The double-edged sword of forgiveness

If I ever doubted the number of people who were sexually abused as a child, promoting my book, The Sex-Wise Parent has brought me right back to sad reality.  I have yet to leave an event without at least one survivor sharing his or her story.  Many have a lesson that I feel compelled to share and last week’s lesson was about the double edged sword of forgiveness.

A woman approached me to speak after a small event.    I had noticed her in the crowd because she had maintained steady eye contact with me throughout my remarks, often nodding in agreement as I spoke.

She thanked me for my voice on the topic of sex abuse prevention, and shared that she had been victimized as a young child after parents moved her family far from their extended family and sent her back every summer for an extended visit with her relatives.

Between the ages of 6  and 12 a member of her summer household  did what I can only describe as repeatedly rape her at his convenience.  She quietly and calmly described her terror of using the bathroom or bathing because she knew that being undressed made her more vulnerable.  She had no one to tell in her summer home, and no words to tell her parents when she returned home.

The abuse ended decades ago when the rapist got old enough to leave the household.  My informant shared that she was much loved by her parents and found solace in her religion.  She shared that through grace and hard work with a therapist she forgave the abuser and went on with her life.  She told me that if they were both at the same family event, no one would know what he’d done to her.  She seemed calm and at peace with her ability to move on and maintain the peace within her extended family.

Until I asked how she knew that other children were safe.

She was taken off guard by my question, thought for a minute then replied that he only did it to her.  I tried to be gentle with my reminder that most predators have multiple victims and she just said “no, no.”

It is highly unlikely that I will ever see this woman again and I don’t know the decision she will make. I can only hope she was able to take some steps to make sure a predator is not terrorizing children.

If this were your friend, would you ask them to trade their family’s peace for the potential of saving a child?