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Tor Lowell I didn’t know that anything bad had happened to me. Memories ran in parallel of themselves, a body could become more than one, split apart across time and events. Do you remember, what it was like, to not know how to read? Do you remember what words looked like, can you recall the strange shape of them before you knew what they represented? What did your body look like, before you had a name for it? And when someone hurts you, how do you see it, in your mind’s eye, before you know what it stands for?

Sexual abuse isn’t an anatomy lesson, a vocabulary lesson, it does not teach you about the human body or sex. You are an abstraction of violence, a painting in which hidden in it are the names for what it represents, but you don’t know those names. It’s an approximation of sex, a joke of sex, in which the punchline is you, but you don’t know it yet.

Saying sexual abuse memories are stored differently than other memories is a metaphor. It’s a metaphor for the phenomenon of remembering a movie exactly the way you saw it as a child. The lines you quote, the scenes you remember, no matter how vast your adult vocabulary, how expansive your understanding of the world now is, will remain as you remembered it as a child. Until you look at it again. Until you match your memories to what you know now, to the book knowledge that has never once touched what you experienced.

And if you have a risky memory, a memory that could unwind the very foundation of your family, that could shatter the understanding of the people around you, you have no incentive to every look back at those memories again. To ever think about them beyond how they were experienced in the moment, when you were a child, and nothing meant anything. Let them atrophy. Let them rot inside your mind, a collection of events unassociated with time or meaning.

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