2002: Issue 1

2002-no-1Dear Reader,

Well, this is very exciting isn’t it!

Welcome to the first issue of our new journal – The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work.

We have been looking forward to this moment for quite some time and now it has arrived. This new journal is our way of staying in touch with readers about the latest thinking and developments in narrative practice. In this edition we have included papers from Norway, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the USA. With each edition we intend to broaden the range of countries represented in these pages. We are looking forward to including perspectives from a diverse range of contexts.

As you know, this first issue focuses on ‘the question of forgiveness’. We’d have to say that putting together a journal on this topic has stretched our hearts and minds. We have tried to engage with the broader philosophical questions around the issues of forgiveness and at the same time continually relate these back to the work and concerns of counselling practitioners and community workers. Throughout this process, the one consistent theme was that wherever we turned there was yet another challenge to our thinking. It has been an intense and sometimes tumultuous journey.

Everyone working here at Dulwich Centre has been involved in reading the papers in this journal and having long discussions about the issues raised. We reckon we probably need to thank all of our families, friends and even mere acquaintances for their patience!

We think the experience of reading this journal may engage you similarly. You may not agree with every author’s viewpoint, as various papers express divergent views, and you may relate to some papers more strongly than others. Whatever the case, we are confident that you will be thinking differently about the question of forgiveness by the time you reach the final page of this publication.

Finally, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our long-term readers for their support of our publications over the last seventeen years. When we began the Dulwich Centre Newsheet all those years ago we would never have imagined that one day we’d be writing an editorial for an international journal. It is only through the support, ideas, feedback of those who read our publications that this journal has become a possibility. So … thank you.

And to those of you who are new readers … we hope you enjoy this new journal!

Warm regards,

Cheryl White,


PS: After you’ve read this issue, we’d love to hear your thoughts, reflections and feedback. Please email us at: [email protected] Thanks!

Showing 1–10 of 21 results

  • Stories of sorry, forgiveness and healing: an interview with Audrey Kinnear


    Five years ago a national inquiry in Australia published its report in relation to the practice of removing Aboriginal children from their families. This report found that between one in three and one in ten Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and communities between 1910 and 1970. It found that most Indigenous families have been affected in one or more generations by the forcible removal of one or more children (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission 1997, p.37). Those who were removed have come to be known in Australia as the ‘Stolen Generations’. Over the last five years there have been numerous responses to the Stolen Generations. One of these has been the establishment of the National Sorry Day Committee, of which Audrey Kinnear is the current Co-Chair. The following interview was conducted by Claire Ralfs and Suzy Stiles.

  • The church, confession, forgiveness and male sexual abuse: from an interview with Patrick O’Leary



    As a therapist and a researcher in the area of male sexual abuse, the question of forgiveness is a pertinent one, although I see this more clearly now, than I once did. In the past, due to my own experiences of growing up Catholic in a school in which those hearing young men’s confessions were also subjecting them to violence and abuse, I was not always open to the possible significance of forgiveness in other men’s lives. In therapy contexts I would have been more likely to explore other areas of the conversation rather than open space for discussion about the meaning of forgiveness to the particular person concerned. I would have more easily adopted a position of condemnation towards the perpetrator of abuse rather than see the possible relevance or helpfulness of forgiveness. I would have been more open to survivors expressing outrage than exploring notions of forgiveness.

    In recent years, however, I have come to see that for some survivors of abuse, forgiveness can be one of the few options available to them to move their lives forward. This seems particularly true for those who feel they have no option but to live in close relationship with the perpetrator of the abuse, or those for whom their entire social networks and family will continue to be in relationship with the person who was responsible for the abuse they experienced. I have come to realise that some of the people consulting me do not have the same sort of options as I do to sit in condemnation of the perpetrator of the abuse they experienced. This has been a bit of a wake-up call to me, as I have come to see how limiting it can be for a counsellor to take an absolute stand in relation to forgiveness.

  • Re-thinking deathbed forgiveness rituals— Lorraine Hedtke


    In this article, I want to question how forgiveness has been described in recent medical models of death and bereavement. I believe that these models have at times promoted unnecessary deathbed conversations in which awkward attempts to rush the process of forgiveness may serve only to further distance us from our connections with our deceased loved ones. I also want to offer some alternatives to commonly held assumptions in the discourse of forgiveness. To begin though, I will consider some of the common modernist understandings of forgiveness that influence work with people who are dying.

  • Coming to terms with the events of September 11th: an interview with Kenneth V. Hardy



    With the city in which you live still struggling to come to terms with the deaths of 3,000 people on September 11th, and with military retaliation still occurring in Afghanistan, in some ways it seems a strange time to be talking about forgiveness. Living and working as you do in New York City, perhaps we could begin by talking a little about your experience of September 11th and subsequent events …

    Not long ago I wrote a short piece about September 11th entitled ‘After dusk and before dawn’. It seems to me that we are at a critical time in this country and that actually it is very relevant to be talking about broader issues such as forgiveness, compassion, and how we come to terms with injustice, privilege and loss of life.

