I am a survivor of sexual assault and incest. My father was my abuser. The abuse went on for years and didn’t stop until I left home at the age of 19. Now I am 53. I have chosen not to have a relationship with my father and have a limited relationship with my mother, who knew for some time, but chose to look the other way. I think about forgiveness often. I try and see my father as an innocent. I think that this can help to forgive a person. My problem is this…..I have dealt with my abuse (though not intirely, and probably will always be until the day I die) I have confronted my parents and since then, they have acted as though I am making too much of a big deal about it. They openly speak to my siblings about how I am hurting them by not staying in touch and treating my father as though he doesn’t exisit. My father has said that yes, there was some abuse, but nothing as bad as I have said. It is THIS behavior that is making it so hard to even begin to forgive. They have told lies about when I have confonted them, for instance, saying that I had my 22 yr old son in the room at the time, when he was outside jogging. How is it possible to get past what is happening now, when the scars are so old and the new wounds are so deep? I facilitate a support group for survivors and we talk often about forgiveness.

First of all, thank you for your courage. You have endured a great deal and you continue to do so. I have five ideas for you to consider.

First, you say that you try to see you father as “an innocent” and that this helps in the forgiving. I would gently urge you to begin shifting your thinking so that you do not see your father as innocent because he is not. He made a tragic choice which was not in your best interest and his knowing that does not make him innocent.

Second, forgiveness occurs in the context of people who are not innocent. When we forgive, we offer a cessation of resentment and a gift of goodness in spite of the other’s culpability. This is what makes forgiveness so heroic, to begin to see the other as a person even though he or she acted badly.

Third, I would urge you to visit the??Forums section??of this website (the Adult Forum in particular) and read the exchange about Personhood begun by Amber, which will give you some insights on forgiving in this way (seeing the personhood in the other).

As a fourth point, as you forgive your father in this way, by beginning to forgive him for the incest, I encourage you to forgive your mother in a similar way for not protecting you when you were younger.

As a fifth point, your current forgiveness issue is a large one because of the denial of the abuse by both your father and mother. This is a separate and legitimate issue worthy of your time. Here you should consider forgiving your father and mother for their unwillingness to see the grave injustice which you suffered. This one will be a challenge because it is in a context of ongoing injustice as they deny the seriousness of the wrongdoing. Again, one of the Forum subjects could prove helpful to you here. It is again in the Adult Forum and is entitled, “Forgiving the same person over & over?” It might provide support for you as you forgive because you will see that others have a similar issue of continued forgiveness in the face of continued injustice.

It takes perseverance and courage to forgive. I admire your determination.