News: Blog

Hug the Rapist: 1in6 Thursdays on the Joyful Heart Foundation Blog

A few years ago my wife and I were with a group tour in Italy. On the fifth day we decided to wear tee shirts given to us as gifts. Shirley’s dark blue shirt pictured a chubby little bear and the words “I’m huggable.”

On the bus, I leaned across the aisle, wearing my tee shirt. A woman in front of me looked at my shirt and asked, “What means, ‘Hug the rapist’?”

I had no idea what she meant and she pointed to my tee shirt. Because I had bent over, the shirt wrinkled slightly. I straightened up and she could see that instead of three words, there were only two: “Hug therapist.”

Of all the issues I encounter with male survivors the most painful (and some would say impossible) is to forgive their rapist

Despite her misunderstanding, the question remains valid: What does it mean to hug the rapist? Of all the issues I encounter with male survivors the most painful (and some would say impossible) is to forgive their rapist. And it is rapeā€”not because we tried to fight our perpetrators, but because we were children, too immature to know what was going on. If they molested us for the first time a decade later, we’d clearly see it as rape.

So it does come down to the question: How do we hug our rapist? Or better, “How do we forgive our rapists?”

We all forgive differently. In my case, when I struggle with an issue, I write little maxims or aphorisms and repeat them several times each day. When it came to forgiving the woman who initially raped me and the older man who came later, I had to write several aphorisms. Here they are:

  • Even though I’m weak in many ways, I am strong and forgive those who hurt me.
  • I don’t forgive to absolve others; I forgive to set myself free.
  • When I no longer need to be right, I’m able to forgive.

The third one was the most difficult for me to repeat each day. I was the innocent, the victim, the child. At times I consoled myself by blaming the abuse for some of my actions. While true enough, there was also a sense of self-justification for the unkind or misguided things I did. And because I was the innocent victim, I had a right to do such things.

Once I stripped away my self-justification and took responsibility for my own actions, I was able to take the next step and slowly forgive the rapist.

It’s not easy to face the reality that I needed to be right (justified), but, at least for me, it was the final barrier to jump over so I could forgive.

When I no longer need to be right, I’m able to forgive.

Cecil Murphy

Cecil Murphey ImageCecil Murphey wrote, When a Man You Love Was Abused and Not Quite Healed with survivor Gary Roe. Murphey is the author or coauthor of 137 books including international best sellers, 90 Minutes in Heaven and Gifted Hands: the Ben Carson Story. His latest book is Stolen: The True Story of a Sex Trafficking Survivor, written with Katariina Rosenblatt. His twice-weekly blog is www.menshatteringthesilence.blogspot.com.