    Personally, I found the events of September 11th profoundly emotional and difficult to come to terms with. Living and working in New York City, we had a close-up view of the devastating events of that day. Here at the Ackerman Institute of the Family, many of us continue to be involved in working with firemen and with the police, and some of us were intimately involved in responding to the events of the day itself. We continue to meet together and talk about what is involved in this work and we remain in touch with the ongoing experience of families who have lost loved ones. Three thousand people died on that day and this means that the lives of three thousand families and countless friends and other relatives can never be the same. That is a grief of vast proportions.

  • Women’s outrage and the pressure to forgive: an interview with Jussey Verco



    Because of the ways in which forgiveness is spoken about in the broader Christian-influenced culture and also in the mental health field, survivors of childhood sexual abuse are often placed under strong pressure to forgive the person who perpetrated abuse against them. Many women report that when they have accessed a group or counselling, that there has been an emphasis on forgiving the perpetrator and that this step is seen as necessary for healing.

    As a worker, I am conscious that everyone goes through their own unique process in relation to coming to terms with the effects of sexual abuse. For a small number of women with whom I have worked, forgiveness has played an important part in their healing process and for them, the pressure to forgive may not have negative consequences. It may have been a process of their own choosing.

    However, for most women with whom I’ve worked, the pressure to forgive can be oppressive. For many women survivors, there has been no acknowledgement of guilt or even of any wrongdoing by the person who perpetrated the abuse. In many situations the women have not been believed or have been viewed as in some ways culpable for the abuse to which they were subjected.

  • Almost twenty years on … reflecting on ‘Father Daughter Rape’ — Elizabeth (Biff) Ward


    In 1984, Biff Ward wrote ‘Father Daughter Rape’ (The Women’s Press) one of the first books to address the issue of childhood sexual abuse. In this short reflection she looks back at the writing of this book and the question of forgiveness.

  • Not in our names: The work of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation: an interview with Renny Cushing



    Perhaps it would be appropriate to start with the title of your group. Can you explain the role of your group and why you are emphasising reconciliation …

    Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation is a national organisation of people who’ve lost someone to murder and who oppose the death penalty. Our opposition to the death penalty is victim-centred and victim-focussed. We are determined to refute the commonly held beliefs that all victims want the death penalty, and that we somehow need the death penalty in order to overcome our trauma and grief. We are trying to point out that actually there are thousands of people in this country who have lost somebody to murder who don’t think that a ritual killing by the state is going to accomplish anything, other than a further loss of life. We primarily oppose the death penalty, not so much because we’re concerned about what it does to killers, but because of what it does to us as victims. We believe it hinders the healing process and makes us become complicit in further killing.

  • Self-forgiveness— Sue Jackson



    Some years ago a young woman came to see me in great distress. She was pale and thin, her skin was grey and she had dark circles under her eyes. She looked very small in her oversized coat. ‘Janet’ explained that she had come under duress. Her parents, siblings and General Practitioner were all extremely worried about her and it was for this reason that she had finally picked up the phone and arranged an appointment with a therapist.

    Janet outlined her situation in the following terms:

    Two weeks previously, on a Friday night, she was travelling home from Melbourne to the country, to spend the weekend with her parents. She had had a few drinks after work with some friends, but had not stopped for dinner. Halfway home, she fell asleep at the wheel. The car drifted to the wrong side of the road, where it collided with another car travelling in the opposite direction. Both the young driver and his girlfriend in the other car were killed instantly. Janet, who only awoke at the point of impact, emerged uninjured.

  • Forgiveness and child sexual abuse: A matrix of meanings— Alan Jenkins, Maxine Joy & Rob Hall



    he concept of forgiveness, along with notions of apology and atonement for wrongs, can constitute highly significant preoccupations for individuals and communities whose lives have been affected by abuse. People who have been abused, those who have acted abusively and members of their families and broader communities may all have concerns and hopes about forgiveness and atonement. In the aftermath of sexual abuse, concerns about forgiveness may range from, ‘I’ll never forgive’ to ‘Why can’t I forgive?’ and these concerns may be met with preoccupations like, ‘I’ve said I’m sorry, surely it’s time for her to forgive me’ and ‘You must learn to forgive and forget’.

  • The power in remembering— Vanessa Jackson



    Two years ago, I was formally invited on a journey: to work on an oral history project to recover African American psychiatric history. At the time of this was not conscious of the fact that I had been preparing for this journey for the last 20 years. In hindsight, I can now see that I started packing for this voyage on one of my first visits to see my sister in a state psychiatric hospital.

    During that visit I recall hearing the chilling screams of a patient – screams that were virtually ignored by others in the ward, patients and staff alike. I remember looking past the nurses’ desk into a small room where a young white man was tied to a cot. He was the source of the screams and a nurse, noticing my concern, commented that he was out of control and just screaming for attention. What was clear to me, and probably even clearer to the young man, was that attention was the last thing he was going to receive in that place.