By Michelle Hill, Safe Harbor Community Counselor
Forgiveness is a powerful means towards healing for victims of domestic violence, yet it is an extremely difficult process. After participating in months of Safe Harbor counseling to heal from the abuse she had suffered for five years from her husband, “Elizabeth” shared during a session that she felt like she needed to forgive her abuser. She told me that she felt that forgiveness was essential in order to recover from her past. Elizabeth did not want to deny or excuse the abuse or to release her abuser from his responsibility. She wished simply to release herself from the pain of those traumatic experiences that continued to get in the way of her own happiness and peace.
Elizabeth and I talked about forgiveness and what it would mean for her. We discussed ways in which she might be able to reach a sense of forgiveness for her abuser. Elizabeth finds a lot of strength through writing, so I suggested that she write a letter to her abuser that she would never send to him. Through this letter, she could safely express herself to him, fully and honestly. She could write specifically about how he had hurt her, how he had changed her. Most importantly, though, she could express how she had recovered and how she, through forgiveness, would release the emotional grip he had had on her quality of life even after she had ended her relationship with him.
Two weeks later, Elizabeth brought the letter to our session. She read it out loud. She paused several times to take a breath, to cry, to let the memories release. When she was done she released the letter. The experiences she had written about and read about out loud no longer held her captive emotionally, physically, or spiritually. She was freed from the abuse in her past, empowering her to move forward with a sense of strength, peace, and joy in her future.
Below is a portion of Elizabeth’s letter that we are sharing with her permission. We hope this letter will provide hope to other victims and survivors as they are seeking safety, support and healing along their journey.
Over the years, you’ve done a lot of bad things to me. But, I refuse to let you hold me down to your level anymore. I’m letting go of all these things, and I’m going to forgive you (with God’s help).
Countless times, you called me horrible names – B*%&h, Whore, Liar, and multiple combinations of those and others vulgar words for extra emphasis. I am none of these things – I forgive you for calling me these names.
An innumerable amount of times, you threatened my life and my well-being, implying that you would cause me physical harm if I didn’t do as you wanted. Sometimes, you used weapons to show your power. You reminded me of your power, fighting and hurting people as a soldier in the military. But, I forgive you for your threats.
You’ve pushed me to the ground during fights. You wrestled me to the ground to take away my car keys. You forced me to have sex against my will. You took my phone away during a fight when I was trying to call my parents out of fear for my life and Kaley’s (my daughter’s) life. You once disabled my car to keep me from escaping. When we fought, you would force Kaley and I into the bedroom and block the door so we couldn’t leave. For all these times that you robbed me of my ability to protect myself and my daughter – I forgive you.
You secluded me from my family and friends with various tactics. You told me horrible lies about them. You did not allow me to make plans or spend time with them. If I did make plans with them, you would harass me and follow me. You called and texted me incessantly. You yelled and swore. You refused to let friends or family members visit our house unless it was your idea. You drove irreparable wedges between me and all of my friends. You coerced me into not inviting anyone to our wedding besides your family. Though I still mourn the loss of certain friendships – I forgive you.
You stripped away my personality – piece by little piece. You degraded me and my opinions. You said the jobs that I worked to put food on our table were beneath you. You took away the things I loved. You started arguments every time I tried to read a book. You insulted everything I wrote. You took away my nail polish, earrings, clothes…but, I am taking these things back, and I forgive you for keeping them from me.
You refused to do anything to help with our daughter, Kaley. You never changed a diaper. When you were supposed to be caring for her, you either pawned her off on one of your family members, sent her to her room or left her outside alone. You once bought a gun with the money I had set aside to get new clothes for Kaley. But, I forgive you – in fact, I am almost grateful for your lack of help. It made my transition into single parenthood very easy.
I will continue to forgive you when I am reminded of these and countless other offenses. But, as God is my witness, I wash my hands of you. You are no longer a part of me, and you no longer have a hold on any part of my heart and soul. I have let go of your anger.