Forgiving Childhood Sexual Abuse

Dear Doe, 

Is it possible to forgive someone who molested you? Say, your family members- not only that, but abused you, neglected you, and were happy to keep teachers, etc... thinking one is disabled due to the inability to cope with life from the abuse? Can you truly 'forgive' that behavior- it's not about what 'could' be- what could be is horrific, if not taken out of the situation. So, just be happy to be out of it and you'll forgive your abusers? How do you forgive someone who stole not only your virginity, your innocence, but your ability to trust and love? 

-D.S.


Dear D.S.:

This is where it's SO important to know what forgiveness is and what it isn't.

Forgiveness is not:

-pretending something didn't happen
-an invitation for the person to be welcome in your life
-easy

Forgiveness IS:

-letting go of resentment towards a person or event
-accepting that what happened, happened, and cannot be changed ...no what ifs or should haves…
-finding any possible good and holding on to that during the releasing process

In the situation of abuse, no the person isn't welcome in your life if they deny it, don't care, or if they can't be trusted to do something like that again.

It means to grieve the pain, to face it and grieve the loss of innocence, the hurt, the fear, the time. To then decide consciously that you were robbed of innocence and time but then to decide to stop letting it hurt or limit you for your life now and in the future.

What possible "good" is there from abuse? Compassion. You know what it's like, you know how it feels, you know how damaging it is, and for your entire life you can be a gift to someone else who is going through it or who has gone through it because you understand. You can help them to realize the shame they feel is not at all what they should feel. You can help them to heal from it by showing them that you healed and moved on with your life and didn't let the abuser ruin any more time than they did. You can show them that it is possible to live after abuse. And once you give that gift to them, they can also give it to someone else.

Forgiveness isn't about erasing or pretending. It's about acceptance and healing and moving forward in life with lessons but not pain.

Also, they did steal your innocence and they did severely damage your ability to trust and to love. But they can't fix that today even if they wanted to. It's up to you to take responsibility for your own life, feelings, and choices today and from now, on. If you choose to trust and to use not your fears but your feelings and intuition, you can move forward. If you choose to love, you can do the same. It is harder than if the abuse never happened at all but it did happen and there's no changing that. It won't be fixed overnight and it may not be 100% ever, but it can get better with time and effort. And it will allow you to have those great things in your life which is what you really deserve.

Love and strength to you,

Doe

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