Stop Telling Me To Forgive My Abuser

Stop Telling Me To Forgive My Abuser

by Christina Enevoldsen

As much support and love as there is in the community of survivors that gather online, there is a topic that seems to divide us. I’ve rarely witnessed discussion topics that become as hostile as the issue of forgiveness.

It’s easy to understand why there would be so much disagreement considering that there are so many definitions of forgiveness. To some it means accepting the past. Others define forgiveness as letting go of negative emotions. To some, it coincides with reconciliation or feeling no ill will toward towards the abuser, while others believe it has nothing to do with a relationship the abuser.

Added to that, forgiveness is very often preached as necessary for other survivors. It’s one thing to say that forgiveness is important to you, but quite another to insist that it’s important for all survivors or to tell others what’s best for their own healing. That’s when forgiveness discussions turn into defenses against boundary violations and condescending remarks.

On a recent quote I posted on OSA Facebook, (a quote that didn’t really have anything to do with forgiveness), the discussion took an interesting turn. It was interesting to me because it illustrated where I believe discussions on forgiveness become unhealthy.

“I used to have a fear that I’d be obligated to stop talking about my abuser if he was sorry, as though that changed anything about what he had done to me. Now I believe that if there are consequences for his actions, it’s not up to me to protect him, no matter what his intentions and actions are now. No matter what happens after the abuse, I still have a right to tell my story—even if my abuser is remorseful; even if my abuser turns into a loving person; even if my abuser builds wells in impoverished countries; even if I restore a relationship with my abuser; even if my abuser is incapacitated; even if my abuser dies—I still have a right to tell my story.” The Rescued Soul by Christina Enevoldsen

I appreciated this insight from one of the commenters:

“Even if your abuser was remorseful, he would know you have the right to be hurt and heal and shouldn’t stop you from it. They would own up and take responsibility for the consequences and know that what they have done will always be part of your life. They would understand—if truly remorseful. They would even stop others from doing what they did. The sad thing is, too many never are.”

This spells out what I believe true remorse is. It’s being concerned for the well-being of the one you harmed. It’s pursuing amends instead of escape from the consequences.

So far, none of the abusers in my life have shown remorse, though one claimed to be remorseful to avoid prison. When that didn’t work, he returned to claiming he was being treated unfairly.

I believe that it’s possible for a sexual abuser to be remorseful—only I haven’t seen or experienced it. The problem is that they tend to be so manipulative and deceptive that it can be hard to know the truth unless you see evidence of change over a long period of time—which isn’t possible when you don’t want them in your life. Even then, how can you really know for sure?

The commenter continued:

“Someone hurt me last year and I feel the need for them to be remorseful because I want to believe change can happen but I’m not expecting it and they are removed from my life. Even if they were [remorseful], I don’t feel I could forgive and definitely not forget or [that] it would mean I have to forgive them.”

This echoes very much what I expressed in the original quote. There is no obligation to me no matter the improvements my abusers make or claim to make.

However, another commenter continued the thought on forgiveness with this response directed toward the previous commenter:

“In time I hope you can forgive because it will help in your healing process.” 

Do I Need to Forgive My Abuser to Heal?

Do I have to forgive my abuser to heal? I was told forgiveness was a condition of healing for years after I first remembered that my dad had sexually abused me. Our relationship continued as it had. I called it forgiveness, but I hadn’t even validated my own pain yet. It wasn’t really forgiveness since I hadn’t faced that there was anything to forgive. I was in denial; I just swept it all away and pretended it never happened.

The commenter added:

“Also in life’s journey, you/we all will need to be forgiven for the wrong we may say or do at some time or another.”

Saying that we all need to be forgiven isn’t helpful. That discounts the serious and repetitive nature of sexual abuse. It’s a shame-making statement to compel a survivor into doing what they “should”. It’s each survivor’s decision to work out what’s best for him or her.”

When I intervened, the commenter directed this to me:

“Do you not believe that you yourself will need to be forgiven for ANYTHING you may have said or done to anyone along life’s journey or do you not ever apologize for anything you say or do wrong??! No one is without spot or blemish/wrong doing?”

This is another approach I’ve heard so much. Yes, I do wrong others. I need to apologize. I need to be forgiven.

I don’t handle my wrong-doing the same way that most abusers do. When I discovered that I’ve wronged someone, I feel pain for the injury I’ve done. It wounds me to know I’ve wounded someone else. I feel a responsibility to do something about that. I apologize and make appropriate amends. I work to change my behavior so I don’t repeat it.

What Does Being Imperfect Have to Do With It?

There’s an added insult in that statement too. “You will need to be forgiven” comes as a threat: You don’t deserve to be forgiven unless you forgive.” My dad, and many other abusers, have used that reasoning to imply that you’re wrong for protesting or complaining about abuse at all unless you’re perfect.

“You’re not perfect so who are you to judge?”
“You’re not perfect so why should we believe you?”
“You’re not perfect so your hands are dirty too.”

What’s Wrong With Being Angry About Abuse?

The commenter added:

“I’m wondering, you may be physically free from your abuser(s) but how long are you going to hold a grudge towards your abuser(s) & still live mentally as a hostage by them in keeping angry ill feelings towards them???”

“holding a grudge”
“resentful”
“bitter”
“angry”

Those are all very triggering words to most survivors that I know. Why wouldn’t they be? Who wants to be around someone who is bitter? Who wants to extend support to someone who is resentful? Being labeled as angry means rejection. Those accusations are intended to get us “in line”—to make us conform to cultural norms and to put the happy face back on.

That comment prompted me to actually look up the meaning of those words. The dictionary definitions:

Grudge comes from the German word, “to complain”. It means feeling ill will or resentment toward someone.

Resentment is the feeling of displeasure or indignation at some act, remark, person, etc., regarded as causing injury or insult. Anger

What’s wrong with feeling ill will toward your abuser? What wrong with complaining about them? What wrong with feeling indignant about their abuse? What’s wrong with expressing anger?

Those are the things I needed to do to heal. Previously, I was numb to the things that happened to me. Coping with the abuse required me to agree with my treatment and to shut down my feelings. But unfeeling isn’t the same as being healed.

To heal, I had to do the opposite of what forgiveness demanded. I had to finally become my own ally instead of my abuser’s. I had to acknowledge the depth of betrayal and offense that I’d experienced. I had to get in touch with my emotions and feel the pain and anger that was buried. I had to turn with compassion toward myself and give myself the comfort I needed.

While I was pressured to forgive, I didn’t make any progress in my healing. I only healed once I started to make me the focus of my healing without worrying about my abusers or my feelings toward them.

Who Is Forgiveness For?

I was told that forgiveness was for my benefit, not for my abusers, but it wasn’t for my benefit to be pushed. I needed time to sort through my feelings and then to decide for myself without guilt from outside sources.

Forgiveness is touted as something we do to free ourselves, but how freeing is it to be told you have to do something? How freeing is it to be told to let go of your feelings? I was separated from my feelings long enough while I coped with the experience and effects of my abuse. Accepting my emotions was a sign that I was finally considering and connecting with me.

Many claim that if we don’t forgive, we are likely to get stuck in a place of anger and bitterness. But all of those feelings pass when they are properly directed and expressed. When survivors feel permission to grieve for our losses and to express all the feelings that are a part of that grief, it frees us to move though it. Getting stuck isn’t the result of freedom to feel; it comes from the pressure to move on before we’re ready.

Survivors are amazingly capable of moving through the healing steps when we are validated and encouraged to listen to ourselves. No one else has a better sense of timing for our own process than we do.

External pressure doesn’t produce true forgiveness anyway. Forgiveness comes from the generosity of a full heart. When our hearts are broken and we are taught to forgive, it’s another soul betrayal. It’s being generous with the person who crushed us rather than being generous with ourselves.

I did end up forgiving, but that was the result of my healing, not the cause of it. Forgiveness came for me when I expressed—and ran out of—the anger. I ran out of anger because I stopped judging myself for feeling it. I ran out because I directed it where it belonged: toward my abusers. I ran out of anger because I gave myself permission to express it in healthy ways.

Is Advising Abuse Survivors to Forgive Their Abusers Helpful?

