“You have to forgive, or the other person is still controlling you.”
I saw/heard this said on an episode of My 600 Lb Life last night, and it absolutely infuriated me. I am working hard to keep that anger in check and not let it write this piece, so bear with me.
I absolutely HATE IT when people say “you have to forgive so you can get on with your life”, or some other such bullshit.
The onus is always on the victim to get over it. Never is the perpetrator of the crime required to apologize or take any sort of responsibility for his actions. No, he gets let off the hook. Completely. By everyone.
I call bullshit on that backwards-ass thinking.
You wouldn’t tell a grieving mother to “get over” her child having been murdered. You know that loss never goes away. People are sympathetic to the grieving mother. Well, that’s what happened to me. The six year old child inside me, that child I was when he abused me, was ended by this man. I mourn for the loss of that child.
But a woman who was raped? A child who was raped? No. People don’t want to hear about that.
“Get over it.”
“You can’t be a whole person unless you forgive him.”
“You have to forgive him in order to heal.”
“Put it out of your mind.”
“Pretend it didn’t happen.”
“Don’t tear apart the family.”
Yeah, here’s a hint. The family is already torn apart. You just didn’t know it. As soon as the children are old enough to stay home, they will stop attending family events. There won’t be any warm and fuzzy reunions in the future, after the parents are gone.
I am supposed to forgive that he pinned me against a wall and shoved his dick in my mouth when I was six years old. I’m supposed to forgive him for ejaculating into my mouth.
Does “forgiving him” mean I’ll suddenly forget it happened; how scared I was; how mortified; the taste of it? No.
Does “forgiving him” mean I’ll instantly love sucking dick? Nope. The aversion comes thundering forward when I perform fellatio. “Forgiving him” isn’t suddenly going to make giving head easier. I’ll still hate it and it’ll still be a hard limit. I will happily live the rest of my life never putting my mouth on another dude’s junk.
Will this forgiveness magically make it all better? Not a chance. There is no instant unburdening of the soul, with the heavens opening and the angels singing and all of life is rosy from that moment on.
I will remember for the rest of my life. What he did is burned into my brain for all time.
I’m supposed to forgive that he picked me up and carried me, kicking and screaming, into his bedroom.
Will forgiving him erase that horrific memory? No.
Will forgiving him suddenly make that helpless feeling all better? No.
It’s not going to make gynecological exams easier either.
I’m supposed to forgive him penetrating my 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 year old body and causing blank spots in my memory. He is excused from taking responsibility and I’m supposed to forgive being repeatedly raped.
I’m supposed to forgive him blackmailing me to keep me silent. “If you tell, I will _____.” Most often, it was to not let me go outside and play. A small thing, but surprisingly effective on a six year old because going out to play was the only escape from him. Staying inside was to be trapped with him. (I have a particular sympathy for children trapped at home with their abusers.)
When I was sick, I would promise my mother I’d be good if she’d let me stay home rather than taking me to my aunt’s house where the abuse happened. I stayed home alone in third grade just to be away from him. We moved when I was in fifth grade, to a place closer to the school I attended. That’s when it stopped. I no longer had to go to the aunt’s home after school or through the summer.
No. I do not forgive him.
I will never forgive him.
I hope he is haunted by the horrible things he did and it eats him alive every single day. I hope his conscience keeps him up all night remembering the children he destroyed and the lives and childhoods he ruined.
I wish he would approach me to apologize and beg my forgiveness so I can have the extreme pleasure of telling him to go fuck himself and that I will see him in hell to exact my retribution. I hope he’s read my books, so he can see what I do to rapists in them.
I have forgiven one person. The only person who needed forgiveness.
I forgave myself a long time ago for being too small to fight back; for not knowing what to do or who to tell; for not standing up to the blackmail tactics that kept me silent.
I forgive myself…and that is quite enough forgiveness on the matter.
Still, it doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t make anything right. It doesn’t make me whole. Forgiving the criminal who performed horrible acts of sexual abuse on me doesn’t solve anything. It doesn’t fix anything because those crimes changed how I view and process everything. The abuse changed how I feel about everything, irreparably.
That can’t be undone by all the forgiveness in the world.
It’s all there, every minute of every day, because my brain cannot forget. I wish I could forget. Letting him off the hook by forgiving him isn’t going to make my brain forget what happened. It won’t give me peace of mind. There is no peace to be had.
There is no “putting it out of my mind”. There are multiple layers of thought processes going on in my head at any given time. A hundred simultaneous thoughts and images. It never stops. No therapist in the world can stop my brain from functioning as it does without heavy medication that I don’t want. I don’t want to go through life an unfeeling zombie.
Some would call me damaged. I won’t say that’s not accurate. I was terribly abused by someone trusted to care for me and keep me safe. That does serious damage.
I endured until I could finally escape his reach and make sure I was never alone with him again.
I don’t know who I’d be if none of it had happened, or what life I would have had. I don’t know who I would have been sexually because I was not allowed to discover that for myself. I was intentionally conditioned, at a very early age, to submit to what the man wants to do to me. It took four and a half decades for me to overcome that and be my own person with my own wants and desires. My sex life is now about me and my satisfaction and not centered around the guy’s pleasure.
What he did to me left me with lifelong Persistent Arousal Syndrome. Having a hysterectomy didn’t even change that. Imagine going through every day of your life partially aroused. Sometimes ragingly aroused. I saw an episode of Nat Geo’s Taboo in which this woman has to jack herself eight times a day. I’m fortunate that I have developed the self-control to ride out a surge and put off masturbation until bedtime or beyond. Most days.
Sometimes it’s too unrelenting and I have to relieve myself. I don’t have a normal sex drive. I have hypersexdrive.
They say the best revenge is living well. That lets the criminal off the hook too. “Yup, I did that horrible thing to you, but wow it doesn’t seem to have mattered. You’re just fine! You have a great life!” I’m not living well because of what was done. I’m living well in spite of what was done to me.
I saw a thing at some point in recent months, an excuse for excusing the criminal from their behavior. “The children of sexual abuse are not affected long term.” I’m 51 years old and it affects every day of my life. It has affected how I raised my own child. Sleepovers? Oh hell no. Going to a friend’s house after school? Nopenopenope. Hiring a stranger to babysit? No fucking way.
I cannot pretend that it doesn’t touch every single day of my life. Maybe other people can and that’s how they seem to be just fine. Maybe they hide what happened, don’t talk about it, pretend it never happened. That’s called denial, last I knew.
Denial doesn’t mean a person has been made whole.
So what’s the answer?
The men (and women) who abuse children are not going to stop abusing the children in their care. A hundred years from now, children will still be sexually, physically, and emotionally abused. It’ll still be perpetrated, most times, by someone known and trusted by the parents. If not the parents themselves.
So long as the abused are told to forgive and get over it, to not speak up because it’ll tear apart the family, to shut up, the perpetrators will always be let off the hook. The abused will always be the ones suffering, to one degree or another.
Don’t let anyone pressure you into forgiving a molesting rapist of an abuser if you aren’t feeling it. You don’t have to forgive the abuser. Not ever if you don’t want to. You’re not a bad person for that, regardless the guilt trips people try to lay on you.
There is no perfect answer.
We each have to deal with our lifelong aftermath as best we can from one day to the next.