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Archive for July 9th, 2008

Stormy skies (c) Lynda BernhardtAs I shared in my last post, I confronted my mother/abuser about the child abuse without even realizing that I did, and she reacted to the confrontation without realizing that she was. (You will have to read that post for this situation to make any sense.) In my situation, there was no decision made. An alter part took over, and I confronted my mother/abuser about the child abuse in the heat of the moment.

When you work through the healing process from child abuse, you will reach a place in which you must decide whether or not to confront your abuser. There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Some people find it to be very empowering to confront their abuser. Others wind up regretting this decision.

Confronting your abuser is not required in order to heal from child abuse. If it was, then survivors of child abuse would be giving away their power. If the abuser refused to see them or had already died, then the child abuse survivor would be forever unable to heal. Many people have healed from child abuse without even laying eyes on their abusers again. You do not have to confront your abuser in order to heal.

However, you might want to confront your abuser. Many people find confronting their abuser to be incredibly empowering. They are able to look their abuser in the eye and say all of the things that went unsaid throughout childhood. In some cases, they might even receive a sincere apology. (I would not hold my breath for this outcome.)

If you are considering confronting your abuser, think about what you hope to gain through the confrontation. If you need to hear “I’m sorry” in order for the confrontation to make a difference, then you might not want to go through with it. Many abusers are unwilling or unable to take responsibility for their actions. Your abuser might tell you that it was all your fault and not show a bit of remorse. If your goal is to hear an apology, then you might be better off doing your confrontation through visualization so you can control the outcome.

Also, if you choose to confront your abuser, be prepared for the fallout. I know several child abuse survivors whose relationships with other family members were affected by the confrontation. Most abusers have family members who live in denial and expect everyone else to do the same. By “bringing up the past,” you are upsetting the apple cart, and they don’t like that. I have comforted friends who lost other family members they cared about after a confrontation. While they know that this speaks volumes about their relationships with these other people, it still hurt.

I, personally, chose not to confront my abusers. In the case of my mother/abuser, she is mentally ill. My therapist believes that, if I do confront her, she is likely to have a psychotic episode and have to be hospitalized. I do not want to risk the safety of others just to have the confrontation. Also, I do not feel like I need to have one in order to heal. I already did have a confrontation of sorts, but I have been able to release my feelings through visualization, so I feel no need to do it in real life.

That being said, I have set up very firm boundaries, which sort of act as a confrontation. I told my mother that she may not call or visit me. She may only contact me monthly in written form (either through email or a letter). She tried to force me to tell her why on several occasions. I was not ready for a confrontation, so I told her that if she raised the issue again, then I would not communicate with her for three months. That took care of the problem.

Whether or not to confront your abuser is a very personal decision. Some child abuse survivors feel a very strong need to do this while others do not. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer to whether you should confront your abuser. You need to follow what your intuition tells you about what is the best thing for you to do in your situation.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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