Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Forgiveness For Survivors of Sexual Abuse

Growing up in the house that I did, forgiveness meant something very different than what I am now learning that it means. The concept I was taught in church was to basically forgive and forget. It was a way of thinking that nothing ever happened and like the person you were forgiving basically never did anything wrong. For it was taught that this was between you and the other person and that to remember any part of the transgression meant you had not let go of it or forgiven the person.

I remember in one church I was going to, they had me come to the front of the church towards the end of the service. Most likely they had great intentions but their actions were very traumatic to me and little did I recognize it at the time. They had me kneel down and they laid their hands on my head (might have even anointed me with some type of oil) and then prayed that I would forgive and forget what these abusers has done to me. I went through the actions but you know what - nothing changed in my life. In all reality, I was in the grief and anger period of my recovery and to stop that process is in itself traumatizing.

What I am now realizing about forgiveness is that it really has nothing to do with the relationship you have to the person that has caused you wrong. It has nothing to do with forgetting what happened to you. It is not something that you need to beat yourself up if you are able to forgive at this moment or just hearing these words makes you feel angry. It is not about letting the abuser off the hook or remotely saying that what they did is okay. Forgiving is not about saying you cannot be angry at what the person did to you.

Forgiveness is a process and one that takes time to happen. It is not a one time event of prayer or repetition of some stated thought that brings you to the state of forgiveness. In fact, it is most likely not an exact moment in time although it may build up to that. If you're at a point where this entire concept angers you and you find yourself saying, there is no way I can ever forgive my abuser for what they did to me, you are fine just where you are at. I have walked in those same shoes and cursed those that proclaimed I had to forgive my abusers because I was not ready to even go down that part of my healing.

To me, forgiveness is about letting go and learning to let go of the effects of what happened to me. God knows I have the right to be angry at what they did to me. The sexual abuse I suffered through was horrific. However, I am now learning that this process of forgiveness is about me learning to let go of all the energy that I hold within my body relating to the abuse. It has nothing to do with the people that did these things because it is more about me finding deeper healing within myself.

The more I hold on to these events and allow them to control my life, the more I am hurting myself. The more I allow these people in my past to inflict their shame upon me and influence every part of my life, the more I am giving up of myself. By allowing myself to begin the process of reclaiming my life and taking back my power, I am in fact, letting go of the harmful effects of what these abusers did to me. I am offering myself up to forgiveness because I am allowing my life to connect with who I truly am. I am discovering myself and embracing all parts of myself. That is what forgiveness means to me.

It is a process and not just a single moment that sometimes takes years to comprehend. The more you allow yourself to go down into this part of healing, the more life becomes something worth living for and you begin to realize your true potential. As you begin to learn how to forgive yourself, you start to reclaim your power, your energy and the essence of who you are. In these moments, you become more human and rightfully take your place in the universe. You may find that forgiveness is a process that unfolds and then rests for awhile but picks up again in the future and allows you to go deeper into forgiveness.

Never let anyone tell you that forgiveness means you must forget what happened to you or indicate that you somehow have to contact the abuser in order to do this. This process is about your own healing journey and you accepting yourself completely and becoming more aware of yourself. It is a process and sometimes it takes a considerable length of time. Sometimes you may not even realize it is happening until you look back a few miles and see that you have actually moved into forgiveness of your own life. We all have our journey to walk and each journey is different. The important point is to remember that we need to keep walking on our journey no matter how difficult it may get.

(c) 11/9/10 by Don Shetterly - Use by permission only.


  1. wow, beautifully put..just beautifully put. When we forgive, truly the most healing part is for our own spirit, so it does not block us from progressing and enjoying all the beautiful things and people around us. For many times the people whom we forgive are also suffering, although some may not know or acknowledge. Human beings are not perfect, we make mistakes, say things we don't mean, and sooner or later, whether in this life or in the following ones, trust me one's spirit will learn and move beyond such primitive ways of being.

    This morning, as I parked my car at a school, where I go at times to sub for a teacher, I saw a yellow paper nestled in the fallen leaves. Curious mind as I am, I picked it up and it was like a little spiritual card of Prayer of Peace-St. Francis of Assis..and one side has a beautiful picture and the other has a lovely prayer..and I now write you the little prayer in the back..(I was so happy to find it, and obviously I was supposed to find/pick it up, as I don't believe in coincidences) here is the prayer from the back..

    Prayer of Peace
    St.Francis of Assisi

    Lord, make me an instrument of
    Your Peace.
    Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
    Where there is injury, pardon;
    Where there is doubt, faith;
    Where there is despair, hope;
    Where there is darkness, light;
    and where there is sadness, joy.
    O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
    To be understood, as to understand;
    To be loved, as to love;
    For it is in giving that we receive.
    It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
    And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


    Maybe I came across to this little card for you today, and I pray that it will mean something to your beautiful heart. You are beautiful just as you are, we are beautiful with all our experiences; happy, sad,terrible,..we are who we are ..the perfect beings we are for what we have gone through.

    many blessings to you, and I know you will do so much good because of your experiences my dear. Look at this beautiful blog you are writing, touching the lives of so many that will by "coincidence" come across to it..there is no magic, the magic is YOU..WE..

  2. I found your blog via your sig link at malesurvivor. Glad to have another resource for recovery from someone who understands.

  3. What a lovely and wonderful post. I am in awe of your words. Your grace and serenity to move on from such trauma and anguish. I am proud of your story since I believe a lot more survivors can benefit from it and be empowered on their road to healing and peace. What you've said about forgiveness is something that more people should be aware of.

    The Zalkin Law Firm, P.C.

    1. I normally refrain from allowing comments with links to commercial sites, but after looking at your website, I thought it was appropriate for this post (especially since it appears that you genuinely are commenting on it). I get so many people that try to spam me so I'm cautious these days.

      I do thank you for your comments. It is a long road through healing with many ups and downs and it took me many years. A heartfelt thank you from me for standing up for survivors - they are many and there aren't usually people there willing to stand up with them.






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