Trigger warning: Sexual assault
The other week I watched a TV show where a character looked familiar. It wasn’t the actor necessarily, as I had seen them before in other shows and films and hadn’t had these thoughts before. It was their facial responses. I couldn’t place who they reminded me of, though. It was their nose and eyes, with their hair styled in a way I recognised, the way they spoke and moved, with this cocky, ‘I’m more important than you’ attitude.
Clearly it was tucked away in my mind, as I dreamt of that person they reminded me of that night. Someone I haven’t seen in-person in over 10 years. It was a nice dream. We were our age now and they were being kind to me, friendly in their tone and we were talking about something happy it seemed, from the fragments I can recall. I woke up feeling positive, with a fondness for them. As I drove into work the following morning, it clicked why I dreamt of them: they are who the actor in the TV show reminded me of. I started to wonder what they were up to now, if they still lived in the same town, if they have the same friends, if they were happy, wishing them the best.
On my lunch break that day, I listened to an audiobook; currently Pageboy by Elliot Page. In chapter 7, ‘Leeches’, Elliot explains the many times that he was molested and sexually assaulted by adults they were around. People who were making the films and TV shows he was acting in, or his peers, or people who should have been looking after him. It’s a heartbreaking chapter, not least because it reveals the trauma Elliot faced from a young age, as a child actor in the spotlight.
While listening to a particular description of an incident, I remembered ‘it’ again. I say ‘again’, because it’s not something shut away in my mind hidden beneath some sort of coping mechanism; I think about it every few years and have told people about it. This person the actor reminded me of, I remembered how they were not only cruel to me verbally, but they frequently touched me without my consent in ways they definitely knew was inappropriate and, with the language I have now, would call sexual assault.
It was frequent, always during the same scenario, and one time I thought I was going to tell an adult about it but I got scared last minute. They use to tell me things, though I can’t remember the exact wording. Part of me feels like they told me not to tell anyone, or something similarly threatening. I think the first time I told people I was about 23, while sharing stories in a similar vein. I tend to shrug it off.
I hate how even now, years later, I think ‘it’s not as bad as others experiences’ or ‘I’m lucky it doesn’t affect me’, because it was bad and it does affect me, clearly. While I can acknowledge that it doesn’t debilitate me, it’s something I think about and wonder if there are certain traits in my character that are a response to what happened. As I write this, I am even thinking about another traumatic thing that happened to me that is unrelated, and my mind is telling me that the the first scenario I am describing wasn’t as bad as ‘the other one’. Like some sort of trauma competition. I don’t know why I do this, try to pass off things that happened as ‘not that bad’.
Back to the first event from my life I’m thinking about, I wanted to blog to say that it’s weird how memory works isn’t it? Despite not being a repressed memory, as it’s something I’ve thought about numerous times since, for the first half of my day the other week I forgot all the bad things this person did to me either because of the TV show or the dream. I forgot the inappropriate touching, the threats connected to those instances, and the verbal harassment during the other years. It was like they never happened. The morning I remembered they existed, I wondered what they were up to and hoping they were happy. The second I heard that book chapter I recollected those scared feelings I had in their presence and I no longer cared about the answer to my pondering questions. It felt like my memory had betrayed me by thinking about them positively.
And as I attempt to bring this post to a close, I realise (again, thanks memory) that it’s not the first time I’ve blogged about memory. I guess it’s something I am fascinated by.