I’m not against forgiveness. What I am against is anyone telling me or other survivors to forgive. I’m against other survivor’s healing process being invalidated by being told they aren’t doing it right.

I’m sure most people who recommend that others forgive their abusers are only trying to be helpful. We were abused by being overpowered and controlled and part of our healing is to break away from that. To be pressured or manipulated to do something “good” for us is not really good for us.

What truly is loving and useful is to allow others the freedom to choose their own healing journey. Every survivor deserves true support instead of being “helped” by conforming to someone else’s beliefs about what is healthy for them. All survivors deserve the chance to decide for themselves if forgiveness is a step they want to take and if so, when they are ready to take it.

What are your views on forgiveness? Have you experienced pain around this issue? If you’ve chosen to forgive your abuser, did you benefit from it? Was it your choice or did you feel pressure? I’d love to hear your feelings and experiences about this. Please share them with me below and remember to subscribe to the comments so you don’t miss any of the discussion.

Christina Enevoldsen

I’m Christina Enevoldsen and I’m the cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse and the author of The Rescued Soul: The Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal. My passion is exploring new ways to express my empowered new life. I’ve recently discovered the joy of waterslides, the delightful scented lotion from Bath & Body Works, “Dark Kiss” and hosting princess tea parties for my granddaughters. My husband and I live in Scottsdale, Arizona and share three children and six grandchildren.

Related Posts:
What About Forgiveness?
Forgetting About Abuse: Who Does That Really Serve?
Exposing the Incest Family Secrets
What’s Inappropriate About Exposing Abuse?
Warning: Abusers Will Shame You For Being Angry About Your Abuse

 

If you’re interested in how I’ve healed from my abuse, I invite you to read my book, The Rescued Soul: A Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal. In it, I spell out the details of exactly how I’ve healed, using excerpts from my journal, very candid stories and detailed examples. It’s definitely up close and personal! It’s healing guide, workbook and journal all in one. I put a lot of love into all 518 pages.

Stop Telling Me To Forgive My Abuser

69 thoughts on “Stop Telling Me To Forgive My Abuser

  • October 18, 2015 at 7:53 am
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    This has been me over and over…feeling pressure to forgive and “just get on with life”. I was so triggered the other day on another site, that shared an article on forgiveness. Believe it or not it was on a sexual abuse page. The article was written by a man who lost both his parents when he was 14. They were shot and killed in the store they owned. He share how he had forgiven the man who shot them. He wrote about how people say you forgive for yourself, but he felt we need to forgive for both ourselves and the other person. It felt so shaming! First of all, that is comparing apples and avocados! Being sexually abused and loosing your beloved parents are not even on the same page! Yes it is tragic he lost his parents, BUT, there are so many more layers to sexual abuse. Add to that having parents who don’t protect, support or in many cases don’t even believe you and the damages is overwhelming!

    I had share in one of my blogs (which I have since taken down out of feeling pressure to “forgive and move on”.) that if a person is truly remorseful they will ask nothing of you, they will allow you to do whatever you need to, without trying to make you feel guilty. The added “be an advocate” is something I hadn’t written, but felt.

    Thank you for this!

    Reply
    • October 18, 2015 at 11:42 am
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      Jenna,
      Oh, that’s too bad that you felt pressure to remove one of your blog posts! There’s always someone who doesn’t like when we stand up for something–especially when we stand up for ourselves. I hope you keep writing and validating your own journey!

      Christina

    • October 30, 2016 at 10:54 pm
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      Well said. It is soooo opposite that situation. If anything I have just learned about radical acceptance. Most trauma therapy programs are implementing it. What is radical acceptance, it is accepting the situation that was or is. It is NOT about accepting the harmful behaviour but accepting that this person is who they are. Accepting that you can not change the situation but you can change yourself and give yourself all you need in order to heal, recover and also feel your rightful emotions. As much as I am learning that my abusive bloodline aka “family” has been like this my whole life, I’m not crazy but was instilled to take on that I was, I accept they will never accept me & honestly ya it hurts but fuck them, they continually hurt me even when intervened & told to stop, I accept that I do not want them near or close to me as well. I won’t sit there anymore and sweep it under the rug like they still do but that will be their problem and not mine. I say they can thank me enough for not legally taking them down like I could & still at this present moment. I also say they can’t blame me for the illegal shit they let fly in the same family business where I can’t work due to their abusive son who thus far as followed very close footsteps to the abuser my father is. He also has parts of my abusive mother but their greatest fear, their image & reputation over morally right things. Now, I am more vocal about it..I am exposing & not being quiet…thing is I am not doing wrong by telling my truth of the matter, they only want to make me feel that way b/c they fail to see that they CHOSE over & over again to abuse. Just like I chose to not participate or be near them. They have no one to blame but themselves just like I have no one to blame but myself for taking it on, as a child who was pushed that way to take it on, it explains a lot of things that I allowed/tolerated from others later on in life.

    • February 3, 2017 at 11:56 am
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      My mother spent many years crying every time I expressed my anger at her for not protecting me from being physically, emotionally and sexually abused by her husband. She claimed that I was full of bitterness , poison and hatred on many occasions and when I asked her for support to report to the police as an adult she said Get away from me you are tearing our family apart. She said on many times that I was unable to move on with my life because I could not forgive. She has influenced my brothers and they now regard me as mad and bad. I still feel bad for the fact that the police are now prosecuting my abuser as there is sufficient evidence from elsewhere. My abuser has lied and taken no responsibility for what he has done. My mother has shifted a little and now has confirmed some evidence , but is now making out she is not responsible for letting it happen because of her childishishness and brokenness at that time in her life. I feel under enormous pressure to comfort her as all she does is play the victim still and then the rage boils in me and I behave in ugly ways and she tells the rest of the family what a horrible individual I am to her. I feel utterly betrayed by them all. The word forgiveness is easy for some people to roll off their tongue but they have absolutely no clue the monumental climb abuse victims face in putting themselves together again after being astrocised including the lengths family, society will go to silence us. No one is more desperate to be free of anger and rage and hatred and shame than the abused, I would do anything to be free of the long shadow. I’m glad I have found your site. I also think the church is dangerous on forgiveness. The most important thing survivors can do before worrying about forgiveness is put down safe interpersonal and sexual boundaries then worry about forgiveness. Unfortunately you rarely hear that preached and I have walked out of church extremely distressed before due to the widespread ignorance and lack of basic adult safeguarding taught in some Christian churches by so called wise teachers. I wish you all the very best in your Journey to recovery……..thank you for reading this xx

    • October 18, 2015 at 11:55 am
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      Thanks for sharing, Vera!

  • October 18, 2015 at 10:00 am
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    Great article!! In my experience with ‘forgiving’ my abuser, I went to the Bible. The Bible doesn’t teach that if we don’t forgive that we’ll be bitter and angry. We are bitter and angry because we’ve been hurt, abused, wronged. We’re angry and bitter because of the injustice done to us. When it comes to Biblical forgiveness, it says, ‘IF’ our abuser repents and asks for forgiveness, THEN we are commanded to forgive – which Biblically means that you no longer hold the offence over their head, it doesn’t mean an automatic diminishing of our feelings – our anger and bitterness for instance. Those feelings exist not because of unforgiveness but because of the hurt done to us! And letting go of the hurt and pain of the abuse takes time. It takes time to heal deep wounds.

    Forgiveness can only truly be granted when the abuser repents with a broken heart and asks us for it. If they don’t do this, we don’t forgive and it’s dangerous to do that. When we nimbly forgive an unrepentant person you are, without a doubt, enabling them to do what they’ve always done. It is wrong to forgive an unrepentant person. My abusive mother NEVER asked for my forgiveness and therefore, I have not forgiven her. It took me YEARS to work through the painful process of healing and being able to ‘let it go’ – which I have worked through on my own for as long as it took. So, as it is, my mother is not forgiven by me as she was unrepentant; she has never asked for forgiveness because in her own mind, she’s done nothing wrong. You cannot, in good conscience forgive someone who continues to be evil; who continues to not see and admit the evil they do.

