Is My Abuser Truly Sorry?
Abusers are notorious for false apologies, and it can be hard for a victim to discern whether or not they are being genuine. Words are easily produced and so is false remorse; only change in action can be evidence of a legitimate turnaround. The question is not so much whether the abuser is sorry and feels bad about their choices, but whether the abuser is truly repentant, taking ownership and changing their actions in the long term.
Many abusers apologize when they have been caught or start recognizing that there will be consequences for their behavior. This doesn’t indicate true repentance. This is the abuser feeling sorry that they got caught, it does not necessarily mean they are sorry for hurting the victim or are willing to change.
Signs of a Genuinely Repentant Abuser:
1. They admit to all of their abuse… not just the parts that have been caught
2. They place the blame on themselves alone… not on the victim or outside factors
3. They willingly submit to the consequences for their actions… legal and relational, as well as stepping out of ministry roles
4. They immediately stop further abuse… and do not repeat it in the future
5. They accept the victim’s boundaries… even if that means no further contact
6. They do not pressure the victim to reconcile... they understand this is the victim’s personal choice
7. They do not speak badly about the victim to others… blame, shame, and guilting are off the table
8. They do not expect the victim to accept their apology… forgiveness is a journey that cannot be rushed or demanded
9. They begin to develop empathy... stepping into the victim’s shoes and recognizing how they negatively affected the victim
10. They welcome accountability… for the long term
11. They seek long-term professional help… with a reputable, licensed counselor
12. They do not resist if the victim decides to speak out about the abuse… they realize that the victim has a right to do so
Please note that true repentance is not based on tears, self-deprecation, and promising to never do it again. Those things are easily faked or worked up in the moment and they are not evidence of true change. Only long-term, positive action shows true change. Few abusers actually change.
A real apology includes actionable repentance as a long-term journey, not a short-term makeover.
Even on the rare occasion that a victim witnesses true repentance from an abuser, the victim still gets to choose their own path of forgiveness. Click here to learn What Forgiving An Abuser Doesn’t Mean.