There are pros and cons to confronting a person who abused you

There are many relaxation techniques that you might find useful in your repertoire of self-care. These include breathing exercises, stretching, meditation, yoga, guided meditation, mindfulness, prayer, listening to quiet music, and walking in a rural area. I often suggest to distressed people to create a personal space, where they can listen to soft music, light candles and have a small indoor water feature. It will be their soothing haven. However, soothing exercises must be managed carefully, because when a survivor is relaxed, the intrusive thoughts of the abuse may intrude. Apart from relaxation, there are positive distracting activities to help alleviate the after-effects of trauma; for example, an exercise programme would include walking, swimming, jogging, and perhaps gym activity.
Ultimately, some people may wish to confront the abuser as an aid to recovery. Survivors will make up their own minds about the feasibility and safety of such a course. Confrontation gives back power and gives a voice, but caution is advised. It should not be hasty, but should be planned. I believe that the best place to lay out a plan is with the help of a therapist, or a reliable friend. It is advisable to consider the pros and cons of confrontation, talk to others about their experiences on confrontation, and to those who decided not to confront. Write down what you would like to say, and discuss it your counsellor. Perhaps some role-play in the safety of the counsellor’s room might help. Role-play can make the confrontation much more realistic, and help you to assess if you are psychologically ready for it. If you decide to go ahead and confront the perpetrator, make sure the meeting place is safe. Finally, be aware that the result of the confrontation may not be as you hoped. It is likely that the perpetrator will deny, be vague, or minimise the abuse. But, in a sense, you do not need validation of the abuse. You know it happened. Remember, no matter what the result, your action is for yourself, and it reinforces your courage and your emergence from the shadow of the abuser. Mic Hunter makes the useful point that the work in the preparation to confront has greater healing than the actual confrontation.
There are, of course, other ways of confrontation, such as sending a letter or prosecuting the criminal. If he or she is dead, you could also write the unsent letter. As you saw in Anna’s case in the context of workplace abuse, it is a powerful way of getting your feelings out, and flexing your emotional muscles. It is advisable to write these in the safety of the counselling room, because they inevitably bring up strong emotions.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press


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