(An encore post by Cecil Murphey)
"It's the past. Forget it and move on," my youngest brother, Chuck, said to me. We had both been sexually assaulted by the same person. He didn't admit being sexually molested, but he didn't deny it either. On the few occasions when I tried to talk to him about it, his answer was, (1) "You can't undo the past," (2) "We don't have to think about those things," or (3) "That stuff happened back then." His words implied that we need only to forget the past, leave it behind, and it's gone.
If only it were that simple.
Chuck died after years of trying to cure his pain through alcohol. I don't know if the pain he tried to medicate was the abuse, but I suspect it was. On rare occasions when he was drunk, he made oblique references to "that mess in childhood."
Outwardly, Chuck wanted to get past the sexual molestation and get on with his life. So why didn't he "move on" with his life?
I had a second brother named Mel, also an alcoholic. He was married five times and died of cirrhosis at age 48. Unlike Chuck, Mel wouldn't talk about our childhood. "There's nothing back there to talk about," was the most he ever said.
I write about my two brothers because both of them seemed determined to get past the abuse of childhood by forgetting, denying, or ignoring. That approach doesn't work.
We don't forget—not really. We don't forget because childhood abuse affects our lives and shapes our attitudes about people and relationships. Some guys want to hurry and get over it, but it's not something to get over and to move on.
Abuse happened to us. Until we accept it and face what it has done to our lives, we don't really move forward. We only live unhealed lives.
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