Abuse and restoration: A non-violent approach
Jan 26, 2010
Editor's note: Mr. Lawrence sent his powerful story to RJ Online. His story is remarkable particularly because he did not have the assistance of restorative practitioners who could have helped him and his father in their initial conversations. Perpetrators or survivors who wish to make contact with the other should find a restorative facilitator to determine if such a meeting is advisable and to help both prepare.
My name is Paige Lawrence and I want to talk to you about reconciling abuse. Reconciliation is about making things whole again, about restoration.
My experience was that the anger and the pain that sexual abuse caused in my family and my life was compromising my ability to accomplish the things I wanted for myself ten, fifteen, even twenty years after the actual abuse occurred.
So, in my late twenties after trying spiritual counseling and psychotherapy to no avail, I tried contacting the sexual abuser who had started it all and talking to him directly.
It was not easy, it was scary and it took a long time to develop the level of respect and trust that we needed to be able to speak plainly to one another; but we did it and I want to share some of what I learned from that experience with you.
I am not a therapist and I am not a PhD, I’m just a guy who experienced sexual abuse first hand and I want very much to share with you what helped me.
....I finally told him how I had been feeling towards him and he was surprisingly compassionate; admittedly he does understand adversity well. He said if he had grown up hearing about how his father was the worst person in the whole world, and that he ruined our family he’d be angry too, but I’m the one who was giving that story power.
When I finally saw my father for who he is now; I saw a man who has paid a very high price for a lot of years of terrible behavior. I see a man who has worked very hard to do something positive with himself since he got out of prison and in many ways he has succeeded. Beyond that, I have a relationship with my father now, one that isn’t permanently discolored by his abusive behavior.
In this light he and I can talk about simple things, things a normal father and son should like movies, and dinner and things we find interesting. I can ask him for advice and he can do the same with me. It is territory I never expected to explore and it has been surprising and rewarding. It was very hard for me to let go of that anger towards him after so long. It was a part of me and my anger had spilled over into other areas of my life like my relationships. It cost me love, vitality, happiness. But when I really looked at him as a human, for who he is now, without any bias, a tremendous weight lifted and that radiated into the rest of my life as well.
At present I am taking some time to speak to people about what the reconciliation process was like for me and what the benefits and hardships have been. If you are a survivor, I’m not here to suggest that you go charging off to confront your abuser; rather I want to share what it was like for my father and I. I hope that there is something in my story that will be of benefit to others.