|A Letter To My Sexual Abuser by Victim-Turned-Survivor|
It’s been a while since we talked. Years, actually.
These have been such agonizing, impossibly difficult years. What you did to me back then, the emotional and mental manipulation, the complete abuse of power, it wrecked me. It destroyed my ability to trust others and, even worse, myself. Your actions tore my identity apart, obliterated the person you knew, the person I was for almost 20 years of my life. And after all these years there’s something I need to tell you…
I forgive you.
Through years of soul searching and healing, self care and prayer, I’ve reached a place where I no longer feel consumed by grief and rage at the thought of what you did to me. I no longer am plagued by confusion and pain. You no longer hold any power over me. My heart has peace. I have been forever changed by you but now I wear the scars you left on my heart fearlessly. I view them as proof of my strength not a weakness to hide. I tell my story to many and have helped heal others who have been ravaged by clergy sexual abuse just like I have. God has given me purpose out of my pain.
I also need you to know that, while I have forgiven you, forgiveness does not equal silence. Forgiveness does not equal forgetting. Unfortunately I can never rid myself of the painful memories and the havoc you wreaked on me. I wish I could but I can’t. It will always be there. While you continue leading others from the stage of a church, living life with little to no consequence for what you did to me, I will never be able to get back the innocence that you stole from me. That hurts. It hurts like mad.
I know you’ll have to answer for your actions one day. We all will. But for now, I think you and all others like you deserve to know the consequences your actions had on my life. Because it isn’t fair. Ignorance is bliss and the last person who should remain in blissful, ignorant blindness about the pain and damage clergy sexual abuse causes is the abuser.
I will never stop talking. I will never stop being proactive in the fight against clergy sexual abuse. One day you may see the light. One day you might truly seek forgiveness and try to right the wrongs you’ve done. I pray to see that day and I pray you get help. But in the end, no matter what happens, it doesn’t change my mission. It won’t stop me from telling my story. It won’t silence me because it isn’t about you. It has never been about you. It isn’t just about me. It’s about everybody who has been hurt like me, who blamed themselves like I did, who feel alone and dirty and tainted like I did. It’s about speaking up for those who can’t, to those who abuse, and to those who don’t even realize that they are being abused. It is about bringing awareness. It is about bringing healing. It’s about enlightenment to people and to the church.
The church is failing when it comes to protecting innocents from abuse within its walls and convicting the offenders. In a world where churches and institutions are more concerned about saving face than saving hearts, I’m happy to step up to the plate and make up for their slacking.
What you did was evil. What makes clergy sexual abuse an especially heinous form of abuse is your power and how badly your abuse damages the victims ability to trust. You prey on your victims in the one place they are supposed to feel safest. It isn’t rape by a stranger in a dark alleyway. It is obliteration at the hands of a trusted friend and leader. You were a leader in the church. You continue to lead churches. Do you know what abuse at the hands of a trusted spiritual leader does to a person? For someone who claims to represent the Lord, someone who teaches others the will of the Lord, your actions and lack of carrying out your responsibility to repent, truly repent, make you one of the biggest hypocrites I know. If you truly believe bringing others to the Lord is the most important job you have in this world, you’re going about it all wrong. All the degrees and education in the world don’t mean a thing if you’re not living with a heart for people and living the way God teaches us to live.
Thankfully my faith in God is stronger than your assault was. Unfortunately, you’ve severely damaged many people’s ability to trust in churches and church leadership with the way you abused me. That’s right, abuse like you carried out with me is toxic far beyond me. The pain is deep and far reaching.
Everybody makes mistakes but its how we recover from those mistakes, our actions in the aftermath, that mean something. It’s those actions that mean everything. A wounded soul knows honest repentance from forced apologies. One of the hardest lessons I had to learn during my healing is how to forgive in unfair circumstances. I had to learn how to forgive with a gnawing lack of closure and a heart still unfairly broken.
It took so much to get here but I thank God all the time that I’ve arrived alive. So many aren’t able to survive the pain and shame of this sort of abuse. But I have. I am no longer a victim; I am a survivor. I am a survivor freed from your abusive grasp because I have forgiven you. I’ve completely surrendered my trust to the Lord to handle you and to take care of me.
In the end, I can thank you. I thank you for teaching me to be strong, to overcome. I thank you for making me wiser. I thank you for those I’ve met and helped because of what you did to me. I pray you don’t ever hurt anybody else the way you hurt me. I pray for continued healing for myself and others like me. I pray God does a major work in you and I pray that you one day truly repent and seek help for your actions. Because God loves you just as much as he loves me.
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If you are a survivor of pastoral abuse, we would love to hear your story and possibly make it available on this web site for others to read and renew their hope. You can use a pseudonym if you choose and rest assured that all personal information will be kept private and strictly confidential. Please contact us.
Please note: We do not necessarily agree with or endorse all the information contained in the survivor’s stories. We do, however, feel they have some valuable information that could be useful to you in your recovery. It helps to know you’re not alone, that others have shared your pain and have healed, by the grace of God, in their own time and way.