    Reply
    • October 18, 2015 at 12:00 pm
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      Saoirse,
      One of the sad things is that the Biblical version of forgiveness is almost never taught by Christians. I was in church all my life and was taught the dictionary version, which is much different than what the Bible has to say. My husband, who is a pastor, has pointed out to me that justice for the oppressed is mentioned far, far more often in the Bible than forgiveness is.

      Thanks for sharing!
      Christina

    • February 3, 2017 at 11:59 am
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      I think that is a good answer . Thank you. Xx

  • October 18, 2015 at 2:34 pm
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    I saw this post on a friend’s FB. I am not a SA survivor, but I was abused by my mother physically and mentally.
    It wasn’t until this part year when I could take no more of people telling me “you must forgive” which equates with do not be angry that I started letting my anger at my mother out. I did work through trying to forgive her (which I thought I did) but then she kept right on being verbally abusive (I’m 47 and a mom myself) so there was always more insult and injury.
    You hit it right on the head when you said. This is exactly what happened to me, but I couldn’t verbalize it.
    “I had to finally become my own ally instead of my abuser’s. I had to acknowledge the depth of betrayal and offense that I’d experienced. I had to get in touch with my emotions and feel the pain and anger that was buried. I had to turn with compassion toward myself and give myself the comfort I needed.
    While I was pressured to forgive, I didn’t make any progress in my healing. I only healed once I started to make me the focus of my healing without worrying about my abusers or my feelings toward them.”
    Thank you so much for posting. God bless you on your journey towards wholeness

    Reply
    • October 22, 2015 at 8:00 am
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      Joyfulmomof6,
      I’m glad to hear you’re acknowledging your anger and letting it out! We actually express anger whether we mean to or not so it’s much more beneficial to be intentional about it. I mostly turned my anger on myself until I started directing it toward my abusers in healthy ways.

      Thanks for sharing!
      Christina

  • October 18, 2015 at 7:31 pm
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    Absolutely love this! Well written and magnificently expressd!

    Reply
  • October 19, 2015 at 12:24 am
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    I’ve typed and deleted and rewritten comment after comment, then I gave up and closed the window, then I was annoyed at myself because lately I seem to have a habit of not finishing what I’ve started when it comes to writing online about complex issues, so I’m back and I’m going to make sure that I follow through this time.

    I’m not on board with “forgiveness”. You’re right that each person who champions “forgiveness”, when it comes to healing from somebody sexually abusing you, has their own definition of “forgiveness”. That can get frustrating because no matter what reasons you give for “forgiveness” not being right for you in this battle, they’ve got an easy way to tell you that you’ve misunderstood and that “forgiveness” is indeed right for you. I’ve had to put my foot down a few times when it’s come to people giving me advice on how to cope with what I’ve been through, and “forgiveness” is a big topic where this has been an issue sometimes.

    We usually suffer sexual abuse and other sexual attacks from somebody we know, even somebody who we like, respect and/or love. For the most part, this was certainly the case for the sexual abuse that men have committed against me in my life. I didn’t get angry at any of the men who sexually abused me for a really long time – partly because I didn’t know that what they did to me was wrong or that it could be called abuse, partly because I wanted everything to be nice again so even if I did start the process of questioning what they did then I’d quickly go back to sucking up to them again, partly because although they were totally fine with hurting me immensely then I desperately didn’t want to “hurt” them, and partly because I still liked, respected and/or loved them.

    For me, the most important things in my healing process were getting away from those who were making me miserable – those who abused me, and those who participated in the abuse or who were aware that I was a target for others’ abuse and were comfortable with that fact – and learning to set boundaries for myself. It was more complicated than that, of course. It was also very difficult even taking these steps, and although they were really positive for me in the long run, they led to chaos and awful consequences for me for a fair few years. I don’t believe that getting away from those who abused you, processing the anger, betrayal and all the other emotions that are a consequence of their abusing you, and finding the confidence to set boundaries with others are steps that are compatible with “forgiveness” – not for me, at least.

    The vast majority of those who abused me have not apologised, the vast majority of those who participated in the abuse or who stood by and comfortably watched it go on have not apologised. Some firmly maintain to this day that no abuse ever occurred and that the only problem in this situation was my behaviour – that I claimed that there was abuse, and that I ever stood up for myself. One man, an ex-partner, did apologise to me face-to-face. I replied to his face that I didn’t believe that he really meant his apology, because I didn’t believe that he truly understood the extent of the pain that he caused me with his actions. Still, I maintain a distant relationship with him because I want to maintain a relationship with his child. What’s more important to me than “forgiving” him is that he never does it again – that I remain firm with him and keep on standing up to him, and that I assert that he’s not to treat any new partners the way he treated me.

    That’s also what’s important to me in my new relationships – it doesn’t matter if my partner feels offended by the fact that I won’t trust him at first, and that I believe that he’s fully capable of holding abusive attitudes towards me and engaging in abusive acts towards me. What matters is that I have every right to set reasonable boundaries and to stand up for myself to him, and I will.

    Overall, the concept of “forgiveness” has simply proven to have no value for me in healing from what these men did to me. At its worst, the idea of “forgiveness” has only put pressure on me to continue being that nice person to those who are anything but nice to me, and to continue putting my unconditional trust into men no matter how many times they teach me about betrayal. It’s far more important to me that I emotionally process what I’ve been through, that I stand up for myself, allow myself to question other people’s behaviours towards me and learn to set healthy boundaries with the people in my life; “forgiveness” towards those who abused and harmed me is irrelevant to me.

    Reply
    • October 22, 2015 at 9:04 am
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      qvaken,

      I’m glad you posted this instead of deleting it. I can relate to all of it:

      “For me, the most important things in my healing process were getting away from those who were making me miserable – those who abused me, and those who participated in the abuse or who were aware that I was a target for others’ abuse and were comfortable with that fact – and learning to set boundaries for myself.”

      Setting boundaries was so vital for my process too. There’s no way I could have healed from my abuse while willingly subjecting myself to more abuse. Even after I separated from my primary abusers, boundary violations come in the form of being told what to do and how to feel by others who supposedly had my best interests at heart.

      Thank you for adding to the conversation!
      Christina

    • September 25, 2016 at 6:33 pm
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      Oh my goodness. I so agree with you on this. We have so much in common. I came here because I got a message on fb from my first bf who I dated over 20 years ago. He asked me to forgive him. I didn’t reply. And it brought up a lot of pain. That relationship sent me on an awful trajectory, my self esteem was shattered and the relationships after just piled on. I was spiralling down the drain in the years immediately after.

      I’m okay now, I guess. Strong, in a sense. Other parts of my life are going well. But that part of me is extremely damaged.

      I felt sick the whole day after getting his message. The same sick feeling I carried in that relationship for about three years after it ended. Not cool.

  • October 19, 2015 at 2:11 pm
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    I am sick of hearing from so called experts. Most have no idea how you’re life is ruined by the hands of one who only cares about their own pleasure. I live with the guilt of wondering what I could have done differently because I was not brave enough to say something a lot more children were abused if I had said something their lives would not have been ruined. The abuser has not been brought to justice even after 40 years & I have been fighting since I found out I was not the only one and his sect knew and hid him like the Catholic Church. I have no intention of forgiveness I’m not religious this even pushed me further away from the idea. Every one is not the same the only way I would feel better would be putting my hands around his neck, but I am a better person than that. He ruined my life I have lost trust in any man takes me a long time to trust anyone. Forgiveness is the last thing I would be thinking of.

    Reply
  • October 20, 2015 at 12:49 am
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    “I’m sure most people who recommend that others forgive their abusers are only trying to be helpful.” You’re a lot more generous than I am. In my experience, people who are big on pushing the idea that abusers should be forgiven always eventually accidentally reveal that they are doing so because they identify with the abuser. They have very self-interested motivations for manipulating people into believing abusers deserve love and forgiveness in exchange for their abuse. All this talk about love, forgiveness and compassion is just a smokescreen for that.

    Reply
    • October 22, 2015 at 9:56 am
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      Henry,
      I’ve seen a lot of forgiveness “pushers” with selfish motives too. I have some family members like that. Not only those who identify with the abuser, as you say, but who want to keep the “peace” out of fear of being victimized themselves.

