To support his wife, Wayne Jamison attended a two-hour presentation I called "Healing4You." At the end of the evening, as I was packing up my books, Wayne came to me.
He leaned over and said softly, "I—I'd like to ask you something."
I stopped boxing my books. Haltingly, Wayne told me about an older cousin who "did things to him" when he was 12 years old. He described what took place, and added, "It happened maybe four or five times, but we outgrew that, and I forgot about them." He hesitated and asked, "Was that abuse?"
I stared at him, not sure how to answer and then I said, "It was and if you're now aware of it, it says you didn't forget."
He admitted that and went on to say, "I just thought it was things guys did until they were old enough to date girls. That's what my cousin said."
Sounds naïve, doesn't it? Yet I occasionally hear stories from men who didn't recognized that they had been sexually assaulted. The predator made it seem like something natural—as the cousin did to Wayne. As one man said, "It felt normal because my dad came into my room at least once a week. He told me he loved more than he loved my mother and my sister."
Normal. That's just one of the ways we don't face our sexual assault as children. Or perhaps we think that if we could convince ourselves that it was normal, it wasn't really abuse.
On some level we know. And we don't forget.