Denial Makes Us Crazy

When I was abused by my father, my mother told me to forget it. My parents managed to believe that no harm was done, that I was just fine. I did seem to grow up OK and was successful in my life, but underneath was a sense of not trusting myself or others.

I’ve been reading the book Denial: A Memoir of Terror. I recommend this book only if you are feeling strong—it is full of graphic descriptions of rapes and of dissociation. The author, Jessica Stern, was raped when she was a teen and the whole town colluded in denial: the police dropped the case quickly; her father did not intervene on her behalf, and everyone seemed to take the attitude that “It can’t happen here, so it didn’t, or else it was your fault.”

Jessica Stern’s words on denial are strong and true:
Denial helps the bystander. We don’t want to know….

But the victim, too, cannot bear to believe. She may bury or dissociate from or disown her pain…

When authorities disbelieve the victim, when bystanders refute what they cannot bear to know, they rob the victim of normal existence on earth. Bystander and victim collude in denial or forgetting, and in so doing repeat the abuse…. [T]he victim can no longer trust the evidence of her senses…. The ground disappears….

The dizziness brought on by the denial of others is often worse than the original crime.

I agree, and this is one reason why we need to share our stories and make them public.

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