I recently read in the news that a judge sentenced an Alabama woman to 219 years in prison for her role in an incestuous sex ring accused of molesting children for years.
And if you're anything like me, you can't even begin to imagine how deeply disturbed and sick, someone must be to commit such horrific crimes.
What's more, you might even be asking yourself...
How do you forgive someone who has committed crimes such as these?
That's why I'm glad that Elisabeth Corey of www.BeatingTrauma.com was kind enough to share her perspective about forgiveness and letting go of the past.
Elisabeth is a survivor of family-controlled child sex trafficking and sexual abuse.
In her own words, here is Elisabeth Corey's story of letting go of the past and discovering a brighter future.
First of all, I have a unique perspective about forgiveness. I don't use the word in my work. I find that it has been too loaded with inaccurate meaning.
Many survivors come to me with their confusion about forgiveness.
They believe they have to continue some relationship with their abuser to forgive. And they are tortured over how to heal and forgive (in that way) at the same time.
I use words like "letting go" or "moving on" instead of forgive.
I tell other survivors that forgiveness is for those who ask for it (and abusers almost never do).
I tell survivors to focus on how they can take their life back as opposed to focusing on how they can be "fair" to their abusers.
Could you describe a life situation or relationship that needed forgiveness on your part?
As a family-controlled sex trafficking and abuse survivor, my childhood has been full of trauma instilled by the very people who were supposed to love and care for me. The extensive traumatic events created an overload of traumatic memories in my brain and rage and sadness in my body.
It was so overwhelming that I was unable to process the majority of my childhood events as a child. I was forced to dissociate to stay alive and to function.
What made you decide to forgive?
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t use the word “forgiveness” when working with this type of childhood trauma.
Forgiveness is the given to those who ask for it, to those who are willing to admit they have done wrong, to those who are interested in helping those they have harmed.
For everyone else, including members of my family, I have used the words “letting go”.
The distinction is critical because forgiveness can imply that a relationship still exists with the person we are forgiving, and with child abuse, that can be dangerous, or at least stop healing in its tracks.
I decided to let go of my past because I gave birth to my twins.
Although I did not remember most of my childhood, I intuitively knew that my children were not safe unless I made significant changes. I also had a strong intuitive sense that my physical and emotional pain was not necessary and I wanted to find out how to rid myself of it.
And most importantly, I didn’t want to pass that pain on to my children.
For the past five years, I have recovered countless childhood memories and processed many emotions from that time. With each memory and emotion, I have felt the burden of my past lift from my body and psyche. The weight of the world is no longer upon my shoulders. I can start again.
Are there any specific types of tools or practices that helped you forgive?
The key to this work is not to limit ourselves to one type of practice. I have used yoga, mindfulness, Reiki, conventional therapy, group work, cranio-sacral work and writing to work through my traumatic past and let go of the old.
Because trauma is stored in many ways in the body and mind, we have to take many approaches to address it.
What important advice or tips would you give to someone in regards to the power of forgiveness?
While I reassert that forgiveness (in the loaded sense) is not a requirement for recovery, letting go of the past is critical.
Through my work to let go, I have felt a freedom that I previously thought was unattainable in this life.
While it may seem insurmountable to tackle your past, keep in mind that you only have to take one step at a time. You can let go a little each day and it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience. And you will always be better off than you were before. You will be a little lighter and a little closer to the life you want.
In the end...
What I appreciate most about Elisabeth's story of letting go is her honesty in acknowledging that the word "forgiveness" is extremely loaded.
Yet, at the same time we have to be willing to let go of the pains of the past, no matter how traumatic, if we want to move closer and closer to the life we truly want to live and enjoy. More than that I found her reminder of just how important it is to process and release our memories from the past to be very valuable as well.
Big Love Always;