      I like your last line:

      “All this talk about love, forgiveness and compassion is just a smokescreen for that.”

      Yes, it’s not exactly loving to re-abuse victims. Nor is it even loving toward abusers NOT to hold them accountable. Love isn’t about pretending that everything is fine. Love requires a willingness to SEE the ugliness and to deal with it.

      Thanks for your contribution to the discussion.

      Christina

  • October 20, 2015 at 9:34 pm
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    Speaking from my own perspective on this topic of “forgiveness”, I do agree that it is important to forgive…
    but I ultimately discovered that the required forgiveness had to be directed towards myself, not my abusers.
    Even though I logically knew that the events that occurred were not my fault, my inner child continued to carry the shame of “self blame”. When I allowed my logical “adult” self to forgive my “inner child” I was finally able to let go of some of my anger toward my abusers. Will I ever let go of ALL of my anger towards them? Doubtful, even though most of them are no longer alive. Will I continue to feel the shame of it? Possibly, but already I feel much less shame. Will I ever forget the abuse? I truly wish that I could… but even when the fog of Alzheimer’s envelopes me, sadly, the childhood memories are the last to go. I found this also holds true for the other forms of abuse to which I was also subjected to. Sadly, that particular abuser is still alive, and to this day not only feels no remorse, but has gone so far as to say they she did nothing wrong. I HAVE forgiven myself for being a victim of the sexual abuse (by family and non-family), and the physical and emotional abuse too. My offenders must make their own peace, as I have worked to hard to find my own.

    Reply
  • October 20, 2015 at 10:05 pm
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    I was an incest victim. I thought I forgave him because I don’t think about him much. But I get angry when I hear other children being abused and I want them to suffer. I realized it only after he died. He wouldn’t admit it anyway….he gave me to others too. I can’t look at it as forgiving him, he don’t deserve that. I call it letting go….for me.

    I myself don’t even know how to let go? I thought I did but haven’t. I felt if I saw him in heaven I could accept him…but maybe I can’t. How do u let go. I don’t know how to even begin. I can’t feel a difference. I hate predators. I wish they all die. I could have been a better person…we all could have. I never got married because I don’t trust anyone.

    If someone gets too close to me, I pull back. I love animals more than people because they love unconditionally. People don’t. Groin up I always wanted a family. I am lucky I have a daughter and two granddaughters. I have a good friend but I can’t get close to her and she knows it. I told her why. Not sure she understands or not.

    Reply
  • October 21, 2015 at 7:07 am
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    Thank you for this article… I needed to hear this at this moment. I have no feelings towards what happened to me and start counseling this Friday. I keep being told by the couple of people that I’ve confided in that I need to forgive but I don’t even know what that looks like. I hope to read your book someday. Again thank you

    Reply
  • October 21, 2015 at 7:28 am
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    Thank you. I was raped and sexually abused by my birth father. I was always told, both by my therapists and my very Christian adopted parents that I must forgive him. I can’t, I’m not ready. You are the first person that has validated my feelings of anger towards him. He forcefully took my innocence. I can only forgive when I am ready, and now is not the time. Again, thank you!

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  • October 21, 2015 at 8:35 am
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    Why should a abused person forgive someone that does not have to admit they did something wrong. To make the abused person feel like they are the one who is wrong and when they try to talk about it or tell someone they are told “Not so and so they would not do anything like that” or that is you sister, brother, father etc That they lie and make other people think all you are trying to do is start something or cause problems for the so called abuser. No one cares about what the abuser goes through mentally everyday of their life feeling like they are being used by everyone not being able to trust anyone. that you are the crazy one and you have problems and that you blame other people for what you are going through and that your own family turns their back on you because they do not believe you. Forgiving is something for playground mishaps not when a family member takes advantage of you. and NO no one asks to be abused especially by family and then to have everyone turn you away and protect the abuser. How can you forgive someone that has robbed you of something that should be special with a person and not have to admit what they did or even see what they did is wrong and have no consequences for their own actions. Getting on with my life is what is best and not having anything to do with the abuser or anyone that is willing to protect them whether they are family or not because if you are truly family you would believe the person and not push them away or make them feel like they did something wrong and continue to bring the abuser around them instead of making the abuser leave their life so they can get on with their life. I spent most of my life having to attend family gatherings with abusers and associate with them only to be told I have issues. Forgive them No Get on with my life without them YES. since I have nothing to do with any of these people I can be happy and if being happy means not having blood family then that is how I will live the rest of my life HAPPY on my own!!!!!!!!!

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  • October 21, 2015 at 9:34 am
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    Forgiveness first came to my attention at age 19 when he arranged me to be in his presence and ask for forgiveness because he was now a recovering alcoholic. I dissociated, severely.
    Slowly over age 20-30, I approached my recovering memory. I stayed away from him.
    At age 39 after graduate school, I was misdiagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar. I was placed on psychiatric medications and told I would have to take meds for the rest of my life due to a chemical imbalance.
    Age 55, I went on permanent disability. Finally. I heard my inner voice with new directions from the Light House. I safely got off all medications. Underneath the numbing medications, the preverbal complex trauma.
    Age 60, I am healing. I begin EMDR in two weeks.
    Fuck HIM!!!

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  • October 21, 2015 at 9:30 pm
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    Thank you. I, too, have been told to forgive and forget because I’m a grown woman now and it’s over. My mother said those words. My family of origin is no longer part of my life because of saying and believing such things. While I do not think of my grandfather every single moment of every single day anymore, it would be a lie to say I am not still affected by the incest that occurred at his hand. It would be a lie to say I forgive him because I do not. I actually hope (when I do think about him) that he is rotting in hell. If that makes me a bad person, so be it. I simply refuse to allow him power over one more minute of my life. Is that forgiveness? I don’t think so. It’s more about acceptance for me. Acceptance that these horrific things happened to me. Acceptance that these things were not and are not my fault. Acceptance that I am a resilient woman who has survived and while I do still struggle with a few things, I have made a beautiful life and I deserve to be celebrated more than he deserves to be remembered. Forgiveness? Never. Falling forward into emotional and mental health and well being? Definitely.

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  • October 22, 2015 at 12:12 am
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    Hi –
    well written and thank you. Have also seen and experienced far, far too many people insisting that ‘forgiveness’ is essential to our own healing yet – that completely misses the point that ‘forgiveness’ is not something that can be done in isolation from the person who is needing forgiving.

    If there is no regret, remorse and possibly not even any sense of understanding that anything has been done to warrant ‘forgiving’ from the perpetrator (as in my situation with both my biological parents) then – what is there even to ‘forgive’? I can not even engage with them or think about them in terms of any relationship and forgiveness can only occur ‘in relationship’.

    Much better and truly healing to find new relationships that can be full and complete and healthy – which involve learning that ALL people will at times do us wrong and hurt us, no matter how much they do not mean to. In these types of relationships then we CAN learn to forgive as the person can and does recognise that they have hurt us, understands this, is truly sorry and regrets that the inevitable has happened. So, we learn to forgive both the other and ourselves and we move on. This is healing.

    Too many people use these terms too loosely without really understanding the deeper implications of the feelings behind and underneath them. Everyone’s situation is unique and no-one can insist that anything is necessary and right for another person’s healing anyway. To do so is only to continue the cycle of abuse in insisting that someone else’s feelings and needs are not worthy of true expression and must still (and again!) be denied in favour of the wants and needs of the abuser.

    Sadly, it often seems to me that those who insist that there is only one ‘right way to heal’ for everyone – which is the way they have found for themselves – have in fact not truly healed themselves and are still continuing to bury their own real feelings and far too painful hurt under a veneer of surface righteousness.

