5. Amnesia and Denial and Repression of Abuse[857]

Part: 
Four
Chapter: 
1

The Commission heard accounts from several witnesses who were unable to recall portions of their lives or specific events. These witnesses attributed their amnesia to trauma associated with the production or use of pornography. The woman who had been sexually abused and forced to participate in the production and viewing of pornography from age ten testified:

I do not remember the exact beginning of my personal war.[858]

In 1984 is when I started to speak publicly against pornography because it was during that year that I learned and remembered that I was victimized as a child. Prior to that time I had no memory of it.[859]

My upset has to do with not being able to remember exactly the beginning, or for that matter, the lost segments of time such as a year or two of my life.[860]

It is essential, if one is to survive years of physical abuse, whether one is a child or an adult, to distort one's reality and live in denial.[861]

Witnesses described various psychological mechanisms they used to endure the sexual abuse or humiliation associated with pornography:

Sometimes I would make believe I was in a coma and I'd have to lay absolutely still, because people in comas don't move. So I would set about my task by practicing how not to move and how not to make a sound.[862]

... and because of what my family life was like, I learned to cope with being shown pornography.

The way I did that was I would behave as if I was looking at the pictures. But I would not directly look at them. I would make believe that I was blind, that I could not see. In my mind I said to myself, I do not see them, but then concentrated on not allowing my body to respond in any way that would be visible to them. I repeated to myself over and over again, don't move any part of your body. Somehow I believed if I denied the feelings that I could forget the experience, which I later translated to it never happened, and I had stayed that way for twenty years.[863]

A woman who said she had been sexually and emotionally abused since childhood through the use of pornography and who said she suffered from multiple personality testified:

In every episode with him are ones I realized that I could not avoid his advances; I would put myself in a trance-like state and pray for it all to be over with as soon as possible.[864]

... Then, like an internal sore, the repressed memories began erupting, baring all of my symptoms and anxiety; I looked for the long-term help that I knew I would need.[865]

... It has been extremely difficult for me to write my testimony. I am only now, because of the request that I testify today, beginning to remember the pornography to which I was subjected. The memories that I have relived completely have been of a physical nature, the extreme traumas which were responsible for my splitting. I feel that I have been so desensitized that the memories of having been shown pornographic pictures have seemed harmless and therefore, until now, there has been no need to remember them.

* * *

...trauma of my relationship with my stepfather, and the role pornography played. Each time I have reread what I have written I am so re-appalled, re-horrified and re-traumatized myself that I decided it more important to just tell you that I knew pornographic magazines played a large part in my stepfather's life. I do not remember in detail the magazines he used, but I do know that they were of a sadomasochistic nature.[866]

Notes

  1. These symptoms may be reflective of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). See, DSM-III, supra note 762, p. 238.
  2. Washington, D.C., Hearing, Vol. I, p. 220.
  3. Id., p. 219.
  4. Id., p. 220.
  5. Id., p. 231.
  6. Id., p. 230.
  7. Id., p. 224.
  8. Washington, D.C., Hearing, Vol. II, p. 262.
  9. Id., p. 264.
  10. Id., p. 258-59.