How to confront a perpetrator that caused your trauma in 7-steps
Updated: May 16, 2021
1 - What do you mean by confronting? Is that the same as disclosing? There is a distinction between disclosure and confrontation. Disclosure is the process of revealing that something took place. That suggests telling some person, other than the perpetrator, your experience about something negative, like abuse, took place. Disclosure can be an essential and helpful step in the process of confrontation. Confrontation is broadly defined as someone telling their abuser that they remembered what they have done to them, it was wrong, and they cannot or will not be silenced. It is essential to discuss this subject to help survivors of abuse know the appropriate ways to confront their perpetrators after deciding to do so. This information is not provided to convince anyone that this is what they should do right at this moment. Those who choose to confront and do who choose not to confront their abuser are to be respected. Preparing your mind of possible reactions of perpetrators based on research studies is essential. Research highlights the importance of preparation and indicates that its importance cannot be overemphasized (Bass & Davis, 1988). Remember that confrontation should be entirely on the survivor's terms. No one should force or pressure you to do or not to do anything. 2 - Is confronting your abuser necessary? One of the more critical sought after question in clinical practice with adult survivors of childhood sexual trauma is whether or not to confront the perpetrator (Briere, 1989). This question is noted in much popular literature and research (e.g., Bass & Davis, 1988). Clinicians, a term that includes all mental health providers (social worker, psychologist, counselors, etc.) have taken varied and sometimes extreme stands regarding the perpetrator's value of victim confrontation. Some clinicians urged survivors to confront the assumption that healing would take place quickly (Blume, 1990). Many clinicians feel some type of confrontation can be important for empowering the abuse survivor and facilitating improvement in intrapersonal and interpersonal processes (Agosta & Loring, 1988). Others are more pessimistic about the need for confrontation, suggesting that confrontation can cause more pain than healing. Nevertheless, for some, how confrontation is done important. Confrontation done correctly can pull people together, help in the healing process, and provide closure for many people. 3 - If someone is impressed that this is something they want to do, what should they keep have in mind? It is essential to identify the motivation behind the need to confront. Some people might feel compelled to confront because they fear that others might be in danger. They desire to save others from being hurt by the perpetrator. While others choose revenge, some survivors may be seeking apologies, restitution, improvement in the relationship with the perpetrator. Most seek mental and emotional peace. Before moving forward, ask yourself the following questions: What is your THE MOTIVE? Do you have the right motives? Are they realistic? What do you hope to achieve? Do you have an emotional plan? How do you plan to protect your heart and mind – before, during, and after the confrontation? 4 - If you decide that you are ready to confront your perpetrator, what should you expect? Keep in mind, while it is okay for you to plan what you should do, say, and think or how to proceed – you can never accurately predict another person's reaction or behavior. Nevertheless, let us consider some supporting research studies. Only 19.3% of survivors had confronted their perpetrators in 2017. A slightly larger proportion (25.5%) had been confronted from a survey conducted in 2006 (Þorsteindóttir, 2017). Similar results as in Lam's (2014) (cited in Leclerc & Wortley, 2015) study suggested that there are more chances of confronting if the abuse was more severe. The reason for that could be that the survivors were angrier and experienced more negative emotions (Þorsteindóttir, 2017). Here are the results on perpetrators' reactions after being confronted: 45.7% denied the violence 24.13% blamed the victim 30.16% admitted to the violence. The study suggests that nearly 70% of perpetrators, when confronted, do not acknowledge the violence (Þorsteindóttir, 2017). It is essential to keep these results in mind as you consider your motive for wanting to confront. Everyone is different; therefore, your outcome may also be different. It is always wise to prayerfully consider all things before moving forward. 5 - What are the seven steps to confront a perpetrator that caused trauma in your life? 1 – Read, listen and learn about forgiveness. Listen to our podcast on forgiveness. Remember, forgiveness has nothing to do with the person that hurt you. It has everything to do with you! You will never be free until you forgive and turn retribution over to God. 2 – Check your motive. What do you hope to accomplish? 3 – Prepare your mind. Since this is such a sensitive issue, your emotion may be all over the place. Pray for God's guidance, strength, and clarity of thought. Please find time to work on your feelings so that it does not impact your overall health. 4 – Go with a plan - Identify who needs to be involved and who does NOT need to be involved. Remember, this is not about taking revenge. Make no predictions about the other person's behavior. Here's a word of caution: Social media is not the place to confront anyone. 5 – Seek out support. If necessary, find someone you trust that you can safely disclose your plan. Seek out someone Godly, trustworthy, wise, and supportive. Together assess the goal, situation, safety, etc. 6 – Remind yourself of motive. If the person chooses to ask for forgiveness, great if not, that's fine too. Let your motive be clear, logical, and defined.
7 – Acknowledge mission accomplished. When it's all done, believe you did what you felt was best. What the enemy meant for evil, God is truly turning it for good. Studies have shown that although some perpetrators denied the violence when confronted, the survivors did not regret the confrontation. Moreover, some reported the long-term benefit of overcoming their faces and can better face other difficult situations (Cameron, 1994; Paige & Thornton, 2015).
For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 678-632-5152.
Agosta, C., & Loring, M. (1988). Understanding and treating the adult retrospective victim of child abuse. In S.M. Sgroi, Vulnerable populations (Vol. 1). Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.
Bass, E., & Davis, L. (1988). The courage to heal New York: Harper & Row.
Briere, J. (1989). Therapv for adults molested as children: Beyond survival. New York: Springer.
Blume, E.S. (1990). Secret Survivors: Uncovering incest and its aftereffects in women. New York: Ballantine Books.
Cameron, C. (1994). Women survivors confronting their abusers: Issues, decisions, and outcomes. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 3(1), 7–36. doi: 10.1300/J070v03n01_02
Leclerc, B., & Wortley, R. (2015). Predictors of victim disclosure in child sexual abuse: Additional evidence from a sample of incarcerated adult sex offenders. Child Abuse & Neglect, 43, 104– 111. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2015.03.003
Paige, J., & Thornton, J. (2015). Healing from Intrafamilial Child Sexual Abuse: The Role of Relational Processes between Survivor and Offender. Children Australia, 40(03), 242–259. doi: 10.1017/cha.2015.21
Þorsteindóttir, E. J. (2017, June). Survivors of Sexual Violence Confronting their Perpetrators. https://skemman.is/bitstream/1946/28387/1/Survivors%20Confronting%20Perpetrators.pdf.
Roush, D. J. (1998). A qualitative study of sex abuse survivors’ experience of confronting the perpetrator. http://hdl.handle.net/2346/10384
More information can be heard on this topic on our YouTube page.