Confronting the Perpetrator

It’s fairly early days for me in my journey towards healing from childhood trauma.

I’ve read books about other’s journeys towards healing from the effects of childhood trauma.  I have read about other’s experiences in confronting their perpetrators.  So far, I have not read one story about a confrontation with the perpetrator that has gone in accordance with the survivor of childhood trauma’s wishes.

So I’m now questioning whether it’s actually realistic and possible for a survivor of childhood trauma to ever get the apology, the acknowledgement, the recognition or the peace that they seek and undoubtedly deserve through confronting their perpetrator with their truth?

Typically, there is often another party involved, this other person typically plays the role of ‘the allower’, turning a blind eye, avoiding stepping in to stop the perpetrator’s damaging behaviour and to protect the innocent, vulnerable, defenceless and harmless child.   The allower is typically weak, passive, compliant, a people pleaser, with a low self-esteem.

Being able to apologise to another person requires a level of maturity, self-awareness, inner strength, security within oneself, a willingness to take responsibility for oneself and actions, selflessness, a genuine concern for the other person’s wellbeing, the ability to put another’s needs ahead of their own and a love for the other person.  Is someone who abused and caused a significant degree of harm to an innocent, vulnerable, defenceless and harmless child capable of apologising?  Is expecting, demanding or hoping for an apology from a perpetrator realistic or just setting a survivor of childhood trauma up for more pain and disappointment?

Both the perpetrator and the allower are not normal, balanced, mature, responsible and capable adults.  So why then, does a survivor go seeking an acknowledgement and an apology from such people for their abuse, betrayal and exploitation of a sacred trust?

In most cases, both the perpetrator and the allower are simply incapable of giving the survivor the resolution and the peace that they are seeking, just as they were also incapable of giving the survivor the vital sense of safety and protection that they needed when they were a young child.

Survivors have already been horrendously betrayed and exploited by the perpetrators and the allowers in their lives.  Why would the survivor ever go back to the perpetrator and the allower ever again?

Why give the perpetrator and the allower yet another opportunity to betray them and to let them down?

Typically a survivor of child abuse suppresses their traumatic childhood memories, with their challenging and disturbing memories often emerging in mid to late adulthood.  The survivor’s memories are often so challenging and disturbing that they hide their memories and keep their memories a secret from themselves!

A survivor stands to gain a lot from re-accessing and being able to process their excruciatingly painful traumatic memories.  Through working with their painful traumatic childhood memories, a survivor can potentially regain a sense of self, a sense of wholeness and completeness, a retrospective understanding of issues that they have may have spent significant portions of their lives struggling with, valuable insights into who they are, increasing inner strength, increasing inner peace, understanding, acceptance and a genuine love for themselves and who they are.

Conversely, what does a perpetrator and an allower have to gain through being confronted with a survivor’s memories and accusations?  Painful admissions of weakness and failing?   Painful admissions of breach of a sacred trust?  Painful admission of their inability to be able to live up to what others reasonably expected of them?  Painful admission of their failure to fulfil their responsibilities?  An admission that they have spent a significant portion of their lives acting in a way that is appalling, destructive, damaging and shameful?  An admission that they have horrific secrets?

What often occurs when a survivor expresses their truth and shares their memories with the perpetrator and/or the allower figures in their lives is that they are met with at least some of the following reactions: denial, dismissal, criticism, rejection, resistance, attack, conflict, agonising invalidation, further pain, hurt and angst.

Heartbreakingly, survivor’s attempts to speak their truth with the perpetrator and/or allower figures in their lives can back-fire because their perpetrators and allowers can turn and twist their truth back around against them (like some sort of horrendous emotional boomerang), wrongly, unfairly, ironically and painfully, labelling the survivor as the ‘trouble maker’ and ‘offender’.

3 comments

  1. Vivian says:

    After going through all the therapy you’ve been through and writing a book, you still feel it’s “early days” in your journey to healing? That’s discouraging.

    Regardless of how badly the perpetrator responds, it may be worth doing just to have had the courage to do it, and to have spoken the truth aloud. Dysfunctional families count on their members keeping everything unspoken, festering inside them. Mind you, I speak as someone whose perpetrator had been dead for over a decade before I even knew what had happened. Perhaps that was lucky for me (?). But I did tell the family, and not everyone reacted well.

    • It’s always hard to deal emotionally with the parent or adults who stood by and didn’t help the child who was being abused.
      Judith Hermann talks about “the bystander.” She says that all the perpetrator wants from us is to mind our own business. The victim needs much more. The victim needs us to get involved and take action. We’re all on one side or the other. If we are bystanders, we’re on the side of the perpetrator.

  2. […] So I’m now questioning whether it’s actually realistic and possible for a survivor of childhood trauma to ever get the apology, the acknowledgement, the recognition or the peace that they seek and undoubtedly deserve through confronting their perpetrator with their truth (March 23,2014 blog post) […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *