Confronting childhood cruelty

Postby zxcvbnm » Sun Aug 12, 2018 12:41 pm

What are the various theories in mainstream psychological practice about the value of a person confronting their childhood abuser.

Is it generally considered a good idea? Why?
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#1

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Sun Aug 12, 2018 5:52 pm

zxcvbnm wrote: Is it generally considered a good idea? Why?


In general no.

Why? Because whatever happened in any person’s past does not dictate their future.

The question to ask is, “Because of child abuse I cannot _______ ?”

Can’t make the bed, take a shower, find a job, eat healthy, read a book, make friends, set goals, climb a mountain? What can’t you do, because of a past trauma?

The answer is nothing. There is absolutely nothing you can’t do, because of some previous trauma. Whatever happened yesterday doesn’t define or limit what you can accomplish today.

The above stated, it is obviously not that easy. There are people that struggle with traumas for various reasons. Traumas by definition result in fear. Fear results in limiting what a person can accomplish, what they can achieve. Overcoming fear then, can sometimes be addressed best by confronting that fear in some way, including in rare cases confronting the direct cause, including an abuser.

So generally no. You want to first try to address any fear using other avenues. But, there are cases where I would agree that confronting a past abuser would be appropriate.
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Postby zxcvbnm » Mon Aug 13, 2018 5:16 am

Dear Richard,

Thank you for the generous reply. Because it's so interesting, I'd like to enter into a discussion with you about this.

I take your point here, and it's wise. It terms of being (i) goal-orientated and (ii) independently responsible for one's own life, I get it: there shouldn't be any requirement to confront one's childhood abuser. I like the attitude you endorse.

If patterns from childhood appear to being repeated in one's adult relationships, such as an incapacity to defend oneself, to assert oneself, to show others their boundaries, or to handle power relationships, then those things should be dealt with in the present.

The weakest gazelle, who was targeted by hyenas, needs to learn how to not draw the attacks of hyenas.

Even for personal 'closure' to complete unfinished business and hopefully to end the torment of intrusive thoughts / rumination about the past (which as we know, is a classic post-traumatic symptom) there are things that can be done in the present, because even a mind obsessed with the past is processing the past in the present.

But what if there are other things at work than overcoming trauma, fear, and dysfunction? What if there isn't that false assumption at work, that the past dictates the future?

What if, simply put, it's about standing up for what is right, telling the abuser what they they did was wrong, and how much damage it has caused?

What about aside from attributing one's failings to one's childhood experiences, there is a desire for justice, or to be heard by the person who refused to hear you, or for the abuser to understand the error of their ways, and to make amends by making change in the institution they are in - thereby preventing repeat abuse of children today.
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Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Mon Aug 13, 2018 1:37 pm

zxcvbnm wrote:What if, simply put, it's about standing up for what is right, telling the abuser what they they did was wrong, and how much damage it has caused?

What about aside from attributing one's failings to one's childhood experiences, there is a desire for justice, or to be heard by the person who refused to hear you, or for the abuser to understand the error of their ways, and to make amends by making change in the institution they are in - thereby preventing repeat abuse of children today.


Justice is a noble reason as is fighting to make the world a better place.

The challenge becomes the imagined fantasy of confronting an abuser vs. the reality. We imagine a confrontation where the abuser repents as they are rightfully punished. The abuser apologizes and laments his fate. But, when the abuser laughs it off, or is found not guilty, or is given a penalty by society that is minimal, or the case drags on for years and there is a mistrial and appeals, these can just add to the perceived pain, injustice, and wrongs by the abused.

Or there are the situations where the abused is shown to be suffering from a false memory or demonstrated to be unreliable or dishonest, etc. This creates an entirely different struggle for both the accused abuser and the abused.

The abused often times is not familiar with the realities of confronting the abuser, which is why experts (those that have handled and witnessed the process across multiple cases of abuse) will generally support the abused by limiting confrontation or contact with the abuser.

There is the concept of finding closure through confrontation, but again it is the abused confronting their own mind.

Justice is suppose to be blind, objective, rational, equal, fair, devoid of emotion. This is never the case when a person that perceives they were abused is put in a position to confront the abuser. This is why victim impact statements are saved until the very end of a trial.

My thoughts return to what is the abused wanting to accomplish? If it truly is justice and not trauma, then there is no need to address their own specific injustice. If an abused person is truly only after justice and not mental closure/repair of some form, then they can better move forward by fighting for justice for other cases. They can get involved in the legal system as an officer, a judge, a lawyer, a counselor, etc. and work to help others.

Again, there are exceptions and certainly my experience and thought process is not necessarily correct. And certainly there is confrontation outside of a legal system.
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