How to Be Accountable When You Have Been Abusive

Taking responsibility and being accountable for your actions is not a simple task. It requires a level of introspection and remorse to understand that you have hurt people with your words, actions, and inactions, and still be regretful and genuinely sorry. When it comes to abusive relationships and situations, people who have been abusers rarely come out to take responsibility or be accountable for their damaging behaviour, except when their victims call them out or report them to the authorities.

Nobody wants to publicly identify as an abuser, even when they have hurt and abused someone in their past. Instead of taking responsibility and recognising how hurtful and damaging their actions may have been, and the aftermath on the victims, it is not uncommon to find abusers rebranding, and completely avoiding responsibility, until their victims speak up. 

So the question is, what do you do when you have been abusive? 

How to Be Responsible When You Have Been Abusive

  1. Recognise that your behaviour has hurt someone: The first step to repentance is actually realizing that you have committed a couple of atrocities against a person and that these actions have hurt them. When you recognise this, it gives you room to see your wrongs in clear view and validates the experience of your victim. 
  1. Do not center yourself: In taking responsibility for abuse, do not try to center yourself and your own experiences because they do not justify your actions. For example, if you were physically violent to your victim, this is not the time to say that you hurt them because you experienced a lot of violence as a child. As much as your experience is valid, it does not justify what was done to them in any way. 
  1. Take full responsibility for the abuse: You are the sole reason for the abuse, only you. Absolving yourself of responsibility and accountability for your actions is pure gaslighting. You did it, you are responsible, so acknowledge it and apologize remorsefully. 
  1. Do not expect forgiveness or try to bully your victim to forgive you: If someone has survived an abusive experience with you, they owe you nothing. Absolutely nothing, not forgiveness, not acceptance. If a survivor needs 100 years to heal from the terrible, traumatic and life-changing experience that you have put them through, the least you can do is let them have it. Do not harass them into accepting your apology or into forgiving you. 
  1. Allow them to heal: Never interrupt the healing process of a survivor. If the survivor does not want to be involved with you or does not want to listen to your apology, please respect that. Don’t ever try to interrupt a survivor’s process just so you can get over your own guilt or shame. 
  1. Forgive yourself and seek help: Extending forgiveness to yourself is very important in this situation. After you have taken responsibility for your wrongs, forgiving yourself frees you from hurting yourself as well. Seek professional help also, if you need assistance with coming to terms with forgiveness and finding ways to heal as well. 

Stepping up and finding the courage to be accountable already goes a long way to prove your responsibility. Provided the abuse has occurred, there’s nothing you can do to undo or change that experience. However, when you acknowledge how abusive your behaviour was and how detrimental it was to the survivor, apologize sincerely and hold yourself accountable for it,  it leaves you on the path to finding true happiness and freedom.

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