Thursday, September 15, 2005

Professional Misconduct - Stages of Healing

The following information is on Mennonite site. I think it is important and wanted to share it with you:

Stages of Healing

We want you to know that we are sorry for the profound suffering a professional/clergy has caused you. We grieve with you over this breach of sacred trust.

It is wrong for a professional/clergy to have taken advantage of you. What happened to you was not your fault.

To make matters worse, many people in the organization/congregation may not be able to see this clearly. If they know who you are they may blame you, thus adding to your isolation and hurt. Blaming the victim is wrong.

The Stages of the Healing Process

Although most of these stages are necessary for every survivor, a few of them – the emergency stage, remembering the abuse, confronting your family, and forgiveness – are not applicable for every woman.

The Decision To Heal - Once you recognize the effects of abuse in your life, you need to make an active commitment to heal. Healing happens only when you choose it and are willing to change yourself.

The Emergency Stage - Beginning to deal with memories and suppressed feelings can throw your life into utter turmoil. Remember, this is only a stage. It won't last forever.

Remembering - Many survivors suppress all memories of what happened to them. Those who do not forget the actual incidents often forget how it felt at the time. Remembering is the process of getting back both memory and feeling.

Believing It Happened - Survivors often doubt their own perceptions. Coming to believe that the abuse really happened, and that it really hurt you, is a vital part of the healing process.

Breaking Silence - Most adult survivors kept the abuse a secret in childhood. Telling another human being about what happened to you is a powerful healing force that can dispel the shame of being a victim.

Making Contact With The Child Within - Many survivors have lost touch with their own vulnerability. Getting in touch with the child within can help you feel compassion for yourself, more anger at your abuse, and greater intimacy with others.

Trusting Yourself - The best guide for healing is your own inner voice. Learning to trust your own perceptions, feelings, and intuitions form a new basis for action in the world.

Grieving and Mourning - As children being abused, and later as adults struggling to survive, most survivors haven't felt their losses. Grieving is a way to honour your pain.

Anger - The Backbone Of Healing - Anger is a powerful and liberating force. Whether you need to get in touch with it or have always had plenty to spare, directing your rage squarely at your abuser, and at those who didn't protect you, is pivotal to healing.

Disclosures and Confrontations - Directly confronting your abuser and/or your family, organization, congregation is not for every survivor, but it can be a dramatic, cleansing tool.

Forgiveness - Forgiveness of the abuse is not an essential part of the healing process, although it tends to be the one most recommended. The only essential forgiveness is for yourself. Forgiveness is an honest release within the persons heart. True forgivers do not pretend they do not suffer. They do not pretend the wrong does not matter much. Forgiving eyes are open eyes.

Spirituality - Having a sense of a power greater than yourself can be a real asset in the healing process. Spirituality is a uniquely personal experience. You might find it through traditional religion, meditation, nature, or a support group.

Resolution and Moving On - As you move through these stages again and again, you will reach a point of integration. Your feelings and perspectives will stabilize. You will come to terms with your abuser and others directly involved. While you won't erase your history, you will make deep and lasting changes in your life. Having gained awareness, compassion, and power through healing you will have the opportunity to work toward a better world.

Possibilities for Healing

Therapy - Almost all victims/survivors benefit from good therapy. It's a good idea to ask for recommendations from friends, other survivors, family members, your local women's shelter or crisis centre. Once you have some possibilities, screen them particularly finding out their background in working with abuse victims and survivors.

Pastoral Counselling - This type of counselling focuses on your spiritual needs. Professional/
Clergy misconduct does extensive damage to religious and spiritual understanding.

Other Survivors - A survivor friend and/or support group can be helpful.

Laughter - Given an appropriate time and place, tapping into laughter can be a source of relief and healing.

The simple things in life - Often the ways to reconnect with life are simple yet important things such as chocolate, solitaire, music, children, long walks, and nature.


Whether or not to confront the abuser, and if so who best to do this, is a difficult decision. You may want to consider:

  • Confronting the professional/clergy informally

  • Confronting the congregation informally or using its professional/clergy misconduct policy

  • Filing a complaint with the organization/denomination

  • Filing a legal complaint

There are good reasons for not confronting. Some questions that may be helpful as guides in the decision making process 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?

You may want to consider having an advocate. She or he can help you work through these questions and consider what is in your best interest. An advocate is not the same as a lawyer of a therapist. An advocate is someone who stands with you, helping you to clarify your needs, offering support, and can serve as a conduit between you and the abuser, congregation, and denomination. ( See the Advocacy link)

Filing a Complaint with the Professional/Denomination Organization

An important decision to consider is whether or not to file a complaint with the denomination or professional organization. This would be the group that credentials and disciplines the clergy or other professional.

Historically, the complaint process has focussed more on the professional/ clergy than on the complainant.

There may be limited financial provisions for the complainant. Many professional/denominational organizations are relatively inexperienced at processing misconduct complaints.

The chances of being revictimized by this process should be taken into account.

Some Possible Responses of the Community of Faith to Abuse

Learn About Abuse - provide appropriate training for religious leadership

Examine Values And Attitudes - explore personal and group values and attitudes abuse, relationships, conflict, authority

A Place Of Understanding, Where It Is Safe For The Victim To Disclose Abuse - the community of faith can be a place of hearing, believing, understanding

A Message Of Hope And Healing - affirm the dignity of humanity, of all creation

Safety - physical and emotional safety are paramount

Counselling Support - refer to counselling, offer support by paying for counselling, babysitting, transportation, etc.

Hold Abusers Accountable For Their Actions - include support and accountability for abusers, offer support for the abusers family and friends


  • new ways of viewing relationships and differences

  • theological issues of forgiveness, confession, suffering, submission

  • affirming the equality and human dignity of all

  • understanding control and power


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. It's really helpful

September 15, 2005 8:45 AM  

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