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Clinical Social Work Journal, Vol. 33, No.

2, Summer 2005 ( 2005)


DOI: 10.1007/s10615-005-3532-1

THERAPEUTIC FORGIVENESS: DEVELOPING


A MODEL FOR EMPOWERING VICTIMS
OF SEXUAL ABUSE
Elaine Walton, Ph.D.

ABSTRACT: Forgiveness is increasingly popular in therapy as a way to


facilitate healing, but there are definitional discrepancies and confusion
regarding the degree to which it is conceptualized as either an interpersonal/
relational or an independent/self-enhancing process. In this article forgiveness is
conceptualized as an interpersonal process linked to apology or contrition on the
part of the offender. Yet it is also independent. A model is described that was
developed for the benefit of abuse victims whose offenders will not or cannot
apologize. Using the model, victims can accomplish for themselves what would be
accomplished for them through an apology.
KEY WORDS: Forgiveness; psychotherapy; intervention; sexual abuse;
healing.

BACKGROUND
Forgiveness is becoming increasingly popular in psychotherapy
(DiBlasio & Proctor, 1993; Freedman, 1999; Lamb, 2002). Research on
forgiveness has accelerated in the last two decades (DiBlasio, 1998;
Walrond-Skinner, 1998; Worthington, 1998), and several reviews of
empirical literature are now available (see Enright & Fitzgibbons,
Correspondence should be directed to Elaine Walton, Ph.D., School of Social Work,
Brigham Young University, 2167, JFSB, Provo, UT 84602-6709, USA; e-mail: elaine.walton@byu.edu.

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2000; McCullough, Pargament, & Thoresen, 2000; Worthington et al.,


2000). Forgiveness facilitates healing, (Enright & Fitzgibbons, 2000;
Fitzgibbons, 1998; Grosskopf, 1999; Hargrave, 1994; Murray, 2002) and
is successful in treating a variety of conditions and issues including anger and depression, guilt, marital dysfunction, sexual abuse, compulsions, terminal illness, and family-of-origin issues (Butler, Dahlin, &
Fife, 2002; Freedan & Enright, 1996).
Despite ample support for forgiveness as an intervention in therapy, there is confusion about what forgiveness really is and how to
conceptualize it clinically (Butler et al., 2002; Freedman, 19989; Freedman & Enright, 1996; Sells & Hargrave, 1998). The purpose of this
article is to explore the confusion, offer an alternative model for conceptualization, and give examples of the models usefulness in treating
women who have been sexually abused.

SEXUAL ABUSE AND FORGIVENESS


Empirical research connects sexual abuse with numerous emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and interpersonal problems (see Alston &
Lenhoff, 1995; Browne & Finkelhor, 1986; Dolan, 1991; Finkelhor,
1988; Freedman, 1999; Kaplan & Pinner, 1996; Kreidler & Fluharty,
1994; Silverman, Reinherz, & Giaconia, 1996; Somer, 2000). Yet forgiveness is not a popular intervention for treating sexual abuse. In an
advanced search using the PsychINFO database (Search conducted
September 18, 2003), sexual abuse combined with treatment generated 3393 references. Add the term forgiveness to the search, and
only 13 references appeared. Because of the complexity of related problems, therapists tend to focus on restoring healthy functioning by
treating the symptoms; very few deal with unresolved feelings toward
the offender (Freedman & Enright, 1996).
In a review of recent literature, Freedman (1999) reported that
forgiveness is increasingly accepted as a useful intervention with sexual abuse victims, but those interventions are generally limited to
group counseling or psychoeducational approaches. She and her colleague Robert Enright (1996) demonstrated the effectiveness of
forgiveness in treating incest survivors through individual sessions
using pre- and post-test instruments and a control group. Nevertheless, the concept of forgiveness in treating sexual abuse,
particularly incest, is usually advised against (Enright, Eastin, Golden,
Sarinopoulous, & Freedman, 1992). According to Freedman and
Enright (1996), the opposition stems from a misunderstanding in

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defining and conceptualizing forgivenesserroneously equating forgiveness with reconciliation.

