Susan (England)

“Forgiveness can allow abuse to thrive.”

Susan is 51, divorced and the mother of 3 children. She lives in the Midlands and is a member of CSSA (Christian Survivors of Sexual Abuse). Current UK statistics suggest that 1 in 6 children are sexually abused before they reach the age of 16.

I was about eight years old when the abuse started. The friendly life guard at the swimming pool was an active paedophile. He molested my older brother, among others. Eventually he turned his attentions to me. My brother watched that first time, smiling at my bewilderment. The abiding memory is feeling so very, very small – the man could have picked me up and put me in his pocket.

Threats “not to tell” were left to my brother. Corrupted by this man, and mercilessly bullied at school, my brother started to molest me. I remained silent. My Christian faith kept the lid on my suffering. God’s love to me was conditional on forgiveness, wasn’t it?

My crisis began when my daughter approached her eighth birthday, and the horror of what happened to me finally dawned. I sought help through Christian literature, but it just told lovely stories about reconciliation. Trusted Christian friends offered well meaning advice, and in one case, an exorcism. The focus was praying for my abuser’s redemption. It is not hard to see how in this context, forgiveness can allow abuse to thrive.

I allowed my brother supervised access to my children, but as his behaviour became more erratic, I chose to sever the relationship altogether. My husband and elderly parents wanted to know the reasons why. The truth was very hard to tell, and so I put myself to bed and stayed there.

I had some psychiatric treatment, but a feeling of guilt and low self esteem remains. I would like to say “The Lord’s Prayer” and mean it – but I can’t go as far as forgiveness. Truthfully, all I can do is try and understand what motivates behaviour, and not hold any hatred in my heart. I sometimes wonder how much more I could have achieved in life if the abuse had never happened. If the bud had not been blighted?