Survivor: “I have been trying to find the courage to speak about having compassion for perpetrators of violence”

Comment: Hi Amy Herdy,
Your Ted talk led me to this website. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I want to thank you so much everything that you have brought to light in the talk and in writing, as I feel that it is something that needs to be said. I have been trying to find the courage to speak about having compassion for perpetrators of violence like this, because while it is hard to learn to forgive, there is a fact that I truly believe in: every person who does harm has been harmed.

I strongly believe this because of the stories I was told throughout my childhood by people who abused me. Almost every single one of them had a story about being abused as children, and they would often tell it to justify why they were hurting us. As a child, I was “trained” in very specific ways in how to abuse other children and in how to recruit children to bring back to sick adults to be abused. I have watched cousins and childhood friends turn to addiction and take on masks of mental illness to try to disguise what happened to us as children.

The reason that I feel compassion in spite of the anger about my life, is that, had it not been for a couple of extremely loving adults in my childhood who balanced out the pain, I cannot say that I would have turned out any differently than those who abused me. I experienced abuse as a sickness that is passed from generation to generation or from person to person. The difference with sexual abuse is that, unlike having a leg cut off and bleeding all over the place for the world to see, it is something that is so stigmatized and set in the category of “sexual.”

Knowledge of healthy sexual relationships isn’t something that children are typically exposed to as it is. But this is not a “sexual” thing. It is a “power” thing. In my experience, sexual abuse has more to do with one person feeling so powerless in themselves that the only way that they feel like they can have any sense of power in life is through taking advantage of others who are more vulnerable to them. This is the sickness.

In our society, we treat the symptoms of this sickness by throwing perpetrators and victims in jail, instead of trying the much simpler path of prevention. It makes way more sense to help children than to try to patch together broken adults. Thanks again for your work.

-Hannah

Time: June 29, 2017 at 6:42 pm

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One response to “Survivor: “I have been trying to find the courage to speak about having compassion for perpetrators of violence”

  1. Mary Gruda

    Hannah’s comment: I am so sorry for the loss of your childhood and the awful situations you have been in. I am glad that you have overcome so much and that you have given us more information to learn and think about. We don’t know what we don’t know. I wish you all the best in the future and thank you for giving your “story” to us.

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