FORGIVENESS DEFINED
Scholars generally define and measure forgiveness in terms of
increased positive and decreased negative affect, cognition, and behavior in response to personal injury and injustice (Enright, 2001; Freedman, 1998; Rye & Pargament, 2002). Specific definitions vary widely
depending on the degree to which forgiveness is viewed as interpersonal as opposed to self-enhancing (Butler et al., 2002).
Authors who have urged caution or spoken out against forgiveness
therapy (such as Bass & Davis, 1988; Engel, 1989; Forward, 1989; Lamb
& Murphy, 2002) generally define forgiveness using an interpersonal
framework that may include inappropriate condoning and pardoning or
contentment with ones victim role. Hence, they argue that forgiveness
might function as an opiate perpetuating slavery and oppression and
making further victimization more likely (Murphy, 2002).
Freedman (1998) emphasized the importance of differentiating
between forgiveness and reconciliation. She explained that forgiveness
is within the control of the victim, whereas reconciliation involves anothers cooperation. She also differentiated between interaction and
reconciliation and identified four possible outcomes of offense on the
part of the victim: (a) forgive and reconcile, (b) forgive and not reconcile, (c) not forgive and interact, and (d) not forgive and not reconcile.
Rye and Pargament (2002) also concluded that therapists must make a
distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation. Other authors, however, have claimed that forgiveness and reconciliation are inseparable
(Hargrave, 1994; Power, 1994).
Enright (2001) described forgiveness as self-enhancing and freeinga voluntary choice on the part of the victim. He believes that forgiveness happens independently of the apology or remorseful actions of
the injurer, but he also described forgiveness as an act of mercy toward
an offenderan act that will change our relationship because we are
no longer controlled by angry feelings toward this person (p. 25). Moreover, he encouraged counselors to resist interpreting forgiveness as
exclusively or even primarily a self-help approach (Enright et al., 1992,
p. 99). He argued that Exclusive self-help and forgiveness are oxymoronic and such an emphasis on self may prove confusing to those clients
who possess philosophical, religious, or historical knowledge of forgiveness (p. 99). Such ambivalence in definition from a single source is
indicative of the discrepancies around therapeutic forgiveness.

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It is difficult to define forgiveness differentially; that is, as either


an independent act or an interpersonal one. Even Merriam-Websters
Collegiate Dictionary (1999) for forgive, juxtaposes give up resentment... (independent feeling) with pardon (interpersonal or relational action) (pp. 249250).
Because of the disparate definitions, language becomes particularly
important in forgiveness therapy. For example, substituting the word
self-enhancement for reconciliation made a difference in forgiveness
scores in the study of McCullough and Worthington (1995). In the study
of Butler et al. (2002), rationales for forgiveness in therapy, such as
personal growth, spiritual issue, and relationship reconciliation...
were rated as significantly more acceptable than others growth and
pardoning/condoning (p. 293). DiBlasio and Proctor (1993) attempted
to clarify the semantic contusion in forgiveness by differentiating
between hurt and resentment. Hurt is the pain that we suffer because of someones mistake, and resentment is negative feeling we develop toward the offender for [causing the] hurting (p. 183). The two
feelings might be treated separately depending on the therapeutic goal,
but true forgiveness would result in giving up the resentment. Some
authors have skirted the definitional debate by simply providing an
operational definition for therapeutic purposes. For example, Pingleton
(1989, p. 27) defined forgiveness as relinquishing the right to retaliate.
In the context of an intergenerational family meeting, DiBlasio (1998)
left the definition of forgiveness open for the family to discuss, but he
added the caution that granting forgiveness means they cannot use the
offense as a weapon against the offender in the future (p. 88).
Because of the confusion in defining forgiveness and the controversy over when forgiveness should be used, it is essential that therapists develop conceptual and clinical clarity for themselves and for
their clients (Butler et al., 2002). In this article forgiveness is defined
pragmatically. Each therapist develops his or her own definition based
on the role forgiveness is to play in the interventions with a specific
client. Regardless of the definition, therapeutic forgiveness is viewed as
a process through which an abused person heals the wounds of hurt
and hate, is disconnected from an unhealthy connection (physical or
mental) with the offender, and is freed to pursue healthy and growthpromoting activities.