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  • October 22, 2015 at 7:35 am
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    I have not experienced sexual abuse or anything even coming close to such a violation of my humanity, but I am particularly enlightened and moved by the way this author choose to engage this discussion on forgiveness. I never really put a great deal of thought into the subject of forgiveness until becoming and an alienated/estranged grandparent. Since then I have surprisingly found that I harbor a great deal of resistance to the idea of forgiveness towards those who I believe are harming my grandchild by senselessly and cruelly interfering with and breaking the attachment/bond we shared. This realization has caused me to notice that although I do fully understand the enormous benefits of forgiveness there may also be enormous benefits in the state of unforgiveness that are simply not being addressed and discussed as openly and freely as the insistence on forgiveness as the only right way is. What I have found most difficult about my own personal forgiveness/unforgiveness dilemma is the fact that an innocent child is involved and I feel that I have no right of forgiveness for the traumatic wounds inflicted upon another, most especially a child. Although I do feel the capacity to forgive the imperfect humanness of the perpetrators I feel it is only the child who can choose or not choose to forgive the offense someday. This has not only surprised me but has also caused me to do a great deal of thinking and researching on the subject of forgiveness. Especially since pop culture leans so heavily towards promoting not only forgiveness as a personal benefit but also leans so heavily towards the insistence on letting go of guilt as almost a prerequisite to healthy and happy living. What I have come to think and feel is that neither touting forgiveness as a personal benefit, or preaching that letting go of guilt creates a positive life are healthy outlooks. In the first instance, it seems to me that when we focus so heavily on teaching forgiveness as a personal benefit, or almost a selfish act of self preservation, we do two things that are not necessarily healthy. We encourage narcissistic thinking and we facilitate the focus of attention to remain centered on the perpetrator rather than the victim. Not only has the victim been harmed by the perpetrator but the victim must also give the perpetrator forgiveness to be considered whole and healed. This just does not seem correct to me. If we are all going to forgive everyone for everything then where on earth will the incentive not to harm others come from? And when we combine the idea that forgiveness is necessary with the idea that guilt should be let go of, I think we are really doing our humanity a great injustice. It seems to me that the when taken and applied in combination these two popular belief systems not only maintain the status quo of long standing patterns of dysfunction and cycles of abuse but also perpetuate our continued desensitization to all abuses in general. Guilt and remorse are the human functions that alert us to the harm we cause ourselves and others. Feeling guilty and remorseful is what gives us the incentive to correct our mistakes. If we are going to let go of guilt and expect forgiveness at the same time where will we actually end up? I think we need to open the discussion up much further about the reasons why the state of unforgiveness is as necessary as the state of forgiveness to our ability to develop and maintain the important functions of guilt and remorse, which are required for us to collectively achieve improvement in the human condition. Thank you for writing this article! And for those of you who have been harmed by sexual abuse please know that I support any position of unforgiveness that you may take and hope you keep talking about it openly without feeling pressured to change your stance. Because I have learned by living through the experience of what I consider to be a much lesser trauma that although I do basically support forgiveness I also support the huge importance of unforgiveness. <3

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  • October 22, 2015 at 2:03 pm
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    I cannot forgive my abuser. I keep seeing things that say it’s good for you to forgive but my abuser kept trying to do it over and over again because I allowed him in my home so he can see his daughter but not anymore I’ve stopped contact completely and told them to go through the courts. I tried my best at trying to be right with him so he could keep in touch with his daughter but it didn’t work out as hoped. The narcissist does not change at all I’ve leant it’s best to stay away from them for good. I could never for give after that and even if I did want to it will take years I will do it in my own time not when anyone else tells me. I’ll never forget what they did. It’s so hard isn’t it?

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  • October 22, 2015 at 2:56 pm
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    Wow – lots more comments here now than when I wrote mine and – so much of it I can relate to so powerfully. Thank you. I’m very glad I found your blog here Christina.

    Yes – healing for me could never be possible while remaining anywhere near any person who either was one of the actual abusers or even – anyone who holds the sort of attitude that the abusers’ feelings are more important than mine. I’ve been literally disowned by some family as I did ‘speak out’ in the end and say that this was not OK, while I have a brother who kept ‘keeping the peace’. In the end, despite being financially better off as he inherited while I did not, he is the one who is still suffering more as he never separated himself from our abusers as I did. I doubt though it was a fear of being victimised that kept him ‘keeping the peace’ as he was still being victimised anyway. It always seemed to me more a fear of admitting even to himself just how bad the victimisation and pain of it is and so then, having to actually own how bad and hurt and angry he feels himself. Not everyone can manage to face the extent of the hurt they have experienced and, even if we try, most of us need help to do it and not everyone can find the real love and help they need.

    I am, and in some way probably always will be, horribly upset that all those things happened to me – literally from birth – that I never had a safe enough life to even know I had real feelings of my own until I managed to get far enough away and be ‘safe enough’ to begin to learn to recognise what I feel myself, rather than continually living in a state of hyper-vigilance, watching others to see what they needed so I could meet their needs to feel ‘OK enough’ to hopefully then have them behave ‘well enough’ towards me that I would not be hurt too much. I’m incredibly, indescribably angry that I had to live over 40 years in that sort of state without a safe enough space where I and my experience could be seen, recognised and validated. Why is it wrong for me to finally own that that is how I feel? Yet – to ask me to ‘forgive’ IS to ask me to keep on denying that these are my real feelings – just as being an abused child and having to live with incest for 20 years meant that I had to deny that I had feelings of my own all those years just to survive.

    Yes, I can now move on and find other things in life that are more interesting and even fun to think about and feel now than what happened to me for so long earlier in life but – that will never change how I feel about what happened then when I bother to think about it or am reminded of it. ‘Forgiveness’ simply doesn’t enter into it as I have no-one to forgive as no-one has ever acknowledged they did me any harm at all.

    One last thing I’d like to add though – Anue – I don’t really believe that there is any sort of ‘trauma’ that is ‘worse’ than another kind of trauma. Technically, I have been labelled as living with what is called dissociative identity disorder though I have after many, many years, managed to reach a point where I no longer have ‘separate parts’. I’ve met others with this ‘label’ who have asked: how can it be that other people fall apart and can’t cope when they have just one thing happen to them – like a rape – while those of us who end up like this have lived through so uncountably many things? That sort of thinking doesn’t make sense to me. We managed to live through what we did because we could dissociate them – not because anything of what we lived through was worse or less bad than someone who is raped once. If you are traumatised, you are traumatised. What you have lived through in your family is also, as you say, trauma, and that is all there is to it. Trauma, like a broken leg is a broken leg, is trauma, full stop. You have a wonderful wisdom in your insight into your own and others’ feelings that I feel I relate to very deeply too.

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  • October 23, 2015 at 8:07 pm
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    I don’t think we should say either way. We should not tell people to forgive or not to forgive. It’s a choice. I was abused for 12 years by my step father after 7 years of counselling and other self help programs I did decide to sit down with my abuser and forgive him. After all my coucelling I still held onto anger and was angry all the time it wasn’t until I decided to forgive my step father that I was able to move on and the anger was not there anymore. I decided to forgive myself also for the way I acted and treated people because of being abused. For me I’m glad I decided to forgive. It did release me from all the negative that I was holding onto. Forgiveness is a choice but it is a great choice to make.

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  • October 24, 2015 at 1:04 pm
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    I was a victim of sibling incest for years. My abuser was my elder brother. I was later told too often “You have to forgive, you must forgive him to get well.” I knew very well the people who told me that meant well, but I rejected their advice completely. I did years of therapy. I’m still healing through therapy. I’m living with PTSD, but I’m a Survivor. Everything I just read on your site is true. I cannot agree %100. I can only agree 110%. Anyone who was sexually abused must be free to heal in their own way and time and forgiveness may or may not play a part in their healing. My brother died last year. I did everything I knew before his death to bring about reconciliation. He wasn’t ever able to do that; always said “It never happened.” He went as far as saying he thought “some shrink had planted the idea in my mind.” He was truly hopeless and cruel. The only way I’ve been able to deal with this second betrayal, this second hurt, is to understand, or at least try to realize, that he was incapable of telling the truth and reconciling. His illness went deeper than anyone in my family ever understood. So, it was he that needed healing, but he never got it for himself and I’ll never know why. That doesn’t matter. What matters now is my own healing started many years ago. I’m on a good path. I’m a good person with so much love to share is so many ways. I say this with a heavy sigh. I wish I’d had a different boyhood, but then who would I be? I’m wouldn’t be who I am and who I am is a wounded, troubled man who sees clearly a way to finish healing from a terrible experience in an innocent childhood. To say life is sometimes complicated, for me, is an understatement. There were others who seriously abused me as well. That’s another history. Peace, Love and Acceptance do lead to Joy, but it does take work with an open heart and mind. I wish any and all survivors health and happiness.

