Steps in Healing
Healing is hard and complicated work. In a denominational context, it's natural to think right away of filing a complaint as the answer to the problem. While this is the choice we devote the most time to in this report (given its orientation), it's important to understand it in context. It's one of the choices in the last step of healing—the step of listening to your inner voice.
There are at least four steps to healing. They actually are fluid, and chances are you will move back and forth through them over the months and years it takes to recover.
- Naming what happened. Understanding and believing that what happened to you was truly abuse is the first and critical step. Most likely you will return to this step any number of times, having to work through what happened repeatedly before you finally know the truth from your core.
- Breaking the silence. This means finding someone to talk to whom you can trust. This too is a critical step. Given that your trust has been broken, often more than once, and that there are many people who don't understand abuse, this can be an enormous challenge. But there are people who can be trusted and who understand. They can be counselors or friends. Sometimes they are even ministers or rabbis, which can be particularly healing. Although no one is perfect, these people will have good boundaries, and in time it will be clear to you that they will not take advantage of you—that they are there for you.
- Educating yourself about clergy sexual misconduct. It is extremely helpful to understand the dynamics of abuse. At first, for example, people who been victimized, like others, often don't realize that the central issue is power—not sex. To read about the experiences of others, to see the patterns and relate them to your own experience speeds understanding and thus healing. There are more and more workshops, retreats, books and articles, on both sexual abuse and clergy misconduct. We list some of the most helpful for victims and survivors at the end of this section.
- Listening to your inner voice. Beyond the critical steps listed above, you must learn to trust yourself and choose what is best for your healing. The possibilities range from small acts of self-kindness to momentous undertakings that significantly affect the fabric of our society. But magnitude is not the issue. The issue is what works for you. We list some of the most likely options in the next section.
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