How Do I Respond to My Former Victim?

By Holly Counts, Psy.D.

I am a child abuse survivor but have in turn also abused a girl when she was in her early teens. She is an adult now and after my therapy I contacted her and admitted how wrong it was what I had done to her and took responsibility for my actions. She told me she had forgiven me. Now recently she contacted me and admitted that the abuse and many other things in her life have messed her up and since I already know part of what she endured she wants me to help her by giving her a listening ear. In as much as I would love to make up for my wrongs to her I am not sure if that is really good for her. I mean why trust one of your former abusers?

A: Thanks for writing in. I think this is a great question, and, honestly, one I have never received before. Everyone’s healing journey is different, and what we need from one point in time to another can change. It takes great courage to take a hard look at where we have been victimized in our lives and where we have possibly victimized others. You have taken responsibility and taken action to right your wrongs. Bravo!

I understand your reservations about being her “listening ear” but maybe it’s a great idea. You won’t know if you don’t try. However, I would strongly suggest, for both your sakes, that if you decide to do this, that you do it with a professional therapist present at first. It could be a great healing opportunity for you both, but it could also be risky. The safety that a therapy office provides, not to mention having an expert guide, might be a necessary step.

That being said, just because she asked you to hear her out, doesn’t mean that you have to do it. If it doesn’t feel right to you, just gently let her know that you aren’t in a place right now that you can provide what she asked for. You could let her know how much therapy has helped you and point her in the direction of the professionals. Good luck with whatever you decide.

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 May 2014

APA Reference
Counts, H. (2014). How Do I Respond to My Former Victim?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/05/09/how-do-i-respond-to-my-former-victim/