Dissociation is basically memory loss or "amnesia" related to your sexual abuse. It is a protective function performed by the brain.
"Dissociation" according to wikipedia, is:
"certain thoughts, emotions, sensations, and/or memories are compartmentalized because they are too overwhelming for the conscious mind to integrate. This subconscious strategy for managing powerful negative emotions is sometimes referred to as as these split off from the integrated ego."
What does that mean to you and me?
Well, basically, dissociation can take on different forms. Many women describe feeling in a dream state at times...but most describe that they have lost large chunks of their memories, sometimes good along with the bad, meaning the abuse. The "splitting" can be to different extremes. Just because you dissociate does not necessarily mean that you have multiple personality disorder. That is the extreme. It does happen, but not as often as pure dissociation.
Dissociation is like a protective mechanism that your brain performs for you. If you are in a situation that is too painful or too traumatic, your brain realizes this and automatically removes it from your conscious mind.
This does not mean that you will never recover your memories.., in fact, many memories come through in dreams, or when "triggered" by outside circumstances or things that remind you of your abuse. You can regain memories through all of your senses, olfactory (smell), tactile, (touch), visual, auditory. (hearing)..
Many abuse survivors are what you call "hypervigilant" which means, you are hyper-aware. Ready for attack, as I used to view myself. Your senses are keen..on the alert.
For example, one of my sexual assaults ocurred after a party. For a long time, the smell of alcohol would make me feel anxious and tense. It took me awhile to connect the two together. My nose remembered. :)
I am sure for many of you, your memories are triggered by some type of sense. If you are working in therapy, your memories probably will start surfacing..a bit at a time..sometimes the flood-gates open up.
For some women, they are left with holes in their memories..even after remembering some of their abuse.
You can still dissociate even years after your abuse. When you are in a stressful situation, or if something triggers your abuse. Friends may describe you as "spacing out". You may feel like you lost some time. It can be frightening to dissociate..for you and your family.
There is Hope
It is good to keep a journal if you find that you are dissociating frequently. Write down your daily activities. If you "space out" or dissociate, look at what you were doing prior to the episode. What was the trigger?
It is also good to be in therapy if you are having difficulties with dissociating, especially if it is disrupting your everyday life.
A therapist or counselor can work with you in figuring out your triggers and help you to regain your memories in a safe setting.
A website I found that has a forum for people who dissociate is:
Depersonalization Support Community
dissociation to Sexual-abuse-signs page