Forgiveness in Relation to the Offender


It is impossible to completely dismiss the interpersonal component
of forgiveness. If pain and injustice were caused by someone, that must

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be acknowledged. Much of the forgiveness literature is focused on forgiveness as a tool for repairing relationships (see DiBlasio, 1998;
Hargrave, 1994; Worthington & DiBlasio, 1990). Ferch (1998) developed a seven-step approach to forgiveness which includes the mediation of conflict by recognizing that both parties often feel wronged or
wounded and by finding a viable way to advance a relationship despite
unresolved harmful experiences.
Al-Mabuk, Dedrick, and Vanderah (1998) developed the attribution retraining model. This intervention is a cognitive restructuring
process designed to alter the clients internal dialogue and the
meaning attributed to an injury. Through this reframing, clients
challenge their own myths and expectations and come to view
offenders (such as parents who have withheld love) in a more realistic light.
Possibly the best-articulated conceptual framework for facilitating forgiveness was developed by Enright and the Human Development Study Group (1991). The model is rigidly structured to lead
the client systematically through a 17-step process. The process
begins with confronting anger and moves on to admitting shame,
becoming aware of the offence, and gaining insight into the victims
altered world view because of the offense. Then the client gains new
insight leading to a change of heart. There is a commitment to
forgive, a reframing of the wrong, and finally empathy toward the
offender. Freedman and Enright (1996) tested this model on an
experimental group of incest survivors. The participants received
60-minute weekly individual sessions, and each person participating
in the intervention received a manual that described each step in
the process model, including examples applicable to incest survivors.
Although the sample size was small (n = 6), making quantitative
data difficult to interpret with accuracy, the study demonstrated
effectiveness of the forgiveness intervention for the incest survivors
as compared to a control group of incest survivors who were on a
wait list. The measures for comparison were scores on the Psychological Profile of Forgiveness Scale, the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, the Beck Depression Inventory, the Coopersmith Self-Esteem
Inventory, the Al-Mabuk Hope Scale, and the Self-Report Forgiveness Measure (Freedman & Enright, 1996).
Therapists who treat only the offended party have a challenge
in determining the degree or the manner in which the offender is
represented in the forgiveness process. The paucity of current literature on dealing with the offender in these cases invites new ways of
thinking.

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DEVELOPING A NEW CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK


I am amazed at the human capacity for growth and healing when
an injury is validated by an apology and reparation accompanies sincere attempts to change. In response to apology and contrition, forgiveness is natural. I believe forgiveness is linked to apology, so in an
effort to help my clients, I looked for models of intervention that
included apology with forgiveness.
Apology and Contrition in Therapy
I was drawn to the work of a strategic family therapist, Cloe
Madanes (1990), who developed a model for facilitating apology and
forgiveness within the families of adolescent boys who had sexually
abused a sister. Incest affects the entire family, but most therapists
treat the victim and perpetrator separately, leaving the family to
recover on its own. Madanes 16-step model involves the family in collectively articulating the details of the offense and resulting injuries,
after which the offender is expected to give a kneeling apology. Other
members of the family also apologize to the victimfor not protecting
her or for not noticing her pain. The family decides on a method of
reparation and for protecting the victim in the future. Then they
develop a plan for integrating the offender back into the family and
restoring love. The entire process can be brief or lengthy, depending
on the ability of the offender to develop feelings of empathy and to
offer a sincere apology for specific injuries inflicted. Success is linked
ultimately to the way in which the family holds the offender responsible for the injury and collectively takes responsibility for the healing process.
I am intrigued with the healing power of Madanes model, but I
work with adult women who were sexually abused as children or adolescents. If these women had benefited from Madanes intervention
when they were young, their lives would likely be quite different. For
my clients, the offenders will not or cannot acknowledge the offense
and there will never be an apology. These women survive as best they
can with coping strategies that are often self-destructive.
Helping the Offended Imagine Apology
I generally integrate a number of theories and therapeutic
approaches in helping my clients accomplish their goals. I find cognitive restructuring and behavioral assertiveness training particularly
useful. But healing from the deep, intimate wounds of sexual abuse

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seems to require more depth than my practical, solution-focused


approach can accommodate. I wanted to find a way to empower these
women to accomplish for themselves what would have been accomplished had their families acknowledged the abuse and the offenders
apologized.
Eager to incorporate apology into the therapeutic process, I experimented with the miracle question described by Insoo Kim Berg
(1994). In her solution-focused approach, Berg helped clients through
the healing process by providing a vision of a future in which the client
is empowered. The miracle question goes something like this:
Suppose one night there is a miracle while you are sleeping and the problem that brought you [in for help] is solved. Since you are sleeping, you
dont know that a miracle has happened or that your problem is solved.
What do you suppose you will notice different the next morning that will
tell you that the problem is solved? (p. 97)

