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Do I Need to Forgive to Heal from Sexual Abuse?

By Amy Marschak, CCASA Guest Blogger

“Healing may result in forgiveness but forgiveness does not bring healing,it only covers over the wounds allowing them to fester.”  
-An Advocate for Abuse Survivors
I am frequently asked by others, “Have you forgiven your dad?”  Sometimes I am even asked that question before people ask me how I am doing now?  Have I healed?  Am I living well?  Many people equate forgiving my dad to healing.  I find this way of thinking very sad.
If a stranger had raped me when I was walking home from school in first grade, would those same people ask me if I have forgiven the rapist?   Or if my dad had been murdered when he was serving with the military overseas, would they ask me if I had forgiven the person who took my dad’s life during a war?   I believe in those circumstances, those same people would be more concerned with how I was doing rather than if I had forgiven the perpetrators.
It is because the rape happened to me by a family member, so rather than being concerned if I am living well, the most important thing that some people think that I should do is to forgive my father.  I do not believe that these people are trying to be mean, but I do believe that it is a lack of understanding that causes these questions.  Also many people want the survivor to forgive and forget and immediately be fine again.  But healing is a process.  I do not believe that it needs to take your entire life, but it is a process.
Many survivors go straight to forgiving their perpetrator before they have even acknowledged or released their own anger.  In these cases, their voices can be so full of stuck emotions, that every sentence that they speak sounds fake.  When they say, “I am fine”, I can see their sadness tucked behind their fake smiles.  By “forgiving” their perpetrators before feeling and releasing their memories and emotions, they can go straight back into pretending to live normal lives.  But all of those stuck emotions and memories will fester below the surface, waiting to really be heard and released.  Quite often those emotions and memories scream to be heard, sometimes causing survivors to turn to things such as food, drugs, alcohol or other addictive behaviors to push the emotions back inside.
Many survivors blame themselves for the abuse.  It is very important for them to realize that the abuse is never the victim’s fault.  They need to put the blame back where it belongs, blame the perpetrator.  They also need to forgive themselves, for blaming themselves and the guilt that they gave carried.
As a survivor, I do have tons of compassion for my father as a little boy, because he too was sexually assaulted. I also have compassion for my mother, who was also assaulted as a little girl, though she claims to have made that up after I began to get memories back.  They both deserved to heal, but it does not make it ok that my father went on to sexually assault me.
My goal as a survivor of incest is to continue to live well, be happy, be present , and to have my identity be a person who is awesome (everyone is awesome) and not a victim.  I was victimized, but I am not a victim.  And if emotions come up from my abuse, I acknowledge them, process them, and release them, and then I go on with my day.  I am no longer being a victim to get my needs met (a behavior that I was taught as a child).  My mother was always nice to me if I came home crying from school but frequently mean to me if I was happy.
Everyone can heal and have a great life, but through acknowledging what is really happening inside not pushing it away.  When feelings and memories are acknowledged, they are eventually released and survivors heal.  And then if they want to forgive their perpetrators, fine, if not that is also fine.  But the goal is for the survivor to release the past and focus on their own life and acknowledge how awesome they really are.
Amy’s blog was originally published on her website www.healingfromsexualabuse.com. Amy is a survivor of sexual abuse and has written a one woman play “An Angel Cried A Tear Last Night” an autobiography of forgetting remembering and healing from child sexual abuse. She has toured this play coast to coast in the United States and Canada. This play has also run for four months in Los Angeles, toured universities and conferences where she has keynoted. Amy also leads a workshop “Healing from Sexual Abuse and Trauma.”  

4 thoughts on “Do I Need to Forgive to Heal from Sexual Abuse?”

  1. HI my Name is Leona Davis my mom die when i was 8 years old i move in to my two grandmother physical and emotional that my sisters and brothers and me had to go throw it hunt house my sexual abuse start at the age of 10 years old I was sexual abuse by older brother, two uncles in the home i live in the sexual abuse went on until i was 12 years old there was no help for me because i say to the police i was begin hunt in the home but the police don’t care so i had to stop the sexual abuse and physical and emotional was was going throw the way i got out of the home i star a fire in the home that is how i got out of the home that was the best day the day i was out of the home i was sent to a mental institutions in Ohio i live in the mental institutions until the age of 18 years old i was sexual abuse by a worker who work in the mental hospital i told the boss and i was sexual abuse by a worker i took a pregnancy test and it came out positive worker was fired when he can back to work i was discharge from the hospital was went to live with a staff but i for get to say that i have a twin sister who all so stay in the same mental institutions with me i no longer like the mental hospital i take to the staff if she won’t me she will have to take my twin sister to i will not leave my sister the staff had a sister that work in the some place and she and her sister was also twins one sister let me live with her and the our twin let my twin live with her i went in i was to a depression so i had my little girl i went and get help i get help at the age of 20 years old and now i am 53 years old but in 2009 my store came out about the physical and emotional and sexual abuse start at the age of 10 years old I was sexual abuse by older brother, two uncles in the home i believe i would take this to my grave the Anthony Sowell Serienkiller AFTER MY STORE CAN OUT I AM NO LONGER HAVE depression I AM NOW OFF ALL medications used to treat mental disorders I FILL GREAT AND I HAVE i forgive the people who abuse me that is the only way you can heal DON’T GAVE UP THERE IS A GREAT OF HELP OUT THERE FOR EVERYONE men, women and kids it will get harder before it gets better I JUST LOVE TO SAY THANK YOU TO ALL Behavioral Medicine & Counseling THE MetroHealth Broadway Health Center FOR THE GREAT HELP I NEVER BE CAME A drug and alcohol BECAUSE I ALL HAVE SO ONE TO TAKE TO NOW I CAN GO ON WITH MY GREAT LIFE AND ENJOY MY FAMILY GOD BLESS YOU ALL AND I HOPE YOU ALL GET THE HELP YOU NEED

  2. Hi, my name is Ceci, at the age of 16 I was raped by my own biological father, I ran away from my house and when the police finally found me I told them what had happened. They arrested my father but my mother begged me to lie to them so they would let him out. They got a lawyer and paid thousands of dollara until a few months later they let him out. My mother forced me to keep on living as if nothing ever happened telling me that if I ever told the truth my brothers and sisters would never have a father, that we would be poor and it would all be my fault. That went on for 3 more years until I couldnt take it anymore and decided to marry my boyfriend who from the start always protected me. Now im 22 and im still struggling because how can you forgive someone who would hurt his own daughter. And my mom? How do I forgive her? She knew what happened but still decided to do the impossible to get him out of jail.she worried more about what would people say if they found out than my own personal feelings, her excuse was that she was scared of being alone the rest of her life , but im sorry to say that she Will be alone, because when she is old I doubt he will take care of her. Maybe something is wrong with me because deep down I feel all this pain and I want to forgive them. Before that we were such a happy family everything was perfect…..what went wrong? Why did he do that???!!!!!! Deep down I know I want to forgive and I know I love them….but how? How can I forgive them?????

  3. Pingback: Author who survived child abuse teaches her experience to help others. #superheroalert – Becoming Hero

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