“Finally, I Received Peace”
When Elaine was 17-years-old, she tried to write how it felt to be abused as a child by a family acquaintance. Her mother told her she must keep it a secret, or her father would “kill the man.” Twenty-six years of silence later, she participated in her second Sycamore Tree Project and was able to share the following:
“During the first Sycamore Tree Project course I attended, I found a safe place in the middle of a prison with a group of prisoners—ironic. I was able to grieve not only for the act of crime which happened a long time ago, but for its legacy which was with me daily.
“This legacy told me that the people in my world were not trustworthy and I am not safe. No, I could not ‘get over it,’ I could not ‘forgive and forget, and no, I am not a ‘weak person.’
“I found I had to say it out loud: ‘I have been damaged by other men’s actions and I am very angry.’ Only this group was able to acknowledge this because prisoners are the missing link for victims of crimes. These men also wanted to be allowed to make restitution, though they couldn’t undo the past. This was healing for me, too.
“I received justice from these men because they symbolically took responsibility for impacting my life this way, and I did forgive them though I hadn’t meant to.
“Finally—finally I received peace. This peace gives me the freedom to forgive.”
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Story credit: Martin Howard, Sycamore Tree Project, Queensland, Australia