The purpose of the miracle question is, first, to help the client get
a vision of a future that is free of the problem and, second, to help the
client discover that those changes envisioned in the miracle scenario
are within the power of the client to bring about. For example, if the
client notices in her miracle scenario that she is smiling, eats breakfast, gets to work on time, or asks for help, it does not take long to
realize that there is nothing stopping her from making at least some of
those changes now.
In my work with sexually abused women, I use a variation of
the miracle question to introduce the concept of apology and contrition in helping clients heal and forgive. Early on in the therapeutic
process I want my client to visualize the therapeutic goalsee herself free of the entanglement of victimization and resulting selfdestructive behavior. I might ask a client to imagine her abuser
kneeling on the floor at her feet, acknowledging all the wrongdoing
along with the pain it caused and begging forgiveness. Asked what
she would do in response to that imagined scenario, one client once
blurted out, Id kick him in the teeth! That was a predictable
response, and I validated the clients feeling. However, in the imagined scenario, the abuser does not go away just because he is
kicked. He continues to remain kneeling on the floor, acknowledging
every injury he has caused and begging forgiveness. No matter how
many times the client kicks, he remains there in a repentant mode.
The intent of this guided imagery is to give the client a vision for
what life might be like if the offender sincerely apologized, if she
were truly free of the burden of victimization.

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Barriers to Envisioning a Miracle


Sexually abused women often struggle with the vision of a miracle
either because of learned helplessness (Seligman, 1975) or because of a
secondary gain associated with a victim lifestyle. This is particularly
evident when, after some coaching, the vision has been realized and
the offended person sees herself as whole, free, in control. It then becomes apparent that being free and in control carries responsibility,
and new responsibility can be confusing or even frightening. It is easy
for abused persons to talk about what they do not want, but often hard
for them to visualize what they do want.
After an extended period of visualizing, one client was finally able
to conceptualize the possibility of true contrition, but then she was baffled because the next step was forgiveness. She was not sure what she
would do with her life, which had been on hold for so long while she
waited for justice. She had sheltered herself for years with a built-in
excuse, and now the excuse would be gone. In answer to the question
What will you do now that the offender has apologized? after a very
long pause, she said I think I would lose weight and go back to
school. Therapy then was a process of helping her figure out that she
did not have to wait for a real apology. She could take responsibility
for her life now.

Forgiveness and Responsibility


Forgiveness is not easy. It is a long, complex, often painful process
(Al-Mabuk, Dedrick, & Vanderah, 1998; Enright, 2001; Gorsuch &
Hao, 1993; Worthington et al., 2000). The last hurdle and often the
most retarding factor in completing the process is accepting commensurate responsibility. To help clients over that hurdle, I might metaphorically ask a client to imagine that she loaned a friend some money,
but the debt was never repaid. She would have to weigh the benefit of
feeling free of the hassle and bad feelings against the benefit of having
a vague hope of repayment. By forgiving the debt, she would not be
sending the debtor a message that he somehow deserved the money.
Rather, she would be freeing herself of that entanglement and empowering herself to go on without the burden. But in forgiving the debt,
she would be taking responsibility. She could no longer use the unpaid
debt as an excuse for her own financial ills.
In the model I have developed, apology is acknowledged as prerequisite to forgiveness, but we discuss ways in which the offended can
accomplish for herself the tasks and benefits of the offenders contri-

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tion. Thus, the healing that comes with forgiveness is not dependent
on an apology by the offender. I conceptualize forgiveness, in this case,
as a process of accomplishing the tasks of apology and contrition on
behalf of the offender.

Apology on Behalf of the Offender


On behalf of does not imply that the offended is taking the burden
of apology away from the offender. That responsibility remains with the
offender. On behalf of simply means that the offended can accomplish
for herself what would be accomplished for her if the offender were to
sincerely apologize. She can experience the validation, freedom, and
healing that come with apology and contrition even though the offender
is not remorseful. This is conceptualized as a five-step process.
1. Recognize the offense. The offender is not the only one who is
responsible for recognizing the injury. The victim must be willing to
name the offense and claim the injury. The client (offended) needs to
identify the moral and legal rules that were broken and how the
betraying event broke those rules. What is the meaning of the injury?
What are its consequences? How is the client more vulnerable because
of the injury? How has her belief system changed? Claiming the injury
is a process of exploring and owning, What specific losses have I sustained? How am I different? Have I become abusive, too? What
gifts have I received because of the injuryhow am I stronger or different? (Flanigan, 1992).
2. Sorrow for the offense. In our compassion, we are tempted to
spare the victim from further sorrow, but grieving is an essential element in the healing process. For many victims, sorrow has been averted or camouflaged by anger, and in giving up the anger, one has to be
willing to feel the sadness which gave rise to that anger (Fitzgibbons,
1986). Sorrow is a natural response to loss and will come as the victim
is able to name the offense and claim the injuryidentifying and
grieving all the losses.
3. Disclose. The offenders unwillingness to apologize does not stop
the victim from disclosing the offense. The victim confesses on behalf of
the offender as she breaks the silence and shares with someonea
confidante, therapist, legal authoritythe details of the offense. By
disclosing, the client removes herself from a world of confusion in
which she felt shame and reluctance for anyone else to know about the
events of her abuse. She is now ready to place the blame where it
belongs. Blaming is prerequisite to forgiving. If there is no blame,
there is no need to forgive. In order to forgive, the client needs to rec-

