As abuse victims, we choose various means of expressing our pain, and seeking comfort for it.  The one thing victims should not do is attack one another for those choices.

Perhaps the most divisive issue for abuse victims is forgiveness.  Many victims view forgiveness as impossible, and forgiveness by other victims of their own abusers as a betrayal.

But forgiveness is, first and foremost, the decision by an abuse victim not to center his or her life wholly on the violation [1].

Forgiveness does NOT imply approval of the violation. Forgiven or not, the abuser should, if at all possible, be held accountable for the criminal act(s) of which s/he is guilty.  That may involve imprisonment, chemical castration, and lifelong monitoring to prevent a recurrence.

Whatever we do, we cannot fully balance the scales once a child has been violated [2].  In most cases, the child must deal with the scars of abuse for a lifetime.  For that very reason, the decision by a victim whether or not to forgive his or her abuser is entirely personal, not subject to a general critique, even by other victims [3].

At varying stages in our recovery, we may change our own views on certain aspects of abuse, forgiveness being one.  We should extend fellow victims the same right.

No matter what path we take, we share a unique legacy with fellow victims. These are the men and women whose experience of abuse most closely mirrors our own.  We, of all people, should understand their suffering, and respect their way of dealing with it.

[1]  Christians are encouraged to forgive all offenses, in imitation of Christ, Who gave His life for the sins of the world.  There should be no inference drawn from this that child abuse victims were in any way responsible for their abuse.

[2]  Victims may find consolation in God’s promise of perfect justice, if not in this world then the next.

[3]  Genuine forgiveness does not foster the spread of child molestation.  The evil perpetrated by Catholic Church hierarchy in shielding known pederasts by reassigning them to new parishes was as much a perversion as the molestation, itself.  It was not prompted by forgiveness, but rather by a misplaced desire to “protect” the church from controversy, at the expense of the child victims who were its most vulnerable members.



Filed under Abuse of Power, Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Justice, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

3 responses to “Legacy

  1. Hi Anna, thoughtful post well laid-out. It’s a difficult line to make out, one you do well. Forgiveness is most certainly not approval, but in releasing the offender from debt we rid ourselves of the poison of emotional cancer. If you missed it,

    The Triumph of Forgiveness:


    Sharing for the obvious relevance. No obligation to respond.

    And thank you for the ongoing support. I value your time.

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