Sexual Abuse: To Confront… or Not to Confront the Abuser?

Trudy Metzger
For the Independent

This less than popular topic is worthy of space in the black and white world of the printed word, even if it is less than popular in the real world. In working with people, I never push it. It’s not my call to make. About 10% of clients, or less, opt for talking to the perpetrator. Most are too afraid.

When victims choose to confront, they sometimes ask me to be present as a mediator or witness, or make initial contact with the alleged perpetrator. Only once did I make the mistake of going alone. For too many reasons to list, not the least of which is the lies and rumours that resulted, I won’t make that mistake twice.

In most cases, when victims approach perpetrators, the person confronted is quick to confess and ask for forgiveness. In one recent case, the victim did not feel stable enough to go, so her husband, my husband, and I went on her behalf. Immediately he said he knows why we have come. Now a middle-aged man, he broke down sobbing, took ownership, and apologized for what he did as a young man. This is the best case scenario, that they remember and own it.

When the memory doesn’t return quickly, with the victim’s permission, I establish the event and the environment in which it happened. And in every case but one, the memory has returned very quickly… before I get to the part describing graphically what the perpetrator did. Most don’t seem to want me to say that part out loud.

It’s not hard to read people. Are they sincere? Are they squirming and shifty, like they know what you’re talking about but don’t want to acknowledge? Are they pale… in shock… with signs that there are memories playing at the fringes of their memories, but they are too terrified of consequences? Or are they confident that they cannot recall the event, but want the alleged victim to find peace?

When I confronted someone who molested me in his mid-teens, he looked horrified. I gave him the day of the week, the time of day it happened, the location, the vehicle. Nothing connected. (Continue reading column here, at the Elmira Independent)

© Trudy Metzger

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