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ognize that something was wrong and someone was at fault. Once that
is established, the process of forgiving and healing can proceed.
4. Avoid the offending behavior. Victims cannot force offenders to
change their behavior, but they can take responsibility for protecting
themselves and others from further abuse. During this stage, clients
take responsibility for their happiness and safety. They establish
boundaries, making important decisions about the people they want in
their lives and how they want to be treated by those people. Clients
who have suffered serious abuse at the hands of a family member may
choose not to have any contact with that relativeat least for a time.
Or they may choose to attend family gatherings, but on their own
terms. During this stage, clients develop appropriate guidelines for
determining a persons trustworthiness, and they establish commonsense rules of conduct for themselves in order not to place themselves
at risk.
5. Make restitution. Restitution is essential in restoring order and
wholeness to the life of the injured person. Another way to think of
restitution is balancing the scales (Flanigan, 1992). Balance is
destroyed when one person takes choice away from another while at
the same time increasing his own. Balance is restored to uneven scales
by either taking away from the heavier side or adding to the lighter
side. Likewise, in dealing with sexual abuse, balance is restored by
punishing the offender or by loading resources to the depleted reserves
of the victim. During this stage, the offended may take legal steps to
bring about justice. But the desire for retribution frequently plays out
in ways that are counterproductive or even self-destructive. Instead of
expending energy on retaliation, the victim needs to find ways in
which to replenish her own depleted reserves. She might join a support
group, obtain additional education or training, seek a better job, rejuvenate her social life, start a new hobby, explore new self-nurturing
activities, or become part of another persons support system.
Through these steps, the client is able to move from victim to survivoraccomplishing for herself what would be accomplished if the offender were truly contrite and sincerely apologized. This is not a
simple process, and the client should not feel hurried. Retrieving painful memories and grieving significant losses require time and a great
deal of emotional energy (Cruz & Essen, 1994; Gil, 1990). Also, unlike
the Madanes model, this is not always a linear process. For example, I
may want to help a client to access resources (step 5) before she has
finished naming the offense, claiming the injury, and identifying the
losses. Throughout the intervention I might revisit all of the five
stepseach time with a little more depth.

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CASE EXAMPLE
Client M was a woman in her mid-thirties who wanted help dealing with long-term depression and inability to cope with lifes stressors.
She had a husband and four young children, who were demanding of
her time and energy but didnt seem to be the focus of her depression.
After a few weeks, she revealed that as a child she had been sexually
abused by her father. She reported that she had four sisters, and she
believed it was likely that all five of the girls had been similarly
abused, though they had never discussed it openly.
In therapy, several months were spent working on recovering repressed memories and acknowledging the extent of the abuse (step
one), naming the offenses and claiming the injury. With help, she
was able to identify the issues in her current life that related directly
to her childhood victimization including ways in which she had victimized her own children (though not through sexual abuse). Confronted with the reality and the extent of her victimization, she was
filled with grief (step two), and therapy became a process of giving
herself permission to feel sad about the lost childhood, lost self-esteem, and loss of control in her life manifested by a weight problem
and a general feeling of powerlessness in managing or organizing the
essential details of her life. Steps one and two were intertwined for
this client. She was not able to recognize the extent of her abuse and
resulting injuries all at once. It happened little by little as her memories were uncovered and her awareness enhanced. With each new
understanding of injury or loss, there was commensurate grief, but
grieving took on new meaning. For decades she had despised herself
and felt hopeless about ever changing, but she had not previously
connected her self-defeating behaviors to the fact that she was abused
as a child. Seeing herself through these new lenses made her feel
both sad and validated. It was a meaningful sadness rather than just
a feeling of hopelessness.
Having been empowered by increased understanding and appropriate grieving, Client M was no longer confused about where to
place blame. Ready to break the silence (step three), she organized a
reunion with her sisters, and they talked openly about the abuse
each had experienced. An outcome of that discussion was a confrontation with their father. Despite the corroborating abuse memories of
all five girls participating in this meeting, the father denied everything. In therapy we talked about Client Ms feelings about these
experiences. The fathers defiance was disappointing, but not surprising. We talked about what it would have been like if her father had
apologized. How would her life be different? Fortunately for her the

