May 22

Eve Ensler (V) Seeks “The Apology” for Abuse

New book The Apology is what Eve Ensler (now known as V), women’s advocate and author of The Vagina Monologues and other incisive works, never got from her abusive father.

In The Apology Eve Ensler (V) imagines what her abusive father might offer her if he were alive and willing and capable of doing so. Erin Kodicek’s review (Amazon) serves as a suitable introduction:

Mahatma Gandhi once said: ‘The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.’ This quote came to mind as I was reading Eve Ensler’s slim but profoundly powerful The Apology. Written as if it were a letter from Ensler’s father, it recounts the sexual, physical and psychological abuse he inflicted on her from the ages of five to 10, and acknowledges the reverberating effects on her life. Moreover, it does what the master gaslighter and coward couldn’t before he died: take accountability for his crimes and ask for absolution…

How does V view these types of apologies? “She believes apologies are for both the person who gives and the person who receives. Offering an apology isn’t a punishment for an abuser — it’s a liberation.”

How should apologies be taken? “…(T)he perpetrator must say the crime out loud; acknowledge how his actions have impacted his victim; empathize with her; feel profound remorse; and do ‘extensive work’ to understand what made him commit the crime.”

Ron Charles, Washington Post, on the potential benefits of V’s type of process for all abuse survivors:

‘The Apology’ may be a very personal act of therapeutic recovery for the author, but Ensler also offers it as model for others. Most abused women, after all, will never hear an expression of sorrow from their tormentors. Ensler hopes victims can experience a degree of healing by writing the letter they need to hear. That process is already in use at City of Joy, a women’s center Ensler founded in Congo. ‘We can actually shift the way those predators live inside us,’ she says, ‘and move them inside us from a monster to an apologist.’

A note about the role of therapy in V’s life. Previously I had the honor of seeing her wonderful one-woman play In the Body of the World (which is also available as a memoir) in which she also addresses trauma. For 10 years Ensler/V saw therapists in New York who didn’t seem to adequately validate the effects of childhood sexual abuse by her father. When one finally did, it made all the difference.

And when V was diagnosed with cancer and afraid to undergo the intrusion of chemotherapy, this same female therapist offered a different way of looking at it. “The chemo is not for you, It is for the cancer, for all the past crimes, it’s for your father, it’s for the rapists, it’s for the perpetrators. You’re going to poison them now and they are never coming back. Chemo will purge the badness that was projected onto you but was never yours. I have total faith in your resilience and the magical capacities of your body and soul for healing…Welcome the chemo as empathetic warrior.”