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How the concept of forgiveness is weaponised to fast track redemption, at the expense of victims healing and justice

Posted on 20 September 2018

How the concept of forgiveness is weaponised to fast track redemption, at the expense of victims healing and justice.

Being “forgiving” has traditionally been regarded as a feminine virtue. There is a double standard when it comes to "forgiveness", society places more expectations on women to be forgiving, than men. The bar is set very high for what women are expected to forgive but the bar is set very low for what is required of men before they're forgiven.

It feels like the cost of absolution for men, is very low, if nothing at all. "He's done his time" people say, of the male celebrities who less than a year ago got exposed for decades of sexual assault against women. There is something wrong when people bring up the topic of forgiving such men, despite them not showing genuine remorse or making amends. 

For male absolution, a “sorry” is seen as sufficient, even if it’s insincere because rarely is anything else required from them. Women justify to themselves that their behaviour is acceptable because “at least they said they’re sorry”, which is above the minimum of what is expected of men to be forgiven. How often have you heard a man say “I said sorry, what more do you want!”, they think an “apology” is going above and beyond what is expected of them for forgiveness. They’re frustrated as they’ve been taught that they’re entitled to forgiveness, without earning it and women are obliged to forgive them.

Men’s “apologies” often come with an undertone of pressure for you to “get over it”. Their demands for forgiveness are motivated by their own selfish needs, they don’t want you to forgive for your own benefit. If forgiveness genuinely was for the victim, not themselves, they wouldn’t become frustrated that the victim can’t bypass the trauma they’d caused them “why can’t you just let it go?”. Demanding forgiveness from your victim, putting a deadline on their healing, to speed up your absolution, is not in the victim’s best interests.

When you rush someone to forgive, when they’re not ready or don’t want to, you minimise their feelings and violate their right to autonomy, yet again. It prolongs their trauma, to resolve their feelings, they need to process them instead of dismissing them. In this context, the concept of forgiveness is a tool to make men’s life easier at the expense of women’s healing. So often forgiveness feels like a tool used by men to control when women should “get over” what they’ve done to hurt them and negate their feelings.

When the wrongdoer treats their victim like their feelings don’t matter, that their redemption is more important, their “sorry” is just a manipulation. They can’t accept what they’ve done is wrong and they don’t want to take accountability, they just want everyone to “forgive and forget”. Anyone that acts like they deserve forgiveness and demands it, isn't sincerely sorry. 

My issue is that when people demand victims forgive, it often feels like more importance is placed on “recovering” the male perpetrator’s former lives, than the recovery of the victims lives. It's seen as more essential that the perpetrator gets redemption than the victim heals and gets justice. 


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