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therapy sessions and her sisters had provided the validation and support that was needed. At this point, she felt more pity for her father
than anger, and she was able to recognize that completion of the
healing process was not dependent on his apology.
Client Ms father was elderly and infirmno longer a threat. Yet as
we discovered during therapy, the fallout from childhood victimization
was extensive. Protecting herself from further victimization (step four)
was a process of taking responsibility for her own safety and happiness.
She was more than willing to give up the victim label and stop using victimization as an excuse, but she had a pattern of mismanagement that
was decades old and would not change quickly. We started with Client
Ms giving herself permission to make mistakes. Then we worked on setting and attaining reasonable, short- and long-term goals.
Client M never expected restitution (step five) from her father. Instead she balanced the scales of injustice by attaining her goals. We discontinued therapy after she felt comfortable managing on her own
(about 18 months) but before she was able to make all the desired changes in her life. It was important to let me know, however, that she continued making progress even after she stopped coming to therapy. About
five years later she made a point of finding my address and visiting me
just to let me know how happy she was. She had taken on a meaningful
part-time job, become part of the support system for a few other women,
and was happy as a mother. Also, she had come to understand that her
father had, himself, been abused as a child and likely suffered from multiple personality disorder. Although she had been able to complete the
healing process without this knowledge, it was somehow comforting to
her. She appeared calm and serenea woman filled with wisdom.

DISCUSSION
Using this model for forgiveness, the therapist can help clients in
several ways. First, the client is no longer stuck in the victim role.
She is empowered to take charge of her life and to address the debilitating symptoms of abuse, such as eating disorders, long-term depression, sexual problems, poor self-esteem, or difficult interpersonal
relationsthe issues most commonly addressed in therapy with abuse
victims. Second, she experiences self-enhancement and personal
growth as she identifies the injury, claims the offense, grieves the losses, places appropriate blame, learns new ways to protect herself, and
restores resources to her depleted reservestaking responsibility for
her happiness. Third, she is ready for reconciliation and can take a
proactive position in developing a healthy relationship with the offen-

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der if, in fact, reconciliation is an appropriate goal. As the client


removes herself from the entanglement of abuse, she sees the offender in a different light. From her position of strength, the offender
becomes human and less intimidating. She recognizes his abusive
behavior as a manifestation of weakness, sickness, or evil. It may be
impossible truly to understand the offenders motivations, but that is
part of acknowledging the sickness, and it becomes less important to
understand. In fact, she may begin to feel sorry for her offender.
However, her empathy and pity do not keep her pathologically connected to him. She is in charge of her life, and she may respond in a
variety of ways; (a) She might take action in bringing the offender to
justice; (b) she might feel motivated to reach out to the offender and
develop or restore a healthy relationship; or (c) she might be free of
the link she has had to the offenderhe no longer occupies space in
her life and her mind. Each of the three scenarios is congruent with
forgiveness, and in each she is free to move on with her own goals
and choices, unencumbered by pathology.
The idea of apology on behalf of the offender borrows conceptually from several frameworks. First, it acknowledges the specific, lifechanging needs of the client and addresses them (consistent with the
objective of those who warn against forgiveness in therapy). Second, it
addresses forgiveness as a self-enhancing (independent) therapeutic
goal. One cannot complete the forgiveness process without realizing
significant personal growth. Third, it makes reconciliation (relational
forgiveness) possible but does not impose it. Apology on behalf of the
offender is a way of empowering clients to take charge of their lives as
they gain peace, freedom, self-acceptance, and release from self-pity. It
is a way to heal wounds. It is a reminder that forgiveness really is for
the benefit of the offended.
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Elaine Walton, Ph.D.


School of Social Work
Brigham Young University
2167 JFSB, P.O. Box 24472
Provo, UT 84602-6709
801-422-2003
elaine.walton@byu.edu.