The Place of Apology in the Cycle of Abuse

Have you heard about Exodus International yet?

They pretty much did what every survivor dreams their abusers would do (in between the dreams where boulders fall on the abuser). They apologized and have announced that they are shutting down . . . you know, in case you live under a rock and only read my blog.

Great news, right? Now we can all hug and “move on.”


As with most apologies that come from abusers, there’s fine print. They’re starting another organization under a different name.

Forgive me while I vomit.

Let’s review a little something about abuse, something that we tend to forget when faced with apologies from abusers . . . they all do this! They all pull out an apology from time to time.

“I’m so sorry! It will never, ever happen again!”

And it doesn’t, until the next time.

It’s such a common pattern of abuse that it’s made its way into a pretty little flow chart that you will come across in most basic psychology classes: Tension, Incident, Reconciliation, Calm.

“This is the song that never ends. Yes it goes on and on my friends…”

cycle of abuse

It takes a while for victims to learn that apologies don’t necessarily mean things are going to change, but sooner or later, we catch on. In the context of abuse, apologies mean nothing. They’re one of the more underhanded ways of catching victims off their guard and making way for more abuse.

That’s true, even if it’s a sincere apology.

Does that mean that abusers can never truly change?

Not at all. Everyone can change, including abusive people/organizations. But it’s going to take a hell of a lot of work to prove that the promised change is real. Too often apologies have been used by abusers to get charges dropped, prevent victims from leaving, make themselves look better, or even get themselves into a position for abusing new victims.

Not so surprising then that I found this sudden apology from Exodus a little questionable (especially since it came out the right before a program aired in which survivors of the ex-gay movement confronted Alan Chambers and Exodus’ practices).

I was willing to give them a chance, but I needed to see some proof before I started celebrating.

Shutting down was a good start for an abusive organization. For abusive individuals, that would be the equivalent of quitting a job that puts them in a position to abuse or relinquishing authority within the home. Perhaps if Exodus had stopped with the shut-down, they would seem more believable in their contrition.

Unfortunately, they made the mistake of thinking they could just start up again. Kind of like a priest getting caught abusing a child and starting a new ministry in a different parish.


Acknowledging abuse means acknowledging that they abused that position of power. Pretending they can just pick up and start anew is the biggest indication I’ve seen that they don’t understand the full gravity of what they’ve done. It shows little concern for their victims and how their victims might be feeling. It shows no concern for protecting other people. It’s a completely ego-centric approach.

This is exactly the kind of crap that made me write my “Forgiveness is Bullshit” post a while back. 

More importantly, with an apology comes the responsibility to shut up and listen. Abuse is about power. It’s about silencing victims and stealing their voices. When abusers apologize and truly want to change, they need to accept full responsibility for their actions, which means zipping their mouths for once and letting the victims speak. The victims need a chance to voice their pain. Apologizing doesn’t erase the victim’s need to be heard, and an apology that is used to try to coax a victim into more silence is just another form of abuse.

Exodus isn’t listening right now. They’re barreling ahead with their own ideas and agendas. They’ve spent years teaching that homosexuals are sinful and need to be cured. They’ve spent years torturing innocent people and convincing them it’s “for their own good.” Now, they want to say sorry, kiss and make up, and go back to loudly declaring their beliefs. And the worst part?! I don’t see any change in their message. From what I understand from TWO, ex-gay has rebranded as Restored Hope Network. The “About” section of their new Restored Hope Network still condemns homosexuality as a sin that will keep people out of heaven and even steal their salvation away.

So . . . what the hell is the point of shutting down then?

The only ones they’re speaking for are themselves, trying to do damage control because their victims are getting vocal. Where is the desire to understand their victims’ experiences? Where is the desire to educate themselves on the truth after so many years of believing lies?

This isn’t like a company suddenly deciding that a product isn’t selling. Exodus doesn’t get to pull the “consumers have spoken” line. This is about an organization that survived on the exploitation of the pain of a group of people.

Change has to happen for this apology to mean anything, and I’m not talking about a change in the direction of their marketing. There has to be a change in behavior. Exodus needs to completely close its doors, back away from the homosexuality arena, take responsibility for their actions, and let their victims speak out. They need to show humility and understanding over what they’ve done and the impact their actions have had.

Sorry just isn’t enough, and in this case, I’m convinced it’s not even sincere. Thankfully, I’m not seeing many people who are buying their b.s. right now, but in case anyone is confused by the smoke and mirrors, Exodus isn’t shutting down. They’re just apologizing and changing their name so they can continue to do the same thing all over again.

EDIT: There’s also rumors of Chambers starting a “reduce fear” organization, but even if he has good intentions at this point (doubt it), he has yet to prove he has even changed himself. We’ve got the same problems as above. He’s not leaving his position of power, he’s shifting it. He’s not listening, he’s restarting under a different name. And though I can’t find any information yet about his Reduce Fear idea, even if its goal is to preach acceptance, he doesn’t get to switch from being the head of the abusive organization to the lgbt church advocate overnight like that. I wouldn’t trust him any more than I trust this “Restored Hope Network” crap.

7 thoughts on “The Place of Apology in the Cycle of Abuse

  1. nicolesassy123 says:

    I read an article that the leader of this group admitted he had been attracted to men! wow.

  2. Albert Berry says:

    I was a victim of childhood sexual abuse, I also was a victim of verbal abuse, I have never got my gay memberhip card, ’cause i would take the ‘pill’ that would make me straight! | This was a real question in the late 70’s and 80’s I spent 4 yrs in the navy Seabees and got my 4 yrs of college- Enuff History/ Comment- This had me thinking, I was a victim, but did NOT cycle into abuser, I have always believed. I am incorrect you made me look at the time the abuse was happening- the abuser had not only me, but my youngest brother, | I abused my brother, I did stop, I did apolize, and i did not repeat | I had neatly left that fact out ” I abused my brother” I am an Abuser!, I need to apolize again, now! I did 40 years ago, and meant it then, and mean it now- Thank You

    • I’m not sure I fully understand what you’re saying. If you feel guilty because your abuser also abused your brother, that wasn’t your fault. As a child, you were just doing what you could to survive your own trauma.

      If you’re saying you abused your brother like your abuser abused you, it’s a step in the right direction to admit where you hurt him and take ownership for that. Children mimicking what an abuser has done is a very complicated situation. I hope you have sought out a therapist to help you heal your own trauma and work through some of this, and I hope your brother will find healing for what happened to him as well.

      • Albert Berry says:

        i have been in therapy, and i believe my brother is also, he is able to maintain a loving relationship with a woman who lets the past be “put away” it works for them, I am out of the picture though. Maintaining my physical health is my challegne now. Thank You

  3. joseygee says:

    I have been in a relationship for a year plus and had abused my girlfriend and I sincerely apologized and keep struggling hard to make sure I am so changed not being abusive anymore. travelled for a month and she is with another guy. I really love my woman and ready to give up anything just to be with her. I have pleaded but she strongly refuses please I want her back and really want to grow up and be responsible.

    • Unfortunately part of changing and ceasing abuse means that you have to respect people’s boundaries and choices for themselves. You can extend an apology, but she is not obligated to forgive you. Your best option is to accept that the damage done is done and work to change so that in future relationships you don’t repeat those patterns. True change doesn’t obligate the person abused to forgive or reconcile. I admire your ability to acknowledge what happened and I hope you have support around addressing those tendencies though.

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