Every so often and for close to 20 years I’ll startle awake from a dream, covered in sweat, with a pounding heart and clenched fists. Usually the dream repeats itself from scenes I can still remember as a 5 year old; I’m a child again and I can’t stop my father from hurting my mother. In my dreams I’m powerless to prevent what I know is going to happen to her. Fear, rage, confusion, and anxiety course through my body until I’m jolted awake by the backhand of my father. When I come to consciousness I’m not relieved I’m dreaming, because it’s not a dream, it’s a memory.
I don’t consider myself a victim, but I do feel I have some corollary anguish with those who have unfortunately been assaulted themselves. The majority of the pain that resurfaces for me is expressed in night terrors. The dreams have decreased year over year, but the ache that comes with them hasn’t.