Confronting the Abuser
Confronting the Abuser
Confronting the Abuser: the goal of confronting your abuser is for you to regain your voice and re-do things so that you can play an active role. You can change the outcome of history for others who would be affected by the abuser, and rewrite yours so that he or she no longer has control over your life.
There are many ways to be confronting your abuser. You can write a letter (whether you send it or keep it). You can act out the abuse with a trained therapist or a loving friend by having them play the part of the abuser and change his or her actions to fit your ideas of what should have happened. You can tell the truth in court. You visit the abuser in jail and speak with him or her. You can call him or her on the phone. You can talk with him or her in your head.
The point of confrontation is for you- thus his/her reactions while important are not as important as the way you feel about the job you did. Of course, if he or she apologizes and has an obvious understanding of how he/she hurt you, that would be very beneficial. However, it does not always going happen, and you have to be mentally prepared for that as well. The evaluation that you give yourself needs to be based on your confronting the abuser, not the abusers response. Again, no matter how “good” you are, you ultimately can not control his or her behaviors. Because if you could, then the abuse never would have occured in the first place!
First of all, you must accept the fact that the abuse was not your fault before you can meet with your abuser. If you are still blaming or punishing yourself, meeting with your abuser will only give him or her another chance to make you feel guilty instead of being a helpful meeting. You may have questions about the abuse or the situation, or things you have been holding inside until you see him or her, and that is fine.
However, you must at least accept the fact that you did not have control then, and you are taking it now. Based on whether you have accepted your innocence you can make a decision as to what tactic to take. If you are still hesitant, writing a letter can make your voice stronger and prevent him/her from making you feel guilty. If you send the letter or go to court, you have to prepare for a rebuttal. Many abusers do not realize they hurt others and are mentally ill.
If you do go to see your abuser, it is important to find a person you trust to be a mediator, or at least near enough that if you need help, it is readily accessible. No matter how delicately you phrase your comments, your abuser may feel you are attacking him or her and get defensive or physical. In the same way, you may feel you are losing control of your emotions and need someone to calm you down. If there is a middle person who can communicate your desire for meeting with your abuser in a non-confrontational way, and you feel safer with him or her if the middle person is there, great.
You can even ask a mental health professional to mediate, if you think the other person would agree. Either his or yours is fine, as long as there is someone there. If you cannot comfortably share the information with a third party, at least have someone trustworthy nearby like a friend of yours. Do not bring someone to mediate that other person would feel uncomfortable talking in front of, for example your mother if your abuser was your father, since he or she will be defensive immediately. Pick a person that has only your interest at heart. It is about you, not him or her.
Before you go to see your abuser or communicate with him or her in any way, there are many things you can do to prepare. For example, you can write a letter about your feelings and have a friend read it and give you feedback. You can write journal entries freely to decide what your feelings are and what points specifically you want to focus on. You can even ask a friend to play your abuser, and role-play the meeting in person or on the phone to practice.
The purpose is not to help him or her learn, it’s about you getting closure. This is a time for you to be selfish about your needs. If he asks to meet with you and his therapist, then it is a time for him to hey closure, or have more insight. Stay true to your goal; it is hard to accomplish too many things at once.
Depending on where the abuser is in his healing process, he may be able to shed light on the situation. You can use open ended questions, for example “Can you tell me how you felt when…” or “What was your motivation when…” in order to encourage discussion. Make sure you are not attacking him if you want information. Having these details can help you both see your pain and understand the situation from yet another perspective. Make sure, if you let him tell you all of this, that you are ready and open to it.
Sometimes, the other person may not have seen the act as sexual abuse. This is not to say it is your fault, but that he or she has different ideas about what is socially acceptable or felt the act was one of love. In an ideal situation, it is important for you to listen to what he or she has to say, and then to be as honest back. In real life, this is only to be done if they are asking for help and are someone who wants a relationship with you: a relative, friend of the family, ect. If this is a random stranger, this could be dangerous and will not lead to anything beneficial for you.
In the case of someone close to you, explain the situation from your point of view, and how it made you feel. This will not only help you move on, but help the abuser realize what he or she is doing and how much it hurts others. You can make a difference in the lives of others the abuser would hurt simply by pointing out this confusion.
However, the abuser will not always see things from your point of view. Sometimes he or she may get defensive no matter how hard you try to discuss the event rationally, and in this case it is not your fault if you cannot sway him or her to your point of view. At least express your lack of desire for what he or she did, and say the things you’ve been holding inside. He or she may need professional help, and you cannot be expected to completely re-wire the abuser’s brain to see things your way. If he or she expresses a desire for professional help you can make suggestions, but again, do not be aggressive. This will only make he or she get self-protective and not listen to what you are saying.
Although finding your abuser and confronting him or her (whatever method you decide on) is very difficult, it is well worth it to feel the amazing thrill of finding your voice. Even when you use your voice you may get hurt, but at least you did everything within your control to try. Bad things happen to good people, but now you can move on guilt-free because you did everything in your power to make things right. Good luck and congratulations!