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  • October 24, 2015 at 1:24 pm
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    Dear Saoirse, Thank you very much for your post. I’m not a Christian, but know the scriptures well and agree that a person who does not admit his or her abuse doesn’t deserve to be forgiven and it’s not good to forgive such a person. Forgiving, in such a case, doesn’t usually help a surivor. As I mentioned in my post above, it’s taken a long time and lots of reflection and action on my part to realize that my brother was mentally and emotionally ill. In the end, he was not capable of coming to terms with what he did to me. I accept that; and I guess that could be seen, perhaps not as forgiveness, but as acceptance of reality. Acceptance is a part of my healing.

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  • October 24, 2015 at 2:01 pm
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    For all who have commented or who will comment,

    This post has gone viral (it’s been posted less than a week and it has over 6,600 Facebook likes.) so I decided to write a book about it. There’s so much more that needs to be said and there is so much oppression and invalidation that happens around this topic.

    For anyone who would like your comment included in the book, please let me know via comment or you can contact me directly: Christina@overcomingsexualabuse.com You can contribute anonymously or using your first name. Just let me know what you prefer.

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  • October 24, 2015 at 2:18 pm
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    You may use the post that I wrote today with my First or full name. I’m completely out and open about who I am and what happened to. My abuser is no longer with us, nor are my parents. All three died. But if you use my full name, include the W. I have a cousin with the same name but his middle initial is different.

    Robert W Kashey

    Here’s the post from today :

    I was a victim of sibling incest for years. My abuser was my elder brother. I was later told too often “You have to forgive, you must forgive him to get well.” I knew very well the people who told me that meant well, but I rejected their advice completely. I did years of therapy. I’m still healing through therapy. I’m living with PTSD, but I’m a Survivor. Everything I just read on your site is true. I cannot agree %100. I can only agree 110%. Anyone who was sexually abused must be free to heal in their own way and time and forgiveness may or may not play a part in their healing. My brother died last year. I did everything I knew before his death to bring about reconciliation. He wasn’t ever able to do that; always said “It never happened.” He went as far as saying he thought “some shrink had planted the idea in my mind.” He was truly hopeless and cruel. The only way I’ve been able to deal with this second betrayal, this second hurt, is to understand, or at least try to realize, that he was incapable of telling the truth and reconciling. His illness went deeper than anyone in my family ever understood. So, it was he that needed healing, but he never got it for himself and I’ll never know why. That doesn’t matter. What matters now is my own healing started many years ago. I’m on a good path. I’m a good person with so much love to share is so many ways. I say this with a heavy sigh. I wish I’d had a different boyhood, but then who would I be? I’m wouldn’t be who I am and who I am is a wounded, troubled man who sees clearly a way to finish healing from a terrible experience in an innocent childhood. To say life is sometimes complicated, for me, is an understatement. There were others who seriously abused me as well. That’s another history. Peace, Love and Acceptance do lead to Joy, but it does take work with an open heart and mind. I wish any and all survivors health and happiness.

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  • November 4, 2015 at 2:43 pm
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    Forgiveness is God’s job–not yours. Only creator could really know what is in someone’s heart to judge or forgive. People who push forgiveness are doing it as confirmation of their own beliefs and not for you. It is a cult mentality indicator.

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  • November 8, 2015 at 3:59 pm
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    I think it is important that survivors forgive… That we forgive ourselves and acknowledge that what happened is not our fault.

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  • November 14, 2015 at 6:19 pm
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    I don’t believe forgiveness is something which needs to be a focus of healing from childhood sexual abuse. The focus is on healing the Self and that has nothing to do with the abuser/s only the affect it has left. I have the right to see what I see, hear what I hear, sense what I sense and I certainly have a right to feel what I feel whether that be bitterness, anger, hurt why wouldn’t I be after being neglected, betrayed, rejected and abandoned, normal feelings for the treatment received. Just because an abuser says sorry doesn’t mean I have to forgive them for abusing me, a ‘sorry’ does nothing to placate the pain felt or heal the affects on me of being abused. Nor does it help when someone says ‘well your not perfect so forgive so you can be forgiven’. That doesn’t take away any of the affects of being abused either. I, we have a right to feel whatever we feel full stop. What I found helpful was to not spend any time or energy on being judge and jury of the abuser and to banish them from my psychological and emotional life and metaphorically send them to be judged by the higher power (my abuser was dead by the time I began healing if they had been alive then I would have banished myself from his physical presence) That exonerated me from doing anything to or about their behaviour, I felt/feel I am a good person and to spend energy on revenge or trying to forgive the abuser would not make me feel validated as the person I wanted to become so to reclaim the power and energy I was giving up reclaimed it to direct towards my own healing. Once significantly healed forgiveness is no longer important it doesn’t feature because in healing there is no need to forgive! I don’t forgive my abuser I don’t feel the need to why would I for 40 years of pain, fear and confusion I lived with because of someone else’s behaviour I had to work through because of him. No amount of forgiveness will mend, sooth or take away the any of the affects, nothing can only the abused person can do that for themselves. I often hear people say paedophiles are mentally ill but I don’t believe that I believe they know what they do is wrong, hurtful and self serving; they don’t actually care about the child they abuse they dress their behaviour up to suit the self and blame the child. In all honesty what does a child know of sex? Healing is about connecting and re-connecting to the Self re-parenting the Child within and offering the Child within all s/he didn’t get because of the abuse. Once you are able to do that forgiveness is not necessary because you see clearly the problem belongs to the abuser and you are able to authentically lay the blame, shame, guilt and wrong doing at their feet for them to pick up or leave it where it is placed. You leave it with them walk away knowing what belongs to you and what belongs to them! Forgiveness does not benefit anyone changing behaviour does and the only person we have a right to change is our Self!

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  • November 14, 2015 at 6:49 pm
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    I believe I have the right to forgive myself even if I was in no sense responsible. I’m don’t know if any other survivors feel that they must in some way have done something, because how else could a man be attracted not only to his daughter, but a 4 yr old.

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  • November 15, 2015 at 10:09 am
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    As a Catholic I thought I had to forgive – a wonderful priest told me I didn’t need to forgive my abuser – that released the energy I needed to forgive MYSELF – that is when healing began. I still find it hard to tap the anger I should feel toward my abuser – those times I am stuck and depressed. It is important to healing to allow yourself to feel and express anger and rage toward the abusers for what they stole.

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  • November 15, 2015 at 5:10 pm
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    Forgiveness….true forgiveness was the only way I was able to be set free. I spent years inside of an: emotional, spiritual and mental jail and this was the only way I got out. What I found out about forgiveness was that it didn’t mean that I had to like or love or even be kind to my abuser. It just meant that I was allowed to feel all of it, question everything, say anything and start healing. Forgiveness was like saying “ok, it’s no longer about you….this time it’s about me!’

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  • November 16, 2015 at 2:06 am
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    Thank you for this post. Thank you. As a survivor of emotional domestic abuse, I have had to hear, from many, including the mouth of my abuser, whenever anger dared rear her head, that I was failing in compassion, failing to be as generous as I always have been, as generous as I am by character. Thank you for underlining the fact that 1) we have every right to continue to tell our story because it is a part of who we are, even when it is not who we are 2) that forgiveness as extolled by others, reminds us only of our human shortcomings, rather than allowing us to recognize what we may have endured because of someone else’s failures as a human being. This business of forgiveness is simply an entirely personal affair, case by case, and may not be the obligatory means to an end, release.
    To some degree, the forgiveness rhetoric, mirrors the “be strong” rhetoric, which not only makes little of all the years of resilience while we endured contempt and abuse from others and our own continued self effacement, but which denies us our right, when the time presents itself, to explore intimately the ugly underbelly of our demise –which almost inevitably proceeds emotional freedom. I am being strong by coming to terms. Not by, as you say in your post, putting on the happy face.

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  • November 16, 2015 at 2:40 am
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    I’m still working on forgiving *myself.* So much shame and guilt is put on survivors. The demand to forgive (and blaming us for our own trauma if we don’t) is just another example.

