5 Steps to Confronting Your Abuser; Preparation is Key

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5 Steps to Confronting Your Abuser;
Preparation is Key

Written by Wendy M. Johnson

Woman in deep thought

Many survivors of sexual abuse have a desire to confront their abuser. Each survivor’s motivation will be different. You may even want to confront other people who may have known about the abuse and did not protect you or believe you. There are many ways to break the silence and it is not always about confronting the actual abuser. But if this is an avenue you want to explore your safety and preparation are a critical to a successful confrontation. Caution should be taken when you start to tell other people about the abuse. 

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A survivor may wish to seek an apology from their sexual abuser or to know why the abuser chose them to abuse. Some may want the abuser to publicly admit the abuse in the hope it would explain some of the survivor’s own actions or to lose the label of being a liar or troublemaker. 

The most important part of confronting someone about your abuse is your safety and your current family’s safety. A confrontation can evoke an abusive episode from the abuser and intense denial from other family members or supporters of the perpetrator. Another important point is that if you are unable to confront your abuser because they are not available or you do not know who they are or where to get a hold of them, confrontation is not essential to your healing process. 

If you are prepared and are healing, the response of your sex abuser, if you choose to confront, will not have as great of an effect on you if they deny it or start to verbally assault you. Often time abusers will deny, minimize, attack the victim, or claim they misunderstood what really happened. If you are not prepared, you could doubt your own experience and start to minimize it yourself. No matter the response, whether you receive and apology or not, you will still need to:

  • Learn how to heal 
  • Set healthy boundaries in your relationships
  • Learn how to trust people
  • Solve your relationship and intimacy issues
  • Overcome any shame, guilt, or self-blame you experienced
  • Restore your self-esteem and self-worth

Having a desire to confront does not always mean you are ready. You will want to plan, practice, and make sure all safety precautions are considered. Whether you decide to confront someone who knew, the actual abuser, or tell a friend, the consequences can be potentially empowering or potentially destructive. Having the consequences be destructive can be avoided if you have prepared and waited until you are ready. Also, not all confrontations are done in person. They can be done over the phone, letter or email. 

5 Steps to Confronting Your Abuser

1. Preparation is critical

Preparing to confront or tell someone is critical to experiencing success. Preparation includes setting goals and creating a plan. It is important to understand that you cannot control the response of another person. You will need to prepare for the many different responses that can occur during the confrontation. You will also need to prepare for how you will respond after the confrontation after you have time reflect. A good outcome may be more about how well you prepared to respond after the confrontation then during the actual confrontation itself. Whatever the outcome, you can gain a sense of personal empowerment and the confrontation can be a catalyst to taking back control of your life and actions.

A Confrontation Plan is suggested and may be rewritten several times. Creating a Confrontation Plan as found in the HEAL curriculum helps you to see all the possible angles of confronting the abuse. You will want to prepare for all possible outcomes so you can know how best to respond. You will want to prepare for the confrontation both before and after. 

Sample questions in preparing to confront:

  • How long have you been on your healing journey?
  • Are you currently in a support group or work with a therapist?
  • Who do you want to confront?
  • What is your reason for wanting to confront or tell?
  • Have you confronted someone regarding the abuse before? If so, what was your experience? How did it affect you? 
  • What coping strategies are you going to use in preparation of the confrontation and for after the confrontation?

To see whole list of questions Download the HEAL Confrontation Plan Below:

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2. What do you want to say?

Knowing what you want to say and why you want to say it will help clarify your reasons for confronting. 

  • What do you want to say?
  • What questions do you have?

3. During the confrontation

Knowing where you are going to confront and who will be there are crucial for your safety as well as how you will leave the confrontation. You may want to tell someone when you will be confronting and allow a certain amount of time before they reach out to make sure you are safe.

Sample questions in preparation of what you will say during the confrontation

  • What are you hoping to achieve with this confrontation? What is your reason?
  • Confronting also involves some level of fear. What are your greatest fears about confronting?
  • How do you plan to overcome those fears?
  • What type of response are you hoping for?
  • How will you respond at the time of confrontation and after if the person: 
    • Denys it or blames you?
    • Becomes angry
    • Threatens to tell your family or people you know you are crazy

To see whole list of questions Download the HEAL Confrontation Plan Below:

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4. After the confrontation

After confronting you want to have a place to go to in order to process what your experience was and you may want to have someone who is supportive to you there. Or you can have someone ready to talk over phone or even a zoom call or facetime. 

  • Where will you go after the confrontation?
  • Whom will you talk this over with after?

5. Post confrontation assessment

It is always good to journal or write down what you experienced. By reviewing what happened and to see how much your preparation helped in the process is important to the overall experience. 

  • How do you feel about what you said and how you said it?
  • How did who you confronted react?
  • How did it make you feel?
  • Did you set an appointment with a therapist or support group for a follow-up visit after?
  • Do you feel proud, empowered, or disappointed?
  • If you feel empowered, explain why.
  • If you feel disappointed, what coping strategies are you going to use?

Confronting is not a Prerequisite to Healing

After going through the HEAL Confrontation Plan you may decide you no longer want to confront. Rather, just going through and working through the Plan was healing and provided clarity. Confronting can be empowering for some and devastating for others. If you know why you are confronting, understand the possible responses, know how to cope with them, and feel you are okay with it, then confrontation can be an empowering option for you. 

Inner empowerment does not always come through confronting the abuse in person or other forms. It can come through work, progress, and the journey you are on. The fact that you are growing and healing is one of the most empowering experience you can have. Confronting is not a prerequisite to healing. It is a person decision. Confronting is not a necessary step to tap into your potential. 

            The HEAL Membership site can help you in your preparation. You can find many resources to help you on your healing journey and we’d love to hear about your experience!

Love and Friends,

Wendy

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