The most difficult choice you will face in your healing is whether or not to confront the minister and/or the institution, and if so how best to do this. Options (which are not mutually exclusive) include:
- Confronting the minister informally;
- Confronting the congregation, informally or using its sexual harassment policy if it has one;
- Filing a complaint with the denomination; and
- Filing a civil lawsuit or a complaint in criminal court;.
These are extremely difficult and personal decisions, which will inevitably have a profound impact on you. There are no simple or obvious approaches to them. Ultimately the decisions must come from your heart. Before deciding, it's a good idea to talk with a few trusted support people. These may include a therapist, partner or spouse, or good friends who have some understanding of the dynamics of abuse. A particularly important person to discuss this with is a trustworthy advocate. Hopefully, the UUA will have matched you with one by this stage.
Some questions (derived from The Courage to Heal) that may help in deciding are:
- What do I hope to gain from this confrontation?
- What do I stand to lose?
- Whom exactly do I want to talk to and why?
- What are my motives?
- Am I healthy enough to withstand the strain?
- Do I feel balanced enough to risk being called crazy?
- Can I withstand the anger I'm likely to face?
- Do I have a solid enough support system? Is it adequate to match the minister's support system?
If you decide not to confront, be sure this isn't because of shame or because you still feel the need to protect the minister or the congregation. There are good reasons for not confronting, but these ingrained self-denying patterns of victims and survivors are not among them. In fact, they are what you are trying to move beyond. If you are even a little successful in a confrontation, everyone will gain, as you will have helped break unhealthy patterns.
For more information contact safecongregations @ uua.org.
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Last updated on Friday, April 22, 2011.
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