uncles(now deceased) who was homeless and a druggie, there was people coming through that house that weren't the best for a child to be around.
My question has to do with, I have this strong feeling that one of my other uncles let's call him Bob, I just don't know why but I have this strong feeling that he did something to me, i'm not really sure what exactly, either him making me touch him or him touching me or what. I just remember when my grandmother was in the hospital I was just mean to him specifically when he would tell me to do things such as come and eat dinner or go to sleep and I just had this strong feeling against anything he said.
Well I am 19 now and my cousin/mom was talking with my cousin/dad and he was like there were so many bad people going through that house when she was living there, how do we know that she wasn't sexually abused, and she told him that well if she was she might not even remember it. She told me about this and I was like yeah I don't remember anything really but I was also so young that I don't remember a lot of stuff from when I was living there. I think that is what has got me thinking a lot about it.
Also most of the time after me and my boyfriend have sex, I just feel really sad afterward and I just want to curl up in a ball and lay there.  Also if we are in like the middle of something, and he does something accidentally that makes it hurt I just try to get away from him and face the wall but I have no idea why. He recently asked me why after we have sex that I always want to like curl up in a ball and I was like I don't really know, I think that has also got me thinking that maybe it has something to do with "bob".
I guess the question is really is there anything you think I can do to determine if anything really happened? Maybe I remember since I have such a strong feeling against him maybe my mind is just blocking out any of those memories because of how bad it was and is there anything I can do to maybe unblock it? Maybe you have an insight on it being about something else rather than abuse?

Also I can't talk to my uncle "bob" about it because he is in jail for stabbing a woman and there isn't anybody left really from my childhood that I can talk to about it because my mom was rarely there and my grandparents and uncles are now deceased.
- Signed
Confused?""

Answer
Hi, Veronica.  The simple answer to your question is there probably isn't anything you can do to determine "if anything really happened."  Let me expand a bit.  First, it's very rare that someone who has been sexually abused doesn't have some memory.  In the mid-1980's there was a lot of hoopla about recovered repressed sexual memories therapy.  There were therapists who specialized in memory recovery.  The "memories" were "uncovered" and then - as part of the "healing process" - the client was encouraged to confront the abuser.  As a result, many people were wrongfully accused and in some cases parents were estranged from their children because of this "therapy."  This type of therapy met its justified demise when some of these parents sued the therapists and won.  I would guess there are a few out there still but the popularity and legitimacy of the recovery therapy movement has certainly waned in the past 30 years due in part to these law suits and good research showing that most of these memories were indeed false.  I was trained and hold advanced certification in hypnotherapy.  I've been approached many times by people who want to do "memory work."  I've steadfastly refused (hasn't helped the bottom line but I sleep well at night).  Research has shown that hypnosis is not good at recovering memories.  What it is good for is getting people to believe that false memories are real.  That's exactly the problem with the recovered memory therapy.  The therapist began with the assumption that any problem that clients have are as a result of repressed memories of sexual abuse. Therefore anything that the client experiences is further evidence of abuse.  It's a case where the assumption colors the therapy.  You are wise not to discuss this with your Uncle Bob.  There is high probability that he will deny that he abused you.  Here is where the repressed memory therapist would tell you that his denial is proof that you were in fact abused.  The issue here is that the more you become convinced that your experiences are tied to being abused, the more your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors will conform to your assumption - even if that assumption is more fiction than fact.  Let's suppose that you were able to recover the memories and they were true.  What then?  How will that be helpful and how will it make a difference knowing that?  You'll now have an excuse for your feelings, thoughts and behaviors, but will it actually change anything? There may be any number of reasons (beside being abused) why you are sad after sex.  It sounds like your boyfriend is sensitive to your reactions and that's a plus.  Perhaps finding a good therapist who will help you focus on the future, and your goals might be more useful than focusing on an unchangeable and very possibly fictitious past. At all costs, I would strongly recommend that you avoid having conversations that convince you that you were sexually abused - these will only serve to further convince you that you're damaged and will set a path in your life that is better left untraveled.  I hope this helps you think differently and more usefully about this.  Feel free to respond or if you have any follow up questions.  Best wishes.  Joel

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Joel Simon

Expertise

General questions about counseling, psychotherapy and mental health.

Experience

Over 30 years as a therapist, clinical supervisor and solution-focused trainer. I've worked in a variety of settings including adolescent day treatment, inpatient psychiatric hospitals, community mental health clinics, and hospice. Further information is available on my website: www.0to10.net

Organizations
A founding member of the Solution Focused Brief Therapy Association, Academy of Certified Social Workers, Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in New York State.

Publications
Co-authored "Solution-Focused Brief Practice With Long-Term Clients in Mental Health Services: I'm More Than My Label." Authored: "Solution-Focused Practice in End-of-Life and Grief Counseling" Several articles published in professional journals including 2 with Insoo Kim Berg. Further details are available at www.0to10.net

Education/Credentials
Masters of Social Work (Yeshiva University 1978). 5 years training in Transactional Analysis, certified in Advanced Ericksonian Psychotherapy and Hypnosis with the New York Society (NYSEPH), Advanced training and advanced supervision seminar in solution-focused brief therapy with the co-developers of the approach, Insoo Kim Berg and Steve de Shazer

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