February 25, 2005

'Forgive and forget' doesn't work

Dayton Daily News

By Jacqui Theobald
For the Dayton Daily News

As a professional counselor and art therapist, I have treated and worked with both sexual abusers and the victims/survivors of sexual abuse for 20 years. The recent media attention to abusive priests and other child molesters and subsequent pro and con comments have the sound, to me, of a very old scenario. Even though open discussion has become more common through the years, there are still myths and mindsets that seem never to progress.

"Forgive and forget," they say.

Offenders are champions. They are champions of denial and rationalization and minimization and intellectualization, all used to make themselves feel better. First and most used is denial. They simply convince themselves that whatever they did wasn't abusive.

It was loving or kind (in their own minds). They were paying attention to someone who had been ignored or mistreated by others. Soon, they are able to feel quite noble about the progressive intrusion into someone else's life and space.

Over time they edge right in, getting closer, being a good listener, being a resource or a refuge. There's a name for that. It's called grooming, and it happens in various ways, but it always happens.

They want to remove any sense of danger the target person may feel. After all, they aren't "abusive," certainly not violent; they're just a "good guy."

Offenders, when confronted by a name for their own activities, usually respond with wounded innocent denial. They like to proclaim they're being misunderstood or misinterpreted. "That's not what I was doing."

Posted by kshaw at February 25, 2005 09:21 AM