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Stop Telling Victims to Forgive Their Abuser!

Stop Telling Victims to Forgive Their Abuser!

Update: 2023-07-04


Do you recoil a little when you hear the word "forgiveness"? You're not alone.

Forgiveness is a concept often used to silence victims and give abusers a quick slap on the wrist without any real consequences for their behavior. No wonder it's triggering to even hear it, let alone try to practice it.

The bottom line: stop telling victims to forgive their abusers - it's only causing more harm. Listen to the episode and read the full transcript below for more.

"Forgiveness" is Traumatizing Victims

When clergy, therapists, friends, and family counsel victims to "just forgive" the abuser, they're often ignoring the fact that the victim is experiencing significant trauma and deserves to focus on her own safety and healing, rather than channeling energy into forgiving their abuser.

"Forgiveness" usually translates to "absolution" - in other words, when victims are asked to forgive, they're really being told to sweep the abuse under the rug so that everyone can move on.

This further traumatizes victims who need safety and support. Not trite advice.

If Forgiveness is Important to You, Consider This:

If you're a victim, the concept of forgiveness may be important to you - but it can be confusing to try to forgive the abuser when forgiveness has always meant reconciliation and absolution.

Consider forgiveness meaning "Letting Go": seeking your own safety while accepting that the abuser is who he is. Letting go of the relationship, if necessary. Letting go of any lingering self-blame or core beliefs that the abuser conditioned you to accept.

While holding on to your boundaries, holding on to the feelings and experiences that you need to process, and holding on to your right to justice and accountability.

Say THIS Instead of "Have You Tried Forgiving Him?"

If you're the family, friend, clergy, or therapist of a victim of abuse, and you want to learn how to support her rather than further traumatize her by counseling her to forgive, try saying (and meaning) these phrases:

* How can I help you get more safety in your life?

* Do you want to hold the abuser accountable through the justice system? Can I help you to do that in any way?

* Can you give me an idea of your current level of safety?

* Can I do anything to support you?

* What resources do you need right now to feel like you can function on a day-to-day basis?

BTR.ORG Is Here For You

At BTR, we know how painful it is to be dismissed and minimized by others when they repeatedly tell you to try to forgive the abuser - it's excruciating to try to explain yourself over and over.

Our Group Sessions are a safe place to process your feelings because we get it right away. Attend a Group Session today.

Full Transcript:

Anne BTR.ORG (00:00 ):

I have Anne on today's episode. She's a member of our community and is a wife and a mom of three beautiful, growing kids. She was raised in a conservative Mennonite church. She's passionate about giving voice to the experiences that sexual and religious abuse survivors face. Anne posted on social media and contacted us and we thought we need to talk with her about this issue. So her social media post said, "Saying that forgiveness is the key to restoring relationships, is placing a burden on the part of the offended, or victim, that God never meant for them to carry. God himself does not do that. Why do we force people to do it? Like it's some kind of spiritual thing to do. It takes both repentance and forgiveness to save a relationship. The offended party can forgive all they want,








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Stop Telling Victims to Forgive Their Abuser!

Stop Telling Victims to Forgive Their Abuser!

Anne Blythe