Deeply Buried Memories.
Rachel, a demure forty year-old lady, had checked-in because she had been having flashbacks of her abuse history which she had almost forgotten. She apologised profusely before we began the interview, prefacing it with some uncertainty in her memory recall of events during her childhood years. After some reassurance, she began her story. She grew up in a village where her extended family lived, and family members went in and out of each other’s homes freely. Rachel remembered vividly all her uncles and aunts, as they would play hide-and-seek with her during weekends, together with her many cousins. About a month back, she attended a cousin’s wedding and one of her uncles at the function put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her towards him. She suddenly felt uncomfortable and quickly made an excuse and moved away from him. Since then, she has had flashbacks of him abusing her.
We explored further the environment of what she was able to recollect about her home in the village. Rachel closed her eyes and began to describe to me what it was like during her childhood years: her parents and siblings, cousins, uncles and aunts, neighbours, the games they played among themselves as kids, school days and holidays, important festive events, etc. There was much laughter as the conversation between us flowed back and forth, as I elucidated on a few of her descriptions of what life was like in those days. We then focused on what happened after sunset around her home and in the village. Without much hesitation, Rachel continued to jovially relate what a typical evening was like around her home. Then I enquired about the games the children played with the older kids, her aunts and uncles. She was in mid-sentence describing the hide-and-seek game, when suddenly she screamed. She opened her eyes – shock and fear was written all over Rachel’s face. She starred at me, but she was looking right through me! Her body was shaking uncontrollably as she curled up on the sofa! After a few seconds, realising she was in a dissociated state, I attempted to calm her down by reassuring her that she was in my office and not in her village. A minute later, Rachel opened her eyes. When she appeared ready to respond, I asked, “What was happening in the village, Rachel, when you screamed?” It took a minute before Rachel answered. In between sobs, she said she found herself with one of her uncles, not the one she met at her cousin’s wedding, in an outdoor toilet, where he had brought her, and he was sexually abusing her. The intrusive scene shocked her as she had no memory of this particular uncle doing things to her.
In the ensuing weeks, Rachel recalled that several of her uncles and one aunt were responsible for sexually abusing her and several of her cousins during their childhood years.