Letter: Repentance first

I ASSUME I am not alone in being upset, to put it mildly, by the experience of your correspondent at being expected to forgive [her childhood abusers] (Letters, 8 August). After many years of conversation with people who have suffered at the hands of others, I have come to the conclusion that "forgiveness" must come second to "repentance", and the process is an interactive one.

Unless abusers recognise and grasp the wrong and damage they have done, and they have the courage and integrity to acknowledge this to the victim, they do not take responsibility and ownership of the abuse away from the victim. After they have done this, the victim may feel able to recognise their behaviour as derivative of context or personal weakness, and may choose to forgive.

Both acts, the act of repentance and the act of forgiveness, add to the stature and maturity of those who perform them. We focus too much, too often on the need to forgive. Let us pay more attention to the need to apologise for our wrongdoings.