In my FSA (Family Scapegoating Abuse) Recovery Coaching practice, I often invite clients to write letters to family that have harmed or abused them that they only share with me.
These letters allow for the expression of powerful emotions that may have been unconsciously held back and repressed by the FSA survivor for years, such as ‘righteous rage’, anger, sadness, and deep grief.
Such letters are meant to serve as an emotional release and I encourage my clients to leave them raw and unedited. Although difficult to write initially, clients in my practice report feeling much lighter and more free within days of completing this type of letter and processing their contents with me in session.
The purpose of such an exercise is for the adult survivor of family scapegoating abuse to have an opportunity to hear and validate their painful experiences which have cost them so much in their life. Given how effective these types of “emotional release’ letters have been, I’ve decided to experiment with the potential healing power of an ‘FSA Victim Impact Statement’, i.e., a statement that allows the FSA survivor to specify the damage that has been done to them via family scapegoating behaviors.
In case you’d like the opportunity to construct such a statement yourself, here’s a few tips on how to write a Victim Impact Statement as a survivor of family scapegoating abuse (FSA). Please remember that it is not advisable to share this statement with family; rather, this exercise’s purpose is for you to be able to hear and validate yourself and your genuine pain and suffering by writing out the harm done to you by scapegoating family members.
With that said, I do know FSA survivors that have used the material generated in these written exercises to construct ‘Personal Statements’ that are attached to their Will. These statements will be delivered to any surviving scapegoating family members upon their death. This is another option you can consider if you have lived your life feeling unheard, invalidated, dismissed, or gaslighted by family when you attempt to describe your experiences, pain, and suffering as a target of family scapegoating behaviors.
FSA Victim Impact Statement
If you decide to prepare an FSA Victim Impact Statement, you will want to allow adequate space and time for such an endeavor. You also may want to seek out the support of an understanding friend, 12-Step sponsor, therapist, or coach who will be there for you throughout this process.
As you consider how being the victim of family scapegoating abuse has impacted (or changed) your life, you may use the following suggestions and questions to guide you. Do be aware that thinking and writing about something so painful may be difficult for you. Pace yourself and don’t feel that you need to complete your FSA Victim Impact Statement in one sitting. Be sensitive to your process; tune into your bodily sensations and breathing; and take as many breaks as you need.
- Write a couple of sentences about how difficult it is to prepare this statement, and why it is so difficult.
- Write simply and descriptively, focusing not just on facts, but also on feelings and bodily sensations:
For example, which of the following statements give you more understanding?
- Every morning when I wake up, I think about my family.
- Every morning when I wake up, I remember how my parent told all my relatives I was “crazy” so nobody would believe me if I ever told them the truth about how they were abusing me mentally and emotionally behind closed doors. My heart starts to pound as I think of how unjust and unfair it all is and I see no way to fix it. I feel a sense of rage but exhausted at the same time, and I dread facing another day.
The second sentence goes beyond a simple description by offering a detailed narrative with emotions and bodily sensations. As many FSA survivors suffer from complex trauma (C-PTSD) symptoms, writing down how your body is “remembering” past trauma is a powerful way to validate your own experiences as an abuse survivor.
Get lost in the emotions, especially anger and rage. Save that for a dedicated ’emotional release’ letter (as mentioned at the beginning of this article). Your goal with the FSA Victim Impact Statement is to express the depth of your pain and the various losses you have suffered as a means of validating your experiences.
Tips to Remember:
- Focus on what being a victim of family scapegoating abuse means to you physically, emotionally, mentally, financially, and spiritually.
- Write from the heart about your pain.
- This exercise acknowledges that you were a victim of mental and emotional abuse, and is designed to help you acknowledge the ‘invisible wounds’ caused by family scapegoating abuse. Allow yourself to identify with the ‘victim’ role for this exercise, even as you transcend the role of victim so as to take responsibility for your healing and recovery from abuse.
Once done with the FSA Victim Impact Statement, consider sharing it with someone you trust and who you feel emotionally safe with – Someone who will understand this is an exercise and who will not judge you but will be supportive of your process. As noted above, this might be a close friend, a 12-Step Sponsor, a therapist, or a coach.
Your comments are appreciated. Would you ever consider writing an FSA Victim Impact statement? Why or why not?
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Copyright 2021 | Rebecca C. Mandeville | All Rights Reserved
Rebecca C. Mandeville is a licensed psychotherapist; certified clinical trauma professional; and recognized family systems expert. Her book, Rejected, Shamed, and Blamed, is the first book written on “family scapegoating abuse” or “FSA” (a term she coined during the course of her family systems research). Rebecca has dedicated her 20-year career in Mental Health to advocating for those whose voices are not heard due to being systemically disempowered.