[EDIT: Originally posted in the morning on Monday, July 27th, 2009]
Fabricated memories, Lost memories, recovered memories, conflicting memory expert testimony…
Rubbish and subterfuge: all of it.
Prior to talking to the police, I had never discussed any details about what went on in ayres’ office with anyone. I had seen a couple of stories in the news, with some vague and limited statements about “stripping naked, and masturbation” Even the very limited details had what I knew were partial truth along with significant errors, probably deliberately released to help weed out false reports.
When I first went to the police to file my out-of-statute report about ayres molestations, I was very afraid: What if it turns out that I’m the only one? What if I report and they want me to testify and I decide I don’t want to? Can they come to my work, arrest me, and force me to testify, causing yet more humiliation, disruption and damage? Will the slimeball defense attorney be able to have access to every aspect of my life, interview everyone I know for the purpose of discrediting, embarrassing me?
I placed my call to the police from a disposable cell phone, purchased with cash in a town that I’ve never been to before. The battery was removed anytime I was getting anywhere near home, so that they could not figure out what city I lived in based on cell phone signal records. I asked questions, without giving my name, and then said I’d call back with a decision about whether I wanted to file a report or not.
Then I began to think about what the process might be like. I realized that I’d probably only have one interview, maybe two before I would testify in trial, if it ever happened. I knew that I needed to be objective, clear, direct, brutally honest, and consistent: only discussing what I know to be true.
On the day of the interview, I called in sick to work, to brace myself, and organize my thoughts.
When the interview started, I don’t recall there even being any question asked. I think it was something like: “OK, Go ahead, tell me what happened.” I decided to start by drawing a sketch of ayres’ office layout describing the brown wooden walls and doors, and white tabletop with the shelf above it, where ayres had all of his bribes for boys, and where he could molest them if he wanted to do it with them lying down. While I was drawing the picture and describing it, I was thinking… maybe this is all distorted, maybe they weren’t doors, maybe the walls weren’t wood. I added: “At least I’m pretty sure they were folding doors, maybe they slid back in…” A point of interest here: maybe I was faltering on the detail about the wood door, but the white table and it’s purpose, along with the full shelf of plastic models were long since burned into my memory -- no faltering there. Imagine my horror and disgust when ayres described FONDLY during his own testimony THE EXACT THING THAT I HAD DRAWN, down to the detail of the folding wooden doors.
Over the course of the interview (and recalling that I had prepared myself to be direct, brutally honest) my statements changed over the course of the interview: At the beginning: “He touched me in the private region.” Later, to clarify: “his hand was on my genitals, and he was doing the following…” and finally at the end of the interview, describing the actions in plain detail using slang terms for body parts, and giving detail about the explicit, and sexual nature of the things that ayres was saying while he was doing it. Did I change my story? Did I make new stuff up as I went along, was I led to answer these things in a certain way by the nature or wording of the detective’s questions? No, no, no, and no.
I went in with a specific, concrete memory in my head, and even though I had steeled myself to be direct and brutally honest, I did not start with the most explicit and fully detailed explanation of what happened. Who does that in an entirely new situation, with a stranger, even in a “professional” setting? These are painful memories, on a topic that no one discusses in public, and even though I was in a room with only one person, I knew that this conversation was going to be a part of the public record if it made it into the trial. That does not mean that I made stuff up, or enhanced as I went along, or was lead to give certain answers during the interview. It means that I was easing into discussing something intensely embarrassing and personal with the public, which I had never before discussed even with my closest friends, nor in years of therapy, for which I had hoped to find the courage to discuss this very topic, nor with a pastor. What if I had ever had a second interview? Would there be more detail as I became familiar with the process of baring my soul? Absolutely, and perhaps even more detail at the trial. Does this make me a liar? Someone purporting memories that are not real because they were not reported exactly that way the first or second time? No, not at all: it means that I am discussing painful memories that have not changed, under differing circumstances. The descriptions ALL describe the same real things that ayres did.
Over the course of the interview, the detective really asked very few questions, and most of those I answered with “I don’t really remember” or “maybe but I’m not sure” I even called attention to what I thought was misinformation printed in the press, and questioned if maybe it had been released to help weed out false reports… I said that I know for certain that it’s not correct. I got nothing but a blank stare.
When he did ask questions, they were questions of clarification: “did ayres wear gloves” for example. “I have no idea. I don’t think so, but maybe, I don’t remember.” Was it really relevant? Perhaps in presentation of the facts it was relevant to show that ayres was doing this for personal gratification, but in my mind, at the time that it happened, gloves were the least of my concerns, and I simply don’t remember.
These are not memories that are “recovered” nor were they ever “suppressed” I struggled with these memories in high school: without getting into any personal specifics, they warped the very way that I thought about things. High School was miserable. College was miserable. I could not focus on the work. Not for the usual social reasons though. I was busy trying to deny and forget my memories, and work around my warped way of looking at things. I started to see a shrink at the college. I told the shrink “I saw dr. ayres when I was young.” Blank look. “He’s supposed to be one of the best.” Blank look… Well, maybe I was the only one, or maybe she doesn’t know what ayres was doing to young boys. Or maybe she does know, and doesn’t want to be bothered… Maybe I’m insane, or the only one, maybe it’s my fault….
My 10 sessions went by, and then she sent me to group therapy, It was 6 young women, 1 very effeminate young man, and me. I did that for awhile. Mostly I tried to figure out how I could get one of the women to like me, while talking about inane things that bother me… “I sure hate my calc prof…”
Later the first shrink recommended me to an off-campus shrink. I don’t know how many years I saw him. “I saw dr. ayres when I was young.” Blank look. “He’s supposed to be one of the best.” Blank look… Well, maybe I was the only one, or maybe HE doesn’t know what ayres was doing to young boys. Or maybe he does know, and doesn’t want to be bothered… Maybe I’m insane, or the only one, maybe it’s my fault…. Probably pulled the “I went to dr ayres” thing out of my hat every six months or so to see if there were any new developments.
Then the civil trial is announced. Hmm.. So I wasn’t the only one. So, because I did nothing, other boys were molested. Well there’s a dirty and crushing little secret to keep.
Memory Experts testimony during the trial: Great for the defense. Wave the hands around: “Hey look over here… nothing up my sleeve.”
All of it completely pointless.
The memories that I have that are incriminating of ayres are not made up, they’re not repressed, they’re not inspired by the dearth of questions asked by the police detective, and they aren’t deterred by the red-herring information given to the press. They’ve been there all along. They weren’t even successfully suppressed. God knows I tried to suppress them. God knows how my thinking is twisted by what happened there, what stress it puts on what should be a normal healthy adult way of thinking. The memories have always been there all the time, waiting right there to humiliate me, to make me feel guilty at every turn.
“Memory does not improve over time.”
Nope, I’m sure it probably doesn’t. The things that I’ve forgotten, or not thought about for a long time are really not the most humiliating aspects of what happened. Did he wear gloves? “Ah ha! You don’t remember whether or not he wore gloves! You must be a LIAR” Wave your hands: "Nothing up my sleeve!"
That humiliating stuff? I get to remember THAT clearly quite frequently.
The jury decision may indeed hinge on what they think about repressed or induced memories, but it’s all just bullshit.