    Don’t expend empathy on those who care not at all for us. Extend compassion and acceptance to the hurt child, the young self, who needs healing. The inner child may still be locked in that nightmare and crying for release years later. She is the innocent one. Don’t leave her there. Save her first – then help the others.

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  • November 17, 2015 at 10:13 am
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    This was a great article. I have heard from a lot of different people how I have to forgive my father in order to move on. I have struggled with this for almost 20 years because I have not forgiven what he has done. What I have done is start to forgive myself for feeling like it was my fault. I think forgiveness is a very personal journey and no one has the right to say how a survivor heals. Thank you for this. I cannot wait to read your book.

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  • March 22, 2016 at 4:12 am
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    Forgiveness can only happen when the abuser expresses real remorse and asks for forgiveness. Until those vital steps happen, real forgiveness cannot happen as no justice has been sought or delivered between the abuser and the abused.

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  • March 23, 2016 at 6:16 pm
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    This is such an insightful article. As an adult adoptee, I have dealt with some of these same issues because of disenfranchisement and unacknowledged grief that society does not “allow” us to feel/express.

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  • May 3, 2016 at 1:53 pm
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    Great article! Recently, I just came out about being sexually abused by one of my older half-siblings. I can definitely relate to being forced to forgive someone just because others have told me to. Most recently, one of my relatives came over my house with my 11 year-old cousin in tow and told me that I have to “reconcile” with my sister because life is too “short.” Many of my Christian friends feel the same way, but most likely because they’re told to. However, some do try to live by the bible. Anyway, bringing up my aunt’s surprised Thanksgiving visit got me really angry all over again even when I talk about it. She then brought up what my abusive sister told her about me not having good hygiene and poor clothing and even talked about how I need a job in case anything happens to my dad. It was horrible. To make a long story short, I was crying my eyes out by the time they left.

    They only want me to forgive my sister to benefit them. Not only that, my sister and other relatives (my aunt included) has made it perfectly clear that they’re not gonna help me if my dad were to die. My sister is not only a child molester, but she feels the need to have money (even stole my allowance for many years) to make up for what she really is: trash. She always felt the need to rub it in my face that I’m unemployed and don’t seem to be looking for work. Since my confession late last summer, I’ve been seeing a counselor for the past month now. While I don’t think she’s trying to get me to reconcile with my family, I do feel she wants me to let go the put-downs and criticisms that I’ve received from them. I already told her I plan on moving away, but I feel like she doesn’t want me to take those feelings with me (which I can understand).

    I’ve told her that I don’t feel like I measure up to either side of my family. I even mentioned how they value materialism or someone’s well-being and as a result, I started to become the same way. Whenever I fell short or wasn’t where they wanted me to be, I’d get criticism. In regards to forgiveness, I have no problem with someone saying they forgave someone for whatever transgressions between them and one or more people. However, I do see where you’re coming from in terms of being forced to forgive when you’re not ready. In regards to my sister, I’m not sure if I’ll ever reconcile with her in my lifetime. I’m just being honest here. As I told my aunt, it’ll take me at least 40 years to get over what she’s done if not my entire lifespan. And it’s not because I’m bitter and don’t want to let things go, it’s the fact that I’ve covered up what she’s done for practically 18 years now! To make matters worse, I’m not even sure if she’s sorry for what she’s done. All she said to me when she cut me off on Facebook was that she doesn’t know what she’s done (she knew full well) and that I have life figured out (to her it’s all about money) and how I shouldn’t expect good things if I treat the ones I love like crap (yet, she’s treated people like trash for years and people still think highly of her). But, when I get mad, I get the book thrown at me.

    Anyway, another reason why I’m leaving my family has to do with favoritism. Many of my maternal relatives also believe in a cult and one of my cousin’s ex-girlfriends gave me a link to PCG’s website (which is an offshoot of Herbert Armstrong’s WCG). At this point, there’s no convincing them otherwise and I just feel the need to leave and start over somewhere else. However, I will still take my therapist’s advice and overcome the insults, criticisms and put-downs that they’ve said to me over the years. Because once I leave, I’m not taking their lies with me. They’re staying right here in Baltimore with them.

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  • June 28, 2016 at 10:35 am
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    Forgiveness – Everything you stated is so true. In abuse, I feel every one is at different stages. There is no ‘one size fits all’. Everyone is different. What holds true for me, may not hold true for you. Forcing a certain behavior on someone is wrong. To me, that is abuse as well. Abuse comes in many different forms & from many different people. This to me brings up control. I had read a website on control that If I may share, I will put it here, in hopes that it may help someone. It is just a short little blog, but it helped me immensely: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/09/23/why-anyone-would-want-to-control-you/

    This relates to forgiveness & in forcing others to see things your way. There is no one way. There is no right way. There is no wrong way. We are all made differently. All families are different.

    Abusers feel a need to control & in turn, the abused feel a need to control. I feel in allowing a person to heal in their own way, is giving them the freedom to express their own desires – to allow them to be able to justify themselves in their own right to live in this world – that their opinions are important – that they have a right to exist & feel the things they are feeling, as opposed to forcing them to do this or that & criticizing them for how they feel they should handle things. To allow someone to handle a situation a certain way is allowing them to work through a situation in their own way – to allow them to make correct decisions or make their own mistakes & work through them. This helps them to grow. I am speaking to myself as well.

    Reply
    • June 28, 2016 at 12:23 pm
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      Thanks for the article, Contessa! I really needed to read that. A lot of what the author said rung true for me in regards to my sister. It got to the point where I practically stopped telling her about what I’m trying to do with my life because I was tired of her put-downs. Then, she asked why I don’t tell her much. It’s because she was always reminding me of what “I was not doing.” It’s awful. The last thing I needed was someone to bring out my short comings. And yes, abusers feel the need to control someone else’s life and my sister did just that years after the incest.

  • June 28, 2016 at 1:25 pm
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    Your Welcome Jenine,

    If it’s any consolation, my sister did the same. I am finding a lot of circumstances in abuse are very similar.

    Reply
  • September 6, 2016 at 5:17 pm
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    I have suffered/survived Narcissism, not sexual abuse in my family. Your words however about one’s own recovery remaining personal and keeping our boundaries up to guard against ‘Psych Stooges’ fits me perfectly. So many times, as a survivor, I hear what I call slap-dash advice from those not qualified to speak it.
    I have always been ‘sensitive’ to outside sources; along with much else, in that I can decern the real meaning (and motivation) behind nearly any comment. Instantly.
    Here in these thought processes I agree 100% with you that our responses as survivors and-I’m so grateful-you’ve even dug down deeper than I in order to fully disarm and discredit ANY who might try to move US along on THEIR trajectory. Thank you, thank you for pointing out-in detail for me again–just what the real program IS (dismissiveness) and speaker’s frame of mind are …as stupidity is uttered.
    (I will not validate you; I only care to FIX for you with my best (?) advice or fix this on your own so I don’t have to hear about it anymore)
    My surviving sister and Queen Bee mother have had a lifetime pulling this; that’s one thing, but I get pissed when I hear fellow survivors (never facilitators!) in class speak this carp. Anyway, my journey seems to b a long one, but I WILL do it my way!
    Thanks again for shoring up my ability to keep those boundaries up and believe in MYSELF and my life choices.

    Reply
  • September 9, 2016 at 8:52 am
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    there is Nothing wrong with being angry, resentful, bitter, etc. These are all human feelings and emotions. People, stop giving advises “not to feel and forgive abuser”. Abuse is abuse. Admit it. We have right to feel, because we are humans. Any feelings have right to exist. We have right to exist (TO BE). To hurt someone Intentionally is wrong. We don’t need a law supporting this knowledge. In human law It is wrong. And we have right to protect our boundaries. Even if someone (abuser) will be suffering from our defensive actions.

