For me it was a long way down the line, after years and years of healing work, of prayer, and of raging (in therapy and in prayer) at my abusers, that I was ready to open myself to the possibility of forgiveness. No amount of willed or false or hopeful forgiveness was going to fix me or heal what had been done to me.
We can get to forgiveness, yes. But there are not shortcuts. And self-forgiveness and true healing must come first.
It is vital to remember, however, that forgiveness does not mean in any way that perpetrators should not be confronted or prosecuted, or that we are able to forget or minimize the abuse. Like Holocaust survivors, we must always remember and honor the full impact of what has happened. Neither does it mean that our outrage at the crime is no more.
Forgiveness is a hard-won gift of grace, and, if it is to happen in a healthy way, it will probably happen after much healing work has already been done. It should never be hung over a survivor of abuse as an expectation. It is my conviction that a loving God would want us to withhold any “forgiveness” that would cause us to fall back into spiritual sickness.
I also believe that God would not reject any abuse survivor who is not able to reach a place of forgiveness in this life. I have heard many comments on forgiveness that have failed to understand the delicate dynamics of forgiveness for victims of abuse and I think it can keep people from God instead of bringing them closer to him.