Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual AbuseQUESTION: Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse - Can I ever forgive?ANSWER:
The answer to this question is yes, adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse can forgive. However, the first step may have to come from the victim rather than the abuser. This is especially true if the violent act took place many years ago and the victim is an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse.
The act of forgiveness is essential in the healing process since it breaks the seemingly unending cycle of pain. This is not something that will be easy to do, but is necessary for healing to take place. It takes a lot of strength for the survivor to initiate forgiveness. Not only does it break the cycle of pain, but the survivor is no longer controlled by angry feelings towards the abuser. When the anger continues on through life and there is no healing, the abuser is actually in control, hence, forgiveness is a journey to freedom. It does not make any difference whether the abuser is alive or deceased, we need to forgive in order to free ourselves.
"Forgive and forget" is how the old saying goes. But is it that simple? How do we forgive wrongs others have done against us? We need to forgive even when the person who has harmed us does not ask for nor deserve our forgiveness. God has also made forgiving others a requirement for receiving His forgiveness. "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:14-15).
I was raised in an abusive home and I know how difficult it is to forgive the other person. In my case, the abuse was from my mother. Even as an adult, I had not forgiven her for the physical abuse.
This is the strategy I used to aid in the forgiveness, and I believe anyone can use this same technique in any kind of abuse you may have encountered, whether it is physical or sexual abuse. My mother had already passed away, but I was told by a counselor to write a letter to my mother describing my feelings to her. I was to share with her what I did not like about the abuse, and how I felt it had done me harm. There was no limit on the length of the letter. My counselor told me to read it at her gravesite. I was also instructed to take along with me someone else as a witness.
My mother's grave was over 1,000 miles away, but I had planned to go back to my hometown so the timing was perfect. I took the letter, along with my witness, and read I read the letter at her gravesite. At first, I felt slightly foolish, but as I read the letter, it was amazing the results that transpired. I knew my mother could not hear my words, but that I was doing this to help myself forgive her.
My counselor instructed me to burn the letter and bury the ashes deep into the ground near my mother's grave; that act signifying "It is finished." I can tell you that I went away feeling more relieved and at peace than I had ever felt.
There were times when memories flooded my mind again down the road of life, but the words that always came back to me were: "It is finished."
Consider your situation. If you can give a letter to your abuser, or if you are able to verbalize your thoughts to your abuser, that is even better. You can also imagine them in front of you in a room and talk to them that way. This process works, and you will be on your way in the process of forgiveness.