This is a question I struggle with myself on a regular basis. Can abusers really ever change or is it just theater to try to pull you back in so they can mistreat you again? Should you ever let a prior abuser back into your life if they seem to have changed for the good?
None of these are easy questions and there are certainly many contributing factors that should be considered as well. Perhaps abusers who once had drug or alcohol addictions and have now gotten clean for a significant period of time will have changed enough to give them a second chance.
What about those who lived for years with undiagnosed, untreated mental illness and finally get the help they need? How much of the abuse was who they truly were and how much was the influence of the untreated mental illness? This scenario is one I personally have experienced to some extent with my own family. How much responsibility should they hold for the abuse, especially any times they may have actually dipped into psychosis?
I know many abusers find religion at some point in their lives and claim to have been completely changed. I must admit I am suspicious of this claim. Perhaps religion truly does change the hearts of some, but much of my personal experience has taught me that if someone is a bad person before they find religion, they will likely be a bad person after they find it. Superficialities may change, but does their behavior/attitude/actions?
Unfortunately, I have no real answers to the question of whether abusers can ever change, but I hope that they can. I would warn everyone to be cautious in extending an olive branch to anyone who has deliberately hurt you again and again, but I do understand the desire to believe in the power of change.
Unfortunately, I’ve faced a great deal of abuse in my somewhat short lifespan. Physical abuse, verbal abuse, mental abuse, and emotional abuse. Most of this abuse happened when I was growing up and happened at the hands of people I should have been able to trust and look to for protection.
There is a part of me that desperately wants to be open about all the things that happened and purge my heart and soul of them publicly. I want to speak the truth out loud and shed light on things that have always lived alone in the darkest part of my psyche. However, I find myself so scared to share the truth and feeling immense guilt at the thought of outing those who were responsible. I feel protective towards my abusers because I still love them through it all and feel guilty at the thought of tarnishing their reputations, both the living and the dead.
Why, oh why do I still feel such loyalty and duty to those who hurt me the most deeply and betrayed me the most selfishly and cruelly? Why am I swamped in guilt for just wanting to be open and honest about my own experiences? Why must this battle between my need for expression and my sense of loyalty tear me apart? How do I ever find healing?
* Art by Maranda Russell
I’ve been dealing with depression a lot lately, mostly due to unresolved childhood trauma I believe. Today I finally felt at least well enough to make a video talking about some of the things I am going through and wanted to share that in case it might help anyone else struggling. I am also going to share the written version of the poem I read in the video here:
Written by: Maranda Russell
If I only had a dollar
for every time
I have looked down
from a great height,
shook a full bottle of pills,
held my breath under water,
or inhaled exhaust fumes
I could actually do it,
I could end it all –
I would have more
to pay for all the
I obviously need.