Letter: Wrongdoing

I WAS disturbed by Eleanor Bailey's article on forgiveness (Life Doctor, Real Life, 1 August). I was sexually abused by my father throughout my childhood. My mother knew; as a Christian, she taught me that I had to forgive my father. She held me responsible for the situation, and told me that my father was more vulnerable and in need of protection than I was.

Now my parents seem to have reached a quieter state of being. Because I have always considered their feelings, I have learnt to understand them. I don't hate them, I don't hate anyone. On the other hand, I am still suffering the effects of the abuse, and am also tormented by guilt that I cannot forgive my parents. Because I feel that I have no right to my feelings of grief or pain, it is only when I cut or burn myself, when the pain in my body equals that in my mind, that I feel like a real person.

I believe passionately in compassion and understanding for all people, regardless of what they have done or suffered. It seems to me, however, that the requirement to forgive actually protects wrongdoers at the expense of the innocent and prevents full understanding of other human beings.