    Reply
  • September 9, 2016 at 7:01 pm
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    For years I was told that I would never heal, and never be whole unless I ‘forgave’ the abusive parents, particularly the father. Neither of them ever took responsibility for what they did: in fact, their memories became conveniently hazy when it came to admitting any of the decades of hell they put me through. I have siblings who also experienced some of their abhorrent behaviour, and two of them have also expressed surprise and disappointment that I could be both unforgiving, and unwilling to ‘repair’ the relationship with either of them. (both were emotionally, verbally and physically abusive to all of us: the father also sexually abused me for years)

    For me, forgiveness was never an option. Not only because neither of them ever expressed remorse for what they did: but because I can’t see how I CAN forgive the destruction of my childhood, and the permanent scars their behaviour has left on the remainder of my life. To those who told me that I would never be able to live with myself if I didn’t offer that olive branch, I simply say this… Since I cut myself free of the toxic, abusive, and utterly dysfunctional mess that they created, I have been more at peace: safer, and less self-destructive. I worked: ran a house: maintained a long-term relationship (again, an abusive one, but at the time, I had no way of knowing that there was any other kind), I achieved: I became stronger, and I finally understood what had happened to me. I prosecuted the abusive father, and he went to prison despite the relentless campaigning by the mother and sister to make me drop the case. From that moment, I was the black sheep. I had ‘let the family down’ I had ‘dragged the family name through the mud’ because I had not remained silent and allowed it all to be ignored and buried.

    I am not healed, It is unlikely that I ever will be totally healed, But I AM doing better. I now have a better, healthier new relationship. I am coming to terms with the devastation caused to me, and learning how to manage the resulting mess inside. As for forgiveness? I have found it in me to forgive one person in all of this: I forgave ME: for hating myself for so long. For not feeling that I deserved any better. For not trusting my instincts because that had been beaten and bullied out of me from the earliest time I can remember, And so far as I am concerned, that is the only forgiveness I need to offer.

    Reply
  • November 15, 2016 at 3:05 pm
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    My post is a little different than most. It’s about my husband of 35 years. The fact that he is even still alive is a testament to God’s mercy and grace. Raped by two teenaged boys @age 6, beaten almost daily, for 10 years, by a stepfather, sexually abused by his sister from 12 to 14 yrs old. Mother did zero to help in any of these situations. Gave his life to Christ at age 16, when he was finally put into a foster home. Grew up, began alcoholism, pornography, drugs. Joined the Air Force and spent 22 years serving. When we met, he was weaning off of alcohol and drugs, but stayed addicted to porn for many years. I never knew. That’s just a short synopsis. I could fill pages on the man he has become, because of his many childhood abuses.

    Now, after 35 years, I’m at my wit’s end. I don’t want to be with him anymore. I have tried everything under the sun to help him conquer this. But he is robotic and lazy, self-admitted. I am certain he feels as though it is HIS fault that these people did all of these things to him as a child. Of course, it is not, but he harbors great feelings of guilt, so the first person he needs to forgive is himself. And his stepfather and sister, his biggest abusers, are both dead. Not that he would, but now there is no opportunity for him to confront or forgive either of them. Externally, he appears to be a very successful man – retired Air Force, current federal employee, Masters of Divinity, wife, daughter. But, when we argue, which is all the time, I clearly see a 10 year old abused boy, unable to think clearly, be objective, or act in an adult fashion. He is in chains to his abusers. Apart from a miracle, I am hopeless, as is he.

    Reply
    • November 27, 2016 at 12:19 pm
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      would him joining an online group help him? I could recommend one if you would like..or for you..to support either one of you.

  • January 4, 2017 at 8:34 am
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    True indeed, sometime I wish people could understand that I needs to heal at my own pace and not what they seems to be right. I should forgive and forget the abuse and move on since it happened so Long ago. By saying out, I thought I could get some support from my Friend but I was hurt by them instead. There were words like I was trying to gain sympathy or so u want to continue this topic forever. By saying all this, I knew they do not understand the pain I was in

    Reply
  • January 19, 2017 at 12:34 am
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    Thank you. Forgiveness is ONE tool to help survivors heal. If it doesn’t work for a particular person, they should be left alone to heal the best way they can that’s helpful to them.

    Forgiveness is being touted as a magic cure-all that works for EVERYONE and I’m tired of being badgered about it. Yes, badgered. I get everything from the guilt trip to the “you’re a terrible, bitter, awful heartless person!” JUST STOP IT ALREADY!

    I am one of those people who cannot re-define forgiveness as “it doesn’t mean you absolve them, just that you let go.” It does not mean that to me, and I’m tired of hearing that I’m wrong. It’s the same as telling me I’m wrong about my abuse “really being THAT bad.”

    I’m tired of faked invitations from mutual friends that turn out to be staged “interventions” between myself and the abuser. The next person who leads my dad out of the bathroom and launches into the unctuous, “Harry, you have entered a Reconciliation Zone….” speech is going to get punched in the mouth. I’m tired of being called “bitter” and “angry” and told *I* need professional help, while my dad weeps big tears and wails about how much I’ve hurt him and our family. He gets the hugs and comfort and prayer chains from our church. I’m tired of being accused of “wallowing” because “we’ve told you how to heal, you just won’t, so you must like being…..”

    If you feel you just cannot let forgiveness go, mention it ONCE, then, for the love of God lay the hell off!

    Reply
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  • January 28, 2017 at 5:45 am
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    This is the first time I’ve read opinions about forgiveness that support how I’ve always felt. I’m from a Catholic family. My mother goes to church daily and has won awards over the years for her dedication to the church. My father was a policeman who was well respected.
    – my father started to molest me at the age of 3.
    -my father was a policeman and well respected.
    -I have 4 brothers and one older, adopted sister.
    -when I was 11 I told my mother that he was molesting my friends.
    -I was not believed.
    -I was repeatedly told by my mother that “little girls should be seen and
    not heard.
    -dad started offering me drugs at 11. I’ve never done drugs.
    -told my mother about drugs and was ignored.
    -have never slept in the dark because I’m still terrified.
    -repeatedly cut myself with razors as a teen.
    -tried to commit suicide 4 time as a teen.
    -finally stopped wetting the bed during high school years.
    -my sister was kicked out of the house at 16 for seducing our dad.
    -I was promiscuous and became a stripper.
    -was told my entire life that I wasn’t pretty by my mother.
    -when I finally confronted my mother in 2015 she insisted she didn’t
    Know I was molested by my father. I reluctantly took her word for it.
    -2 months ago I told my sister and she finally told me everything about
    how she was abused too.
    – I found out she had tried to commit suicide 4 times also.
    – she then told me that my MOTHER also sexually abused her.
    -I had all the answers now about why my mother chose to ignore my
    abuse…she was in on it! I spoke to her and all she said was that my
    made her life hell by abusing his daughters and making her get involved with my sister. She was the VICTIM!
    I’m told that I should forgive them both by my mother.
    I can’t.
    If there’s anyone out there reading this, please respond.
    I’d appreciate a response from anyone who has experienced the same thing.

    Reply
  • February 21, 2017 at 2:52 am
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    Dear Christina, that you for writing on this very important topic. I wrote a similar post after sitting under yet another sermon admonishing us to forgive and forget. I remember thinking that is easy when you have not been sexually or physically abused. I couldn’t convince anyone to agree with my argument as they rally on the side of forgive and forget. I advocate forgiveness the ability to forgive played a huge part in my healing. However, it is not straightforward or a one-time event, there are days when I struggle to reach that goal and days when I frankly do not want to try. Especially when met with my abuser’s lack of remorse.

    Reply
    • February 21, 2017 at 7:13 am
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      Hi Joanna,

      Thank you for your comment. I agree that forgiveness is a personal matter. For some, it’s a road to freedom and to others, bondage. My husband, a pastor, has done extensive Biblical research about this topic. He’s published a book on it called, “The Hazards of Forgiveness I Never Learned in Church”. We offer a free copy to fellow advocates if you’re interested in reading it.

      Christina

    • February 21, 2017 at 9:20 am
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      Joanna, I just emailed you a copy. Let me know if you didn’t get it.

  • February 21, 2017 at 9:32 am
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    I have received it and started reading. These are such familiar themes, and I have fallen in love with the warmth and understanding with which the writer began to tell the story.
    I am going to pause for a while and go for a walk as I have been working all morning on my webinar and could do with the fresh air. Thank you again.

    Reply
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