After child sexual abuse: Is it time to let yourself off of the hook?

For adults who have experienced sexual abuse and other forms of abuse in childhood, it is understandable and common to harbor feelings of rage, anger and bitterness towards the perpetrator(s) as well as anyone else who may have been complicit in the abuse. While it’s perfectly logical to feel strong, negative feelings towards someone who has wronged you, it may create additional burdens for you to carry.

If you were abused in childhood, whether you choose to forgive those who hurt you is your call. One way of looking at forgiveness is that it is primarily for the benefit of the person who is carrying the burden of the wound. After all, whether you forgive or don’t forgive someone may make no difference to them. (To be clear, when I speak of forgiveness I am not suggesting that by forgiving someone you must resume a relationship which is or was toxic for you.)

Responsibility dynamics after the experience of childhood sexual abuse

Time and time again while working with people who have endured abuse it unfolds that they are holding deep anger with themselves for having been abused. This isn’t so surprising: A child’s world-view is that they are responsible for everything that happens to them. It’s a form of magical thinking, to be sure, and it is developmentally appropriate at certain young ages. But for an adult who carries the shame and pain of childhood abuse, those feelings may be carried right alongside irrational feelings of responsibility for being victimized.

Teasing out your truth, grieving it, and setting down your burdens and any rage and anger toward yourself are some of the most essential steps in the process of healing from child sexual abuse.

Forgiveness may not mean restoring painful relationships, but it can mean a restored relationship of trust within your own heart.

For more perspectives on forgiveness, see

The experience of child sexual abuse, some say, is “the gift that keeps on giving” due to the many ramifications throughout the lifespan. If you are considering therapy to work on these issues I would welcome your call at 858-481-0425 to discuss my sexual abuse counseling services in San Diego.

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